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Friday, October 19, 2012

Film Quote Friday

Been a while since I did one of these, huh? So much for 'regular features'. Par for the course around here, though. I may one day relaunch this blog as a series of regular features, with one post each before completely disappearing.

Anyway, election season has me thinking about The West Wing. One thing that bugged me about the show during its run was that Aaron Sorkin wasn't always very good at tying things together over the long haul of a teevee series, which led to things like the character Mandy (who was totally annoying) utterly disappearing between seasons one and two, despite the fact that season two begins literally at the exact same time that season one ended. But there were times when Sorkin did some really cool things, such as this.

One of the backdrops of the series -- which was, to my mind, underutilized -- was the fact that President Bartlet and Vice President Hoynes did not have a good working relationship. Their union was born of political necessity, after Bartlet surprised the political world by beating front-runner Hoynes for the nomination; after that, there was always friction between the two men. This scene happens in an early episode in Season One, called "Enemies":

HOYNES
What did I ever do to you? Where, in our past, what did I do to make you treat me this way?

BARTLET
John...

HOYNES
What did I ever do to you except deliver the South?

BARTLET
Really?

HOYNES
Yes.

BARTLET
You shouldn’t have made me beg, John. I was asking you to be Vice President.

HOYNES
Due respect, Mr. President, you have just kicked my ass in a primary. I’m fifteen years younger than you. I have my career to think of.

BARTLET
Then don’t stand there and ask the question, John. It weakened me right out of the gate. You shouldn’t have made me beg.

A brief silence fills the room.

HOYNES
I’m glad C.J. straightened things out with Danny.

BARTLET
Yeah.

HOYNES
Good night, Mr. President.

BARTLET
Good night, John.

That's interesting stuff. The implication here is that Bartlet asked Hoynes to run on the ticket, and Hoynes made Bartlet wait and stew and ask again -- made him beg -- for Hoynes to be Vice President.

But later on, in Season Three, when Aaron Sorkin was in the midst of the big "Bartlet reveals he has MS" storyline, there's a flashback in the episode "Bartlet for America" to the very night Bartlet asked Hoynes to join the ticket. We'd been lead to believe earlier that Hoynes's reticence had actually been a little bit of a tantrum, but this casts quite a different light on things:

LEO
John?

Hoynes looks over at Leo, then walks into the suite and shakes Leo's hand.

HOYNES
Leo.

Leo quietly closes the door and watches as Hoynes greets Abbey, who has banished the tension
from her face. They embrace formally. He kisses her on the cheek.

HOYNES
Hello, Abbey.

ABBEY
Hello, John.

BARTLET
[smiles] Senator.

Bartlet and Hoynes shake hands.

HOYNES
Good evening.

BARTLET
I'd like you to be the Vice-President.

Hoynes' expression goes from amiable smile to shock. He and Bartlet stare at each other silently for a few moments.

BARTLET
Why don't you sit with Abbey and me for a few minutes. [turns to aides] Can I have the room, please?

As the staff quickly take their leave, Bartlet walks over to a table on the other side of the suite. He pours himself another cup of coffee.

BARTLET
[to Hoynes] You want anything? Coffee or anything?

Hoynes, his hands in his pockets, walks slowly toward Bartlet.

HOYNES
Ah... no.

On yet another TV, this one in a corner, crowds on the convention floor can be heard chanting "Bartlet! Bartlet!" Hoynes glances over at the TV. Abbey finally joins them but stands a bit off to one side. Again, she looks a bit nervous and distracted as she fidgets with her wedding ring and watches the two men talk.

BARTLET
You ran a good campaign. [pause] You're a young man. You'll be back.

HOYNES
[nods] Thank you.

Bartlet finishes getting his coffee and walks back over to the sofas. Hoynes and Abbey join him as the last of the aides leaves and the door to the hall finally closes. Bartlet and Hoynes sit down across from each other. Abbey remains standing off to one side.

BARTLET
There's something you need to know. It's why I asked everyone to leave the room.
[short pause] A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a relapsing remitting course of MS.

HOYNES
[confused] I'm sorry?

BARTLET
Multiple sclerosis.

Hoynes, stunned, glances over at Abbey with a vaguely accusatory expression on his face. Bartlet looks over at her, too. She meets Hoynes' gaze. She reveals very little, says nothing, but her expression is grave.

HOYNES
[to Bartlet] Did you just tell me that you have MS?

BARTLET
Yeah.

HOYNES
Which you never mentioned during the campaign.

Bartlet shakes his head. Hoynes raises an eyebrow and sighs heavily.

BARTLET
I told you because it's something you're gonna need to know. But also because I wanted to show that I trust you.

HOYNES
[slight edge to his voice] Oh, you do?

BARTLET
[unfazed] Yeah.

HOYNES
[leans forward] That's supposed to be me accepting the nomination Thursday night. But I suppose your trusting me is consolation prize enough.

BARTLET
[doesn't flinch, pauses] Well, what do you say?

Hoynes shrugs his shoulders, sighs, and stands up.

HOYNES
I'd like to think about it... for a few...

BARTLET
[stands] I'd like your answer now, John.

They stare at each other for several long moments, the tension rising.

HOYNES
You'll have it when I give it, Jed.

That's very interesting to me. It shows that Hoynes's reasons for not being eager to join the ticket isn't entirely, as Sorkin would put in another episode referring to something else, "the natural reaction to not getting the girl". He no doubt feels that he lost unfairly, and that Bartlet in some sense cheated in winning the nomination without mentioning a fairly significant health concern. Hoynes no doubt has trouble trusting Bartlet after this, ironically in response to something Bartlet does in order to show trust in him.

That's pretty cool.

1 comment:

csmith2884 said...

Liked Hoynes's role a lot, there are some scenes with him and Toby that are spot on.