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Recap / The West Wing S 01 E 04 Five Votes Down

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Directed by Michael Lehmann

Written by Aaron Sorkin, Lawrence O'Donnell, & Patrick Caddell

72 hours before a crucial gun bill goes to the floor, the staff learns they've lost five votes. Josh proposes dangling their jobs in front of them for all except Tillinghouse, which he says needs the intervention of Vice President Hoynes. Leo disagrees, even after Josh is able to get four of them back, but when a meeting with Richardson, the congressman Leo wants to use instead, goes badly, Leo is forced to go to Hoynes. Hoynes agrees to help sway Tillinghouse, and the bill passes, but at a cost; Hoynes ends up being the one who takes the credit for the bill passing.


It's financial disclosure week for the staff, which is funny news to most - the expensive gifts Josh disclosed get particular mention - but not to Toby. Turns out the only stock he owns, which is in a technology company a boyhood friend testified about in front of Congress, jumped, and the perception is there he might have had inside information. At the last minute, Sam comes up with the idea Toby should cash out the stock and waive his salary for a year, which satisfies everyone, except, naturally, Toby.

Leo forgets his anniversary, so he tries to make up for it with an elaborate dinner, including a new necklace for his wife Jenny, and a violinist to play for them, even though he thinks it might be a little strange. However, when Jenny realizes he needs to slip out for a while during the dinner to meet with Hoynes, she decides she's had enough, and they agree to separate.


Oh, and President Bartlet takes both of his prescribed painkillers (for his back) at once, and Intoxication Ensues (as does hilarity).

