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Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 17 The Stackhouse Filibuster

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The Family Wellness Act, a child-friendly health care bill, seems poised to pass the Senate before they recess until Senator Howard Stackhouse (George Coe) filibusters it before it can come to a vote. Everyone thinks he's just being ornery - or paying back Josh when Josh wouldn't allow the Senator to add on a provision for autism care and research - until Donna figures out the Senator has a grandson who's autistic. When she and C.J. relay this news to President Bartlet and Leo, they decide to call Senators to have them interrupt Senator Stackhouse with a question so they can have an honest discussion about autism care.

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Toby tells Vice-President Hoynes, who is close friends with several oil executives, the Energy Secretary will be making a speech at the Detroit Economic Council about energy efficiency, and use the opportunity to rebut those who attack the White House for pushing higher emission standards. Vice-President Hoynes thinks the oil companies have a point, but says he'll do it instead, and to Toby's (and Josh and Sam's) amazement, at a press conference, attacks the oil industry in just the way Toby was looking for him to do.

Elsewhere, President Bartlet reveals to Leo he made a deal with Abbey to only run for one term, C.J. finds out she accidentally broke a gift from an Egyptian official to President Bartlet, and Sam gets schooled by an intern from the General Accounting Office about government reports.

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This episode contains examples of:

  • Ass Shove: After Vice-President Hoynes says he'll take on the oil companies at his press conference:
    Toby: Would you mind if I prepared some notes for you?
    Vice-President Hoynes: Oh, not at all...Would you mind if I shoved them up your ass?
  • Badass Grandpa: Senator Stackhouse. Lampshaded by President Bartlet (who knows a thing or two about the subject):
    President Bartlet: Don't ever, EVER underestimate the will of a grandfather. We're mad men. We don't give a damn. We got here before you and they'll be here after. We'll make enemies, we'll break laws, we'll break bones, but you will not mess with the grandchildren!!!
    • Immediately mocked by Leo, who is in fine form in this episode: when C.J. looks startled at how vehement Bartlet is, Leo deadpans "There was quite a bit of sugar in the crème de caramel."
  • Description Cut: C.J. e-mails her father about the lost cat statue, and says she needed someone with a criminal mind equal to her own. Cut to Donna in the hallway.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Bartlet and Leo are having dinner, Leo spends most of the time on his phone and Bartlet complains about it in the manner of a neglected spouse. Immediately lampshaded and deconstructed:
    Bartlet: I'm just saying we work all day, and then the day's over, and we go out to dinner and you're still working, and you know, I'm sitting here. No time to talk.
    Leo: You know, conversations like this are the reason I got divorced.
    Bartlet: No, it's not.
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  • Foreshadowing: President Bartlet tells Leo Vice-President Hoynes knows about Bartlet's MS, and that Bartlet only expected to serve one term as President. That, Hoynes' speech, and the private polling he's done (along with Toby's discovery of that polling) become *very* important later.
  • Get Out!:
    C.J.: I'm supposed to be on my way to Napa right now for my Dad's 70th birthday. You hear me complaining?
    Toby: You just did.
    C.J.: Get out.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball:
    Josh: I'm going to Port Saint Lucie, which may not mean anything to you, but happens to be the spring training home of the-
    C.J.: New York Jets. Yes, you've told me. Josh, you can watch basketball on T.V.
    Josh: Yes, except the New York Knicks are a basketball team, the New York Jets are a football team, and Port Saint Lucie is the spring training home of the New York-
    C.J.: Mets! Yes.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Mocked by Leo, when he and Bartlet get together for dinner when Abbey cancels.
    Bartlet: They thought I was going to be eating with Abbey, so...
    Leo: Hm.
    Bartlet: We'll just, you know, pretend there's no candlelight.
    Leo: And that we're not paranoid homophobes in any way.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When C.J. is telling the press corps they can't leave because of the filibuster:
    Mark: C.J., it's Friday night. I'm supposed to have dinner with my girlfriend. She's going to kill me.
    C.J.: Yeah, but you know what, Mark? This is just the kind of thing that can cleanse the palate of a relationship that's gone stale. Like a fine sorbet.
    Mark: We've been going out three weeks.
    C.J.: And she's already bitching about dinner?
  • The Klutz: When Josh is walking in the hallway, wearing the shoes his mother sent him, he slips and falls.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Subverted; while C.J., Josh and Sam all narrate the same event (along with their own personal stories) in their e-mails to their respective parents (C.J. and Sam to their fathers, Josh to his mother), none of them see the event differently from each other.
  • Shout-Out: One of the books Senator Stackhouse reads during his filibuster is David Copperfield.
  • The Strategist: Donna shows her first signs of being this in this episode, first of all figuring out solely from the discrepancy between spoken and pictorial evidence that Stackhouse has an autistic grandchild, and then using her extensive knowledge of Senate procedure (which she's picked up from Josh, because "he likes to explain things, and I let him") to devise a way to stop the filibuster.
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