At a town hall meeting in Rosslyn, Virginia, President Bartlet is telling jokes to the (mostly) college-age audience. The moderator asks if they have time for one more question, and Bartlet concedes he hasn't really answered "Suzanne's" question. He talks about how apathetic her generation has been politically (and mentions "Decisions are made by those who show up"), but concedes it's partly his generation's fault, and begins to cite statistics from a report from the Center for Policy Alternatives about Suzanne's generation. As Gina walks down from the stands and starts to head outside, we see the press gathered in the lobby, along with Carol, C.J. and Josh. When a reporter asks what report Bartlet's citing from, Josh names it and assures them C.J. will have copies for them on the ride back. Back in the meeting, Bartlet mentions he's going to take his jacket off because it's hot, even though there was debate amongst his staff about the message it would send. As the audience applauds, we go to the control room, where Sam is reading some notes. Bonnie tells him Peter Jobson is on the phone for Toby. Sam takes the phone from her. We then see Toby watching Bartlet on a TV in the lobby downstairs. Sam calls for him, and when Toby looks up, Sam makes a gesture of his right arm going up, hand first. Toby gives a sigh of relief, calls for Josh, and makes the same gesture to him. Josh goes to Leo and makes the gesture for him; Leo thought it was for "the other thing", but Josh insists it was changed, and tells him to tell the President. As Bartlet continues his speech, Leo does the arm gesture, and Bartlet looks pleased. In the control room, C.J. goes up to Danny, lightly hits him in the back of the head, and orders him to follow her. Once they're someplace private, she tells him she's doing him a favor, and after trying to make sure he understands the magnitude of that (he's a little impatient with that), C.J. tells Danny to call his science editor about the shuttle Columbia. Back in the meeting, Bartlet gets around to making fun of Zoey, who's sitting in a booth with friends and looks embarrassed but proud of her father.
Outside the building, Ron tells Gina President Bartlet is going to skip the rope line and go straight home to watch softball on TV. Gina is bemused, but accepts this.
Back inside, as Bartlet is finishing up, Charlie comes up to Josh, enthused about the fact the President used the report. As President Bartlet finishes up by saying, "Class dismissed", and the crowd enthusiastically applauds, Josh claps Charlie on the back.
Back outside, Gina tells someone on her radio about President Bartlet not working the rope line, and she says she has Zoey. Zoey comes out along with the President and the rest of the staff, and she cheerfully complains to Gina about how her father embarrassed her. Zoey also mentions how Charlie apologized to her, but Gina is distracted by someone she saw in the crowd (there was a suspicious-looking guy wearing a baseball cap). She sees him looking up somewhere, and she looks up in that direction. As she sees what he's looking at, she's about to yell something, and then there's a Smash Cut to the opening titles.
We then see a title card that reads "12 Hours Earlier", and we're in the Situation Room, where Leo joins the joint chiefs. Admiral Fitzwallace informs him a patrol plane in the no-fly zone over Iraq has been shot down, and both the plane and the pilot are unaccounted for, but it isn't confirmed yet. Fitzwallace says they'll have confirmation in ten minutes, and Leo says he'll bring President Bartlet in when that happens.
As they walk to the Oval Office, President Bartlet tells Charlie about how he plans to watch a girls' softball game on TV after the event, which Charlie finds very amusing. After he picks up a memo, Bartlet continues with Charlie to the press room, and Bartlet explains likes winding up his day by watching a sporting event. They reach the press room, where C.J. and Sam are. C.J. tries to set up what will be happening at the town hall meeting, but President Bartlet is more interested in telling Sam about Toby's brother, an astronaut on the space shuttle Columbia, which hasn't landed yet. Sam promises he'll find out what's happening.
Toby's in his office, and trying to figure out with Bonnie and Ginger an answer President Bartlet can give to any question asked about Cuba and farm loans. Sam joins him, and mentions the space shuttle and the fact Toby has a brother Sam didn't even know about. Toby is impatient with Sam, and Sam says he'll find out what's happening.
