Opening credits over Dan and Casey talking about football. The crew in the control room look like they've been ethered. "Could the show be any stiffer tonight?" asks Dana. Jeremy says it will loosen up. "It could only loosen up, Jeremy, because I don't think it's possible for it to be any stiffer," she says, quashing Jeremy's optimism with a big ass-plant of negativity. She goes on about how last night was really bad, but tonight it turns out they have "unexplored potential for stiffness," and the word "stiff" and its various constructions are said about a hundred times in this scene, and it's dialogue like this that convinces me Sorkin opens a dictionary to any random page and picks a word to build a scene around, and then keeps trying to break his record for how many times he can use that word in a scene. Next, the male Tertiary Characters (with the exception of Elliot) start messing up, and Dana barks at Dave to get it together. "That's what we need, we need the control room to fall apart, that's just what the doctor ordered," says Dana, displaying her usual brilliant supervision-through-sarcasm style.
Natalie says, "He's gotten in everyone's head." "Like a virus," says Dana. They're referring to Sam Donovan, ratings consultant extraordinaire and the ass-kickingest thing on this show, although I have to say I thought his stature was diminished somewhat the other day when I was flipping around the television and I saw Macy in that Kelsey Grammer vehicle Down Periscope, and I was already feeling guilty because it had been almost a week since I turned in my last recap and I had yet to get started on a new one despite my promise to do them faster. What's weirder, though, is that it wasn't even the first guilt-inducing Sports Night sighting of the day; I had been asked to speak about "the media" to a youth group that has a get-together every week to watch a movie, and the movie they were watching that week was The Truman Show, which I'd already seen but I rented it to re-acquaint myself, as it were, with Truman Burbank, and who has a bit part in The Truman Show but Peter Krause. All I needed was some Benson reruns and Dead Poets Society and I would have been all set. Most people would have taken it as coincidence. Catholic prisoner of guilt that I am, I took these as messages from an angry, vengeful, impatient God telling me to write more recaps.
Anyway. Jeremy says Sam is more like a tiny electrode placed in the cerebral cortex, and he drones on with this science fiction simile that draws blank stares from everyone. "See, I'm totally off my game," he mutters. "He gets his way," says Dana (meaning Sam). "He does seem to be in control," agrees Natalie. "After a week!" says Dana. "Eight days," corrects Kim. "Who cares, it took me two years to figure out how to run this show. He comes in here, he gets in our heads like a virus, or whatever it is Jeremy said, and we're so stiff!"
This is Sam's cue to walk in, saying, "Hey." "Good evening," says Dana, colder than a mother-in-law's love. "Show seems a little stiff tonight, don't you think?" says Sam. Dana agrees, and the word "stiff" is used about five hundred more times. "You know why?" asks Sam. "'Cause you're freaking everyone out?" says Natalie. "Could be," says Sam. "Know what I'd do if I were you?" says Sam, walking behind Dana and Natalie. "Kill myself?" says Dana. I can't figure out if she wants to kill herself or she wants Sam to kill himself or what. "No, I'd whisper in their ear," he says. Dan and Casey having one ear between the two of them, I guess. "I beg your pardon?" says Dana. "The two of you, whisper something in their ear," says Sam. "What are you talking about?" says Dana. "Men like the sound of a woman whispering in their ear. They get playful," which I admit is true, when what's being whispered is something cool like, "Breakfast's ready." The suggestion doesn't impress Dana, who says, "Why don't we just get 'em a lap dance?" Sam says, deadpan, "Nah, we don't have that kind of time, but I like your thinking." Ha ha! Smiling a little, Sam repeats his suggestion that she whisper in their ears. "I'm not whispering in their ear; Natalie's not whispering in their ear," she snaps. Kim starts to volunteer, team player that she is, but Dana cuts her off. "Kim's not whispering in their ear," says Dana. Then she goes off about how Sam always gets what he wants, and they've been very cooperative, but in the control room she runs the show and she'll deal with things. Sam says, "Okay." The show goes to commercial. Dana takes off her headset and says, "Excuse me," and gets up.