ANGRY PRESIDENT SEEKS VENGEANCE FOR DOOMED JET -- Still seething over the downing of an fully loaded American jet in the Mideast, a vengeful President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) overrules the joint chiefs' plan for a "proportional" military strike and demands a more severe attack that would result in thousands of enemy and civilian casualties. While Leo (John Spencer) and other advisers try to cool off the Commander-in-Chief, Press Secretary C.J. (Allison Janney) scolds a wayward Sam (Rob Lowe) over his potentially explosive private crusade to "rescue" a well-known call girl from her profession. Feeling overlooked during the hubbub surrounding the military options, Josh (Bradley Whitford) interviews a shy African-American teen (guest star Dule Hill) as a potential personal aide to the President.
C.J. finds out
Josh is ambushed by Donna, who informs him ominously that C.J. is looking for him. Josh is worried, and begs Donna to tell him why he's in trouble, to which Donna responds that it might have something to do with "Sam, a woman, and C.J. being denied information about something". Josh decides to go into his office to "devise a strategy" - but as he turns, he shouts in surprise to find C.J. sitting at his desk reading the paper, greeting him with the declaration "Wow, are YOU stupid!"
A hovering cloud
CJ confronts Josh about Sam's trouble with the call girl, and it descends into a shouting match before they break for their Senior Staff meeting with Leo. They meet Toby who describes the events immediately following the end of Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - it seems the President has not been dealing well with the death of Capt. Tolliver and the other Americans who were shot down by the Syrian government, while Toby finds out that CJ knows about Sam and the callgirl.
The President and Leo enter the Oval Office - the President is upset about how long it's been taking to organize a response to the Syrian attack, and feels that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the State Department are dragging their heels while Leo asks the President to be more careful about expressing his personal anger over the death of Capt. Tolliver. Bartlet brushes the comment off and yells to Mrs. Landingham that he can't find his reading glasses.
Leo enters his office to meet with the Senior Staff, where Sam relays a quote from Congressman Bertram Coles who - angry about recommended cuts in funding for the M6 Beacon appeared on a radio program with some officers from Cromwell Air Force Base in his home district and accused President Bartlet of being weak on defense, and that the President shouldn't visit his district, because he might not get out alive. Toby, encouraged by Leo, goes into a tirade that they should pursue felony charges against the Congressman for his choice of words.
They close the meeting and move into the hall, planning how they're going to deliver their message when the military response comes, even though they don't yet know anything. CJ asks Sam to stop by her office around lunch time, and Toby tells Sam that CJ knows about the call girl. Toby goes out of his way to imply to a group of reporters that the Secret Service is opening a criminal investigation against Congressman Coles.
Sam meets with CJ, who berates him, pointing out that he has a responsibility to consider what it looks like. CJ tells Sam that she should have been his first phone call, so that she can protect him and the President. Sam angrily responds that CJ shouldn't be so worried about what it looks like, and they part on strained terms.The Joint Chiefs are in the Situation Room to brief the President on their "proportional response", codenamed "Pericles One", but Bartlet interrupts to ask "What is the virtue of a proportional response - why is it good?" Tension fills the room as Leo and the Join Chiefs try to talk the President down to no avail. The President angrily demands that the National Security Team put together a response that doesn't make him feel he's "just docking somebody's damn allowance", and he storms out of the room.
Josh meets in the Roosevelt room with a young black man, Charles Young, whom he is supposed to "vet". As Josh describes the position he's clearing Charlie for, Charlie grows more and more confused - he came to apply for a job as a messenger, but Miss DiLaguardia recommended him for the job of Personal Aide to the President instead. During the course of the interview, Josh discovers that Charlie has been raising his sister since their single mom - a police officer - died in the line of duty five months ago.
The President returns to the Situation Room, where they present a plan to bomb Hassan Airport with potentially thousands of civilian casualties as well as crippling their ability to get medical supplies and bottled water, but they try to discourage the President from selecting this option. The President bums a cigarette and accepts Pericles One instead, giving the "go" order and leaving the room, expressing discouragement at Admiral Fitzwallace's description of the deaths of American citizens as a "fifty buck crime".
Josh continues to interview Charlie, asking a series of questions, while Charlie continues to try and assert that he just wanted the messenger job. Sam intrudes, and expresses disdain for the questions, asserting that Josh shouldn't be asking these questions. Josh and Sam take the conversation into the hall but are interrupted by Toby, telling them to meet in Leo's office: "It's happening."
Leo briefs the senior staff on the details, and Josh asks Leo if there's any problem with having a young black man as the President's Aide, giving a bit of Charlie's background. Leo tells Josh he's concerned over nothing, before checking with Admiral Fitzwallace - who has come to Leo to tell him that he needs to calm the President down - who tells Leo not to be worried about it.
