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Chronic Hero Syndrome / Live-Action TV

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People with Chronic Hero Syndrome in live-action TV.


  • In 24, where do we find Jack at the beginning of "Live Another Day?" Despite everything he's been through, everything he's lost, and the fact that the authorities (and the Russians) would still love to see him in a cell, we find him trying to stop another terrorist threat, working in secret with some others, and he resurfaces when he needs the authorities' help to do it. It's not been his job in ages, it's not been in his best interests in longer... but Jack just can't stop knowing bad guys are still out there. It's not like one of his old Big Bads resurfaced; he has to watch for trouble and take action when it shows up; it's just who he is.
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  • Andromeda: Being an idealist from a more idealistic time dropped into a Crapsack Universe, Dylan Hunt often suffers from this. Much to the annoyance of his more cynical/pragmatic crewmates.
    Tyr Anasazi: I trust Dylan to be Dylan. When the universe collapses and dies, there will be three survivors: Tyr Anasazi, the cockroaches... and Dylan Hunt, trying to save the cockroaches.
  • Angel: The title character. Angel feels eternally guilty and constantly feels the need to save everyone. If he doesn't, he is burdened with guilt.
  • Eaglebones is temporarily afflicted with this in the Season Two opener of The Aquabats! Super Show! when after the Aquabats are hailed as world-saving heroes, he wants to help anyone who comes to the team with a problem, no matter how mundane or tedious. This is deconstructed, with Bones learning by the end of the episode that it just isn't practical for one group of superheroes to fix every little problem.
    Eaglebones Falconhawk: The Aquabats are brand new too. We're superheroes who save the world now!...but maybe not every other tiny little thing.
    MC Bat Commander: It's true, Eaglebones. Saving the world is a big responsibility, that hopefully someone else will pay for.
    [Learning and Growing jingle plays]
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  • Babylon 5: Dr. Franklin, despite having a full staff at his disposal, pushes himself to treat as many patients as possible to the point that he becomes dangerously addicted to stims in an effort to keep going. Reality Ensues when his addiction begins to impact patient care.
  • Being Human (UK): Despite being a Cute Ghost Girl occasional ditz, Annie winds up saving people a number of times. She saves the humans that the vampires were using as a food supply, and saves Mitchell and George from their assailant at the end of the second series. She doesn't even care that whoever is in charge of the afterlife is angry at her for doing so, she wants to make sure her friends are safe. A slightly less impressive (but still valid) moment would be when she and George go to save Mitchell from the vampires, using a lot of screaming and flailing to take down one vampire.
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  • Black Lightning puts a realistic spin on this, showing how this affects one's civilian life. Jefferson being Black Lightning cost him his marriage, as his wife couldn't stand him coming back beaten and, possibly, bullet-ridden every night. Eventually, he stopped, coming back only 10 years later. At first, Lynn once again thinks it's a mistake, even believing it to be an addiction. But then their eldest daughter Anissa develops powers. Knowing that Anissa is already this type of person, there's nothing anyone can say to keep her from going out there, so she asks Jefferson to train her and Gambi to make her a suit.
  • Blue Bloods: Invoked Trope by Erin Reagan, who warned Jamie that an awful lot of cops are like this and end up breaking themselves and that his personality made him especially vulnerable to it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The main heroine constantly suffers from this as well. Buffy is the Slayer so she feels responsible for everyone around her. Deaths particularly make her blame herself.
  • Community: Jeff. He lampshades it at one point, saying he "reluctantly accepts the mantle of leadership as no one else will". This despite Troy clearly being an adequate leader until this point, making Jeff's Chronic Hero Syndrome look thoroughly petty. Most of the time, Jeff is a thoroughly reluctant example of this trope; having spent most of his life being a self-involved Manipulative Bastard, his experiences at Greendale and the close friendships he's found himself making have resulted in him gradually becoming a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who ends up helping everyone around him despite himself.
  • Criminal Minds: This is an affliction shared by pretty much the entire BAU team, but Hotch is an especially prominent example. He pretty much defines himself as a person by his ability to save people and put bad guys away, and his commitment to helping everyone he possibly can wrecks his marriage, nearly loses him his relationship with his son, puts his health at risk because he insists on going back to work as soon as possible after any injury, and almost outright gets him killed on several occasions.
