President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) engages in the final debate of his career. Meanwhile, Leo (John Spencer) and Jordan Kendall (Joanna Gleason) meet with a UN diplomat about the escalating Qumari crisis; Sam (Rob Lowe) tries to persuade the staffers for a just-deceased Southern California Congressional candidate to end their election campaign; and Toby (Richard Schiff) once again tries to persuade his ex-wife, Rep. Andrea Wyatt (Kathleen York), to remarry him.
Opening - Tuesday 7:25am
Leo is in Toby's office telling Toby the President is inside his head with debate responses. Leo tells Toby they need to use the upcoming drill to give positive reinforcement to the President. The two head for the Oval Office and are joined by Sam who is soon to be on his way to San Diego to tell the Wilde campaign to fold.
C.J. and Josh meet up with Leo, Sam, and Toby and they go into the Oval Office for the debate drill. Toby asks a question that the President stumbles on - to Toby's horror. The others break out laughing and Toby realizes he's been had - and they all give the President ten dollars. Toby is no longer worried - he knows the President is ready.
Act I - Newport Beach, California, 47th Congressional District
Sam arrives at Horton Wilde's campaign headquarters to meet with Will Bailey - the campaign manager for the Wilde campaign. Sam tells Will that the White House admires all the work he did on the campaign but it needs to end before it becomes an embarrassment. Will points out to Sam that he doesn't work for the President.
C.J. and Toby are meeting with the "spin surrogates" in advance of the debate the next evening. Toby meets with C.J. and Andy Wyatt afterwards - where Toby tells C.J. that Ritchie has a prominent Democrat to spin for him on national defense. Toby tells C.J. they have Albie Duncan (a Republican State Department staff member) to speak in counterpoint.
Toby and Andy continue to talk after C.J. leaves. He is trying to convince Andy to marry him (again). She continues to say no.
Back in California - Will is holding a press conference where he takes questions on the inanity of continuing the race for a dead candidate. Sam stands in the back to listen and realizes there may be more to this race.
Sam finds Will, who is sitting on the beach making notes. The two talk and Sam tells Will to keep it up although he realizes it is most likely a lost cause.
It is now Debate Day and staffers are picking a tie for the President to wear. They hand the tie to Charlie who brings it to the Oval Office - but the President tells Charlie he wants to wear his lucky tie. Jordon arrives to meet with Leo - the President offers to stay but Leo tells him it is time to go and get into debate mode. Jordon and Leo go into Leo's office where Josh is waiting. Josh runs some ten word answers by Leo - Leo doesn't really like them and tells Josh to keep working on it on the plane and to call him every 30 minutes. Leo tells Jordon the US stopped a Qumari ship - Jordon wants to know more about what they plan to do - she suggests bringing down the Qumari UN representative from New York to talk.
On the plane, Charlie pulls Donna aside to tell her the President's lucky tie (Josh's tie which the President wore in a previous debate) was destroyed at the cleaners and he doesn't know what to do. In another part of the plane, C.J. approaches Albie Duncan to talk to him about his debate responsibilities. She leaves him and comes to Josh and Toby with her concerns that Albie Duncan may be a little bit crazy but he should be able to pull it off.
Act III - 8:55pm
Jordon and Leo meet with Ali Nassir, the Qumari Representative to the UN. Leo tells Nassir the Qumaris need to turn the boat around.
In San Diego, the President and others are getting ready for the debate. The President asks Josh to clear the room and the staff file out after offering encouragement to the President, leaving the President and First Lady alone in the room. Abbey tells the President he is going to be great and suddenly, she takes a pair of scissors and cuts Jed's tie. As they rush to the stage - Josh gives the President his tie (again) and then the debate gets underway.
The first question goes to Governor Ritchie, which the President counters very deftly and the staff backstage in the spin room realize the President is on the sharpest of messages.
Back at the White House - Leo and Jordon continue their meeting with Nissir. Jordon realizes they are not making progress and she calls Leo out of the room to tell him that he needs to give in. Leo tells her he can't do that. They go back into the room and Nissir tells Leo that he understands the President can't admit any complicity in the issues with Qumar - but Leo counters that the President could do that and he would actually gain votes in the upcoming election - and Leo tells Nissir the Qumaris better turn the boat around.
The debate continues and Ritchie is struggling to try and match the President's responses. Ritchie gets a question that he answers with the elusive ten-word response they have been searching for. Bartlet latches on to it and buries Ritchie with his own words. As the debate concludes, Ritchie whispers to Bartlet that it's over - to which Bartlet responds that he would be back. In the spin room - C.J. suggests that Senior Staff leave and don't offer spin - only let the surrogates talk.
