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Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 10 Noel

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Josh enters a conference room in the White House in the morning; Dr. Stanley Keyworth (Adam Arkin) and Kaytha Trask (Purva Bedi) are waiting for him. Stanley introduces himself and Kaytha, and says she's training as a traumatologist. Josh says he was wondering why there were two of them there. Josh's right hand is bandaged; Stanley notices and asks what happened. Josh says he cut it putting a glass down. Stanley seems to accept this. He goes on to explain he's from the American Trauma Victims Association (ATVA), and starts to give examples of the type of work they've done, but Josh interrupts and makes clear he knows what ATVA does. Josh also thinks Stanley is lying to him about why Kaytha is there; Stanley admits while Kaytha is training as a traumatologist, but mainly she's there to keep an eye on Josh if he has to leave the room for any reason. Stanley concedes the point and suggests they start again, and asks again, "How did you cut your hand?". Josh has no answer to that.

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After the credits, Stanley asks if Donna (who had offered Stanley coffee earlier) had been at Rosslyn when the shooting occurred. After nitpicking about Stanley's pronunciation, Josh says she wasn't, but most everyone else was. Stanley asks Josh what happened, and Josh says all he remembers is there were shots fired, and the next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital. Stanley accepts this, and moves on to three weeks earlier. Josh doesn't know what he's talking about; Stanley admits he's not really sure either, but his friends had mentioned three weeks earlier as when Josh's behavior had started concerning them. Josh guesses they were talking about the pilot, though when Stanley presses him on this, Josh backtracks and claims "the pilot", Robert Cano, was just one of many issues of three weeks earlier...

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...and in a Flashback we're in the lobby of the White House three weeks earlier, and Toby is looking on as a brass quintet plays "Joy to the World." Josh enters, and asks Toby what's going on. Toby explains the band is going to play Christmas carols during the mornings and evenings as people enter and leave. Josh doesn't like the idea, but as they Walk and Talk, and Toby explains the change they collect goes towards paying for musical instruments in DC schools. Josh tells Toby "Ben Zaharian" at a Q&A the night before said tapping into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) has a lot of merit. Toby says he'll talk to someone, and Josh leaves. Toby sees Sam and tells him about what Josh said. Sam says he'll talk to someone, and Toby also tells him to tell C.J...

...who's briefing the press about the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and lower restrictions. A reporter asks about Congressman Pete Didion's objections regarding the IMF, and C.J. acknowledges since Didion sits on the appropriate subcommittee, there could be trouble. Another reporter asks about a woman going crazy during a White House tour, but C.J. doesn't know anything about it. During this time, Sam has come in and passed Carol a note; she gives it to C.J. as another reporter asks about Ben Zaharian (the Energy Secretary) and what he said about the SPR, and whether it signals a shift in policy. C.J. says it doesn't, but since the price of heating oil is more relevant in the winter than in the summer, it might not be a bad idea. She wraps up the press conference, and thanks Sam for the note. Sam says again he'll talk to somebody. The two of them puzzle over the woman on the White House tour, and then Sam leaves. Josh comes up, congratulates her on the save, and tells her the President is in the Situation Room...

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...where he and Leo are being briefed about Robert Cano. According to the joint chiefs there, Cano, flying an F-16 Falcon (a single-seater aircraft), broke off from his formation and hasn't responded to communication. They also tell President Bartlet it's highly unlikely the Falcon's communication system has crashed, and he has a cannon and several missiles, though they have no idea what his intentions are. President Bartlet asks what he knows is a silly question - can they bring him down without shooting him - and gets the expected answer that it isn't. One of them men cautions President Bartlet that Cano could have just lost consciousness for some reason, they've sent planes from Edwards Air Force base to get a visual on the Falcon, and they have time to make a decision. President Bartlet nods.

Back in the conference room, Stanley asks if that was the first time Josh had heard of Cano. Josh says he's not authorized to sit in on meetings in the Situation Room, and wasn't told about Cano until later. Josh asks how much longer they'll be, and Stanley says since Leo wanted him there, as long as it takes. Josh continues to wonder why Stanley is fixated on Cano, but concedes he was supposed to look into Cano's background. Just then, there's a knock on the door, and Josh flashes back to being in his apartment, with his hand bleeding, and his superintendent asking if anything's wrong. Back in the present, Stanley tells him it's just someone bringing coffee.

