The West Wing

Season 6 Episode 21

Things Fall Apart

0
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Mar 30, 2005 on NBC
8.6
out of 10
User Rating
88 votes
1

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Episode Summary

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Faced with a Democratic party in disarray in the face of the strongest Republican challenger they have ever had, Bartlet asks Leo to take charge of the potentially chaotic Democratic National Convention, while Santos considers a party-unifying vice-presidential offer from front-runner Russell. Meanwhile, as the International Space Station is leaking oxygen and a rescue of the three astronauts will be difficult, and Bartlet catches Charlie leaving Zoey's bedroom after a nighttime visit.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • "Are we weaponizing space?"

    8.5
    Rejoice, ye West Wing fans ye! Our beloved show has returned to normalcy and has finally successfully integrated two opposing storylines. In one episode (yes, one episode!) we had both the campaign AND White House affairs! Amazing how that's possible, isn't it? If only they had learned this a few months ago, I may not have had to waste so much screen space complaining about discontinuity. Basically, this episode breaks down into two stories: Santos and Russell scramble to get an edge coming into the convention, and the White House deals with NASA about an oxygen leak at the International Space Station.



    The Santos and Russell Scramble to Get An Edge Coming into the Convention Story:

    The main source of tension here comes from Russell offering the Vice Presidency to Santos and threatening to offer to Baker if he turns him down. Baker joining Russell would flip Pennsylvania from Santos to Russell. This, in the words of Matt Santos, is "smart". A win-win for the Russell campaign, a second place settlement-risky chance for the Santos camp. I, however, was completely behind Helen Santos on this one. No way are we going to settle for second place! I love that she so believes in her husband that she instantly said "No, we can do better." (I don't know if I've made it clear enough yet, but I want Santos to win, and I really look forward to Teri Polo as First Lady. Matt and Helen are so cute.) But Santos and Josh, as the consummate politicians they are, saw the chance for a three-term Congressman to have a shot at the Vice Presidency, and then a greater chance at the Presidency in 8 years. The only problem with this is that Russell is a terrible candidate with no shot in hell at beating Vinick. The only guy with the charisma to rival Vinick is clearly Santos, but I digress. Of course, I was thrilled to have that Josh and Donna scene, short though it may have been. It was classic Josh and Donna, if subdued. These two have slowed down considerably in their banter; no more speed walking through the West Wing exchanging witticisms. I love that Josh listened to Donna. You knew he would though. Because Donna, as far as a political mind, is a product of Josh. Back on subject, this whole VP offer had me very worried for a moment, mainly because I am uninterested in seeing a show about the Vice-Presidency, and refuse to accept that the show could go on without Bradley Whitford. But mostly, because I'm really gullible. Of course Santos wouldn't settle, not to be second to a patronizing fool like Russell. Josh said it best when he said to Leo, "Santos is twice the man Russell is, ten times, on his best day. And Russell doesn't have very many best days." That final standoff between the former allies was fantastically intense. "You're not hearing me" "No, you're not hearing me!" Great.



    The White House Deals with NASA About an Oxygen Leak at the International Space Station Story: Kate, CJ, and the President have to decide whether to jeopardize the security of the secret military operations of NASA by sending up a military space shuttle to rescue three men (or two, not including the Russian) trapped in the International Space Station who are losing oxygen every minute. CJ consults Toby on the issue and Toby says that his brother David, an astronaut, would have insisted that he die in the interest of national security. CJ, however, does not seem convinced and thinks we should tell everybody we've got the military shuttle because they probably think we've got them anyways. This got me thinking- are we going to weaponize space? Is this just a TV thing, or could this really happen or be happening, for real, now? How interesting would it be if NASA is totally freaking out now because The West Wing unknowingly revealed one of their secrets and got people thinking about it? Something to ponder. In any event, I think CJ's apparent decision to leak the story to the press (if it was her, the cut to her after the reveal could have just been a ploy to deceive us) is terribly in character for her. First of all, as the former Press Secretary, she knows the power of a leaked story. Secondly, CJ has always been one to champion human rights causes, sometimes at the expense of the Bartlet administration. Remember when she went off about the women in Kumar during a press briefing? I also think its great because this is something that only a woman would do, in my opinion. Not to say there aren't some men who would, but generally speaking. Leo would have never risked this to save three lives, but CJ has an entirely different perspective. I liked this story, whether CJ leaked the information or not, because it made sense but took some thinking. Not way out in left field, but also not hammered into you. Nicely done.



    OTHER THOUGHTS:

    - She didn't really mean Will, right? Right? Right. Yeah, she had to mean Josh. She was just joking. Ok.

    - I found great amusement in the "sclerotic" speech. Funny. Just funny. I don't know what the President is so worked up about. He must never watch late night television or he would be "peeved, irked, pissed" all the time.

    - I always thought that the International Space Station had a lot more than three people in it at a time. With a name like that it seems like there's some kind of small space colony up there. Well, you learn something new everyday.

    - Charlie and Zoey -married? Good for them. I like these two, even though we don't ever see much of them. I'm glad Charlie has a real storyline especially one that involves Jed. Charlie was pretty audacious the way he talked to the President of the United States so candidly about sleeping with his daughter. I suppose we could justify that by saying that Charlie and Jed have a close relationship, but still.



