President Bartlet is practicing the State of the Union speech in the press briefing room while Leo, Sam and Toby, among other staffers, look on. Unfortunately, it's filled with mistakes (example; "I'm proud to report our country's stranger than it was a year ago", though Bartlet admits 'stranger' works as well as 'stronger'), and the President is sweating and coughing. In another room, watching the speech on television, Josh and C.J. notice and comment on this:
Inside the press room, Leo suggests they all take a break. C.J. and Josh join them, and both express concern about Bartlet's health. Bartlet insists he's taking medication his wife gives him, and he will be taking it. As they walk back to the Oval Office, Bartlet has other things besides his health on his mind; he tells Toby they need to add the sentiments "how do we make the American Dream a reality for all who work for it" and "the era of big government is over" to the speech, and Josh concurs. Toby is pissed, and says they'll be offending poor people, but Josh says they won't be watching. President Bartlet insists to C.J. he will take his medication, and goes into the office. Still in the hallway, Sam mentions to the others that President Bartlet hasn't officially been invited to the State of the Union, which is a necessary formality, causing the senior staff to turn away from the Oval Office. Toby rags on the typos in Sam's speech, and everyone laughs until they hear a crash coming from the Oval Office. Rushing in, the staff finds President Bartlet has fallen to the floor next to a broken water pitcher.
After the credits, Admiral Hackett, President Bartlet's physician on duty, checks Bartlet, who's sitting in a chair, insisting he's fine and he only has the flu. As Mrs. Landingham comes in to hand President Bartlet a note, Leo and Admiral Hackett decide to just have blood work done, but to take the President to the residence. President Bartlet, however, shows Leo the note, and says they need to go to the Situation Room, and Leo says he'll do that and then go to bed. Once he gets up, Bartlet pretends to collapse again, which annoys the staff more than anything else.
Inside the Situation Room, Admiral Fitzwallace asks the other joint chiefs if they can agree on the term "steady but not egregious", and they say it's fine. President Bartlet and Leo walk in and Bartlet asks if the Celtics won. As an officer goes to check that out, Admiral Fitzwallace tells President Bartlet of the "steady but not egregious" build-up by India along the cease-fire line, even though the cease-fire agreement still has four days to go. A CIA director adds Pakistan is worried and may respond with nuclear weapons, and Admiral Fitzwallace cautions India may just be doing this to get attention, but Bartlet and Leo point out they have America and China's attention. Admiral Fitzwallace gets permission to put a division on tactical alert, and President Bartlet tells everyone he's going to bed but to notify him if there's more movement. Before he leaves, he learns the Celtics lost.
Mandy and Danny are in C.J.'s office when C.J. walks in. Danny, who's shaven most of his beard off, tells C.J. he's there to see his goldfish, but C.J. says she needs her office, and he leaves. Mandy tells C.J. to be friendlier to Danny, and C.J. points out Mandy was actually doing that on her own (she was flirting with Danny about the beard). Mandy then tells C.J. that the story about Leo is going on the Internet, and is going to break the next day. C.J. says she'll talk to Leo.
In Leo's office, Margaret is asking about why the President needs to be invited to deliver the State of the Union and hasn't yet, but Leo doesn't want to talk about it. He tells her to tell Josh to "pick a guy", and Josh will know what it means, even if Margaret doesn't. As Margaret leaves, C.J. comes in. She asks about President Bartlet, and Leo says the President is in bed at the residence, and Dr. Bartlet cancelled her trip to come back to be with him. C.J. then tries to break the news about the story breaking, but Leo guesses it, and agrees to work with her before doing a preemptive press conference the following morning.
