PRESIDENT MUST DEAL WITH BOATLOAD OF CHINESE CHRISTIAN IMMIGRANTS ON EVE OF THANKSGIVING -- As Thanksgiving nears, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has his own hot-potato issue when a boatload of persecuted Chinese evangelical Christians arrives in California seeking asylum, while a perplexed C.J. (Allison Janney) must choose between two turkeys for the Presidential pardon ceremony -- with the other destined for the chopping block. While Bartlet's staff argues over sending back the illegal immigrants, Toby (Richard Schiff) wants the President to appoint Leo's (John Spencer) controversial sister (guest star Deborah Hedwall) for a minor education post, fully aware that her opposition to school prayer will cause the controversial subject to emerge again. Elsewhere, Toby, Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Sam (Rob Lowe) make plans to watch football while Charlie (Dule Hill) is dispatched by Bartlet to find the precise cutting instrument for Thanksgiving dinner.
24th Street Terminal - San Diego Harbor
The episode opens with Coast Guard personnel dealing with an incident in San Diego, California. A representative from the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) shows up to question Commander Cale (USCG) about the situation. There is a container ship being held offshore, which holds about 100 Chinese citizens who are trying to enter the United States. Cale expresses the need for translators from the State Department, which Joseph Russo (INS) says they can provide. When Cale asks if they are dealing with "expedited removal," Russo responds that is not his call. At the White House, Sam is working on the Thanksgiving Day Message with Toby. C.J. comes to the two of them to ask if they know anything about a group that wants the White House to join in on a Thanksgiving feast. C.J. reminds the two of them that she was home last year sick and missed Thanksgiving at the White House. She leaves in disgust when Josh arrives to exclaim that he was flipping a coin in his office and sixteen times it came up tails. Donna comes to ask the three men what to do with the Turkeys that have arrived for the Presidential Pardon. They all immediately decide to put them in C.J.'s office. Josh is called to the phone to talk to Commander Cale about the Chinese boat.
Josh briefs Leo on the Chinese situation - he tells Josh to brief C.J. on the issue. He also tells her about the addition of a name to a list of recess appointments, including Josephine McGarry, Leo's sister. C.J. comes into her office to find the two turkeys in her office - and Donna hurriedly arrives to explain the situation, which C.J. is not aware of as she was not there last year. Charlie arrives at the White House - he is on a quest from the President for the perfect carving knife. The first one up is an American knife, which Bartlet refuses as it doesn't feel right - and he tells Charlie to try a German knife. Charlie tells the President that Sam wants five minutes to talk about the Chinese issue, as there may be something else to it. Toby arrives to talk to the President about adding Josephine McGarry to the list of recess appointments. The President is concerned about the debate that it will start on school prayer. Leo is adamant about not adding her to the list. Josh and Sam arrive to tell the President that the Chinese people on the boat are claiming to be Christian evangelicals fleeing religious persecution and they are requesting religious asylum. Bartlet can't believe it.
C.J. gives her press briefing, where she is dealing with the Chinese Christians and she offers a schedule for the Thanksgiving Day festivities. The press wants to know if she will be leading them in song.
Sam and Josh arrive at the meeting with the Christians, including Al Caldwell and Mary Marsh, who Josh had faced off against in the Pilot episode. Marsh is aggressive and confrontational. Sam starts to get into it with Mary Marsh and Al Caldwell takes Josh aside and tells him that his church will pay the bond for the Chinese if need be.
Toby meets with the staff of the Leadership over adding Josephine McGarry's name to the list of recess appointments. The staff are against her because of her position on school prayer. Toby is stubborn and won't back down on adding her to the list. One of the staff produces a picture of Josephine McGarry "enforcing the law," which shows her in the middle of a demonstration where students are being arrested for praying at a basketball game. Toby comes to see Leo and Leo gets his sister on the phone to see if the nomination can be saved (which Toby wants to do, but Leo thinks it's done).
C.J. and Donna are discussing the song that she is going to have to sing. C.J. doesn't know the song ("We Gather Together"), which surprises Donna. C.J. and Donna go to her office to determine which turkey is going to get the pardon. Once she makes her decision, she goes to the President to have him pardon the bird.
Two INS agents come to see Josh and Sam to give them an update. They go to see the President to report on the meetings they have held - the Chinese government avers they are not persecuted and they broke the law by leaving the country illegally and should be returned. The INS reports that it is not unusual for people in this situation to be "coached." Bartlet relates the Biblical origin of the word "shibboleth" to Sam and Josh. It was a password used by the military to distinguish true Israelites from impostors, who could not pronounce the word properly. The President tells Sam and Josh to have one of the refugees flown in to meet with him. When Josh asks what the President what he will ask the refugee, the President responds wryly: "I'm going to ask him to say, 'shibboleth.'"
Josephine McGarry comes to see her brother and he tells her that she needs to withdraw her name from consideration, because the President won't ask her to do it. He has realized that she made the photograph happen and calls her on it, which is why he needs her to withdraw. Toby comes to see Leo and he still wants to have the debate and Leo will see what he can do.
Jhin Wei is brought to the White House and shown into the Oval Office to meet with the President. Bartlet asks him a series of questions about his faith to test his knowledge. Unprompted, Jhin Wei tells the President that Christianity is not demonstrated through a recitation of facts—rather, "faith is the true shibboleth." This leads the President to know they are genuine in their claim for religious asylum. The President asks Leo how they can manage the process of letting the refugees go without granting them asylum, so as not to anger the Chinese. Leo tells the President that you have to ask yourself, "how secure is the INS facility?" The President asks Mrs. Landingham to get the Governor of California on the phone.
