The Red Mass
A plan for the debates, a resolution in Iowa, a gift from a Senator, an ally lost, and Red Mass
Amy is meeting with Senator Howard Stackhouse and one of his aides, Susan. Amy and Susan have been arguing about whether or not Amy is objective because of her relationship with Josh. They’ve been disagreeing about a speech Ritchie is giving to the AMA. His people sent an advance copy of the speech, in which, he proposes a law to end needle exchange. Susan reads the speech out loud to Stackhouse.
Susan – "’We ought to begin and end with abstinence. We ought to begin and end with personal responsibility. I’m appalled by inner-city programs that hand out clean needles to junkies and dope-doers in the name of AIDS prevention. And I will fight for a national law to end them.’"
Amy says that Ritchie’s camp is baiting Jed, not Stackhouse. Stackhouse says he got into this to discuss issues that he didn’t think were getting enough attention. Susan thinks Stackhouse should respond on needle exchange. He agrees. Susan points out that Josh is smart enough to figure out Ritchie is baiting Jed in five minutes.
Amy – "It’ll take his assistant, Donna five minutes. It’ll take Josh half that time."
Stackhouse – "Really?"
Amy – "Maybe a little longer, ‘cause the Mets lost last night and he’ll need to focus."
Josh and Donna are in his office. He’s reading the paper and complaining about the Mets’ game. Donna gives him the news from the wires: the standoff in Iowa, the Debate Commission’s findings coming later that day, and Ritchie’s speech to the AMA, which has just ended. Josh continues on about baseball while he looks at the AMA speech. He stops talking. Donna wants to know what’s going on.
Josh – "I know how Ritchie’s gonna win this election."
CJ is giving a briefing. It’s Friday morning. She tells the press that the Red Mass will be at 10:00 on Sunday at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
CJ – "Which is also what they called my dorm room in college." (Hee.)
Katie asks about the debates. CJ says that Jed and Ritchie couldn’t decide on the number of debates, Jed wanted more. (Big surprise, there.) Now, they are all waiting for the debate commission’s report for the recommended number of debates. CJ’s asked what a "win" would be. She says that at this point, a "win" would be actually participating in a debate. Another reporter wants a better answer, what would victory look like? CJ says that would be 270 electoral votes. She ends the briefing. As she leaves, Sam joins her in the hall. CJ says she knows how Ritchie will win. So does Sam. CJ’s idea is that Ritchie will easily overcome the seriously low expectations people have for him now. Sam says it’s to run the "Stackhouse campaign". Sam’s going to take CJ to the meeting.
In the Oval Office, Jed and Leo are talking. Jed says to line up validators. (Yeah, I know, disappointing when we find out he didn’t really mean gladiators.) Toby and Josh enter and are told about the validators. Sam and CJ come in. Sam is to take care of the validators. Toby says he will, but Leo says he’s to stay on the debate prep. Josh quotes Ritchie’s needle exchange speech. Toby gets riled.
Toby – "I’d like someone to ask Ritchie if he’s aware that needle exchange costs $9000 for every infection stopped. Treating someone with HIV costs $200,000. I’d like someone to ask him that. I’d like someone to ask him where the responsibility was in the paraphernalia laws that made it a crime for someone to buy or carry a syringe, which is why addicts share infected needles in the first place. I’d like someone to ask him that… too."
Josh says it’s only an issue if Stackhouse says something in response, and Josh doesn’t know if he will. If Jed says something about needle exchange it could put three states in play. They aren’t going to worry about this unless Stackhouse says something. But, if he does, that’s when Josh will be very worried. The staff is dismissed.
CJ and Toby walk back to Toby’s office. He’s giving more questions that he’d like someone to ask Ritchie. CJ wants to talk about the debates. Toby goes off on another little rant.
CJ – "Is there any chance I’m going to get an opportunity to speak in this conversation? Or are you just writing out loud?"
Toby – "I didn’t even know you were in the room."
CJ thinks they are going to lose the "expectations" game. She thinks the only way Ritchie will lose is if he actually sets his podium on fire accidentally. Toby still thinks Ritchie will look ridiculous. CJ doesn’t believe that’s enough. She leaves his office.
