6.04: Liftoff (with Allison Janney)
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My name's Rishikesh your way and mine's Joshua Malina. And today we're talking about season six episode four. It's called liftoff. It was written by Debra Kahn was directed by Alex graves first aired on November tenth two thousand four in this episode it CJ's first day as chief of staff, it's not an easy one. Because the Bartlett administration has to come up with a plan of action when an emissary from Georgia walks into the White House and offers them weapons grade uranium Josh seeks out a meeting with a congressman from Texas. Who's thinking about leaving congress has Matthew Santos and Toby Donna try and find and replacement for the press secretary mostly Denver's that off the top of your head. Basically. I'm impressed. I don't think I describe the series the west wing generally at the top of my head. I'm impressed as I mentioned in the synopsis. We get congressman Santos's first appearance in the west wing, and there's a little bit of a spoiler. I think in the titles because before we ever see him in the show. He's in the opening credits of this episode. Yeah. Outrageous, Jimmy Smits first appearance in the titles. He must have insisted on it just getting. It's an interesting choice. You would think they would have held back of the who knows. Maybe it was a big press release at the time us even cast is probably the he's a big get. And so they probably decided to milk it for all. It's worth from the gecko. Yeah. I guess. So I mean they've had big stars. But anyway, any chance of leaving some suspense about whether or not this character was gonna stick around or have a long-term arc really pretty well. Squashed by the time. You see the name Jimmy Smits in the opening credits. True. I didn't break out the stop watch to see how much more time I lost its, but you did lose a little bit more. You're saying is noticeable to you or just it's a zero-sum game. And that's I must have exactly you must have stuffy. Steam isn't getting any longer? That's true. So we better. Hurry up coming up later in this episode. We have an exciting guest Allison Janney is gonna join us. We had a great conversation with her which we've already recorded and we'll play that at the end of our recap. We talked a lot about the CJ stuff with her. So we're gonna save some of that for later. Let's talk about some of the other. Points. I back to Matt Santos for a second. He's the congressman for Texas's eighteenth congressional district. And if you just you know, anyone was surprised by democrat coming out of Texas. There are currently eleven democratic representatives in congress out of thirty six seats the benches deeper than it once was including the current Representative for the eighteenth district. That's a Sheila jackson-lee who by the way, graduated from Yale during the eighteenth district was also home to congresswoman Barbara Jordan and in nineteen seventy two. She was the first southern black woman ever elected to the house, and she was the first African American and the first woman to deliver. A keynote address at the DNC when she spoke in nineteen seventy six she was the acting governor of Texas for one day in nineteen seventy two making her the first and only black woman, thus far to serve as governor right on also worth noting that eighteenth districts everywhere considered a propitious for the Jewish people as the high district as it were. So in the cold open, a, ma'am. I'm staff sergeant Kelty this is sergeant Willetts earnings everything. Alright sure is may forty no sorry ABC's decastro in shade. They will be did not need a secret service detail, they'll give you a wide berth. This is the thing that struck me on the second watch of the called open. It struck me as a cinematic cross between the state room scene in the Marx brothers and night at the opera classics in that we can link to in which their stateroom on this ocean liners, just more and more people. Shop has one of the windy great. I think all time film scenes, and I thought a little bit like Louis moon, wills and Hsien undo with. CJ's is that close of I was kind of waiting for a straight razor to go cross it. Wow. Shutout to the pixies. Sure. Did you notice that when CJ is getting ready? She puts on her jacket, and sort of Bartlett esque way herself. I yeah, I did as a matter of fact, I liked you tell a lot. Yeah. And it kind of portends the president Bartlett jacket. Swing duck that you'll have to perform them. Yeah. And also made me feel like it was a nice physical way to tie the two of them together. Yeah. Absolutely. Now, she's the captain of the team she puts on the jacket same way. That's right. Some of the people who come in our CJ's secret service agents. And this was something new. I thought had we have we ever seen Leo getting his own security detail. No that crossed my mind to they seem to be a lot more concerned about her security than we have here to foreseen with Lia. Yeah. Maybe because she already in the past gotten Stockard death threats as we know from season three. So maybe that was why or maybe just Leo had them all the time when they were just very, discreet, perhaps. So maybe Margaret is secretly she's very secret service. Here's something. I didn't notice on the I watch. There's that kind of funny moment where CJ has delivered to her the days reaping books. She brings the briefing books. You guys are going to be friends with this week's these are today's I didn't notice the first time I watched that somebody seems not to have briefed Elroy the extra. He's introduced as the guy is going to help her out with books because when CJ asks those are this weeks he nods. Like some there's a little miscommunication. And I think somebody should have said to all right? Here's the here's the scene. We're doing. He's our today's maybe L ROY was just giving a more all encompassing answer because she's not wrong. They are for this week. I say you're your van diagramming yet more specifically there for today now for your right? Okay. Fair enough. He's he's a macro guy. My favorite film MC Elroy since the Jetsons. Nonetheless. I just had a niece born this week. Her name is a Laura that's a beautiful name. Congratulations. Thanks very much. That's exciting earth stats weight height. Do now gosh, I don't know fair enough little little baby size. Right. I never really quite understood that the stats game. Like the baby was born at six pounds six ounces that the exact time and how many inches? Yeah. And which is fine. If you want announce it what's strange to me is when people want to know when people like oh in what was the baby's birth weight? It's just something to say. So because there's not much to say about a new baby. And you know, she looks like Winston Churchill. Like all babies. So there's not there's just not that much to point to specifics about a new baby other than stats. Yeah. I still calculate my own weight in outages in my height in inches. And how are you clocking in these days? Many many ounces not so too. The height certainly seems to have stabilized the weight still fluctuates. Will has this weird line on behalf of the vice president and myself and every man who's ever had a wonder woman fantasy too bright out deer. Yeah. Yeah. I don't know. Yeah. Yeah. A little bit inappropriate. And what are you gonna do? Fire him think. Do we ever discussed wasn't didn't CJ kiss will on the cheek recently? Yes. That the previous episode. Yeah. Maybe