West Wing 2×05: And It’s Surely to Their Credit

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Kevin Falls, and Laura Glasser | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 11/01/2000]

“Took two years.” – CJ

A quick rewind to remind: Last week, I dipped my spoon in the somewhat controversial pot of liberalism and its portrayal on television, despite the fact that I made a silent pact to myself that I wouldn’t be addressing politics directly in my reviews. (My excuse: the episode was begging for it.) Well, that apparently wasn’t gutsy enough, so this week, I’m going to slowly stir the pot again as we talk about another topic that more than occasionally crops up in the news: feminism!

Aaron Sorkin has been called (among other, ruder things) a sexist by many of his critics, and his image as such has only worsened in recent years. (The Newsroom was the subject of a particularly virulent firestorm when it first premiered a couple of years back.) The emergence of stronger, more willful female characters in modern television (helped greatly by Joss Whedon and many of his WB/CW followers) has made the idea of writing women as two-dimensional and clichéd not merely lazy, but offensive. And while I don’t think Sorkin is quite as bad at writing female characters as some of his detractors paint him to be, the case to support him is not helped by the shallowness of such creations as Dana Whitaker, Natalie Hurley, and (sigh) Harriet Hayes.

I’m telling you all this because “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” is an episode focused on women, and much of its deeper impact will depend on your own feelings toward Sorkin’s representation of the feminine mystique. Personally, I feel the women of The West Wing are miles ahead in characterization than those in Sorkin’s other projects, and although the execution of this episode isn’t perfect, it manages to be smooth, entertaining, and, at many points, highly effective.

Let’s begin with CJ. She is arguably the best female character on the show, and this episode features one of her most crucial developments in the second season. CJ has spent the latter part of Season One, along with the early episodes of Season Two, coming into her own as a vital member of the White House staff. She has become increasingly self-conscious about what she believes to be a very fragile occupation (as was just evidenced in “In This White House” [2×04]), but that nervousness has in fact not hindered her in doing her duties. Instead, it has given her opportunity to open up and show a bolder, stronger side of her personality, a side that first plays a major role in this episode.

Though she was apprehensive of Ainsley Hayes last episode, CJ has come around to the surprisingly respectable and learned attorney. And, perhaps as a means of quelling any lingering feelings of disdain towards the new White House lawyer, CJ begins to dig a bit deeper into the animosity other staffers show towards her, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that they can’t stand the new legal counselor because she’s an attractive woman. This may not be an entirely grounded observation, as we’re shown very few people that actively appear this way (outside of those two crotch-rods who harass Ainsley later in this episode). But it’s the sort of observation a growing White House staffer like CJ would come across in her slow quest to maintain her position and prove herself a worthy addition to the Bartlet administration. And CJ harnesses her anger, channeling it onto an Army general who threatens to speak out against Bartlet. The scene where CJ out-maneuvers General Barrie shows us a new side of her, as she does all but outright threaten him in order to talk him out of speaking to the press. Allison Janney’s cold, collected performance is downright unsettling, and although Bartlet eventually tells her to loosen up on Barrie, we’re clearly watching a new, more interesting CJ Cregg take form.

Donna, the other arguably best female character on the show (I’m sure I’ll settle this debate someday), will need more time for her character to become fully realized. Although the early episodes of Season Two have shown signs of her depth, she is still a minor player in the grand scheme of the White House, as evidenced by her excitement and nervousness when tasked with introducing a gaggle of press photographers to the President. Donna’s attempts at humor fall amusingly flat, while Bartlet is able to spark the group to laughter with the very first line he speaks to them. (I’m not entirely convinced as to the wide gap in Bartlet’s and Donna’s respective abilities to tell jokes, though – would you remain stone-faced if the most powerful man in the country cracked wise?)

Donna has a ways to go before she can prove herself a vital member of the White House staff, but hers will be a far more gradual climb than CJ’s, and one made despite her (admittedly low) position, rather than because of it. The fact that she’s now being called upon as a tour guide, though, is a sure sign that she’s moving on up.

Then there’s Abbey, a woman who does not technically have a White House position, and yet may be the most important woman who resides there. “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” gives her a storyline that could be construed as discriminating to women, yet is actually just as “demeaning” (and I use the term loosely) to men. Jed Bartlet is too distracted to focus on the Presidential business at hand, simply because he’s… well, horny. And through his constant attempts to make it out of the Oval Office in time for a nighttime meeting with his wife, we see a lighter side to the Jed/Abbey relationship than was portrayed in “The White House Pro-Am” [1×17].