In the bullpen, Josh asks Donna what she’s doing tomorrow. She tells him her plans. Josh thinks it’s too bad she won’t be doing any of those things. Instead, Josh wants her to attend a four-hour self-help seminar given by Teddy Tomba, who has recently started advising Ritchie. Josh wants the low-down on Tomba. He wants to embarrass Ritchie. Donna doesn’t think that’s too noble. Josh doesn’t care; he wants notes. And he wants her to come into the office to brief him when it’s over. Donna walks away.
Leo is in the Mural Room with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Ben Yousef, for a photo-op. Yousef calls Leo the most Jewish man he’s known. He gives Leo a yarmulke that he wore to a wedding and the Medal of David. Leo thanks him, but says 1000 dead relatives in Scotland just started crying. (Not as much as all those Irish relatives he was supposed to have, I bet. Aaron, what happened to your continuity streak?) Leo tells the photographers that he and Ben are late for lunch. As they are walking towards the luncheon they discuss the U.S. faking Shareef’s being alive, and the standoff.
Yousef – "What’s happening at the house in Idaho?"
Leo – "Iowa."
Yousef – "Which one’s the potatoes?"
Leo updates him and as they enter the luncheon, he brings up Qumar. Yousef says that Israel knows they’ll be blamed. Leo needs to postpone Qumar’s accusation another week. Leo wants Israel to postpone their plan to attack two Qumari training bases. This way, Fitz says Qumar will hold off accusing Israel. Yousef is a little indignant. Why should Israel do anything to help Qumar, when they’ll be accusing Israel of something they didn’t do? Leo asks when Yousef is flying back. Yousef can fly back tomorrow, even though it’s the Sabbath. Leo assures him that Jed is being advised well. Yousef says that they are losing. But, he’ll take the request back to the Prime Minister. Leo and Ben head in to eat.
On Saturday, Josh is at a meeting with Stackhouse, Susan, Amy, and several Democrats. Josh tells Stackhouse that they can wait out the survivalists in Iowa; they won’t have to go in. They all get down to business. The Democrats want to know why Stackhouse hasn’t dropped out and endorsed Jed yet. Stackhouse says that he got into this to raise issues. The Dems were pleased that he didn’t speak out on needle exchange. Stackhouse clarifies that he hasn’t yet, doesn’t mean he won’t. Josh excuses himself from the meeting and takes a seat outside in the waiting area.
Back in the west wing, a surly Anthony is watching Charlie work. (So glad to see they haven’t dropped this storyline.) Charlie flirts with an intern as well. (Maybe he doesn’t know where Zoey went either.) Anthony wants to now how long Charlie will be. Charlie doesn’t know. Anthony’s had it; he’s leaving. That’s okay with Charlie, but he asks the intern to call Mrs. Toscano at Social Services. (Maybe that’s Gina’s mom.) Anthony sits back down. He says that Charlie feels like something because he has power over Anthony.
Charlie – "In about two minutes, the Deputy Communications Director is gonna come in here and tell me that the speech he’s writing for Red Mass isn’t going well. And could I read it for him. And you think you’re what makes me feel like something?"
Anthony asks what Red Mass is. Charlie explains that it’s a Mass on the Sunday before the Supreme Court comes to session, the first Monday in October. The Supreme Court, the President, the Cabinet and members of Congress all attend. Anthony doesn’t understand – there is a law against Church and State together. Charlie asks if there is. Anthony insists several times that there is and Red Mass should be in violation. Charlie still wants to know what the law is. As he leaves his area to do something, he tells Anthony to prove to him that there is a law. He hands Anthony a copy of the Constitution.
Charlie encounters Sam in the hallway, who asks Charlie to read his draft of the Red Mass speech before he shows it to Toby. Sam goes on towards his office, leaving Charlie in the hall to read.