it was last up. So will was very happy about it was. Yes, big beaming smiles there, maybe we'll might have a little thing for CJ. I think will is really just desperate for any kind of attention. I think so too when CJ walks in there's this great moment where she smells the flowers and things there for her. And if they're fairly L, but then she walks into Leo's office, which is now her office, and it's full of flowers, and I had this visual memory of the third season for six feet under. I don't know if you remember this back in two thousand and three they were big billboards in LA there is a photo of the cast shot by Gregory Cruzan. Who's a great photographer? It's very rare that he does any kind of commercial anything, but he did this shot of. The cast of six feet under surrounded by flowers in the home in this was like the main image for the third season and the lighting in Leo's office and the flowers and CJ reminded me a lot of that image. That's a great shot. Have we discussed at all the the change in cinematography on the show? Thomas. Del Ruth has left the show right director photography, and Michael mayor has taken over, and I know on our message boards a lot of people have been commenting on us late change. And look the show maybe a little bit moodier darker, and you didn't even know that it could get darker. It was so dimly lit it was dark to begin with. Yes. But but there is a shift, and maybe I'm not articulating a well, a slight shift in look and lighting and camera work is well, we got a lot in this episode of hand held camera work, which I think helps to sort of give this feeling of seeing the administration through new eyes. I liked this episode a lot and once we've gotten past the reservations, we may be had about the credibility of a press secretary moving to chief of staff. Now that she's in CJ is great. And it's I'm enjoying watching her first day. And I think the hand held photography sort of accentuates, the look and feel and movement of that first day on the job. Yeah. This is so far my favorite episode of the season. We're only four episodes in. But I I love this episode to. Yeah. As do I one of the things that's going on is Toby makes is starting can make a mess of things in the briefing room. He has a gaffe after gaffe, he says of their CJ craze, not the only one working without a net. You know, in the film Bulworth Warren Beatty was working with that Annette. Wow. So you were saying very rudely. He's getting harangued by the press. And then steps a little too far with this sarcasm and he says event. They all lose their way. The president can always send CJ crack to Ramallah to swatted suicide bombers with her purse. In the whole place goes crazy in the and the staff starts to run. And this is where the Josh Lyman sliding gift comes from. Remember, you you made reference to it? And I said I had I didn't know it. And here it is. And it is a an exquisite piece of physical comedy. I'd like to talk to Brad just about how it almost it looks impossible it really it looks impossible. Plus the reason why I brought it up right now because you were talking about the change in cinematography. And I just thought the moment when that happens there's a bunch of things happening stylistically. It's a real move that they make just for this one scene one. He slides across the frame. It's yeah. How does he do that? But they also do this thing where they do a reverse hit on the press saying Toby. Echos out just as Josh's sliding across. And then we moved to Toby actually out of the briefing room. So it's like a time jump a Josh slide. And John's get yeah. And then Josh catches up with Toby. Unbelievably short, imagine time. Yeah. The whole thing is kind of insane. Yeah. There's a little bit of like a fairytale moment or something larger than life happening in just that brief moment, I really liked it. I liked to seemed almost like a Bill Irwin gag. I think Bradley Whitford has some dance training. Right. I, you know, I don't know. I know he has a daughter who is about arena. And I know that he is great physically you can tell from his I don't know if he has training probably having attended Juilliard. Imagine everyone who attends the Juilliard acting program has some dance training. Yeah. And he can do the splits his ridiculously agile. Yeah. And knowingly likes to do all sorts of ridiculous physical stuff when he's working just before cameras roll. He's basically bouncing off the walls and doing splits and his legs ever his head and he can up both legs over his head. And you can roll them around like a Donut. It's kind of impressive and disgusting at the same time. I think you might be describing some of our listeners fantasies. Probably one or two. There's there's a vendetta Graham that applies to anything speaking risky business and Bradley Whitford risky business move. Sure. I think there's an interesting haircut choice for Bradley Whitford. I didn't really take it in. It might be worth taking a look he has almost like a military cut that's grown out. But it's a new haircut. It's gone from his sort of rakish unkempt hair to something shorter and spike ear and more hedgehog lake. How did I miss that? I don't know. I thought you would lead off within honestly off my game pulled on sending you a picture. Yeah. Oh, dear. Yeah. I gotta say he was maybe between haircuts. They film this episode. It's not entirely unlike Rick from Rick and Morty, that's what it is. Very good. Oh, good. Call very good. We'll put up a juxtapose -sition. And you know, what they both burp lot. That's true. That's true. There this this may be more deeper than we realize. Okay. So this first meeting with CJ, and now the rest of her staff is so strange and so tense. And and really I was uncomfortable. Watching it CJ does a great job, you know, sort of slipping into the role. But I just couldn't stop thinking about how weird that must have been for them. And then Toby does this joke of oh, I'm gonna resign. He sells it I think brilliantly and Josh too. I just think it's time for me to move on my letter of resignation to the president tile on but working for one of my closest friends is not going to bring up my bed. First time. I watched us not knowing I know there there are changes coming up in in the show. And I was like, oh, my God is how it happens and a. Yeah, I think it would be weird. Because as soon as as the meeting was going on. I'm like this is awkward. Yeah. This is a new new frontier. So when they respond with you know, what this is too much. It's not gonna work out. I was like, yeah. Make sense to me. But then the president comes in with his letter of resignation and makes it this like big broad joke and everybody laughs, and I thought okay, great. Everybody's laughing. The president's joke. I'm not comfortable working for a woman. I'm going to let the vice president. I'm going to resign the present. I mean, that's ridiculous. And so, of course, people laughed, but the Toby and Josh ones were a little too real. I thought sassy the other way I'd like the real ones. And then the president was like, they're still acting. It's I guess there's an non-credible credible moment to me, which is that. They should have see Jason who started laughing immediately as soon as the president said what he did. Yes. Yeah. It's just ludicrous. Exactly. The for some reason they approach the way the scene was directed and acted as if that was still credible. Right. Yeah. Resident really been the presidency chides