President Bartlet is sitting in his bed at the residence while on the phone with Toby about the speech while Admiral Hackett takes a blood sample from him. Once President Bartlet hangs up, Charlie asks him how he is, and Bartlet reiterates he's fine. Just then, Dr. Bartlet comes in and greets everyone, and asks Charlie to get her medical bag. Admiral Hackett gives Dr. Bartlet the President's vitals, and she tells him to put him on an IV and to give him medication for his dizziness. When Charlie brings back the bag, Dr. Bartlet asks both him and Admiral Hackett to step outside for a minute, and they do. Once they leave, Bartlet marvels at how she is in take-charge mode, and how much it turns him on, but Abbey is irritated he didn't call her right after it happened, even with the India/Pakistan crisis to deal with. As Abbey injects him with a tranquilizer, Bartlet apologizes for breaking a water pitcher and Abbey comforts him. She then asks if it was like two previous instances, and Bartlet says he can't remember. As he drifts off to sleep, Abbey looks at him, worried.
The next day, in Josh's office, he's on the phone about why the President hasn't been invited to the State of the Union. As he hangs up, Donna comes in to pass along Leo's message. Josh understands it, and explains he needs to pick someone from the line of succession to the Presidency to stay in the Oval Office during the State of the Union in case something happens. As they walk towards Leo's office, Donna volunteers for the job, pointing out if the Capitol blew up, she'd move up a few notches. Josh is amused and sees the point, but says he's settled on Roger Tribbey, the Secretary of Agriculture. He then tells Donna to be extra nice to both Leo and Margaret, and she agrees and leaves.
Inside Leo's office, he's working out his statement with C.J., Josh and Sam. Josh asks if Leo attended meetings after leaving the rehab clinic (he did), and if he still attends them (he does). Everyone is shocked by this last answer, and C.J. asks where and how often, but Leo refuses to answer. Sam asks if President Bartlet knew, and Leo says the President, FBI and Secret Service all knew about his past. C.J. tries to ask if there was any worry about Leo being in a sensitive position, given his history, but Leo blows off the question and says he's fine. As the others prepare to leave, Sam mentions the draft he's written of a speech the President will release in support of Leo (on Toby's orders, but Sam was glad to do it), but Leo is angry about this; he tells the others in no uncertain terms their job is to protect the President, but not him, and if he goes down, he's not taking anyone else with him.
In the residence, Bartlet is seated in bed, and Abbey is sitting next to him. Bartlet wants to go to the office, but she points out his fever, while down, will go back up again. Bartlet tries to get up anyway, but realizes he's still dizzy and sits back down.
Leo waits outside the briefing room, and Carol tells him they're ready. He walks in to the briefing room, which is full of both press and photographers, and reads from his prepared statement, where he admits being an alcoholic and drug addict, as well as his term in a rehab clinic, and he apologizes for the pain he's caused.
As Donna and Josh walk through to Sam's office, Donna asks him why he chose Tribby. Josh points out other members of the Cabinet (including the Secretaries of Defense, State and Treasury) are faces he wants visible at the State of the Union, and Tribby isn't. Donna doesn't want the Secretary of Agriculture to be leading the country if the Capitol explodes, and Josh counters since he'll be dead anyway, he really doesn't care. As Donna walks away, Josh finds Sam, and they both agree Leo did well at his conference. Josh congratulates Sam on the draft he wrote in support of Leo, and Sam reveals President Bartlet is reading it; furthermore, they agree they don't care if Leo gets upset.
In the Roosevelt Room, Toby is meeting with Congressmen who are in favor of the sentiment of "the era of big government is over", and want the speech to go further in that direction. Toby asks them to pick a section of the speech to argue about, and eventually, they settle on the National Endowment for the Arts.
In Leo's office, he's watching highlights from his press conference on TV when Mallory comes in. Leo greets her warmly. Mallory berates him for not telling him exactly when the press conference was, as she wanted to be there, but he tells her not to worry. Mallory then tells Leo she's read the President's statement of support, and she found it very moving. Leo knows what this means, and as he asks Mallory to excuse him, he storms out.
In Sam's office, Sam is telling a disgusted Josh about Toby having to debate the NEA when Leo comes storming in, yelling at both of them for disobeying him. Sam, however, is unrepentant, saying he's standing by Leo because that's what he does when someone attacks him for no reason. Bonnie interrupts to tell Leo Dr. Bartlet is in his office, and after telling Josh and Sam he didn't want this, Leo leaves.
