I still remember exactly where I was when I watched Season 2, Episode 21 of The West Wing . I was sitting on my couch sobbing, which is where I stayed for probably the next hour or so, tearily asking my then-boyfriend "Why?" over and over while angrily texting my friend who'd watched the show when it was on the air but hadn't warned me that it would casually break my heart when I was least expecting it. We'd been marathon watching the series like chain-smokers, one episode after the another, but after "18th and Potomac," I needed a break and someone to hold my hand. I might still need someone to hold my hand.
If you're a fan of the show, I'm assuming you've figured out by now which episode I'm talking about, but in case you haven't — it's the one where Mrs. Landingham dies. Yup. Still get a weight in the pit of my stomach just typing that. It's the one where Mrs. Dolores Landingham, personal secretary to President Josiah Bartlet and my favorite character, is wiped off the face of the planet, because Aaron Sorkin really knows how to crush your heart into a million pieces. Because truly, you guys, I think about Mrs. Landingham's death at least once a week. It affected me that deeply. To date, it's one of the saddest things that ever happened on television, and here are some reasons why the episode is worth revisiting... with a huge box of Kleenex.
1. Because She Was Killed By A Drunk Driver
This has been used as a plot device on television for years, but it's still a problem in real life, and the emotional resonance of the moment still echoes in the spirit to this day.
2. ...While She Was Driving Back To Work To Show The President Her New Car
At his own request. Come on.
3. Because In President Bartlet's Last Conversation With Her He Said He Wanted To Have "A Word" With Her When She Got Back
And now he never will ever again. I'm not crying, I'm just cutting onions.
4. Because He Always Called Her "Mrs. Landingham"
Other members of his staff he referred to by their first names, but he had an unfailing deference for Mrs. Landingham that made her death truly heart-breaking.
5. Because She Met Jed Bartlet When He Was A Teenager
They'd known each other for forever! She was actually the secretary for Jed's father, the elder Mr. Bartlet, and then came on with Jed's team when he ran for governor. So much history together.
6. Because She'd Gone Through So Much
Not only is Mrs. Landingham a widow by the time she comes to work in the White House, but she also lost her twin sons Andrew and in the Vietnam War on the same day which — oh yeah — was also Christmas Eve. Too much. My heart. I can't.
7. Because She Was Just The Best Ever & Never Put Up With Any Stupidity
C.J. Cregg gets a lot of the credit for being a feminist icon on The West Wing , but Mrs. Landingham had it from the jump. She was just not to be messed with. Ever.
8. Because It Can Still Crush You To This Day
9. Because She Put The Pen In Your Pocket
Can't even explain this because I'll bawl, for real.
RIP Mrs. Landingham. We didn't deserve you, but we will watch your final episode again and again and sob into our pillows forever. It was that painful, in the best kind of way.
Images: Warner Bros. Television; Giphy (10)