Last year I picked The West Wing's "The Indians in the Lobby" episode as a standout episode of the series. It just so happens that we're blessed with two Thanksgiving episodes of the show that are standouts. This one is called "Shibboleth."
The plots: While President Bartlet has to figure out what to do with dozens of Chinese immigrants who have stowed away on a freighter, Toby tries to get Leo's controversial sister nominated for an education post, C.J. has to pick one of two turkeys who will get to be pardoned by the President, and Charlie goes shopping for the perfect carving knife for the President.
Then Andy walked into C.J.'s office and asked her to ask the President about pardoning Toby, and that's when the episode kicked into gear for me.
While Santos is busy as hell (he and the new First Lady have to decide what school their kids should go to, Houston or D.C.), Vinick finds himself with nothing to do.
I was a little afraid they'd rush though the Leo memories and shove in the whole Santos plot, but that didn't happen. You had to show what was going on with the Santos plot (life does go on after all), and it was a nice balance of the old and the new.
NBC is fond of calling their comedies "Must See TV." But this was truly the one must see episode of any NBC show in quite a while. Leo dies, and the election goes down to the wire, all in one episode. Must see, but not handled as well as it could have been. Some good scenes with Josh, and some nice moments in the White House between Bartlett and C.J., but they really should have given Margaret more to do, get more of a reaction from her besides one shot of stoic tears.
There was a lot of confusion last week when The West Wing's John Spencer passed away. Every single newspaper, magazine, and web site (including this one, but in our defense we missed the opening scene and were just repeating the news sites) reported that the character of Leo had appeared in a three years later flash forward in the first scene of the season opener. And that would pose a problem, since Spencer passed away and couldn't have been in a scene three years in the future.
But NBC is repeating the episode right now and it's official: Leo was not in the scene. So some of the speculation we talked about last week is still valid.
The West Wing star John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry, died today in a Los Angeles hospital of a heart attack, according to his publicist. Spencer played Chief of Staff to Martin Sheen's President Jeb Bartlet. On the show, ironically, Spencer's character suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House gig. In a main storyline this season, though, his character had been tapped as a vice-presidential running mate for Democratic hopeful Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits.
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