  • Daredevil (2015): It seems like being this trope is a prerequisite to work at Nelson & Murdock. Matt Murdock and Karen Page both feel obligated to right wrongs and protect the weak and the abused, even at the risk of their own safety and well-being. Foggy Nelson also exhibits this, but not to the "constantly putting himself in danger" levels that the other two do.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor, the Doctor, dear GOD the Doctor. And boy does he suffer for it. Again and again and again, in every single reincarnation.
      • When the Doctor thinks he's destined to die soon he decides to give up his heroism, devoting his last remaining days to himself, but he's really bad at it. When he realises people need help, he walks towards the TARDIS, repeatedly reminding himself it's not his problem. As soon as he reaches the door, he turns around and heads off to save the world. Realising that being a hero is what really made his life worthwhile.
        The Doctor: Not noticing, just going. Not noticing, just going. Not noticing, just going!... STOP IT! Am I noticing? No! I am not! What I am not doing is scanning around for electrical fluctuations. Oh, shut up you! I'm just dropping in on a friend; the last thing I need right now is a Cortina full of teleport energy! I am going! Do you hear me, going! Not staying, going! I am through saving them! I am going away now!
      • Douglas Adams came up with an idea for a script tentatively called "The Doctor Retires" which would have been about the (Fourth) Doctor attempting to retire from travelling but constantly being baited back into heroics. It was popular with the production team, but vetoed by the producer, who saw it as mocking the premise of the show, and instead Adams bashed out "Shada" in four days. Steven Moffat has often expressed his interest in "The Doctor Retires" as being a brilliant concept and used it as the basis for his episode "The Snowmen" (as well as using minor elements of the concept and concepts from "Shada" in "The Day of the Doctor").
      • Ten's Chronic Hero Syndrome gets the better of him with very bad consequences in "The Waters of Mars". The destruction of Bowie Base One with all hands is a fixed point in time, so the right thing to do when he finds himself there on the day it blows up is to leave immediately. He tries to do just that, but Captain Adelaide, suspicious of him, forces him to stay long enough that his heroic instincts get to him at the absolute worst time, with time nearly being broken as a result.
      • The Twelfth Doctor reaffirming his commitment to this trope despite the possibility/inevitability of problematic aftermaths to his rescues is key to his actions in Series 9 and 10. His first companion Clara Oswald also adopts this trope as she becomes, effectively, his Distaff Counterpart — which leads her to a tragic fate in "Face the Raven", the first episode of the three-part Series 9 finale. Making matters worse, the events of that episode are tied into a secondary arc involving the aftermath of the Doctor holding himself to the mark in "The Girl Who Died". Upon losing Clara and having more miseries heaped on him besides, he has a Freak Out!, and in "Hell Bent" two episodes later is at the Despair Event Horizon, acting purely out of rage, anguish, and self-interest. He gets better, but it's a painful road back to goodness. The following season's "Oxygen" ends with him blinded as a result of him not turning back from a distress call even though his companions would rather he focus on their own safety and his duty to guard the mysterious Vault. They have to stop him from making a Heroic Sacrifice a few episodes later in "The Eaters of Light" so others can make it in his stead, because his issues back "home" with the Vault can't be dealt with by others. He turns his attention to those... and it goes very, very badly for everyone over the course of "World Enough and Time"/"The Doctor Falls", the Season Finale lead-in to his Grand Finale. By the end of the latter he's firmly ready to die for good instead of regenerating, adjusting to a new self, and falling into this trope yet again... only for others to remind him in "Twice Upon a Time" that he really is that badly needed by the universe. He eventually relents and becomes Thirteen.
      • As for Thirteen, she has this to say on the trope:
        "I'm the Doctor. When people need help, I never refuse."
    • The TARDIS herself could also qualify since she's an intelligent machine who always seems to plunk the Doctor down exactly when and where he's needed most, whether he wants to be there or not. This is exactly what she does in "Twice Upon a Time", Twelve's final episode (see above), and in the denouement, she even tells him that the universe will "get it all wrong" without him — a sentiment he agrees with.
    • Most companions tend to have a touch of this as well.
