Okay, folks, it's "Sports Night" time again, and Linda Holmes from NPR's Monkey See blog has once again been a life-saver in helping this project get done amidst my vacations and other summer distractions. Her thoughts on "Eli's Coming" and "Ordnance Tactics" coming right up...
What I love about Dan's discussion of the title song in "Eli's Coming" is that it's so obviously a real thing – either Aaron Sorkin or someone he knew had the same misunderstanding of the song that Dan did. It's too offbeat to be made up.
What is made up is the ridiculous conclusion to the Bobbi Bernstein story. Let us indulge for a moment the fantasy that Dan could plausibly forget that he slept with her and that he was ever in the entire country of Spain. (And if his memory of it is THAT wiped out, why does he look at the picture and remember her as Roberta?) If, indeed, Bobbi went by "Roberta" and knows she looked completely different, then she never would have been so confused in the first place about why he didn't remember. As soon as Dan balked, she'd have explained it: “I went by Roberta then. I had braces and red hair [or whatever].” And who has their picture taken in a hotel room next to the towels with a one-night stand? Who took the picture, Housekeeping? It's just stupid. It's a stupid, backwards-justified story idea that's there for an admittedly interesting reason.
I think what they were trying to accomplish here was giving Dan something to think about as far as his own behavior as he considered Steve Sisko's treatment of Rebecca and Gordon's treatment of Dana. I think the idea was something like, "Even nice guys accidentally hurt women by not treating them gently enough." It's a little patronizing, but it's well-intentioned, and it would have been nice if they hadn't chosen such a numbskulled way of executing it.
The slow car accident that is Dan's relationship with Rebecca also progresses nicely here. The news that Steve is visiting her is bad news and everybody instinctively knows it. And yes, it's worse that it's on Saturday, even though nobody can exactly articulate why. And then, of course, it gets cleared up, and Dan doesn't like the answer.
As for Dana and Casey, they're still mid-ugliness from the Fedrigatti incident. I have to admit to having never quite understood why Dana handing the show off to Sally to produce so that she could go to dinner would be quite such a betrayal to Casey for a single night. They all have nights off; they all get to go on vacation. That Casey finds it quite this heart-mangling of a personal slight has always seemed off to me. I mean, he's screwed up in the head because he's upset about Sally and Gordon and all of that business, but the level of outrage toward Dana seems out of proportion, no?
But the meat of "Eli's Coming," of course, is that this is how the show dealt – admirably, I think – with Robert Guillaume's stroke. Even with the writing clearly on the wall that he'd be gone a while and might be different upon his return, they kept Isaac on the show and created a story of his absence and recovery that capitalized perfectly on where they were trying to go with the delicate maneuvering between Isaac and the network.
It is always such a sad punch in the gut to me when Jeremy tells Dana, in that way that people do when they are working to believe their own optimism, that it could conceivably take four hours to get into the city from JFK. I think that's even worse than seeing Casey break the news to Dan.
One sports-related nitpick for which I must credit Alan: You would never be covering the Sweet 16 on a Saturday. Sweet 16 is Thursday. Elite Eight is Saturday. OOPS.
The bomb scare in "Ordnance Tactics," I admit, has never held my interest. Yes, it is a stand-in for the larger story of being under siege, of being threatened, of the possibility that the building – that the show – will fall down. But Dan and Casey's overreaction seems out of character.
What I like better is the political mess Dana is in. J.J. shows up to make his usual vague threats and promises about what he will do for her if she takes him into her confidence. It's exactly what he did with Isaac when he (presumably) planted the quote – he's trying to create trouble, or threatening to create trouble, so that he can be the guy who solves it. He's just odious, but again, he sees himself as a guy who's doing his job and looking out for himself.
But as little as I care for the bomb scare, I care about this Jeremy/Natalie dance even less. All he's suggesting is that they "temporarily" (a word he stresses over and over) stop seeing each other. If it's temporary, then they're not breaking up. That's the difference between temporary and permanent. One is breaking up, and one is, presumably, just not spending so much time together. And if it's temporary, then WHO CARES?
We do return here, though relatively briefly, to the Gordon/Dana/Casey/Sally business that's been on a simmer. After Casey half-accuses Sally of having Natalie passed over, Sally says, "You know, for someone I'm sleeping with, you don't say the nicest things to me." I really do wish that she'd been allowed to not be quite so wounded. It irks me that Casey and Dan have both, over two episodes, played out the "don't forget that it hurts women if you sleep with them and aren't nice enough afterwards" routine. It feels a little retro, the idea that women always need to be sent flowers and so forth. Sometimes, women don't care about you, either.
Also, this is what makes me like Casey less. When he says, "How many people know about us?" the implication is clear. And the implication is, "You'd better not be telling people." As I said last time, it is a basic violation of the respect you owe the people you're sleeping with to communicate to them that you wouldn't want anyone to know on account of how other people would react. It's degrading, for lack of a fancier word, and it's a little sad when, right after that, she asks if they're sleeping together tonight as usual. It makes Sally seem desperate and grasping, which she didn't need to be. And then, of course, she freakishly overreacts to Dan's entrance, and all of a sudden, the last remaining professionally competent woman on the show is acting like a complete psycho. Fan-TAS-tic.
I can't bring myself to get all upset about the “We're women” speech Dana gives at the end, which sounds like nothing no woman would ever say. Women pretend everything is fine, while men air all their fears? What planet are they producing this sports show on, anyway?
At any rate, this is all setup for the final three episodes of the season: “Ten Wickets,” “Napoleon's Battle Plan,” and the season closer, “What Kind Of Day Has It Been?” Look for things to get a lot trickier over the course of those three episodes.
Thanks again, Linda. Again, my hope is to find some time to watch and write about all three remaining episodes in one post sometime before the end of the month. You won't know when (because I don't), but keep watching the skies.
What did everybody else think?