Before everyone heads back - Sam goes back to see Will Bailey in Los Angeles. Sam tells Will that he knows he wrote the speech for the California governor (which was the buzz throughout the episode). Sam also tells Will if Kay Wilde (Horton Wilde's widow) wants a name - give her his. Sam grew up in Orange County and would run if Horton Wilde manages to win the election.
- 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
- Kathleen York as Andy Wyatt
- Joanna Gleason as Jordon Kendall
- NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
- Danica McKellar as Elsie Snuffin
- Tony Amendola as Ali Nissir
- John Aniston as Alexander Thompson
- Ashleigh Olden as Sharon
- Paige Orr as Karen
- Trent Trail as Lawrence
- Tomiko Martinez as Staffer
- Amy Bruckner as Sally
- Gia Cross as Girl
- Ashley Benson as Girl
- Alison Robertson as Carrie
- Jason McCune as Jonathan
- Ted Davis as Bobby
- Michael Raysses as Ted Willard
- Stephanie Venditto as June Wheeler
- Anita Dashiell as Joe
- Ross Shimabuku as Derek Wentworth
- Mary McDonough as Beth
- Nick Jameson as Chet
- Scott Facher as Stage Manager
- Kim Webster as Ginger
- Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
- Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
- Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
- Amy Parks as Tammy
- Stacy Reed as Girl in Bar
- Steve Stapenhorst as Martin
- Tim Van Pelt as Congressman Harry
- Toby Ziegler: Mr. President, this next question is on capital punishment, which you oppose: If your youngest daughter Zoey was raped and murdered, would you not want to see the man responsible put to death?
- President Bartlet: First of all, it's important to understand the President doesn't make that decision, though he appoints the Supreme Court Justices who do so. What... any... um... All right, I'm not going to say that. I'll just go right to... No, I don't. I think you know that I'm opposed.... [sighs] Let's not do that. I haven't seen any evidence that it's a deterrent, and there are more effective... In my state...
- Toby Ziegler: Oh, my God.
- President Bartlet: What?
- Toby Ziegler: [to Leo] You weren't kidding. [to Bartlet] What's the matter with you? When I left you... I just mentioned your daughter being murdered, and you're giving us an answer that's not only soporific, it's barely human! Yes, you'd want to see him put to death. You'd want it to be cruel and unusual, which is why it's probably a good idea that fathers of murder victims don't have legal rights in these situations. Now, we're going back to school.
- There is a long pause of silence, then they all begin to laugh.
- President Bartlet: Let's go-- ten bucks. Crisis of confidence. [to Leo] You did one square foot of real estate.
- Leo McGarry: Yes, I did.
- President Bartlet: Ten bucks for you. [to Toby] And you-- You big bear, come to me. I'm going to kiss you right on the mouth.
- 〉There's no such thing as too smart. There's nothing you can do that's not going to make me proud of you. Eat 'em up. Game on〈
- —Leo to Bartlet
- Charlie Young: Josh, we need your tie.
- Josh Lyman: What the hell?!
- Charlie Young: Take it off!
- C.J. Cregg: What happened?
- President Bartlet: My wife cut it off with scissors.
- Josh Lyman: Why?
- President Bartlet: I don't think we have that kind of time, Josh.
- C.J. Cregg: No one's done camera test...
- Toby Ziegler: She's right, Let's run some.
- President Bartlet: [on TV] Well, first of all, let's clear up a couple of things. "Unfunded mandate" is two words, not one "big word." There are times when we're fifty states and there are times when we're one country, and have national needs. And the way I know this is that Florida didn't fight Germany in World War II or establish civil rights. You think states should do the governing wall-to-wall. That's a perfectly valid opinion. But your state of Florida got$12.6 billion in federal money last year -- from Nebraskans, and Virginians, and New Yorkers, and Alaskans, with their Eskimo poetry. 12.6 out of a state budget of $50 billion, and I'm supposed to be using this time for a question, so here it is: Can we have it back, please?
- Josh Lyman: Game on.
- C.J. Cregg: Oh, my God!
- Sam Seaborn: Strike 'em out, throw 'em out! [turns to reporters] Anybody want spin?
- C.J. Cregg: [to Toby] It's not going to be Uncle Fluffy.
- Toby Ziegler: No.
- 〉Every once in a while, every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many un-nuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words. I'm the President of the United States, not the President of the people who agree with me〈
- —President Bartlet
- During the first "two-minute session" with the President, Toby asks a question remarkably similar to a real world event concerning Democratic Presidential Candidate Michael Dukakis. Dukakis was asked if he would support the death penalty in the event that his wife were raped and murdured; he responded almost identically to the President's faux answer. The response from the public was exactly as Toby said it was: Inhuman.
Notes and references
- Joshua Malina makes his West Wing debut in this episode