YMMV / The West Wing

  • Acceptable Targets: The list includes Congress, the Rotary Club, Republicans, Democrats, and people on internet fora.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Regarding Toby's downfall in the final season, (as explained below under Fanon Discontinuity) it is both possible and plausible that he's covering for CJ. She has a history of turning to the press corps when she feels the rest of the administration is being dishonest, and Toby has always had paternal feelings about CJ - after all, he's the one who brought her on board in the first place.
    • However, this would also rely on CJ's willingness to let her closest friend take the fall for a treasonous offense that would get him sent to federal prison.
    • There's also those who think Toby leaking it in the first place was in character, but there's no way he would let the scandal fester for so long, to the point that it was compromising Santos' campaign.
  • Awesome Music: Has a sub-page now.
  • Bizarro Episode:
    • "Issac and Ishmael" was written as a preemption of the Season 3 premiere after the September 11th attacks, and opens with the cast members explaining that it's a "storytelling aberration" that doesn't fit into the show's timeline.
    • "Ninety Miles Away" largely splits off from the long-running election storyline in favor of an apologia about how America should have been friends with Fidel Castro this whole time, complete with a ridiculous shot of him waiting for Leo in the shadows like a James Bond villain.
  • Critical Research Failure: While the show generally does its research, there are some things it gets very wrong.
    • In the Season Three episode Stirred, President Bartlet (who is usually a very accurate and learned man), asks Donna's old teacher if when she taught Beowulf to her high school students she "taught it in the original Middle English or in translation." Beowulf was written in Old English and Bartlet should be aware of this.
    • Not "critical", but the title is referenced by Bartlet mocking James Bond for ordering his drinks "shaken, not stirred" because if you order a Martini and Gin that way, it makes the drink weaker. The problem is that James Bond orders a Vodka martini and shaking it gets rid of the potato oil that vodkas had (at least, at the time the Bond novels were set in); it also chills the drink faster than stirring it.
    • In a season two episode, a male Icelandic official is mentioned whose name ends in -dottir. Icelandic surnames are patrynoms rather than family names, and -dottir always indicates that the person is female—e.g., "Olafsdottir" means "Olaf's daughter," so the ambassador should have either been female or had a name ending in -sson.
    • In the Season 2 episode "Galileo", Bartlet is going to a concert by the Reykjavik Symphony and he has Charlie read out the programme: Samuel Barber's Symphony No 2, Stravinsky's "Variations on a Theme" and Arnold Schoenberg's "Enlightened Night" for string orchestra, which Bartlet says "totally blows". The Barber piece is a real piece; Stravinsky did write a set of Variations, but it doesn't have that exact title. Schoenberg's 1899 "Verklärte Nacht" exists in two versions, the original sextet and a version for string orchestra. However, its title translates not as "Enlightened Night" (which would be "Aufklärte Nacht") but "Transfigured Night", and although it's by Schoenberg there's very little in it that a supposed hater of modern music could dislike. It certainly isn't (as he later puts it) "an atonal nightmare of pretention", being squarely in the key of D minor.
    • In the Grand Finale, Bartlet asks whose idea it was to hold the Inauguration in January. His wife humorously replies that it was the Founding Fathers'. Except that it wasn't. For most of the USA's history, the Inauguration was held in March. The first January Inauguration wasn't until 1936. (Could she be mistaken? Yes. Could notorious pedant Bartlet refrain from correcting her? No.)
      • To be fair, perhaps the reason that Bartlet didn't correct her is because he's still coming to grips with the reality that his presidency is now over, and that from here on out he has no control over his legacy. He can only hope that people and history remember him well. In other words, he's a little distracted and O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
    • Any election junkie will tell you that the 2006 map is absolute bullshit. There is no way in hell that, in this era, a Democrat would win South Carolina or Texas, even if they were a Representative, and no way that a Republican would win Vermont or Maine. A lot of people accuse the writers of manipulating the results in order to have Santos win.
