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Recap / The West Wing S 01 E 15 Celestial Navigation

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At a college lecture hall, as David Nessler is giving a speech introducing him, Josh is on his cell phone with Sam, finding out Roberto Mendoza has been arrested in Wesley, Connecticut for drunk driving and resisting arrest, even though Sam is adamant that Mendoza doesn't drink. Sam, who's on the street trying to get a cab, tells Josh the cops don't know exactly who they have, so luckily, the press doesn't know yet. Josh says he's got to do the lecture he's at, and Sam, as he gets a cab to take him to the White House, tells Josh he'll keep him up-to-date. Nessler finishes his introduction and brings Josh out to enthusiastic applause. Josh says he'll do his best to tell them what it's like to work for the President.


In Leo's office, Sam meets C.J., who knows what happened. So does Toby, who comes in boiling mad. Sam updates them that no one's posted bail yet because they can't find a judge in Wesley on Friday night. Toby says he's going to figure out a way to blame it on C.J. Leo walks in and tells Sam to fly to Wesley to bail Mendoza out, and tells C.J. emphatically to keep the story out of the press. Toby says he's going with him because "the judge and I are going to have a conversation." Leo tells them to keep him posted.

Back at the lecture hall, Nessler asks Josh what a typical day is at the White House, and Josh jokes there really is no such thing; they start with a schedule, but it usually gets broken pretty early. To illustrate that, he brings up what he calls "the news cycle that wouldn't end", which happened over the last few days, and which started with, depending on your point of view, "a cabinet secretary losing her temper, a committee chairman baiting her during a hearing, the President answering a question he shouldn't have, a dentist appointment, or me being stupid". Josh is quick to add he didn't think it was as much his fault as everyone else did, and also says it started off with something more innocent; the new education bill...


...and in a Flashback, we see C.J. in the press room (which is empty), giving the bullet points of the bill to Sam and Toby; forgiving student loans to students who become teachers at a rural or inner-city school for three years, providing grant money to school districts who use experienced teachers to train newer teachers, and give bonuses to those who leave other careers to become teachers. C.J. points out she knows all of this. Josh interrupts, asking to see Toby for a minute. C.J. and Sam walk out of the room as well, and Sam says she should push back her 11 am briefing to 1 pm so it's after the bill signing and they can control the news cycle. C.J. says it's a good idea, but when Sam realizes she's using this as an excuse to postpone her dentist appointment (she has pain in her teeth), he tells C.J. to push the briefing back to 2 pm and keep the dental appointment.


In the main work area, Josh tells Toby that Deborah O'Leary, the secretary for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) called Congressman Wooden a racist. Toby calls for Bonnie and Ginger to pull the story for him. Josh doesn't see what the big deal was, because he thinks she was baited and was right, but Toby thinks otherwise. Mandy comes in with the full quote; Wooden thoroughly criticized public housing, and an angry O'Leary, while acknowledging the problems, accused Wooden, as well as the rest of the Republican party, of being more interested in scoring political points off poor people and minorities than in dealing with poverty. Wooden responded, "Are you calling me a racist?", and O'Leary replied, "If the shoe fits." Toby is especially displeased with this last part.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh says Donald Morales', O'Leary's spokesman, confirmed what happened.

Josh, Sam and Toby have just told Leo and President Bartlet what happened. Bartlet is upset, but Leo says he'll take care of it, and Josh says O'Leary is on her way. Charlie comes to fetch the President for the bill signing and press conference, and they all walk to the Mural Room.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh points out that poll after poll showed that Americans were concerned with education more than any other issue, and yet, even after the President officially signed the bill and spoke about it, the first question he received was...

..."Mr. President, do you agree with Secretary O’Leary that Congressman Wooden is a racist, and if not, do you plan on asking for her resignation?" This question comes from Danny, and President Bartlet tries to avoid the question by saying he has confidence in O'Leary and what she's done, but there are also many Republicans who want to work seriously to help combat poverty, and he wants to work with them. However, Danny still wants an answer.

