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BARTLET THINKS BIG FOR STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS; MARY-LOUISE PARKER, MARLEE MATLIN GUEST-STAR -- While the staff furiously labors over the President's crucial State of the Union speech, Bartlet suddenly demands to include a passage that ambitiously promises a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years while Sam (Rob Lowe) is interviewed for a Vanity Fair profile by a woman (as Lisa, guest star Traylor Howard) whom once was his fiancée. A lovestruck Josh (Bradley Whitford) brashly informs a prominent women's rights leader (guest star Mary Louise Parker, "Fried Green Tomatoes") that her budding romance with a Congressman is solely a product of political machinations. Elsewhere, pollster Joey Lucas (guest star Marlee Matlin) studies the sampled responses to the Chief Executive's speech.



Sam is at the National Strategies Group watching the President's State of the Union as well as monitoring several focus groups from across the country listening to the speech.  He is working with Lisa Sherborne, who is doing a piece for Vanity Fair.  Sam asks Joey Lucas to come over to answer Lisa's question on how the monitoring works.  As Bartlet finishes a particularly stirring passage and the chamber applauds - the numbers on the focus group spike sharply up.  Sam mentions to Lisa they were almost going to cure cancer.

Act I[]

At the reception following the State of the Union at the White House - Josh and Amy talk.  Sam arrives (with Lisa) and she presses him about the cancer.  He explains how the process works in writing the State of the Union.  He finishes by telling her that the job of writing the State of the Union got a lot harder two weeks earlier - when the Congress censured the President.

Two weeks earlier - Leo arrives in his office for Senior Staff - where he informs them the President has reached a deal with Congressional leadership to accept the censure.  The Senior Staff walk out and talk in the Roosevelt Room about what to do about the State of the Union.  Josh tells them that he recommended the President accept the censure and that the President is going to deliver the State of the Union.

C.J. tells Sam that Vanity Fair wants to do a profile on Sam, starting on the night of the State of the Union - she tells him the writer is Lisa Sherborne - Sam's former fiancee.  He really doesn't want to do it.

Back at the reception, Joey comes and Sam presses her on the dial groups.  The first twenty minutes are in and they aren't good.  He rejoins Lisa and lies to her about the early numbers.

Act II[]

Lisa and Sam continue their conversation - she wants to know why curing cancer got cut from the speech.  Flashing back to Josh and Donna, he is telling her about his next date with Amy Gardner.  He also wants her to get him a memo on welfare to work.  She is trying to resolve a trip he took to Arizona, but is stymied by the government regulations.

Toby comes to see Josh and Toby is struggling with the speech.  Toby says he needs some pie and asks Josh to go with him - but to not ask about the speech.  They talk about Amy Gardner - Toby tells Josh that she is seeing John Tandy - they both agree that Tandy is contemplating a run for Congress and he is courting women and not specifically Amy.

The President is having dinner with the First Lady and several of her medical friends / colleagues.  He is not really listening until he hears one of the doctors mention they could cure cancer within 10 years.  The President interrupts and asks the assembled group to explain to him simply how this could happen and what it would take.

In the Communications bullpen, Toby and Sam are working on the speech.  They also talk about Lisa Sherborne when the President arrives and tells them to call everyone in.  He wants to be able to announce in the State of the Union that he is directing researchers to find a cure for cancer in 10 years.   When the President leaves, Toby turns to Sam and tells him, "This is about the censure."

Act III[]

Josh and Amy are on their date - and he is pressing her on Congressman Tandy - she tells him to stop talking to her and she leaves.  Josh's phone rings and it's Toby - he needs to come back - because the President wants to cure cancer.

The Senior Staff, a few other speechwriters, and Joey Lucas, arrive in the Oval Office for a meeting with the President.  Everyone but Sam tells the President he shouldn't put it in the speech - but Sam's argument resonates with the President and he directs everyone to start working on the new section.  Joey and Toby tell Sam not to spend a lot of time on it - because it probably won't make it into the speech.

At the reception - Josh presses Joey about numbers.  Amy Gardner walks by and smacks Josh and tells him to come with her.  She resumes her argument about John Tandy.  Josh believes he is using her to look good with women. 

Act IV[]

Sam returns to the Oval Office with a draft of the new section.  The President likes it very well - but Sam tells him they can't put it into the speech.  There are too many obstacles to getting a new, major policy initiative into the speech with only two weeks to spare.

Back to the reception following the speech, Joey finally has the numbers.  She tells the assembled group that "something happened at the 1/2 hour mark.  The really good news comes from the panel backs.  16 Democrats, 16 Republicans, and 12 Independents were asked identical questions two weeks ago and again that evening.  First question, is the President able to handle his job effectively - 48% two weeks ago went up to 59%.  Trustworthy went up to 61% up from 41%.  Strong Leader ("the real one" as Toby calls it) rose to 69%.  The group erupts in cheers and applause.  The President and Leo arrive to join in the celebrations.

C.J. and Sam talk in her office about Lisa Sherborne - there is a lot of tension between Lisa and Sam.  Sam finds Lisa and she tells him that she is going to have someone else assigned to finish the story.  The two of them talk about their past and why they didn't get married.  She asks him if he still has the section about cancer - he pulls it up on his computer - she asks Sam to read it to her.


Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss
Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
John Spencer as Leo McGarry
Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman
and Martin Sheen as President Bartlet

Special Guest Stars

Mary-Louise Parker as Amy Gardner
and Marlee Matlin as Joey Lucas

Guest Starring

Traylor Howard as Lisa Sherborne
Bill O'Brien as Kenny Thurman
Nancy Linehan Charles as Oncologist #1
Howard S. Miller as Ken Walker
Nicholas Hormann as Bobby
Brian Baker as John Tandy
Charles Walker as Oncologist #3


Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol
Kim Webster as Ginger
Peter James Smith as Ed
William Duffy as Larry
Marcus Eley as Bartender


Lionel D. Carson as Tommy


Sam Seaborn:  We nearly had one almost as big.
Lisa Sherborne: What?
Sam Seaborn:  I said, we nearly had one almost as big.
Lisa Sherborne:  What was it?
Sam Seaborn:  We almost cured cancer.
I recommended that he take the censure and if any of you were on the inside, you'd have recommended it too. How does he deliver the State of the Union in two weeks? He's the President of the United States.  He walks into the House Chamber - they're all going to stand up. Anyone here not believe this President can take it from there?
C.J. Cregg:  Is the reason you two didn't get married is because her name would have been Lisa Sherborne Seaborn?
Sam Seaborn:  Yeah, that's the reason.
C.J. Cregg:  I could do this for a living.
[about and to, Josh]  So many women, so little charm



  • When Sam is explaining to Lisa where the focus groups for the State of the Union speech are located, he incorrectly pronounces Los Feliz, CA as "Las Filez", CA. However this is an acceptable (and even preferred) pronunciation in Southern California.
  • Toby says there are 173 words in the Ten Commandments. Common English translations have it at about 310 words, while the Hebrew he is familiar with sits at 99. Toby might be referring to an overly abbreviated version, but it is likely that Sorkin just went with an accurate sounding number.
  • In the scene in Sam's office before he reads the discarded speech about cancer, he calls Lisa Sherborne "Louise"
  • Some DVD versions call this episode "100 AIRPLANES" on the insert, obviously a typo.



Other State of the Union episodes



I PilotPost Hoc, Ergo Propter HocA Proportional ResponseFive Votes Down
The Crackpots and These WomenMr. Willis of OhioThe State DinnerEnemiesThe Short List
In Excelsis DeoLord John MarburyHe Shall, from Time to Time...Take Out the Trash Day
Take This Sabbath DayCelestial Navigation20 Hours in L.A.The White House Pro-Am
Six Meetings Before LunchLet Bartlet Be BartletMandatory Minimums
Lies, Damn Lies and StatisticsWhat Kind of Day Has It Been?
II In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part I)In the Shadow of Two Gunmen (Part II)The Midterms
In This White HouseAnd It's Surely to Their CreditThe Lame Duck CongressThe Portland Trip
ShibbolethGalileoNoëlThe Leadership BreakfastThe Drop-In
Bartlet's Third State of the UnionThe War at HomeEllie
Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to JailThe Stackhouse Filibuster
17 PeopleBad Moon RisingThe Fall's Gonna Kill You18th and PotomacTwo Cathedrals
III Manchester (Part I)Manchester (Part II)Ways and MeansOn the Day BeforeWar CrimesGone QuietThe Indians in the LobbyThe Women of QumarBartlet for AmericaH.Con - 172100,000 AirplanesThe Two BartletsNight FiveHartsfield's LandingDead Irish Writers
The U.S. Poet LaureateStirredEnemies Foreign and DomesticThe Black Vera Wang
We Killed YamamotoPosse Comitatus
IV 20 Hours in America (Part I)20 Hours in America (Part II)College KidsThe Red Mass
Debate CampGame OnElection NightProcess StoriesSwiss DiplomacyArctic Radar
Holy NightGuns Not ButterThe Long GoodbyeInauguration (Part I)
Inauguration: Over There (Part II)The California 47thRed Haven's on FirePrivateers
Angel MaintenanceEvidence of Things Not SeenLife On MarsCommencementTwenty-Five
V 7A WF 83429The Dogs of WarJefferson LivesHanA Constituency of OneDisaster ReliefSeparation of PowersShutdownAbu el BanatThe Stormy PresentThe Benign PrerogativeSlow News DayThe Warfare of Genghis KhanAn KheFull DisclosureEppur Si Muove
The SupremesAccessTalking PointsNo ExitGazaMemorial Day
VI NSF ThurmontThe Birnam WoodThird-Day StoryLiftoffThe Hubbert PeakThe Dover TestA Change Is Gonna ComeIn The RoomImpact WinterFaith Based Initiative
Opposition Research365 DaysKing CornThe Wake Up CallFreedoniaDrought ConditionsA Good DayLa PalabraNinety Miles AwayIn God We TrustThings Fall Apart2162 Votes
VII The TicketThe Mommy ProblemMessage of the WeekMr. FrostHere Today
The Al Smith DinnerThe DebateUndecidedsThe WeddingRunning Mates
Internal DisplacementDuck and CoverThe ColdTwo Weeks OutWelcome to Wherever You Are
Election Day (Part I)Election Day (Part II)RequiemTransitionThe Last Hurrah
Institutional MemoryTomorrow