JOSH FEELS GUILTY OVER SPECIAL PRIVILEGES -- Josh (Bradley Whitford) is troubled when he receives a special card informing him of where to safely go in the event of a nuclear attack -- a privilege denied to most of his White House co-workers -- while Leo (John Spencer) instructs the senior staff to meet with various special interest groups, some of whom have wacky agendas. Prior to an important press conference, Toby (Richard Schiff) voices strong opposition to many of President Bartlet's (Martin Sheen) plans for an upcoming California trip and later checks out the rumor that he was not the chief executive's first choice for the job. The President, meanwhile, virtually orders his staff to sample his prized chili when he arranges a reception for his Georgetown-bound daughter (guest star Elizabeth Moss).
The episode opens with the President playing basketball with several of the Senior Staff (Josh, Toby, Charlie) and the President brings in a ringer (a former Duke basketball player) to compete against Toby's trash talking.
Donna meets Josh and tells him that he has a staff meeting, which he tells her that he is on his way to. C.J. catches up to him to ask him to read an article on small pox. Meanwhile, in the Roosevelt Room, Sam, Toby, Mandy, and others are awaiting the arrival of Leo to discuss Andrew Jackson and the Big Block of Cheese.
Following the meeting, Leo takes Josh to meet with Jonathan Lacey, who is with the National Security Council. Lacey gives Josh a card that tells him what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.
In the Press Room, Leo, Toby, Sam, and Mandy are prepping the President for a press conference. He fields a question from Sam on the economy, which Mandy complains the President answered, "like an economics professor with a big old stick up his butt." Toby wants to move to questions about guns and pushes the President to be more forceful on his responses about guns. The disagreement becomes heated and Leo declares it over (so Sam can go meet his first "Big Block of Cheese" appointment), who is a representative of U.S. Space Command who tells Sam that among other calamities, "something is heading east over the Pacific."
Back in the Mural Room, the President and Leo are meeting with several members of the President's economic team. The President gets a note that Zoey is coming to the White House, so the President announces that he is going to make chili for everyone in the residence. The President and Leo come back into the Oval Office and the rest of the Senior Staff come in. Mandy pitches a trip to California and Toby is steadfastly against it. After the meeting breaks up, Sam and Josh have a conversation and Josh realizes that Sam doesn't have "the card," either.
C.J.'s "Big Block of Cheese" appointment is with wildlife protectors, who want federal funding to build a wolf highway. Mandy comes to see Toby and keeps pitching the idea of the California trip. She also tells Toby indirectly that he was not the first choice for the Communications Director job.
Josh goes to see his therapist and explains his feelings over the card that he was given. The two talk for a bit and Stanley gets Josh to tell him how his sister died (there was a fire and Josh ran out of the house and Joanie died in the house).
Back in his office, Josh is listening to Ave Maria, which always makes him think of his sister. C.J. comes to see him and tells him to come and have some chili. Josh tells her about the card that he was given and how he couldn't be friends with her unless he told her. She tells him that it's more important for him to have the card than any of the rest of them.
In the residence, the President is mingling with his staff. Toby comes to sit with him and the two of them clear the air between the two of them. Josh arrives in the residence and meets up with Zoey in the kitchen. Moments later, Charlie comes into the kitchen and the two of them meet for the first time. Zoey is clearly interested in Charlie from the outset. Josh leaves the two of them to work on the chili.
He comes out and speaks with Leo and the President. The President talks about how good he feels when he sees colleagues mingling together outside of work. Leo and the President talk about the women in the room and Josh finally tells the President that he can't accept the responsibility that comes with having "the card."
The President leads everyone to dinner with some remarks on what challenges lay ahead for all of them and the differences they have yet to make.
- Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn
- Moira Kelly as Mandy Hampton
- Dulé Hill as Charlie Young
- Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg
- Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
- John Spencer as Leo McGarry
- Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman
- and Martin Sheen as President Bartlet
- 〉Josh – You look good!
- Zoey – You look like death on a Triscuit!〈
- 〉I serve at the pleasure of the President, and it's a great privilege that I will never forget [removes NSC card from his wallet]. I can't keep this. I think it's a white flag of surrender. I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy and I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph. And for all the times in between I just want to be able to look them in the eye. Leo, it's not for me. I want to be with my family, my friends, and these women〈
- 〉I hope that by the time we’re done with our four years here, we'll have seen to it that every young person who chooses can go to college and beyond, regardless of their economic status.... What will be the next thing that challenges us, Toby? That makes us work harder and go farther?... Here's to absent friends. And the ones who are here now〈
- —President Bartlet
- This is the first "Big Block of Cheese Day".
- The United States Space Command was a real and official command in the Department of Defense at the time of airing. Its actual role was to combat ICBMs, not UFOs.
- Toby mentions that C.J. once called him a paranoid nudnik. "Nudnik" is a real word. It is Yiddish and means "someone who is a boring pest".
- Josh's therapist in this episode is named Stanley. Later, the therapist who will help Josh in Noël, is also named Stanley.
- In the opening scene, Bartlet brings in a ringer from Duke to play basketball, played by former University of Michigan star Juwan Howard. Former Duke basketball player and 2001 National Champion Reggie Love was actually a personal aide for President Barack Obama from 2009-2011.
- During the scene with Josh & CJ in Josh's office, a shooting range target is behind his CD player leaning against the wall, perhaps foreshadowing events that would occur at the end of the season.
- In this episode, as the staff are gathering for the Big Block of Cheese meeting, Toby and Sam discuss the fact that this is a monthly event, but that a year has gone by and they've done it twice, which Sam replies something to the effect of "well we're a bit behind." This same episode, however, is the one in which Josh receives his instructions of where to go in case of a nuclear attack and realizes that his staff would not be joining him in the event of such an emergency. It is unlikely that a year would have gone by in the White House before the Deputy Chief of Staff would receive this information.
- When President Bartlett is giving his toast at the end of the episode, the “ice” in his glass is not floating, which suggests the ice is a prop.
Notes and references
- listed in the closing credits