West Wing
In The Room

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In The Room Of One's Own

I've been trying to imagine the demographic that would watch Clay Aiken's Christmas special and stick around for The West Wing, but then I realized that a very good friend of mine falls in that group. So I think I'll leave the joke alone. (Call me, Anne!)

We open on an exterior shot of the White House, with the sound of applause and cheers. Cut to a room crowded with people engaged in said applauding and cheering. The room is also crowded with Josh and Toby, who are engaged in a vigorous debate. Josh is appalled that Jed wants to nominate Arnold Vinick to be ambassador to the U.N. because Vinick's a Republican. But Toby points out that "he's not a real Republican. He's a California Republican." Someone should tell that to "B-1" Bob Dornan, nutjob from Orange County. Anyway, Josh's job is to feel Vinick out (not like that, pervs) to see if he would be willing to accept the nomination. And then I hear the voice that ruins my viewing pleasure. It's Penn Jillette, of Penn and Teller. First, James Taylor, and now Penn and Teller. It's like the East Room is turning into P3. What's next? The Scissor Sisters? Unbelievably, the crowd has been cheering for Penn, and he thanks them for the applause. It's Zoey's birthday, and Mommy and Daddy got her a couple of magicians to perform at her party. Penn calls her the "First Daughter," and she protests that she is not, in fact, the first daughter. Teller causes a three of clubs to rise from the deck of cards in his hand, reminding Penn that Zoey is actually "the third daughter of the first family." And then Zoey has to ask them to perform one more trick. Man, that girl should have stayed kidnapped. And if she's really a fan of Penn and Teller, my opinion of Zoey just dropped considerably.

At Teller's gesture, Zoey stands up and holds a piece of paper that Teller has rolled up into a cone. He wads up a red handkerchief and shoves it into the cone, pulls out a wand, shakes the wand around inside the cone, puts the wand away, and unrolls the cone, releasing not a handkerchief but a lot of shiny red confetti. Except he does it all in whimsical mime fashion, eliciting laughter from the audience and murderous rage from me. (By the way, Charlie is sitting next to Zoey. For those of you who care.) Penn blathers on about the trick, and how beautiful and pure a simple vanish is. He muses aloud about whether the trick might be different if it were not a handkerchief that they cause to vanish but instead was a piece of fabric with more meaning, like the U.S. flag that happens to be on the stage. He blathers on about the symbolism of the flag as he and Teller remove it from its pole and fold it up into a small triangle. The audience (including Josh and Toby) is completely silent during this shtick. Penn also says that rather than using a simple piece of paper, it would be interesting to use paper that also has some meaning -- in this case, a copy of the Bill of Rights. He blathers on about freedom of speech for a bit. They roll up the Bill of Rights, stuff the folded flag into it, put some paper in, light a lighter, and set the paper on fire. There is a quick flash of flame, and then the rolled-up tube is empty. Penn says, "It's okay, 'cause even though the flag is gone, the Bill of Rights remains." Toby asks Josh, "Did they just burn an American flag in the White House?" Josh: "Uh huh." Actually, probably not -- but I'll get to that rant later. Credits, Smits-free.

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West Wing

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