West Wing
The Birnam Wood

Episode Report Card
LTG: F | 1 USERS: B-
If A Character Is Assassinated In The Woods...

Jed and Leo walk away from the cabin. The sound is awful, and the dialogue is hard to make out. Leo thinks that U.S. troops might be welcome at first, but wonders what happens when they have to use force to combat extremists or declare martial law: "This isn't Iraq in the desert. You're committing American lives to something that may go on for decades." Don't look now, Leo, but it seems to me that there is a real danger that Iraq will go on for decades. Jed screams, "How are we not involved now?" He clamps down hard on the last word and regains his composure. "We can't keep having this argument." Leo: "My counsel is no longer of use to you." Jed: "So if I disagree with you, you have to threaten me?" Leo: "This is your own League of Nations, and it will ruin you like it ruined Wilson." Jed: "Okay. I'll need your successor in place before you leave." Leo: "I'll get you some names." Jed: "Yeah." And just like that, one of the greatest relationships on television is ruptured. Jed walks back to the cabin. Josh steps out of the cabin and calls to Leo, asking if everything is all right. Leo tells Josh to get back in the cabin and find out what Jed needs from him. Leo tells Josh he just needs some air. Josh returns to the cabin. Leo buttons his jacket, and a button falls off. For some reason, the director shows the button falling in slow motion and splashing in a puddle. That choice was completely inexplicable to me.

Leo goes for a walk. He crosses a bridge over a rushing stream, and stops for a moment. But despite my fears, he does not throw himself off the bridge. He's clearly experiencing some heartburn, and his breath is coming in gasps. The director gives us some ridiculous "Leo P.O.V." shots as he walks through the trees, and then a few from immediately behind him. A number of shots are out of focus, and at times Leo seems to leave a trail across the screen as he moves. It's like the Blair Witch Heart Attack (tm immaf). But through all of this absolutely ridiculous cinematic crap, John Spencer acts the hell out of this heart attack. The pain, both physical and emotional, that Leo is experiencing is completely present in his face. Despite everything the producers did to screw this up (including the mawkish piano and violin music), it was one of the most incredibly sad things I have seen in a long while. John Spencer's acting alone saved this episode from an "F." At the end, Leo lets out a muted cry and falls to his knees. We don't see him fall all the way to the ground. Instead, we hear his body crash to the leaf-covered forest floor as the camera pans up to the treetops.

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West Wing




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