      • It's mentioned that Santos made so many trips to South Carolina that he practically lived there, and it has a sizeable minority population who would be willing to vote Democrat. Same for Texas, with its large Hispanic population. As for Vinick, both Vermont and Maine are generally small c conservative when it comes to fiscal matters, and they have a negligible amount of Latino voters. It's still a stretch, but not completely impossible. Vermont is also a rather rural state that does not see eye to eye with the American left wing on things like gun policy. What is strange however is that Vinnick wins Maine but none of its congressional districts are ever mentioned, as Maine and Nebraska famously allocate all but two of their electors by Congressional district, at least in our universe.
      • The writers also handwave this by having practically every commentator who shows up remark on how this particular election has completely upended the electoral map to the point where it's practically unrecognizable, with the implication being that this is a uniquely unusual set of events.
      • It's worth noting in 2008 that Barack Obama won North Carolina by less than half a percent, and lost Georgia by a ratio of only 52-47. He still got blown out in South Carolina, but this isn't completely insane.
    • Language. It is true that Indonesia has many different ethnicities and therefore many different languages, including Balinese and Batak. However, Indonesia does have a national language, Indonesian, which is spoken by the majority of the country (with mutually-intelligible dialects spoken in different regions). So there would be no need to find a translator who spoke Batak (the Indonesian president's native tongue), simply one who spoke Indonesian.
    • In Season 2's fifth episode "And It's Surely To His Credit", there is a subplot involving Josh's health insurance refusing to pay more than 20% of the hospital's bill for his inpatient stay after being shot in the Season 1 finale. The grounds were that it was an out-of-network hospital and that Josh had failed to get authorization for the admission prior to actually being admitted. Since Josh is a (fictional) federal employee living in the DC metro area, he would have had ten fee-for-service and PPO plans, seven HMOs, and eight high-deductible and consumer-driven plans to choose from as his insurance through the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Program (FEHBP). Regardless of which of those plans he chose, Josh would not have been the party responsible to obtain authorization for the inpatient admission. Such admissions are authorized based on the clinical necessity of the care the patient requires, which can only be established by medical practitioners on behalf of the facility; regardless of the facility's participation status with the plan, the insurance carrier would not have expected or required that Josh be the one to call to request authorization. Furthermore, it is a standard for admissions through the emergency department that the admitting facility has approximately 48 hours after the admission takes place to contact the insurance plan and obtain authorization. This is because most insurance plans' medical review departments (the areas that take in and review authorization requests) are not open 24/7 and the facility may not have all of the necessary documentation to prove the clinical necessity of the predicted length of the patient's stay until at least a day after the original admission through the ER.
      • As for the amount of the insurance plan's payment: the terms of the insurance plans offered to federal employees are negotiated between the insurance carriers and the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM). No matter which plan Josh might've been covered by, the plan would've paid the claim submitted by the hospital based upon the terms for that plan as approved by the OPM. If the hospital or Josh were unsatisfied by the insurance carrier's determination on the claim, either party could've requested a review by OPM to determine if the plan should've paid the claim differently. Federal courts do not have jurisdiction over civil suits involving health insurance, and the state-level insurance departments of either Maryland or Virginia would not have had jurisdiction to override a determination by OPM. This means that Josh wouldn't actually have standing to sue the insurance carrier if an OPM review determined that the carrier adjudicated and paid the claim correctly based upon the terms of the insurance plan covering him at the time he was shot.
      • If a facility (or physician for that matter) does not have a participation contract with the insurance carrier for the plan covering a patient, the insurance carrier has no legal authority to circumscribe how much the facility ultimately chooses to bill the patient above and beyond any payments made by the plan. He would potentially have had grounds to enact a state-level civil suit requesting an injunction to prevent the hospital's billing him $50,000 for an urgently needed life-saving medical procedure caused by circumstances that prevented his active selection of rendering physicians or the facility in which it occurred. The writers of the episode apparently didn't think it sounded as good to say he would sue for an injunction against the hospital billing him for the unpaid balance.