Toby for laughingly come on. We could have still gotten her going. You said you were going to resign. The president's getting work for a woman ridiculous after you after you're the one who gave her the job, right? Doesn't make any sense. It doesn't even make logical sense. I'm mainly. I felt bad for will who seemed not to be in on the joke. Right. That's right. He was like. The memo that expression of actually opens his mouth a little bit her you opened your mouth a little bit. But anyway, I'm just saying that part of the joke is like all right? This is stupid. But the Toby Josh part of the quote unquote joke really did not feel like a joke because then throughout the rest of the episode. The sort of underlying kernel of the joke, which is hey, this is weird. It becomes substantially part of the plot. Well, that's that's what I like about any when there is some truth to it. All yeah. I didn't say saying this. I that I disliked it. I mean, I disliked it in terms of how uncomfortable. I was. But I loved it in terms of the plotting of the show. Yeah. No. I think we see in Josh's meeting with Santa's. Craig gut chief of staff it's going to be a blow. That's fine. And you can sell in Joshua's response that it was a little bit of a hit. He took as it would be everybody keeps reminding Josh they're like you're saying the job, you know, the guys in the d triple c try to get him away. And he says he's going to stick around. And they're like, wow. Really and. Yeah, and Santos actually is the only one who really kind of tries to put a positive spin on it. You couldn't do the kind of politics and you do behind the mcgarry desk. We'd be making sure the trains run it. Need you you love that fight? And you're gonna. I don't live. And Josh were like, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I think he's trying to buy into what Santos is saying. But I think he also knows that it's not true. Well, I wonder I thought it was maybe trying to give us through Matt Santos a little bit of insight as to why. Leo. I mean, I think we're gonna find out down the line. What has in mind for Josh rather than chief of staff? But no, Leo can't tell us what he was thinking at this point. And I think we're getting maybe some idea of why joshes talents and skills would be better used elsewhere. What I really like in this episode is that you see rather than addressing it head on you see in Toby's behaviour a couple of times that he's having some trouble adjusting to the new world order just some looks that he gives CJ and he's a little bit hurt. And then at one point he actually sister as if quite taken aback, it wasn't a suggestion. It was what an order an answer. Of course is. Yes, I out rank you, and I am giving you an order. It's the kind of that. Can you imagine him ever? That response to Leo, right? I wonder whether to reading into whether there's any taking an order from a woman aspect of it, or it's just that it CJ, and he's used to being on par or you know, sort of that ranking her on these matters. And all of a sudden, it's just like, oh, yeah. You're my boss. He's having a little trouble accepting there. Yeah. I think I I didn't think that it would be any trouble taking order from a woman, but more that this is his friend, his dear friend who he brought into this campaign. He's been her boss. The entire time. The press secretary reports to the communications director, and certainly they trade ideas like peers, but really he has been her boss. And now suddenly this person who he introduced to the administration is now his boss that's got to be so crazy that moment specifically, I thought was was really rough recognizing that the power dynamic has shifted. You think you really ought to have been more on Toby's should've been on his mind to put her at ease that he'd be good with falling in line. It's sort of. A little bit disappointed in Toby that he should have sort of processed that this is her first day. And she now is the boss, and maybe that he give her that do respect. But he's having trouble doing. Yeah. Well, I think we've seen that Toby's not great at self-preservation true. I I wasn't even suggesting from that point. You're right. He ought to be cognizant of how it needs to act moving forward. But I think from the friendship point like, okay. This is weird my friend who somebody who was maybe underlings too strong. But the over whom I had some power now has that power over me, and I'm just going to seed it because the Why's this could feel really awkward. Yeah. I mean takes a generosity of spirit that I think Toby doesn't have an excess of right? And when it's I made clear to him that I don't expect to be handed a single person who's going to be the next communications director. I want a choice. I want to see a list he reacts also in a way that is undermining and reminded me actually very much of what sometimes happens. When pilots are. Cast and happens in Hollywood, which is that the creative team will fall in love with an actor and decide this is the guy or the woman I want for the role, and when they bring the idea to the network the network always wants to see more than one person. They don't see the choice completely to the creative team. They want to see if you people and often I think what happens is that the creative team then brings in the person they want and several several other people that they don't think we'll be as good. Yeah. Now, there's they tried to tee up there person by surrounding him or her with a lesser talent. Toby tries to pad the list with lame O's. And and he gets busted actually while doing it. And you know, Donna says to him isn't this a waste of time? And he says it's a complete waste of time. Just as CJ is coming in. I mean, he is undermining her and he's defying her orders. And he also just keeps getting called out. I mean, the power dynamic is what it is. But he just keeps stepping into the bear travel. I feel like yeah. No Toby is one of those guys who believes that he knew. Best. And so whatever it takes for his decision to fly. It's gonna make it happen. Yeah. But by the end of the episode, Toby and CJ do kind of makeup, and I love this moment. He gives her this information about Hutchinson in the DOD that she needs in her battles with him. And she takes that in and she says to him. I love you desperately. No like, he says it's so quickly and like dejectedly that it's actually very hard. Not to love him that moment. I agree. That's Toby in. That's the brilliance of Richard Schiff and the portrayal that even when he's being knucklehead you've kinda can't help feeling affection for him. Yeah. It's great. And it is a ackknowledgement on his part that they are still friends, and you know, that this is not something, that's destroying their friendship. It's just this is just a a moment. That's great the Hutchinson stuff. I mean, here's another person who's doubting CJ a lot and giving her a hard time. He said. Is the woman of the hour and by calling her that I think he's paying her a compliment. But I think there's something cynical underneath it as well. Like the fact that he's saying of the hour. There's some indication that he thinks that she's not gonna stick around for very long. I think you're right. I think it's a settled too. Yeah. Because then they go into sit room and Hutchinson's running the show. I like that Margaret has to actually physically pick up CJ's hand and throw it on the scanner to get in the sit room. Great. It really is Margaret is on