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TWO-HOUR SEASON PREMIERE SEES PRESIDENT ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL AS PROBE OF DOWNED PLANE GROWS -- A study of 20 hours in America, while Toby, Josh and Donna try to get home from Indiana.



Sam and the President are watching the closing numbers come in from Wall Street. The Dow is down more than 600 points, and the President wonders aloud when he should say something. Sam suggests they wait to see what Japan does. Charlie comes in to bring the President to meet Muriel Keith, who has shaken the hand of every President since Herbert Hoover.  Keith met Hoover the day before the start of the Great Depression. The President is spooked by this and they decide to postpone the event until tomorrow.

Act I[]

Sam is back in his office, on the floor reading, when C.J. comes in to ask him to be Anthony's Big Brother.  They talk for a moment, but C.J. realizes he doesn't have time for it. Josh calls Sam from Indiana to see how Sam is handling staffing the president and gives Sam some pointers for how to best handle the job and its responsibilities. Sam then asks to speak to Toby, and they talk about the ongoing search for the president’s new secretary. They discuss the fact that President Bartlett has been inquiring about each candidate's memory, forgetfulness being a potential symptom of multiple sclerosis. Tyler delivers Josh, Toby, and Donna to the train. Tyler promises them they will get where they are going, pointing in the direction that they need to go. The train then pulls out in the opposite direction.

Leo and Admiral Fitzwallace are in the Situation Room when Nancy McNally arrives. They discuss the topic of Qumar, as well as the possibility of being accused of assassinating Shareef. McNally points out that the bigger problem is Qumar saying that someone other than the US carried out the assassination.

Act II[]

The President is meeting in the Oval Office with two Senators on "faith-based initiatives." Sam and the President talk about the Executive Secretary candidates. Debbie Fidderer has arrived for another interview with the President. Sam is surprised to see Debbie, who used to work for Donald McKittridge at the Office of Presidential Personnel and hired Charlie. Debbie and the President have another conversation. The President presses her on why she was fired, but she refuses to tell him. The interview ends, and as Debbie leaves the Oval Office, she runs into McKittridge, her old boss. The President comes out of the Oval Office and has deduced why she was fired. The President and Sam go back into the Oval Office, and Sam asks if she was funny. The President realizes she is the right candidate for the job and has the guards stop her at the door. He quizzes her on the numbers he was given during the interview—which she gets right—and motions to Charlie to bring her back.

On the train, Toby and Josh are talking about Governor Ritchie and the statements he has been making. Josh points out that he wants to win, while Toby wants to beat Ritchie.

Act III[]

C.J. gives a quick briefing to the press before heading off with the President to a DNC fundraiser. Just after she finishes, she gets word of an explosion at a swim meet at Kennison State University. She comes back to the podium and begins to give updates in real time as she listens on an earpiece. Leo returns to his office and notices that C.J. is still briefing. He turns up the volume and sends Margaret to find out what happened.

Josh, Toby, and Donna arrive at a hotel to await their delayed flight. They arrange for a room, when first Toby, then Josh, and finally Donna come over to the television to see the coverage from Kennison State University.

The President is concluding his remarks at a fundraiser and evokes the tragedy that has befallen the nation.  Upon returning to the White House, C.J. finds Anthony waiting in her office. He's upset at having to wait around for her.  Charlie overhears Anthony insult C.J. as he is walking by. Charlie turns around, slams Anthony into a wall, and tells Anthony he is to show C.J. respect. He then tells Anthony that he can either "go back to juvie" (juvenile detention), or he can meet up with Charlie before and during work.

Act IV[]

Sam returns to his office and Mallory arrives. She tells him she liked the speech and that she has split with her boyfriend. She offers to take him home. Charlie comes to his office and finds a gift on his desk. He opens it to find a framed photo. C.J. arrives to tell him the photo was from Charlie's sister and that she has finally remembered to put it in a frame for him. He gently puts it down on his desk and we see it is a photo of a young Charlie with his mother.

