In the season finale, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) encounters Governor Ritchie (James Brolin)—his Republican presidential rival—during a Broadway play while the President faces a terrorist threat after he discovers that Abdul ibn Shareef, the Qumari Defense Minister, has been supporting terrorism. Bartlet finally comes to the decision to go ahead with the covert op that will have Shareef killed. As the President watches the play, the order is given. With the pretext of a mechanical failure, the plane lands on a remote airfield in Bermuda, where Shareef is gunned down by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Elsewhere, the flirtation between C.J. (Allison Janney) and Secret Service bodyguard Simon Donovan (Mark Harmon) that had been limited by the boundaries of their professional relationship is free to grow more serious after the man sending her death threats is apprehended. However, it ends in tragedy as Donovan is gunned down while attempting to stop a convenience store robbery.
"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by Sam
C.J. is briefing the press on the President's upcoming trip to New York. She is also asked about the planned welfare bill vote. When asked why the President is leaving an hour later for New York, she consults her notes and tells them that the President is meeting with Abdul Shareef.
Leo is meeting in the Situation Room about Shareef's visit to the White House. He is concerned that if the President puts a face and voice to Shareef, he will be unable to give the order to kill Shareef. The President enters and Joint Chiefs explain the assassination plan.
Josh and Amy are having breakfast and talking about the upcoming welfare vote. Elsewhere, Charlie has come to see Debbie Fiderer, who was working at Office of Personnel Management and recommended Charlie for the job he now holds. She says she is not interested in the Executive Secretary job, but Charlie insists that she come in to talk to the President. She tells him that she was fired from the White House, and Charlie tells her that he knows (implying that he also knows she was fired for recommending him).
Donovan comes to the White House with Anthony, a teenager that Simon serves as Big Brother for. He goes into C.J.'s office to tell her that he is not allowed to date a protectee or kiss a protectee. She banters with Simon and he leaves, telling her he will see her on the plane to New York.
In the President's study, Bartlet is meeting with Dr. Stanley Keyworth. The President is distracted by the plan to kill Shareef and tries to discuss it indirectly by asking Stanley what crimes he would commit if they weren't illegal. Stanley tries to figure out what is on the Bartlet's mind, but the President can't open up to Keyworth about it and gets up to leave to go to his meeting with Shareef.
Toby and Sam are meeting with a Congressman from Florida. The Congressman wants the President to meet with Governor Ritchie that evening at the play in New York. The Congressman implies that several yea votes can be had if the President agrees to talk with Ritchie. Toby says no. In another room, Josh is meeting with other Congressmen, who are concerned about the vote and why the President is not staying in DC to monitor the vote. Josh confirms the three Congressmen are voting no and tells them to expect a call from the President.
The President meets with Abdul Shareef in the Oval Office, where they exchange gifts and conversation. Shareef goes to shake Bartlet's hand, but the President refuses. He asks the translator to apologize and to tell him that he has a rash on his hands. Shareef leaves.
Toby tells Sam that Kevin Cahn has told the AP that Governor Ritchie is looking forward to meeting with the President that evening. Sam tells Toby to counter with a statement the President is going to be busy working the welfare vote, which is being held up by the Florida delegation. They both get Josh to sign off on the plan due to the extra pressure it will put on him to win the vote.
Debbie Fiderer comes to the White House. She is nervous and has "self-medicated" to get through the meeting. The first meeting with President Bartlet does not go well. Charlie tells her there will be another interview and another until they get it right. In a conference room in the White House, Leo and Fitzwallace meet with the "Gang of Eight" to tell them about the plan to kill Shareef.
In New York, Ron Butterfield tells Simon Donovan that they have a lead on C.J.'s stalker and they may have him soon. Just then, C.J. comes outside to talk to the press. Donovan rushes over and pulls her aside. They talk privately and then Simon gets a call—the stalker has been arrested and he no longer has to protect C.J. The two of them kiss passionately.
As the play gets underway, Sam gets a call and motions for Toby to follow him. Sam tells Toby that Ritchie went to the Yankee game instead of coming right to the play. Sam tells Toby they should send the Presidential motorcade out to tie up traffic and delay Ritchie's arrival to the play. Toby calls Josh to get his input on that idea, and the two of them talk about how Josh is handling this pressure. Josh is down because, while they are going to win the vote, it's likely going to be the end of his relationship with Amy.
Toby and Sam talk to the press during the intermission of the play. They take a swipe at Ritchie, who has been stuck in traffic. The President and Charlie talk and Charlie tells the President he is going to arrange another meeting for him and Debbie Fiderer. When the President asks why, Charlie tells him that she got fired because of him.
Simon Donovan walks into a Korean grocery to buy something and stumbles into the middle of an armed robbery. He manages to take down one of the robbers, but the other comes around a corner and shoots Donovan dead. As music builds in the background, Ron Butterfield calls C.J. outside to tell her about the shooting. She can't believe it and walks off, breaking down on a bench in Times Square. Back in Washington, Josh and Amy are talking in his apartment. It escalates into a fight, which is interrupted when the phone rings and they learn about Donovan's murder.
Leo and the President meet and Leo tells him it is time. The President has reservations and thinks it is wrong. Leo impresses upon the President that this is his duty as President of the United States. The President then gives the order despite his fears there will be retaliation. He goes downstairs to have a cigarette and runs into Governor Ritchie. They have a contentious discussion.