      • A particularly extreme example of this is Ian Chesterton, who is incapable of leaving anyone suffering alone, no matter how much it involves screwing himself over to do it or how much it's somebody else's problem. The other TARDIS travellers moan at him about this tendency, too, especially Barbara. Just a couple of more extreme examples: "The Reign of Terror" shows him getting sidetracked saving an English spy when Barbara and Susan are going to be guillotined and the Doctor, his only hope of returning to his own time, is missing. In "Planet of Giants", he spurs everyone into bringing justice to a murder he witnessed, even though they've all been shrunk to an inch tall thanks to a TARDIS malfunction and Barbara is poisoned.
      • Donna and the Tenth Doctor spend most of "The Fires of Pompeii" bickering about what to do about the fate of the people there — he insists that it's a fixed point in history, and they can't do anything to stop it. She feels that they should save at least one person. She finally convinces him to save a family of four. And down the line, remembering this incident subconsciously will give the Twelfth Doctor the patriarch's face as a reminder of what he exists to be — a man who saves people.
      • Donna takes it a step further, too, joining the Doctor in pushing the button that ignites Vesuvius' eruption, making them both complicit, so he doesn't bear the burden alone.
      • See above for how this trope affects Eleven/Twelve's companion Clara Oswald...
  • Dollhouse:
    • Echo. Her desire to save the world, fight injustice and/or rescue the innocent is so deeply ingrained it survives repeated applications of Laser-Guided Amnesia.
    • Also, Agent Paul Ballard, combined with The Dulcinea Effect. Perhaps why they make such a good couple.
  • Early Edition: Gary, who has made it his mission to prevent every tragedy spelled out in the magic newspaper. He spends his time charting his day's activities for maximum efficiency so that he can squeeze a coffee break between missions.
  • Firefly:
    • Malcolm Reynolds will steadfastly deny this to his grave, but deep down he suffers from a near-terminal example of this disease to the point that it ended up with him on the opposite side of a psychotic crime lord and the Alliance's Operative.
    • In "Ariel" Simon, who until becoming a fugitive with his sister was a brilliant surgeon, goes to save a dying man while in the middle of the heist in a busy hospital, paying no mind to the risks of recognition and capture. He has a "save lives first, ask questions later" mentality that he also displays in "Bushwhacked" and "Safe". You can see him visibly suppressing it in the pilot when he refuses to treat Kaylee unless Mal runs. He would have helped that man regardless of whether River was screaming or not.
  • The Fugitive: Dr. Richard Kimble could probably have done a better job of hiding from the law if he hadn't constantly insinuated himself into strangers' problems. But of course, he invariably saved the day, one way or another.
  • Game of Thrones: Despite the fact that taking Yunkai is tactically difficult and completely unnecessary, Daenerys puts her dream of conquering Westeros on hold indefinitely while she conducts a prolonged Slave Liberation in Slaver's Bay. She even passes up several opportunities to parlay her conquests there into gold and ships to take her to Westeros in exchange for leaving the Masters of the city be. On the other hand, freeing the slaves gives her the loyalty of her subjects (which is more than can be said of any of the other Westerosi leaders — except perhaps for the Greyjoys — after the Red Wedding), gives her some pretty good PR, and a source of ready volunteers, so perhaps it balances out. Later, she has the perfect chance to sack King's Landing with her forces after the death of Joffrey and the running down of the War of the Five Kings; all sides except for hers are exhausted and vulnerable. But Dany won't abandon her new subjects in the East until slavery is abolished. And there are pragmatist concerns from Jorah that the Kingdoms are so divided thanks to the civil conflict that a victory at the capital would be ultimately meaningless. Even after completing her campaign, she passes on a chance to strike Westeros in favour of staying to consolidate her social reforms.
