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Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 13 Bartlets Third State Of The Union

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In the outer Oval Office, six minutes before the State of the Union address, Sam is on the phone while we see TV coverage in the background. Toby goes into the Oval Office with Ginger, and tells someone to delete "vigorously" from the paragraph on campaign finance reform. Ed and Larry want to know if the speech is done, but Toby says they're still waiting on Sam. President Bartlet and Charlie come in, and Toby tells him about the change, which Bartlet approves of. Leo asks the President how he feels, and he says he's good. Bartlet asks Charlie if Abbey is in her seat, and Charlie says yes. Larry mentions they have four minutes, and Leo says they can walk to the car. As they walk by Sam, Sam hangs up and tells Leo all they need to do is support a highway improvement bill and name a park after someone and it's a deal. Toby tells Ginger to tell C.J. the Blue Ribbon commission is a done deal. Everyone walks to waiting limousines as Leo assures President Bartlet the Blue Ribbon commission is a good thing.


At the National Strategies Group, three minutes before the State of the Union, Josh paces nervously, and chews out a pollster for chewing gum even though the calling hasn't started yet. Donna pulls him aside and tells him to relax, as the callers know what they're doing and they work for Joey Lucas. Josh worries they might have accents, and yells that question to everybody. He frets he's not at the speech, and Donna tries to reassure everyone Josh is fine.

In the presidential limo, as Bartlet looks on, Leo calls someone about the Blue Ribbon commission.

In the press room, a minute before the State of the Union, C.J. tells the reporters about the Blue Ribbon Commission, which studies long-term future entitlement programs, and says it was put in the speech at the last minute (figuratively speaking) because President Bartlet wanted to make sure he had the support of the Democratic leadership. She also reminds everyone Capitol Beat will be broadcasting a special in the West Wing lobby.


In the Capitol Building lobby, Toby and Sam are adding last-minute changes to the speech, and Toby gives a copy to someone to phone to the prompter. President Bartlet and his entourage walk in (though Bartlet pauses to tie his shoelaces), and Toby hands the President a copy of the speech. Everyone starts applauding as President Bartlet walks towards the House chamber. At the entrance is Edgar Finney, the doorkeeper of the House of Representatives. President Bartlet stops just short of the entrance, says a silent prayer, and crosses himself. He then says, "Mr. Finney, would you tell the Speaker I'd like to see him, please?" Finney opens the door, and yells the traditional opening, "Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States!"

After the credits, we see President Bartlet on TV ending his speech as Josh, Donna and the pollsters watch intently. When Bartlet finishes with the traditional ending ("God bless you, and God bless the United States of America"), Josh leads everyone in a standing ovation. Donna says Bartlet was brilliant, and Josh says it's time to find out how well the speech went. He asks Donna what he's supposed to do next, and she says to just tell everyone to start. He wants to know where Joey is, and Donna says her plane was delayed. Josh can't believe there aren't special instructions he's supposed to give. Just then, Joey and Kenny walk in, and she explains her plane had mechanical difficulties. Josh reminds her it's the State of the Union, and through Kenny, she says, "As a child I never paid attention during airplane mechanics class." Josh says he wants to start the phone banks, but was waiting for Joey to give instructions. Kenny asks the pollsters if they're chewing gum; when everyone answers "No!", Joey tells them to start.


In the West Wing lobby, Mark Gottfried begins the broadcast of a special edition of Capitol Beat, where he promises to talk to people from both sides of the aisle about the State of the Union. He then introduces his first two panelists; C.J. and House Majority Whip Henry Shallick. C.J. gushes President Bartlet did extremely well in his speech, even for him. Congressman Shallick concedes President Bartlet is a gifted public speaker, but nearly 1/3 of the times his speech was interrupted for applause were for co-opted Republican ideas. Gottfried tells the viewing audience they're taking a break but will be right back. As soon as the cameras are off, Gottfried announces to everyone C.J. isn't wearing any pants. She calls for Carol to bring her a robe. Just then, Sam comes up and asks to speak to her. She points out she's not wearing any pants, but Sam says they need to talk in private. As Carol brings her a robe, C.J. and Sam walk a short distance away, and she explains she sat in the sculpture garden after the speech, and the bench had just been painted. Sam tells C.J. Officer Jack Sloan was cited 17 years earlier for excessive force, even though a criminal charge and civil suit were both dismissed, and there was considerable pressure from local Black Democrats. C.J. tells Carol she needs to see Sloan as soon as possible. She runs back to the stage and puts on her microphone.