Evening has come, the response is taking place, and Josh has nothing to do, while Toby, Sam, and CJ prepare the President's address and the press conferences, but Danny has come to have a word with CJ: he knows Sam is dating Laurie. She takes Danny into her office and shuts the door.
Mandy is in Josh's office waiting for him, excited to start work next week. She gives Josh a picture of the two of them which she had defaced during the time when she hated him. Josh expresses hope that this means they won't fight when she does come to work for the White House, but Mandy disabuses him of the idea right away. Danny tells CJ he doesn't have enough for a story, but he will be asking around, and informed CJ as a courtesy. CJ tells him there's no story there, and none of them have the right to tell Sam who his friends should be, and that she'll defend Sam until the President tells her not to. Danny backs down, but warns CJ "not everybody is a good guy", and she'd better be ready for this story to break. CJ gives Danny a 10 minute head-start on a story "for being a good guy" - she tells him the attack has taken place.Josh takes Charlie into the Oval Office to meet the President, who is going over the final version of his address to the country, but can't read anything due to still not being able to locate his glasses. He expresses frustration about the missing glasses, and the lack of information about the effectiveness of the attack, when he mentions reading a report last night in his study. Charlie whispers something to Josh,who encourages him to speak up - the President was wearing his glasses in the study last night. Josh, triumphant, begins to introduce Charlie to the President, but Bartlet cuts him off angrily. Charlie is crushed, as Leo asks the President for a minute before he goes on the air.
They go into Leo's office, where Leo shuts the doors and takes Bartlet to task for how he's been snapping at everyone - his wife, the Joint Chiefs, Leo, the staff...Leo is worried the next one will be at the American people. Bartlet tells Leo about how Roman citizens used to freely walk the known world "cloaked only in the protection of the words 'Civis Romanus': I am a Roman Citizen" - because Rome would retaliate if anyone harmed one of its citizens. He's angry that the American Superpower can't protect its citizens and military in the same way. Leo argues with him, telling him that "ratcheting up the body count" won't be a deterrent, and that if Bartlet wants to conquer the world, he'd better be prepared to kill everyone, starting with Leo, because Leo will raise up an army and destroy Bartlet himself. This is the way the last superpower behaves, Leo tells him: "It's what our fathers taught us."Bartlet finally takes a breath, and they both laugh while Leo shares Congressman Coles' assertion that people in his Congressional District "are so patriotic that if the President of the United States himself were to show up, they'd kill him." While the staff wait anxiously in the Oval Office, the President asks about Charlie, and Leo fills him on Charlie's story. Josh tries to console Charlie, but is interrupted by President Bartlet, who tells Charlie that he's contacted the Director of the FBI and has discovered that the weapon and bullets responsible for his mother's death are something they're going to try and get Congress to ban, and asks Charlie if he'd like to stick around and help them. Charlie eagerly accepts, and Bartlet begins his address to the American people.
- Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
- Moira Kelly as Mandy Hampton
- Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
- Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
- Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
- John Spencer as Leo McGarry
- Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman
- and Martin Sheen as President Bartlet
Special Guest Star
- Before Charlie is introduced to the president, Sam Seaborn is wearing glasses in one shot, is without them the next, and then has them on again.
- For most of the scene between Admiral Fitzwallace and Leo McGarry in Leo's office, Admiral Fitzwallace's ribbon board on his uniform is upside down. At the end of the scene, the ribbon board is correctly placed.
- In the movie The American President (written by Aaron Sorkin) President Andrew Shepherd says "Someday someone's going to have to explain to me the virtue of a proportional response." In this episode, President Bartlet asks "What's the virtue of the Proportional Response?"
Notes and references
- First appearances of Dulé Hill as main character Charlie Young and John Amos as Percy Fitzwallace
- Actor and director Timothy Busfield makes his first appearance as recurring character Danny Concannon in this episode but is not credited.
- Actress and director Laura Innes makes an uncredited appearance as a reporter in this episode. While the first season was being filmed she was also starring in the sixth season of Executive Producer John Wells' medical drama series ER. She would return to The West Wing as a director in later episodes.
- Kim Webster is credited as playing "Kim" in this episode but her character is later identified as Ginger.
- Ivan Allen is credited as playing an unnamed Newscaster in this episode but his character is later identified as Roger Salier.
- Marvin Krueger, George McDaniel, and Christopher Kriesa all debut as unnamed officers among the joints chiefs in this episode. Their characters are later identified as Harrison, Phil, and General Mitch Jensen respectively.