    • Ned Stark as Hand of the King is perhaps one of the most tragic examples of this in all of television. Completely devoted to the greater good and rule of law, Ned willfully violates all levels of logic and strategy if it means doing the right thing. He supports Stannis's ascension to the throne after Robert's death because it's what's right and legal, even though Renly would have possibly been a better ruler and strategically it made more sense for Ned to support Renly because the very narrow window of time to avert Joffrey's ascension following Robert's death made it impractical to await Stannis's return to King's Landing. Perhaps even more tragically, earlier on he tips off Cersei to his plans upon learning of Joffrey's true parentage on the hopes she and her kids flee King's Landing and avoid Robert's wrath, knowing what his friend is capable of in a fit of rage. This allows Cersei to mobilize quickly upon news of Robert's fatal injury and hurry Joffrey onto the throne while setting plans in place to shut down Ned's coup. on a grand scope, his letter to Stannis alerting the latter of Joffrey's parentage perhaps does more to initiate the War of Five Kings than anything else, as Stannis's own devotion to rule of law would have likely meant he would not have declared war on the throne and would have respected Joffrey's ascension as Robert's (seemingly) rightful heir.
  • Mike Warren of Graceland is extremely devoted to following the FBI rules, one of which states that an agent must intervene in any crime they witness. He quickly drops this when it's pointed out that it defeats the purpose of being undercover.
  • Heroes:
    • Peter Petrelli. Although this may simply be the writers constantly giving him the Idiot Ball. In Peter's defense, he does go out of his way to save the world. Or at least, Central Park, and sometimes very close friends. In Volume 5, he also hunts down Nathar/Sythan/Frankenstein's Monster and takes a nailgun to his hands and...other body parts to get his brother back.
    • Inversely, Nathan Petrelli (who happens to be Peter's politician big brother), who seems to love the phrase "it's somebody else's problem." God help the soul who tries to hurt his daughter, though.
  • Highlander: Duncan MacLeod is happy to solve anyone else's problems. Even if they didn't ask. Conveniently, they can often be solved by cutting off an immortal's head, which happens to be his specialty.
  • House:
    • When Wilson's second wife was showing House around a condo she said about Wilson, "He’s just so knight-in-shining-armor, you know? Always there to support you, until he’s not, but by then you’re hooked." He stopped being there for her because he needed to be there for House.
    • And it works reciprocally as well: House is always there for Wilson, from when they met (at a medical convention when Wilson was a zombie from a failed marriage) to when Wilson, an oncologist, came down with an ultimately untreatable cancer, to the series finale, where House fakes his own death rather than go back to prison for six months when Wilson has only five months to live, effectively exchanging the rest of his life for the rest of Wilson's life.
  • David Banner in The Incredible Hulk, whose metamorphoses into the Hulk were both the reason he had to remain on the lam, and the only way he was able to save himself and those around him week after week.
  • JAG: Harmon Rabb, Jr. He even manages to acquit a defendant from a Decoy Trial in the episode "Defenseless".
  • Justified: God help the criminals that cross Raylan Givens' path. He's basically the only person keeping Harlan, KY from being a complete hellhole.
  • Knightmare featured Sir Hugh de Witless, a knight under a wizard's curse that compels him to rescue everyone he meets, regardless of whether they need or want rescuing.
  • In Lois & Clark, this tendency almost breaks the eponymous couple apart in late season two. Clark keeps suddenly dropping out of conversation with Lois and disappearing at the worst possible moment because there is someone out there to be rescued. Naturally, Lois grows more understanding when she learns that Clark has a perfectly good reason for these disappearances (namely, being Superman). He is actually diagnosed with this early on because he is a chronic do-gooder him suffering amnesia (when as Superman he tried to stop an asteroid, earlier as Clark he was hit by a car) is suggested a result of him burning himself out on this trope.
  • Lost: Jack. This is a big plot point in the later seasons where Jack's "think first, ask questions later" brand of heroism eventually leads to many people being worse off than they were before they were "saved". This is even his Establishing Character Moment in the pilot, coming onto the beach in a daze from the crash and immediately rushing to help every single person in need. Only after everyone else is safe, does he go to treat himself for his own injuries, revealing to Kate that he's had a bit of shrapnel in his back the entire time.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • And Hawkeye, for God's sake, Hawkeye.
    • Was an Informed Attribute of Trapper. One of Hawkeye's letters home mentions him providing various forms of aid to the local people in exchange for (to them) small consideration (although a gallon of fresh milk was a nice thing to get). Being the sidekick, he didn't get it shown as much.
