As the panelists leave the lecture hall, Will just looks stunned. And as soon as the doors close behind them, Sharon and Lewis immediately start reaming him out. He apologizes and says, “I’m taking medicine for vertigo and I think it works, because I’ve got it.” Ooh, that’s not a good thing to say in front of two people you just humiliated. Still looking shell-shocked, he demands, “What did I say out there?”
Credits! They are gloriously Sorkin-y. Or at least they are for the pilot. I look forward to loving them – and this cast – at least close to as much as The West Wing. Also, the music is by Thomas Newman of many Pixar movies and others. He may not be Snuffy, but he’s good.
Aww, we get an episode title card, just like in Sports Night and TWW! (I’m going to be comparing to those very frequently, at least at first, so I hope that doesn’t bother you all too much.) Three weeks later, Will arrives at work after his – presumably enforced – vacation. He walks into his office at ACN without noticing that the bullpen area is all but empty. Uh oh. The three main characters who are there watch him, then the couple (Don and Maggie) start arguing again. He thinks it’s too soon to meet her parents after four months, but Maggie doesn’t agree. Don asks Dev Patel (whose character’s name is Neal) his opinion. Neal would rather be left alone. Don tells Maggie to tell her parents that he had to work late, even though no one ever says that unless they’re lying. He says he’s sure she can sell it. They then switch topics abruptly in that Sorkinesque way: Don tells Maggie she’s making a dumb decision out of loyalty, and Maggie says Don is making a smart decision out of ambition. It becomes clear they’re talking about Maggie staying with Will as his new assistant, when nearly everyone else has jumped ship to join the show Don is now executive producing. Don says, “He can’t remember your name, and I’m the asshole?” Well, see, there’s no need to limit it to just one person, Don.
Meanwhile, Will has finally noticed that he has almost no staff. He comes out and asks where everyone is. Don avoids the question and Maggie tries hard to be helpful without telling him. He repeats the question a bunch of times, but the gist is he’ll have to go talk to Charlie Skinner, the boss, to get a real answer. He goes to talk to Charlie. Charlie is played by the awesome Sam Waterston, and he is clearly this show’s Leo and/or Isaac. I love him almost immediately. We learn, via a colorful story from Charlie, that he was in Vietnam (like Leo), and that he’s kind of quirky (like Leo and Isaac), and that he’s a drunk (like Leo). We also learn that Don used to be the executive producer (EP) for Will, but he’s now EP-ing the show for a guy named Elliot. Will is not pleased. He goes to yell at both Elliot and Don. Don tries to explain. There is some more excellent Sorkinese: “You asked to leave? Because of what happened?” “No, it has nothing to do with what happened. Charlie, didn’t you tell him this has nothing to do with what happened?” “Yes, and talk to him when you’re talking to him.” Oh, the dialogue patterns. It’s like coming home.
Finally, Don gets to the point: he’s leaving because of Will’s personality. Will bellows that he’s affable, but Don says that’s only to people who watch him on TV. And Will really does come across like, well, like an asshole here. But Don gets his turn later. The argument between Will and Don escalates until Charlie has to step in and yell at Don that he will take Don down. Things calm slightly. Will says Don is obviously leaving a sinking ship like the smart guy he is. Don stares, and says he’ll work with whoever Will hires for the next two weeks to smooth the transition. Because that kind of thing always smooths things over. Elliot is almost pointless during this scene, by the way. Also he has almost no charisma, so I wonder how he’s going to anchor a news show.
The next scene is Charlie and Will having drinks. Will says he didn’t know people didn’t like working for him. Charlie asks if he cares. “No,” says Will, then adds, “Of course I care! Anybody would care. But honestly, I don’t.” Heh. Yeah, you’re definitely trying to be Josh Lyman or Jed Bartlet – the arrogant, self-absorbed, idealistic genius with a good heart. Anyway, Charlie breaks in to inform Will that he’s already hired Will a new EP. Will is flabbergasted – and then outraged when he learns who it is: Mackenzie, aka Phantom Emily Mortimer. So this is Josh and Mandy, take two. Good thing I don’t loathe Mackenzie with a fiery passion, though, so I don’t want her to fly off to Mandyville after season one. Charlie says she’s the one who can right the ship. He also informs us that she’s been a reporter in war zone after war zone for two years, she’s exhausted, but no one at the other networks had a place for her. Will isn’t unmoved by this, but he declares that he’s going down to his agent’s office to renegotiate his contract to make sure Mackenzie can’t be his EP. As he’s storming out, Charlie yells after him that three years ago – the last time Will saw Mackenzie – was coincidentally the last time Will was a nice guy. Then Charlie orders another drink. Please don’t die of an alcohol-related illness, Charlie.