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Recap / The West Wing S 01 E 07 The State Dinner

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As the staff gets ready for a state dinner with the prime minister of Indonesia, they also have to deal with several crisis situations. The trucking industry is going to be hit by a strike unless Leo can help negotiate a settlement, the FBI has a survivalist camp surrounded in Idaho, and a class 4 hurricane is bearing down on the southeast. Unfortunately, the hurricane changes direction, going right into a battle carrier group in the Atlantic. Also, the FBI takes the survivalist camp, but the negotiator Mandy insists on sending in gets shot and is critically wounded. As for the trucker's strike, President Bartlet says he'll nationalize the industry unless both sides can work out a settlement. Also, Sam writes a speech for the state dinner which Toby finds too mild towards Indonesia, and he insists on making it tougher. Unfortunately, it so offends an Indonesian official whom Toby and Josh arrange to see that when Toby asks for a journalist friend to be freed from jail, the official turns him down flat. Sam, meanwhile, fares no better; Laurie comes to the party as the date of a prominent Democratic contributor.


This episode is also notable for being the first appearance of the First Lady, Dr. Abigail Bartlet (Stockard Channing), as well as the first episode where Danny tries to flirt with C.J.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Somewhere between this and unresolved sexual tension between C.J. and Danny.
  • Bilingual Backfire / Completely Unnecessary Translator: Josh asks Donna to get a translator for the Indonesian official they're supposed to meet; unfortunately, this official speaks a different dialect than the translator she gets, so she has to get another person to translate him. Trying to talk through both translators makes everyone frustrated, especially Toby, so it's a surprise when the Indonesian official says, "Why don't we just speak in English?"
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: President Bartlet. Lampshaded by Abbey:
    Abbey: I was looking for the President.
    Sam: He had to step out to the West Wing.
    Abbey: Oh.
    Sam: I'm not sure why, but I could...
    Abbey: To pistol-whip the trucking industry.
    Sam: Why would he?
    Abbey: Because he can’t save a gunshot victim and he can’t stop a hurricane.
    • She also does it later when she's with Bartlet:
    Abbey: You know, one of the things that happens when I stay away too long, is that you forget that you don’t have to power to fix everything. You have a big brain. And a good heart. And an ego the size of Montana. You do, Jed. You don’t have the power to fix everything. But I do like watching you try.
  • Downer Ending: No one really succeeds or ends up happy in this episode. To wit:
    • The Indonesians are offended by Toby's toast and the Indonesian official he and Josh approach bluntly refuses to help him get Toby's friend out of jail;
    • Sam is upset when Laurie turns up as the escort of one of the administration's key donors and the resulting tension between them causes a fight between them;
    • The FBI negotiator gets shot by the militia operatives and ends the episode in critical condition, triggering a Heroic BSoD in Mandy (who was the one who pushed for negotiations);
    • And the hurricane makes a one-in-a-million-chance change in direction and ends up hitting a carrier group that was actually moved out of harbour to avoid the hurricane, meaning that Bartlet ends the episode trying to comfort the radio operator of a supply ship that's being battered severely by the storm (and which we learn in a later episode was the only ship in the carrier group that sank).
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    • About the only things that go well are C.J gets to flirt with Danny a bit and Bartlet scares the hell out of the feuding trucking industry management and union representatives (although we never find definitely out whether they managed to avoid the strike or not).
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: You can tell this is network television when a union representative tells someone not to give him any crap, and Leo tells him not to use that kind of language. Perhaps justified in the context, since Leo's upbraiding him not so much for the language itself but for the disrespect of using it while also being a guest in the White House:
    Leo: This is the White House, Bobby, it's not the Jersey Turnpike. Watch your mouth.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Maybe if Toby had taken Sam's advice and used the milder speech instead, the Indonesian official might have let Toby's friend out of jail.
  • Hypocrite: After hearing Toby's speech for the President which strongly denounced Indonesian human rights abuses against native populations, the Indonesian official Toby and Josh approach to try and help get Toby's friend out of prison points out that a nation that engaged in a near-genocidal war against its own native population also has little room to be getting self-righteous towards others on that score. And, of course, there's the personal hypocrisy of Toby expecting nay demanding the Indonesian official to do him a favour having just written a very insulting and humiliating speech denouncing the man's president to begin with.
    • Sam is also hypocritical in this episode. Despite his opposition (if not outright contempt) towards Laurie's job as a call girl, he offers her $10,000 to do what he wants her to.
  • Idiot Ball: Let's face it; Toby's insistence on writing a very harsh speech condemning Indonesian human rights abuses to be delivered at a state dinner in honour of the Indonesian President on the same evening that he had to ask an Indonesian official to help get one of his friends out of jail was not one of his smartest moves.
  • Jerkass: The Indonesian President is a very cold, terse and arrogant-seeming man who barely responds to Bartlet's polite attempts at conversation.