This episode contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Leo and Hoynes.
  • Apology Gift: Leo's strategy for trying to make up for the fact he forgot his and Jenny's anniversary. Unfortunately, it doesn't work.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Happens to President Bartlet when he's high on painkillers:
    Bartlet: I can focus. I'm focused. You all know that about me. Here's what I think we ought to do. (Beat) Was I just saying something?
  • Bishōnen: Josh, or at least according to his fan club.
    C.J.: It helps not to know him.
  • Blatant Lies: The morning after Jenny tells Leo she wants a divorce, Leo comes to a senior staff meeting, and they eagerly ask him how his evening went. Leo realizes they're asking about the dinner he had planned for Jenny (to make up forgetting their anniversary), and lies that it all went fine.
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  • Butt-Monkey: Toby in this episode 1) is under suspicion for insider trading, 2) gets mocked relentlessly by his peers for it, 3) loses an entire year's salary to alleviate those suspicions, 4) gets hugged by the President, who was high at the time, in the Oval Office.
  • Captain Obvious: Donna, at least according to Josh:
    Donna: Congressman Wick is waiting in the Mural Room.
    Josh: I know.
    Donna: He's been waiting twenty minutes.
    Josh: I know.
    Donna: You have a legislative liaison meeting in fifteen minutes.
    Josh: I know.
    Donna: And then the East Asia briefing.
    Josh: I know.
    Donna: All right. Well, then this entire conversation served only as a reminder.
    Josh: Actually, it only served as a colossal waste of time and energy. Keep up the good work.
  • Chewbacca Defense: Invoked by President Bartlet at the fundraiser at the beginning; he quotes the old joke, "When the law is on your side, argue the law; and when the facts are on your side, argue the facts; and when you don't have the law on your side, when you don't have the facts on your side, bang your fist on the defense table as loud as you can." He then declares he has both the law *and* the facts on his side, and pounds the podium.
  • Continuity Nod: When Toby asks Sam for help, Sam brings up how he came to Toby for help about Laurie, and Toby protests he had Sam's back on that.
  • Cringe Comedy: The entire meeting in the Oval Office with Bartlet high off his pain meds being, shall we say, less than eloquent. The staffers can't leave without the President's permission, nor can they ask the President to shut up and go away, plus it's just plain funny watching the President hug Toby.
  • Downer Ending: Leo's wife leaves him and the last we see of him in the episode is him looking depressed as he enters an AA meeting, and while the bill passes, Hoynes takes all the credit for it, while everyone privately concedes it's not even that good a bill anyway. Toby doesn't even get to keep the money from his stock options, since he has to cash them out and live off the money as his salary is symbolically reduced to one dollar for a year.
  • Foreshadowing: This isn't the last we hear about Leo's alcoholism (or Hoynes', for that matter).
    • Also, early in the episode, when Charlie reminds the President to take his back pills, Bartlet grouses, "Those damn things make me goofy." You don't say...
    • Also within the episode, when Margaret asks Leo what kind of champagne he likes, Leo replies he doesn't drink champagne.
    • While under the influence of his back pills, the President briefly mentions, "my muscles are not, you know," then changes the subject. Muscle weakness and spasms are symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
    • Josh mentions that Bartlet is a good chess player, which he demonstrates two seasons later in Hartsfield's Landing by playing two games with Toby and Sam at the same time, while negotiating brinksmanship between China and Taiwan.
  • Forgotten Anniversary: Leo gets so caught up in the news they lost five votes that he forgets it's his wedding anniversary. He tries to make it up to his wife by arranging a lavish dinner for the next night but when he arrives she's got her bags packed and a taxi waiting.
  • Gilligan Cut: As per usual on the show, it's done within the scene itself:
    Sam: Who else knows about this (Toby's stock trouble)?
    Toby: Everyone who saw the report.
    Sam: Everybody has the report, but you really have to study it to have...
    C.J.: (comes to the open door) Excuse me, Toby. I was heading out to lunch and I'm a little short. You wouldn't happen to have $125,000 I could borrow, would you? (she dissolves into laughter)
  • Good Is Not Nice: Josh shows this trait when he's dressing down both Katzenmoyer and Wick.
    Josh: President Bartlet's a good man. He's got a good heart. He doesn't hold a grudge. (puts on his sunglasses) That's what he pays me for.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Hoynes is definitely self-serving and scheming in this episode, but he reacts with genuine sympathy and compassion when Leo admits to him that his marriage has broken down, and invites him to his Alcoholics Anonymous group as a gesture of support.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...:
    Josh: You’re voting down a measure that would restrict the sale of deadly weapons because nobody invited you to the cool kid’s table?
    Chris Wick: Got your attention.
    Josh: You know, I'm so sick of Congress I could vomit.
  • Married to the Job: Oh, Leo:
    Leo:This is the most important thing I’ll ever do, Jenny. I have to do it well.
    Jenny: It’s not more important than your marriage.
    Leo: It is more important than my marriage right now. These few years, while I’m doing this, yes, it’s more important than my marriage.
  • Oh, Crap!: Josh doesn't know why Mandy's questioning him about the gifts he first:
    Mandy: Sarah Wissinger?
    Josh: Yes. A smoking jacket and a cigarette holder. Both declared items. I am clean as a whistle.
    Mandy: You received these gifts on July 3rd.
    Josh: I’m sensing trouble, but I can’t quite...
    Mandy: You and I didn’t break up until July 9th.
    Josh: Ah, there it was, right in front of my face.
    • Also, the look on Leo's face when he realizes he forgot his and Jenny's anniversary.
  • The Oner: A nearly three-minute tracking shot of the entire staff walking out to their cars after President Bartlet's speech at the beginning.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Leo gets into Hoynes' AA meeting at the end by saying he's there for the card game.
    • Though Hoynes already told him that a card game was the cover, and presumably briefed the agent that Leo may show up.
  • Servile Snarker: Donna and the rest of the secretaries congratulate Josh for having the most expensive gifts disclosed. Also, when Leo is having Margaret plan his anniversary dinner, Margaret says Leo would look great in a smoking jacket, and pointedly looks at Josh.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Congressman Wick will change his vote back only if he gets a photo op with President Bartlet. Since the President doesn't play golf, Wick agrees to play chess with him. Josh warns his former college buddy that Bartlet is going to cream him.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Discussed:
    Sam: “Happy Days Are Here Again”?
    Mandy: He likes it.
    Sam: Who?
    Mandy: The President.
    Sam: We try and avoid having the President make aesthetic decisions.
    Mandy: I made the decision.
    Sam: Right. And I don’t mean to step on your toes, but you might want to rethink marrying the lines “Kids are dead. Kids are dead!” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
    Mandy: It's optimistic.
    Sam: I'll say.
  • That Came Out Wrong: C.J., Mandy and Sam admire the necklace Leo's getting for Jenny, and Sam, of course, can't help putting his foot in his mouth:
    Sam: Excellent choice, my friend.
    Leo: Stop looking at me like that. You’re talking about Jenny.
    Sam: (backpedaling) My point being only that it should flatter her neck in ways that should please you.
  • Wham Line:
    Hoynes: When was the last time you went to a meeting?
    Leo: A.A.? What meeting could I possibly go to?
    Hoynes: Mine.