Thursday - Thanksgiving Day
C.J. comes to her office where the non-pardoned turkey is being readied to return and presumably sold for a Thanksgiving dinner. C.J. doesn't want that to happen, so she tries to buy the bird, but the young man from the turkey farm tells her that it has already been sold. C.J. decides to ask the President to pardon the second turkey.
In the Oval Office, the President is asking for a copy of the Proclamation. Mrs. Landingham tells him that Sam is bringing it over. Charlie arrives with another knife, this time a Japanese knife. Charlie finally works up the courage to ask why the President is making such a fuss over a knife. The President responds that a knife is something you pass on through the generations. When Charlie questions why the President doesn't already have one, the President responds that he does, but he is giving it away. He pulls out a box and gives it to Charlie. Charlie opens the box and finds a carving knife bearing the stamp, "PR," which Charlie does not recognize. The President tells Charlie that the knife was made for his family by a Boston silversmith named Paul Revere. He tells Charlie that he is proud of him, and Charlie is visibly moved.
C.J. comes to tell the President that he is due in the Rose Garden in five minutes. She then asks the President to come out and pardon the other turkey. The President makes a show of pardoning the turkey, but he is exasperated that the teenaged employee from the turkey farm does not know that the President can't really pardon a bird. He declares that he is drafting the turkey into military service instead, and promises to draft a check to pay for the turkey himself.
Sam and Josh arrive with the Thanksgiving Proclamation, and they ask the President if he is aware of the Chinese dissidents' "prison break." The President says he knows. He asks what it says that the National Guards troops could let such a thing happen. Bartlet reads the proclamation and is visibly moved by Sam's words. He explains to Josh how they managed to let the dissidents go and to allow China to save face - then they go into the Rose Garden to proclaim a National Day of Thanksgiving.
- 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 President Bartlet
- F. William Parker as Reverend Al Caldwell
- Annie Corley as Mary Marsh
- Deborah Hedwall as Josephine McGarry
- Kathryn Joosten as Dolores Landingham
- NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper
- Sam Anderson as John La Salle
- and Henry O as Jhin Wei
- John Prosky as Aide #4
- John Mariano as Bertram
- Sharon Omi as Gardener
- Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
- Devika Parikh as Bonnie
- Kim Webster as Ginger
- Jonah Rooney as Morton Horn
- Joe D'Angerio as Joseph Russo
- Al Rodrigo as Commander Cale
- Charles Noland as Steve
- Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
- Ivar Brogger as Aide #1
- Cameron Daddo as Aide #2 Wayne
- Rich Cooper as Aide #3
- C.J.: (to Donna): Can I borrow you for just a minute?
- Josh: Hey, C.J.
- C.J.: You know Josh, I'd love to stand around and talk, but I have a turkey pardoning in five minutes.
- Josh: I thought that was tomorrow?
- C.J.: No, tomorrow's the singing
- Josh: You're singing?
- C.J.: I'm leading the children in song
- Josh: Excellent
- C.J.: Yes, I need Donna for a moment.
- Josh: You need help with the song?
- C.J.: I don't need help with the song
- C.J.: [to Donna]: I need help with the song
- Donna: Isn't it the usual song?
- C.J.: There's a usual song?
- Donna: "We Gather Together"?
- C.J.: That's the song?
- Donna: It's the usual song
- C.J.: So you know it?
Donna: Everybody knows it.
- C.J.: I don't know it
- Donna: Didn't you go to elementary school?
- Charlie: Mr. President?
- Bartlet: What you got Charles?
- Charlie: A winner, Mr. President. The 1985 Komenyomata. Made in Japan from the best materials available.
- Bartlet: Lighter weight blade
- Charlie: Which facilitates cutting and user fatigue
- Bartlet: I once test drove the Komenyomata
- Charlie: And?
- Bartlet: Not wild about it. How about this?
- Charlie: Okay, Mr. President, I say this with all possible respect but each of these knives you know, cuts meat. Why is it important -
- Bartlet: Because it's something we pass on, something with a history, so we can say my father gave this to me and his father gave it to him, and now I'm giving it to you.
- Charlie: Well okay, sir, but if that's true then why don't you already have one?
- Bartlet: I do have one
- Charlie: Why do you need a new one?
- Bartlet: Because I'm giving mine away
- Charlie: To who?
- Bartlet: Whom.
- Charlie: To whom?
- Bartlet: Funny you should ask. Charlie, my father gave this to me and his father gave it to him. And now I'm giving it to you . . . Take a look . . . The fully tapered bolster allows for sharpening the entire edge of the blade.
- Charlie: It says PR, I thought I knew them all, but I don't recognize the manufacturer
- Bartlet: Yeah, these were made for my family by a Boston silversmith, named Paul Revere . . . I'm proud of you Charlie.
- Charlie: Thank you sir.
- C.J: Um, Mr. President?
- Bartlet: Yes?
- C.J: Hi
- Bartlet: Hi
- C.J: I'm sorry to ask you this, Sir, but -
- Bartlet: Not too late to stop yourself
- C.J: I need you to pardon a turkey
- Bartlet: I already pardoned a turkey
- C.J: I need you to pardon another one.
- Bartlet: Didn't I do it right?
- C.J: You did it great, but I need you to come out here and pardon another one.
- Bartlet: Aren't I going to get a reputation for being soft on turkeys?
- C.J: Sir, can you just come out here and get this over -
- Bartlet: No, I'm not going to - C.J. - what the hell is going on?
- C.J: They sent me two turkeys. The more photo-friendly of the two gets a presidential pardon and a full life at a children's zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.
- Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that I'd watch.