Now, where to start?
What I loved most about the episode was its realism. A theatre director friend of mine once told me that crying is easy, it’s acting the emotion that’s hard. And that’s exactly what everyone did in this episode. It was all drama, no melodrama – no weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Every single performance was spot-on; Donna, when she’s telling Josh in the corridor; his reaction then, and at the hospital when it looks like someone just punched him in the gut; CJ telling the President, and Bartlet telling Abby; Margaret watching it on TV; Santos hearing it over the phone and just reaching for his wife’s hand. Every one, perfect.
All through the episode they captured that weird sense of dislocated normality you feel after someone's died, where life goes on and you find yourself laughing at things but it all feels dreamlike and distant.
Brad Whitford acted that so perfectly, the way he was just one step behind the world at times. The first scene after Leo has died, where he's staring out the window and trying to get his head around the election results, was so poignant. He hardly knows what’s happening around him, and of course it’s Donna who takes charge and takes care of him.
For us shippers, this is the pay off. This is the wonderful moment where their relationship finally, finally comes full circle. It’s back to how it was before she left. She's there for him, she's watching him, taking care of him the way she always used to, only this time it's entirely personal. As she said last week, she's been ‘appointed’ (self-appointed!) to make sure he's okay, and that's exactly what she does. When he disappears, she goes looking for him – and, of course, she knows exactly where to find him.
The scene in Leo's room was so powerful. Josh alone, crying quietly to himself, but not elegant Hollywood crying, real wiping-your-nose-on-your-sleeve crying. Again with the realism. And Donna does exactly what she has to do, because she knows him so well. She talks to him, tells him that it’s not his fault, tells him what an amazing thing it is he’s achieved - and how proud Leo was of him. That’s the moment where he just collapses against her, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen Josh turn to anyone like that in the whole seven years. He needs her so much, and he doesn’t bother to – or can’t – disguise it any longer.
He depends on her completely throughout the episode; she's his rock, his refuge. It's beautiful and elegant, because that's exactly how their relationship has always worked. He’s the fire, Donna’s the earth – she grounds him, steadies him, and loves him. And he can’t live without her. Except, before, it was always in the context of their professional relationship, and now it's personal and they both know it.
This was the perfect counterpoint to last week's episode, and what a brilliant way to play it out. If they hadn't brought them together physically last week, this emotional closeness would have still been ambiguous and couched in terms of their professional relationship. But because they’ve, literally, just slept together it puts everything into the context of lovers. She’s looking after him because she loves him, he turns to her because he loves her and needs her more than anyone else. It’s beautiful and subtle.
To top it all off, we get that wonderful hug when the election is won… eken95 pointed out that, when the results first come in, everyone is hugging and cheering and Josh is alone in the centre of it all. He’s completely alone. And then Donna comes up, touches him and brings him back into the world, and if that hug doesn’t say, ‘I love you, I need you, don’t ever leave me’ I don’t know what does; the way his face is pressed against her hair, the look in his eyes, his arms wrapped so tightly around her… Wow.
And then the final scene - Josh is absently dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, it’s as if he doesn’t know what else to do. He’s been doing this for over a year, twenty hours a day, seven days a week. He doesn’t want to be at the party, so he’s just pottering… And Donna’s there – just like she used to come and stand in the doorway to his office, not saying anything, just watching him and seeing if he needs her. Perfect.
And so the episode ends on Leo… ‘Thanks boss’.
Wonderful. Just wonderful.
(Icon used with kind permission of coloneljack *adores icon*)