A bad press conference, racism, and looking to the heavens: if you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that the latest West Wing episode is a rip-off of season 1, episode 15, “Celestial Navigation” — but, par for the course these days, on steroids. In that episode, Sam and Toby navigate by the stars to a jail in Connecticut where a Supreme Court nominee is being held after getting pulled over for driving while Hispanic. In this episode, the moon blots out the sun as the President condones white supremacy. In case we didn’t pick up on the themes the first time, the writers are really hitting us over the head with tiki torches this time around.
The Toothless Press Conference
It was at a press conference a few days after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that Trump stuck his foot in his mouth more than usual, doubling down on his condemnation of the rally violence “on both sides.” Still newly minted chief of staff John Kelly was standing in the back listening, and his stoic yet resigned expression hid the kind of reaction he should have had: CJ post-root canal, screaming like Elmer Fudd at Josh, whose cockiness had derailed what should have been a straightforward briefing in her absence. Did Josh get taken to the cleaners for saying that white supremacists are fine and dandy? No, he just accidentally let the press corps believe the President had a secret plan to fight inflation (or in CJ’s words, “a secwet pwan to fight infwation!”). It seems that the writers, much like Bartlet in another early episode, may need the concept of “proportional response” explained to them. None of the main characters seem to be reacting to Trump with the level of alarm that they should.
The Bannon Exit
The rotating cast of characters is such a regular occurrence that it hardly bears mentioning at this point. But this week was a big one: Steve Bannon left his role as White House chief strategist to return to Breitbart News, where he promised to wage war on behalf of Trump. (Against who, North Korea? That storyline seems to have been dropped, so unclear at this point.) Rumor is that the writers are working on a spin-off starring Bannon — like The Newsroom, minus morals or actual news. Impressive that the actor has such staying power even though, as my grandfather would say, he has a face for radio. Expect cameos from series regulars and maybe even some crossover episodes as the spin-off leans on the original until it gets its footing. Us viewers would have preferred a sitcom about Josh and Donna living next door to CJ and Danny, but maybe the show will spawn more spin-offs, CSI-style.
Total Eclipse of the GOP’s Heart?
Starting with the vacant, “under renovation” White House of the last few weeks, the writers have really been having fun with symbolic imagery. The latest: a total solar eclipse, the first one visible to the U.S. mainland since 1979. Astronomical events tend to be a humbling occurrence, reminding us of our relative insignificance in the universe. Will this one put Trump’s astronomical ego in perspective for him? Seems unlikely. Will it remind the rest of the GOP that they should spend their time on this earth doing something other than enabling a demented old man to instigate a race war? Again, unlikely. But the poetic nature of the sun’s light literally being covered by darkness seems too perfect for the writers to insert without some larger message planned. Whether light or darkness will prevail on the show is TBD.
Will Trump get permission to do another press conference, or will he be banned like Josh? Will the world keep on spinning after the eclipse, and will the GOP keep on spinning every bit of news about Trump’s disastrous administration? Tune in next week to find out.