    Bartlet: I can't decide whether that man is boring or rude but he's one or the other.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The Indonesian official doesn't seem like a particularly nice man and takes great pleasure in jerking Toby, Josh, Donna and the multiple translators they find to facilitate their conversation around. But he has pretty valid points in that it's both pretty arrogant for both the United States to lecture other countries about human rights abuses when it's own hands are hardly clean on that score, and that it's pretty arrogant for Toby on a personal level to turn around and expect an Indonesian official to do him a favour after writing a very confrontational speech insulting Indonesia and it's president at a state dinner that was supposed to be in their honour.
    Indonesian official: I think you have a lot of nerve. That was a despicable and humiliating toast your President made, and I know you were the one who wrote it.
    Toby:... Please understand, that with so many people watching, with so much media coverage it was important for us to make clear that the United States, with it's commitment to human rights, has an obligation —
    Indonesian official: [Interrupting] Mr. Ziegler! Does it strike you at all hypocritical that a people who systematically wiped out a century's worth of Native Americans should lecture the world so earnestly on human rights?
    Toby:... Yes it does.
    Indonesian official: You humiliated my President tonight, and for no other reason than to show off. And now you want me to do you a favour? Go to hell.
    • The flipside is also true, to be fair; Toby isn't exactly wrong to be opposed to the human rights abuses of the Indonesian government, but his stubborn refusal to give even an inch and his blindness to how this might backfire on him (and his friend, who is now lingering in an Indonesian prison where a little tact on Toby's part might have helped him be released) just makes him come across as self-righteous to the point of foolishness.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: After Josh, Sam and Toby tell C.J. about the three plot threads that will dominate the episode:
    C.J.: So, let me see if I have this. A hurricane’s picked up speed and power and is heading for Georgia. Management and labor are coming here to work out a settlement to avoid a crippling strike that will begin at midnight tonight. And the government’s planning a siege on 18 to 40 of its citizens, all the while we host a state dinner for the President of Indonesia.
    Josh and Toby: Yeah.
    Sam: You got it.
    C.J.: Amazingly, you know what I’ll get asked most often today?
    Josh: What?
    C.J.: Sondra?
    Sondra: I'm sorry, C.J....
  • The Matchmaker: In what is literally the first ever scene where we see First Lady Abby Bartlet, she's trying to set CJ up with the cardiologist son of some friends of hers.
  • Mood Whiplash: Charlie's grandparents are safe and the hurricane has changed direction, headed straight for the fleet of ships which had been moved out into the Atlantic as a safety precaution.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Mandy acts like this when she realize the standoff in Idaho has resulted in the death of the negotiator she insisted they send.
    • Toby reacts similarly when the Indonesian official informs him that he will not lift a finger to help Toby's friend be released from an Indonesian prison because he was offended by the confrontational changes to the President's speech that Toby himself insisted were added.
    • Less out of personal guilt and more out of horror at the incredible misfortune, but Leo has this reaction when he learns that due to an unforeseeable twist in the weather, an entire carrier fleet moved out of port to avoid a hurricane is now sitting directly in the hurricane's path.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After an episode of snide bickering and stubborn intransigence, the truckers union and management officials are left looking like they've collectively been hit by a fleet of their own trucks when Bartlet storms in, tells them not to be such damn idiots and to get their crap together or he's going to nationalise the trucking industry and draft the truckers into military service, and then storms out again.
    • Toby is left looking like this when he realises that his own self-righteousness in adding the confrontational language to the toast for the Indonesian President has doomed his efforts to free his friend from an Indonesian jail, after the official he was hoping to persuade to help him informs him to go to hell.
    • Leo realises in horror that due to a freak twist in the weather, there's now an entire carrier fleet parked in the path of a massive hurricane.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: A subtle example. When President Bartlet enters the room where the negotiations between the truckers union and management are taking place, everyone rises as is expected. When they move to sit down to continue the negotiations, Bartlet orders them to explain their positions while remaining standing. Normally, one of the first things Bartlet ever says whenever he enters a room and everyone stands is "Keep your seats." It's a clue of how extra-frustrated he is by the events of the episode.
  • Pride: Toby's self-righteousness borders on hubris in this episode. He is witheringly dismissive of Sam's attempt at a more diplomatic attempt at addressing Indonesian human rights abuses, insists on making the language uncompromising in its condemnation, and even when approaching the Indonesian aide to get help to release Toby's friend, his attitude is borderline confrontational and demanding. Toby's subsequently left reeling when the Indonesian aide bluntly tells him to go to hell, reveals that he knows full well Toby was the one responsible for the insulting speech, points out that America's own history of human rights abuses means it doesn't have as much high ground on the issue as it likes to pretend, and storms off. Sam's alternative speech was presumably looking a lot better at that point.
  • Running Gag: Donna is obsessed by the fact there are parts of Indonesia where someone suspected of being a sorcerer is automatically executed.
  • Shout-Out: Abbey jokes Leo in his tux looks like Fred Astaire.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: C.J. feels this way about the reporters interviewing her in The Teaser:
    C.J.: Man alive, do I love it when In Style magazine is issued press credentials. Mirabella needed to know what kind of wine is being served with the fish course. So, it’s a good thing I went to school for 22 years.
    Josh: What wine are we-?
    C.J.: It's wine, you'll drink it!

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