fire in this whole episode. Yeah. Great episode firm. Yeah. Yeah. Then Hutchinson in the room just takes up all the oxygen. And he's been a guy who's been annoying ever since he's shown up. I mean, he even before he showed up he was sort of a spoiler for the president often. And the things that he wanted they'd have to deal with them. But then once they actually cast him Steve Ryan like embodied the guy on suing. He's really been nothing but annoying the whole time through and makes me wonder why they keep him around. He just always seems to be trouble. That said it is refreshing to have a secretary of defense. There's at least a certain amount of security and having someone in the role. Yeah. Yeah. It's too bad. That Trump's secretary of defense was mad as hell and couldn't take it anymore. When they're in the sit room, by the way, they mentioned Oak Ridge besides which we take far own nuclear material in Dublin in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, every environmental group every time. By the way, is where enriched uranium was produced commercially for the very first time, and in fact, enriched uranium is sometimes called Aurelie, which is oh r a l l o y or Oak Ridge alloy or Eloy is your third favourite. Film MC L, ROY. Yes. I love this episode presentation of the different press secretary options is a reminded me of when landing have to be replaced. We got to see all these candidates come in. Yes, Ryan me a little bit. Also the additions for the role of Hitler in the producers with one thing. I don't understand because we find out that CJ keepsake quote in case, I get hit by a bus file, according to Carol, right? And she says you've got appointments today with the obvious top choices spokesman from state, interior, etc. But one most of these candidates are terrible. And you would think that CJ having a list would have weeded some of these terrible choices out. But then what's up with the guy who shows up and says Joyon Mary make me the happiest man in the world. I. I wrote down the line and just wrote a series of question marks. I felt is there something I'm not getting. Yeah. Who's he talking to? There are no TV's on. How did he get in the room? Talking to entirely perplexing. I have no idea. Is there some rhyme or reason someone else can point out that that were missing? There is no answer that I can think of that makes any sense. Yeah. I think ended on there yet. But even without that guy, even without JoAnne. Will you marry me? I am surprised that these are the people who CJ thanks are good enough to replace her with the exception of the one person who Toby likes, right? That guy seems totally fine. But like shouldn't they have all been somewhere in that level? Yes. This would be another subsuming of credibility in order to have a funny sequence. Yeah. Yeah. But you're right. If guys like these these people are terrible. And one of them's insane. Yeah. One of them is a potential security risk. How did he get past the guards at the front, right? But it also gives us our first introduction to Anna Beth shot played by Christian Chen with. Yes, who I believe is fifty nine inches long. Not sure of her weight, how many answers she comes in not looking for the press secretary job, which you know, there's some bad staff work happening because it's not even the she's shouldn't be in that meeting. She's applying for a different job. And then somehow Toby cannot understand what she's saying. I'm here looking for this job. And he's like, this isn't the job that we're it's a meet cute. Yeah. A little bit of funny confusion that happens, but one of them there a couple moments of cross confusion were like, okay? Should we now? Now, everybody knows what they're they're no longer be this confusion. Donna says that job is briefing the press for deputy deputy what I Cal. I talked to on the funk you so much for coming in. But we're going to move on to somebody who has a clear understanding of the position. You're right notes. But we get to meet Anna Beth who actually has great ideas for what they should do. And we find out that she's the one who discovered Taylor read. Yes. Toby's taken enough worth their ideas to present. Mm to C J. And it seems that I try to take credit for them. And then eventually says that they're animates ideas. But when the only thing I noticed that this shed further light and had tubbies feeling about this CJ as chief of staff of it all is that the one thing that animates says to Toby that he doesn't share with CJ is you're going to be very difficult to replace those are big shoes to fill in the yearly complimentary part of it. He doesn't share what they're not ready to say that. Yeah, he's still stinging which I thought was interesting. I love how completely disarmed Toby gets by Anna bats compliment when she says you have a watchable quality much like Taylor read. And then he's just completely nonplussed from that. Yeah. And they repeats it later to siege. It chemo certainly have a quality. I'm watchable. Yes. Cute nonplussed, by the way, often misused often misused. Yes. But I thought you deployed it perfectly. Thank you. I think Christians a great new presence on the show as Jimmy Smits. Yeah. I agree. You feel some fresh air being breathed into the show. I like it the whole episode feels like a restart. That's true. They've hit a refresh on the series. And yeah, they're introducing these new characters antibodies from the start e feel like here, we go. This is a character. Who's going to be sticking around weird? You know, Matt Santos says he didn't even have to wonder about it. But yeah, this feels like we're in a new era not just with CJ taking on the job, but all of these other introductions and along with Jimmy we get his support staff and people in supporting roles that I think are terrific get Evan Arnold as Ned and Karras Campbell is Rona, and we're going to meet them and get them a little bit better. And hope we'll have them as well as Kristen and Jimmy on the show. Yeah. Enough one thing that I love. D-d-d about this episode is the end the whole episode changes after CJ's final meeting with the president. He tells her that she can take the call with the UK prime minister. And then the whole episode starts to breathe, and I realized that up until that moment it had been nonstop like the moment of Josh sliding in the echo like things were just happening so fast, Kristen channel width, by the way, like such a great addition, partly because she can just handle the speed of the dialogue. So well, but the episode have been going so relentlessly so quickly. And then suddenly for the first time if you like it kind of slows down and CJ has a moment of you know, confidence where she's like, okay? She walks out of the president's office in the whole thing just breathes. And I thought that was really nice, and it settles down in a way that you know, you really lets you really buy into this shift by the end when CJ tells Margaret set up a call first thing tomorrow morning with the prime minister of the United. Who's going to be on the call? And she sits behind Leo's desk. And you know, it's a really wonderful execution of the ark of the Marx brothers beginning. Frenetic pace of. Yeah. To the sort of solitary moment at the end where we're things have expanded and quiet identify what kind of day has it been moment. Yeah. You know, what saying I wish they had handled differently or excise completely is the scene where CJ visits Leone his hospital