The President returns to his box while we see Shareef's plane land in Bermuda. Shareef exits the plane with his two bodyguards, at which point all three are shot dead. The finale is reaching a crescendo in New York, and Leo comes to tell the President it is done.
- President Bartlet: Okay. Well... surely, this is the most absurd meeting I ever sat in, and friends, that is saying something.
- President Bartlet: If I tell you I intend to commit a crime, you're required by law to report it. [beat] I have a strange meeting coming up. [beat] I'm gonna go. It's good seeing you.
- President Bartlet: [to Charlie] Is this a joke? If it's a joke, it's both funny and well-executed, but I think you and I both know that it's not. I send you out to replace Delores Landingham, and that's what you came home with?
- Governor Ritchie: Oh. Crime. Boy, I don't know.
- President Bartlet: [sighs] We should have a great debate, Rob. We owe it to everyone. When I was running as a governor, I didn't know anything. I made them start Bartlet college in my dining room. Two hours every morning on foreign affairs and the military. You can do that.
- Governor Ritchie: How many different ways you think you're gonna find to call me dumb?
President Bartlet: I wasn't, Rob. But you've turned being un-engaged into a Zen-like thing, and you shouldn't enjoy it so much is all, and if it appears at times as if I don't like you, that's the only reason why.
- Governor Ritchie: You're what my friends call a superior sumbitch. You're an academic elitist and a snob. You're, uh, Hollywood, you're weak, you're liberal, and you can't be trusted. And if it appears from time to time as if I don't like you, well, those are just a few of the many reasons why.
- President Bartlet: In the future, if you're wondering, "Crime. Boy, I don't know" is when I decided to kick your ass.
- The red and white rose petals scattered on the floor where Simon dies are a visual reference to the play C.J. attended, "The Wars of the Roses," named after the red and white rose symbols of the royal houses that battled for the throne of England.
- This is the last season finale to feature Rob Lowe 's character Sam Seaborn in the opening titles. His character would be written off of the show in the middle of Season Four and replaced with Joshua Malina as Will Bailey.
- During the episode, Leo McGarry and Percy Fitzwallace confer with the "Gang of Eight" about the possibility of the President ordering Shareef's assassination. In the West Wing universe, the Gang of Eight includes the House Majority and Minority Leaders, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, and the Chairmen and Ranking Members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. This differs from the real world where it is the Speaker of the House and the House Minority Leader who are members of the Gang of Eight, while the House Majority Leader is not. It is revealed in the season opener of Season Five that Acting-President Glen Allen Walken (the former Republican Speaker of the House) had "signed off" on the assassination and so it is assumed that he was informed of what was to happen before the Gang of Eight were told.
- The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was adopted to bar US military personnel in enforcing local law.
- Leo refers to Thomas Merton's prayer: MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) residing at the Abbey in Gethsemani, Kentucky.
- During the briefing of the Gang of Eight, one of the attendees asks when the President would give the order and Leo responds "at the last possible minute". When Leo later meets with Bartlet on the night of the assassination, Leo informs the President that he has two minutes to give the go ahead. The conversation that follows lasts one minute, meaning that Bartlet gives the order exactly at the last possible minute.
- Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
- 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 Jed Bartlet
Special Guest StarsEdit
- Adam Arkin as Dr. Stanley Keyworth
- Mary-Louise Parker as Amy Gardner
- Lily Tomlin as Debbie Fiderer
- James Brolin as Robert Ritchie
- Mark Harmon as Simon Donovan
- with John Amos as Admiral Percy Fitzwallace
- Kurt Fuller as SitRoom Civilian Advisor
- Michael O'Neill as Ron Butterfield
- David Huddleston as Senator Max Lobell
- Armin Shimerman as Richard III
- NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
- Renée Estevez as Nancy
- Andrew McFarlane as Anthony
- William Thomas Jr. as David
- Fred Sanders as Ted
- Glenn Morshower as Mike Chysler
- Thomas Kopache as Bob Slatterly
- Wren T. Brown as in Josh's meeting
- Ken Thorley as in Josh's meeting
- Basil Hoffman as Congressman
- Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
- Al No'mani as Abdul Shareef
- Al Faris as Translator
- John David Conti as Howell
- Nate Reese as Cantwell
- Paul Norwood as Bristol
- Randolph Brooks as Arthur Leeds
- Mindy Seeger as Chris
- Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
- Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
- Charles Noland as Steve
- S.E. Perry as Marine Officer Thomas
- Heidi Anderson as Waitress
- William Dennis Hunt as Duke of York
- Jeanie Hacket as Queen Margaret
- Orlando Seale as Young Clifford
- Douglas Weston as Bedford
- Adrian Diamond as Young Boy
- Joshua Wolf Coleman as Chorus
- Charles Currier as Chorus
- Russell Edge as Chorus
- Joshua Fardon as Chorus
- Richard Gould as Chorus
- Rob Nagle as Chorus
- Kevin Owers as Chorus
- Graham Shiels as Chorus
- Richard Soto as Chorus
- Glenn Kubota as Grocer
- Karen Tsen Lee as Reporter
- Ted Koch as Reporter
- Mark Gerald Douglas as Agent
- Lisa Datz as Agent
- James Villani as Thug
- Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley
- Patriotic Song by Stephen Oliver