C.J.'s every move is recorded by a TV documentary film crew which follows her through a "typical" day for a program on White House Press Secretaries past and present, but the presence of outsiders adds stress when a crisis involving a terrorist shootout with the FBI has a smiling C.J. trying to keep a lid on the story. Meanwhile, C.J. supervises her team as they prepare for a formal papal visit with the President and dodges hardball questions about the imminent future of the current FBI director.
In this "mockumentary" - a PBS television show is granted unprecedented access to C.J. Cregg and the Office of the Press Secretary. C.J. begins by explaining the ground rules for the documentary with the documentarian. The "program" then begins with comments from C.J. on what the Press Secretary's role is in a presidential administration - while the narrator then talks about the importance of the job. The narrator explains that "Access" was caught up in a major news story on the day they followed C.J. around the White House.
As the documentary continues, the focus is on C.J. and her comments about the job of Press Secretary. Interwoven into the documentary is footage of previous presidential administrations and their press secretaries, including Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Richard Nixon.
The program continues - explaining how C.J.'s day progresses - answering the random questions of a few White House reporters, meeting with press office staff and attending Senior Staff. In the Senior Staff meeting, C.J. asks about the presence of the FBI director in the White House and she doesn't get a straight answer from Leo, which is followed by a comment from Josh about sometimes, they need to keep C.J. out of the loop on some issues. C.J. then meets with her staff about press issues of the day.
Carol is passed a message for C.J. and then Donna rushes up to tell C.J. that she is needed. She walks off to wait to enter Leo's office to find out what's happening - while also talking with the film crew. She is informed (and the crew allowed in) of a situation unfolding in Washington State. The principals do not believe the press will find out about it before the situation resolves itself.
In more interview clips, we hear from C.J., Carol, and Toby about telling the truth to the press and a clip from Greg Brock, who points out that it's his job to be skeptical of the things that C.J. tells him and the other members of the press.
We then see home movies of C.J. Cregg / Alison Janney, while we hear about C.J.'s upbringing that helped prepare her for the job - then a scene where C.J. calls out one of the Press Office staff to chastise him about comments he made in an advance meeting with representatives of the Vatican.
This is followed by C.J. watching with great anxiety as the President comes out to greet the press for a joint conference with the Ugandan Health Minister - to talk about AIDS in Africa. One of her staff come in to tell her the Press has the story out of Washington and hopes that no one questions the President on it.
The news breaks from Shaw Island and C.J. spends a period of time deflecting questions from reporters that she's not prepared to answer, yet. She is treading carefully - as earlier in the Bartlet Administration, a similar situation unfolded in Casey Creek, Kentucky, which badly damaged C.J.'s credibility and reputation with the Press.
Josh and C.J. talk about the unfolding situation and how C.J. needs to address it with the press. They make mention of the Casey Creek incident and C.J. goes off to deliver her briefing, which she handles much better than than the Casey Creek instance. It starts to go off the rails when C.J. and the press get word that the individual in the standoff is giving a briefing of his own to the press in Washington State. She tries to get more information, but the principals are in the Oval Office and she is (again) locked out.
C.J. goes back to her office and takes a call from her father. She gets off the phone, composes herself and waits to be informed of what's happening in Washington state. Martin Sheffield, a former White House Press Secretary tells the story about the "flak jacket" which is passed from Press Secretary to Press Secretary, which is filled with notes of encouragement and advice.
C.J. is in her office when Special Agent Casper comes in to brief C.J. - and tells her more when the cameras are turned off.
After Agent Casper leaves, the Press Office staff and the members of the press corps await word from Shaw Island. Suddenly the scene is rocked by an explosion and C.J. tries to get additional information and share it with the press.
The President takes time out of the unfolding situation to meet with some boy scouts, while in the background we see Leo meeting with the FBI director. C.J. goes off to her late afternoon briefing, where she turns the podium over to Agent Casper, who briefs the press on what happened in Shaw Island. We see C.J. in her office reading over some of the notes from the flak jacket.
As the day comes to an end, the narrator explains how serious the situation was in Shaw Island and Leo comes by to tell C.J. that she had a good day. People begin to leave for the day and C.J. walks out of the White House as well.
Trivia / Goofs Edit
- This is one of the few West Wing episodes that does not feature a "Previously on the West Wing" montage.
- During the press staff morning meeting one of the televisions in C.J.'s office shows a newsreader that appears to skip a frame, indicating that it is taped rather than live.
- The Kenneth C. and Mary Blackburn Foundation and the Samuel Jones Charitable Trust do not exist.
- The narrator explains that due to National Security concerns, the airing of this program was embargoed until the administration left office. The narrator also mentions that C.J. was the only White House Press Secretary to serve two full presidential terms, which is incorrect as she was promoted to White House Chief of Staff in Season 6.
- In this episode, several characters, who work in the Press Office, are introduced, but never seen again. In addition, during the Senior Staff meeting, several additional people are in Leo's office who are not normally present for that meeting.
- The White House Press Secretary Flak Jacket exists, started by President Nixon's Press Secretary.
- C.J. Cregg: Sometimes you just have to let yourself get beaten up. But, sometimes, it's better to be beaten up for 24 hours than beaten up for the long run although the long run's something I have no sense of. You know, when I'm going home at night, I'm thinking about the next day's schedule.
- Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
- Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
- Joshua Malina as Will Bailey
- 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 Jed Bartlet
- Clark Gregg as Special Agent Michael Casper
- Sam Robards as Greg Brock
- Albie Selznick as Todd Schumaker
- NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
- Wilson Cruz as Jack Sosa
- Michael Gallagher as Andrew Weltzman
- Michael Kagan as George Arnold
- Joseph Vassallo as Renato Mannari
- Narration by: Will Lyman
- Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
- Mindy Seeger as Chris
- Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
- Joyce Guy as Charlayne
- Charles Noland as Steve
- Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
- Harper Roisman as Herb Morris
- Brian Poth as Eric Schaeffer
- Paul Jenkins as Martin Sheffield
- James Ingersoll as Cable News Pundit
- Ivan Allen as Roger Salier
- Lee Oliver Boyd as Cable Anchor
- Alan Toy as Franklin
- David Castellani as Reporter On-Site
- Kellynn Jones as 2nd On-Site Reporter
- Rebecca Avery as Anna
- Hira Ambrosino as White House Correspondent
- Kenneth Schmidt as Craig Bloom
- Kevin Symons as FBI Press Rep
- Sharon Johnston as Terrance Neighbor