In the bullpen, Sam sees Janet, a congresswoman on Ways and Means. He takes her to his office. She’s excited about the tax deductions for college tuition and will be happy to be a validator on Sunday morning talk shows. (Yeah, this is when we finally understand what a validator is – someone to talk up the college plan and make it sound like the greatest idea since sliced bread.) Janet mentions that Horton Wilde had a heart attack. Sam doesn’t know who he is. He’s a congressman from Orange County. This was his fourth heart attack. Sam can’t believe he’s been voted in. Janet says that the DNC needs stronger candidates in hard-to-win districts. Sam has a whole conversation with himself, mostly in silence. Janet comments on it. Sam will discuss this with Leo.
In the Sit Room, Jed is talking to the military guys, including Special Agent Casper, the guy in charge of the Iowa situation. There’s a boy in the surrounded house who has congestive heart failure. The Fed’s know that his heart medication ran out six days ago. They know he’s sick because their heat-seeking monitors show no movement from him. They want to go in. They’ll blow a whole in the wall of the house and throw in flash-bangs. A flash-bang is like a grenade, except instead of releasing shrapnel, they release a deafening sound and a light seven times brighter than the sun. Leo’s seen them before. They don’t think they can wait these guys out anymore. Jed gives the go ahead. Everyone leaves except Jed and Leo. Leo looks distracted and Jed wants to know why. Leo says it’s nothing; he was just thinking about something Yousef said. They both head out of the Sit Room. (Waco, here we come.)
Josh is still sitting in the waiting area of Stackhouse’s office, reading a magazine. Amy comes out of the meeting to get something to drink. They discuss Stackhouse. Josh likes him, but he’s not voting for him.
Stackhouse has 4% of likely voters in New York and California. Amy says it’s the unlikely voters that will vote for him. Josh doesn’t understand why the unlikely voters, who he sees as lazy and "howl at the moon", should be brought in. Amy says Josh is mad at her. He denies it. Amy reminds him that she lost her job; and she didn’t start working for Stackhouse to make Josh mad. She believes in some of his issues. Josh says that Stackhouse is taking away some of Jed’s votes. As Amy heads back to the meeting, she tells Josh that that’s crazy. They aren’t Jed’s votes.
Donna is sitting at her desk when Josh comes back from Stackhouse’s. Josh wants to know how the self-help seminar was. Donna says that it’s hard to find the words.
Donna – "It was a transforming ex…. No, that’s the wrong word. We are not transformed. We locate the light switch. I own myself Josh."
Josh wants to know if she’s reading Tomba’s book. She calls it the "owner’s manual". Josh wants to know if she’s serious.
Donna – "No, you idiot. I need a shower. I’ve got, like, radio-active stuff all over me."
Josh – "And you call me a snob."
Donna – "Please. It was like a meeting of the ‘There but for the grace of God’ society."
Josh wants a report on the seminar. Donna follows him into his office and says that it’s cheap to go after this guy. Yes, he’s a buffoon, but he’s harmless. Josh says he’s not harmless when he’s advising a presidential candidate. Josh takes the book from Donna and starts quoting it. All Tomba’s advice is a fortune cookie version of philosophy from the likes of Kant and Plato. He also rips off Robert Frost. Josh says that these are important thinkers; it’s useful to understand them. Josh says that with all the life and death decisions that pass across Jed’s desk, he doesn’t know if Jed thinks about Kant. He doubts it.
Josh – "But, if he does, I am comforted at least in my certainty that he is doing his best to reach for all of it, and not just the McNuggets."
Donna understands. She’ll read the book and trace back all of Tomba’s "philosophy" for Josh.
Sam goes to Leo’s office through the door in Margaret’s area. The door to the hallway is broken; it keeps locking by itself. Sam asks Leo about Horton Wilde. Sam tells Leo about the "lame" candidates the DNC is running in hard-to-win districts.
Leo – "Finding qualified sacrificial lambs ain’t easy."