Leo is briefing Josh in the hallway about Cano, and says they have ten minutes before they make visual contact. Leo tells Josh to study Cano's biography, and especially find out how he cleared the psychological screening. As Leo leaves, Josh nearly runs into Donna, who has Cano's file. As the two of them walk through the lobby, where the brass quintet is playing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", Donna asks if she can go to the Congressional Christmas party to hear Yo-Yo Ma play. Josh says it's fine, and Donna crows at how good Yo-Yo Ma is. Josh starts to look through the file, and notices he and Cano share the same birthday. As Josh heads to his office, Sam catches up to him, and he says he told a deputy at the Energy Department that they can't use announcements to force the White House to change their policy, but Sam does think they should change their policy. Josh tells Sam he has to work on Cano, and tells Sam as well about the shared birthday. Sam leaves as Josh, now in his office, starts to look in Cano's file in more detail.

C.J. meets up with Bernard Thatch (Paxton Whitehead), from the White House Visitor's Office, in the Roosevelt Room. She asks about the incident on the tour, and Bernard insists he wrote it up in a report, but C.J. reminds him that the press has the story, and asks for a summary. Apparently, a tour guide brought a group of people to a painting by Gustave Callioux in the Blue Room when a woman started screaming. Thatch sent someone to talk to her, but no one could understand her, so she was escorted outside. C.J. thanks him, but then follows Thatch as he leaves and asks about Callioux; according to Thatch, he's a minor painter, but President Bartlet liked this particular painting ("The Cliffs of Etretat") when he saw it at the National Gallery (while on loan from the Musee D'Orsay), and the French government gave it to him as a gift.

In the Roosevelt Room a little later, President Bartlet tells several staffers about the situation with Cano, and then leaves, with Charlie in tow. As they walk to the Oval Office, Charlie brings up the Christmas cards Bartlet is expected to sign. Bartlet wants to sign them all by hand, instead of using an autopen, but Charlie points out he's signing 1.1 million cards (about 1,000 names on the First Family's list, about 100,000 campaign workers, plus the nearly 1 million people who wrote to the White House), and Bartlet concedes the point. Leo then enters, and tells Bartlet he's wanted in the Situation Room...

...and back in the conference room, Josh tells Stanley Cano was dead, though he in fact didn't know yet, and had spent only 20 minutes or so checking Cano's background when Leo told him the news, so he didn't know anything. Stanley asks how Cano died, and Josh incredulously points out the story was in the press; Stanley responds since it wasn't in the sports pages, he didn't know...

...and we're in Josh's office when Leo tells him the news. Josh asks if Cano was alive when he crashed (into a mountain in Mexico City), and Leo says he was, because he sent a message right before crashing that said, "It wasn't the plane." Leo asks what Josh had learned about Cano, and Josh admits he doesn't know much, aside from his name, where he was from, and what he trained on. Leo asks, "What else?"...

...although it's Stanley's voice we hear, and Josh reluctantly confirms he and Cano shared the same birthday. Flashing back and forth between Leo and Stanley, we see Josh telling them both about Cano receiving a Purple Heart for being shot down in Bosnia. Stanley quietly says, "That's right."

After a title card that reads "Five Days Ago", we see bagpipe musicians are playing Christmas music, much to Josh's annoyance, even though Toby points out the change the musicians collect go towards buying band uniforms. Josh, at his wit's end, screams, "I can hear the damn sirens all over the building!", before pausing and correcting himself by saying "The bagpipes." As Josh walks to his office, Toby looks on in concern. C.J. comes up to Toby and is about to ask him a question when she sees Carol, and asks her for the Secret Service report on the woman who screamed at the painting. Once done with that, C.J. starts to ask Toby, who's still looking in Josh's direction, what to do if she's asked about the SPR when Josh yells out to keep the noise down. Donna appears and asks what he needs; when he mentions a report he needs, she points out it's on his desk. He complains it's like a hockey game, and slams his office door, with Toby and C.J. looking on, stunned.

Back in the conference room, Stanley asks Josh if he knew people were starting to act concerned about him. Josh isn't comfortable with the question, and considers it incredibly prosecutorial. Stanley then asks what was going on five days before...

...and we see C.J. in her office looking at a photograph while eating when Josh storms in, demanding to know why there hasn't been any new information coming about Cano, and C.J. points out there's nothing there. Josh wonders how she could accept that, and she points out while Cano may have seemed perfectly healthy, he obviously wasn't. She then tells Josh to look at the photograph, and he recognizes the painting in the background as the same one hanging in the Blue Room. As Josh turns to go get the information he wants, Donna walks by and randomly calls out, "Yo-Yo Ma rules!"

Back in the conference room, Josh brings that last part up. Stanley brings up the Oval Office meeting Josh had on the day of the Christmas party; Josh points out he has a number of meetings every day in the Oval Office, but Stanley says this meeting wasn't like the others, and points out how many people Josh is pissed at to that point (C.J., Donna, Sam and Toby).

In the Oval Office, Sam is trying to sell the President on changing the policy on the SPR, while Josh and Leo look on.

Back in the conference room, Josh insists it was Sam's meeting, and he was only there to say Sam's idea was bad from a political point of view (which, according to Josh, is the only reason besides money that stops the government from doing anything), because that's what he's paid for. Stanley asks if Josh raised his voice to President Bartlet, and Josh unconvincingly denies it; he acknowledges while the President is informal in meetings and likes discussion, yelling at him is one line you don't cross. However, he's very unsettled as he says this...

Back in the Oval Office, President Bartlet says he'll take a meeting, and Sam is pleased. Josh, however, isn't; he thinks Didion won't let the IMF vote out of committee if he doesn't like President Bartlet tapping into the SPR. President Bartlet insists the two aren't related, he'll talk to Didion himself at the party, and Didion is reasonable enough not to make ultimatums, but Josh is beyond listening to anyone at this point:

Josh: (yelling) You need to listen to me. You have to listen to me. I can't help you, unless you listen to me! You can't send Christmas cards to everyone, you can't do it! Forget the SPR, let's get the IMF loans like we said we were going to, listen to what I have to say about Didion, and please, listen to me!

President Bartlet, Leo and Sam all look at Josh in stunned silence. After a moment, Josh calms down and says they should move on, but Leo has had enough and asks Josh, kindly and then forcefully, to wait in his office, which he does. Still in the Oval, President Bartlet and the others agree to talk to Didion at the party, and Sam agrees to sit on it. He leaves, and Leo goes back to his office and closes the door. Once inside, he asks Josh if he's heard of ATVA (which Josh has), and says he's going to sit with a guy. Josh tries to admit he wasn't at his best, and Leo points out Josh wasn't fully conscious when he said what he said.

Back in the conference room, where it's now evening, Stanley is grateful for what Leo did, given he knows what he's talking about thanks to being an alcoholic. He asks Josh once again how he cut his hand, and Josh describes how he tried putting down his drink on a coaster but missing it, and smashing his hand on the glass by accident. Stanley still doesn't believe him, and says Josh is in nine kinds of pain. Josh can't believe Stanley diagnosed him in the eight hours they've been talking; Stanley points out he diagnosed Josh in five minutes. After a quick cut of the super once again knocking on Josh's door, Stanley asks about the night of the party. Josh says it was white-tie at the President's request.

In President Bartlet's bedroom in the residence, Charlie is standing in his white tie and tails, looking uncomfortable, even as Bartlet assures him they're dressing like statesmen dress.

C.J. heads to her office, where Bernard, a middle aged-woman named Rebecca Haussman, and her adult son David are waiting, along with the Callioux painting. Bernard introduces them to each other, and we get the story; Rebecca's father, Augie Haussman, collected paintings by unknown French impressionists until the Vichy government stripped him of his property, including the Callioux. The Nazis ended up selling the painting to a Swiss dealer, and somehow from there, it made its way to the French museum until President Bartlet admired it. With the blessing of the French government, C.J. tells Mrs. Haussman she can have the painting back, and apologizes to her. Bernard tells David he appraised the painting, and it's worth at least a thousand times what Augie originally paid for it, and Bernard would be happy to continue hanging the painting to increase its worth. Mrs. Haussman thanks him and C.J., but prefers to take the painting instead. David thanks them both, and C.J. has two policemen escort her and her son home. C.J. and Bernard leave, and C.J. finds Josh, asking about the meeting with Didion. Josh says it went well, and C.J. tells him the party will start in five minutes.

