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Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 06 The Lame Duck Congress

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When a newly-elected senator pledges to block a nuclear test ban treaty from being ratified in the Senate, Josh, Sam and Toby think they should see if they have enough votes in the existing Congress to get the treaty ratified. Toby and Sam (with Ainsley in tow) take meetings on the subject, but they hit a snag; Toby finds out one of the votes they thought they had may have been lost. Over Leo's objections, Toby goes to see Senator Tony Marino (Mike Starr), one of the authors of the bill (who has also just been voted out of office), to see who the person was. Turns out Marino is the vote Toby's lost; he'll do everything he can behind the scenes to get votes in favor, and he'll also do his best to make sure the newly-elected senator isn't in a position to block the treaty, but since he was voted out for being in favor of the treaty, he doesn't feel he can in good conscience go against the will of the voters. This makes Toby upset, as he fears the consequences of the treaty not being ratified, but President Bartlet says they'll get it passed eventually.

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Vassily Kononov, a Ukrainian politician, is coming to town, but as far as the White House is concerned, he can only meet with President Bartlet's advisers. Unfortunately, Kononov shows up drunk outside the White House and says he won't leave until he speaks to President Bartlet. Josh has to babysit Kononov and his assistant while Leo figures out what to do. Eventually, Leo gets the idea of having Kononov meet with a low-level official (Josh picks Donna), and have President Bartlet just happen to walk by. President Bartlet tells Kononov he appreciates him wanting a meeting, and looks forward to working with him, but next time, he'll have to go through normal channels.

When Josh, Sam and Toby are trying to convince the President to call Congress back to ratify the test ban treaty, over C.J.'s objections, all four of them end up talking over each other. Leo decides to impose discipline and says the next time they want to see the President, they need to give Leo a two-page summary of what they want (or a two-minute verbal summary) before they get a meeting. Sam gives Ainsley the assignment of summarizing his position on dealing with small business fraud (she'll only do it if she can attend the meetings on the test ban treaty with Sam). She ends up reversing his position, and while he argues with her about it at first, he ends up taking it to Leo, and to Ainsley's astonishment, it gets approved.

