A banking bill the White House is backing hits a temporary snag when Republicans attach a land-use rider allowing strip-mining in Montana. Mandy, Sam and eventually even Toby think they should swallow the amendment and move on, but Josh, the previous night having been lectured by President Bartlet about national parks, doesn't want to give in to the Republicans, and at the last minute comes up with the idea of declaring the area in question (Big Sky Reserve) a national park, meaning it can't be touched. We also see a bit more of the enmity between President Bartlet and Vice-President Hoynes when a story leaks about the two of them disagreeing at a cabinet meeting, and while they're able to patch that up, things aren't over between them.
Elsewhere, Mallory decides to use two opera tickets to ask Sam out on a date, which Leo claims he's fine with, but then he (with President Bartlet's help) sabotage the date by giving Sam an assignment. Mallory eventually figures it out and calls her father on it, but it turns out Sam is actually gung ho for the assignment because he feels he's lost his writing talent (Toby as well, so he joins him).
This episode contains examples of:
- Armor-Piercing Response: During their confrontation, Vice-President Hoynes finally snaps and demands to know exactly why Bartlet always treats him so poorly. In his speed to play the victim, he's clearly a bit taken aback when Bartlet actually does reveal the reason and it's a more compelling one than Hoynes was prepared for:Bartlet: You shouldn't have made me beg, John. I was asking you to be Vice-President.
Hoynes: ... Due respect, Mr. President, you had just kicked my ass in the primary. I'm fifteen years younger than you, I have my career to think of.
Bartlet: Then don't stand there and ask the question, John. It weakened me right out of the gate. You shouldn't have made me beg.
- Big "SHUT UP!": Or, in this case, a long one:C.J.: (to Danny) First of all: you're wrong. Second of all: shut up. Third: I went to Hoynes with your thing and he said he wasn't the one who talked to you and I believe him and he's really pissed at me and he's right. And fourth: shut up again.
- Book-Ends: The episode begins and ends with President Bartlet talking to his reluctant staffers about his passion for nature in the wee hours.
- Call-Back: Charlie has apparently not gotten fully used to referring to the West Wing senior staff by their first names:Charlie: Mr. McGarry...
Leo: Charlie, call me Leo, would you?
Charlie: I'll try, sir.
- Continuity Nod: We first saw Congressman Skinner debating the census amendment with Toby in "Mr. Willis of Ohio". Also, Danny continues to flirt with C.J.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Twice, both involving Toby. The first is when he's trying to reassure Josh the banking bill's going to pass without any problem:Toby: I'm having lunch with Crane.Josh: When?Toby: Lunchtime.
Mandy: Are you listening to me?Toby: Yes.Mandy: What was the last thing I said?Toby: The last thing you said was, "Are you listening to me?"
- And then later, when Mandy is trying to convince Toby to let the banking bill pass regardless:
- Did I Say That Out Loud: As President Bartlet is lecturing a sleepy and bored Josh about national parks and visiting them:President Bartlet: We should organize a staff field trip to Shenandoah. I could even act as the guide! What do you think?Josh: (under his breath) Good a place as any to dump your body.President Bartlet: What was that?Josh: Did I say that out loud?President Bartlet: See, I was gonna let you go home.Josh: But instead?President Bartlet: We're going to talk about Yosemite.
- Eureka Moment: When Donna tells Josh the computer files are antiquated, that gives him the idea of using the Antiquities Act to get around the land-use rider.
- We see in a future episode just why Bartlet had to beg Hoynes to be Vice-President.
- In the episode itself, Bartlet's interminable lecture about national parks to Josh is what eventually gives him the idea to have Bartlet declare the land that is threatened by the land-use rider as a national park, thus thwarting it.
- In his glad-handing meeting that C.J finds him in, Hoynes makes a crack about a mission to Mars and the nitrogen they'll need to get there and back. In a later season, a NASA mission to Mars will have significant impacts on John Hoynes' career.
- Insistent Terminology: It's not a birthday "card", it's a birthday "message".
