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The West Wing: Pick a Favorite Side Character

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The blessing and curse of The West Wing, especially during the Sorkin seasons, is that sparkling guest stars would show up playing characters who seemed to be destined for long, impactful runs on the show, only to either disappear forever or not return for interminably-long stretches. The blessing is that it leaves us with wonderful bite-sized binges for the best of, say, Marlee Matlin's Joey Lucas, or Emily Procter's Ainsley Hayes, or even Matthew Perry's Joe Quincy. I'd suggest a perfect little binge of the best of Amy Gardner, as portrayed by the incomparable Mary-Louise Parker.

"The Women of Qumar" (Season 3, Episode 😎

"H. Con-172" (Season 3, Episode 10)

"100,000 Airplanes" (Season 3, Episode 11)

"The Two Bartlets" (Season 3, Episode 12)

"Dead Irish Writers" (Season 3, Episode 16)

"We Killed Yamamoto" (Season 3, Episode 20)

"Posse Comitatus" (Season 3, Episode 21)

"The Red Mass" (Season 4, Episode 4)

"Debate Camp" (Season 4, Episode 5)

"Process Stories" (Season 4, Episode 😎

"Red Haven's on Fire" (Season 4, Episode 17)

"Privateers" (Season 4, Episode 18)

"Commencement" (Season 4, Episode 22)

"Twenty-Five" (Season 4, Episode 23)

"Constituency of One" (Season 5, Episode 5)

"Freedonia" (Season 6, Episode 15)

"Requiem" (Season 7, Episode 18)

"The Last Hurrah" (Season 7, Episode 20)

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If I may, I'd like to suggest another side character that would be a delight to binge upon upon whom it would be a delight to binge.

My all-time favorite West Wing side character was Lord John Marbury, later ambassador from the Court of St. James. 

His episodes (I can't believe that there are only five - he had such an out-sized effect on the show!):

  • The Wake Up Call (2005 - season 6, episode 14) 
  • Dead Irish Writers (2002 - season 3, episode 16) 
  • The Drop In (2001 - season 2, episode 12) 
  • He Shall, from Time to Time... (2000 - season 1, episode 12) 
  • Lord John Marbury (2000 - season 1, episode 11)

Among my favorite Lord John takedowns:


Lord John Marbury: When we had a particular problem with someone, one solution we would try is to make him a maharajah. That's a kind of a regional king. We would pay him off with an annual tribute and in return he would be loyal to the crown.

Leo McGarry: Lord Marbury, under our constitution the President is not empowered to create maharajahs.

Lord John Marbury: Yes, thank you for clearing that up, Leo. Having been educated at Cambridge and the Sorbonne I am, as you know, exceedingly stupid.


President Josiah Bartlet: [following the appointment of Marbury to be the British Ambassador to the United States]  What made you agree to take the post?

Brit. Ambassador Lord John Marbury: I don't know, I suppose it's possible I was drunk.

Josh Lyman: Reasonable bet.


[British Ambassador Lord John Marbury joins the President and First Lady at her birthday gala celebration] 

Brit. Ambassador Lord John Marbury: Abigail!

President Josiah Bartlet: Now it's a party.

Abbey Bartlet: Oh. Yes, your lordship.

Brit. Ambassador Lord John Marbury: Your breasts are magnificent.

Abbey Bartlet: Oh. Um... thank you, John.

Brit. Ambassador Lord John Marbury: May I inquire, Mr. President - the first thing that attracted you to Abigail - was it her magnificent breasts?

Abbey Bartlet: It was.

President Josiah Bartlet: You know John, there are places in the world where it might be considered rude to talk about the physical attributes of another man's wife.

Brit. Ambassador Lord John Marbury: My god. Really?

President Josiah Bartlet: Yeah.


Edited by j5cochran
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My favorite side character is Ainsley Hayes. But most of her best episodes are close together. 
Nevertheless, here it is:

1) In This White House - Season 2, Episode 4

2) And It’s Surely to Their Credit - Season 2, Episode 5

3) Bartlet’s Third State of the Union - Season 2, Episode 13

4) 17 People - Season 2, Episode 18

5) Ways and Means - Season 3, Episode 3

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I would like to thank @j5cochran and @deaja for doing the investigative leg work of finding the specific episodes, respectively, for Lord John Marbury and for Ainsley Hayes, because when I first read this thread last night, they were the first two side characters whose episodes I decided I wanted to binge watch!

As soon as I finish my curated binge of Top Chef's "Restaurant Wars" episodes, I'll take a swing at my favorite side characters from The West Wing.  🙂

Love this idea!

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