In the bullpen in front of Josh's office, Donna tells him the only meeting she could get with Vice President Hoynes was jogging in a couple of hours. Josh is dismayed to hear this, and orders some boiled chicken and pasta. Donna reminds him he's needed in the press room, and Josh says he's on his way, but wants to know where his chair is. Donna explains a friend of hers is fixing it.
Back in the press room, Mandy and Josh have both joined the group, and Mandy asks Bartlet about all those without health insurance, and the fact the majority of them are children. Bartlet concedes he needs to do better on that score. Leo comes in and says he needs the President in the Situation Room...
...which is where they are a few minutes later. Admiral Fitzwallace brings President Bartlet up to speed; the pilot is alive, but is being tracked by the Iraqi national guard. He also says they have a rescue scenario in place. One official says they should negotiate with Iraq, but Leo insists that's not an option. President Bartlet asks about the particulars of the pilot (his name, age and where he's from), reminds the official ("Bill") that the Iraqi have put a $14,000 bounty on any downed US plane or captured soldier and that he'll invade Iraq if something happens to the pilot, and orders Admiral Fitzwallace to get him back.
In Leo's office, he briefs C.J. on what happened, including the rescue scenario in place. He then asks if she understands what he wants from her, and she says yes. Leo brings up C.J. being upset about lying to the press, but C.J. insists she doesn't have a problem with that; she has a problem with Leo and the President lying to her. Josh comes in and C.J. goes to be briefed in detail by the Pentagon. Josh wants to know how a stealth fighter jet could be shot down, and Leo admits they'll have to get into that at some point. Josh then brings up his meeting with Hoynes, and Leo cautions him to bring up why it's bad for Hoynes, not bad for them.
As Josh leaves, he runs into Toby, and they both marvel at the fact a stealth fighter was shot down. Toby goes to his office, where Sam is waiting. Sam again marvels at the fact Toby has a brother Sam didn't know about, and tells him one of the payload doors wouldn't close, but NASA considers it a minor problem. Toby tells Sam to move the town hall prep to the Roosevelt Room, and also instructs him to keep in touch with Peter Jobson of NASA and let him know when the shuttle lands.
Josh and Vice President Hoynes are jogging towards the Lincoln Memorial, as Josh talks about how much "soft money" has ruined politics, and how much they need campaign finance reform. Hoynes agrees, but asks Josh what his point is. Josh asks if they can stop, as as they do so, mentions how much Hoynes seems to be palling around with opponents of campaign finance reform. Hoynes denies he's doing anything like that in particular, but Josh brings up the fact Bartlet's numbers are going up after the earlier poll, and he also says the town hall meeting, as well as bringing back the pilot alive, will makes his numbers go up even more:
Josh thanks Hoynes and leaves.
In the press briefing room, C.J., who's standing with military officers, tells the press about the pilot being shot down, and they don't know his condition, but the officers she's with will have more to say. Danny asks if there's a rescue mission being planned, and C.J. says they're exploring all options, including the diplomatic route, but she doesn't want to speculate. Leo looks on in approval as the press continues to shout for C.J.
Later, in the Roosevelt Room, Mandy reminds President Bartlet he has to list his accomplishments before he attacks Congress, and he concedes the point. Mandy and Sam debate whether President Bartlet should take his jacket off or not. Zoey comes in with Charlie, and she and her father step outside in the hallway for a moment. Zoey asks how he is, and Bartlet insists he's fine; he also wants her to come to the meeting. Zoey doesn't want to, because she doesn't want her father to make fun of her, but reluctantly agrees. As Bartlet heads back inside, Zoey mentions Charlie wanted to talk to him about something, and Bartlet promises to talk to him. Bartlet heads back into the Roosevelt Room and dismisses everyone. He then asks Charlie what Zoey was talking about, but Charlie claims he doesn't know what Zoey is talking about, and Bartlet accepts this. Sam walks out with President Bartlet, and tells him he has a signal worked out if there's news on the pilot during the town hall meeting. Sam makes the motion with his arm we saw earlier, and tells a bemused President Bartlet it's a signal for departure. Bartlet accepts this, and Sam thanks him and leaves.