Sam points out that when the Democrats say they are trying to take back the House, this doesn’t make it look like it. Leo says that they put the money where it can do the most good. Margaret tells Leo he has a phone call on Line 1. It’s the decision from the Debate Committee. They got two debates; they wanted five. Leo tells Margaret to pass along the news to Toby, Josh, and CJ and to tell them he’s in his office. Leo asks Sam if he’s seen that Qumar has re-opened the investigation into Shareef’s plane going down. Sam has, and he bets that they’ll blame Israel. Leo asks him if he thinks Israel did it. He doesn’t know, but Shareef was a bad guy. Leo agrees, and talks about all the bad things Shareef did, including the attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge. Sam looks a little surprised. Leo says that he doesn’t know what a win in the Middle East would look like anymore. The world is at a stand still until someone comes up with a solution. Leo says that Sam is one of the great minds of his generation. Has he thought of a solution? Sam says he hasn’t. Neither has Leo. Leo says that Jed hasn’t either, and he’s a pretty good mind.
Sam – "Leo, we didn’t have anything to do with Shareef’s plane going down, did we?"
Leo shuffles some papers around on his desk without looking up or responding.
Sam – "Sorry."
Sam gets it and goes back to talking about the debates. Leo says that Jed won’t be happy they only got two. Sam says that there is one person who will be even more upset. There is banging on the broken door.
Toby – "Somebody open the damn door…please."
Sam goes to open it, but Toby has gone around to the other door and come in. He’s riled again. He wants to know why there are only two debates. Leo says the committee is faxing their report. Toby grabs it from Margaret when she brings it in, and begins reading it aloud. Jed wants to see Leo. Leo hears the report as he’s going to the Oval. By delaying a compromise with them, Ritchie got what he wanted. There isn’t enough time now for more than two debates.
Leo enters the Oval, where Jed is with Casper and a few others. The agents have succeeded in the Iowa situation. They got into the house and saved the boy, who is now in a hospital. Only one of the survivalists was killed; another shot in the leg. They found all the evidence they needed - including a blueprint for KSU. (Thank God, they didn’t go the Waco route.) Jed is over the moon. This went well. He offers Casper one of his daughters. (Probably this way, Casper could at least find one of them for Jed.) As they are talking, an aide brings in a note to one of the military guys. Yousef’s plane has disappeared somewhere over Lebanon. A search and rescue mission has just started. The others leave Jed and Leo alone.
Leo – "Ben Yousef’s plane is missing. Now, how did I not see that coming?"
(Well, if it makes you feel better Leo, I didn’t see that one coming either.)
It’s Sunday night. Jed and CJ are in the residence. They are watching a football game while Jed reviews the Red Mass speech. (Sorry to those sports fans out there. I don’t watch sports so, I can’t tell you who was playing.) Jed complains that one of the teams keeps using the same play over again, even though it isn’t working. Jed tells CJ that most people in sports say that the hardest thing to do in any sport is throwing a baseball. But, Jed heard a coach once say that the hardest thing was going into the locker room at halftime of the Super Bowl to tell the team that the strategy that had brought them there wasn’t working; they had to find a new one. They discuss the debates. The debate format is a two-minute answer with a one-minute rebuttal. Jed says that’s not a debate; it’s a press conference. Sam joins them. Jed says that the speech is great, but he’s changed a few things. Sam takes a look. He likes the 80/20 part Jed added. Jed goes into his closet to put on his tie. CJ asks Sam about leaking a memo to raise expectations for Ritchie in the debates. CJ still thinks that Ritchie will win because the expectations on him are so low. Sam thinks it will make CJ look silly. She’s used to that. CJ admits defeat on that idea, but she doesn’t know what else to do. Jed comes back and lectures them on historical debates, including one with Caesar. He tells them what a debate should really be like. CJ says that since they didn’t get the number of debates they asked for, they could ask to change the format. Jed doesn’t think that will fly; Ritchie’s camp already got what they wanted. CJ says there is one more thing to bargain with. Sam thinks about it a moment, and agrees. They do have one thing left.
Jed – "Wow. Isn’t this exactly why casinos don’t play with a one-deck shoot?"
Sam – "Yes."
Charlie comes in to say that the cars are ready.
Jed – "Get Toby to sign off and I’m in."
Charlie and Jed walk back towards the Oval. Charlie wants to ask him about the Red Mass and separation of Church and State.
Jed – "And so how isn’t it a constitutional issue? It is. But, sometimes you say ‘big deal’."