But despite the sitcom-like premise (delivered, in strict West Wing fashion, through relatively PG storytelling), there’s more to this story than just simple laughs. In his urgency to do the deed, Bartlet unwittingly changes his perception of his wife from a beloved spousal figure to a sexy object of lust. This is an occasional staple of many husband/wife relationships, and Bartlet shouldn’t simply be looked down upon for it. But as we are already well aware, Abbey is not the type of woman who will tolerate being objectified. And although she goes along with her husband’s urges, she will not tolerate them when they distract him from the importance of her own feminist work.

The gist, as it were, is that Bartlet comes around to promoting Abbey’s objectives through his radio broadcast, and only then gets to see his wife in her “very special garment”. But while this development gives Martin Sheen the opportunity to display his gift at subtle comedy, it also taints the message of the story, leaving us more than a little confused. Be respectful of women, and… they’ll give you sex? It’s an uncomfortable endpoint to a story that’s part of such a female-centric episode.

And speaking of things uncomfortable, how about that Ainsley Hayes? “In This White House” [2×04] didn’t do the subtlest of jobs with her introduction, which, on my first viewing, left me worried that Sorkin & Co. had made a mistake in introducing her. Fortunately, though, “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” smoothes over the rougher aspects of her introduction, better preparing us for her greater role in Seasons Two and Three.

The episode seeks in part to continue the liberal-versus-conservative angle that typified “In This White House” [2×04]. But where that episode sank under the weight of its own self-seriousness, this one stays in line thanks to a more humorous tone. A good part of this is owed to John Larroquette, whose Lionel Tribbey is so brash and broad that you won’t even mind the fact that the character is being used as a device to make Ainsley appear “better”. Tribbey may not be very deep, but between his hilarious introductory scene and his unfailing (if overbearing) sense of idealism, I’m kind of sad we never see him again. (Though I do concede that the more reserved, psychoanalytical Oliver Babish is a more intriguing replacement.)

Tribbey may work within the story well enough, but the same cannot be said for Steve Joyce and Mark Brookline, two wiseass, arrogant, sexist Counsel employees who are every bit as one-dimensional as the Republican stereotypes from early Season One. They exist solely to make Ainsley look competent, not as a Republican, but as a woman, and the ham-handedness of their characters actively undercuts the feminist themes of the episode. Oh, and the fact that they’re finally cut down by a pair of men (Sam and Tribbey) does not help.

Throughout the Ainsley storyline, the characters frequently bring up Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous “HMS Pinafore”, particularly the finale, “He Is an Englishman”, which indirectly alludes to Ainsley’s insistence that she wants to use her job at the White House to do her civic duty. The final scene of the episode can thus be seen as a rite of passage, as the White House staffers openly accept Ainsley into their ranks by blasting a rendition of the classic song. If I were in a more cynical mood today, I would probably start making the somewhat ludicrous case that the song Ainsley is supposedly inspired by is about an EnglishMAN, which further undercuts the feministic aspect of the episode. But I’m pretty chipper today. That final scene is awesome.

Between CJ, Donna, Abbey, and Ainsley, this episode has plenty going for it in the “strong women” department, even if some of their stories execute the theme better than others. But why stop there? “And it’s Surely to Their Credit” pushes its feminism credo just a little bit further by having Josh, the self-professed manliest man in the White House, act in a most unmanly-like way. Whereas the Josh we knew from Season One was arrogant, rude, and ever-outspoken, the Josh we see here is quieter and more reserved than we’ve ever seen him – he turns down Sam’s opportunity to sue the KKK and in effect “stick it to the man”, choosing not to reduce his traumatic shooting to the level of a petty legal case.

Clearly, something’s come over Josh lately, and it’s something that will slowly build over the first half of the season. “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” does a good job of indicating this, evoking Josh’s inner pain without exploiting it for cheap drama. Credit here goes to Bradley Whitford’s subtle, nuanced portrayal of a man going through post-traumatic stress disorder, which will only continue to dazzle right up until it climaxes in “Noel” [2×10].