    • In "Isaac and Ishmael", Sam says "Not only do terrorists always fail at what they're after, they pretty much always succeed in strengthening whatever it is they're against." He goes on to list a number of failed terrorist organisations. He fails, however, to mention Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress, which undoubtedly used tactics against the apartheid regime in South Africa which would normally be considered terrorism, including the bombing of civilian targets.note  What happened in South Africa? The African National Congress achieved its aims: apartheid collapsed and white rule of the country along with it, and Umkhonto we Sizwe ended up being incorporated into the South African military. Only a racist would say that the collapse of apartheid was a bad thing, but the fact is that terrorists do not always fail, and they certainly do not always strengthen the things they're against.note 
  • Designated Villain: Both of Bartlet's Vice Presidents. Neither Hoynes nor Russell ever seem to do that much wrong to justify the level of contempt and scorn they receive from the main cast (though Hoynes, at least, is smart enough to get in some What the Hell, Hero? digs at the main characters on occasion). On the flip side, while they're hardly that villainous their greatest character flaws are, to varying degrees, a general lack of integrity, loyalty, political conviction and, in Russell's case, intelligence, intellectual interest and charisma — qualities that the main characters (and show) value quite highly.
  • Fanon:
    • The unanimously-accepted fact that CJ calls Josh "mi amore" on a regular basis (she does it only once or twice on the actual show.)
      • Also that Donna calls Josh "pumpkin patch" on a regular basis (happened once on the show).
    • Sam becomes President in all future-fics that mention him. Exceptions are rare and do not occur without a very significant and compelling reason. This, at least, has its roots in President Bartlet's remark, "You're going to run for President one day. Don't be scared. You can do it."
    • Fandom seems to unanimously agree that Josh and Donna will have a son together whose name will be Noah (after Josh' father). According to the characters' twitter accounts their kids are named Leo, Jackie and Noah, though Noah is a girl.
  • Fanon Discontinuity:
    • For some, the entire post-Sorkin run is something they refuse to acknowledge and instead only watch the first four seasons.
    • Toby leaking the information about the military shuttle in the last season. Even Richard Schiff said that it was out of character, and acted the episodes as though Toby was taking the fall for someone else.
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Hamilton. It helps that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a big West Wing fan and sprinkled references to it throughout the libretto.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • Santos is talking with Leo about his viability as VP candidate: "I'm not gonna fire you. You want out, you're gonna have to drum up another heart attack or something."
    • At the end of the Cold Open of the Season 1 episode "The Short List", a piece of the ceiling in Josh's office falls onto his desk (a maintenance crew was working upstairs) while Josh is sitting there, inches away from him. A little later, Josh tells Donna, "You should be nice to me. I could be dead, you know." Donna's reply? "I don't have that kind of luck." Of course, it cuts both ways; earlier in the scene, Josh, amazed the ceiling just missed him, says to Donna, "I really think if big chunks of ceiling are gonna fall on anyone...I don't know...it should be you."
  • Genius Bonus: Sometimes things happening in the background only have real significance if you already know what's happening. In one episode, Sam takes it upon himself to cut government spending by eliminating pointless reports. One of the "pointless" reports they decide to scrap is about "some mussel in the Great Lakes". This is a real issue Ripped from the Headlines, as the zebra mussel is an invasive species (akin to the rabbits of Australia) that's causing significant problems in North American waterways.
    • When Simon Donovan is gunned down, the convenience store owner knocks over a display of red and white roses. Simultaneously, the main cast is at a performance of a play about The War of the Roses, so called because the two sides each had roses as the symbol for their houses- the rose of York was white, the rose of Lancaster was red. The House of Tudor - born out of the end of the war - combined these two symbols to signify the alliance of the two houses.
    • Aaron Sorkin really seems to love making jokes about Alger Hiss and his secret pumpkin.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Despite being a program entirely about American politics (which are confusing even to Americans) and which constantly extols the virtues of a liberal democratic (small L, small D) system of government, the show is extremely popular in China.
