The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6 Review: Mr. Willis of Ohio

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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…  


Finally! There was something that annoyed me again on The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6.

Whew. It just wouldn't have been normal for a series dealing with so many issues to glide so peacefully through the quagmire without poking at least one button every few hours.

Game On - The West Wing

But even when poking, there was a concerted effort to release the pressure in another scene that very quickly followed. Well done, The West Wing, well done. All will be revealed momentarily.

I continue to enjoy the camaraderie between the West Wing staff, and the poker game at the beginning of this hour was particularly amusing. The President holds in his hands a plethora of useless information he uses to entertain his people, and as a result, I get to learn things.

Asking them for every nugget of punctuation, as well as the three words in the English language beginning with dw as a way to knock them off their poker games was a very smooth tactic.

What happened right after the game, though, was more significant than the game itself. It also tied into an overall theme of the hour that the President, his family nor his staff are guaranteed a happy personal life through their very important work on behalf of the United States of America.

When the game broke up, it wasn't as easy as calling it a night because the White House was on lockdown. That happens when an armed woman jumps the fence in the hopes of reaching the First Daughter.

Trouble with Zoe is also how Charlie makes his way to the poker table. It makes sense the kid would be skittish about fitting in at the White House, but it seemed out of left field for the President to ask Josh to take him out for a drink. Suddenly, there was a whole group going, including Zoe. 

Trouble Finds Zoe - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6

It was equally bizarre none of the adults at the table found it at all odd when Zoe left her panic button on the table to go up to the bar (at age 19), but it gave Charlie an opportunity to defend her and be a hero. 

Not only was he the only black kid in the entire bar (really? In Georgetown in 1999?), but he thought the others could imagine he wasn't a student. The three goofs who were hitting on Zoe, meanwhile, looked like campers who just fell off of the turnip truck, so if anyone didn't fit in, it would be them.

It was one of two scenarios that felt a little too heavy handed, but with this one, Charlie was so excited to make his point to the fishermen boys that I got excited for him. I also don't remember people still using the term fairy boys in 1999, especially still in public, unless that turnip truck was nearby. 

Charlie was most certainly not the oddball in the scenario in any shape or form.

The bottom line was living life in the public eye was nigh on impossible. It was something Leo was feeling, too, but he was feeling it because of his service on behalf of the President. 

And when President Bartlet told him to just "fix" his marriage, it was painful. His experience with Zoe, though, shook him back into reality. Everyone here is human. They all make awful mistakes, and they all apologize for them, too.

Is It Still in Print? - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6

One of the moments that was lighter was Toby asking for a copy of Article 2 Section 1. The initial response was "of what," which made him blanch. 

The follow-up responses, though, of "are we supposed to have that on our desk" and "is it still in print" when asking about the United States Constitution were downright scary. 

When you work in the White House, you'd like to think you might have just an eensy bit of knowledge of the Constitution. Maybe when you get the job, it might even be something you'd consider light reading. What the heck, right? An employee's manual of sorts.

Apparently not.

Toby needed that particular section to build his argument to convince the titular character, Mr. Willis of Ohio, to vote with the President for a House appropriations bill to spend the tax surplus by slashing one of the amendments that prohibits sampling.

This Is Mr. Willis - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6

What I didn't like about this segment was how toby used Mr. Willis as a black man and one who was voting for his wife after her death. OK, he was also a history teacher, but he could have been a white history teacher, and using Article 1 Section 2 wouldn't have had the same effect, would it?

So the Administration wants to use sampling in the census to ensure the disenfranchised are counted. Got it. I also hate (no, detest) statistics. Even Mr. Willis made a point to say as long as it wasn't left up to the same people who chose what was on TV. Mr. Willis hates statistics, too!

But the Article in question noted they counted 1 landowner and 3/5s slaves, essentially, to which Toby noted were "you" to Mr. Willis. Talk about a heavy hand. No, Toby, that wasn't Mr. Willis. How do you know his family were slaves? Maybe his parents recently came from England?

Bah. That just bugged me no end. Yet, didn't Toby just have to turn around and admit he was using Mr. Willis? And he even wondered why Mr. Willis didn't protest. What if they decided to use sampling as they do in the polls, instead, with a margin of error, he wondered?

Damn that Toby (or that Aaron Sorkin) for knowing people like me were going to be squirming in our seats. So he placated me by assuring me, yes, Carissa. We have every avenue covered for all viewers.

Donna Wants Her Money Back - The West Wing Season 1 Episode 6

And in case I wasn't 100% sure of that, Donna was speaking my language, as well. Isn't she the best?

When she heard the Republicans wanted to give the surplus back to the people (Hey, you gotta love 'em for something), she was on board. She wanted her money back. Josh reminded her that Democrats do not trust anyone to spend their money wisely, so she couldn't have it.

That she wouldn't let it go, explaining to him how she would spend her money, stimulating the American economy by purchasing an American DVD player, etc., was beautiful and fresh and the light conversation we needed in this otherwise heavy episode.

After everyone finished playing hero to Zoe in Georgetown (and remembering she's the President's daughter and different rules apply), it was time for sandwiches. And when Josh wondered where the change was from his $20, Donna reminded him he rarely spends his cash well, and she'll make sure to spend it wisely.

I wish there was a way to get every person counted properly for the census, but when we can't even agree on ID cards for voting, I don't think we'll come around to understanding that ball of wax anytime soon.

There is so much in the government to learn, and The West Wing does a great job showing how every decision requires a balancing of the scales inside their own party. The parties are supposed to weigh two sides of one argument within their own party and then the two parties are supposed to weigh the arguments equally for all.

If only all politics were like The West Wing.

Mr. Willis of Ohio Review

Editor Rating: 4.25 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (15 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, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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