""Good evening. On December 16th, we lost our dear friend and colleague, John Spencer. Through our shock and grief, we can think of no more fitting memorial to this wonderful man, this extraordinary actor, than to share with beginning tonight, the last few months of his work here on The West Wing.
Johnny, it seems we hardly knew you. We love you. And we miss you."
You can discuss the episode at Television Without Pity.
Lengthy recap from LTG at Television Without Pity
Recap from West Wing Continutiy Guide.
From TV Squad.
Comment from TV Guide's Matt Roush:
"One of the biggest, and saddest, stories of the new TV year is how The West Wing will deal with the unexpected death last month of John Spencer, who brought such dignity, authority and wit to the role of Leo McGarry. My hope, as I've stated elsewhere, is that the writers will not try to replace him with another actor at this late date in the show's life, but instead will find a way to honor him and the character while providing the show with the sort of closure that is only fitting in what seems certain to be The West Wing's final season.
My faith in The West Wing to do the right thing was bolstered by Sunday's (Jan. 8) terrific episode, which by eerie but satisfying happenstance focused on Leo's character as he prepared for a vice-presidential debate, ultimately exceeding everyone's (including his own) low expectations. In a special introduction, Martin Sheen praised his colleague and friend, noting that the best tribute to a character actor like John Spencer is the opportunity to watch and appreciate his final months of work.
This "Running Mates" episode was one of Spencer's best in a long time, as he sparred with his handlers, most notably Kristin Chenoweth as perky Annabeth. "What my life has come to... " Leo growled as Annabeth literally tried to wipe the smirk off his face, forcing his lips into a scowl. "You seem to have graduated from cudgel to bludgeon," he snarled, albeit affectionately.
Even if (like me) you predicted that Leo was the one leaking news of his dreadful debate rehearsals to the blogosphere, it was great fun admiring his caginess.
And in the episode's most unnerving sequence, you couldn't help flinch when he was asked a question about his own medical condition. He turned it into an attack on Republican health care, starting with the blunt acknowledgment: "By an overwhelming percentage, the first warning symptom of a heart attack is death."
A more timid show might have squelched this sadly prophetic exchange. But I'm betting John Spencer would have relished the irony.
Just as Leo McGarry proved to be a formidable candidate to the end, so did John Spencer always deliver the goods, even when the show itself left a lot to be desired."
From The Standard Times:
"My husband Hank and I watch "The West Wing," and were saddened by the recent death of John Spencer.
Spencer was the wonderful actor who played Leo McGarry, the former chief of staff to president Martin Sheen. This season, Leo has been the vice presidential running mate of Jimmy Smits's character, Matt Santos.
There's great irony in the fact that last season, Leo nearly died after a massive heart attack. That's what killed John Spencer in real life on Dec. 16.
Anyway, the Jan. 8 episode of "West Wing" was the first since Spencer's passing and it revolved around Leo and his preparation for a vice presidential debate.
One of the questions was whether Leo's past health problems affected his ability to be vice president.
While I wasn't taking notes, his answer was something to this effect:
"I'm doing great now. Yes, I almost died. I probably would have if I hadn't had the best doctors in the world."
Then came his kicker:
"I had what every American should have."
Now, I fully realize that what we see on TV isn't real. But, boy, I wish it was.
Wouldn't it be great if all Americans, no matter what their circumstances, got the best health care possible?
The reality, of course, is something different: Too often, quality of care has more to do with what you can pay. And it's getting more costly all the time.
Even for those with good health insurance -- thankfully, I count Hank and myself among them -- it's by no means a free ride.
In the 16 months since Hank's stroke, we've seen dozens of doctors and therapists. While treatment has been excellent and insurance has covered many of our expenses, we've still paid out of pocket. A lot.
Co-pays for therapy and prescription drugs alone have totaled thousands of dollars. And since we're not independently wealthy, we've definitely felt the pinch.
Yet, when I hear stories of people who for financial reasons forgo care, or go into massive debt because of illness, I remind myself how lucky we are.
Because not everyone is.
Hank recently wrote a column about another stroke survivor, Dick Clark, and his hard climb back to co-host "Rockin' New Year's Eve."
As a multi-millionaire, Clark obviously has access to the very best medicine has to offer. And given the significant stroke he suffered, what he has been able to afford most certainly has helped him come back as far as he has.
I'm willing to bet someone with lesser resources would not have regained what Dick Clark has.
Similarly, I believe Hank wouldn't be where he is if we weren't able to afford the treatment he continues to receive.
A reader with serious health problems gently reminded us of that, e-mailing Hank in response to the Dick Clark column.
"Does . . . recovery depend on luck?," she wrote. "The right insurance company? The personal funds to make up the difference? Would you have done as well as you have in your recovery with a limited insurance budget? Limited personal funds?
"I am in awe of everyone who works so hard to recover from a stroke, but please don't forget that many of us fall through the cracks and are limited in recovery by financial concerns."
Know what? Shes absolutely correct. With the way the system works, not everyone who gets sick has an equal shot at getting better.
It's simply not fair. It's simply not right.
And, it's something we all should remember -- no matter how fortunate we are."
TV Guide comment
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