OSCAR NOMINEE STOCKARD CHANNING GUEST-STARS -- As that night's stylish state dinner honoring the Indonesian president looms in the background, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) keeps his eye on a spate of potentially explosive problems: an FBI hostage standoff with dozens of militant survivalists, a Class-4 hurricane bearing down on a carrier group at sea and an impending national trucker's strike. Behind the scenes, the gracious First Lady (Oscar nominee Stockard Channing) prepares to host the dinner, a pushy reporter (guest star Timothy Busfield) flirts with C.J. (Allison Janney), Josh (Bradley Whitford) and Toby (Richard Schiff) corner an Indonesian government official to ask a favor, and a surprised Sam (Rob Lowe) spies his call girl friend Laurie (guest star Lisa Edelstein) at the event.
C.J. is holding the informal press gaggle where she is being fashions that will be sported by Mrs. Bartlet and the Indonesian President's wife. When she leaves, Josh informs her of a strengthening hurricane that will strike Georgia and the Carolinas. Sam then adds on that the Teamsters are voting to strike. This is followed by Toby, who informs her of a hostage crisis in Idaho.
Josh asks Donna to find a translator so he and Toby can speak with one of the Indonesian representatives who will be attending the State Dinner. Donna tries to impress upon Josh that she is not happy with the Indonesians because they, among other things, "summararily execute people they suspect of being sorcerers." At the Senior Staff Meeting, the group discusses the upcoming Teamsters meeting, the hurricane, and the hostage crisis. Mandy tries to get involved in the drafting of the evening's toast - to which Josh objects, but Leo allows.
Next, President Bartlet and the President of Indonesia are standing for photos from the White House Press Corps, while the two Presidents try to engage in small talk (spurred by Bartlet), though the President of Indonesia is not interested.
Sam is working on the toast and Leo holds his meeting with the Teamsters. Management and the Union are at odds over a number of issues and are not close to an agreement. Mandy and Josh discuss the hostage crisis. Mandy has knowledge about the weapons in the compound and Josh is annoyed the President sometimes listens to Mandy.
President Bartlet and the Indonesian President continue their appearances before the White House Press Corps, taking questions, in which the Indonesian President continues to be disengaged in responding to the questions. Danny asks President Bartlet about the protestors that are outside the White House, which C.J. hears as vermeil, and cuts Danny off, saying she will cover it at the briefing. Danny follows C.J. out of the room where he teases her that she doesn't know what the protests are about.
As the next group of press is brought in, Leo asks President Bartlet to step outside of the room for a moment. Leo informs the President they are moving a battle carrier group out to sea from Norfolk to avoid the hurricane. Meanwhile, Toby and Sam continue to work on President Bartlet's toast for the evening. Toby wants to be hardlined on the toast, calling the Indonesians out on political opression but Sam impresses upon Toby that would be impolite.
C.J. discusses vermeil at the press briefing, much to Danny's amusement, because the protestors number all of 6 people "with some oaktag and magic markers." Sam meets with Lori for lunch and they discuss her "work" - she has a client for the evening.
The President gets another briefing on the hostage crisis in Idaho. Mandy makes her case about the fact the US Government sold them their weapons. Mandy urges the group to consider a peaceful resolution before storming the compound. The President agrees to have a negotiator sent in.
As the State Dinner gets underway, Charlie stops by Josh's office to ask if Josh can find out about his grandparents who are in rural Georgia. Josh asks Donna (who is still going on about the sorcerers) to call FEMA to see about Charlies's grandparents.
Josh and Mandy have a "walk and talk conversation" and then meet up with Sam, and Josh and Sam have a brief conversation about the toast. Toby finds Josh and they meet with the State Department translator who is to help them with the Indonesian representative. However, Mr. Minaldi (the State Dept. translator) speaks Javanese, and Mr. Bambang (the Indonesian representative) speaks Batak. Donna appears to say that she is aware of this problem but has found a dishwasher in the White House kitchen that speaks Batak. Mr. Minaldi speaks Portuguese and so does the dishwasher. So Josh and Toby will be able to converse with Mr. Bambang via English-Portuguese-Batak-Portuguese-English.
C.J. and Mrs. Bartlet speak about the vermeil - Mrs. Bartlet is not embarassed by it and "the truth works most of the time." Mandy is anxious to hear about the events in Idaho. Leo asks Josh, Toby, and Sam to meet with Carl Everett, a major Democratic donor. Carl Everett has brought a date to the State Dinner - Laurie. Leo meets with C.J. because the hurricane is moving out to sea - and the battle carrier group is directly in its path. Back at the Dinner, Josh gets word the hostage crisis is over - the FBI took the house, but not before the militia men shot the negotiator. Josh tells Mandy this and she runs from the room to be sick.
President Bartlet and Leo meet with a captain to discuss the hurricane bearing down on the carrier group. Bartlet asks to be put in touch with the commander of the group. Leo suggests the President return to the party until the call is ready.