This last storyline can be seen as something of a twisted joke about gender roles on the part of the episode, which seeks to put its women in the spotlight, even if the messages it delivers are at times mixed. And within the mixed messages about women and their role in the White House lies the flaw which keeps “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” from achieving true greatness: Even if you ignore this uneven unifying theme and concentrate solely on the individual character development (which is quite good), you’ll be left wondering why Aaron Sorkin chose to riddle an entertaining hour of television with a bunch of awkward sexist remarks.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ To heck with the press line. I actually thought the “Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff” line was pretty funny.
+ Bartlet mentioning what Jack Warner used to call him.
+ There is a miniature bed in Gail’s bowl. Gail is… uncomfortably creepy, in this case.
+ For those wondering why we never see Tribbey again, it could have to do with that hilarious-if-frightening moment when he charges into Leo’s office with a cricket bat.
+ Charlie confusing the recipient of Abbey’s message: “So we can have sex now.”
+ Ainsley’s “office”. Poor Ainsley.
+ Sam actually signing his message to Joyce and Brookline.

– Bartlet briefly jokes to his wife about getting Mrs. Landingham drunk. Knowing what we do about Bartlet and Mrs. Landingham’s relationship from “Two Cathedrals” [2×22], this comment seems not only callous, but a little disturbing.



27 thoughts on “West Wing 2×05: And It’s Surely to Their Credit”

  1. [Note: Damon posted this comment on August 17, 2014.]

    I feel like the problem with Ainsley is that Sorkin would only remember she existed when he wanted to make some heavy-handed point, and then she would vanish before she could be given any character development or anything in the way of an arc. I think she was a solid basis for what could have been one of the show’s more interesting creations, but between her less-than-subtle intro and her infrequent and pointed future appearances, she tends to feel to me less like a person and more like a political correctness-ex-machina. Perhaps she would have worked better if she was introduced more like Oz from Buffy, with repeated minor appearances before slowly morphing into a major player, or if we’d gotten to know her while she was just a reporter before she joined the staff. Anyway, you really summarized a lot of my thoughts on this episode and then a bit more. Keep up the good work!


  2. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on August 18, 2014.]

    I think Ainsley goes through a bit of personal growth in Season Two, and that could have branched out into later seasons. But she barely appears at all in Season Three, and then Emily Procter left for CSI: Miami after that, so her character is something of a missed opportunity.

    That said, however, she’s fundamentally important to the later seasons as a training exercise in regard to their writing of strong Republican characters, so I can accept the role she plays in-show.


  3. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    I agree with your qualms about Ainsley’s story being resolved by her essentially being rescued by two men, but I don’t necessarily agree that the one-dimensionality and general jackassery of Steve Joyce and Mark Brookline undercut the feminist themes. You said that these characters “exist solely to make Ainsely look competent”–but I sort of think they exist partly to illustrate that there is at least some actual basis for her view of the administration (expressed in the previous episode) as smug, arrogant, and intolerant of those who disagree with them. I thought the episode was suggesting that there are both decent human beings and self-righteous, intolerant dipshits on both sides of the aisle…


  4. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    I could go along more easily with this episode’s portrayal of Steve and Mark if it didn’t feel so forced. Before this episode, the show never portrayed any White House staffers as hatefully as these two. It feels like weak writing to suddenly introduce them solely to stir up conflict (both from a feminist perspective and a Republican perspective).


  5. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    Well, that’s a fair point. But while it may be kind of a cheap ploy in that sense, I’m still not sure that I see how it undercuts any feminist themes.


  6. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on January 4, 2015.]

    Ainsley is meant to be portrayed as a strong and independent woman. But rather than write her as such in a straightforward way, we’re supposed to appreciate her more because the men she runs into are such turds. She doesn’t get much in the way of personal development.

    The way it’s written, the primary objective is to show things from a Democrat vs. Republican standpoint. But because this episode in general is very feminist-oriented, it’s easy to notice how the Ainsley story fails on that front as well.


  7. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on January 5, 2015.]

    But she did come across as a strong and independent woman (at least to a significant extent; like I said, I agree it’s problematic that she is “rescued” by the male characters in the end). Even though the two guys were complete asses and treated her with zero respect, she spoke her mind to them. That they then proceeded to blow her off and leave an insulting and demeaning message in her office says nothing at all about her–only about them.

