The season premiere was all about the creation of a true Santos/McGarry ticket, amid Josh’s foaming at the mouth and the White House’s leak problem. So I was a little surprised to see absolutely no follow-through on that plot thread. Apparently all is well with Leo and his candidacy, because the question now is whether or not Santos can even win the election. Vinick continues to be strong off-screen, and when the entire Santos campaign is playing catch-up after one sound bite from the opposition, it’s not a good sign.
It is, however, an interesting look at how the situation in the sixth season, where Josh was all but running for Santos, has evolved into near-disaster. Josh has been trying to control everything, including his candidate, and that hasn’t been working as well as he thinks it should. Josh has been pulling too many all-nighters and his attention is slipping. Meanwhile, the press is eating Santos alive.
This leak story has gone on long enough, I think, and it’s clear that someone on the show is going to be leaving as a result. It has all the hallmarks of a targeted plot device. My current suspicion is that Toby is the leak, based on his brother and his general desire to step over the line for what he believes in. Plus, there really is no role for him beyond Bartlet.
So we get to see Janeane Garofalo play the role of Louise, a feisty communications director that looks and sounds like she’s trying to convince everyone that she knows her stuff. She, too, plays a targeted role. It’s about exposing the weaknesses in Josh’s hand-holding and reminding him and Santos that Bartlet had an entire team working on his election, not just Leo. And Santos is right: Bartlet was the one calling the shots in the end, not just Leo.
More importantly, none of these characters (especially Santos) are direct analogues of the previous cast. Granted, the growing ensemble isn’t as compelling, but there’s a logical reason for that. By the time the series began, everyone had a certain degree of confidence, based on their previous relationships and a great deal of experience with one another. Santos has Leo and Josh. The rest of the team is still pulling together, or at least, they should be. If this series is supposed to continue past this year, then the writers need to find characters and actors with the presence of the original cast.
This was a good episode, if only because I liked the fact that Santos took the reins. I wasn’t thrilled with the White House side of the story, yet again, but something tells me that it will be more prominent and meaningful in the next episode. What I was really thinking, however, is that the producers might do better to pull a “Practice”/”Boston Legal” move after this year.
Want to save money on contracts? End the series and start new. Contracts get big with success and longevity. First season salaries are typically lower. Make the break cleanly with this series for the sake of sticking with the Bartlet administration timeline, and don’t let the series end halfway through a Santos or Vinick administration. If a spinoff dies early, it won’t drag down the original. For some, it’s too late for that, but I want this series to go out on a good note, and this season is playing like the end of an era.
Final Rating: 7/10