We put on our Sunday best and for what? To honor a man who has given us everything. As I watched the first minutes of tonight's episode, I couldn't help but think how appropriate it was to be airing the episode of Leo's funeral on Easter Sunday.
In a cathedral full of men and women who were not only Leo McGarry's colleagues, but were his friends and allies I noticed a few very humble faces. Nancy McNalley, the former National Security Advisor. Will Bailey, the newest Communications Director and/or Press Secretary. Amy, Joey, Danny, John Hoynes, and Toby with Andie by his side returned to bury a man they've looked up to for seasons now. And not only the faces of those who have long since been absent from the regular cast of The West Wing like Mallory, Joey, Toby with Andy, and Vice President Hoynes, but also the men and women who we see every week were very somber.
The greatest pain we have yet to see on President Bartlet's face was the pain he could not disguise as he carried the casket of his dearest friend out of National Cathedral. President Bartlet's distance throughout the entire episode is clear evidence of how attached Jed and Leo were. He got lost in his head so many times throughout the episode. And I kept thinking about that episode when he couldn't decide to invade a country I can barely remember now and he sat with Leo in the Oval Office:
I fought a jungle war. I'm not doing it again. If I could put myself anywhere in time it would be in the cabinet room on August 4th 1964, when our ships were attacked by North Vietnam in the Tonkin Gulf. I'd say, 'Mr. President, don't do it. You're considering the commitment of a massive number of troops and throwing in our lot with torturers and panderers, leaders without principles and soldiers without conviction, with no clear mission and no end in sight'.
That moment in the Oval Office was one of my favorite in the entire series. I was again reminded of it when CJ said she was thinking about Leo sitting in that chair in the Chief-of-staff's office. "People are here one minute and then they're not."
This episode brought back Charlie, who had in previous episodes taken a back seat to the election. He had recently asked CJ to consider some job offers because he would really like to work with her again. I found it quite impressive that one, he urged Donna to talk to Josh about a job, and two, that he walked with Toby to the burial. This signaled to us that they were both in fear of the Chief-of-Staff being photographed with Toby, the national security leak.
As the episode continued, I couldn't help but agree with President Bartlet's statement on how Leo would have felt about the mourning process...mostly because John Spencer would have felt similarly about the cast dragging their feet in the wake of his untimely death. "He would have hated this, mortified that we'd gone to all this trouble."
When did the Danny and CJ thing happen? I swear this show is turning into a soap opera and I am not enjoying that aspect. Danny was as charming as ever, but come on, Danny and CJ have been sleeping together? When did that happen? "I'll leave the door open?" We've put this off for seven years, this will keep another night? There are reasons why I don't watch soap operas!
Near the end, as President Bartlet was going around and greeting or consoling each of the staff, I kept thinking about the episode after Josh was shot when he was seeing that crisis counselor and Leo told him that he could continue working for the president regardless of the PTSD:
This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey, you, can you help me out?" The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole. Can you help me out?" The priest writes a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey, Joe, it's me. Can you help me Out" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you nuts? Now we're both down here." The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before - and I know the way out."
As President Bartlet spoke to Margaret I'm sure every TWW viewer recalled the numerous times that Leo hollered for her, even when she sat so closely to the door. Or the time he argued with her about why it was not appropriate for her to be practicing the president's signature. Josh loved Leo as a father, just as Leo loved Josh as a son; CJ loved Leo as the man she looked up to in so many ways and the Chief-of-staff she aspired to be; Margaret loved Leo with everything. It was Leo that kept her coming to work every day.
So, the Amy and Josh "hello stranger" segment caught me offguard. I love Mary Louise Parker and her character is awesome, but now isn't the best time to throw a curve ball into Josh Lyman's life and we could clearly see that by Donna getting nervous. Here we are again with the soap opera and I don't like it a bit. What are the writers actually thinking? Or are they thinking at all? I have to admit, the best Amy moment of the entire series was when she was at Josh's house singing at the top of her lungs Van Morisson with only Josh's shirt on...as Josh was on the phone with Donna. Best episode for that quirky love triangle.
There are very good points that Amy brings to the show every time. The questions of who's on the list for Leo's spot is a good one and I am with her on not choosing Baker. A congresswoman from Florida is an intriguing idea, but if you are, as Amy put it, "looking for Leo McGarry Josh, and he isn't available," you have to come up with another amazing individual that will adequately fill those shoes. A woman to hold high constitutional office? Awesome, but why the hell aren't they considering CJ? Civilized. However, Amy for Director of Legislative Affairs is a solid idea. I only wish the show was continuing so we could see these things in place.
Ainsley Hayes was back. One of the best lines ever from a television drama came from this lovely little Republican: "I'm concerned about peeing on your carpet." Priceless. But really, who wouldn't be concerned about peeing on Leo McGarry's carpet when about to meet the President of the United States of America? Evidently Ainsley has been at the Hoover Institute, ironically named, and would like a job. This time she can't be so afraid of a Democratic administration and Leo's not around for her to pee on his carpet.
For a very serious episode, there was certainly enough humor. I found it hilarious when Kristin Chenoweth (Annabeth or whatever her name is on the show) was commenting on Leo's pink shirts and how he would always correct her and say they were apricot. Really, men should not wear pink and not a lot of men can pull that color off-- John Spencer included.
As always, the greatest moment and quote of the show came from President Bartlet near the end when speaking to Josh, clearly stricken with grief: "He loved you like a son you know that don't you. Leo and I are the past, you're the future. It's up to you now. We're counting on you. " This made me believe what I have believed all along and that is that Josh Lyman will be Santos' choice for VP. Or this merely means Josh will aptly fill the shoes of the former Chief-of-Staff Leo McGarry.
And just as he has a hundred times before, Josh walks out the front gate and looks at the White House.