  • Growing the Beard: Season seven is considered by many to be a step up from the previous post-Sorkin seasons. The fact that it has the presidential race storyline to drive it doesn't hurt.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Being highly researched by the creative staff, a great number of things that would later become hot-button issues were present in the show from day one, but some things the writers probably never anticipated would mean what they do today.
    • In the season finale of Season 1, the space shuttle Columbia has a problem wherein on of its bay doors fails to close. Three years later, a similar problem with insulation damage to the wing caused the destruction of the real life Columbia, resulting in the deaths of all seven crew.
    • "[...] at this moment we do not know the whereabouts of about a half-dozen cell leaders, including bin Laden[...]" -Original air date, October 4th 2000
    • In the Season 4 premier, Leo and Fitz are discussing the assassination of Abdul ibn Shareef, which was carried out by the U.S. Fitz explains, "These were Navy SEALs. These were Special Ops. They know what they're doing."
    • Donald Rumsfeld's mentioned in "The Short List" as one of the great White House staffers (he served in Nixon and Ford's administrations), admittedly by a Republican character. Doubtful whether he'd receive the same praise a decade later, after his controversial tenure as Defense Secretary.
    • "There's a situation developing in Port-Au-Prince, I have to get ready to brief." -Original air date, May 9th 2001
    • The Haiti sub-plot at the beginning of season 4 was a reference to the 1991 Haitian coup and subsequent US diplomatic intervention to restore Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
    • "The government can't be in the business of cosigning loans." -Original air date, May 1st, 2002. Non-interventionist ideals of 2002, meet 2008.
    • And the first season finale, where the President half-seriously threatens to invade Baghdad; in an episode during which the Space Shuttle Columbia is having re-entry problems.
    • Probably the Most Triumphant Example in the series: Leo has a heart attack in season six shortly after an argument with Bartlet. It's shown in excruciating detail. In season seven, both the character and the actor would die of a heart attack.
      • In the very first episode of Season 7, Leo offers to resign from the ticket if Santos thinks he's dragging it down. Santos tells him the only way he can get out of it is to have another heart attack.
      • After Leo's first heart attack, he tells President Bartlet that this is the last chance to get things done, and that they should "leave it all on the field." Spencer did.
    • In the first-season episode "Mr Willis of Ohio," Zoey Bartlet has a somewhat uncomfortable experience in a bar when a couple of guys hit on her; she gets rescued by the rest of the cast and, ultimately, some Secret Service agents. When she gets back to the White House, her father goes into elaborate detail about how if anything happened to her, it would essentially bring the government to its knees, as "we wouldn't have a commander in chief anymore; we'd have a father who's out of his mind because his little girl is trapped somewhere in Uganda with a gun to her head." Seems over the top, right? Not after the end of Season 4, when Zoey's French Jerk boyfriend slips ecstasy into her drink and she ends up being kidnapped, and her father finds he cannot think and act rationally in the situation and invokes the 25th Amendment, temporarily handing over power to the Republican Speaker of the House.
      • Also in that speech, Zoey and her father talk about how the Secret Service should worry about [her father] getting shot. Guess what happens in the first season finale/second season premiere?
    • Sam in Season 1: "20s and 30s, it was the role of government; 50s and 60s, it was civil rights; the next two decades, it's going to be privacy. I'm talking about the internet. I'm talking about cell phones." In the wake of the NSA leaks and general concerns over corporate data mining from Google and others, it turns out Sam was right on the money.
    • In "In God We Trust" (made in 2005), a mini-crisis emerges after Democrats in Congress attach a minimum wage rider to the bill to raise the debt ceiling that Republicans won't pass, threatening to default the United States. Senator Vinick, a Republican, confronts Bartlet about Democrats "playing games" with the debt ceiling. Flash forward to 2011 and 2013, and arguments about Congress raising the debt ceiling suddenly become a lot more relevant — only this time, it's the Republicans who are "playing games" with the debt ceiling.
    • Any of Sam's political gaffes are pretty hard to watch after Rob Lowe's callous joking about the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, and then refusing to apologize for them.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • The Bartlet administration presiding over the appointment of Roberto Mendoza (a Latino ex-police officer from a working-class Brooklyn family) to the Supreme Court, thus making him the first Latino Supreme Court justice in history. Nine years after Mendoza's first appearance on the show, the Obama administration actually did preside over the appointment of the first Latino Supreme Court justice: Sonia Sotomayor, who came from a working-class immigrant family in the Bronx.
    • An early episode in Season 1 involved Sam trying (and ultimately failing) to get support from Congressmen in his efforts to get the Army's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy repealed. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was officially repealed by the Obama administration in 2011 (11 years after that episode aired), giving homosexuals the right to openly serve in the military for the first time in American history.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the Season 5 episode "The Stormy Present," James Cromwell has a guest role as former President of the United States D. Wire Newman (casually called D.W.), a loose Fictional Counterpart to Jimmy Carter. Cromwell would later go on to play Real Life former president George H.W. Bush in the 2008 George W. Bush biopic W..
    • The race between Santos and Vinick has some quite eerie similarities to the 2008 presidential election, with an young and idealistic minority Democrat beating an elderly, moderate-leaning Republican. The parallels just get weirder from there: the Democratic candidate chooses a much older Washington insider as his running mate (Joe Biden vs. Leo McGarry) while the Republican candidate's running mate is the much younger Governor of a sparsely populated US state known for its rich mineral resources (Ray Sullivan of West Virginia vs. Sarah Palin of Alaska), and the Democratic candidate decides to appoint one of his foremost political rivals Secretary of State (Arnold Vinick vs. Hilary Clinton).
    • In the aforementioned episode "Stirred," the senior staff floats the idea of replacing Hoynes with Leo as Bartlet's running mate. In the final seasons of the show, Leo was the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Democratic party.
    • Kathryn Joosten plays Bartlett's secretary, and is then replaced by Lily Tomlin. The two actresses would later play sisters in Desperate Housewives.
    • Martin Sheen's pronounciation of the "hu" sound as "yu," after it became a popular way to mock Donald Trump.
  • Less Disturbing in Context
    CJ (who has stolen Charlie's Presidential schedule as punishment for his draconian logbook practices): You'll find it in your filing cabinet, under A. For Anal.
    Ed: ...I don't really want to know what he's going to find in his filing cabinet, do you?
    Larry: No.
  • Memetic Mutation: You don't tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing.
    • To ensure that you don't you must go outside, turn three times, curse and spit.
    • Josh drinks from the keg of glory - bring him the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.
    • DONNA!
      • MARGARET!
      • GINGER!
    • What's next?
    • Bartlet For America
  • Moe: Donna
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • The first five minutes of The West Wing are even more entertaining after having seen House, given Lisa Edelstein's presence.
    • Additionally, Laurie has a friend from law school played by Reiko Aylesworth, who was a few years away from starting up as Michelle Dessler on 24.
    • Nick Offerman shows up in "The Crackpots and These Women" as a member of an environmental group seeking a "wolves only" highway.
    • Sam Lloyd appears as someone who wants the White House to pay more attention to UFOs, a few years before gaining more recognition as Ted on Scrubs.
    • Eric Balfour is an abrasive frat boy who tries to hit on Zoey in "Mr. Willis of Ohio".
    • Lance Reddick appears as the cop who clues Toby in on the deceased Korean veteran in "In Excelsis Deo", shortly before growing more prominent in The Wire, Oz, Lost, and Fringe.
    • Liza Weil is Karen Larsen, the woman who leaks Leo's history of drug and alcohol abuse to Peter Lillianfield's associate in "Take Out the Trash Day".
    • Kenneth Choi has a very brief role as a member of the Secret Service in "Six Meetings Before Lunch" before getting some greater recognition for playing Jim Morita in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Henry Lin in Sons of Anarchy, and Judge Lance Ito in The People v. O.J. Simpson.
