The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5 Review: The Crackpots and These Women

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The West Wing went off the air many years ago. But I’ve finally given in and am ready to start the series from the beginning, reviewing each episode as I go. Ready to join me? Let’s do this…  


It's very easy to see why people fell in love with The West Wing back in 1999 because I'm falling in love with the show right now in 2017.

Everything airing is still relevant. Love, friendship, and family don't change, even if the way we connect does, and those topics were at the core of The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

The West Wing Family

While watching this one, it dawned on me that people born in the '90s have gone through very little change. They've always had cell phones and DVRs, and the political atmosphere hasn't even changed.

People may be up in arms about a thing here and there, and TVs and phones get bigger or flatter or can do more, but the essentials haven't changed. Their lives are stable. Even the war they've been associated with in the Middle East isn't a war in the traditional sense of the World Wars, Korea or Vietnam.

That's why The West Wing still holds up. If you replace the technology, a few terms and add in social media, there wouldn't be much difference to our culture at all.

The came can't be said for people were born in various other decades or the programming that made an impact during those eras. It's something specific to the '90s because it was the beginning of the future that is now the present. 

Shouting Down Demons - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

During what should have been a simple game of basketball, Toby told a truth during his frustration at the lengths the President would go to win.

This is the perfect metaphor. After your gone, let the poets write, The Legend of Josiah Bartlet, let them write you as a tragic figure, sir. Let the poets write that he had the tools for greatness, but voices of his better angels were shouted down by his obsessive need to win!


It's a serious concern. Why is winning so important to important to the President instead of, say, doing the right thing? It is one of many things that weighs heavily on the staff during the hour.

They're going to be giving a speech in Hollywood about violence in movies, and Mandy wants to hold a fundraiser at the house of a particular filmmaker who makes movies that are gratuitously violent and sexy. Toby thinks that's a bit hypocritical.

The President's reaction? "It's Hollywood. Who gives a damn?"

For Toby, it's that very attitude that keeps people going to theaters and filmmakers making the movies. He wonders why make a speech against violence and sex at all if you're going to so cavalier about the subject? 

But it's not so much the subject matter itself that is at play here. It's what Mandy does next. She uses the moment to taunt Toby by revealing he was not the President's first choice for the job, sending Toby into a downward spiral about his role within the staff and his value to the President.

In Case of an Emergency - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

At the same time, Josh is taken off to the side to receive his get out of jail free card. In the event of an attack of any kind, he got the long stick. Remember the scene on Deep Impact when Tea Leoni got to get onto the helicopter, and everyone else had to stay behind? 

Josh got one. Interestingly, when Josh receives it, he thinks the only person he has to leave behind is Donna. My assumption is he was the only one getting a card. Period. I am right.

Receiving the card sends Josh into a tailspin. He can't function. He can't stop thinking of his sister who died when he was a child. In a house fire. While she was babysitting him. And making popcorn.

There has to be a lot more to that story, especially because of the circumstances that took him back to the scenario. I assume one day we'll learn more about it, but I imagine an older sister ushering her brother out of the house while she tries to put out a fire and how he wishes he'd stayed behind to help.

Crackpot Day - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

Leo's idea of a crackpots' day is nice. They had one on Braindead. Well, every day was crackpots day on Braindead. It's when those not normally heard get their chance to be heard. 

Sam treated the UFO nerd in his office with a bit of disdain, and watching CJ laugh in the face of the animal lovers wishing to receive $900 million for a wolf road so they can make their way along the 40k miles unharmed was disarming, but there were reasons for all of it. Good ones.

The President's daughter, Zoe, was coming to town to look for housing for when she attends school. He's tickled pink and wants to throw everyone a chili dinner.

Suddenly, the entire staff looks at their boss like he, too, is one of the crackpots on crackpot day. His secret ingredient, though, is right in the middle of the oval office.

Enjoy My Chili - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

President Bartlet shows no shame in forcing his appointed family to enjoy what he's putting on the table, literally and figuratively.

When they moan, he points their gaze at the seal on the rug and asks the question again. Cheers all around! There are distinct advantages to being the President of the United States even when you're not in full POTUS mode.

And one of them has to be living right upstairs. Nobody technically gets to leave work when dining with the President in their residence, but it is also very easy to get home for the man.

Charlie Meets Zoe - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

Emmy winning actress Elisabeth Moss plays Zoe, and she's busy in the kitchen doctoring dad's chili with things I never use in mine. All the best to her.

Young Charlie finally feels like part of the family as he is introduced to her and they begin meddling with the chili together. He's been doing such a great job that it's hard to remember he's been without any age-appropriate conversation.

His gentlemanly ways make for a very sweet scene, and I look forward the day he loosens his tie a little somewhere other than on the basketball court.

The dinner also gives Toby and the President time to address their recent stressful communications. Toby isn't even sure the President likes him, and he's been very unsure of the work he does.

Second Choice - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

It's beautifully played, though, when President Bartlet admits flat out he was the only person who held out for his first choice for the job. He didn't see in Toby what the others saw, but he is grateful every day for his presence in his administration.

It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, and the President admits he could not possibly do his job without Toby. Toby talked about the President's angels and demons, and the President considers Toby to be imperative in fighting his demons.

Only a strong man can see his weaknesses and accept on board someone who is willing to push against what someone appears to want the most. That's what Toby does. 

Even the way the scene was filmed was comforting and lovely.

But Josh giving up his golden ticket was the best. 

These Women - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 5

Before joining the party, he shares his deepest concerns with CJ, who just says is the sweetest sometimes. She understands why there is no need for a press secretary or communications directors after all hell breaks loose, but Josh can't let it go.

When he joins President Bartlet and Leo commenting on their made family of West Wing staffers, Josh gives back his get out of the apocalypse free card. These women they're talking about, so beautiful, intelligent, and hardworking? They are his family now.

Josh would rather spend the end of the world with them than with anybody else. He'd rather go down fighting than knowing he'd have to spend the rest of his life without the women he loves most in the world.

He's already lost his sister, and he has no intention of losing any more of the precious women in his life if he can help it. 

Gah. It's making me tear up just writing this. Now I understand why a friend of mine says Josh is his favorite character of all time. He's a great role model in a sea of male characters in entertainment who are often anything but.

The Crackpots and These Women Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (4 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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