In the lecture hall, Josh admits they all should have noticed C.J. wasn't there, and made their exit, but no one noticed.

In the mural room, President Bartlet finally does say he wants O'Leary to apologize to Wooden. Josh and Leo both look horrified, Josh signals Sam, and Sam says they'll cover it at the 2 pm briefing, but they need to go because the President's late for lunch. As President Bartlet and the staff leave, Leo assures everyone he'll fix the problem.

In the lecture hall, Josh's cell phone rings, and he excuses himself, taking off his microphone and walking backstage. It's Toby, who says they've landed, but they have't found the police station because they're lost. Sam is driving, insists they're not. Josh says he's in the middle of something, and hangs up. Josh walks back on stage, and lies that the phone call was about the deficit.

In the car, Sam insists he's not lost, because he's using celestial navigation.

In the lecture hall, Josh mentions the upcoming meeting between Leo and Deborah O'Leary...

...and O'Leary is furious at President Bartlet for what happened at the press conference. Leo admits they blew it there, but she still needs to apologize, because they need Wooden and other Republicans to vote with the President on issues that include the budget for HUD. O'Leary points out she has a duty to point out when critics of HUD are being racist, but Leo responds that her first duty is to serve the President, which she failed at, and she needs to apologize to Wooden if she wants to keep her job. Begrudgingly, she agrees, and Leo admits he and the President thought she was right, but she shouldn't have taken the bait.

In the lecture hall, Josh says the issue should have been over and done with, and they should have been able to get back to the education bill at the 2 pm briefing. He then asks, "Who here has had emergency root canal?"

C.J. knocks on Josh's door, and her left cheek is swollen. He asks, "What the hell happened?"

Josh: What happened to your cheeks?
C.J.: I had woot canaw.
Josh: Why are you talking like that?
C.J.: (getting testy) I had woot canaw!
Josh: (chuckling) Yeah, I heard you the first time, I was just amusing myself.
C.J.: I can suggest some othew things you can do wiff yourseff.
Josh: Are you in pain?
Josh: You’re gonna need to stop saying that, ‘cause you just look and sound so ridiculous.

C.J. says they need to cancel the briefing because she can't do it. Josh points out they need to change the conversation back to the education bill, and says he can do the briefing. C.J. thinks Josh gets too hostile, but Josh thinks he only does that when hostility is called for. C.J. makes one last ditch and tries to Sam or Toby to do it, but they're otherwise occupied (Sam with the speechwriters, Toby with Leo and President Bartlet). As Josh heads to the press room, Danny tries to talk him out of it as well, but Josh says he has more than it takes to deal with the press corps. Josh steps up to the podium and tells the reporters he's subbing for C.J. because of her dental emergency.

At the lecture hall, Josh tries to defend himself, saying he easily dispensed with the Deborah O'Leary matter, and tried to impose discipline.

Back in the press room, Josh says he's going to take one question apiece. Mike asks when the President last had a cigarette, and Josh laughs at him for asking a stupid question, at which point C.J., watching from her office, cringes in horror. Katie points out it's a fair question if the President continues to be so adamantly anti-tobacco, and points out President Bartlet bummed a cigarette from her a few days before. Josh weakly says they'll look into it. Danny asks how the President feels about the fact that rising wages, which are due to an drop in unemployment, might lead to a rise in inflation. Josh tries to steer away from the question by talking about how robust the economy is at the moment, but Danny won't let him. Josh insists the President will keep on top of the economy, including inflation. When Katie asks if he has a specific plan to fight inflation, Josh replies, "Twenty-four PhD’s and a Counsel of Economy Advisers, Katie. They have a plan to fight inflation". Danny wants to know if it's a secret, and Josh sarcastically says yes. C.J. groans again.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh admits things only became worse from there. Nessler tells everyone to take a break, and the students applaud Josh. Josh goes to the lobby and calls Toby, who reports they're still lost. Josh wonders how they can still be lost, and Toby brings up the secret plan to fight inflation. Josh, upset that Toby can't let that go, tells him to call when they know something.