    As I see it, the episode throws the two douchebag men at her (in part) precisely in order to give her a chance to demonstrate her strength in how she deals with them. We show our mettle most clearly in the face of adversity, right?

    (Put another way, I don’t think they “exist solely to make Ainsley look competent” in the sense of setting such a low bar that almost anyone would look good by comparison–but I do think that part of their purpose is to make life difficult for her so that we can see how she deals with it. As such, they seem to me–despite being one-dimensional jerks–to serve, rather than undercut, the episode’s attempted feminist themes.)


  8. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on January 5, 2015.]

    Yeah, but making the adversaries she faces in this episode so blandly one-note and douchey doesn’t do anything to convince me that she accomplished anything by facing them off, especially since, as we’ve said, she does very little in the way of dealing with them.

    Look at the way this episode (and many others) portrays CJ or Donna. Those are two strongly written, well-crafted female characters. They definitely don’t need to go toe-to-toe with any misogynistic coworkers to prove their worth. Comparatively, Ainsley doesn’t match either. And while Joyce and Brookline may indeed function to serve her as a strong female character, the point ultimately backfires due to the extreme one-dimensionality of the whole incident.


  9. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on January 8, 2015.]

    Hmm. I don’t know. I guess I just felt that she handled herself as well as anyone could be expected to in the situation, and didn’t see the behavior of the two guys as undermining that. But (obviously) we don’t have to see it the same way. 🙂


  10. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on August 14, 2015.]

    Personally, I feel the women of The West Wing are miles ahead in characterization than those in Sorkin’s other projects

    Yes, and gonorrhea is miles ahead of AIDS.

    I’m telling you all this because “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” is an episode focused on women, and much of its deeper impact will depend on your own feelings toward Sorkin’s representation of the feminine mystique.

    Perfect. My feelings towards Sorkin’s representation of the feminine mystique are that I want to put Aaron Sorkin in a guillotine, take Tribbey’s cricket bat, and smash his head through a fucking wicket.

    Let’s talk about the worst scene of this episode– one your review left me unprepared for. (I don’t read your reviews ahead of watching the episodes, but when you tempt me with feminism I can’t resist!) The inciting incident for Sam firing the two crotch-rods (nice term btw) is that they send Ainsley a bouquet of dead flowers and an index card reading simply “BITCH.”

    Let’s talk about the physics of such a scenario. In the time between Ainsley leaving her meeting and returning to her office, at least one of the crotch-rods must have figured out where Ainsley worked (and may I remind you she worked in an unmarked closet in the fucking boiler room), purchased a dead bouquet, written “BITCH” in all caps on an index card, abandoned his paperwork, walked over to Ainsley’s office with no one noticing the massive bitch bouquet, plopped it on her desk, and walked back to his office. How much do you have to hate women to do that??

    Also, the sexy Bartlet material is nowhere near as funny as him going over the sex ed report with a sharpie in “Take Out the Trash Day,” the army douche is so sexist it strains all credibility, and– most damningly AND most inexplicably– both the “brilliant” running gag AND the heartwarming conclusion of the episode assume the audience has encyclopedic knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan.

    This is quite possibly the worst episode of the entire show, saved only by Ainsley’s general likability and John Laroquette. I can’t wait to see how “Access” is worse.


  11. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on August 14, 2015.]

    You know, I never actually thought about the logistics of the “BITCH” scene until you brought it up, which makes it even more ludicrous. How does one even get a dead bouquet on a moments notice? Do those guys just have a crate full of them for occasions like this? Is there a store in D.C. called “Bitch Bouquets R Us?”

    …Maybe there is. To be honest, I’ve seen even stupider things for sale before.


  12. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on August 15, 2015.]

    I did a double take the first time I watched the “dead bouquet” scene. So did my brother. I don’t think Sorkin was exactly going for subtlety with those two characters.

    Aren’t you glad I didn’t spoil the scene in my review, so that you could experience it in all its unsubtle, illogical glory?


  13. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on August 15, 2015.]

    Yes. The score didn’t prepare me for the unsubtlety in this episode either.

    Do you know what’s funny? There’s a retread of this scene in The Social Network, except Zuck is hand-delivered a note during a college lecture that reads… “U DICK.” Not just “DICK.” Not “YOU DICK.” “U DICK.” Because not only do twentysomethings pass out notes in class, they handwrite said notes in chatspeak. Aaaaaaaargh.


