Previously on The West Wing: There are no "previously"s this week, so apparently, they're taking the position that nothing happened. It's good to know that the publicity department is keeping up.
"The Stormy Present," title-cards the title card, as a stern rumble of lower-register stringed instruments greets us ominously. We fade in on a hand carefully scratching out a letter, not only in longhand, but with a fountain pen. Therefore, you know it is a letter in which very wise things are said. Idiots only write in ball-point. "AMERICA," the hand writes. Call it a crazy guess, but based on that hint, I am going out on a limb to predict that this letter is wise and patriotic. I don't think it's about, you know, scurvy, or how to get tomato soup stains out of a white t-shirt. Unless, I guess, it actually turns out to say, "I AM ERIC AND I DON'T HAVE SCURVY AND I CAN TELL YOU HOW TO CLEAN THAT SHIRT."
Anyway, the next thing you know, it's Monday at 6 PM-TCT (Title Card Time), and one Jed Bartlet is futzing with his cufflinks at the pedestal sink in front of the mirror as he prepares for an evening out. A phone rings, and of course, he has a phone on the windowsill of the bathroom. As you probably do, too. After answering, Jed says, "Please, tell President Lassiter I'll call him back; I'm late as it is...I know he called before." That is some awkward exposition. It's like a scene on Laverne & Shirley where somebody answers the phone and says, "What? My apartment was robbed? What do you mean they took everything? Yes, officer, I know I live in a dangerous neighborhood. What do you mean, 'Was the door locked?' Yes, I can come down in an hour and give a statement." It's okay for Garry Marshall when he's writing for Carmine Ragusa, but I expect a little better from a drama that has won as mystifyingly many Emmys as this one has.
Anyway, we revisit the Pale And Bony Hand Of Death, which is still writing. Or, I guess, writing again, having been cruelly snubbed by Jed in favor of additional cufflink-futzing. "OF ISLAM," the hand writes. Okay, now I really think it isn't about soup stains.
Back at the White House, meanwhile, Charlie reminds a bustling and tuxedoed Jed that he left Colonel Mustard in the study with the candlestick or something. Apparently, Colonel Mustard is a candidate to paint the official presidential portrait. (Sidebar: I can't let that remark go by without directing you to the recently-unveiled (and oh-so-fabulous) official portrait of former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura. Note that it contains many things that remind Jesse of stuff he really likes, like a cigar, a military lapel pin, and light rail. Oh, and dark clouds signifying that the end is near. My friend Snowmobile Boy noted that it's a good thing he doesn't really like pie, or there would be a big sign in the background for Baker's Square. Isn't that portrait completely awesome in its magnificent, tacky splendor?) Anyway, Jed insists that the whole official-portrait business is stupid (Jesse Ventura: "Stupid? Did you see the light rail line behind me?"), and that Abby's the only one who cares, and that he's not doing it. See, he doesn't understand the significance of being president nearly as clearly as he would if, say, a former president abruptly shuffled off this mortal coil and went to meet his maker. (This part is implied.) Jed would only accept a very fine artist, he says, and he asks, "Who did Lincoln?" Oh, har, har. Jed does some more pretentious Lincoln-related yammering until Charlie "It's Leo" Young holds up a cell phone and says, "It's Leo."