At long last, Sam and Toby find the Wesley police station. They march in and Sam asks to speak to the watch commander. The duty officer thinks it's a joke, but Sam repeats his demand. The officer brings back the watch commander, and Sam tells him who he is and that he wants to speak with Mendoza. The watch commander is similarly dubious, but the duty officer notices newspaper on his desk has a front-page picture of Toby with President Bartlet. Sam tells them who Mendoza rings, and guesses the phone that starts to ring is the governor of Connecticut.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh picks up telling about the press conference from hell...

...and at said conference, the other reporters continue to press Josh on the "secret plan to fight inflation", despite his insistence that he was kidding. Josh looks at Danny, who gives him a satisfied smile. A little later, Josh exits the press conference, looking shell-shocked, and Donna comes up to him. Josh says he just wants her support and advice; Donna promises her support, and says he should go into his office and try to think up a secret plan to fight inflation. Josh yells at her, and they're interrupted by C.J., who yells at Josh, with Donna translating. Josh sends Donna to see if Toby knows, at which point they can hear Toby yell, "Where is he?" Donna leaves, and Toby comes roaring in, asking Josh if he fell on his head. Josh tries to apologize, and Toby sarcastically thanks him for delivering some great television. Sam comes in, and tells them there's a problem (not Josh, although Sam chides him for calling a reporter "stupid"), and Toby says the only way his day could get worse is if Roberto Mendoza got involved. Sam just looks at him, and Toby shakes his head.

In the lecture hall, Josh explains they want Mendoza's nomination to go through, partly because a failed nomination is a body blow to the presidency, but also because they like him as a man and a jurist. Josh also mentions Supreme Court nominees aren't supposed to talk to the press until they've been confirmed, but that lesson seems to be lost on Mendoza.

In the Roosevelt Room, Sam tells Leo that Mendoza called the Chicago Tribune, while on vacation in Nova Scotia, to tell them the President shouldn't have asked O'Leary to apologize. Leo tells them the President won't be talking to any press at his event in New Orleans, and is coming right back home; they'll talk in the morning. Josh says he and the others will be with Leo in spirit; Leo says Josh will be with him in every way imaginable, and tells the others to be there at 7 the next morning.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh mentions more times Mendoza had spoken out of turn, and adds that Mendoza had just turned around the one thing they had done right. At that moment, Josh's cell phone rings again; he apologizes again and excuses himself. It's Sam, who tells Josh they're at the station, and Toby's about to speak to Mendoza. At that moment, the duty office escorts Toby to Mendoza's cell, and Toby says they're going to have a long chat.

In the lecture hall, Josh says that next to the presidency, the hardest job in the White House is that of the President's personal aide, Charlie, especially when he has to wake the President up...

...and we go to Charlie in the outer Oval office, calling the White House operator. They chat a bit, and she puts him through to the President's bedroom. Bartlet, who's groggy, answers it only after several rings, and grumpily wonders what Charlie wants. Charlie reminds him he's got a staff meeting at 7 am, followed by more meetings. Bartlet still can't believe Charlie is bothering him, and Charlie reminds him he really is the President. Bartlet agrees to get up.

Back in the lecture hall, Josh explains that Mendoza was immediately asked to come back to Washington, but for some reason decided to drive down and do some antiquing in Connecticut.

Charlie goes to the bedroom in the White House residence, only to find the steward still waiting to serve President Bartlet his coffee and breakfast. Charlie goes into the bedroom, turns on some lights, and tries to wake the President. Bartlet grabs his arm, and says he's committing a federal crime. Charlie says he'll take his chances, and reminds the President about the meeting. Bartlet wants to know where his wife is, and Charlie reminds him she's in Argentina. Charlie says he's going to wait until the President has showered and gotten dressed; Bartlet asks if Charlie has slept yet, and is pleased that he hasn't.