In Leo's office, Abbey teases Mallory about her crush on Sam, which she claims she doesn't have. Leo walks in, and Mallory leaves after saying goodbye to both of them. Abbey then compliments Leo on the press conference, and tells him how proud Mallory was, before getting down to business; she asks Leo if they could postpone the State of the Union. Leo, of course, has no problem with postponing, but he senses something is going on, and after insisting it's only because of the flu, Abbey tearfully reveals President Bartlet has multiple sclerosis. Leo is stunned.
In the bedroom in the residence, President Bartlet is eating breakfast and watching a soap opera with Charlie while commenting on the action. The phone rings, and Charlie hears Leo is outside, so President Bartlet asks Charlie to step outside for a few minutes. Leo comes in, and President Bartlet tells him that seven years before, he was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS, which means his life expectancy is normal, and he recovers fully after attacks (Abbey also gives him medicine to reduce their frequency), but stress and fever tend to bring about attacks. Leo sarcastically notes there's no reason why the President should be stressed, what with the State of the Union, the India/Pakistan conflict, and his job in general. Leo then asks Bartlet why he never told him, and Bartlet admits he wanted to be President. Leo points out he would have been a friend to him and remembers he called Bartlet at his lowest point. Bartlet says he wanted so much to be at Leo's press conference, and fights back tears as he apologizes. As Charlie comes in to tell President Bartlet that Lord Marbury is there, Leo looks at Bartlet and tells him not to worry about it. Bartlet asks Charlie to give him a minute.
Back in the Roosevelt Room, Toby points out the NEA only amounts to a small fraction of the budget, and one of the Congressman responds he doesn't know what to tell people who point out the NEA only pays for art nowadays that nobody wants, and that, for example, Rodgers and Hart didn't need the NEA to write ''Oklahoma'', nor did Arthur Murray for ''Death of a Salesman''. Toby starts to point out it was Rodgers and Hammerstein who wrote Oklahoma!, Arthur Murray taught ballroom dancing, and Arthur Miller did need the NEA to help him write Death of a Salesman, but he stops in the middle, as if he's realized something, and dismisses the others.
In the residence, Lord Marbury brings up several flu remedies he knows of, all of which seem to revolve around a shot of whiskey. He then comes to his true purpose; after speaking with several people in the Cabinet, among the joint chiefs, and embassy officials, Lord Marbury thinks the best course of action is to buy India off. He reminds them the U.S. has basically been doing that elsewhere, and says India wants a computer industry, and the U.S. can give them an infrastructure to do so. Furthermore, Lord Marbury reiterates it's the price the U.S. pays for not stopping the flow of nuclear weapons around the globe. President Bartlet says they'll discuss the issue in three months, and Leo says if India doesn't pull its troops out in 24 hours, the U.S. and the rest of NATO will seize India's assets. Lord Marbury thanks the President and leaves. Charlie comes in and tells President Bartlet Toby wants to see him. Toby comes in as Leo leaves, and Josh, at Toby's request, joins them. After asking how President Bartlet is feeling, Toby comes to the point; not only does he not agree with the sentiment "the era of big government is over", not only does he not want it in the speech, but he also wants to go the opposite way in the speech because he feels it's right. President Bartlet and Josh both agree, and Toby agrees to work with Sam on the speech.
The next night, in the Mural Room, where several people have gathered in anticipation of the State of the Union, Josh is teasing C.J. about Mandy's flirting with Danny. Sam says he can relate, because he doesn't know where he is with his relationship with Mallory, and he wishes she'd make the first move. Just then, Mallory comes in. She asks Sam if he wrote the speech in support of Leo, and when he confirms it, she gives him a short kiss and then a much longer one before breaking it off and leaving. Sam is still confused, but happy. C.J. gets an idea and tells Carol to ask Danny to come to her office.
In the residence, President Bartlet is getting ready for the speech and refusing Abbey's request to take his temperature again. She asks why "hallowed" in the speech is spelled with a pound sign, and he admits he stopped asking those questions before kissing her.
