West Wing
18th And Potomac

Episode Report Card
Deborah: A | Grade It Now!
This Is The Dawning of the Age of Sagittarius

Leo asks Josh to walk out with him, and tells him, "I mean it: set one off under these guys." Josh suggests having C.J. make a statement at her briefing, and they work out the following wording: "The President calls on Congress to fund the Justice Department's tobacco lawsuit at the levels necessary to continue this litigation. The American people deserve their day in court, and this administration won't sit on the bench while well-fed members of the Appropriations Committee choke off funding for a lawsuit aimed at the perpetrators of hundreds of thousands of negligent homicides while filling their war chests." You go, boys! But couldn't you work in "merchants of death"? For me? Leo says, "Light 'em up!" Josh bangs the door frame affirmatively as he struts off in the other direction.

The next shot is Charlie standing at his desk, holding the phone receiver and just looking at it. Leo walks up and says, "Charlie," kind of brusquely. Charlie slowly and evenly says, "Leo, there was an accident at 18th and Potomac. Mrs. Landingham was driving her car back here." Leo: "What happened?" Charlie continues, "There was a drunk driver and they ran the light at 18th and Potomac. They ran it at high speed." Leo asks, "Charlie, is she all right?" Charlie: "No. She's dead." The camera switches from having been on Charlie the whole time to show us Leo's reaction. It's more effective because we haven't seen Leo's face yet, and then the director has the creative fortitude to let the camera linger on John Spencer for a full twenty seconds before he even speaks. I was very impressed by that. Twenty seconds may not sound like much, but it's a long time to have a shot of a character saying nothing, and not doing anything particularly active. Especially during sweeps. We see him waver ever so slightly (John Spencer is brilliant with subtle, almost imperceptible body language) as he absorbs the impact of the terrible news. He finally asks Charlie, "Is he alone?" Charlie says he is. The camera cuts back to Charlie, who's more composed than I would have expected. He replaces the receiver in its cradle. Sadly, I guess he's all too used to loss now.

Leo walks out onto the patio, rather than directly into the Oval Office. Out on the patio, he walks slowly and heavily toward the doors of Jed's office, and stands there looking at Jed through the French doors. Jed's on the phone with someone, the receiver clutched up to his ear with his shoulder as he looks at a file. Leo stands on the patio, unnoticed by Jed, wondering how in God's name to deliver this dreadful news. I sit here being so mad at myself I could kick something, like maybe my own ass, for having carelessly read the spoiler topic, not suspecting it could contain anything this big that was going to get ruined for me. And it has been ruined; the impact was diminished by about ninety percent due to knowing beforehand. My own damn fault. I wish people could just enjoy television without having to know and disseminate major spoilers; what's the point in watching if you already know what's going to happen? Anyway. ["A hard lesson to learn, but now you know not to read the spoiler thread." -- Wing Chun] Leo finally moves toward the door; his face mildly distorted by the panes of wavy glass in the windows. (Minor nitpick: I would have thought the doors to the Oval Office would have the best bullet-proof glass, not quaint old wavy glass. I mean, my house is Victorian, and I appreciate wavy glass as much as anyone, but I'm just saying.) Jed notices Leo moving on the patio and waves him in. Leo enters, closing the door behind him. Jed hangs up the phone. We see, but do not hear, Leo delivering the news of Mrs. Landingham's tragic death. Jed's face grows more and more serious, and the camera moves in such a way as to exaggerate the blurriness of the wavy glass. We can barely make out the expression on Jed's face, and yet it, and his body language, speak volumes.

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West Wing




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