    • Andy Buckley is Congressman Mike Satchel in "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet", many years before earning recognition as David Wallace in The Office.
    • Jane Lynch appears in a pair of Season 2 episodes as a reporter in the White House briefing room.
    • Emily Procter's role as Ainsley Hayes is arguably this, given her more prominent role as Calleigh Dusquesne in CSI: Miami.
    • Sam Jaeger is a White House reporter in "In the White House".
    • Daniel Roebuck, perhaps most recognizable as Dr. Arzt on Lost, is Lt. Buckley, who attempts to reprimand CJ in "And It's Surely To Their Credit".
    • Glenn Morshwower appeared sporadically as Situation Room advisor Mike Chysler just before 24 began airing and he became known for playing Aaron Pierce.
    • Eric Stonestreet plays a White House aide in "Bad Moon Rising".
    • Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC fame worked on The West Wing as a writer and producer and appeared as Jed Bartlet's father in "Two Cathedrals".
    • Evan Handler plays conservative political strategist Douglas Wegland early in Season 3.
    • Mark Feuerstein is Cliff Calley.
    • Ty Burrell is Tom Starks in "The Women of Qumar".
    • For those who didn't become aware of him until NCIS, there's Mark Harmon, who appeared for four episodes in Season 3 as a Secret Service Agent assigned to protect CJ.
    • David Burtka, who would play a recurring role on How I Met Your Mother before becoming Neil Patrick Harris' husband, is Intern Bruce in "The Black Vera Wang".
    • Clark Gregg plays FBI Agent Michael Casper in several episodes scattered between seasons two through five. Partially as a result of this, some MCU fans (as well as Gregg himself) like to think that Phil Coulson worked with the White House before S.H.I.E.L.D. hired him.
    • Amy Adams is Cathy from the premiere episode of Season 4.
    • Appearing with Amy Adams is John Gallagher, Jr., who would later become a main cast member in Sorkin's The Newsroom.
    • Ashley Benson has a small appearance as a girl in "Game On".
    • Just a few years before becoming Jigsaw, Tobin Bell was military advisor Colonel Whitcomb in "Process Stories".
    • Jeff Perry guest stars in "Privateers" as a corporate whistleblower.
    • Navid Negahban, later a prominent antagonist in Homeland as Abu Nazir, is Maz in "Memorial Day".
    • Bellamy Young is MaryLou Meriwether, the lawyer who meets with Josh about the Bill of Rights, in "The Stormy Present".
    • Just a few years before Breaking Bad, Dean Norris played Republican Party Chairman Steve Hodder in two episodes of Season 7.
    • Danny Pudi appears briefly as one of Santos' aides in "Two Weeks Out".
  • Seasonal Rot: Season Five is not well-regarded. Sorkin had just left, and the new show runner John Wells took a while to adjust. Consequently, the tone is a lot more downbeat, cynical and gloomy, and the previously close-knit and loyal characters seem to be at each other's throats a lot more than previously. Fans who enjoy the post-Sorkin run consider the switch to the next presidential campaign to be a vast improvement.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Mandy. She was set up as a Foil for Josh, but she didn't fit in with the compassionate, quirky, idealistic True Companions of the senior staff—she always argued for doing the political thing over the right thing, had few moments of genuine friendship with the others, and tended to interrupt serious moments with increasingly trivial PR tasks. The character was quietly dropped from the show in between seasons 1 and 2, and few people missed her.
    • Ryan Pierce, the intern foisted on Josh in the fifth season. A self-absorbed, egotistical rich kid who Josh kept around for the one and only reason that he couldn't offend the kid's powerful Senator unclenote . He continually got on Josh's nerves, and Donna's, by namedropping his connections and mixing insights of competence with careless mistakes.
    • Amy Gardner. Her condescension towards Josh and other characters, and her tendency to sabotage the main characters' efforts makes her a lot less sympathetic than the writers probably intended her to be.
