The end of this episode was just masterful. A techno soundtrack picks up in the White House Situation Room, where Leo, Nancy, and Fitzwallace are recapping five missing terrorists, "What kind of day has it been?" Then the scene fades into a nightclub, establishing Zoey's arrival. It switches to Donna and Amy talking in the office about Josh. Techno again fades up near the end of the scene, as we switch to CJ and Danny in the press briefing room. Danny's finally proven the Shareef assassination, hasn't slept in three days, and is sitting on it 'till the missing (Islamic) terrorist issue passes. We're about to see Donna begin to confront her feelings for Josh. We go back to Zoey and Jean Paul talking in the club. Zoey's having second thoughts about spending three months in France, about Charlie.
Everyone is amped up. The pulsing techno beat heightens it for us.
From this point, the music never again ceases. We flit back to Donna and Amy. The nightclub--Jean Paul's spiked Zoey's drink with half a tab of Ecstasy. The press room--Danny's outlining the essential questions to be asked. Charlie, Josh, and Wesley (Zoey's detail head) out in front of the club. Zoey's gone to the bathroom. The detail's confused where Zoey is. Wesley investigates. Molly, the agent outside the back door, doesn't answer radio calls. Wesley races out the back to find an empty alley, Zoey's panic button on the ground, and Molly dead, shot once in the head.
We were racing down the hill, now we've fallen off the cliff at the bottom of it. The techno still pumps, Leo's about to leave the SitRoom. Ron Butterfield, the head of the President's Secret Service detail, appears in the doorway, nearly breathless and barely composed, with the news about Zoey. He barely spits it out. The two walk off to tell the President. We see, from an overhead shot, them hurry through the Oval Office, now at a trot. They exit to the portico and head towards the residence breaking into a run. Black and white images of Zoey's face strobe over the trip, and we flash to the producer credit, black on a white background, just as Leo reaches the door.
Even if the previews hadn't been hyping a kidnapping, I would have known one was coming. West Wing has always been good about doing fun tension-filled episodes. But the music is usually the same orchestral ambience as usual. We knew Zoey was going to a nightclub, but when the techno fades in over the Situation Room, (particularly over Leo's words, "What kind of day has it been?",) it's out of place. The pulsing urgent tone of the music tells us something's very, very wrong. The pacing of the scenes matches. It's clear there will be far greater intensity than usual.
The pieces are all in place. We've seen all the guns on the mantel. The new Secret Service detail for Zoey, the President's concern for her safety, the young agent's display of strength to relieve him--we know that agent's going to die, she might as well put on a red shirt. Zoey has to wave her panic button. The Shareef cover-up is coming to a head, and terrorists have gone missing. Zoey's plans for the night were common knowledge. And then she's intoxicated.
The characters are played beautifully. Danny can't sleep, he's been working on the Shareef story for nearly a year and he's finally near its end. Donna clearly has feelings for Josh, and Amy's forced her to face them. Zoey's anxious about her summer in France and Charlie. We saw shots fired at the White House last week, and Ron Butterfield was a rock. Now we see what rattles him.
Several storylines have been set up, we're about to see them paid off. I see why JMS speaks so highly of Aaron Sorkin, they both appear to have the same affection for long-term plots like this.
One episode to go. We already saw the the President clearing Wesley to kill the boyfriend if the situation demands it. That boyfriend's been consistently shown as so arrogant as not to earn audience sympathy. As he smirks in the nightclub, some people think it's because he spiked Zoey's drink, others think he's in on the kidnapping. Either way, I'm almost certain he buys it next week.