"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by C.J.
A renowned North Korean pianist is greeted in the White House for a solo performance, but the formalities hit a sour note when he slips a message to the President stating that he wants to defect. C.J. argues passionately in favor of allowing it, while others counsel Bartlet that doing so would endanger crucial ongoing negotiations with the unpredictable North Korean regime. Also on the front burner is the backstage campaign to get the President's choice for Vice President unanimously approved by both houses of Congress, but there's one holdout whose nay vote could embarrass everyone. In addition, Toby and Will get playful while composing a speech and Donna takes her Midwestern aunt and uncle for a tour.
C. J. and Leo are heading for the Oval Office and discussing the upcoming performance by a North Korean pianist, who will perform at the White House. They arrive and the President is having a conversation with the pianist, who is being watched closely by his North Korean military handlers. The Press is brought in to take pictures of the President with the pianist. As the photo shoot wraps up, the pianist signs a CD and hands it to the President and they leave. The President looks down at the CD and sees what Jai has written: "I wish to defect."
C.J., Leo, and the President discuss how to deal with Jai's message. The US has been in secret negotiations with the North Koreans over their nuclear program, and the talks will likely collapse if the defection is allowed to take place.
Josh tells Donna that he needs to see Congressman Thiele before the VP confirmation vote. Thiele is planning on voting no—the only Congressman to do so. Donna tells Josh that her aunt and uncle are coming to the White House for a tour and she begs him to go easy on the "cheese head" jokes. Josh is going into a meeting with the economic team. Ryan Pierce asks to go along, but Josh says no.
Will comes to see the President, who wants the remarks he plans to deliver for Russell to be "loftier" despite everyone's lackadaisical attitude toward the new Vice President. Toby and Leo talk about Will and how he appears to be working out. Toby wants to start working on other projects.
The economic advisors gather in the Roosevelt Room to brief the President on the new economic numbers. Things are slipping downward, there is little agreement on what to do, and the President has no patience for his advisors' squabbling. He tells them to figure it out and call him back when there is consensus.
In the Mural Room, Leo meets with officials on how to deal with the pianist's desire to defect. One the one hand, his defection would almost certainly bring and end to negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. On the other hand, there are laws in place that require the US to honor his request to defect. C.J. is disturbed by the dispassionate way in which the issue is being discussed and thinks there shouldn't be any question about allowing the defection. Leo tells her they have to look at it from all angles.
Toby comes to tell Will to get busy on the President's speech. Will complains that he is having trouble with it.
C.J. is briefing the press. She gets questions about the pianist (which she ably deflects) and questions about the economy (which she doesn't really comment on). Josh comes to see Leo. He wants Ryan Pierce gone, but Leo tells Josh that he has to stay. They talk briefly about the President's poll numbers, which are down. Josh runs into Donna in the lobby, who is meeting her aunt and uncle for their tour.
C.J. comes into the Oval Office to meet with Leo and the President, who has just finished meeting with advisors about Jai. C.J. impresses upon the President how wrong it would be to send him back to North Korea.
Josh comes to find Ryan and tells him that he can come to the meeting with Congressman Thiele as long as he doesn't say anything. The meeting does not go well, and Thiele leaves still determined to vote against Russell.
Toby comes to Leo to tell him that Will is revising the President's speech. In the Oval Office, Leo tells C.J. that the North Koreans have canceled the press pool for the rehearsal. Josh comes in and tells the group that Thiele is not budging. C.J. asks about the economy. She's not comfortable with the questions she is getting.
The President tells C.J. that he cannot allow Jai to defect. She's disappointed but she understands. The President tells Leo that he is going to tell Jai rather than get someone else to do it. At the rehearsal, the President comes and sits down next to Jai and explains to him that he cannot let him defect.
Josh comes to see Amy to talk about his meeting with Thiele. Josh is going to leak the idea that Thiele wanted the VP job and that he's voting no out of disappointment. In the bullpen, Ryan thinks for a moment before picking up the phone and contacting Congressman Thiele.