room. Oh, yeah. It's beautifully acted by Alison. But what I would have preferred to see was either that scene minus any dialogue or maybe that scene. Not existing is this a little I feel like it was caving into a baser TV drama impulse to have her go into the room of the man is hooked up to machine his job. She's taken over and Dino say out loud. I don't think this is gonna work out as you actually beautifully. I mean, she's incredible. But. I would rather have seen the look in her eyes that set it all yeah. Not heard her articulate the thought out loud after all he can't hear her or I think got this. This moment could have taken place. Elsewhere or not at all. Yeah. I'd liked her being there in in Leo's room. I liked that she left the place to sort of try and recenter decompress, and Leo Leo's this sort of touchstone for like this how it's supposed to work. This is the guy who ran this office the right way. Can I just absorb something from him? But I think you're right. If if that had existed without dialogue that would have been really it would have given the complexity that I think it lacks right now. Exactly. And when you've got an actor of Allison's caliber, it's all there in her eyes. It's on her face, and you don't need to wrap it up with a little boat dialogue. Yeah. I'm with you on that. I thought friend armistead was good as Roman Mandelli, dude. Did you write down the same thing? Okay. Here's what I wrote Mr. Roman Mandelli from the Republic of Georgia is played by Eugene helper. It feels like a friend armistead character. Wow. Wow. Do you like that is sure did that characters ridiculous? I want you to speak with Mr Mugabe. This is I bring for him AVI from my own vines. Yeah. He he just wandered in either. From a Fred Armagh San sketch. My name knows key spell that. Please am as he be clay clay clay assignment who were from certainly at the very least from a big block of cheese. Tampa's there right, by the way. My other favorite moment of this episode is a funny one when CJ calls from the Debbie Charlie's zone. She calls. Margaret says market to the secretary of defense. Call for me. CJ? That's pretty great really wonderful. This is just a huge episode for Margaret that was one where she didn't even have to be onscreen, or we we didn't even have to hear her voice. Right. Like, oh, Margaret. She says, you know, J asking your questions, and she says you really have to start walking. Now. Like, she's forgotten the walk and talk part of the I do like when Charley grabs her by the armor, walks around how you approach the Oval Office. Yeah. It's great Charlie's really cute to her the whole, I'm sewed. You know, when he says just today tomorrow on your own I loved that actually thought about Charlie a little bit with the antibodies thing too. Because you know, he comes in for the bike messenger job, and he ends up getting this, and he ends up proving that he's actually much more valuable than that good point. And I thought Anna Beth she's come in for this media relations thing, but she's already got ideas that seem to be big ideas and she wants to help find the new press secretary. And yeah. We're gonna take a quick break. And when we come back, we'll be joined by Oscar winner Allison Janney. The west wing weekly is sponsored by simply safe. We all put off doing things we know we need to do. I mean, we know we need to organize the garage or we through our closets. But something always gets in the way. It's funny. How home security can be like that. You know? It's a good idea. But there's always something holding you back. Maybe it's the idea of paying a middleman or scheduling, a six hour installation window like who's got time for that. Well, fell procrastinators of home protection. Now is the time to act because SimpliSafe home security's extended holiday sale and soon and SimpliSafe got rid of all the reasons not to get home security because they believe nothing should come between you and protecting your home. We're talking no contracts. No markups. No, complicated installation. It's professional quality home security. That's so easy. You'll have it up and running in minutes. So yeah, you could add this to your epic to do list or pay. You could do it right now. Just go to SimpliSafe dot com slash west wing and order before January eighth to save with their extended holiday sale. That's simply safe. Dot com slash west wing. The west wing weekly is sponsored by squarespace the best way to create a website for your project, your business, your art or anything that you want to showcase online squarespace makes it easy. That's why we've used squarespace from day one for our fabulous west wing weekly dot com website. It's true. And it's so simple to add features editor content. Upload pictures, anything that you might wanna do. That's right. So if you've ever pondered having a website, maybe you have something to sell maybe have something to share. Maybe you're an artist. Maybe you have thoughts blog posts, if you are creative in any way checkout squarespace. They will help you get your message out to the world. And if you aren't so creative, they give you pitiful templates created by world class designers. Plus, there's twenty four seven award winning customer support. If you ever get stuck so just head over to squarespace dot com slash west wing, and you'll get a free trial free. And when you're ready to launch us the offer code west wing to save ten percent off. First purchase of a website or domain and now back to the show. Alison, thank you so much for joining us. I'm fairy happy to be here with you guys. It's been while. It is very kind of you to give us your time. I have to say these days, it's kind of a pleasure to go back and look at west wing episode. This episode liftoff could actually air today fit in perfectly. It would be about President Trump choosing Sarah Huckabee Sanders as new chief of staff. That's what you're saying. You want? That's that's how I interpret. What you just said. Oh my God. Please don't when did I soon. John wells tell you that you're going to be the choice for chief of staff. Have when did you learn about the storyline? I don't remember that moment. I do. Remember knowing me that I was probably like are, you sure? I don't know. Really? I'm not sure that guy is just not entirely behind the idea because I was so comfortable in my position. They're in the west wing as press secretary thought, I was doing a great job. And I just I loved the way things were. And I knew that kind of change was going to create some bumps along the way for me Allison Janney, and for CJ much more fun to show CJ's bumps along the way than mine there were a few after stepping into those shoes. Interesting so truly your response was in. Did you would have just as soon stay doing what you're doing? I think you've used so capable of doing anything. I can't imagine you would actually well, let's just say this. If I had started off in that role, a hick, I might be totally gamed jump to that challenge. But I tend to be self deprecating, but my, you know, political savvy I just knew that would be it would be harsh shoot as heart. She is for me to fill in the stand there and just spit out all. This day easier. It's easier to do that as press secretary than to have to be the boss of Toby, Josh. And just it was it was difficult for me. And I also made that didn't need to get ahead of myself here but going down the road in further episodes. I remember always having to tell the director. I know