The staff are gathered outside the Oval Office. C.J. tells Josh, in her normal voice, that the swelling is down, but the painkillers have worn off. Bartlet walks in and announces he's tired and cranky. After an uncomfortable silence, Leo mentions there were a few "incidents" (Toby says "catastrophes") the day before. Josh brings up the "secret plan to fight inflation", and predictably, Bartlet gets pissed. Bartlet also tells C.J. she's doing the next press briefing no matter what. Toby interrupts and mentions what Mendoza said. Sam mentions that Mendoza is driving back through Connecticut, and Bartlet says they'll wait, and orders C.J. to make everything right in the press room. Everyone leaves except for Josh, who stays behind and apologizes for what he did.

In the lecture hall, Nessler asks what happened to Mendoza, and Josh says he's still on his way down.

In the station, the watch commander tries to justify the address, saying Mendoza was driving erratically. Sam points out there's no way Mendoza could have been drunk, because he has an inflamed liver, and alcohol would kill him.

In the jail cell, Mendoza asserts he didn't take a breathalyzer test because he was driving within the speed limit, he was driving on the right side of the road, and he's not wanted in Connecticut, so they had no just cause to ask for one. Toby says Mendoza could have called, and says they should just go, but Mendoza says he's going to avail himself of the justice system in Connecticut, especially since they arrested him in front of his wife and son. Toby admits the whole thing stinks, and if he were in Mendoza's shoes, he'd want to do the same thing, especially so he'd be spared the humiliation of having his wife and son see him incarcerated (Mendoza hangs his head at this), but the best way to deal with it is to get Mendoza on the Supreme Court so he can make sure nothing like this happens again. Mendoza finally consents, and they walk out.

In the lobby of the station, Toby and Mendoza walk in, and Mendoza and Sam greet each other. Toby tells the watch commander that Mendoza won't be filing suit against the police, even though he'd win without a doubt, but the watch commander has to apologize to Mendoza, and then drive to the motel where his family is at and apologize to them. After a moment, the watch commander apologizes, and Mendoza accepts. Outside the station, Mendoza mentions there's great antiquing in Connecticut if they want to spend the night, and Toby says Mendoza is killing him. Sam calls Josh...