    Written: 4/11/2005

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Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

President Jed Bartlet

Dule Hill

Dule Hill

Charlie Young

Allison Janney

Allison Janney

Claudia Jean "C.J." Cregg

Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

Toby Ziegler

John Spencer

John Spencer

Leo McGarry

Jimmy Smits

Jimmy Smits

Matthew Santos (Episodes 114-)

Ed O'Neill

Ed O'Neill

Governor Eric Baker

Guest Star

David Grant Wright

David Grant Wright

Edwin Kelwick

Guest Star

Mark L. Taylor

Mark L. Taylor

Steve Rorsche

Guest Star

Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss

Zoey Bartlet

Recurring Role

Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth

Annabeth Schott

Recurring Role

Gary Cole

Gary Cole

Bob Russell

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (4)

    • This episode suggests Governor Baker would be open, perhaps even eager to be Russell's VP. However Baker was ahead of Russell in the early primary pollings and, according to Leo, likely pulled out of the race because of his friendship with Vinick. Leo's theory is heavily supported by the fact that Baker recommended longtime successful political strategist Bruno Gianelli to Vinick. Now we're led to believe that despite turning down the possible nomination for President before the voting even started and days/weeks earlier actively helping Vinick he's willing to join on as a VP on a ticket with Russell?

    • In the West Wing universe NASA only has two space shuttles, while in reality there are three: Atlantis, Discovery, & Endeavor.

    • Regarding the ISS leak. First, the ISS is compartmentalized, so a leak in one pod can be circumvented by sealing off the module from the rest of the station. Even if the crew couldn't isolate it, sealing off the modules would allow them to do that.

      And if the station would have to be evacuated, it is equipped with a Soyuz landing capsule. Every few months the Russians swap out the Soyuz. They send up a new crew and the old crew takes the old Soyuz down, leaving the new one as an escape option. The capsule can fit three people. The station crew complement is usually 2-3 people.

      NASA was also developing a glider-type escape pod in case there is a problem with the Soyuz. So there shouldn't be any need for the Russians to organize a launch or to rush a space shuttle into service. And thus the debate over exposing a military craft is kind of pointless.

    • This episode kind of glosses over the Columbia disaster and leaves the impression that the shuttles have been taken out of commission on NASA's prerogative for a refit. Nice try, but assuming the Soyuz capsule the station has doesn't work, why in god's name would NASA ground the entire shuttle fleet without regard for the possibility of having to retrieve the ISS crew at some point? The ISS is dependant on the shuttles. Without the impetus of a disaster like occured with Columbia, there is no way NASA would ground ALL the shuttles at the same time.

  • QUOTES (13)

    • (Campaign managers Lyman, Bailey, and Clark intensely strike out names on list for the chair of the Democratic Convention.)
      Leo: Maybe you guys prefer a Republican.

    • Toby: Arnold Vinick just positioned himself as Jed Bartlet's natural successor.
      Annabeth: How'd he do that?
      Toby: Without one mention, without so much as an allusion to either one, he managed to dismiss Russell and Santos as puny dwarf-like children trying to get a seat at the grownups' table.

    • Leo (about Vinick's speech): Nice what he said about you.
      Bartlet: Yeah, the bastard. He just picked up five million Democratic votes.

    • Josh (as Santos prepares to get into bed with Russell, politically speaking): Remember, three feet on the floor at all times.

    • Will (on Santos entering the room): Quick, hide the ouija board.
      Santos: See, they can afford ouija boards. Josh still has us reading chicken entrails.

    • Leo: You can't take it personally.
      Bartlet: That's what I keep telling myself. Problem is, once you're telling yourself that, it's too damned late. You're already taking it personally.

    • Reporter: Would the White House care to comment on the expected contrast between the high degree of organization and discipline in the Republican Convention and the Democrats' anticipated free-for-all?
      Annabeth: I believe the American people will be the beneficiaries, in that they will be presented with a clear choice: do they want to be governed by people who are animated, or animatronic?

    • Annabeth: We have a COUNTRY to misrun.

    • Secretary of Defense Hutchinson (about a possible space-based weapon): No one wants Space to become a battleground.
      C.J.: Is that the argument in favor of building it, or is that the argument in favor of not building it? Or is that the argument in favor of building it and not telling anyone?
      Hutchinson: The answer to that would be yes.

    • Josh: How'd you get so smart about this?
      Donna: I had a good teacher.
      Josh: Thanks.
      Donna: I meant Will.

    • Bartlet: Werner Von Braun's autobiography was titled I Aim for the Stars. Mort Sahl joked, "he should have added Only Sometimes I Hit London."

    • C.J.: "Treasury, Commerce, O.M.B. -- I want all hands out refuting that bilious swill the Republicans were spewing last night."

    • Josh: It sets you up as the consensus front runner in either 4 or 8 years -- the nomination would be yours.
      Helen Santos: Or you're so tainted by association when Vinick cleans Russell's clock, you can't run for dogcatcher.

  • NOTES (0)

  • ALLUSIONS (2)

    • The episode title is a reference to a book named Things Fall Apart that was written by Chinua Achebe in 1958. It was seen as an answer to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The title of the book, Things Fall Apart, comes from a poem, "The Second Coming," by William Butler Yeats.

    • Josh (about a potentially chaotic convention): Good TV.
      Leo: It'll be entertaining. Professional Wrestling is entertaining. But when they click off the set, no one runs out and votes for the loudmouth in the leotard.
      Josh: Outside of Minnesota.
      The professional wresting quote above alludes to the 1998 Jesse Ventura gubernatorial election.

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