  14. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on August 16, 2015.]

    Wow. I didn’t remember that. That’s pretty awful. The Social Network is probably Sorkin’s best script overall, though – the dialogue is largely fantastic.


  15. [Note: unkinhead posted this comment on December 29, 2015.]

    Okay so just saw the episode…

    Please…Stop mistaking this forum for the monthly meeting of your ignorant tight-ass club, you paranoid Berkeley shiksa feministas! – WEST WING BURN 😉

    Not only is this episode hardly offensive, but it’s a pretty decent one at that. If there’s any portion of this episode that needs to be scrutinized it’s certainly the poor characterization with the two arrogant douches, pretty transparent plot device to get the gang to “accept” Ainsley. But frankly, I think outlining a perceived message of “Be respectful of women, and… they’ll give you sex?” is also quite inoffensive since well…If you’re respectful of women, they in turn, are more likely to reciprocate some sort of physical contact if you are in a relationship with them…Fact of life. I hardly think it’s the more cynical statement of “If you are respectful of women they will reward you with sex as that is their place”, which seems to be the implication in the review.

    Can’t you people separate perfectly plausible human interaction from some sort of misogynist conspiracy origin? Bartlet pleased his wife and now she’s okay with having sex with him. Ohhhh the MISOGYNYYYY, it’s teaching everyone that women may be more open to sexaul intercourse when you treat them well.



    No but the episode is alright…Nothing special.


  16. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on December 29, 2015.]

    Regarding the Bartlet/Abbey controversy: It wouldn’t necessarily bother me so much if not for the fact that this episode is probably the most female-centric in the series, and that just makes the use of Abbey more confounding than it would elsewhere. It’s a fairly “edgy” subplot by typical West Wing standards, but its inclusion in an episode that seems meant to showcase the series’ female characters is just kind of perplexing.


  17. [Note: unkinhead posted this comment on December 29, 2015.]

    Fair enough. I just wanted to exaggerate for style.

    What’s my reward? I expect copulation of some form.


  18. [Note: DigificWriter posted this comment on March 20, 2016.]

    As someone who’s viewing these early West Wing seasons for the first time, I think you were a little too critical and over-analytical when it comes to this episode, especially the bits with Jed and Abbey, which were not only totally in line with the characters’ previous interactions, but also with Sorkin’s already-established mode of storytelling.

    When it comes to the Ainsley Hayes storyline, I think you may have missed something that struck me as being pretty obvious, which is that Tribbey set Ainsley up to fail and be ridiculed (and may have been the one responsible for harassing her), with Sam suspecting this after Tribbey just randomly shows up and backs him up on firing Joyce and Brookline but thinking better of saying anything.

    I also think it makes tons of sense for Sam to ride to Ainsley’s rescue since he’s her biggest foil in the episode among the regular cast, making his actions character-building for him as well as beneficial for establishing Ainsley as part of the team.

    All in all, the takeaway I got from this episode is that it actually showcases the STRENGTHS of The West Wing’s handling of female characters rather than being an example of weakness in that regard, and think it deserves a higher rating.


  19. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 20, 2016.]

    When it comes to the Ainsley Hayes storyline, I think you may have missed something that struck me as being pretty obvious, which is that Tribbey set Ainsley up to fail and be ridiculed (and may have been the one responsible for harassing her), with Sam suspecting this after Tribbey just randomly shows up and backs him up on firing Joyce and Brookline but thinking better of saying anything.

    I don’t think that’s what happened at all. Or if it did, Sorkin did a very poor job of transmitting that information onscreen. Tribbey is portrayed as hard-edged when he first appears onscreen, and only later shows his more sympathetic side, but there’s no real indication that he has a hidden agenda in the interim, and even less of an indication that he was the one harassing Ainsley.

    As for Sam and Bartlet: While their actions are technically not out-of-character, they actually serve to undermine the episode’s attempts at showcasing the strengths of the show’s female characters. When Sorkin attempts to put the women of The West Wing front and center and makes feminism a key aspect of an episode, the shortcomings that episode has in portraying those women are all the more obvious and problematic.


  20. [Note: DigificWriter posted this comment on March 20, 2016.]

