The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9 Review: The Short List

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"I wanted a Democrat, but instead I got you."

That's what a retiring Chief Justice said to President Bartlet on The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9.

After putting off his retirement for five years waiting for a new administration to take office, he thought he hit the jackpot with Bartlet. He was apparently surprised when the President moved to the center of the road in his political leanings so quickly after the election.

Peyton Cabot Harrison III - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9

Peyton Cabot Harrison III. It's a nice name, right?

That's not the guy who would ultimately become President Bartlet's nomination to the supreme court, but he was their first choice and the guy who believed he'd hit a home run on his way to the bench.

For all of you with long-term political aspirations, be careful what you say now because it will stick with you for the rest of your life. Does what you say at 25 hold meaning some 30 odd years down the road? 

When you're arguing about the government's right to invade your privacy, you bet your ass it does. So when Harrison's decades-old paper resurfaces, it becomes the reason he's no longer a hot property. That's especially true when he says it wasn't a one-off opinion nor has it changed.

Harrison has an interesting take on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Oddly, while being questioned by Sam, Toby, and President Bartlet, I knew he could have never survived a Senate confirmation hearing, and I even wondered at his political leanings.

Peyton Cabot Harrison III was, without a doubt, a blonde-haired blue-eyed ringer for story purposes only. He was only there to bring in Roberto Mendoza. Who, also oddly, Mandy was wildly against.

He's the Man - The West Wing

It shows how much the times have changed. Mendoza is not only a minority, but he began his career as a police officer wounded on duty. Instead of taking a handout and moving off the job, he asked for desk duty, went to law school at night and became an ADA out of school.

He worked his way to being a judge from there, voting for same-sex marriage and probably a whole host of other things on both sides of the spectrum Bartlet is straddling. The best part was Mendoza didn't even know he was on the short list. 

He was a dream candidate.

Unfortunately, the day was also mottled with some petty fellow stirring up trouble within the West Wing by demanding drug tests of all the employees. To be honest, I couldn't figure out if he was just out for blood because it was a day to get Toby, or if it was somehow tied into the justice recommendation.

Nonetheless, it rings of the opioid crisis of today, doesn't it? We better hurry up and find someone working on our tax dollars doing what they shouldn't be before they flush our lives down the toilet.

We Got You - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9

As we've seen previously, Leo is a recovering alcoholic, as is Vice President Hoynes. Every staffer releases steam with a drink. Josh discovered it wasn't alcohol they were after but a pill problem Leo had six years previous.

That could be the reasoning for the line of questioning with Harrison as a drug issue should be a private matter. In fact, if a reporter or fellow congressman discovered Leo had been in treatment for a medical condition years later, it would become a reason for investigation down the road.

HIPAA laws went into effect between 2003 and 2005 depending on the size of the insurance plan, and that information wasn't open for discussion any longer. Whether Harrison considered privacy a right or not, the government was doing their best to keep at least some matters out of the hands of people with loose lips.

President Bartlet had no intention of holding Leo's issues against him anyway. Leo was a friend far longer than they'd been running the White House. Still, Leo getting so much support from his friends during a time they were all part of the witch hunt was enviable.

Doing the Right Thing - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9

And it tied directly into how Mendoza finally impressed Toby he was the right choice for their supreme court nominee. Toby's question for Mendoza was what he would rule if an employee refused to take a drug test at the request of the president. 

Without cause, Mendoza would consider it an illegal search and order the employee reinstated. He's not just going to sit back and let government run amok. He wants order in his court, reasons for search and seizure. Toby was sold, and Bartlet got to tell Mendoza why he was really there.

I'm with Josh, though, in wondering why Toby was so dead set against Mendoza in the first place, or perhaps why he was so set on Harrison. They're holding back on fleshing out some of the characters, and Toby is a mystery to me.

With 12 seasons ahead, I'm not worried I won't find out who he is in quite some detail, but I'm dying to know more about his motivations. He's so quiet and keeps to himself. 

A Happy Ending - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9

Nominating someone to the supreme court can be a defining moment for a president, so it's surprising Bartlet did it so early in his administration, especially when the other guy was still upright and breathing and didn't consider Bartlet the right man to make the decision.

With this type of happy ending so early in the series run, it's almost hard to determine what's to come down the road, but I'm going to find out!

They Aren't Supposed to Swim - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 9

I can't leave without mentioning the burgeoning relationship between CJ and Danny.

Danny had a 50/50 chance of getting it right. When I heard, "She likes goldfish," I was hesitant, too. Who says that without the caveat of what kind of goldfish someone likes? 

The odds of telling Danny to buy CJ a swimming creature for her office were slim, but it was darn cute, and I haven't been diggin' on Danny at all. His persistence and how he makes her laugh, though, are worth their weight in gold.

And now the West Wing has a mascot. Because it's going to be around forever, I hope. You can't introduce a goldfish and do away with it. That would be cruel. It even has a name. Gail. Or Gale. I don't know if it's male or female. 

Alrighty then! We've tackled the issue of privacy. What's next??

The Short List Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (2 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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