West Wing (09-Oct-02): The Red Mass **Spoilers**

Just opening the gates. One thing that strikes me is that I don’t really recall anyone being “goofy” in this episode. And that the woman who played “Susan” was Paul Buchman’s sister in Mad About You. I missed bits so will have to go back to the tape to catch up. Still think that Sam is building to a larger purpose. Lily Tomlin and Mrs. Bartlet were noticeably absent. And as long as I’m going stream of conciousness, has anyone caught Ainsley on CSI: Miami?

That’s about as disjointed a post as I’ve ever made. I hope.

Argh! I missed the first fifteen minutes of the show, so I was very confused by all the rest. Can somebody give me a recap?

Give me a sec to review the videotape and then I’ll give you a recap…

Ok, I’ll take you through the first commercial break, stop me when you’ve caught up…

Opens with Mary Louise Parker*, Susan and Stackhouse walking into a conference room. Gov. Ritchie has leaked a speech he has prepared to give before the American Medical Assoc. in which he condemns needle exchange programs. His position is personal responsibility and anti-drug. Stackhouse and Susan, one of his advisors, want to come out in favor needle exchange. MLP says it’s just bait, designed to draw out and the President. Stackhouse says that Josh Lyman will see that in five minutes then. MLP counters that Donna will see it in five minutes, it will take Josh half that time. Maybe a little longer since the Mets lost last night… cut to Josh and Donna in Josh’s office. Josh is complaining about the Met’s manager. Donna asks Josh if he wants his morning news. One of the items is the Ritchie speech. Josh reads a few lines and then says, “I know how Ritchie is going to win the election”. Cut to opening credits.

Press room, CJ is just ending her briefing. She mentions the Red Mass, an annual mass which a lot of DC bigwigs, POTUS and the Supreme Court Justices attend prior to annual convention of the Supreme Court. Then the question turns to the debates. How many? Not sure, we want five, Ritchie wants two, etc. Debate commission should rule soon. What is a win for POTUS? Dodges the question. End press conference. CJ exits press room and meets Sam in the hallway. CJ says she knows how Ritchie is going to win the election, something about lowering expectations and then exceeding them, Sam says so do I, pulls her aside.

Cut to Oval Office. POTUS and Leo are meeting with some group and the gang enters. Bartlet says congratulations, alluding to the tax cuts for college education which they believe they’re going to get passed. Josh brings up the needle exchange thing with Ritchie, says how it’s just bait designed to draw them in, and that they shouldn’t address it unless Stackhouse addresses it. Cut to Toby railing to CJ about the costs of not having a needle sharing program, shouldn’t that be what the debate is about, typical Sorkin method to highlight his views. Not as subtle as the initial dig at separation of church and state. Cut to Leo and an Israeli envoy meeting. Envoy is awarding Leo with a friend of Israeli medal. Leo pulls Israeli VIP aside and explains that they really need to by time with Qumar. Envoy explains that they are in the right and shouldn’t have to deny something they didn’t do. Makes a cutting remark about it’s not their problem. Leo subtley hints that the USA brought down the bad guy and we are in this together. Envoy picks this up and agrees to pass a message on to the Israeli PM that they should delay any attacks they had planned on Qumari targets. Cut to commercial.

That should be the main points, anyway. Let me know if you need more.

*I’m always lousy with names and dates. I think that the MLP character is Amy. Israeli guy’s name was Ben Youssef.

Ivylad had to watch some dumb Jean Claude Van Damm movie. I’ll take a recap of the rest of the show, ShibbOleth, if you don’t mind.

I can do that, but then Ivylad owes me a beer next time I’m in Orlando.

Done! Now, spoil away please…

Heh-heh, I’ll probably be in Orlando some time between Dec 20 and Jan 5, just so you can plan ahead.

First, from the first segment, one element I omitted: Josh tells Donna she has to work Saturday by attending a seminar given by self help guru Teddy Tomba. Tomba had consulted for Ritchie recently and Josh hopes to dig up something embarassing on Ritchie.

Also, Ben Youssef, the one I labelled as an Israeli envoy, is the Israeli Foreign Minister. And Mary Louise Parker’s character’s name is Amy Gardner. I’ll try to store that in my tiny brain. Now on to the second segment.