In the hotel in Indiana, Josh and Toby are continuing to argue about campaign strategy. Finally fed up with how both of them talk about nothing else and are completely oblivious to what everybody in the area has been telling them about their lives and struggles and what they are proud of, Donna tells them off and sends them away. They go to the bar where they meet Matt Kelley, a man who has been looking at colleges with his daughter and is worried about how to pay for it. Josh and Toby finally stop thinking about the campaign and instead talk with Kelley about the issues that most concern him. Toby introduces himself as working at the White House per his lost bet with Josh in Part I.

The President meets with Leo, Admiral Fitzwallace, and Nancy McNally and they talk about how to deal with the escalating problem with Qumar.

Josh, Toby, and Donna are on an airport shuttle, making their way back to the White House.  They get off the shuttle in front of the Women in the Military Service for America Memorial outside Arlington Cemetery, and walk back to the White House while Toby tells him how they need to proceed in the coming months.


Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
Stockard Channing as Abigail Bartlet
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

Ron Silver as Bruno Gianelli
with John Amos as Admiral Fitzwallace
and Lily Tomlin as Deborah Fiderer

Guest Starring

Anna Deavere Smith as Nancy McNally
Allison Smith as Mallory O'Brien
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
Renée Estevez as Nancy
Victor McCay as Peter
John Gallagher Jr. as Tyler
John P. Connolly as Matt Kelley
Don Perry as Muriel Keith
Allan Wasserman as Donald McKittridge
Andrew McFarlane as Anthony Marcus


John Fletcher as Photographer
Thomas Crawford as Bill Lacey
Kim Webster as Ginger
William Duffy as Larry
Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
Randolph Brooks as Arthur Leeds
Albert Owens as Senator Fred Shuler
Aaron Marcus as Deskman
Mary-Pat Green as Senator Choate
David Early as Bartender
Jeff Gage as Train Conductor
Susan Allenbach as Driver


Nancy McNally: Leo. Yeoman Fitzwallace.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Dr. McNally.
Nancy McNally: Let's attack.
Admiral Fitzwallace: Who?
Nancy McNally: Qumar. Let's recommend to the President that we attack.
Leo McGarry: Why?
Nancy McNally: 'Cause I've had it.
Admiral Fitzwallace: I don't think the UN is going to let us do it for that reason.
Nancy McNally: That's 'cause you're a sissy. You want peace in the Middle East? Give me a pair of third generation ICBM's and a compass. You get B-2 Spirit stealth bombers over Qumar right now; as if the Qumari Air defense system requires stealth capability. Just fly in at night, and while you're at it, could you order the USS Louisiana to fire off a D-5 Trident just to see if it works? What's the worst that could happen?
Admiral Fitzwallace: Is she talking to me?
Nancy McNally: Yes!
Admiral Fitzwallace: Well, 98% of all living organisms within a seven mile radius would die instantly in a torrent of fire.
Nancy McNally: Admiral Sissymary... We're running out of options on the menu.