    • BJ had this as well, although he also had the problem of being the sidekick. He did get an entire episode dedicated to his heroic efforts to help a local family, who fled shelling at the end of the episode. Hawkeye comments at the end that they'll go back to camp, BJ will eat a lousy meal, have a bad night's sleep, and start looking for someone else to help tomorrow. BJ questions this, but Hawkeye affirms it, and BJ agrees he's right.
  • Merlin:
    • From the BBC series of the same name to the point that it becomes a joke in The Torch Online's Facebook-style recap of episode 2x9:
      Gaius: [to Merlin] You know how I'm always telling you not to rescue people, but then you go ahead and rescue them anyway, behind my back? Seriously, don't do that this time.
    • Arthur is very much afflicted, as well.
  • Special Agent Dwayne Pride from Series:NCIS New Orleans has this mixed with a rather unhealthy dose of It's All My Fault and latent daddy issues: his father was a notorious criminal and he, therefore, feels personally responsible for helping as many people as possible to make up for his father's sins. This tends to get worse when someone does actively blame him for something. Fortunately, his competence and sheer determination give him a relatively high success rate.
  • Dwight Schrute from The Office (US) is a particularly aggressive example, bringing pepper spray and assorted ninja weapons to work. Usually whenever Jim, Pam or someone else needs Dwight's help, he manages to create a new problem:
    Dwight: [weeping due to a faulty can of pepper spray] Every day for 8 years, I have brought pepper spray into this office, to protect myself and my fellow employees. And every day for 8 years, people have laughed at me. Well, who's laughing now?

    [Jim and Pam come home and find Dwight and several renovators tearing their kitchen apart]
    Dwight: I couldn't find your iPod.
  • Person of Interest:
    • When the Machine is under the weather, we find that Reese is still listening to police scanners so that even if he can't see trouble before it comes anymore, he can take action as soon as it does. Also, we find out that he gives most of the hefty sum Finch regularly pays him to charity. (Despite that, he still has enough to always have his trademark suits.)
    • Becomes more prevalent in Season 4. When the numbers stop coming, Reese can barely keep it together. Neither can Shaw.
    • We find that it's been going on a long time, too—both the Syndrome and his being badass enough to act on it. When Reese is in disguise as a police officer, he's asked by the psychologist he's been ordered to see if he was bullied as a child, as that might've led to his 'hero complex.' What is his answer? "There were no bullies at my school. I kept them in line."
  • Poirot:
    • Played with in the series' adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express, a woman is being stoned for being pregnant with another man's baby. Poirot tells a distraught woman that it's their laws. It comes to bite him in the ass later in the episode when the question of "What is justice" is brought up.
  • Power Rangers:
    • All Power Rangers get this the first time they morph and don't lose it until at least they stop being rangers, and perhaps longer. There's an awesome scene at the end of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue, where the villains are beaten once and for all and the team is preparing to go their separate ways... when a fire truck goes by. Our heroes look at each other, grin, and run after it, not even stopping to reclaim their morphers (their chief is behind them yelling "Hey, you forgot these!").
    • This also goes for all the Super Sentai teams and most Kamen Riders as well.
    • In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, several of the former Rangers aren't letting their lack of powers stop them from doing what they can. One doesn't even let being dead stop him.
  • Primeval: Nick Cutter runs into a burning building to rescue his wife Helen. Not so unusual, but the building is on fire because she blew it up in an attempt to kill him and everyone else. He saves her after all that, and then she kills him.
  • Prison Break: Michael Scofield. It's explained by him having Low latent inhibition, combined with his genius IQ and his childhood being full of abandonment and abuse, he is unable to block out other people's suffering. This made him extremely empathetic and altruistic towards other people's emotions and he constantly puts others above himself. Interestingly, as the series has a rather dark setting, Michael often has to ignore it, which eats at his conscience. Furthermore, it's also shown to be a flaw of his, as he is downright obsessed with bringing down The Company, seemingly putting it above getting a normal life back, in contrast to the other characters.
  • Quantum Leap: Had this built into the premise: Dr. Sam Beckett couldn't proceed to his next Leap without putting right what once went wrong. The final episode of the series heavily implies that Sam himself has been subconsciously causing his leaps out of a desire to help people and make the world a better place.
