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Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 16 Somebodys Going To Emergency Somebodys Going To Jail

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Sam, who's been reeling from the news his father had an affair with another woman for 28 years, is trying to get all the pardon recommendations done for President Bartlet. Stephanie Gault (Jolie Jenkins), a friend of Donna's from college, wants Sam to add one more name; her grandfather, Daniel Gault, a special economic assistant to FDR and later a liaison to the State Department for Eastern European Affairs. Gault was accused of being a spy, jailed for perjury, and died in prison, and because Stephanie's father is dying, she wants to get her grandfather a pardon before that happens, especially since Sam used part of his senior thesis defending him. Sam agrees to do it, but finds out from Nancy McNally Gault really was a spy, and the secrets he passed led to people's deaths. Sam wants to go to Stephanie and tell her the real story, but Donna pleads for him not to, because he's in a bad place. In the end, Sam agrees to tell Stephanie he wasn't able to talk to the people he needed to, but he'd try again in three months, and the White House was open to the possibility of a pardon.

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Also, it's Big Block of Cheese Day again, and Leo once again has assigned staffers to meet with various groups. Toby is bitter about the fact he's meeting with a group of people protesting the World Trade Organization meeting, though he's happy when he finds out C.J. has kept the TV media out. However, Rhonda Sachs (Roma Maffia), the police officer protecting him, goads him into engaging with the protesters. C.J. (and Josh), meanwhile, meets with a group called the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality, who claim the standard map of the world (the Mercator) is entirely wrong because, among other things, it makes Europe look larger than it really is, and Africa and South America look smaller than they really are. They recommend the Peters Projection Map, which fixes that problem (among others), be taught in U.S. schools instead.

