Monday, April 30, 2018

Was There Life on Mars?

Matthew Perry only made three appearances on West Wing as Joe Quincy, the new deputy counsel. His second appearance was on this night in 2003 — ostensibly his first day on the job. He interviewed for the job in the previous week's episode; while he wasn't actually hired in that episode, it was strongly implied that he would be. In November 2003 he made his final appearance on the show, approaching the chief justice, who was in poor health, about stepping down.

On this night in 2003, Perry's character did a little detective work that ended up bringing down the vice president (Tim Matheson). The whole thing got started because the veep had been having an affair with a prominent reporter who had been an anonymous source for the Washington Post's science editor that the White House was concealing a report that supposedly indicated that there may have been, at some time, life on Mars.

This report would have been under the supervision of the vice president, but classifying the report would have been the responsibility of the Department of Defense.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Well, that was C.J.'s (Allison Janney) initial response, too.

But, as the audience learned later in the episode, the vice president was one of those guys who like to brag to come across as more important. Seems sort of unnecessary for a man who has risen to the position of vice president. It's also a bit naive for a man who participated in two national political campaigns as well as however many races for office in his home state to be telling something like that to a reporter, even — or perhaps especially — one with whom he was intimate.

This reporter, by the way, had just been the recipient of a seven–figure book deal.

Perry started putting tidbits of information together, then discovered in the White House telephone logs records of numerous conversations between the vice president and this reporter. He brought this to C.J.'s attention, and she recognized the severity of the situation.

That led to a visit to the vice president's office from C.J., Joe Quincy, Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Toby (Richard Schiff). In this meeting, the vice president learned what those four already knew and was advised to talk things over with his family.

Whether he actually did meet with his family was only implied in his answer to a question from the president, who asked if he had spoken with his wife. He did, however, meet with the president (Martin Sheen) and the chief of staff (John Spencer), both of whom urged him to weather the storm.

But he would have none of it. He had decided to resign because he didn't want his family to be exposed to the mudfight that would follow.

West Wing fans may have thought they had heard the last from the vice president. Not so. He would return as a candidate for the presidential nomination in a few years.