Jed goes into the Oval for a few minutes while Charlie goes to his desk area. The intern has a note that was just delivered for him from Anthony. Charlie reads it and smiles.
Intern – "Nice note?"
Charlie – "No. At several points he suggests that I might have an improper relationship with my mother."
Intern – "Why are you smiling?"
Charlie – "He wrote it on the back of the First Amendment."
Charlie leaves. He sees Josh in the hallway. They talk sports a moment before Josh sees Amy in the Mural Room.
Josh goes in to speak with Amy. Someone had an extra ticket; she’s going to Red Mass. Josh isn’t. They go outside on the portico. Amy can’t tell Josh what Stackhouse is thinking. But, she can tell him what she said to Stackhouse earlier.
Amy – "I told him I thought he’d been an extraordinary public servant. Thoughtful and energetic, and compassionate, and courageous. And, I told him I’d be voting for the President."
Amy is crazy about the President, but sometimes she battles him. It’s how she shows her love. (So, she must really love Josh. On a side note, I can’t tell you how difficult it is for me to have to start liking Amy.)
Amy makes a balloon animal for Josh. (She hasn’t much improved from last season.) Josh doesn’t know what it is. Amy tells him it can be whatever he wants it to be. She leaves for Red Mass.
At the church, Jed is seated in the front pew. Sam and Leo are standing in the back, talking about their earlier conversation.
Sam – "I was thinking about what you asked me before, about have I been able to think of anything. And I said ‘no’. And you said, ‘neither have I. Neither has the President’."
Leo – "What about it?"
Sam – "I won’t speak for anybody else, but you know I’m not done yet, right?"
Leo fingers Yousef’s yarmulke. And the Mass begins with the choir singing a "Gloria".
As the Mass is ending, CJ is outside listening. Toby comes up; he’s looking for something to beat her with. How could she suggest having only one debate? They wanted five, and now she wants just one.
CJ – "Somebody should ask him if he’s aware taxpayers pay $9000 this instead of $200,000 that. And somebody should ask him what he means by…. And somebody should ask him how he plans on…. You said that. And, you were right."
Toby – "What if he has a bad night? It’s happened. What if he gets himself into trouble? What if Ritchie comes after Abbey or the kids and the President goes postal? That’s what I’d try to do. Stress, hot lights. What if he has an episode?"
CJ – "We lose."
Toby tells CJ to clear Jed’s schedule for 24 hours. They need to get away to prepare for their one debate.
CJ heads into the church. She’s stopped by Susan. Stackhouse would like a word with Jed. CJ’s not sure if that’s possible. Susan says Jed should speak with him. CJ goes to Jed and speaks to him for a moment.
Jed comes into the narthex and talks to Stackhouse. He tells Jed he liked the speech. He was wary at first when Jed started the 80/20 part. Jed admits it was his idea. Stackhouse liked it.
Stackhouse – "Who among the 80 will stand up for the 20?"
Jed – "You did, Howard. You did all the time."
Stackhouse tells Jed about novice pilots who fly into clouds and don’t trust their instruments even though they can’t see the horizon. They keep making adjustments. The majority end up flying out of the clouds upside down.
Stackhouse – "My office will make arrangements for me to endorse you in the morning. You keep your eyes on the horizon, Mr. President."
Stackhouse leaves. Jed goes out where the press are waiting. He watches Stackhouse walk away, uninterrupted, down the street. Jed tells CJ to have the press move off the church’s grounds.
Jed – "I’m gonna take questions for a little while."
CJ – "On what?"
Jed – "Needle exchange."
I really liked this episode. It was very quiet and understated, but a lot happened. I was glad to see that they haven’t forgotten about the college tuition thing. I was extremely pleased to see the Iowa situation resolved relatively peacefully. I liked Yousef, and was sad to see him go. John Spencer was great when Leo learns that Yousef’s plane is missing. I am a big fan of Stackhouse, and I loved him doing the right thing. Jed stepping up on the needle exchange issue was great. Again this week, we see CJ with more responsibility as an advisor, and I like that. Sam was great with the Qumari thing. All in all a very solid episode. Keep ‘em coming, Aaron. JanneyFan