Return from commercial with Josh talking with Senator Stackhouse and following Amy and Susan into a conference room. They are trailed by a bunch of high-powered Dems who have come by to pressure Stackhouse to drop out of the race and endorse Bartlet, as he had promised. Stackhouse reminds them that he is only in the election to raise what he sees as important issues. One Dem thanks him for not taking the bait from Ritchie on needle exchange. Stackhouse mentions that he just hasn’t spoken on this yet. Josh leaves the office as the discussion grows heated.

Cut to Charlie and sulking, bored mentee (again with the name thing) in Charlie’s office. Charlie mentions something about the Red Mass (Sunday before first Monday, mass attended by Supreme Court justices, Prez, his cabinet and members of Congress). Mentee asks how can they do that, isn’t there separation of Church and State? Charlie asks mentee where does it say that. Mentee can’t come up with a cite. Charlie goads him some more about it, then gives him a copy of the US Constitution as he leaves the room. Hand off sequence to Sam (brief mention of Mets and Red Mass speech), then Sam says hello to congresswoman Jeanette (last name not mentioned) and they enter his office. Sam has called her over to get her to drum up support for their idea on tax deduction for college tuition. She is to go on Sunday morning talk shows, etc. They also mention someone named Horton Wild, there’s a small goof sequence where Sam asks does she mean Thorton Wilder. No, he’s the Dem running for Congress from the 47th district in California, which is Orange County, ground zero for the Republican party (whence sprand Nixon and Reagan. Slight aside, Philip K. Dick even set some of his stories there with a fictionalize Nixon style guy named Ferris Freemont. See: A Scanner Darkly). Anyway, Horton Wild has just had a heart attack. Turns out it’s his fourth. Sam asks how can he take this guy seriously, the Party doesn’t even take their shot their seriously enough to nominate someone who is healthy, etc.

Cut to situation room where Prez and Leo are consulting with FBI and other advisors on how to deal with separatist locked up in an Iowa compound. These are the people that they believe were behind the pipe bombs at the natatorium in Kansas in a previous episode. Apparently one of the kids in the compound needs heart medicine and he’s been out for a few days. FBI suggests blowing a hole in the wall, then flash bang (stun) grenades to do an extraction. Prez agrees.

Back to Josh and Amy outside Stackhouse conference room. They discuss Stackhouse, his impact on the President’s campaign for reelection, and the political fight which led to their split. Josh is a bit on an ass (IMHO). Toward the end he says, “He’s taking the President’s votes.” To which Amy replies, “That’s the thing…they’re not the President’s votes”.

Cut to commercial. More later, I have to work occassionally.

The “Horton Wild” subplot was a bit odd- is Sorkin saying that the Democrats have an obligation to spend big money and field “serious” candidates for every Congressional seat, even in districts where the Democrats KNOW they have zero chance of winning?

Is he unaware tha tthe Republicans are in the same bind in many other districts? When I was growing up in Queens, NY, the Republicans usually didn’t bother to nominate ANYBODY for Congress in my district- they typically just endorsed the Democrat. So, if I didn’t want to vote for a Democrat, I had to vote for the Libertarian or the Socialist Workers Party nominee!

A guy I knew at Columbia accepted the Republican nomination to run against long-time liberal Dem Congressman Ted Weiss (upper West Side of Manhattan). This guy had no chance of winning (he ADMITTED as much, knowing he’d need a miracle to get just 20% of the vote). In his own way, he was as big a joke as “Horton Wild.” I liked the guy, and give him a lot of credit for running at all… but the GOP organization didn’t give him any real funds, and didn’t devote any real manpower to getting him elected. And they were RIGHT! Every dime spent, every ounce of energy expended on a Republican campaign in a 100%-safe Democratic district was wasted.

I agree that it would be NICE if every voter in America had a genuine choice, but let’s face reality: BOTH major parties have districts (heck, even STATES) that they have no choice but to concede and write off, before the elections even begin.

I went to the actual Red Mass this past Sunday in DC.

I just felt like sharing. :slight_smile:

Something I don’t think they mentioned in the show. Why “Red” Mass? Is it given by a Cardinal? Also, any idea on how far back this tradition goes?

Also, what were the numbers they were talking about near the end. 80-20 or somesuch?
Was it a vote tally? The number of a bill?