In Leo's office, he congratulates Josh for getting Hoynes on board, but then chews him out for telling Hoynes the President's numbers would go up if the pilot came back alive. Leo is offended as a war veteran, and also indicates the President would be offended if he knew, as he's been worrying about it all day. Josh sincerely apologizes, but misreads Leo's expression when he thinks Leo's offering to hug him. Josh then tells Leo about Sam's signal; Leo thinks it looks like a hip-hop gesture, but Josh assures him it isn't. Josh then apologizes again.
Charlie finds Zoey and Gina in the hall, and tells Zoey she shouldn't have said anything. As they step into Josh's office, Zoey accuses him of chickening out, and Charlie responds he doesn't have the same kind of relationship with the President as the others, so he doesn't feel comfortable putting his two cents in. Josh walks in, and tells them not to worry, he just needs to get something. As Zoey and Charlie continue to argue, Josh sits where his chair should be, and falls on the ground, causing the two of them to look back in concern, and Gina to poke her head in as well. Josh yells for Donna, who comes in and says they should get another chair in the meantime. Zoey walks away, and tells Charlie again he was chicken.
Sam goes to Toby's office, tells him Peter Jobson's going to call, and gives the gist; they still haven't been able to close the door, and there's a problem with the engines, but they still don't consider it too serious. As Sam's about to leave to have Cathy get Peter Jobson on the phone, Toby sheepishly admits he forgot his brother was even on the shuttle, since they had changed the flight date so many times, and that's why he acted snippy earlier. Cathy comes by and tells Toby Jobson is on the phone for him.
In the Oval Office, Charlie tells President Bartlet that Admiral Fitzwallace is on his way over. Bartlet then asks Charlie what he wanted to ask him before; Charlie again tries to say it was nothing, but admits he found the report by the Center for Policy Alternatives illuminating, especially in light of the discussions Bartlet had been having about youth participation in politics. Bartlet asks Charlie to put the report in his briefcase. Mrs. Landingham tells Bartlet Admiral Fitzwallace is there, and he comes in as Charlie leaves. Fitzwallace tells him they should have news in a minute. He asks President Bartlet how he is, and Bartlet claims he's fine. Mrs. Landingham comes back in and tells the Admiral he has a phone call; Fitzwallace takes the call in the Oval Office, and when he's done, tells President Bartlet the rescue mission was successful, and the pilot, while he has a sprained ankle, is otherwise fine. Bartlet is overjoyed, and sincerely thanks Fitzwallace, who gives him the phone and then leaves. President Bartlet then asks the pilot for his parents' phone number.
In the press briefing room, C.J. confirms they flew through Saudi airspace and only informed them on the way back, which is also when the British were told. She then closes the briefing, saying she'll have more after the town hall meeting. As they leave, Danny yells at her, and she motions him inside her office. Once there, Danny yells at her for lying to him, and she responds she did exactly what she was supposed to, and if it helped mislead Iraq, she did her job. Danny then says she could have called on anyone else, and C.J. admits that, but called on Danny anyway. Danny points out how supportive he's been of the Bartlet administration, and says he can't stay in the penalty box forever. Carol interrupts and tells C.J. the buses are leaving.
As President Bartlet is leaving his office, he tells Leo and Mrs. Landingham about wanting to watch girls' softball after the town hall meeting, and Leo tells him of the notes he wants the President to read. Bartlet tells Leo to meet him in the limo, and goes over to Toby's office, where Toby is sitting in the dark. Bartlet brings up in more detail the procedure the astronauts and flight crew of the shuttle are going to try. Toby appreciates Bartlet trying to be a comfort to him, but is still concerned because they're in space. President Bartlet leaves.
We're back at the town hall meeting, although we get some parts that are shorter and some new parts included. We see, for example, Toby's full reaction to finding out his brother's shuttle has safely landed, and we hear President Bartlet name Charlie as the one who gave him the report from the Center for Policy Alternatives. While Gina is looking over the crowd, and we see the suspicious young man with the baseball cap on, we hear Bartlet talk about his family background (his great-grandfather's great-grandfather was an original member of the Continental Congress in 1776) and the Declaration of Independence. Once again, we hear him conclude the speech by saying, "Class dismissed", and the crowd enthusiastically applauds.