  • Revolution: Charlie Matheson has shown signs of this, like in "The Children's Crusade", when she wanted to save a young man named Peter from being taken away by the Monroe militia, and Miles Matheson had to remind her that they can't save everyone. Of course, Miles turns around later and helps in saving the young man and a lot of other children, so it undermines his point. Later on, Rachel Matheson and Aaron Pittman embark on a journey to the Tower. Aaron shows signs of this as well. It comes to head in "The Longest Day", where Rachel knocks out a man Aaron was trying to help and urges him to just leave him and continue on their journey. Her reasoning is unsympathetic (she's not trying to turn the power back on for the greater good, she just wants her son's death to be avenged), but she does have a point about being unable to save everyone.
  • Royal Pains: "No worries with Hank around. He has a hero complex." "It's not a complex. It's a neurosis."
  • Scrubs: Dr. Percival Ulysses Cox. Examples here, and here. In case the name didn't tip you off. At one point he tells J.D. that this is a slippery slope because you start blaming yourself for deaths that aren't your fault. Later in the same episode, he succumbs to that very fate.
  • Sliders: Most plots in the first few seasons are driven by Quinn Mallory needlessly rushing to the aid of anyone in earshot, only to embroil himself and his friends into the troubles of whatever alternate reality they're in.
  • Smallville: Read Superman's description in the comics section, raise the Angst Up to Eleven, and you have his Smallville character. Chloe once asked Clark if he was afraid that if Lana learned self-defense then she wouldn't need a knight in shining armor to keep rescuing her from Smallville's dangers. He thinks he has to rescue her and everyone else too.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Inherited from the original film, Daniel Jackson was this which often put him at odds with the more pragmatic Jack O'Neill. Initially, Samantha Carter was given a feminist-oriented aspect of this which the writers quickly realised wasn't going to work for the show. As the series developed (and went down a drama to drama-with-comedy to comedy-with-drama route) the feminism angle was dropped from Sam, Daniel was given character development to give him a more pragmatic edge, and this trope became less relevant. At one point, however, it did essentially apply to the entire SG-1 team with different characters encouraging the team to "do the noble thing" in different episodes.
    • Similarly, this shows up to some extent in most of the main characters of Stargate Atlantis, depending on the situation. Sheppard definitely has it the worst, though.
  • Star Trek: Many Starfleet captains habitually encourage their crews or the alien of the week that it's sometimes okay to break a rule or two in order to do what's right.
    • Star Trek: Discovery presents this as Michael Burnham's Fatal Flaw during the second season. Multiple characters, primarily Spock and Georgiou, accuse Burnham of choosing to take all of the universe's burdens upon her shoulders because it's easier than dealing with her own grief over the losses she's suffered in her life.
  • Supernatural: Dean is determined to save as many people as he possibly can. His brother Sam Winchester also has this whenever he's not otherwise occupied.
  • Tiere bis unters Dach: Greta and Nellie can't help but try to save any animal they suspect of being mistreated. Occasionally, this bites back, such as when Greta is suspected of stealing a pig that went missing.
  • The Tomorrow People (2013): Stephen Jameson seems to have this. He tries to help everyone, even if it could expose his people.
  • The Vampire Diaries: Stefan Salvatore. He feels the constant need to try to save people and if he doesn't save them, he'll end up burdening guilt. Stefan might do this, not only because it's who he is as a person at his core, but possibly to atone for his dark past as a Ripper. Stefan lampshades this in the Season 4 finale: When Damon chastises him for ignoring the current plot threat, Stefan replies "You're right. How selfish of me to be indulging in these precious moments with my formerly dead best friend. I should be sacrificing my own happiness for the good of others, right? I should be upstairs grooming my hero-hair." Damon later references this line in ep 5x21 after listing the things he needs to do to stop the current plot villain.
  • The West Wing: President Bartlet. Given his job as head of a country with 270 million inhabitants and major international responsibilities all over the globe, he is also chronically unable to fulfill his syndrome's needs. This often sends him into dark depressions, unable to get out until Leo or his wife tells him to stop being so egotistical as to think he can solve all the world's problems.
    Mrs. Bartlet: Ah, yes. [He's gone to] pistol-whip the trucking industry... because he can't save a gunshot victim and he can't stop a hurricane.


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