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Recap / The West Wing S 01 E 14 Take This Sabbath Day

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Directed by Thomas Schlamme

Written by Aaron Sorkin, Lawrence O'Donnell, & Paul Redford

Simon Cruz, a member of a drug cartel who killed two kingpins who's on death row, has his appeal denied, and he's set to be executed on 12:01 am Monday. When the White House finds out, President Bartlet agonizes over whether or not to stay Cruz's execution, though he eventually decides not to, despite all of those who want him to, especially Sam.


Josh has to meet with Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin), the campaign manager for a Democrat in California. Joey wants to know why her candidate (O'Dwyer) isn't getting funding in his campaign against a particularly noxious incumbent. President Bartlet thinks O'Dwyer is someone running for office just because they can, but tells Joey he'd get behind a real candidate, and later, Josh adds he and the President both think Joey would be that candidate.


This episode contains examples of:

  • Actually, That's My Assistant: Because Josh (a) was told (by Sam) that Joey Lucas was a man, and (b) is incredibly hung over, he initially mistakes Kenny, Joey's interpreter, for Joey.
  • As the Good Book Says... / Literary Allusion Title: The title of the episode comes from the 4th commandment, which says to remember (or observe) and keep the Sabbath.
    • Also discussed in the scene with Toby and Rabbi Glassman; Toby points out the Torah allows for capital punishment, and Rabbi Glassman points out the Torah also says, among others things, that rebellious children can be stoned to death and that slavery and polygamy were acceptable, which, as he points out, aren't acceptable in modern society.
    • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Leo's reaction at Sam telling him the reason (in not so many words) why Simon Cruz isn't dead yet despite the appeal having been denied – it's after sundown on Friday, and the federal government does not execute people on the Sabbath (technically, all three of them).
    Leo: Why Monday morning?
    Sam: What do you mean?
    Leo: The court denied the appeal. Why isn't he being executed at midnight tonight?
    Sam: We don't execute people between sundown Friday and sundown Sunday.
    Leo: Why?
    Sam: Hard as it is to believe …
    Leo: (blinks, figures it out for himself) You're kidding me.
    Sam: (shakes his head) No.
    Sam: No.
    Leo: Well, that's about the most bizarre thing I've ever heard.
    Sam: Leo, I think you're gonna find as you go through this weekend that there's virtually no part of this discussion that isn't bizarre.
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  • Better the Devil You Know: Along with the reason listed above, this is why President Bartlet doesn't back Joey's candidate against the incumbent.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: As much as he denies it at first, Josh.
    Josh: I have a very delicate system.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Joey (Kenny): You can be afraid of me, pal. I can create problems for you, you've never even heard of.
    Josh: I’m not hearing a lot of party loyalty from you here, Joey.
    Joey (Kenny): Well, maybe if your head wasn't so far up your-
    Josh: Hey!
  • Deadpan Snarker: Along with everyone else on the show, Rabbi Glassman.
    Rabbi Glassman: A lawyer named Bobby Zane called me Friday night. He told me what was happening. He asked if I had any influence with Toby Ziegler. I told him clearly he hadn't spent any time with Toby Ziegler.
  • Foreshadowing: When it becomes clear that President Bartlet isn't going to pardon the death row inmate, Sam frustratedly tells Leo that "there are days when it feels like we are nowhere at all." The staff's frustration and feelings of having stagnated will come up again over the next few episodes.
  • Gilligan Cut: Once again, within the same scene:
    Joey Lucas: I want to speak with the President!
    Josh: Hey, Lunatic Lady! Trust me when I tell you that there’s absolutely no way that you are going to see the President!
    President Bartlet: Hey, Josh.
  • Hotline: Averted Trope. When Father Cavanaugh arrives in the Oval Office he asks where the red phone to the Kremlin is. Bartlet tells him there isn't one and if he wanted to talk to the Kremlin he'd ask Mrs. Landingham to arrange the call.
  • Insufferable Genius: C.J. really does not like being stuck on a plane with President Bartlet:
    Bartlet: C.J., look-
    C.J.: Don’t start with me, Mr. President.
    Bartlet: I was helping pass the time. I was being entertaining as well as instructive.
    C.J.: I’m back in America now, I have rights. I’m no longer belted down next to the passenger from hell.
    (Leo greets them as they get off and tells President Bartlet they need to talk)
    Leo: How was the flight?
    Bartlet: Great!
    C.J.: (answering at the same time) It was gruesome! “If you’ll look out the left side of the cabin, you’ll see the fjords.” Then we got a history of the fjords. Then we got a quiz on the fjords. (to Bartlet) Do you have any idea how much I would like to dress you up in lederhosen and drop kick you into the fjords right now?
    Bartlet: Aw, you don't know how to have fun when we're traveling.
  • Meaningful Echo: When Father Cavanaugh asks how he should refer to Bartlet, Bartlet asks that he be called "Mr. President" in the Oval Office, and explains that it's not as an ego boost but as a way of compartmentalizing the difficult choices he is faced with in that room. Gradually, the two begin to debate Bartlet's decision not to commute the death sentence for Simon Cruz, and it becomes clear that Bartlet, in making the political decision, ultimately feels he has made the wrong decision. Accordingly, when the news that Cruz has been executed comes in, Father Cavanagh pointedly asks "Would you like me to hear your confession, Jed?"
  • Mood Whiplash: Between the drama of the upcoming execution (and President Bartlet's agonizing over whether to commute the sentence) and the comedy of Josh's hangover and his meetings with Joey Lucas.
  • Noodle Incident: It's never explained what exactly happened the last time Sam was in a boat that makes his friends so nervous. Although it does seem that he failed to remain in the boat at one point.
  • One-Woman Wail: The woman at the synagogue who's practicing "Hashkiveinu" while Toby talks to Rabbi Glassman.
    Toby: You know what I think? I think you knew I was coming back here. And I think you put her (the singer) there on purpose.
    Rabbi Glassman: She's our communications director.
  • Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Turns out, Bobby Zane (one of the lawyers heading up Simon Cruz's appeal against the death penalty) used to beat up Sam in high school. It's played with, in that while Sam and Zane ultimately are working on the same side there's clearly no love lost between them.
  • Snow Means Death: The scene, with five minutes to go before the execution, Bartlet is standing at the window watching it snow.
  • Strawman Political: Discussed; one of the reasons Josh gives Joey for pulling the funding on her candidate is that his opponent is pretty much a perfect caricature of the most ridiculous and extreme views of the opposing party, and every time he spouts off they're able to use him as a cudgel to beat the opposition with in this fashion, leading to boosts in fundraising.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: Donna, though it's partly justified by the fact she's trying to get Josh to get going while he's hungover.
    Donna: Are you going to listen to me from now on?
    Josh: (mutters) I'm not even listening to you now.
    Josh: Yes! Yes! Yes!
  • They Call Me Mr Tibbs: Fr. Cavanagh asks if he should call President Bartlet "Mr. President" or "Jed", and President Bartlet says because he needs to think of himself as the office, Fr. Cavanagh should call him Mr. President. Subverted later, however, when Fr. Cavanagh calls him "Jed" just before asking if he'd like to give his confession.
  • Very Special Episode: Though less heavy-handed than these usually are.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: President Bartlet says Toby went to "shul", which is Yiddish for "synagogue".

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