Nancy McNally: They're building a case for sure but I think we got to start talking about there's something worse than Qumar saying it was us.
Admiral Fitzwallace: She's right.
Leo McGarry: What?
Admiral Fitzwallace: Qumar saying it was someone else.
President Bartlet – Hey, do we have a GPS-read on Josh and Toby? Have they been sighted?
Sam – I talked to them a little while ago, they're on their way
President Bartlet – 300 IQ points between them, they can't find their way home. I swear to God, If Donna wasn't there they'd have to buy a house
President Bartlet:  Debbie?
Debbie Fidderer:  Yes, sir?
President Bartlet:  Where's the dollar?
Debbie Fidderer:  I'm sorry, sir?
President Bartlet:  What's the dollar doing right now?
Debbie Fidderer:  Oh, it's down; .3% against the yen; .4% against the Euro.
Three swimmers from the men's team were killed, and two others are in critical condition, when, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They're our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars
—President Bartlet
Bruno Gianelli – When did you write that last part?
Sam – In the car
Bruno Gianelli – Freak
[to Anthony] This is Ms. Cregg. She's the White House Press Secretary and senior counsel to the President. And if she wasn't, she would still be Ms. Cregg! I don't mind you not respecting people. I mind you doing it out loud. I mind you doing it in this building. You wanna be a punk, fine, but I don't think you've got the size for it. You wanna go to juvey, get out, deal, and kill cops? Okay, but every time you do a crime, you get caught, so I think you're gonna have to do something else. 9:00 on Saturday mornings, I eat breakfast at Cosmo's on Delaware. I come here for an hour and do office work, and then I go to St. Jude's for an hour to play basketball. You can go to juvey, or you can be at Cosmo's 9:00 on Saturday morning. It's entirely up to you
Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright
Well, I'm with Dr. Strangelove on keeping our military secrets secret
—Admiral Fitzwallace
Alright, that's it, I can't take it. I'm not kidding. I have such an impulse to knock your heads together. I can't remember the last time I heard you two talk about anything other than how a campaign was playing in Washington. Cathy needed to take a second job so her Dad could be covered by her insurance. She tried to tell you how bad things were for family farmers, you told her we already lost Indiana. You made fun of the fair but you didn't see they have livestock exhibitions and give prizes for the biggest tomato and the best heirloom apple. They're proud of what they grow. Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers, random conversations with twelve more and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you
Toby – If our job teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t know what the next president’s going to face. If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas, who’s connected to other people’s lives and cares about making them better, if we choose someone to inspire us, then we’ll be able to face what comes our way, and achieve things we can’t imagine yet. Instead of telling people who’s the most qualified, instead of telling people who’s got the better ideas, let’s make it obvious. It’s gonna be hard
Josh – Then we’ll do what’s hard


  • Toby mocks Ritchie for thinking that Chamberlain led England in World War II. Chamberlain actually was Prime Minister for the first eight months of the war, but made way for Churchill after the Allied retreat from Norway.
  • The President refers to the President of France as President D'Astier, which is the same name as the President of France who visits the White House for a state dinner in The American President.
  • Kennison State University is fictional. It is possible that it is meant to stand in for the University of Iowa, which is a Big Ten school whose athletes are known as the Hawkeyes. Kennison State University is said to be in Cedar Rapids, while the University of Iowa is located in Iowa City, placing it in the Central time zone. Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are about thirty miles from one another. The university is probably named after Lt. William Kennison, who was a naval officer during the Civil War. It is also possible that the name is a combination of Kenyon College (Allison Janney's alma mater) and Denison University, two midwest schools known for their swim teams.
  • Bartlet’s line—"The streets of Heaven are too crowded with angels"—was lifted from Tom Hanks’ eloquent acceptance speech when he won the Best Actor Oscar for Philadelphia.[1]
    • Sam Seaborn's line, when he talks about writing the speech, "Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright" is itself a version of a quote first ascribed to T.S. Elliot among others, "The immature poet imitates; the mature poet plagiarizes." However, an intriguing precursor appeared in an article titled “Imitators and Plagiarists” published in The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1892. The author was W. H. Davenport Adams, and quite notably, the terminology he used was transposed: “to imitate” was commendable, but “to steal” was unworthy (See https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/03/06/artists-steal/).
  • The Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper ceased to exist in April 1995 when it merged with the Milwaukee Journal. The resulting newspaper, and the only daily paper in the city of Milwaukee, is known as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[2]
  • Josh uses the name "Mohammed al-Mohammed al-Mohammed bin Basir" as a stereotypical terrorist's name. The name was used again by Aaron Sorkin as an unseen character briefly mentioned in his 2012 series The Newsroom. That series stars John Gallagher Jr., who appeared in "20 Hours in America" as Tyler. 

Notes and references[]

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