Well, after seventy-eight recaps and eight Extras, I was hoping against hope that this episode would be a good one, so I could go out on a high note with my seventy-ninth and final recap. Yes, I'm weird that way. Unfortunately, this episode is pretty weak, sort of "Bartlet for America" Lite, so I'll just have to muddle along, trying to perk things up here and there with salty tales of my misspent youth or something. Maybe I could do a "warm and fuzzy" recap, with highlights of past recaps dragged in to serve in place of actual new commentary. I don't see why the networks should be able to get away with it if I can't.
Flashback to the Vietnam War. Two fighter-jet pilots are in their plane talking to each other and the control tower (or whatever). There's a lot of that alphanumerical military mumbo-jumbo -- you know, "Oscar Yankee Zulu Six Two Nine Zero Foxtrot 107.1 AM Lite Bombing in the Morning" kind of stuff. Suddenly, everything goes haywire: they've been hit, and amidst colourful flashing lights and jerky camera work, they punch out of the plane.
We fade to Leo, giving a speech at the Chicago Business Conference, telling some yarn about Mulligan and Kenny, whoever they are. It's apparently hilarious. Possibly the best part of this episode is the huge smile creasing John Spencer's entire face -- how long has it been since we saw that? John Spencer laughing, really laughing? I don't even want to know. The camera swirls around and around. An Alex Graves episode, I'll bet. Leo's in front of a big sign reading "Humanitarian of the Year." He praises the recipient for creating lots of private-sector jobs: "And generating enormous tax revenues the President and I get to fool around with...." Would Leo really risk this joke to such a large and mixed audience? Not buying it. The "tax-and-spend" millstone can't be getting any lighter around Democratic necks. Leo continues praising the guy's contributions to the community -- which mainly seem to consist of sitting on the board of a hospital, and something to do with the symphony and orchestra. Leo introduces him: "CEO and Chairman of Mueller-Wright Aeronautics, and this year's Chicago Business Conference Humanitarian of the Year...the finest man that I have ever had the great privilege to call my friend...your own Kenneth Sean O'Neal." Probably a good Boston Chicago Irish Catholic like Leo. Standing ovation. Huh. A defense contractor is "Humanitarian of the Year"? Is Chicago really that hard up for humanitarians? What, was Sam Giancana unavailable? (Well...yeah, he's dead.) Still. Surely Oprah Winfrey's hometown can do a little better than this. (Indeed it can: I nominate Mayor Richard Daley.) Leo and Ken embrace tightly amidst the clapping and cheering.