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Elsewhere, President Bartlet tries to figure out where to set aside territory to build a Presidential Library.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Gender: Played with in-universe:
    Nancy McNally: I’m the only woman on a conference call. Delaney can’t tell when it’s me talking. Do I have a bizarrely androgynous voice?
  • Break the Cutie: Bad enough that Sam's already reeling from his father's revelation that he's been having an affair with another woman for 28 years, but then he learns that Daniel Gault, a personal hero whom he wrote a senior thesis in defence of, actually was a Soviet spy. He doesn't handle it well.
  • Call-Back: Not just to Big Block of Cheese Day, but also Josh refers to when he got shot, as does Agent Casper.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Sort of; Sam's feelings of betrayal and bitter denunciation towards Daniel Gault once he learns the truth about his espionage activities clearly overlap with his feelings towards his father.
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  • Comically Small Bribe: Played with:
    Dr. Fallow: Plain and simple, we’d like President Bartlet to aggressively support legislation that would make it mandatory for every public school in America to teach geography using the Peters Projection Map instead of the traditional Mercator.
    Josh: Give me 200 bucks and it's done.
    Professor Huke: Really?
    C.J.: No.
  • "Common Knowledge": In-Universe; the whole point of the "Cartographers for Social Equality" subplot.
    Sam: It’s just there are certain things you’re sure of... like longitude and latitude.
    Donna: Sam, I don’t know if this is the best time to tell you, but according to C.J., I wouldn't be so sure about longitude and latitude.
  • Cooldown Hug: Donna gives this to Sam after he ultimately decides not to tell Stephanie the truth about her grandfather.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Along with all the regular cast, Officer Rhonda Sachs.
    Toby: Make all the jokes you want but let me tell you something they claim to speak for the underprivileged but here in the blackest city in America, I’m looking at a room with no black faces. No Asians, No Hispanics. Where the hell’s the Third World they claim to represent?
    Officer Sachs: Lot of Third-Worlders in the Cabinet Room today, were there?
    Toby: You're starting to bother me.
  • Diegetic Switch: When "New York Minute" plays over the opening sequence, it starts out as just score music, but as Leo walks by Sam's office, it becomes the song that's playing on Sam's radio when his alarm goes off.
  • Expy: Daniel Gault is clearly a stand-in for Alger Hiss.
  • Feet of Clay: For Sam, he finds out heart-breaking truths about both his father and Daniel Gault.
  • Foreshadowing: "Mr. President, is there anything we need to talk about?" "Not yet, okay?"
  • Freudian Slip: Played for Drama:
    Sam: There was a translator in the Hungarian trade mission named Shaba Demsky. She was murdered in 1952. She was about to reveal the name of a Soviet agent called Black Water. This girl’s going to find out who her father was.
    Donna: Sam....you meant grandfather.
  • Funny Background Event: When Leo tells everyone in the Roosevelt Room their assignments are final, and he's sure Margaret worked long and hard to make sure each staffer got the appropriate assignment, Margaret shakes her head. When Leo turns around, she nods her head in agreement.
  • Heroic BSoD: Sam after finding out Daniel Gault was really a spy.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Leo: Little thing called team morale, Josh. You gotta make people feel good about themselves. (walks into the Roosevelt Room) All right, shut the hell up, everybody! I've fired more people than you before breakfast.
    • Also, when Charlie tells President Bartlet his first choice for a Presidential Library site runs counter to the Historic Barns and Bridges Preservation Act:
    President Bartlet: What plaid flannel-wearing, cheese-eating, yahoo of a milkman governor signed that idiot bill into state law? (Beat) It was me, wasn't it?
    • Toby keeps railing about the free-trade protesters about how they don't comprehend the benefits that trade brings to the table. Office Sachs sardonically notes "Gee, wonder if someone around here could explain it to them."
  • Literary Allusion Title: The episode title is a lyric from the Don Henley song "New York Minute" ("Lying here in the darkness/I hear the sirens wail/Somebody going to emergency/Somebody's going to jail''). The song Book-Ends the episode, and the instrumental part also serves as a Leitmotif during Sam's scenes.
  • Mood Whiplash: The episode flips between the comical stuff C.J. and Toby endure during the Big Block of Cheese Day to the increasingly serious and troubling revelations Sam uncovers during his attempt to pardon one of his early idols.
  • Non Sequitur: Played for drama; when Donna comes across Sam disconsolately flinging packets of sugar into a wastepaper basket in the cafeteria after learnin the truth about Daniel Gault, Sam remarks that he came down there to practice, "because if you don't we might as well give the clarinet to a kid who'll use it." He's pretty clearly channeling an old argument with his father there.
  • Reality Ensues: When the cartographers suggest flipping maps upside down altogether to end north-south social inequality.
    C.J.: You can't do that!
    Cartographer: Why not?
    C.J.: Because it's freaking me out!
  • Self-Plagiarism: On an episode of Sports Night, Jeremy also learned his father had been having an affair with another woman for over 20 years.
  • Serious Business: Maps. Which is Truth in Television as there's a big fight over which type of maps to teach our kids.
  • Ship Tease: For C.J./Toby shippers, after C.J. reveals she's kept the TV cameras out of the meeting Toby's going to:
    C.J.: You want to make out with me right now, don't you?
    Toby: Well, when don't I?
  • Shout-Out: Josh asks C.J. to call him if the cartographers find Brigadoon on the map.
  • Straw Character: The episode doesn't take a particularly nuanced look at the anti-globalisation movement, depicting them mainly as over-privileged and slightly hypocritical white hipsters who are more interested in their own loudly expressed smug self-righteousness than actually debating the issues. Toby spends most of the episode watching them squabble pettily with each other in amusement, and notably we don't even see the speech with which he apparently wipes the floor with them.
  • Take Our Word for It: We never see Toby wipe the floor with the anti-globalisation protesters with his rhetoric, but Josh assures Sam (and the audience) that he did.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The anti-globalisation protesters are depicted like this; the main organiser clearly doesn't have much control over them, and to Toby's amusement they end up splitting into smaller groups of people arguing about which different things they should be shouting at Toby about.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: When advising her on how best to persuade Sam to look into an appeal for Daniel Gault, Donna advises Stephanie to butter him up a bit by telling him she's heard he's the go-to guy for such matters, making him feel important and inclined to impress her. Later, after Sam's experienced the gut-punch of learning that Gault actually was a traitor and is feeling a bit morose and wounded, he chews her out a bit for thinking he was the kind of guy who needed excessive flattery to do a favour for someone. Donna's taken aback and apologises.
  • When I Was Your Age...: Toby is like this about the protesters.
    Toby: In my day, we knew how to protest.
    C.J.: What day was that?
    Toby: 1968.
    Josh: How the hell old were you when you were protesting?
    Toby: My sisters took me...The police are always seven steps ahead of them. The cops know exactly where they’re going to be and what’s going to happen. You know how they know? By logging onto their website. We had the underground. We had rapid response.
    • Officer Sachs later mocks Toby with this; "These kids today, with the hair and the clothes..."
  • You Just Had to Say It:
    Stephanie Gault: I am getting you out of something though, right?
    Donna: Nothing, you got me out of the Big Block of Cheese Day meeting.
    Stephanie: What's..?
    Donna: I had the worst feeling you were going to ask.
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