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.
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.
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."
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.
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
- 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
- He Shall, from Time to Time... (Season 1)
- Bartlet's Third State of the Union (Season 2)
- The Benign Prerogative (Season 5)
- 365 Days (Season 6)
- 100,000 Airplanes on IMDb
- Transcript on The West Wing Transcripts
- 100,000 Airplanes on "The West Wing" Unofficial Continuity Guide