PRODIGAL DAUGHTER C.J. RETURNS TO ROLLERCOASTER HIGH SCHOOL REUNION; MATTHEW MODINE MAKES EPISODIC TV DEBUT -- In a special episode guest written by playwright Jon Robin Baitz ("Three Hotels"), C.J. (Allison Janney) reluctantly returns to Dayton, Ohio, to speak at her 20th high school class reunion but her return home includes an impromptu encounter with a rich and handsome classmate (guest star Matthew Modine, "Notting Hill," in his episodic TV debut) -- and a sobering understanding that her intellectual father is suddenly deteriorating from Alzheimer's Disease. While C.J. is confronted with a kaleidoscope of emotions, she can't help but check in on Toby (Richard Schiff) who struggles to fill in for her during news briefings.
C.J. begins the episode with a press briefing, bantering with the press corps, who keep asking her about her planned trip to her reunion and the speech she is planning to give. She doesn't want to go so she is going to stay but Toby and Carol conspire to send her.
At the airport, both in DC and again in Ohio, C.J. can’t let go of her work - spending most of the time (on screen) talking to Toby on her phone. Waiting for her cab in Ohio, she is approached by an fellow classmate, where they reminisce and decide to go to the reunion together.
Arriving at her father's house, the place is a mess, dirty dishes everywhere, and C.J. learns that his new wife, Molly, has left him - the next morning she goes to confront Molly. C.J. and her father go fishing together later, where he has a particularly troubling episode with C.J. They go to see a doctor (who is also a family friend). Her father gets mad at the doctor and leaves - at which point the doctor tells C.J. that it's good he is mad - but she needs to start planning right now for the end.
Later, C.J. gets ready for the reunion, when Marco arrives to pick up C.J. - he and her father have a rambling conversation and then C.J. and Marco leave (after Tal has another episode). They sit outside the restaurant and talk - C.J. tells Marco that she doesn't think she can do it - they drive to a hotel instead for a tryst.
Back at her father's house - Molly, returns to take care of Tal. They go off to the reunion to hear C.J.'s speech. As C.J. is delivering her speech - her phone rings - it's Toby - there's been several bombings of US embassies abroad and she needs to return to Washington. She apologizes to the class and leaves, with Marco and her father close behind. C.J. and her father share a moment before getting into the car - without speaking, she lets him know that she will be there for him.
Special Guest Stars
- Elijah Roberts as Harry
- Randolph Brooks as Arthur Leeds
- Kris Murphy as Katie Witt
- Mindy Seeger as Chris
- Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell
- Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick
- ❝'We sail,' said Pascal, 'in a vast sphere,' Claudia Jean, 'ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.' I'd much rather see you on TV, darling, than sitting opposite me watching the demolition derby going on in my brain❞
- —Talmidge Cregg
- This episode features the fewest members of the main cast to appear in an episode to this point in the series, at three. It is also the first episode of the entire series not to feature Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet
- John Spencer appears in the background of one scene in the role of Leo McGarry, but he does not talk.
- When her father suggests they go fishing, C.J. says "It's February," but this episode takes place before Bartlet's second inauguration (which should be on January 20th).
- Oddity: after her speech was interrupted, CJ addresses her father by his first name (Tal).
- Location Trivia: Suburban Chicago played the character of Dayton, OH, with scenes shot in Oak Park and Elmwood Park, IL.
- In other episodes it is mentioned that C.J. has two older brothers but they are not discussed in this episode nor any other episode dealing with C.J.'s father's illness or caring for him.