Eppur Si Muove (The West Wing)

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"Eppur Si Muove"
The West Wing episode
Eppur si muove.JPG
The president urges Ellie to go public.
Episode no. Season 5
Episode 16
Directed by Llewellyn Wells
Written by Alexa Junge
Production code 176066
Original air date March 3, 2004
Guest actors
Season 5 episodes
List of The West Wing episodes

"Eppur Si Muove" is the sixteenth episode of The West Wing's fifth season, and episode 104 from the start. It originally aired on NBC March 3, 2004.[1] Events centre on a controversy relating to the National Institutes of Health, involving President Bartlet’s middle daughter Ellie. Written by Alexa Junge and directed by Llewellyn Wells, the episode contains guest appearances by Michael Gaston and Cherry Jones, as well as characters from Sesame Street.[2]

Plot[edit]

Republican Congresswoman Barbara Layton (Jones) starts a campaign against publicly funded NIH projects into sexual diseases. The attack is based on a list of seemingly useless projects, but by association, her real target becomes the president's daughter Ellie, who is working on a study into the Human papillomavirus that researched conditions for prostitutes in Puerto Rico. The President is infuriated at having a family member dragged into political battles, and Toby tries to discredit the attack by finding its source. At first the list seems to originate from a far-right group called the "Traditional Values Alliance", but Toby's assistant Rena uncovers an updated list that shows it came from within the administration. Toby immediately suspects the Vice President's office. When confronted, Will takes full responsibility, and assures that the list was compiled purely for internal use and not leaked on purpose. Will suspects that his boss might have leaked the material on purpose, however, and Russell in private agrees he has ties to the Republicans on health issues and notes that having some distance from the President isn't a bad thing for him. Will is left utterly disgusted with the VP.

Meanwhile President Bartlet tries to persuade Ellie to speak to the press to contain the incidence, but Ellie insists she is not as comfortable with the spotlight as the other members of the family. She later watches her mother do a light-hearted appearance on Sesame Street, to defend her right to practice medicine even after voluntarily giving up her licence. This inspires her to follow her father's advice, and give a passionate public statement about the necessity of a politically independent scientific community.

In parallel storylines, Josh tries to end a deadlock on the appointment of a 6th Circuit federal court judge. His old friend Eric Hayden (Gaston) has been waiting for a year for confirmation from the Republican-led Congress, and is offered the position of dean of Georgetown's law school. But Josh suggests making a temporary recess appointment that will at least put the issue on the agenda. Hayden apparently agrees, but when Josh brings the case before Leo he is told that the federal courts will have to wait, due to the death of a Supreme Court justice. Josh is surprised that the dead justice is not Chief Justice Roy Ashland but a younger conservative judge named Owen Brady. C.J., meanwhile, tries to make things right with resurfaced college boyfriend Ben, whom she has been forced to ignore due to her workload. But she soon realises she might have come on too strong. Josh’s intern Ryan, it appears, has not showed up for work this day, to Donna's concern and Josh's overt joy. [1][2][3]

Social and cultural references[edit]

The title of the episode refers to the president quoting Galileo Galilei, leaving the Roman Inquisition after having recanted his heliocentric theory of the universe. "Eppur si muove" – "And yet it moves". The story – as Ellie points out – is probably apocryphal, but evidence shows that it was current as early as a decade after Galileo’s trial.[4]

The advocacy group "Traditional Values Alliance" is a thinly veiled version of the real-life "Traditional Values Coalition" (TVC). TVC sent a letter of protest to NBC producers, reacting to their portrayal on the show. In particular it was the association with a group stating that "The Lord Hates Homosexuals" that provoked the coalition, reading in this an allusion to the controversial anti-gay pastor Fred Phelps. TVC, the group pointed out in its letter, had clearly distanced itself from Phelps and his methods.[2][5]

The restaurant, "1789", that Ben and C.J. planned lunch at is a real restaurant in Washington.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Eppur Si Muove". NBC.com. Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  2. ^ a b c "Eppur Si Muove". The West Wing Episode Guide. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  3. ^ "Eppur Si Muove". Television Without Pity. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  4. ^ Stillman Drake, Galileo at Work: His Scientific Biography (Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, 2003) p. 357, ISBN 0-486-49542-6.
  5. ^ "Liberal Program Ties TVC To "God Hates Fags" Extremist". The Traditional Values Coalition. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 

External links[edit]