West Wing 4×03: College Kids

[Review by Jeremy Grayson]

[Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Debora Cahn, and Mark Goffman | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 10/02/2002]


Welcome to Politics 403. If you are signed up for this class, you have no doubt completed the required prerequisites of Politics 401 and Politics 402. If you have not completed either of these classes, please report to the Dean of Admissions. This class may not be taken for elective credits.

The professor will be available for questions during office hours, which occur from 3:30 to 4:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays. Please refer to this syllabus for any general inquiries. If you find your question unaddressed, contact the professor during office hours, or, if necessary, see the Dean of Admissions.

Class begins promptly at 9:30 every Monday and Wednesday. Late arrivals are strictly frowned upon. Three unexcused late arrivals will count as an unexcused absence. Three unexcused absences will result in a grade of zero for the course. If you plan to be absent, please email the professor beforehand with a valid explanation.

There are no texts required for this class.

Course Overview

The object of this course is to analyze the third episode of the fourth season of the acclaimed television drama The West Wing. Emphasis is put on the framework of the episode and how its thematic material relates to the season and series as a whole.

Students are to be advised that this course builds directly off material covered in Politics 401 and Politics 402. As such, large portions of this course may end up retreading the material discussed in those two classes. Some students (and even a few faculty members) have questioned the necessity of devoting an entire class to detailing a subject already covered in the immediately preceding classes, particularly since this class does not add anything especially new or profound to that subject. Nevertheless, this class is a requirement for any student wishing to transition to Politics 404.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this class, students are expected to:

  • Understand Mr. Bartlet’s insistence on standing by the Joint Chiefs over the assassination of Mr. Shareef.
  • Realize that Mr. Ziegler and Mr. Lyman have their hearts set on making college payments “a little easier”.
  • Be able to explain why Ms. Fiderer is an ideal fit as Mr. Bartlet’s personal secretary.
  • Comprehend the dangers Mr. Bartlet faces in the aftermath of a deadly school bombing.

Again, some students may level the complaint that all of these subjects were covered in Politics 402, and need not be dwelled upon. But there is some new material to be covered in this class as well.

Students are required to understand the impending threat of Mr. Stackhouse (a figure discussed previously in Politics 217), in preparation for his larger function in Politics 404. Students are expected to appreciate the important role Mr. Stackhouse will play in Politics 404, and not simply think of him as a temporary placeholder villain who exists so that we can avoid discussing the “actual” villain until Politics 406.

Students are also required to appreciate the relationship between the figures of Mr. McGarry and Ms. Kendall, which is meant to inject some brief moments of romantic levity into an otherwise straightforward episode. Attentive students will be forgiven for wondering why the scene in which Jordan tells Bartlet of all the crimes he could potentially be capable of feels suspiciously similar to a scene discussed in Politics 219. Those same students will also be excused for wondering why Mr. Bartlet is talking to Ms. Kendall at all, and what in the devil happened to Mr. Babish and his Dictaphone-smashing gavel.

It is important to remember that while this class may be designed as a review of prior courses, it is not designed to be boring. Every effort is made to keep it light and entertaining – a brief section is devoted to Ms. Cregg and her insistence to the college students she speaks to that they must “rock the vote”. Special attention is also paid to the delightful loopiness of Ms. Fiderer during her amusing quest to fill out a questionnaire. Some may argue that this class is pointless, but few will argue that it is not without fun.


Exams consist of two midterms and a final. All exams must be taken on the day they are scheduled. No makeups are allowed. Failure to attend any of the exams will result in a grade of zero for the course.


Plagiarism is strictly frowned upon in all its forms. Any attempts of plagiarism will result in a grade of zero for the course. If you suspect a fellow student of plagiarizing you, please see the Dean of Admissions. If you suspect yourself of plagiarizing another student, please see the Dean of Admissions.

Other Notes

It is the belief of our department that this class is well worth taking, even if rarely feels like more than a retread of prior classes. Though it does not feature much in the way of new insight, it still offers up a good deal of fun. And in the end, who doesn’t love to have some fun?

Thank you for signing up for Politics 403. Enjoy your semester.

[Extra Credits/Demerits (+/-)]

+ Mr. Bartlet implying that he and the Joint Chiefs should all have “gang nicknames”.
+ Ms. Fiderer’s humorously stoic demeanor around Mr. Gianelli.
+ Ms. Moss playfully mocking Mr. Lyman’s frantic attempts at alerting the motorcade from Politics 401.
+ Mr. Gianelli referring to Mr. Ziegler, Mr. Lyman, and Ms. Moss as “Barnum, Bailey, and their sister Sue”.
+ Ms. Fiderer rejoicing to herself after Mr. Bartlet assures her that she can keep her position.



14 thoughts on “West Wing 4×03: College Kids”

  1. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    I don’t remember this particular episode very well, but your change of form is hilarious.


  2. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    Thanks, Zarn. But truly, this is what happens when I can’t think of anything new to say about an episode.


  3. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    If that really is the case, I can’t wait to see what little you have to say about the rest of S4.


  4. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    Sadly, I will probably have a lot more to say about the later episodes. But I’ll still try to keep things entertaining.


  5. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    It really is amazing that this whole review boiled down to about 3 short paragraphs. But if you have nothing to say, better not to stretch it out, so good job making this a fun read.


  6. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    Wow, I just had to say – nice work. I haven’t seen a single episode of this series, but I’m more than impressed by how creatively you hide the fact that there is nothing creative to speak of to begin with. You don’t often see a writer who’s able to maneuver through several differing styles so seamlessly. I couldn’t help but feel the need to compliment it.


  7. [Note: Jeremy G. posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    Thanks, guys. Getting genuine praise from non-viewers is an added bonus of shifting the review format.


  8. [Note: alfridito017 posted this comment on February 22, 2016.]

    What a creative way to do a review, Jeremy. I didn’t watch the episode, but it seemed you got all the points of the episode. Good work!!


  9. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on February 24, 2016.]

    I honestly had forgotten that this episode existed. Thanks for reminding me of why I didn’t remember most of it.

    Looking forward to the next string of reviews, Jeremy – keep up the great work!


  10. [Note: Jay posted this comment on February 24, 2016.]

    C.J. in a “Rock the Vote” is actually one of the major things I remember from my first run at the series so many years ago. The other is the “Lemon Lyman” subplot. Curious that they were the moments of levity in what were otherwise somewhat weak episodes. And perhaps campaigning has only gotten more stupid and tiresome over the following elections, but then the dynamics have changed so much over the years with regard to fundraising that I almost wish there were a contemporary political show to address issues like Citizen’s United and the 365-day fundraising schedule.


  11. [Note: Matthew posted this comment on April 10, 2016.]

    Excuse me, but would you mind if I asked you if you still think Sopranos’ “Funhouse” is still the best episode in television history? Besides, what’s your favorite movie?


  12. [Note: Boscalyn posted this comment on April 10, 2016.]

    If you’re interested in the regular commenters’ opinions on things it might be worth your while to check out the forum. Alex, Zarnium, myself, and of course Jeremy (who writes these reviews) are all regular posters there with about a decade of posts between us.

    To answer your question, I remember him saying his favorite film was Return of the Jedi, followed by Casablanca. You’d have to ask him whether he still loved “Funhouse.”


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