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A Very Merry West Wing Christmas: Day Two

My West Wing Christmas Viewing Spectacular continues tonight with:

Noel (Ep. 2.10)
Teleplay by:  Aaron Sorkin
Story by:  Peter Parnell
Directed by:  Thomas Schlamme

Episode Description (from NBC):
Christmas draws near as an unstable Josh (Bradley Whitford) is ordered by Leo (John Spencer) to consult with a doctor who specializes in analyzing trauma victims. What's particularly telling is Josh's identification with a dead fighter pilot who recently took his own life by deliberately crashing his jet -- a man who coincidentally shared his birthday and experienced emotional trauma after being shot down over Bosnia. Elsewhere: the President wants to personally sign all of his Christmas cards -- which total hundreds of thousands; Sam (Rob Lowe) confronts a representative of the Energy Secretary who publicly advocates release of federal oil reserves; C.J. (Allison Janney) gets personally involved when a foreign White House tourist becomes extremely agitated at the sight of a painting donated by the French government.
 

I don't tend to make lists of my "favorite" episodes, mostly because I like them all (Okay, there are a few eps in seasons 5 & 6 I could do without, but whatever.)  Still, if someone forced me to make a list, Noel is definitely in the top five, maybe even the top three depending on my mood.  It's beautifully written, beautifully acted, beautifully directed.

Everyone knows by now that I think Bradley Whitford is an incredible actor.  Noel was the perfect storyline to display his talent...I doubt there is anyone out there who would deny that his performance in the episode was outstanding.  He can convey so much with just a look or a tone of voice.  I have never seen a clip of Brad's Emmy acceptance speech, but I hear it was great and that he got a bit emotional when he won.

Just a little tidbit -- Donna is wearing the same gray cardigan in this episode as she wore in In Excelsis Deo.  I notice weird stuff, I know.

A couple of other things I liked:

1. Adam Arkin
Yeah, he is fantastic as Stanley.  That's really all I have to say about that.

2. CJ & Bernard's banter
I love the way Aaron wove a little humor into this very serious episode.

3. Josh's outburst in the Oval
This scene is actually painful for me to watch.  It's so uncomfortable there at the end...there's about three or four seconds of complete silence with everyone standing there dumbfounded and the President glaring at Josh before Leo says, "Josh, go wait in my office."  Wow.

4.  The flashbacks of Josh's apartment
It's so cool how the scene changes as Josh's story changes.  The first time he breaks the glass.  But no, wait, that's not what really happened.  The second time he breaks the window.  I'm always a fan of flashbacks as long as they're done well.  I think Tommy Schlamme is the best at make sure we as viewers know where we are within the story at all times...he makes it clear that yes, this is a flashback or no, this is present time.

5.  Yo-Yo Ma rules!
I have to agree with Donna.  Bach's Prelude to Suite No. 1 in G Major is my all-time favorite piece of classical music.  The way the tension builds as the music builds is true art.

6. "As long as I got a job, you got a job."
The "guy falls in a hole" story is probably the most quoted Leo line in this fandom, but it really is a great scene and I think it shows how Leo thinks of Josh as a son.  I always liked the Josh/Leo dynamic and I was sad the writers did so much to destroy it in season five.

7. "She knows?"  "She's the one who guessed."
Well, of course Donna knows.  She probably spends more time with him on a daily basis than anyone else.  I think it's proof that, yeah, she really is tuned to him. 

8. Hark, how the bells...
And finally, as Josh and Donna are leaving the gates, the carolers are singing Carol of the Bells which is probably my favorite Christmas song ever.  It's beautiful, but also quite haunting which I think is very fitting with the storyline...Josh is going to continue to be haunted by his PTSD for a while, but like Stanley said, "We get better."
 
Tomorrow I'll be watching season three's Bartlet For America.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
segsig
Dec. 23rd, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC)
Are you doing Bravo's programming now? They're showing IED, Noel, and HN on consecutive days this week.

Can't argue with anything you've said about the episode, but I will have to disassociate myself from you if you don't go watch this immediately!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fzsb_Bkz6Q
13_pines
Dec. 24th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
YAAAAY!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving me this link! That was such a sweet thing he said about Jane.

And, no, I'm not watching the eps on Bravo. They scheduled WW to air at the same time I have to be at work, but I've got my trusty DVDs on hand, so it's all good.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )