After the shooting that ended the previous season, the presidential limo is racing back to the White House. President Bartlet keeps telling Ron to get Zoe on the phone; Ron explains she threw up and can't talk. Bartlet also wants to know where Gina is, and Ron explains they need her for the ID agent at the scene, and Zoe is well-protected. Bartlet notices Ron's been shot in the hand, and wants the limo to turn around and head for the hospital, but Ron points out the first priority is getting Bartlet back to a safe place. Bartlet gets furious about that and goes on a rant but stops all of a sudden. Ron checks and discovers President Bartlet was shot, and he orders the limo to turn around and go to the hospital.
Back in Roslyn, in the parking lot where the shooting occurred, a paramedic examines C.J., who has a bandage on her head from when someone pushed her down but is otherwise fine, if somewhat disoriented. After the paramedic finishes with her, C.J. gets up from the curb and looks in horror at the car she was pushed down behind. Sam comes up to her and asks if she's alright; he also tells her the President's on his way back to the White House, as is Zoey, and Leo's in a car as well. Sam also sees Gina and yells for her, but she's on her way to see Tommy Cho, the ID agent. She confirms they shot and killed the two shooters who were shooting from a window above, but there was a signal man from the ground. Gina knows he was a white male, around 5' 10'', and 20-25 years old, but though she knows he was wearing a baseball cap, try as she might, she can't remember what kind it was. Cho tells the other agents with him to set up a perimeter.
In another part of the parking lot, Toby goes looking for Josh. He finds Charlie, who thinks Josh got in a limo with Leo, but Toby says it was someone else. Finally, Toby finds Josh, who's sitting on the ground with his back against the wall, and he's been shot. Toby yells for help, and Charlie, C.J. and Sam come running over.
At George Washington Hospital, two nurses banter good-naturedly over an annoying patient that's just come in. The phone rings, and the duty nurse goes to answer it, but it's the Hotline instead. When she answers, it's Ron, telling her he's coming in and it's not a drill, but she doesn't really process that news until she hears all the sirens outside. She picks up the PA microphone and yells that it's a Code Emergency, after which everyone starts running, the patients get diverted to another hospital, and Dr. Keller starts yelling to prepare for surgery.
In the West Wing lobby, Vice-President Hoynes is having his picture taken with the USC Women's Volleyball team and entertaining them with the story of how he played basketball against an Olympian, when the Secret Service comes in and hustles him away.
Outside the residence, Dr. Bartlet runs towards her limo, and the Secret Service agent updates her that the President is still conscious and Zoe's on her way to the hospital to join them.
Bartlet gets wheeled into the trauma room of the Emergency area of the hospital. Dr. Keller tells Bartlet he's doing fine, all things considered, but Bartlet is more interested in making sure his daughter is safe, and asks them to check Ron's hand as well. Bartlet also tells them not to put him under anesthesia until he's had a chance to talk to Leo, who is on his way as well.
Back at the White House, Mrs. Landingham and Margaret are chatting, unaware of what's going on - Mrs. Landingham thinks the President is still working the rope line - until Margaret turns on the TV and they see a special news report about the shooting. Mrs. Landingham starts to run out of the office area.
Zoe comes into the trauma room. Bartlet tells her he's happy to see her, and she tells him how proud she is of him. Leo comes rushing in, and after looking at Bartlet, he takes a moment to ask about Zoe, who assures him she's fine. She also agrees to step out so Leo and her father can talk, and she and Bartlet say goodbye to each other. Once she leaves, Leo tells President Bartlet they got the two shooters and there were some minor injuries in the crowd, including C.J.'s head, but he thinks that's it. Bartlet tells him to get the Cabinet and Security Council together and to suspend stock trading, and also alludes to his MS; Leo promises to talk to Dr. Bartlet about that. Dr. Keller tells them it's time, and Bartlet kisses Leo on the cheek. Leo takes off.
In the lobby of the ER, Abbey sees Zoey and they hug. Leo brings Dr. Keller to her, and she asks about the surgery, which Dr. Keller again assures her about. Dr. Bartlet asks who the anesthesiologist is (Dr. Lee), and after checking on Zoey once more, goes to find him. In the scrub room, Dr. Lee is prepping for surgery when Dr. Bartlet finds him, and she tells him about President Bartlet's MS; she also says he'll be the 15th person to know, and he can tell anyone he wants about that information.
Leo finds Gina, who's still kicking herself over not being able to give a complete ID of the signal man. Leo tells her not to worry about it, but he's interrupted by the paramedics bringing Josh in, followed by Charlie, C.J., Sam and Toby. They tell Leo what happened, and as the paramedics wheel him towards a trauma room, Josh babbles about needing to go to New Hampshire. As the doctors start to work on Josh...
...we dissolve to a Flashback to three years earlier. Josh is working for then Senator Hoynes during his election campaign, and Hoynes is upset with Josh for bringing up Social Security, which he says is the black hole of politics. Josh tries to point out it's an important issue and a good one for Hoynes to run on, but the rest of Hoynes' staff disagrees, and Hoynes tells Josh to walk with him while he heads to the Senate for a vote. Hoynes asks Josh what's wrong, and Josh confesses though he thinks Hoynes is going to win the nomination in a walk, and has the money to do so, he doesn't know what Hoynes is against or for, other than being against losing and for winning. Hoynes tells Josh he's going to run a campaign Josh can be proud of, and he'll play a big role in Hoynes' administration, but he needs to cheer up and shut up about Social Security. As Hoynes goes to his vote, Josh is about to walk back to the meeting when Leo calls for him. Josh tells him Hoynes is in the Senate for a vote, but Leo says he wants to see Josh instead, and asks if they can take a walk.
Outside the Capitol, Leo asks about Josh's father, and Josh says he's out of the hospital, but not taking it easy at all. Leo mentions the purpose of the meeting; he wants Josh to come to New Hampshire to see (then) Governor Bartlet speak. Josh isn't enthusiastic about it, but eventually agrees, and as Leo leaves, calls his secretary to make travel arrangements for him.
In New York City, in a conference room, lawyers from Gage Whitney Pace, including Sam, are meeting with Kensington Oil, one of their clients, about the ships they're going to buy. Sam talks with them about the liability shield he's setting up for them, although he doesn't look enthusiastic about it, and then excuses himself to get tax figures for them. As he walks to his office, his secretary tells him Josh is there, and Sam enthusiastically greets him. He suggests to Josh they go outside to get a hot dog even though it's early in the morning, and Josh accepts. Outside, Josh mentions he couldn't remember Sam's law firm at first, and then asks him to come work for Hoynes. Sam declines, saying he's getting married to his girlfriend in the fall. Both of them realize neither of them are happy with what they're doing with their lives at the moment. Josh asks Sam if he should tell him if Bartlet is for real when he goes to see him, and Sam says he won't have to; "You have a pretty bad poker face". Josh leaves, and Sam starts back to the office when he runs into a woman...
...and in a Smash Cut to the present, we see it's the duty nurse from before, and Sam apologizes. Near the waiting room, Lewis, a hospital administrator, tells Abbey President Bartlet is out of surgery and doing fine, and the surgery went as expected. Josh, however, is another story; they have to repair manually the artery that the bullet damaged. Dr. Bartlet thanks him and goes to Zoey and the others to tell them the news...
...except for Leo, who's on his way to the Situation Room with General Ken Shannon (Daniel Von Bargen), whom he updates on the President's condition. In the Situation Room, an aide tells Leo Vice President Hoynes and the National Security Adviser are on their way, and just then, Nancy McNally (Anna Deavere Smith), said National Security Adviser, comes in, asking an aide for some new clothes, as she just got back from a formal dinner. Just then, Vice President Hoynes comes in, and after Leo prompts General Shannon and he orders it, the officers in the room stand up, but Hoynes distractedly tells them to sit back down. The Joint Chiefs discuss the fact there isn't much other domestic activity to worry about, and Hoynes mentions he's going to federalize the Virginia and Maryland National Guards if the signal man isn't found in one hour. McNally mentions there's been buildup by the Iraq Republican Guard, and reminds them of the plane Iraq shot down. Leo says he doesn't think there's a connection, and after they briefly debate the fact, and Hoynes reflects, he decides to go with Leo's stance. Leo tells General Shannon to get a message to Iraq; "Don't mess with us tonight."
Charlie, C.J., Toby and Sam are in a private waiting room when Lewis comes in; he's about to tell them to go home or to their offices when Donna comes in. There's an uncomfortable silence until Donna asks how President Bartlet is, and C.J. assures her he's fine. Donna starts babbling nervously about how long it took her to get in until Toby stops her by telling her about Josh, and how he's still in critical condition. As Donna tries to process the news, Lewis finishes telling them that Josh's operation will take 12 to 14 hours, and he can have the hospital keep in touch with them if they want to go home or to work. When he leaves, Donna sits down in a state of shock, and both Charlie and C.J. indicate they're going to go back; Charlie to get some things for President Bartlet and C.J. to talk to Leo and then to the press.
In the press room at the briefing, C.J. is getting besieged from all sides as reporters shout out questions about talking to the doctor, whether there's been any discussion of the 25th amendment (Danny asks this one; C.J. says there's no reason to since the President is expected to make a full recovery), the identity of the shooters, which C.J. refuses to answer, and why President Bartlet and the others didn't exit under a canopy, as the Secret Service usually recommends. For the last part, C.J. reminds them the Secret Service doesn't comment on protection procedures, and the reporter asks if there's anything C.J. does know and can tell them. This stops C.J. short, but after a brief pause, she says she'll be back with another briefing in an hour and a half, which doesn't make the reporters happy.
Outside the press room, Carol notices the scratch on C.J.'s neck, and C.J. tells her she lost her necklace when someone pushed her down during the shooting. Danny comes up to her and apologizes, but says he really needs a better answer to his question, and wants to know who's in charge, and who was in charge while the President was in surgery. C.J. jokes it's the Montreal Canadians hockey team, and asks for a little more time.
In Leo's office, McNally continues to try and convince Leo (and Toby, who's also there) to upgrade their DefCon posture, saying because the shooters had a plan, they should assume the worst and Vice President Hoynes should upgrade to DefCon 4. However, according to Leo, the council's office says they can't do that, because President Bartlet never signed a letter authorizing Vice President Hoynes to take over. C.J., who's joined them, mentions Danny has been asking her about that, and McNally brings up the National Security Act of 1947, which let's the Secretary of Defense be the principal assistant to the President in issues of National Security, but is pretty vague in its language. Toby and C.J. excuse themselves; Toby to go to his office, C.J. to the hospital (Leo says he's going there in a little bit as well).
In the hallway, Toby brings up C.J's scratched neck, and she brings up the question about Secret Service protection, which she feels they won't have to worry about, though she doesn't sound convinced. She leaves for the hospital. Toby goes to his office area and asks for a copy of the National Security Act of 1947 when he notices Ginger standing there, shell-shocked. Toby asks her to come over and he hugs her, then asks if she's ready to work, which she is. As he turns around, he hears someone asks, "You want another one of those?"...
...and we're in another Flashback, as Toby is drinking in a bar in New Hampshire, telling a woman barfly about Bartlet speaking at the VFW Hall ("There'll be free chicken"). Toby mentions to the woman he's been a professional political operative most of his life, but has never won an election, and he thinks he's getting fired.
At the VFW Hall, Josh does a crossword while Governor Bartlet gives a long, complicated and somewhat boring answer to an economic question. Cal Mathis, who's also working on the campaign, comes over and pesters Toby about Bartlet's answer if the Dairy Farming Compact comes up, and is irritated because he thinks Toby's told Bartlet to piss off the farmers. Toby counters that all he did was tell Bartlet to tell the truth if asked. Sure enough, after Bartlet finally finishes answering the economic question, a dairy farmer asks him why he voted against the Dairy Farming Compact. To Josh's surprise, and Cal's irritation, and as Toby and Leo look on, Bartlet owns up to voting against it, as well as how much he screwed several of his constituents over. He explains because of the increase in childhood poverty, and wanting to make sure children were better off than their parents' generation, he didn't want to make it harder for people to buy milk. Bartlet then adds that if the farmer, or anyone else, is upset with him because of that, he respects them for it, but if they expect anything different from the President of the U.S., they shouldn't vote for him. Bartlet then ends the night and thanks everyone. There's only tepid applause, but Josh, who is hearing what he wants to hear, gives a Slow Clap.
President Bartlet is in the recovery room, doing well, but though Abbey and Leo caution him against it, he wants to see Josh. Dr. Keller thinks about it for a second, then nods his assent.
Back in the New Hampshire flashback, after the VFW hall has cleared out, Cal and several of the other aides try to convince Bartlet not to use Hoynes' name when talking about him, but Bartlet, irritated, thinks it's going to make him look addle-brained, and storms off. Leo takes over, and Cal tries to talk to him about Toby and Bartlet's answer about the DFC, but Leo recognizes he doesn't have time to pull punches if a change needs to be made. He then fires everyone except Toby, and after they get it and leave, Leo tells Toby not to screw it up.
Outside, Leo complains about the cold, but Bartlet wants to know why he fired everybody except Toby, especially since he doesn't know Toby. Leo says the others were worthless, and they need other people. Bartlet thinks he can handle the election run without Leo's help, especially since he served in the House of Representatives for three terms and as Governor of New Hampshire without Leo. Leo is highly amused by this, since Bartlet's ancestors helped found New Hampshire in the first place. Bartlet then asks Leo why he's doing this, and after giving an AA-related answer (about giving over to a higher power), Leo responds:
Bartlet isn't as sure as Leo is that he is that good man, but Leo is confident, and tells him Bartlet's "gonna open your mouth and lift houses off the ground. Whole houses, clear off the ground."
Back in the present, we see a montage of TV reporters giving updates, along with quick shots of the hospital and some vigils going underway, as well as footage of C.J., Sam and Toby each sitting in their respective offices and thinking, and Donna, Gina and Mrs. Landingham in the hospital waiting room. It ends with the surgeons continuing to work on Josh, and Bartlet looking on from outside, and he says, "Look what happened."
This episode contains examples of:
- Artistic Licence Politics: In reference to Bartlet's inability to resist a rope line, Mrs Landingham states that she remembers an incident in the Governor's Mansion in Concord twelve years ago, despite the fact that Bartlet has clearly been identified to have served two terms as Governor (putting him into that office from 1994-1998 at the latest), and having been a three-term Congressman before that. It is especially glaring as New Hampshire is one of two states with a two-year term.
- Likely a Critical Research Failure, as, again, it's one of only two (the other being Vermont).
- As the Good Book Says...: Subverted; Leo's line to Bartlet, "Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you" may sound like it comes from the Bible, but it doesn't.
- A kind-of obvious one, considering that we're watching a flashback and know exactly who stayed with the campaign and who didn't, but nevertheless, when Bartlet's campaign team are discussing Toby's continued presence on the staff after he advises Bartlet to tell the truth to a question when it will make him unpopular:Cal: I am talking about the Governor's answer tonight, but I'm also talking about... every day, there's... look, Toby, we can talk about this with you in the room, or if you're more comfortable we can—
Leo: Listen, I don't have time to make people comfortable. If a change has to be made, it has to be made. Jerry, Cal, Max, Steve — you're fired.
Cal: [Surprised] What?
Toby: [Equally surprised] What?
Leo: No kidding. It's moving day. I want Toby. The rest of you, thanks very much.
- The opening scenes also imply that much drama is going to ensue from the President being shot. In fact, he has only suffered comparatively minor injuries and is quickly established to be more or less fine. Josh, on the other hand...
- A kind-of obvious one, considering that we're watching a flashback and know exactly who stayed with the campaign and who didn't, but nevertheless, when Bartlet's campaign team are discussing Toby's continued presence on the staff after he advises Bartlet to tell the truth to a question when it will make him unpopular:
- Blood from the Mouth: Our first clue that Bartlet's been shot.
- Before Hoynes tells Josh to walk with him, he tells his staffers to work on the ethanol tax credit.
- Cal, the campaign staffer who Leo fires in this episode, showed up last season... as one of Vice-President Hoynes's staff.
- Code Emergency: "Trauma One! Trauma One Blue! Blue! Trauma One Blue!"
- Continuity Nod: Not just to the assassination attempt in the season finale, but we also see now what Hoynes meant when he asked Josh in that episode if he would have won had he listened to Josh. Also, we've heard it mentioned several times that Sam was a lawyer, and in "In Excelsis Deo", we learned Leo was once Labor Secretary.
- Curse Cut Short: Hoynes' staff is telling Josh why they're focusing on tax cuts instead of Social Security:Candy: It's what magicians call "misdirection."Josh: Really, cause it's what the rest of us would call bull-Hoynes: Knock it off!
- Deadpan Snarker: Leo is much amused by Bartlet's protestations that he's so far won every election he's ever stood for in New Hampshire without Leo's help:Bartlet: Don't start!
Leo: No, no, that is a very impressive political accomplishment considering your family founded this state. Were you even opposed in any of those elections?
- Dramatic Irony: We hear a lot of people talking about the President and Josh as if they're fine, before everyone finds out they've been shot.
- Foreshadowing: Just who knew about President Bartlet's MS becomes very important later, as does who was really running things.
- Gallows Humor: Even when President Bartlet has been shot, he's still making jokes. When a nurse asks him if he has any pre-existing conditions, he says, "Well...I've been shot." A little later, when Leo asks Zoe how she is, the President mentions Zoe vomited in the car, and he's going to get charged for it.Zoey: And Dad's making jokes.Abbey: Good ones, or...?Zoey: No.Abbey: Okay.
- Also lampshaded in that President Bartlet quips that he's hoping his doctors will later tell reporters that he was "brave and joking around".
- Heroic BSoD: Gina. Also, Donna after she finds out about Josh.
- Oh, Crap!:
Ron Butterfield: GW! BLUE! BLUE!! BLUE!!!
- Ron's face when he discovers that Bartlet has in fact been hit and is bleeding.
- Hoynes' reaction to the Secret Service escorting him to safety.
- The nurse silently mouths "oh shit" as the first Secret Service vehicles rush into the hospital emergency bay and she realizes that This Is Not a Drill.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Upon discovering that Josh has been shot, Toby Ziegler can only quietly stammer for a moment before screaming for a doctor.
- Papa Wolf: Even after it's been discovered that he's been shot, Bartlet is still demanding to know that Zoey is okay:Bartlet: I swear to God, if I don't speak to my daughter in the next five minutes I'm going to attack someone.
- Promotion to Opening Titles: Janel Moloney as Donna.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Cathy and Mandy (also, Gina after this episode, though it's likely she was Put on a Bus after her Heroic BSoD). Played with in Admiral Fitzwallace's case; he doesn't appear throughout this season, but he's referred to from time to time. In this episode he's visiting Manila when the assassination occurs.
- Shown Their Work: The shooting's aftermath closely resembles the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. While preparing the script, one of the show's consultants interviewed a member of Reagan's Secret Service detail, who recalled that he only realized Reagan had been shot when blood started coming from the President's mouth (a detail repeated with President Bartlet and Agent Butterfield). Also the confusion over who's in power while the President's in surgery; in the show it's Leo who effectively takes charge, in Reagan's case it was Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who received heavy criticism for overstepping his authority.
- This Is Not a Drill: Played with; when Butterfield is calling in the President's imminent arrival to the hospital, the nurse who responds asks if this is a drill. Although Butterfield responds with "No!" it doesn't really sink in for her and she spends a few moments complaining that it's not really a good time. It quickly registers when she spots the unmarked black cars rushing into the emergency bay with sirens blaring, at which point Code Emergency kicks in.
- Two-Part Episode
- Wham Shot: When Ron realizes the President's been shot, and when Toby discovers Josh has been shot.