don't have a line here. But shouldn't they all look to me for a nod like needing to have that power? I can't create that myself. Everyone has to give me that power like a cat play the Queen walk in the room. Everyone else makes me the Queen. I I have to. So that those moments I found a little tricky. And it was comfortable for me to say to ask for those things. But no, I think CJ absolutely capable of doing that job at I love how she goes about it in a way of let's just not make this a big deal. Okay. Let's just, you know, just businesses usual. I'll just be chief of staff it's not like it's kind of a fish out of water, but not really out of water, but it a different water, and it was enormously fun to watch her. Navigate the transition and everyone else what were the bumps that you anticipated for yourself? The Allison Janney, bumps you thought, you might might be coming your way having to be the boss of Josh. And Brad, and Richard and be in a room and have to have them. Listen to me take orders from me. Yeah. The act the acting dynamic would have to change actor dynamic would have to change. And I don't know if they all thought it was a good idea for me to be chief of staff. I know it may just a little bit of characters bleeding into actor because I'm sure there were there were moments when you see maybe Toby or Josh should have been given those shoes to fill and not CJ. Everyone was so into politics. But may yeah. So to play that role. I just felt like such a pretender to the throne in. I felt like everyone knew it. So it made put more pressure on me to I felt more insecure more self conscious about taking over a room in that. Capacity as chief of staff, I'm surprised by that because you know, really, you just have to act like, you know, that stuff and that you've proven very well. Yes. But they know me so well, they knew me so well, personally, they knew how far afield I was from that role. You know, my own insecurity felt like they're laughing. They totally now, I don't know what the hell I'm talking about it. I don't know in some ways it feels like this episode could have been the first episode of the season. Yeah. I understand they had to lay the groundwork to get there. But there's something about even just the way the episode starts everything it feels like a real new beginning. But I loved that. I loved that. Even though we don't get it as the season premiere. There's sort of a treatment of it like it was an entirely new chapter starting. Yeah. And I was kind of disappointed Google this episode, and in the synopsis of the plot doesn't mention anywhere. But seep check comes staff. I was like, wow, very the lead there as the person on this podcast who's responsible for the Synopsys at the beginning. I have learned to be very distrustful of the official synopsis. Yes. I actually I think I recall you saying that on one of the podcasts, and it's true. They I don't know who who does them someone who doesn't watch the whole episode or I don't know there's a lot of physical humor in this episode. You know with all the. High stakes and changing roles and introducing new characters there's still room for some really funny physical stuff, what am I famous, and I don't know. What was the first time? I did it. But I know we all loved for the opportunity to duck under the Bartlett putting on his jacket that was awesome. Very well executed. I love I couldn't wait to love stuff. Like that makes snakes it. So fun to have in the middle of credibly serious moment. Just adjust plow through it. Yeah. Incoming fixed, my hair, incoming keep going, you know, the other one that I love is the one that feels like it must have been a little bit technically intricate to execute that starts off with, you know, Toby CJ and Carol are walking down the hall and Toby has a bunch of documents in his hands, which is already funny, and then he's also holding a bottle of water. And then you put another piece of paper on there. And then you take the water from him doubt. Sure that I you got you got to know that that was not an errand Sorkin thing. Because ISIS said here take us to actually add lived, which is a remarkable thing on I rewound and watched that little moment because I loved it so much it was so it was just delicious remind you in the post Sorkin years, please. Oh, that's right. That's right. That's right. Maybe that's why that's why did it. I felt like a comfortable enough to throw in a little ad lib there, it's an unbelievable piece of work between all three of you. Because as you take that sip. And then you try and give it back to Toby, and he starts to reach for it. And as you put it in. He's like, I don't want that. And then you have to give it to to Carol. Instead, it's a Melissa FitzGerald who just to standing there holding like what am I gonna do with this now? And my other favorite thing is spread Whitford risky business moment. Awesome. We've talked about it. We didn't know when it was coming because it's a much gift moment where you saw. It's gotta be Guinness long as thoughts. Stocking foot slide on camera and he's like fully forty five degrees as he does that's li-. It looks physically impossible rate piece of physical comedy. It was so much fun to see that too. Sliding right trying to get there to just be there with Toby gets out of his disastrous press briefing. It was got it was fun. And the look down the hall. I'd like to see the outtakes from that moment. I went to choose love. I think John wells has got all these outtakes in fault. I think we need to do a, you know, midnight caper and go over there and break into that full. Twentieth. Anniversary is coming up. Maybe they'll put out something. It would be fun to see a lot of to see an extended gag reel or something like that. Got it would be great. There's a moment where CJ's given a briefing. And you know, Margaret says leeann likes to class at the top seats before senior staff circle anything he's got questions about. And again, this is just like a little physical detail. But the way you go about and circle one thing and then right before you go ahead and circle almost everything on the page. Just like that little hesitation with the pants. I need help and everything actually the difference between that just a regular gag in elevating to another level. Yeah. Then to go further from that guy that when you know, it's obviously can't it's uncomfortable to get behind Leo's desk. And then you know, Topi Josh turn their chairs around to face her share the task. She's like she just can't get behind. Then to even before that was she comes in it sees all the flowers. Wow. Shouldn't be sending me flowers there for Leo. Yeah. I like the your response. Your reaction is very funny. You kinda just walk on by. You don't want to live in that moment at all. No smile. So so funny Mike God. Let's talk about the middle where CJ enters into the briefing room to talk to the press corps as press secretary for the last time. Good morning. This will be my last briefing is White House press secretary that made me made me cry watching it was so beautiful. And so it was better Sweden, and just lovely, and and and so graceful and just wanting to say goodbye, a room of people that she grown vonda, though, a lot of difficulties with, but it was such a sweet moment and then for Bartlett to come in and busted on the press briefing and be the one to announce that she would be moving to chief of staff with such a great favor. He did for her to show his support of