I have to be honest, this episode was only interesting when it showed Senator Vinick mulling over the possibility of winning the Presidency via Santos' briefcase. The rest was just worthless. I watched the whole thing anyway because this show only has a handful of episodes left in its run.
a great episode that shows the real life and inside of a presidential campain, they have done their job to the letter from investigating how a candidqate deal with a day by day schedual to the tight security that the presidential candidate has to put up and how difficult is for them to interact with the public
It took two viewings of this episode to create an inkling of an opinion about what happened during it. After nearly two seasons of bouncing from the White House to the campaign trail, I finally figured out why I don't enjoy the campaign episodes as much as I do the others.
"Two Weeks Out" focuses on two days of campaigning between the Vinnik and Santos candidates for President. These two camps dash around, trying to avoid each other while trying to find a strategy that will win their candidate enough votes to win the election. They try to obfuscate injury, hide humanness, and display strength to win the Presidency, but everything feels like fluff to me. Unlike the episodes set in Washington, the campaign doesn't have the trying to change the world undercurrent that permeates most White House conversation. Without the immediacy of Washington politics, the campaign episodes - including this one - leave me wanting.
As for the episode itself, my favorite bits were the brief appearance of Toby and Bram and Otto's conversations about the missing briefcase. Oddly missing from this episode was any mention of Donna and the banter established in "The Cold".
Toby's participation in Santos's campaign is something I've been looking for since his departure from the White House. I first thought Santos would embrace him; then, after Josh's visit, I realized what his role would be: gadfly, outsider, but still valuable.
The mixed value of Toby's advice essentially put Toby's strengths and weaknesses on display tonight. Traditionally, Toby has always been message and Josh has always been tactics; tonight, you have Toby giving Josh advice on tactics, and Josh taking it, if only because Toby seems the only person in Josh's ambit who speaks with absolute certainty. And the funny thing is, Toby's advice actually would have worked, had not Vinick gone and done his "Talk-it-to-death" press conference, which is a little like saying you played the cards right, and would have won, had not the Ace come up on the river.
It was tonight I returned to something I had thought about before: just what is the genesis of Toby and Josh's relationship? We were presented early on that Leo and Bartlet were best friends; that Sam and Josh were old college friends; that Leo was old friends with Josh's father; that Toby and CJ respected one another from their past work in liberal causes, usually lost ones. One would have to think that Toby and Josh, as political operatives, would have known each other previous to the first Barlet campaign--but when? How? This episode made me wonder more than ever. And if this last season wasn't dying in the ratings, if I were an NBC exec I'd call up a "Toby and Josh: the Early Years" movie of the week.
I'm a big fan of the electoral college, but the strange nature of 2000+ politics is that Democratic strongholds (Pacific coast, Great Lakes, New York, New Jersey, New England) and Republican strongholds (Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, Confederacy minus Florida) are basically a wash. The last two elections, each candidate started out with 220 electoral votes, and it was left for the voters of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Florida, and New Mexico to determine the winner. Thus the obsession with California--Vinick realizing he doesn't need it to win, but Santos does, and so deciding to go out there. (Having spent considerable amount of time in California, including my undergrad years at USC, I can attest that Vinik's riff on the state as the real homeland is spot-on, with one exception: it is, in the aggregate, much more liberal than the country as a whole.)
Clearly, this episode meant to echo the last-minute frenetic pace of real-life campaigns past. How does one count the ways?
Vinick's hand fracture: a wonderful recall of Bill Clinton's laryngitis in 1992. Does anyone remember?
The Talk-until-they-drop press conference: echoes of Geraldine Ferraro, 1984. She couldn't carry her state nor even her congressional district, but when questions regarding her husband surfaced, she dumped everything on the table and let them have at it, until the reporters had run out of questions. Alan Alda deserves that damn Emmy, people.
The briefcase: two moments in history. People forget how closely Carter and Reagan were running in 1980, right up until their late-October debate, when Reagan clobbered Carter and ran out to a ten-point lead and 44-state landslide. The rumor surfaced in August, 1983 (August being the month of political silliness, see: Sheehan, Cindy), that the Reagan camp had stolen Carter's debate briefing book and had prepared Reagan accordingly. (The notion that Jimmy Carter would ever have secrets worth stealing is another matter entirely.)
The briefcase II: the child revelation, with its echoes of W's drunk-driving conviction, except, Lawrence O'Donnell being same, the Dem is guiltless, and is in fact reaching out. I knew two things early: that Vinick would never run to the press with Santos's briefcase; and that Santos did not have a child out of wedlock.
Finally, on another matter: The last time Vinick opened his mouth against advice, he was butchered. We might have anticipated the same this time, but no: this is a show that reasonably cofounds expectations.
How about a wild prediction? Lawrence O'Donnell has been trying to reduce George W. Bush to powder, one talking point at a time. So let's say they go back to 2000, the election goes to the Supreme Court, and Santos wins--with Justice Mendoza casting the deciding vote for state's rights.
This had the feel of a transitional episode, especially since the previous installment started the turn towards the series finale. Usually, when there’s a season arc to be considered (and the election makes this a valid topic of discussion), the arc is broken into three basic acts: introduction, complication, resolution. The first shift is usually around episodes 6-8, which essentially places the debate episode in the right position. The “complication” phase usually peaks around the middle of the season, say episodes 10-12, which corresponds to the nuclear incident and its massive effect on the story arc.
So it’s expected that the next big turn will be coming in episodes 15-17, though it may be slightly delayed due to the fact that John Spencer’s death is being dealt with on-screen. All indications are that the election itself will hit at the right time, making this a transitional period where the complications continue to mount.
In this case, I was impressed by the fact that the possibility of scandal was addressed in a fairly even-handed fashion. It would have been easy, given the slant of the series in the early days, to paint the possibility of a Santos scandal in a way that admonished those seeking to tie personal issues to political ramifications. However, Vinick made the point that many Clinton detractors try to make through the noise: the problem is not the terms of the scandal, but the effect on the ability to govern.
I was expecting a relatively benign explanation for Santos’ problem, just as I was expecting Vinick to deal with the issue behind closed doors. What I found refreshing was the lack of resolution. Vinick and Santos make good adversaries because they are fundamentally good people with divergent philosophies on life. Vinick’s main issue with Santos is how he has decided to handle a threat to the integrity of the presidency, and he’s not wrong. He has good reason to be disappointed in his opponent, and it’s fascinating to watch these two in a room on a personal level.
Vinick could have come across as a villain, but he resisted the temptation to win based on scandal over substance. The episode provides two different paths for Vinick, with both on the table for the audience. Does he rest on the merits of his marathon press conference, where he restored much of his credibility with the public, or does he pull an October Surprise? Sure, it’s TV political drama trumping reality, but it leaves Vinick as a man with solid ethics. It ensures that the audience sees both men as viable if flawed presidents, which is something rare in recent American history.
It’s great to see Toby giving Josh advice in the home stretch, and it will be interesting to see if that proves to mend fences going into the finale. It was a little annoying for the whole war situation to be dealt with off-screen, but since it played into Vinick’s moral stance, this can be forgiven. I wouldn’t say that this was as good an episode as the previous installment, but it was still solid.
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