Toby and Will are working on the President's remarks and still having difficulties with finding superlatives to describe Bob Russell. They begin to draft what the speech should be, using words that are not in keeping with the occasion.
The President is meeting in the Oval Office with advisors about Jai. The President is not convinced that Jai understood him. They try to convince him to cancel the concert, but Bartlet refuses.
Josh is watching the House Confirmation vote in his office and is surprised when he hears Thiele vote "aye" for Russell. He goes to see Leo, who asks Josh how he got Thiele to turn. Josh doesn't know.
In the Rose Garden, the President is delivering his remarks, when, on the teleprompter come the "middling" speech that Toby and Will drafted. Bartlet recovers and makes up some remarks on the fly. Toby and Will realize what has happened—as does Russell, who looks over and sees the speech on the teleprompter.
In Will's office, Toby and Will are talking when Russell comes in. Will attempts to apologize, but Russell wants a copy of the speech. He thought it was hilarious.
Later, everyone is getting ready for Jai's concert. The President asks Charlie how much milk costs, Charlie tells him, and the President asks Charlie to make sure everyone else knows, too. Donna comes to see Josh to thank him for not making fun of her or her aunt and uncle. Amy comes to the concert and finds Josh. He asks her about the status of their relationship.
After the concert, the President is in the Oval Office when C.J. comes to see him. He tells her that Jai did not understand what he was asking for when he requested his freedom. He also tells her that the secret nuclear negotiations are on hold.
Trivia / Goofs
- The piano piece played at the end of the episode is Frederic Chopin's "Revolutionary" Etude, Op. 10 No. 12 in C Minor.
- The piece played by Jai to illustrate the feeling of "han" is Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 4. After looking up the meaning of the word, the President explains it as "a sadness so deep no tears will come, and yet still there's hope."
- C.J. Cregg: If we don't allow this defection, if we blithely exploit this young man's ignorance, then I don't know who we are anymore.
- C.J. Cregg: Sir, seven North Korean nuclear scientists defected through China last year, we helped pay for it. Are we saying, if this kid were more valuable to us we'd accept him?
- President Bartlet: Is that such an unreasonable distinction? But this isn't your real argument.
- C.J. Cregg: Sending him back will play as a disaster in the press if it ever gets out.
- President Bartlet: [shakes head] That's not your real argument either.
- C.J. Cregg: No sir, it's not. This young man's asking for freedom. It's what this country was built on; everyone's from somewhere else, some place less free. That's my argument.
- President Bartlet: Thank you.
- Toby: Here's what it should be. In a triumph of the middling, a nod to mediocrity, and with gorge rising, it gives me great nausea to announce Robert Russell—Bingo Bob himself—as your new Vice President.
- Will: This lapdog of mining interests is as dull as he is unremarkable.
- Toby: As lackluster as he is soporific...
- Will: Good.
- Toby: This reversion to the mean...
- Will: This rebuke to the exemplary...
- Toby: Gives hope to the millions unfavored by the exceptional...
- Will: Yes.
- Toby: The Vice Presidency, being famously once described as not being worth a warm bucket of spit; let's now hock a big loogie for Bob Russell. Not the worst. Not the best. Just what we're stuck with.
- Will: Amen.
- Vice President Russell: I know my public profile, my political persona. I'm just glad to see there's such a keen awareness of the scale of the job you've all got ahead of you. I'm part of the team now, which makes all this pretty much your problem. Good luck with it.
- 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
Special Guest Stars
- Ron Canada as Ted Barrow
- Christopher Cousins as Congressman Thiele
- Tony Lee as Jai Yung Ahn
- NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
- Benjamin Brown as Mike Wayne
- Kim Webster as Ginger
- William Duffy as Larry
- Peter James Smith as Ed
- Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
- Randolph Brooks as Arthur Leeds
- Nathan LeGrand as Commerce Secretary
- Ron Marasco as OMB Director
- Byron Chung as N. Korean Handler
- Tom Yi as Translator
- Sean Smith as Immigration
- Ben Siegler as George
- Mary Linda Phillips as Aunt Barbara
- Gil Glasgow as Uncle Ted