Back in the conference room, Stanley tells Josh he has PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Josh is uncomfortable with that diagnosis, and asks if it can be something else. He apologizes for trying to be difficult, and not talking about his feelings; Stanley doesn't think Josh is trying to be difficult, but insists Josh shouldn't be talking about his feelings. Instead, he needs to remember the shooting without reliving it. In the background, we hear Bartlet introduce Yo-Yo Ma, who will be playing the Bach G Major, and everyone applauds. Stanley asks how he was, and Josh admits he was amazing.

We see different shots of the staff listening intently to the music...

...and Stanley asks how "it" started. Josh insists he doesn't know, when Kaytha, who has been silent up to this point, says he tasted something bitter in his mouth, and it was adrenaline...

...and we hear gunshots ring out, and at the party, we see Josh flinching in his chair. Toby looks on and sees this. We also flash back to the shooting as we see Josh get shot, and the paramedics working on him...

...and back in the conference room, Josh admits he couldn't make it stop, and Stanley says Josh has been trying for weeks to do so. He then asks about Josh's hand; Josh continues to insist he broke it when he missed a coaster, and as we see shots of that, Stanley insists that Josh must have worried about whether what happened to Robert Cano could happen to him. As Yo-Yo Ma continues to play in the background, we see Josh in his apartment finally put his hand through his apartment window and smashing it, after which the superintendent knocks on the door and asks if he's all right. And as Yo-Yo Ma finishes playing and the audience applauds...

...we go back to the conference room, where Stanley, satisfied, starts to get ready to leave. Josh can't believe it was that quick, but Stanley points out how easy Josh really was, and he'll give Josh the name of a shrink after the holidays. Josh wants to know what will happen the next time he reads about a pilot who died and who shared Josh's birthday, but Stanley points out that wasn't what set him off. Kaytha says it was the music, specifically the brass quintet, that set him off, and Stanley adds as crazy as it may sound, to Josh, the music was the same as..."Sirens," Josh realizes. Josh asks if that's going to be the way he hears music from then on, and Stanley says it won't because "we get better". Over Josh's protests, Stanley wishes him a merry Christmas, and he and Kaytha leave.

In the lobby, Leo is sitting, and asks Josh how it went when Josh walks by. Josh, who can't believe Leo waited for him, dances around the subject until admitting he put his hand through his apartment window. Leo looks at him.

Leo: This guy's walking down a street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep, he can't get out. A doctor passes by, and the guy shouts up, "Hey you! Can you help me out?" The doctor writes him a prescription, throws it down the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along, and the guy shouts up, "Father, I'm down in this hole, can you help me out?" The priest writes down a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by. "Hey Joe, it's me, can you help me out?" And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, "Are you stupid?Now we're both down here!" The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out."
(Josh looks at him)
Leo: As long as I got a job, you got a job, you understand?

Leo then looks at Josh's hand, and tells him Donna's going to take him to the hospital in case there's something serious. Josh is upset Donna knows, but Leo points out, "She was the one who guessed." Just then, Donna appears with Josh's coat, and Josh says goodbye to Leo as he and Donna leave.

Outside the White House, Josh insists he doesn't need a doctor, but Donna tells him to be quiet. A group in the street is singing "Carol of the Bells" and playing bells to accompany themselves. Josh stops to listen, and we hear sirens in the background, but Donna gently but firmly tells him to come with her, and they eventually walk away.


