I dusted off my copies of the West Wing scriptbooks recently. They’re broken up into Seasons 1 & 2 and 3 & 4. You can get them here.
I love these scripts. I love these characters, and most of all I love White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler. I get this guy. He’s focused to the point of solemnity. He is driven by perfect abstracts, and he lives in a fallen world. Words are principles are his sword and shield. I’m not saying I share these traits. I connect more with how he’s perceived.
In this episode, Twenty Five, Toby’s ex-wife gives birth to their twins. He surprised her with her dream house in the morning, hoping she will see the gesture as a sign of his commitment to her and accept his proposal. She doesn’t. He really thought this would work. He thought he read the situation correctly, and he’s baffled and crushed and slipping into a war footing. His ex says she can’t marry him again because he’s constantly sad. Because he brings “sadness into a house.”
It’s a jolt. Initially we think he’s oblivious to the perception, but we find out later that he knows exactly how he presents himself and to what degree he daily armors himself to slay the dragon.Just as they leave the dream house, her water breaks. The babies were supposed to arrive ten days later. Nope. It’s happening today.
During the birth, the president’s youngest daughter is kidnapped, and a Secret Service agent named Molly is killed. Toby dashes back to work to circle the wagons, and he lets everyone know that: a) the proposal failed; but b) the twins are here. Mozel tovs all around. Toby confesses to Chief of Staff Leo McGarry that he’s afraid he won’t love his children. The armor is too thick, and that human connection is locked inside. Leo says he’s nuts. He’s gonna be a great father. He’s gonna be walloped by love. “It’s a mortal lock. I guarantee it.”
With nothing left to do at the White House as the country shuts down to find the kidnappers, Toby goes back to the hospital. And the above scene takes place. It’s a killer, and we get to see Toby’s armor slip.
I used to hate kids. I didn’t speak their language, and I didn’t understand how they worked. When we were expecting our son, I had the exact same fear, that whatever normal people feel would elude me, and I was worried what that would do to him. I was sure he’d interpret my blast shields as apathy towards him. Or disappointment. Or intentional detachment.
I don’t think that’s happened. I’m kinda nuts about my guy. I have the biggest paternal crush imaginable. And most important, I’m learning how to show it now I know I can. This scene reminded me of that, and I’m grateful to be reminded where I was and how far my son has brought me out of that armor.
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