When I first heard of the death of John Spencer, I naturally found the news sad. I never really got to know Spencer's acting work until The West Wing, on which he plays Leo McGarry. I loved the portrayal of his character, and wondered how much of himself he put into McGarry.
The question has taken on an eerie feel, though, since McGarry had an almost-fatal heart attack last season.
With Spencer's death, though, a new question arises. What happens to the story? McGarry is the current Vice-Presidential candidate on the show. The obvious thing for the writers to do would be to kill off McGarry and replace him on the ticket.
But for a moment, I had an uh-oh thought.
In the opening scene of "The Ticket" (9/25/05), the first episode this season, we saw a flashforward to three years in the future, when the Bartlett presidential library is being dedicated. And for a while there, I thought that Leo McGarry was in that scene. If that had been the case, then they couldn't kill off McGarry, as that would be a major contradiction. They'd have to find some other way to get him off the ticket and off the show. (I suppose a second, non-fatal heart attack could have done.)
But I checked the scene, and it turns out that my memory had been flawed. McGarry isn't in the flashforward. Nor is there any mention of him. Which kind of makes me wonder if the producers knew something about Spencer's health, and kept McGarry out of that scene just in case.
What do we know from that scene?
- CJ is married to Danny and they have a baby.
- Toby and the President might have a strained relationship; then again, it could be their shared reticence to show emotion. Also, Toby's teaching at Columbia.
- Kate has written a book. Note that she's standing next to Will Bailey.
- Will Bailey is in Congress, on Ways and Means.
- Charlie is alive. (Well, that's really all we know. That, and that Bartlett did something in Jakarta to get them talking.)
- Josh is the man of the hour, and the one who knows that the President is arriving.
Which makes me wonder. It's clear that Bartlett and the others are deferring to Josh for some reason. Now, it could be because he ran a successful campaign and got Santos elected --
-- or it could be because he's the Vice-President of the United States.
I guess we'll just have to see where the show goes from here...