C.J. comes into her office, where Danny is waiting. She brings up all the times Danny asked her out and she said no (as well as the one time she said yes), and announces she's going to kiss him just to see how it feels and to see if she can get past the tension between them. Danny agrees, grabs her and kisses her. She announces she's past it and leaves the office, but smiles as she does so.
Back in the Mural Room, Lord Marbury is telling an amused Abbey about the flu remedies he knows of. Both President Bartlet and Leo join them, and Bartlet shows pictures he has of India withdrawing its troops. Lord Marbury looks pleased, and says he's off to India to settle things with the Prime Minister, and the three of them say goodbye. President Bartlet then praises Toby and Sam for the speech, and everyone applauds. Charlie then lets President Bartlet know that Secretary Tribby is in the Oval Office and the motorcade is ready.
In the Oval Office, President Bartlet greets Secretary Tribbey, and apologizes to him for drawing the short straw. Tribby presents Bartlet with a gift; the Constitution translated into Latin, which Bartlet appreciates. As Leo goes into his office next door, Bartlet tells Tribby what to do in case there really is an emergency (worrying about national security first), and then asks:
Bartlet: That's your chief of staff.
Leo stops for a minute, touched, before leaving. Bartlet leaves the Oval Office as well, and Tribby looks around the room.
This episode contains examples of:
- Blatant Lies: C.J's totally past her UST with Danny. Except for the part where she's really, really not.
- Defcon Five: Bartlet tells Tribbey that if he becomes President, he should "Take us to DEFCON 4", which is the second-lowest state of alert.
- Foreshadowing: President Bartlet's MS, and the fact he didn't tell anyone about it, is going to have a *major* effect over storylines in the next two seasons.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Mallory and C.J. act like this about Sam and Danny, respectively.
- Mood Whiplash: Twice.
- The exasperation at not being invited to deliver the SOTU and the teasing of Sam and his typos finds an abrupt end when President Bartlet faints and breaks the pitcher. Cue dramatic music.
- After the tearful reveal of President Bartlet's MS, the next scene has him watching the soap opera Passions with Charlie, making fun of it.
- Rousing Speech: Toby gets one when talking about Roosevelt and the WPA gets him thinking about how the administration is about to say that "the era of big government is over".Bartlet: You want to cut the line?Toby: I want to change the sentiment. We're running away from ourselves, and I know we can score points that way. I was the principle architect in that campaign strategy, right along with you, Josh. But we're here now. Tomorrow night, we do an immense thing. We have to say what we feel. That government, no matter what its failures are in the past, and in times to come, for that matter, the government can be a place where people come together and where no one gets left behind. No one...gets left behind. An instrument of...good. [pause] I have no trouble understanding why the line tested well, Josh, but I don't think that means we should say it. I think that means we should... change it.Bartlet: I think so, too. [Beat] What do you think, Josh?Josh: I'd make it a point never to disagree with Toby when he's right, Mr. President.
- Shout-Out: The soap opera President Bartlet is watching is Passions. Also, Bartlet describes watching a talk show that sounds like Jerry Springer, and when Sam and then Josh try to claim responsibility for writing the speech in support of Leo, Leo calls them Abbott and Costello.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: What Danny gives to C.J. in her office.
- Sick Episode: Due to the Two Lines, No Waiting nature of the show it's more of a sick subplot.
- Test Kiss: C.J. wants one with Danny, so they can get it out of their systems. Seven years later, it still hasn't worked.
- Title Drop: Tribbey points to a part of the book he gives President Bartlet, and Bartlet reads from Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, "He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union..."
- Unexpected Successor: Discussed. Secretary of Agriculture Tribbey is selected as the "designated survivor" for the State of The Union because Bartlet's staff want the more prominent, higher-ranking Cabinet Secretaries at the speech.
- Wham Episode: The revelation that Bartlet has MS.
- Wham Line: "He has multiple sclerosis, Leo."
- You Called Me "X"; It Must Be Serious: After President Bartlet tells Leo about his MS:Leo: Jed, of all the things you could've kept from me...Bartlet: You haven't called me "Jed" since I was elected.