Previously on the West Wing: Charlie appeased Zoey with flowers; POTUS told Zoey he's increasing her protection; POTUS met Zoey's new Secret Service agent, Gina; inbred teenage cretins glowered at Zoey and Gina in California; Mallory asked Sam out; FLOTUS accused Mallory of having an itch for Sam; Sam and Toby were in charge of the confirmation of Roberto Mendoza for a seat on the Supreme Court; Toby assured Judge Mendoza that the confirmation will be an excruciating battle, but one which he has no intention of losing.
It's Thursday, 9:45 PM at the White House. A large crowd of people are in what I think is the Mural Room, watching a Senate vote on television. It is, at long last, the Mendoza confirmation vote. Although the voting has just begun, Bonnie is getting ready to pour the champagne when Toby shows up and proceeds to poop all over that party. Toby orders her to put the champagne down; Bonnie objects but complies. Toby asks for everyone's attention and reminds everyone that they have to get at least fifty-one votes for Mendoza to be confirmed. Toby bellows, "Fifty-one yea votes is what we see on these screens before one drop of wine is swallowed, because there's a little thing called what, Bonnie?" Bonnie dutifully answers, "Tempting fate." "Tempting fate is what's called," affirms Toby, as he begins gathering up all the empty wine glasses. Toby proceeds to explain that he's aged forty-eight years in the three months since Mendoza became his problem and that this is his day of jubilee and he will not have it screwed up by tempting fate. "These things take patience. These things take skill. These things take luck. In the fifteen months we've been in office what kind of luck have we had, Ginger?" Ginger replies, "Bad luck." Toby asks, "What kind of luck?" Ginger: "Very bad luck." Toby repeats that, and, glowering a little less, asks, "Where's Josh?"
Over in Josh's area, Donna is hustling into Josh's office to let him know that they have to go, and that they're already at nineteen yea votes. Josh is puzzling over a badly handwritten message from Donna indicating that Mandy wants to talk to him about a banana bar. Donna clarifies that it says "panda bear"; Josh is incredulous and asks Donna to confirm that certain of the letters she wrote are what she claims they are, which she does. He rubs his forehead and says, "You know what would be helpful? If you could just show me where one word ends and the next one begins." They start walking toward the Mural Room as Josh wonders whether Donna got the message right, since he can't imagine why Mandy would want to talk to him about a panda bear. Donna gets Josh to admit that she's never gotten a message wrong, and that therefore giving her the benefit of the doubt "might not be monumentally out of line." Josh is unclear about what a panda is; he thinks it's a little Australian thing that eats the bark off the koala tree. Koala tree? I think you mean eucalyptus. I'm amazed that he's confused about this, but whatever. ["Especially since, even now that they're both dead, the pandas at the National Zoo are still a regular topic on the news." -- Strega] ["Plus who doesn't know that koalas aren't even bears?" -- Wing Chun] Donna tells him that's a koala bear; Josh ventures that a panda is "the other one." Donna can't believe Josh doesn't know the difference either, at which point Josh snipes at her that someone who hasn't "mastered the alphabet" shouldn't be criticizing. They run into the middle of some unspecified photo op and pause for a moment until they can pass; from down the hall Mallory calls out to them. They walk toward her as Donna insists, "My penmanship is distinctive." "Your penmanship is illegible," Josh counters. Mallory asks where Sam is; Josh says he'll be watching the Mendoza confirmation. Mallory asks if Josh can believe Sam; Josh says no. Mallory continues to ramble about how "you think you know a guy" and finally realizes Josh has no clue what's she on about. She lets it drop as they reach the Mural Room. Josh bellows "To-bee!" Toby responds, "Joshua!" Josh asks for some champagne as the entire room gloomily replies, "No." Josh: "The hell?" Ginger informs Josh about the "tempting fate" issue which Josh readily accepts. Donna's still nattering about her penmanship, but I'm real tired of that conversation and will not be reporting any more of the details of it, though there are further (and even more asinine) details to come. Josh also seems tired of it and begs Donna to get Leo.