  • Shocking Swerve: In the final season, Toby leaked the shuttle story. What really puts it over the top is that there's no attempt at all to explain the various Red Herring clues that pointed to CJ, like her mysterious lengthy phone calls with Greg Brock or Margaret's worry about testifying.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The special episode "Isaac and Ishmael" is significantly more ham-handed and message-driven than The West Wing usually is, but it works well enough given the extraordinary circumstances that generated its necessity.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Often. For example, in the episode "18th and Potomac," Josh meets with two House Democrats holding up funds for the anti-Big Tobacco lawsuits. While the audience's sympathies are clearly supposed to be with Josh, the two congressmen make cogent arguments that the tobacco companies' actions, while sleazy, weren't actually criminal. Josh's response is to accuse them of not caring if smokers die or not.
    • Another example is when a secretary takes offence to Sam telling Ainsley that she's "enough to make a good dog break his leash." Ainsley goes out of her way to tell the secretary that she's not offended and that by complaining she's actually dragging attention away from "real" harassment. However, she seems to miss the point the secretary was trying to make: a sexual comment does not need to be directed at you for you to find it offensive, and in the vast majority of cases Sam's comment would be considered inappropriate in a workplace. Matters aren't helped by the common view that this character was written as Sorkin's response to several online critics who had accused his writing of being sexist, as these critics simply proceeded to argue that the character only showed that Sorkin had completely misunderstood their point.
  • Tear Jerker: Leo's death. Made even worse considering Spencer died.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: The original Al Bundy has made a couple of guest appearances as the Governor of Pennsylvania, who is the frontrunning candidate for President.
  • What an Idiot:
    • Speaker Haffley in "Shutdown". Bartlet decides to go to the Hill to work out an end to the shutdown, but decides halfway on the way to walk instead, in front of the press. Haffley, to the objection of a couple of his employees, decides to leave the President in the lobby so long that he walks back out. The scene after the commercial opens with political commentators on a TV lambasting the Speaker for making a colossal tactical error.
    • It felt more like Villainous Breakdown, with Haffley flipping out because the President of the United States is sitting smugly outside his office with half the Washington press corps, and he has no idea why, since Bartlet's visit wasn't announced. He insists on staying inside until he can figure out what the hell he should do, and by the time he pulls himself together, the President has left. The story changes - The public see that President is the one who's honestly trying to reach out an make an agreement, and Haffley and his team are locked away ignoring the problem - now it's his fault the government has shut down.
      • The latter interpretation also counts as this trope, however, since the shutdown has lasted for three days by this point. This has been plenty of time for Haffley to come up with some ideas for what to do in the (at that point quite likely) event that anyone from the President's office should come looking for a deal — time he's mostly spent sitting around gloating at how the media has turned on the President with a smug look on his face.
    • Toby gets one in "The State Dinner". Let's face it, stubbornly and self-righteously insisting that a rather confrontational denunciation of Indonesia's human rights abuses be added into a toast for the Indonesian President at a state dinner in his honour is rather undiplomatic, however justified. But when you then have to ask a high-ranking Indonesian official — who is unlikely to be very happy with said denunciation and is likely to know who included it — to use his influence to get a friend of yours out of an Indonesian jail, it just looks stupid on top of that.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: During Season 7, after a few episodes the viewer can't really escape the feeling that the Bartlet White House is at best indifferent to the Santos campaign's needs, if not actively hostile. This impression only gets stronger as the season continues. It wouldn't be too bad if it weren't for the fact that it often seems to boil down to nothing more than a superiority complex in the White House for having the responsibility of governing instead of campaigning- with the obvious logical problem being that in order to govern, you first have to campaign and win. Josh does not hesitate to point any of this out.
  • The Woobie:
    • Josh Lyman, specifically when he receives a card that gives him instructions to safety in the case of a nuclear attack, a safety that his friends and future lover, then UST partner, would not be invited to. Later it is revealed that as a child he lost his older sister in a fire while he ran to safety.
    • It's hard not to feel sympathetic for Hoynes when he is frequently disrespected by the staff and the president.
      • The same can also be said for his successor, Russell.


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