Outside, Zoey is again cheerfully complaining to Gina about her father, as well as telling her about Charlie, and President Bartlet asks Toby what he has to say after finding out his brother is okay, and Toby laughs. From an office building overlooking the parking lot, two skinheads are loading their weapons with bullets. Gina keeps muttering to herself that she saw something, and keeps looking around. She finally spots again the skinhead wearing the baseball cap, and he looks up at the building, turns around, and his cap gets knocked off. Gina looks up at the office building, and sees the skinheads about to open fire. She yells out:
Instantly, as two skinheads open fire, it becomes chaos. Gina manages to get both Charlie and Zoey down and Zoey into the limo. Secret Service agents pull Bartlet into his limo. Another Secret Service Agent brushes against Sam, and he ends up pulling C.J. to the ground behind a car. More agents fire on the shooters. Josh is behind some gates. Toby is rolling around on the ground in the crowd. Leo's being held down by agents. There's more chaos of the crowd scattering until the shooting stops and we Fade to Black.
This episode contains examples of:
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Lampshaded by C.J. after Danny complains about her mistreating him:Danny: C.J., Im not staying in the penalty box forever. I've covered the White House for eight years, and I've done it for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, and the Dallas Morning News! And Im telling you, you cant mess me around like this.C.J.: Danny, I got to tell you, that was, seriously, that was a turn-on when you said that, though I dont know why you decided to be the most haughty on the Dallas Morning News.
- Artistic License Military: An officer in the situation room says that the "AEGIS radar on the North Dakota" picked up a distress signal. In 2000, there had not been a USS North Dakota since 1931.
- Author Catchphrase: Aaron Sorkin also used the same episode title for the first season finales of Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, as well as the series finale of The Newsroom.
- Call-Back: When Charlie is enthused by the fact President Bartlet used the report he recommended in the speech, he tells Josh, "You were right. It doesn't go away."
- Cricket Rules:President Bartlet: It's either that [girl's softball], or a cricket match between Scotland and Bermuda. Now, I am an educated man, Charlie, but when someone tries to explain cricket to me, all I want to do is hit him in the head with a teapot.
- Gilligan Cut: Once again, without actually cutting:Charlie: Zoey, I work with some of the smartest people in the world.(Josh sits where his chair ought to be and falls down)
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Jed is telling Sam about Toby's brother:Bartlet: Hes up there with four red-bellied Japanese newts. He wants to see how a newts inner ears, which are remarkably similar to humans, are influenced by the absence of gravity. Do you know what he calls them, C.J.?C.J. Astro-newts?
- Running Gag: President Bartlet's inability to remember names.President Bartlet: Listen, have I got any of the names right so far?Charlie: No, sir, but you came pretty damn close to a couple of them.
- Seinfeldian Conversation: While waiting for the phone call confirming the pilot has been rescued, Admiral Fitzwallace looks at the carpet in the Oval Office, notes that the eagle on the seal is holding an olive branch in one talon and arrows in the other, and he knows which talon the eagle is facing changes during times of war, but he doesn't know how that change happens. President Bartlet doesn't know either.
- Servile Snarker: Both Charlie and Mrs. Landingham have no trouble teasing President Bartlet about wanting to watch girls' softball on TV:President Bartlet: Womens' softball. Its going to be great. Mrs. Landingham? Im watching a live sporting event from beginning to end tonight.Mrs. Landingham: And when Sacramento State and the University of the Pacific get together, its usually a barn burner, sir.President Bartlet: Youre not going to spoil my good time for me, Mrs. Landingham.Mrs. Landingham: Oh, sir, I think we both know from experience thats not true.
- Space Is Cold: Averted.Toby: First thing the shuttle does after it leaves the atmosphere is open the cargo bay doors. Thats what lets the heat out. Once those doors close, they have a pretty short window to get back before it overheats.