In his office, Leo is arguing with someone on the phone about the dust cover of a book, when Margaret comes in to try to hustle him along. Leo's asking someone named Sidney if they're really going to make a federal case out of a book jacket. "We're literally going to make a federal case of this?" I enjoyed the little pun in this dialogue but I strongly suspect that I'm the only viewer geeky enough to have done so. ["I did too, and so did Glark, but then we're both über-geeky." -- Wing Chun] Margaret whispers and gestures to her watch. Leo nods and continues speaking. He tells Sidney, "I'm going to bring him up here and talk to him. But I gotta say, we're about a minute and a half from closing what wasn't the easiest confirmation process in American history. So you'll understand if I'm not giddy as a schoolgirl at the thought of running once again into the warm embrace of the Senate Judiciary Committee." Sounds like fun. Margaret's still haranguing Leo and he hangs up. As they walk over to the Mural Room, Leo explains to Margaret that their appointment to a Justice post favours reparations to African-Americans. Margaret asks, "What for?" Um, how many brains might it take to figure this out? Leo indicates that the reparations are for slavery. They arrive at the Mural Room as the assembled crowd is booing some senator who just voted nay. They're applauding a yea vote as Sam arrives, bubbling about their "day of jubilee." Toby says sharply, "Not yet." Sam sees Mallory, who's been waiting by the door to buttonhole him about something. He tells her, "It's my day of jubilee." Mallory informs him, "I despise you and everything you stand for." Sam is relatively non-plussed and says, "Okay, my day was a little bit better a few seconds ago, but that's all right." Mallory wants to know how he could have written "that position paper." Sam doesn't know what she's talking about; Mallory tells him not to play dumb. Sam replies, "Honestly, I am dumb. Most of the time I'm playing smart." It turns out she is strongly considering ruining his day of jubilee by yelling at him for a position paper he wrote on school vouchers. At that moment Josh stands up yelling about the fiftieth vote. "Here we go, baby!" Leo says, "Sam, Toby, we're about to put a guy on the Supreme Court." Everyone is tense and quiet as they wait for the next vote; as the number on-screen changes to fifty-one, everyone hoots and hollers and cheers and hugs. Sam yells over the din, "Toby? How about now?" Toby opens the bubbly and as it spills over the bottle, somehow I have the feeling that I achieved something, even though I didn't do a damn thing and it's only a TV show.
After the credits and commercials, including one for the Garden Claw Gold which I must have, not to mention one of the new West Side Story Gap commercials that I am loathing, we're back at the White House at 11:30 p.m that same night. Josh and Donna are chatting alone in the Mural Room, continuing the discussion about her stylish penmanship. In the midst of an (even for Donna) inane remark about Salvador Dali's penmanship, Leo arrives and asks if he's interrupting something important. With obvious relief, Josh replies, "I can't even begin to tell you how you're not." Donna scoots off to see if people are having fun in the other room. Leo tells Josh that Jeff Breckenridge, their nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, isn't going to sail. ["Is he related to Myra? Oh, probably not." -- Strega] Leo explains that somebody named Stadler has a problem with the fact that Breckenridge supports slavery reparations. Stadler's apparently unhappy about the fact that Breckenridge is quoted on the back of the dust jacket for a forthcoming book called The Unpaid Debt. Leo instructs Josh to talk to Breckenridge the next day; Josh protests that he's not the guy for the job. In the background Leo hears people chanting C.J.'s name and wonders what that's about; Josh informs him that C.J. is going to do "The Jackal." Leo smiles and says he loves that. Josh tries to convince Leo that Toby's the guy to deal with Breckenridge, given the job he did with Mendoza. Leo says that Toby's barely alive as a result of the Mendoza confirmation. He puts a finger on Josh's chest and says, "This one's you." Leo wants to go watch "The Jackal" and wanders off, as Josh walks behind him, saying, "I'm a white guy from Connecticut." Leo: "We've met, Josh." Josh wonders if it isn't kind of a delicate subject for him to get into with a black civil-rights lawyer from Athens, Georgia. Leo replies, "Remember you're also Jewish." Josh says, "Then he's sure to love me." In the hallway they run into Cathy. Leo asks her where Sam is; she says, "In his office, fighting with your daughter." Leo tells her to get Sam to come to the press room, so he won't miss "The Jackal."