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Recap / The West Wing S 01 E 21 Lies Damn Lies And Statistics

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The White House conducts a poll (run by Sam and Mandy) to see what the President's approval rating is in light of his change in direction. Ed and Larry, as well as President Bartlet, think they'll hold at a 42% job approval rating, while Josh will be happy if they do hold steady, and Toby thinks it'll drop, but within an acceptable margin. C.J. thinks they'll go up five points, and is upset when Leo doesn't tell the President that, because it seems like he's taking her for granted. As it turns out, she admits she was wrong; it went up nine points, to 51%, which pleases everyone.

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The staff also continues with campaign finance reform. Leo brings in Barry Haskel, one of the the current F.E.C. commissioners, and congratulates him on being the lone voice on the F.E.C. in favor of campaign finance reform. Haskel doesn't want to commit himself (the quotes he made that Leo brings up were made anonymously), but Leo and President Bartlet do their best to subtly persuade him to commit to their side. Also, Toby comes up with the idea of assigning one of the current F.E.C. commissioners to be the U.S. ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia. That ambassador, in turn, will become the ambassador to Paraguay, who will in turn become the ambassador to Bulgaria, who will replace Ken Cochran, the current ambassador, who, though he's married, is having an affair with the Bulgarian prime minister's daughter (as it turns out, Charlie and Cochran also share a past; Charlie was a waiter at a country club Cochran belonged to). Bartlet also makes a deal with Senator Max Lobell to put a commissioner in favor of campaign finance reform to replace the one who's becoming an ambassador.

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In light of the fact the Republicans know about Sam's relationship with Laurie, Toby tells Sam he can't go to Laurie's law school graduation. Sam grudgingly agrees, but shows up unannounced at the apartment of Laurie's friend Janeane to give Laurie a graduation present (a pen and a briefcase). However, unbeknownst to either of them, Janeane has been paid by a British tabloid so they can get a picture of Sam and Laurie. C.J. manages to control the press to keep it from getting too bad, and Toby and Sam make clear to President Bartlet there was nothing untoward about Sam's relationship with Laurie. President Bartlet in turn promises to make sure Laurie gets admitted to the bar if she passes the exam.

Elsewhere, Josh and Joey continue to argue about English as a national language (he wants a counter-argument; she insists they won't need one because the Republicans won't bring it up), and C.J.'s testiness with Danny continues, this time involving the new White House drug policy; Danny asks if the White House is crusading on behalf of the rights of drug users, and while C.J. does give a substantive answer to that question (as well as answering a circulating memo which she points out has been written against presidents of the last three decades), she dismisses him with, "Oh, please." Danny is tired of C.J. snapping at him, but C.J. confesses she thinks everyone still blames her for Mandy's memo becoming news.

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This episode contains examples of:

