The West Wing

Season 7 Episode 6

The Al Smith Dinner

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Oct 30, 2005 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (8)

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  • Josh and Donna Blues Explosion! Oh yeah, and some other stuff, not a bad episode over all.

    So after way too long a hiatus Josh Lyman and Donna Moss are in a room together, and the chemistry is just as strong as ever, although it's added with a lot of tension as Josh still feels a sense of betrayal via her work with Russell. Their scene has a lot of magic in it, and it's going to be interesting and very fun with Josh and Donna on the same team now, only in heightened roles. Josh is essentially Leo now, whereas Donna is now C.J. The problem is this still makes Josh be Donna's boss, which has been what's keeping them apart, so maybe they'll get around that. Maybe with Donna as the First Lady's Chief of Staff? Who knows? By the way, anyone else catch the past episode references with Donna saying how Josh likes his hamburgers burnt like hockeypucks. We've heard his prediliction for well-done meat numerous times in the past, but not for a while. Always makes me sad that my favorite character and I like our beef so different, I'm a rare man.

    Anyways, on other fronts, we get to see Will as Communications Director and Press Secretary (seriously, can't they fill the Press Secretary role? Didn't C.J. have Deputy Press Secretaries? Well, I know she did. One of them was Annabeth. Although Will is much better at it than Toby was, so, doesn't matter.) I know this isn't the only time in American history this has happened, we've had Communications Director/Press Secretaries before, and they're very related jobs, so it doesn't bug me too much. Anyways, we get a nice bit with Will and Toby's bouncing rubber balls that he uses when he A) Wants to communicate with someone or B) When he's thinking. It's a nice "changing of the guard" moment see Will with that ball.

    We also get this whole abortion plot thing, which is very same-ol same-ol. Vinick is liberal on abortions, and he's a Republican, oh my! It is jazzed up by the revelation that Santos himself is essentially pro-life. I love that look on Leo's face when he's saying the liberal thing that he believes and he has long since expected every Democrat to also believe, "Life doesn't necessarilly begin at conception." Only to have Santos go "It does." I love that grouchy ol' Leo can out-liberal even young latino Santos.

    Over-all it was a good episode, but nothing particular fantastic about it. Props to Bradley Whitford, Janel Moloney, Joshua Malina and John Spencer for some good work.
  • Viernes 16 de diciembre de 2005: fallece el actor John Spencer, Leo, de la serie The West Wing

    Es dificil escribir al ver el nuevo capitulo y, al ingresar a internet, leer que el actor John Spencer fallece por problemas cardiacos. Una perdida para la serie, como tambien para los actores y millones de seguidores de The West Wing. El capitulo final con este actor aun no lo da en sudamerica. Veremos como salvan esta terrible perdida.
  • the best whow i have seen in a long time

    this show is a good example of a well written and tought show that make the message that wants to send rich every one that is watching. I will be surprice if this show drops it raiting even with all the changes of main cast memebers. In this episode you can see the fast track that a campain for president is run to every one involve
  • The first time I have liked Will Bailey since... well, ever. And hey, Donna's back!

    The main plotline of this story is the abortion issue. A 527 group (think Swift Boat Veterans) releases an attack ad on Santos's abortion record. Because of this, Vinick's campaign has a chance to court the right-wingers of the Republican party, although he would lose much of the moderate support that he currently has, and Viinick has to choose whether he wants to solidify a close win with his base, or have a chance at the huge win with moderates. I think this is the first time the West Wing has devoted an entire episode to the abortion issue, which is definitely interesting since it is probably the biggest issue among voters today.

    Of course, this all brings up the question of, "how exactly did Vinick get nominated, anyway?" Pro-life voters tend to be the most active ones in the GOP primaries, so one wonders if this could actually happen in our universe. Every time they talked about how Vinick's stand could keep the base at home, I wonder how the "base" put him in this position in the first place. Ah well. I guess if that's my biggest issue with the campaign episodes, then everything's ok.

    There are two other subplots for the campaign portion of this episode. The first, is the negotiations for the debates. I certainly wish Bruno got more screentime than he does, because I loved him during the Bartlet re-election campaign episodes, and I love him now. Lou convinces Josh to let her go to the negotiations, since Bruno has managed to get inside of Josh's head. Even though Santos's campaign needs the debates far more than Vinick, Lou blows up the negotiations and walks away from the table, in what appears to be a bit of reverse psychology. I'm not sure this tactic would have worked out if Vinick and Santos don't come together at the end.

    In other news, Donna's back! Yay! Lou hires her to do midwest press coverage, and she takes on a major press conference after the big negative ad. Josh has a problem, and Lou puts them in a room and ties them together until they finally kiss. I might have made that last part up, but it's what I wanted to happen. Josh still doesn't seem to realize how good Donna can be at her job, and I'm hoping one of the plotlines for the rest of the season is Josh finally beginning to appreciate her talent. Since every sign has pointed to this season being the last, I hope they finally get together at the end, also. It sure was convinient that Josh had a folder right next to him of all the negative things Donna said about the Santos campaign, wasn't it?