Josh and Toby begin their negotiations with Bambang in the White House kitchen. After a few minutes of intricate translations - Mr. Bambang replies, "Why don't we just speak in English?" Josh questions a sheepish Donna and she leaves along with the two translators - and Josh and Toby discuss a French poltical prisoner in Indonesia with Mr. Bambang. Mr. Bambang is in no mood to discuss the release of the prisoner, partly in response to Toby's toast, which embarassed the Indonesian President.
Danny comes to see C.J. with a tip that he's heard about the FBI negotiator being shot in Idaho. C.J. promises a statement in 15 minutes and then the two of them discuss how Danny flirts with C.J.
President Bartlet walks into the Teamsters meeting and tells management and the union that he isn't going to tolerate this anymore. After listening to them for a few minutes, he tells them that he plans on nationalizing the trucking industry and that he plans on drafting the truckers into military service, leaving them with 47 minutes to resolve their issues.
Carl Everett finds Sam (still being escorted by Laurie) and Carl discusses how "he wants to have a relationship with Sam." Sam snidely replies, "I get $500 an hour" a veiled reference of course, to Laurie's occupation. When Carl moves off to speak with someone else - Laurie and Sam have a conversation where Sam is very upset with Laurie, but she impresses upon him that its just her job. Mrs. Bartlet comes over and asks Sam to introduce Laurie to her. Mrs. Bartlet is looking for the President and Sam informs the First Lady that he had to step out to the West Wing. Laurie and Sam finish their converstation and Sam offers Laurie $10,000 not to go home with Everett.
The President and the First Lady have a private moment in the door to the Oval Office and then Leo finds them to say that they have established communication with the Carrier Battle Group, though the USS John F. Kennedy's radio has been knocked out but they have been able to raise the USS Hickory, a supply ship that supports the carrier group. The President is connected to a seaman in the radio shack on the Hickory and the two of them speak about the conditions that are affecting the carrier
- 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
Special Guest Star
- ❝Sam – Toby, do you really think it's a good idea to invite people to dinner and then tell them exactly what they’re doing wrong their lives?
- Toby – Absolutely. Otherwise, it's just a waste of food❞
- ❝Sam – Oh, for God's sakes. It's Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 US 335. You cite the precedent, you cite Black's opinion for the majority
- Laurie – Thank you for that display of geek bravado❞
- President Bartlet: Talk to me each for five minutes and then we're going to settle this.
- [the representatives move to sit down]
- President Bartlet: Stay standing . . .
- Mrs. Bartlet: Actually I was actually looking for the President . . .
- Sam Seaborn: He had to step out to the West Wing . . .
- Mrs. Bartlet: Ahh.
- Sam Seaborn: I'm not sure why . . . but I could go and . . .
- Mrs. Bartlet: To pistol whip the trucking industry.
- Sam Seaborn: Why would he . . .
- Mrs. Bartlet: Because he can't save a gunshot victim and he can't stop a hurricane . . .
- It is later revealed in the Season 2 episode "Two Cathedrals" that the tender ship USS Hickory - that the President talked to at the end of this episode - was sunk in the hurricane, presumably with all hands lost.
- President Bartlet threatens the striking truck workers that he would nationalize the trucking industry to avert the strike, using the precedent that Truman did it in 1952 to avert the coal mines. Truman actually seized the steel mills and his seizure was ruled unconstitutional in the Supreme court case Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer.  It is mentioned that the action was overturned in the episode.
- Minaldi claims there is no such language as "Indonesian", but this isn't the case. While it is true that most Indonesians speak a local language as their first language, nearly all of them do speak Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia), a standard register of Malay, and a senior politician like Siguto would definitely be fluent in it.
- When they realize the Hurricane is heading out to sea Leo refers to the fleet as a "Battle Carrier Group". Properly it is a Carrier Battle Group. In addition, they also refer to two battleships in the fleet when in actuality they have been retired since 1992.
- The hurricane is incorrectly referred to as a "Class 4". Strength of hurricanes are designated by "Category", not "Class". Therefore, the hurricane should have been referred to as a "Category 4" storm.
- When the hurricane changes direction, the carrier group gets caught in it. This would never happen, as a carrier group can quite easily outpace a hurricane.
- Charlie is worried about his grandparents on the coast of Georgia, but can’t reach them. Donna explains that they lost phone service “in parts of northeastern Georgia.” It is Southeast Georgia, not Northeast Georgia, that lies along the Atlantic coast.
- Leo mispronounces “Norfolk” several times during the episode. The “L” is silent.
Notes and references
- ↑ First appearance of the First Lady
- ↑ CAST NOTES — Ariono Suriawinata is credited by his character's title "President of Indonesia" although he is identified in dialogue as Rahm Siguto. Bradley James, J.P. Stevenson, and Colin K. Gray are credited by their character's jobs although they are named later.
- ↑ "The West Wing" The State Dinner (1999) — Quotes and trivia copied from IMDb