  • Adorkable: Barry Haskell, who is notably star-struck and nervous as he gets the chance to visit the West Wing for the first time in his life.
  • Bishōnen: Hilariously mocked when C.J. snaps at Josh for being in the polling area:
    C.J.: I’m trying to meet a deadline, Josh. I've got a 48-hour window and you can’t stand here distracting the female callers.
    Josh: (to the room) Have I been distracting the female callers? (Joey throws up her hands in exasperation).
    Women: (in unison) No.
    C.J.: Josh!
    Josh: Not even a little bit?
    • Also mocked here:
    Joey: (through Kenny) It's almost hard to believe you're not married.
    Josh: Oh-ho-ho, many have tried!
  • Blowing a Raspberry: Joey does this to Josh - in the Oval Office, no less - when Josh once again tries to get an answer from her about English as a national language.
    Josh: You see that? That’s what I've been dealing with all week.
  • Call-Back: When Barry says his quotes about campaign finance reform were supposed to be anonymous, Leo brings up the fact his stint in a rehab center was supposed to be anonymous as well.
  • Fictional Country: Averted; both Josh and Sam think this of Micronesia (Sam thinks it's something out of Duck Soup), but Donna, Toby and President Bartlet point out it's in fact a real country.
    President Bartlet: It’s actually 607 small islands in the South Pacific. Interestingly, while its total land mass is only 270 square miles, it occupies more than a million square miles of the Pacific Ocean. Population is 127,000 and the U.S. Embassy is located in the state of Pohnpei and not, as many people believe, on the island of Yap.
    Toby: Why would a person have that information at their disposal?
    President Bartlet: Parties.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When President Bartlet tries to get his friend Ted Mitchell to hire Ken Cochran.
    President Bartlet: Look, he’s a good man, a smart man; I think he’d make a very good corporate officer.
    Ted Mitchell: Why is he being fired, sir?
    President Bartlet: Gross incompetence. I'll be right back.
  • Insult Backfire: After President Bartlet has fired Ambassador Cochran:
    Ambassador Cochran: I think it would be appropriate at this time, Mr. President, to make a confession.
    President Bartlet: What's that?
    Cochran: I never voted for you.
    President Bartlet: Well, thanks for trying, but here I am anyway.
  • Lame Pun Reaction:
    Margaret: C.J.'s here.
    Leo: Okay.
    Margaret: Want to hear a joke?
    Leo: Uh...okay.
    Margaret: You know why they only eat one egg for breakfast in France?
    Leo: Why?
    Margaret: Cause in France, one egg is ‘un oeuf.’ (Beat) Okay, C.J.'s here.
    Leo: Okay.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The episode title comes from the quote (popularized by Mark Twain, though supposedly originated by Benjamin Disraeli), "There's lies, there's damned lies, and then there's statistics."
  • Not So Different:
    President Bartlet: We agree on nothing, Max.
    Senator Lobell: Yes, sir.
    President Bartlet: Education, guns, drugs, school prayer, gays, defense spending, taxes, you name it, we disagree.
    Senator Lobell: You know why?
    President Bartlet: 'Cause I’m a lily-livered, bleeding-heart, liberal, egghead communist.
    Senator Lobell: Yes, sir. And I’m a gun-toting, redneck son-of-a-bitch.
    President Bartlet: Yes, you are.
    Senator Lobell: We agree on that.
    President Bartlet: We also agree on campaign finance.
    Senator Lobell: Yes, sir.
    • Also, when President Bartlet asks for Senator Lobell's help in this area, the only thing he promises in return is "the thanks of a grateful President", which, to Senator Lobell, is good enough.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In previous episodes, when Leo has gone to visit other senior staffers like C.J. or Josh at their offices, he always makes sure to check in with their assistant/secretary to make sure it's okay. When he finds out about Sam getting his picture taken with Laurie, Leo is so angry, he marches into C.J.'s office without saying anything to Carol, and slams the door.
    C.J.: (on the phone) I'm gonna have to call you back.
  • Pet the Dog: After Sam gets his picture taken with Laurie, Toby says he wants to throw Sam through a plate-glass window or chain him to his desk; however, when they meet the President, Toby defends Sam in every way possible.
    Toby: I know it’s strange, sir. But I’m feeling a-a... certain big brotherly connection right now. You know, obviously, I’d like that feeling to go away as soon as possible. But for the moment, I think there’s no danger in the White House standing by Sam and aggressively going after the people who set him up.
  • Put on a Bus: This is the last we see of Laurie (though she's brought up again in Season 2).
  • Running Gag: Josh's watch sucks. Also, President Bartlet insists he has a finely-honed sense about Charlie knowing Ambassador Cochran in the past.
  • Servile Snarker: Charlie comes into his own here.
    Ambassador Cochran: I find exclusive clubs to be repugnant.
    Charlie: I couldn't help but notice that didn’t stop you from joining up in the first place.
    Cochran: Now, that’s out of line. That’s out of line and that shouldn't have been said. And you've forgotten that you’re addressing an U.S. Ambassador.
    Charlie: I apologize, sir.
    Cochran: I’m sorry to do this, but I’d like to speak to your supervisor.
    Charlie: Well, I’m personal aide to the President, so my supervisor’s a little busy right now looking for a back door to this place to shove you out of. But, I’ll let him know you’d like to lodge a complaint.
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