    Finally, Will gets thrown to the wolves. Ok, I actually did like him when he was first brought in to replace Sam, but he quickly became annoying when he went to work for the Vice-President. He does an excellent job with the press. I thought he was arguably as good as CJ, and he was definitely an improvement over Toby, and certainly an improvement over Josh doing a press briefing. I also LOVED the spinning camera effect for once. It made the whole scene seem like a little dance between Will and the press.

    If this is going to be the final season of the West Wing, it looks like it will go out on a good note, even if, judging by the ratings, no one's watching. Perhaps word of mouth for this last season will at least help drive up DVD sales.
  • A Democrat and a Republican with similar positions.

    First of all, this season is getting higher on my scale with every episode.

    Bringing Donna back, as Santos's spokesperson was excellent. They brought her back to the mix, just in time to keep Josh sane. Also, it's the perfect way to present his character like he was before. And we will be able to see a ying-yang situation. And the student becomes a teacher.

    Louise was excellent in her meeting with Bruno, who I think should have more screen time. The man can bring on suspence like no one can. Exept, maybe Toby.

    And, for the last. We got to see two candidates take situation into their own hands. Two men, who actually have similar opinions on issues. And in a simple enviroment, like the kitchen, they managed to make an agreement which none of their staffers could. JS and AA really did a good job there, and a person ca feel their greatness by looking at them on the screen.
  • When candidates diverge from the party platforms

    A funny thing happened this week. Despite the fact that the previous episode, in all its strong storytelling, reminded me of how much has changed and how bright and idealistic everyone used to be, I found myself really engrossed in the interplay between the Santos and Vinick campaigns. So it occurred to me: the series is taking the audience through the same process of any election where strong emotions rule the day.

    I’m thinking back to the end of the Clinton administration. There were a ton of people who had been devoted to Clinton and his legacy, to the point of propping up his apparent victories and downplaying his defeats. Many of them saw Gore as a poor substitute and Bush as even less appealing. They wanted things to be the way they used to be. They didn’t want to move on, and they were angry and bitter over the fact that the administration and man they believed in had seen his second term gone to shambles.

    OK, the metaphor isn’t perfect, but I think the point is clear. A lot of other people moved on to support Gore or Bush, and a lot of people turned their attention away from the Clinton administration towards the election drama. Granted, neither Gore nor Bush were remotely as charismatic and appealing as Santos and Vinick, but the same process is taking place.

    Three plot threads run through this episode, and they reflect this ongoing process of change. I found the Santos and Vinick campaign threads and their interplay to be a lot more compelling than the sinking ship of the Bartlet administration. And I realized that this is the theme of the “introduction” phase of the season. It’s about getting the audience through that process, recognizing that Bartlet’s administration couldn’t possibly go out on top. It just doesn’t work that way.

    I wouldn’t say that this episode is on par with the previous installment, if only because “Here Today” had the benefit of deeply-rooted history. The campaign plot threads are always chaotic, and people come in and out of the story from episode to episode. If something terrible were to go down with Louise, would it have the same impact as Toby’s dismissal? Of course not.

    But it makes sense that the season hits an important point in the story, ending the first act of the season, with the live debate episode. The season thus far has been about a Santos campaign in stagnation. Something has to happen to shake things up, and the seeds are being planted in this episode. Where Vinick looked unbeatable coming into this episode, things are far less certain now. It should make for one hell of a fun episode.

    As for the topic at hand in this episode, I liked the fact that the two candidates held personal positions that were in strong opposition to the platform stance of their respective parties. I found the intercession of interest groups and their money on the main campaigns to be intriguing, even if it was simplified for easy digestion. How these roadblocks are overcome, presumably on both sides, will be quite entertaining to see.
  • The Politics of Politics: What do we really know about Matthew Santos?

    Finally, an episode that really covers abortion. This issue seemed to be dodged through out the Bartlet years, which is amazing to me seeing how he's such a strong Catholic. But tonight we finally saw a great exploration of the issue and an abortion view outside the show's staunch liberal take on social issues. The confrontation between Santos and Vinick is wonderful foreshadowing for next weeks live debate.
    I felt some respect was finally built for Will this week. His bouts with the reporters in the press room were quite humorous, and I am glad to see him back where he belongs.
    And of course, Donna's back. Exactly what we need to break up that gray cloud over Josh's head as he struggles through this campaign. And again she put Josh's ego back in place, the perfect personification of the former Josh/Donna relationship, ending with that perfect smile between the two.
  • Good way to set up live depate episode.

    I am sure that the writers were trying to think of a way to set up the next episode which will be a live debate between the two candidates. The episode talks about an important issue in our country today: abortion. It is something that affected the last election as well but it was the topic of the whole episode. The team behind the "West Wing" are trying to give the two candidates equal pro's and con's so we are not sure who is going to win the election. It is too bad that NBC is having trouble with ratings because this 7th season of the show is probably its fastest paced yet. It is less about the Bartlet White House and more about the race between the two candidates. This is one of the better episodes of the new season. Good show.
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