This episode contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: At one particularly tense moment in the session, Stanley points out that he's getting tired of Josh's smartass answers. Josh immediately quips "And I was so hoping we'd have a second date." Stanley chuckles in response.
  • Answer Cut: When pointing out Josh's escalating irrationality through his snapping at his friends, Stanley points out that Josh was "pissed at Toby, pissed at CJ, pissed at Sam, pissed at Donna — who's next?" In answer, the episode briefly cuts to President Bartlet in the Oval Office.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "How'd you hurt your hand?"
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Discussed and lampshaded; President Bartlet freely acknowledges that his question about whether it is possible to bring Captain Cano's plane down without shooting it down is stupid and has an obvious answer, but raises it anyway because he's clearly not relishing the prospect of ordering that Cano's plane be shot down and wants to make absolutely certain it has to be if necessary.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": A variation:
    Sam: And I told her that, I told her that in no uncertain terms.
    Josh: And?
    Sam: I think we should change our policy.
  • The Cameo: Yo-Yo Ma.
  • Cultural Posturing: A subtle example; when informing the rightful owner of "The Cliffs of Etretat" that they have negotiated with the French (who previously owned the painting and had loaned it to the White House as a courtesy to the President) to return it to her, Bernard takes some pleasure in pointing out that the French authorities “promptly surrendered”. Bernard is British, a people with a long-standing rivalry towards the French.
  • Freudian Slip: "I can hear the damn sirens all over the building!"
  • Gentleman Snarker: Bernard Thatch.
    C.J.: You see, you try very hard to be mean, but then you see that being nice is better.
    Bernard: You're a freakishly tall woman.
    C.J.: So that moment's over.
    Bernard: Yes.
  • He’s Back: A downplayed example, but Josh's conversations with Stanley and Leo at the end are the first times in the entire episode that we see him approaching his usual snarky, smart-ass attitude, suggesting that while he might still have a long way to go he's on his way to recovery.
    Leo: How'd it go?
    Josh: He thinks I may have an eating disorder.
    Leo: Josh...
    Josh: And a fear of rectangles. That's not weird, is it?
  • Heroic BSoD: This episode is basically about Josh's long-delayed reaction to getting shot.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After Josh complains to Toby about the music in the lobby:
    Toby: Let me tell you something, the last two Christmases in this White House I've been accused of not being in the proper spirit. I was called names. Not this year! For the next three weeks I will be filling this lobby with music in the mornings and evenings so that we may all experience this season of...(he turns to the brass quintet) Would you people stop playing for one damn minute! (the brass quintet dies out) ...this season of peace and joy.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: After Bernard dismisses the Callioux painting, C.J., more amused than annoyed, tells him, "You're a snob," to which he simply replies, "Yes."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bernard momentarily demonstrates a nicer side with the widow of the true owner of "The Cliffs of Etretat" when he offers to continue to hang the painting in the White House on her behalf, in order so that it can further appreciate in value. The As noted under Gentleman Snarker, that moment quickly ends when he's once more alone with C.J.
  • Meaningful Echo: At the beginning, Josh demonstrates that he knows full well what the ATVA is and why Katya is present (to keep an eye on him if he should leave the room), pointing out to Stanley that he shouldn't be lied to with "You're not dealing with the paperboy." Stanley points out that Josh shouldn't lie to him either, and when Josh challenges this, Stanley, to Josh's discomfort, once again asks how Josh injured his hand:
    Stanley: You're not dealing with the paperboy either, Josh.
  • Not So Different: Part of Josh's breakdown is triggered by the unsettling similarities he discovers with an Air Force pilot who had a breakdown and took his own life by crashing his jet into a mountain; the two men had been seriously injured and shared the same birthday. Lampshaded, as Stanley points out that Josh was clearly panicking that, like the pilot, he might also be suicidal.
    • As suggested by the "a guy falls in a hole" joke Leo tells at the end, he's clearly been where Josh is.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Toby and C.J watch in concern as Josh yells at the people outside his office to be quiet, and President Bartlet, Leo and Sam are clearly shocked and unsettled when Josh ends up ranting insanely at Bartlet in the Oval Office.
  • Serious Business: Bernard is upset that people on the tour touch things.
    Bernard: I've begged my supervisors to allow me.
  • Shaped Like Itself:
    Bernard: This is a painting of the cliffs of Etretat, cleverly entitled "The Cliffs of Etretat".
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When questioned whether he yelled at the President in the Oval Office, Josh denies it, and runs through all the reasons why not at length... unprompted, and in a very unsure tone of voice that suggests that not only that he might have, but that he's genuinely concerned because he genuinely has no memory of the meeting at all. True enough, the next flashback sees him snap and launch into a wild rant at the President in the Oval Office.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: For entirely understandable reasons, granted, but nevertheless this episode sees a notable spike in Josh when it comes to being tense, irritable and snappish to the people around him.
  • Trauma Button: Hearing music is one for Josh as it triggers memories of the ambulance and police sirens at Roslyn.
  • Twisted Christmas: For Josh, at any rate.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: When Josh wonders how Donna could have gotten Cano's personnel file so quickly, she says, "They called me 10 minutes ago. Don't be a yutz," which is Yiddish for idiot or ditz.
  • You Are Not Alone: The entire point of Leo's "guy in a hole" speech.
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