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Elsewhere, Donna bugs both Josh and Leo about having the White House deal better with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (though it backfires on her), and C.J. and Danny confront the reality of their relationship.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Big Eater: Once again, Ainsley, who's not only had her lunch, but wants Sam's as well.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": Charlie and Leo are discussing Kononov.
    Charlie: The guy's a little crazy, Leo.
    Leo: No, he's just... Yeah, he's crazy, but he's our kind of crazy, so...
  • Continuity Nod: Toby knows from experience it's not a good idea for Pakistan to get nervous about nuclear weapons.
    • Also, when Josh says Konanov is outside with a woman, Sam is worried it might be Laurie.
  • Ear Ache:
    Donna: Do you know how many people acquire Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
    Josh: It shouldn't surprise you to learn that I do not.
    Donna: 600,000 Americans a year. Do you have any idea how painful it is?
    Josh: Donna, in the scheme of things, who really cares- (Donna grabs his ear and pulls it back, hard)
    Donna: Do you have any idea how painful it is?
    Josh: Yes, yes, yes, yes. (Donna lets go of his ear)
  • Exact Words:
    Leo: Margaret.
    Margaret: Yeah?
    Leo: Look at my face, right now. (Margaret takes one look and goes back to typing properly)
    • The White House uses this to get around the possible geopolitical implications of the President meeting Kononov, a reformist opponent of the Ukrainian government whom the US wants to support but can't openly do so without offending and antagonising the current government. However, Leo rationalises that while Kononov wants to meet with the President, it doesn't necessarily mean he has to officially meet with the President:
    Leo: All this guy wants to be able to say he met the President while he was here. He can meet the President accidentally.
    Josh: How do you meet the President 'accidentally'?
    Leo: When I was Labor secretary we did it with the Dalai Lama. Obviously Beijing doesn't want the President to have any diplomatic contact, so they arrange a low level meeting, keep the door open, the President wanders by: 'Hey, how ya doing, Dalai Lama.'
    • Sure enough, thanks to her rabble-rousing Donna gets a perfunctory meeting with a much-confused Kononov which the President crashes:
    Bartlet: Vasily, you're a reformer and you're going to do good things in Eastern Europe and I'm looking forward to the day when you're President. But until that time comes, my State Department deals with the government of the Ukraine. Now you can go home and so exactly what you wanted to do: to say you met with the President of the United States... You just did.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: Sam feels this way about Ainsley taking a muffin right after she told the Republicans off. Of course, when he did something similar to Jenna Jacobs, he didn't think anything was wrong.
  • Get Out!:
    Sam: I'm going to take Ainsley to the Hill with me for the meetings.
    Leo: Good.
    Sam: She wants me to teach her a couple of things.
    Leo: Good.
    Sam: She called me the master.
    Leo: Get out.
    Sam: Okay.
  • Gilligan Cut: Again, within the same scene:
    Bonnie: (while giving a tour of the White House) Ordinarily I'd be allowed to show you more but the President's in the West Wing right now and when he's in his office we like to the area as quiet as possible.
  • Honour Before Reason: Despite his strong support for the Test Ban Treaty, Senator Marino refuses to vote for it in a lame-duck session of Congress because he feels that his constituents voted him out of office based on his support for the treaty and he chooses to respect their views.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: Fowler and Fox, to Toby's irritation ("You've never seen grown men order lunch like this"), are prone to this, especially when ordering lunch.
    Fowler: I'll take the risotto, but I'd like it cooked with chicken broth instead of oil, is that possible?
    Waitress: Sure.
    Fowler: And I'd like to substitute snow peas for the asparagus.
    Fox: I'll have the same, but I don't want the squash pureed with either cream or butter. In fact, it doesn't even have to be pureed.
    Toby: Fellas!
  • Quality by Popular Vote: The political version of this is discussed throughout the episode. Marino feels that his constituents voting him out of office due to his support for the Test Ban Treaty means he cannot in good conscience vote for it if a lame-duck session is called. When discussing it later with the President, Toby expresses frustration and points out that 82% of the American people support the Treaty. Bartlet then notes that, given the sheer complexity of the issues surrounding the Treaty, it's unrealistic to expect 82% of the general public to come to an informed, comprehensive understanding and opinion on it, and that that the opponents are if nothing else to be respected for going against overwhelming public support and sticking to their principles on it.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Josh and Donna are watching C.J. when she denies that President Bartlet is considering calling Congress back into session to pass the test ban treaty:
    Josh: She walked into it. She knows it too.
    Donna: Walked into what?
    Josh: She can't confirm that the President hasn't considered it unless she asks the President if he's considered it, at which point, he'll have considered it.
    Donna: That sounds pretty stupid.
    Josh: It was a better organized thought in my head.
  • Shout-Out: Josh calls Donna Norma Rae, and he calls Kononov The Man Who Came to Dinner.
  • Smart People Play Chess: President Bartlet challenges Toby to a game to help take his mind off things. It works.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Ainsley and Sam:
    Sam: (after Ainsley pretends to call her father when Sam asks for her help) That must have rolled them in the aisles back in Georgia.
    Ainsley: I'm from North Carolina.
    Sam: Wherever it was you studied baton twirling.
    Ainsley: That'll be Harvard Law School.
  • Sorkin Relationship Moment: President Bartlet notices the UST between C.J. and Danny.
    President Bartlet: He's a great reporter, and you're a great Press Secretary. And that's why it was never going to work while the two of you had those jobs.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Kononov.
    Josh: I'm *begging* the Ukrainian embassy for help. If I don't get some soon I'm going to apply for a job at the Ukrainian embassy.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Ainsley calls one of the Republicans she and Sam meet with a schmuck.
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