Red Mass is not unique to the Supreme Court and Washington. It goes back to 13th century Europe.

http://www.redmass.com/AboutRM.htm (Whodathunkit?)

I forgot, this is the Straight Dope. I should be able to find the answers.

It’s the rev-up for Rob Lowe leaving the show. He’s going to get a bee in his bonnet about the whole issue and decide that, to really make an impact on the world, he needs to run for office. He is, of course, “one of his generation’s great minds.”
That way, he’ll still have a way back in if he decides to come back to the West Wing, or even make guest appearances, and they’ll have a smooth, realistic exit for him.
I can’t remember if I read this somewhere or if it’s my own personal theory.

C3, that’s exactly what I thought when I was watching this week. I even turned to my wife and said so. I don’t think I read about it anywhere. I’ve been on the lookout for Rob Lowe’s out storyline ever since he announced his departure; I’m just glad they’re not going to kill him.

Now, I hope next week spells out why having one debate is better than having two…

C3- thanks for the tip-off. I knew Rob Lowe was leaving thje show, but I didn’t grasp that his character might be running for Congress. Still… wasn’t Sam supposed to be from New York, like Josh? And don’t New York Congressional districts always have strong, serious, well-funded candidates?

I mean… I didn’t THINK Sam was supposed to be from Orange county. Or was he? Somehow, I can’t picture him running for Congress in an district where the Republicans win automatically (just as I think, say, Karen Hughes would be foolish to run for Congress here in Austin, where liberal Democrats win almost every election effortlessly).

As for why one debate is better than two, well, Bartlett is taking a gamble. He originally wanted MANY debates, to give the public a lot of chances to see how glib, articulate and brilliant he is, while Governor Richey wanted as few debates as possible, to lessen the chance he’d make some embarrassing gaffe. The compromise solution was to have TWO debates, in a format that didn’t lend itself to serious discussion of issues. Basically, each candidate would get a chance to spit out canned, pat speeches and sound bites. Two debates with that kind of format gave an edge to Richey, who may not be much of an orator, but who’s folksy and likeable.

Bartlett and his staff came up with a risky strategy: since everybody knew that Richey wanted as few debates as possible, why not make this proposal:

Okay, we’ll have just ONE debate- that’s what you wanted all along, right? But WE get to determine the format of the debate. None of this “each side gets 2 minutes to make a pat speech on pre-decided subjects” stuff, but a REAL debate, where we get to cross-examine and question each other substantively.

This way, Governor Richey gets what he wants (one debate only, which minimizes his chances of saying something ridiculous or embarrassing), while Bartlett gets what HE wants (a chance to show off how dazzlingly brilliant he is).


I don’t think there’s any likelihood that Aaron Sorkin will let the Republicans win the election, but Bartlett’s strategy is risky, at least in the abstract, and Bartlett knows it. If there’s only one debate, and Richey comes out looking okay (he doesn’t have to look brilliant, just reasonably bright and competent), Bartlett will have blown a big chance to score points with the voters.

here’s the 80-20 rule:


"Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) was an Italian economist who, in 1906, observed that twenty percent of the Italian people owned eighty percent of their country’s accumulated wealth. Over time and through application in a variety of environments, this analytic has come to be called Pareto’s Principle, the 80-20 Rule, and the “Vital Few and Trivial Many Rule.” Called by whatever name, this mix of 80%-20% reminds us that the relationship between input and output is not balanced. In a management context, this rule of thumb is a useful heuristic that applies when there is a question of effectiveness versus diminishing returns on effort, expense, or time.

“The Rule and Its Corollary
Pareto’s rule states that a small number of causes is responsible for a large percentage of the effect, in a ratio of about 20:80. Expressed in a management context, 20% of a person’s effort generates 80% of the person’s results. The corollary to this is that 20% of one’s results absorb 80% of one’s resources or efforts. For the effective use of resources, the manager’s challenge is to distinguish the right 20% from the trivial many.”

I don’t think Sam is going to run for Congress. The whole thing with Orange County is simply theoretical, to get Sam motivated to “make a Difference.” Ever since last season, he’s been paying attention to Bartlett - his history, his mannerisms, his techniques, and, most importantly, his history.

Sam is going to go back to his hometown and run for the School Board, and then for Governor.