...who hangs up his phone, apologizes once again, and tells everyone he won't be interrupted again. Nessler asks what it's about, and Josh says he can't talk about it, but when Mendoza gets confirmed, he'd love to come back and talk about it. Nessler decides to take some questions from the audience.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Adorkable: Sam, whether going on about C.J. and her teeth, or about the route he thinks Mendoza will take when driving from Nova Scotia to D.C.
    Toby: Something really kinda freakish about you, you know that?
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Josh responds snarkily when a reporter at his briefing asks a question about President Bartlet being caught smoking. Another reporter points out that Bartlet is also trying to promote strict anti-smoking campaigns and regulations, thus actually making it a pretty good question.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": More of a Tranquil Fury shut up, but it amounts to the same thing.
    Sam: Let me tell you something. If we’d stayed on the Merritt parkway instead of getting off at exit 29 and going east to Greenwich, I don’t think we’d have wound up in Bridgeport so many times.
    Toby: Shut up.
  • Break the Haughty: Compare the arrogant know-it-all Josh who confidently swaggers into the White House press room eager to show the press corps who's boss with the shellshocked wreck of a man who timidly slinks out of it once his press conference is done.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": Josh does this twice.
    • First with Toby:
    Toby: She called him a racist?
    Josh: She didn't use that word.
    Toby: What word did she use?
    Josh: Well, yes, she used that word.
    • And then later, with the President:
    President Bartlet: You told the press I have a secret plan to fight inflation?
    Josh: No, I did not. Let me be absolutely clear, I did not do that. Except, yes, I did that.
  • The Cassandra: Danny Concannon, who sees Josh strut into the press room to do the briefing and tries to warn him that it's a really bad idea:
    Danny: You're not gonna do this.
    Josh: I talk to reporters all the time.
    Danny: You really don't want to do this.
    Josh: Let me tell you something, mi compadre. You guys have been coddled. I’m not your girlfriend, I’m not your camp counselor, and I’m not you sixth grade teacher you had a crush on. I’m a graduate of Harvard and Yale and I believe that my powers of debate can rise to meet the Socratic wonder that is the White House Press Corps. [Goes up to the podium]
    Danny: ... Okie-dokey.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A print version of this trope, with the newspaper in the Wesley police station that just happens to feature Toby's face on the front page.
  • Continuity Nod: The education bill President Bartlet is signing, and the one Joss and the others would rather talk about than the other events of the episode, is the same one alluded to in "Take Out the Trash Day". Also, we've seen President Bartlet smoke before.
  • Death Glare: Carol gives one of these to Josh when he leaves the press conference he bungled.
  • Drunk with Power: A downplayed example; Josh is strutting around the place at (reluctantly) being given the chance to do the press briefing for once, and eagerly attempts to implement some tougher standards "which I think had been lacking", implying that he thinks C.J is too soft and that he can do a much better job. Boy, does he learn otherwise.
  • Elmuh Fudd Syndwome: Poor C.J.
    C.J.: The Pwesident needs to be bwiefed on the events of the day.
    Toby: C.J., so help me, if you use the words "Pwesident" or "bwiefed" again...
  • Epic Fail: Josh's press conference.
    President Bartlet: C.J., if blood is gushing from the head wound you just received from a stampeding herd of bison, you’ll do the press briefing.
  • Face Palm: C.J.'s reaction after Josh makes his "secret plan to fight inflation" remarks.
  • Get Out!:
    Bartlet: Get out.
  • Hypocrite: Discussed. Josh gives every reporter one question to ask. One reporter asks a question about President Bartlet being seen to be smoking on Air Force One, which Josh derisively calls a stupid question. Another reporter then points out that if Bartlet is seen to be smoking while also pushing strict anti-smoking regulations on the grounds of health, it comes off as hypocritical.
  • I Told You So: Towards the end of Josh's Epic Fail press conference, he meets eyes with Danny Concannon, who advised him against taking over. The knowing look on Danny's face conveys this in a way that mere words cannot express.
  • Mood Whiplash: Most of the episode is a case of Hilarity Ensues, until the scene with Toby and Mendoza in his jail cell.
  • Oh, Crap!: When President Bartlet finds out Josh gave the press briefing, his reaction is, "Oh, God."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Josh tells C.J. she looks like Bullwinkle after her root canal.
    • Sam points out that Josh smugly telling a reporter that his question was stupid "isn't exactly out of Dale Carnegie or anything".
  • Shutting Up Now: When discussing Mendoza's response to the events surrounding Deborah O'Leary, Josh begins to get a bit cocky once again... and, given that he really has no cause for smugness after his disastrous contribution to the events of the day, is promptly smacked down by Leo:
    Leo: I thought he was on vacation in Nova Scotia. What, [the press] called him in Nova Scotia? How the hell did they find him in Nova Scotia?!
    Josh: They have telephones in Nova Scotia, Leo, it's not Amish country. [Chuckles]
    Leo: [Death Glare] ... I really think that of all the people in this building, Josh, you want to be the last person to speak right now.
    Josh: [Cowed] You bet.
  • Smug Snake: Josh, at least to Danny as he's about to give the press conference:
    Josh: Let me tell you something, mi compadre. You guys have been coddled. I’m not your girlfriend, I’m not your camp counselor, and I’m not you sixth grade teacher you had a crush on. I’m a graduate of Harvard and Yale and I believe that my powers of debate can rise to meet the Socratic wonder that is the White House Press Corps.
  • Take That!: A Running Gag of the show is the staffers making fun of Deborah O'Leary's Lame Comeback "If the shoe fits." This is directed at Dee Dee Myers, who co-wrote the story for the episode, and came up with the line in the first place.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: After being given no more information than that Josh performed a press briefing the previous day, President's Bartlet's immediate reaction?
    Bartlet: Oh, God.
  • Tranquil Fury: After being kicked out of bed at 6am, being informed that his wife is in Argentina and being confronted with the royal mess of things his staff has made in his absence, President Bartlet spends pretty much all of his meeting with the senior staff in a state of simmering, ready-to-blow pissed-off-ness.

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