- Know When To Fold Them: Everyone except Josh (and President Bartlet) eventually resigns themselves to accepting the banking bill with the land-use rider attached simply because the land under question is near-worthless and the banking bill, even with the rider attached, is still a good bill, while Josh wants to find a way to beat the guys who attached the rider as well as get the banking bill. Subverted, since Josh eventually finds a way to do it.
- Oh, Crap!: Josh's face when he realises that he just got himself a punishment geek-out on Yosemite for suggesting Shenandoah National Park as a good site to dump Bartlet's body. Bonus for it being a bird's eye view shot.
- Only Sane Woman: Mandy sees herself as this when everyone (except Sam) wants to hold up the banking bill because of the land-use rider:Mandy: You guys are idiots. Did you know that?C.J.: In our defense, we actually do know that.
- Overprotective Dad: As well as feeling that Mallory is unfairly taking her mother's side over her father's regarding their divorce and wanting to give her a taste of what life in the West Wing is actually like, at least part of Leo's motivation in ruining Mallory's date with Sam is because Leo is clearly not over-thrilled with the idea of Sam dating his daughter in the first place. While Mallory concedes the former point, she does argue that the latter point still makes it rather jerky thing to do — especially to Sam, who has nothing to do with Leo's first reason whatsoever, however valid it might be. Leo can't argue against this and is later persuaded to apologise to Sam because of it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Mandy tries to get Josh to accept the Banking Bill with the rider attached because it's better than losing both and she can at least spin the former in a positive way, Josh makes a snide crack about how she could spin a turnpike collision in a positive way. Mandy then surprises him by slamming his office door shut, pinning him with a Death Glare and coldly delivering a single sentence that leaves him speechless before storming out.Mandy: You're fighting the wrong fights and you're doing it for the wrong reasons. That's all.
- Tactful Translation: Played for Laughs:Mandy: Would you tell him (Toby) that signing the bill, and then swallowing the bitter pill of strip-mining would not foreclose a P.R. approach that would trumpet banking reforms while at the same time, excoriating a special interest strip-mining a scam, which by the way, is what Im happy to call it. Tell him that.C.J. (Beat) Toby...Toby: Yeah.C.J.: Mandy wants you to recommend to the President that we do it her way.Toby: Do you understand what she said?C.J.: No, but she seemed pretty confident.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: After Mallory finds out about her father's Batman Gambit to sabotage the date she had with Sam, she storms to his office:Leo: Hey, baby.Mallory: Don't "hey, baby" me, you addle-minded Machiavellian jerk!Margaret: Should I step out?Leo: Sounds like it.
- Title Drop: Near the end of the episode:Josh: Mr. President?President Bartlet: Yeah?Josh: We talk about enemies more than we used to.President Bartlet: What?Josh: We talk about enemies more than we used to... I wanted to mention that.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In their confrontation after Mallory realises what's up regarding the birthday message that Leo has assigned Sam, Leo and Mallory throw these at each other.
- Leo points out that while her mother has a valid complaint against Leo, Mallory has no such reasons for enmity, that working in the White House is genuinely prohibitive against free-time and that she has no right to direct all her anger at her parents' divorce solely towards Leo.
- Mallory points out that forcing Sam to repeatedly redo a pointless task and consequently ruin his evening as well just to teach her a lesson is kind of a crappy thing for Leo to do to Sam.
- As discussed under ""The Reason You Suck" Speech", Mandy calls Josh out on being stubborn over the banking bill purely because he vindictively wants to beat the other side rather than because it is necessarily the right thing to do. While he does eventually find a way to win, her words have clearly hit a nerve judging from his Title Drop to Bartlet at the end.
- Writer's Block: Both Toby and Sam whose lifeblood in the White House IS Writing grapple with this in the episode, to the point that they do not mind writing a simple birthday message, which usually would a a junior staffer's job.
- It's also a safe thing to sharpen their wits on, as any other assignment that would fall directly onto their tables would be too critical.