    I disagree, especially with regards to Bartlet’s and Sam. There’s nothing undermining at all about how they’re handled here relative to Abbey and Ainsley and the way those two characters are handled thematically.


  21. [Note: DigificWriter posted this comment on March 20, 2016.]

    Also, it was awfully convenient that Roger Tribbey A) gave Ainsley the assignment to go talk to Joyce and Brookline, B) knew where her office was whereas Joyce and Brookline didn’t, and C) just happened to show up randomly for no reason just as Sam is trying to “play the hero” and fire two guys who work for his office, and it didn’t take much thought at all for me to connect the dots, especially with that last scene where Sam is about to say something to Tribbey before changing his mind. It’s the old “if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck” thing at play.


  22. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on March 20, 2016.]

    Sam’s role in the Ainsley story is not undermining on its own, and it’s certainly not the focal issue of that story. The focal issue is that this episode is trying to establish Ainsley as a worthy addition to the White House staff and doesn’t do a convincing job of it. Instead, we get a couple of bullying jerks who are as one-dimensional as any White House staffers we’ve ever seen on the show.

    It’s problematic enough that “In This White House” introduced Ainsley with such heavy-handed fanfare, but this episode barely puts any thought into the first challenge she faces. (White House staffers are typically portrayed as well-meaning, but when they have a problem working alongside a good-hearted Republican, the show instantly turns them into obnoxious devils.) And to top it all off, Ainsley doesn’t get to prove her mettle at all this episode – Sam comes to her rescue to fix everything.

    Abbey comes off a little better, but while the episode does spotlight her feminist viewpoints, it undercuts them by having Bartlet react with “Honey, can you stop talking about Nellie Bly and just have sex with me?” Sure, it’s played for comedy. But it’s pretty hypocritical for an episode to spotlight the strengths of a show’s female characters and then feature a conversation that mocks famous women.

    That’s the issue with “And It’s Surely to Their Credit” – it wants us to admire the women on the show, but half its stories put the women in less-than-admirable positions.

    Regarding Tribbey: The idea that he’s the one who put the plant on Ainsley’s desk is the kind of long con that would need to be addressed on a more visible level in the episode if I’m expected to buy it. If that was Sorkin’s intention, that’s just a really egregious example of miscommunication between writer and viewers.


  23. [Note: Cshaw posted this comment on September 5, 2016.]

    I’m enjoying these reviews so far. Interesting theory about Tribbey being the flower culprit. It does explain Sam starting to say something to Tribbey after he shows up “randomly” (and then backing off), and explains the mystery of how the flowers got so quickly to Ainsley’s office.
    Seaborne: Were you president of the Gilbert and Sullivan club in college ?
    Tribbey: No, but I’m not a woman.
    But Tribbey’s sexism is a weak motive for him to pull such a cruel stunt, not to mention setting up two (not so) innocent staffers to get fired. And if they were indeed not guilty of the flowers , wouldn’t they have questioned Sam for firing them for merely being rude to the new lawyer.?
    I’d say they somehow brought the flowers, in by far the weakest part of the script of an otherwise pretty good episode.


  24. Okay I ripped a few parts where the feminist message was undermined in the forums, but I do want to defend the use of “He Is An Englishman” which I think actually helps the points Sorkin was trying to make rather than undermine it. The whole idea of honour and putting yourself in a low place for service of your country is typically a masculine ideal, and punctuating that with “He Is an Englishman” puts emphasis on that.

    But crossing that with Ainslie who is the best example of this, putting aside her partisanship and working in the boiler room for service to the country shows that females are equally capable of feeling that having a sense of honour and patriotism is important, that the desire for these things is not gender specific. It’s maybe the only feminist point Sorkin makes in this episode that isn’t patronizing, and I’m not entirely certain he did it on purpose.


    1. That’s a good observation. I think the episode’s deconstruction of masculinity might extend to the title as well. The lyric in the song is “And it’s surely to his credit,” while the episode is called “And It’s Surely to Their Credit.” Clearly, Sorkin was using a gender-neutral pronoun as a subtle way of promoting women and dismantling the patriarchy!

      (Or… maybe he was using it in the plural sense to refer to the Bartlet staffers at large. But hey, we will never know for sure.)


      1. Yeah, a more negative reading of the title is Sorkin congratulating his fictional characters (so basically self-congratulating) on accepting a female Republican into their staff with open arms.


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