this decision on it was it was a lovely moment. That was a lovely scene. And I also liked what you had to say about the press corps and bet the journalists with whom you have worked for so many years that was refreshing today's take from the press room. I knew I win the president comes in. And they all stand up without even happen now. I guess they act. I don't know. I don't know not everything about that. Just now the chairs are electrify. I just give them a jolt, but he stands. Yeah. It was a beautiful scene of what I don't know if the press room ever looked like that or anyone stepping down. I would imagine it. Oh, ours was the little sweeter than than the reality would be. But former administrations, but certainly this one would never I thought it was a beautiful detail that CJ has prepared this heartfelt speech. He's past six years working for this exceptional group of journalists. I'm sorry. I'll thank you, ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and before she can even get the first sentence out. It's interrupted by the president. It felt like a great encapsulation of what the job is to. You know, there's always things happening in the president my walk in and say, something, and whatever plan you made to do this wonderful gesture it doesn't actually get to happen as you orchestrated in your mind. I need just let it go onto the next thing. And Toby I mean, Richard chefs Toby's first briefing is kind of the most. Larry's I mean, just the way the shot stars with him down below the public. Comes up. It's just everything about it. As such a train wreck in such a great way. What's happening behind CJ's is in the moment. Where after the president does announce her as chief of staff, you know, there's the reaction people stand up and clap, and there's a look that you give it's a complicated. Look, I think yeah. It's a look of gratitude for the president for doing that. And that a look of sheer terror and like, oh my God. It's it's real now knows and my life is changed forever. And I see a sea of some faces. Happy for me, some not some already thinking too bad decision. Right. I think. Yeah. There's a lot going on there. But it's definitely a okay. This is real. Yeah. This is real now it felt to me like there was some element of pride. But then almost like not wanting to let the pride quite show. Yeah. I think that's even better by think he'd probably saw. But yeah, I think there there is pride there. And then I. The next moment is the flower one. Yeah. So any pride that she did have like, oh, yeah. Get back down. Yeah. On the ground, then mind, Margaret, I mean, all the stuff with Margaret is so wonderful. I think maybe the best job offer ever, you're an odd woman. And I've never quite understood you, but you're extremely capable and you run this is like a Swiss watch, and you're tall, which is reassuring Lioma need you and feet does. That's okay. But if he's willing to part with you. I hope you'll stay. Great dial. Great. Okay. This might this is a little risque. Maybe. Okay. I'm curious with the first shot of this episode is through a peephole. Oh, that's right. You're only half dressed. We see you in a bra. I know I can't I can't believe I did. That was okay with that. I think at that Brown. I think maybe the way Alex grace who directed the Sepah soda think the way he described it was that it would be through people. So we wouldn't be in the foreground. You wouldn't be would be sort of blurry and rain ever. And I don't on. No. If I saw that up Assode before yesterday when I watched that truly I swear to God at a certain point, I stopped watching the episodes because you know, how it was. It was just we were eating sleeping breathing drinking west wing, and you got home you're not I'm not gonna watch west wing. I wanna do but west wing. So I honestly don't think I watched that up until yesterday. So I was kinda shocked that it was like, hey, hey, hey, hold on not as not so people. Like, I could see my Alex laws bra that is I'm fine with it. I look back on myself with age much kinder than I think. I look fantastic. But given how prudish the show has been on till this time. That's basically a nude scene. Did you mind shooting it? I remember shooting it, I don't remember anything. I'll tell you the only thing I remember, and I don't remember a lot in my life. And I was looking at this episode going. I don't I don't remember shooting that scene. I don't remember shooting. This don't remember any of this. And then when I got to with Margaret where I had to say, and I wrote it down because I would be able to say it, where's the non-proliferation fund and the uranium repatriation study? That was the one I remember I sit that I remember that. I remember I couldn't say those words as fast as I needed to them. I told Alex is it just shoot it from the back. Get it on my that my head. I'm not gonna say it. I'm not going to be able to say it. I don't even know how I said it uranium repatriation, not those are the kind of word burgers that can turn into real situation because. After after missing at once or twice this feels like there's such a light being shy and onto it that you're just gearing up for that moment in the scene. Nick concern into situations increases your chances every time. Absolutely. Yeah. Let's talk about the first time in the situation room. Steve Ryan is secretary. Hutchison enemy Steve will mean man, my favorite Steve Ryan role. I don't know if we've talked about this. Josh is that of the one armed man on arrested development teaches the kids a lesson about. That's why you always leave a note George senior head used his considerable means to stage intricate scenarios to teach his children what he considered valuable life less time. You buy gear. That's why you always leave a note. Reference that once before I mean, I'm always thinking about that's why you always leave a note. So CJ goes into the situation room for the very first time. I believe right. Well, it was certainly refers time as chief of staff. Yes. Yeah. Situation room. It was you know, a slap of ice cold water interface by sector Hutchison who basically just runs over her in every way, president report on domestic storage capacity on not sure all right before we done to saying you're not going to have a role here in this room. I have a direct line to the president. We are doing this. We're doing this. And you don't know what you're talking about. And you see Anna Deavere Smith across the way looking at me. Like, oh, you poor thing. We gotta get you on the right page here. You know, she comes to her defense. Certainly it says this just came in the room. Yeah. Settle down secretary Hutchison. But so she does think she has added of your character on her side, but she kind of watches her fumble. I thought it was a neat dynamic that the triangle there because Hutchinson really acts like he's running the room. Like, it's his room to run though. It's Nancy who sits at the head of the table. And I would think that really it would be hers or maybe, you know, it's the chief of staff and instead he takes up all of the oxygen. I I was surprised that Nancy sort of wasn't speaking more than I thought actually maybe Nancy's doing the thing that she thinks is right, which is deferring to the chief of staff giving CJ a chance, but then before CJ can actually take the chance Hutchison Hutchison just jumps in and rests control men acts like he's the authority. She's not a total idiot in there. She does bring up some good points, but he just barrels over Russia Dover. He is the worst. I do like that finally gets to ask or sends a son of a bitch. Is that just me? I know. Talked about Margaret a little bit. Can you? Tell us more about your own relationship with Nicole Robinson. I did love working with Nicole. She was really quirky and odd like CJ says and had to peculiar sense of humor. And it was hard to say we're Nicole ended Margaret began or vice versa. I don't know. She was wonderfully quirky in that role. It was some. She was great in an I loved the relationship journey that she CJ goes on with her now as her assistant. They have bumps finding finding their way that was something. Everybody pretending to resign. Cotton socks. But you know, I'm actually leaving right? Then she turns out to be the one who helps her swim. Yeah. This episode also introduces Christian channel with into the mix of the first time. That's right. I've loved seeing her pop band. Those are great scenes of them interviewing people in than incomes. Kristen channel with thinking. She's applying for a different job altogether. She thinks she's coming in for deputy press secretary or something and then ends up being incredibly valuable in her advice. Just made a little Gumi back and take care of that. And I'll help you. Find new press secretary a real search not send twenty four hour emergency rescue mission was a wonderful addition to the cast just for her size loan next to a future scenes together. One of my favorite lines or I'm walking next to her. And I say the same species. Well, let's turn to the writing a little bit. I wonder if you had a conversation with Deborah Kahn at all about this episode before he started shooting it or during now, I never had any conversations with any of the writers about any of the material except to say would a great episode. I'm so excited. I get to do it. Debra was one of my favorite writers. You're like me in your approach. Allison is I mean, it's been far more successful for you. But we have approaches I think you could probably be a better drama Turk than I could Josh. But I wanna I read something, and I go, I don't know if this is what they want me to say, I'll say it. I don't deign to think I could think of a better way to say something or this would be better if CJ did this or that. I just never felt comfortable doing that. I totally trusted them. Yeah. Well, my processes they're not paying me as a writer. So I'll do what an actor does. But just simply say out loud. What the right? Get paid to do. Well, that's another. That's another good reason to stay stay in your lane. Right. I definitely liked to stay in the actress lane and let the writers write the director track producers produce I love the dubber Kahn got this episode. Because I remember we spoke to Josh singer a few episodes ago about an episode that he wrote and in it he mentioned that he felt like Debra Kahn became kind of the soul of the show in a way. And I feel like CJ has been that as well for a very long time. And one of the things that I love about her promotion to chief of staff was sort of a recognition of that idea that she was the the sole of what's going on in the west wing. And so I thought, you know, I don't know if that sense of Debra Kahn grew out of writing an episode like this. But it felt like a really great match. I would love to ask her about that. If she was the one who suggested this storyline or did she hear about it? Then wanted to write for because she thought I dunno. That's interesting. Is there more that you wanted to talk about that knows that you made? Lily tomlin. She is hysterical. She nervous. She looks fine. That's good idea. I wonder what I wanted to ask you about, you know, with all the shuffling that happens between offices in jobs one of the hardest moments. I think is when CJ asks Carol to go work with Toby. Instead. Do you want me in? I'm not sure where to oh God, right? Toby is going to need you. That's fine. Just for the next couple of days. Like, you said Margaret becomes her lifeline as the assistant to the chief of staff. But in the bargain, we lose this. You know, Batman and Robin dynamic between CJ and Carol. You're right. That was a really sweet moment and you saw all over Melissa Fitzgerald's face. And no, she was not going to be in the room CJ on this journey and she accepts it with grace, but a little bit of sadness. Yep. Carol gives a nod like almost like a kid being asked to. Babysi-? You're not. Yeah. Yeah. Babysitter. You can't come to the party. Right. Exactly. It's like, hey, why understand being another time? Okay. I got. But there is definitely hurt their gun Elissa one of my favorite things. And I think a lot of our listeners favorite things is the knowledge that you and Melissa are friends in real life. All the moments were when you called her in the middle of our taping in DC. I mean, there's just one of the best things that was awesome. That was hilarious. Do you just talk to Ron Klein on the phone the other night? He was on the stage. I guess when that happened when I called in the threat Papas, Murph as he's known on the podcast that was the most confusing one of the most confusing thinks because I just thought she added TV on that was so loud. And it was like what is going on. I just couldn't figure it out. It was so hilarious. Even when you don't know there's an audience, you know, how to. That's when I said, that's why I was like with you guys. Do I have to look good too. Are you like are you Skyping from a stage with a five hundred? We will not we will not betray your trust again. Oh my God. That was hilarious. But there was something else that reminded me of. Oh, well, you know, I decide I just worked with the Brad on mom. He did my just episode before before Christmas on the mob show, and he had to play, you know, just absolutely three seats drunk and every scene, and he was hilarious. Do we could play. You never had to play drunk on the west wing. He had to play hung over. I think. Yes. That's right. Toronto on the west wing. But we're all what my point is. We're all still friends all of us. And we always love seeing each other. We all love each other bright, thanks for joining us. Alison, and thanks to all of you for listening. I guess that does it for another episode of the west wing weekly. Thanks to everybody who donated to the now, defunct radio Tipu fundraising drive. We made it past twenty-five thousand new donors, which it's awesome. Mm-hmm. We all get stickers. It ends happily. There's much joy. And we thank you for the incredible support of our show and of radio Topi in general, which is a collection of fabulous podcasts that you. Can learn more about at radio, Topi dot FM. Even though the fundraiser is over if you do want to support radio Tope yet, you can still do it at radio, Tokyo dot FM. You don't go to the west wing weekly and support our show by clicking on the donate tab. You can follow Allison Janney on Twitter. She's at Allison Janney. You can also follow our show the west wing weekly at west wing weekly. And you can follow us at our names. Many. Thanks to Margaret Miller Nick song and Zach macneice. And if you missed it over the holidays, I hope you didn't there's a special west wing Christmas edition episode of song exploiter where yo yo Ma discusses the prelude from Bach's Chelsea number one in g major which you will remember is the piece of music that causes Josh to suffer from PTSD in Noel. Okay. Okay. What's next? Radio too. Ex.