In the outer Oval Office, Mrs. Landingham and Charlie are watching Capitol Beat, and Mrs. Landingham picks up on the fact C.J.'s not wearing pants. Charlie explains what happened, and asks Mrs. Landingham about a note he received. Mrs. Landingham explained President Bartlet was balancing his checkbook (which he does to relax), and noticed Abbey wrote a check for $500 to a woman he never heard of, and it hasn't been cashed. Charlie wants to know why Bartlet can't simply asks his wife about the check, and Mrs. Landingham explains he doesn't want to get yelled at, so he's sending Charlie instead. Charlie sighs and walks away.

In the bedroom of the Residence, Abbey is watching a tape of the State of the Union, and in particular the part where President Bartlet announced the State of the Union and the fact they were "boldly setting aside our partisan blinders and abandoning our ideological entrenchment". Charlie knocks on the door, and Abbey invites him in. She explains she was about to change her clothes. Charlie wonders if she also sat in wet paint, and she chuckles and says she's not supposed to wear the same outfit to the reception that she did to the State of the Union, though she admits she could just tell people she has two identical outfits. Charlie nervously brings up the check, which Abbey gets irritated at. She explains she read about a woman named Jane Robinson; her husband threw her out of their home and set fire to their bed, under which were Christmas presents she had bought for her children, and those presents were ruined, so Abbey sent her a check. Charlie mentions the check hasn't been cashed, and promises to find out why. When he leaves, Abbey goes back to watching the tape.

In the reception area, Sam enters to applause. Leo approaches him, reminds him the dial groups are huge, so it's important not to let Sloan appear in any pictures with President Bartlet. Sam assures him C.J. knows. Margaret approaches Leo and tells him he's wanted in the Situation Room...

...and when Leo enters the room, the staffers tell him five DEA agents, who can be identified as such, have been abducted in Colombia while on their way to a training base. Leo asks if the CRF was responsible, and they admit they don't know, but it's likely. Leo tells a Marine officer he needs to meet with the State Department, the Justice Department and the Pentagon, and it needs to happen quietly.

At the National Strategies Group, Joey tells Donna (through Kenny) there's a 17% response rate on the calls, and they're going well. Josh walks up and tells Donna about Officer Jack Sloane, and gives the detail the suspect Sloan was accused of using excessive force on had a broken leg. Joey doesn't know who Sloane is, and Josh and Donna explain President Bartlet recognized Sloan during the speech, and since it was last-minute, he wasn't vetted. Josh then asks about the calls; Joey explains about the 17% response rate, but Josh just wants to see numbers. Joey tells Josh he needs to be patient, and she and Kenny go off to get a donut. Josh is worried the story about Sloan will obscure everything else, but Donna is more interested in telling Josh he should ask Joey out. Josh tells Donna to go away.

At the reception, Margaret approaches Mickey Troop (Tony Plana), the Secretary of State, and tells him he's wanted in the Situation Room. In the Situation Room, the DEA head tells Leo they've only been able to confirm the identities of two of the kidnapped agents. When Secretary Troop enters, Leo updates him on the kidnapping (the agents were there to assist Colombian police in evidence gathering at a cocaine lab). Secretary Troop says Putumayo (where they were snatched) is a Frente stronghold, so he's going to try and establish a dialogue with them. He also tells Leo they're being guarded by at least 500 men, which Leo doesn't like because there's only 19 American troops nearby. Leo asks an officer to have Special Ops come up with three rescue scenarios in an hour.

In the West Wing lobby, Gottfried shows a clip of the State of the Union where President Bartlet called for, among other things, more character education and requiring public school children to wear uniforms. He then introduces his two latest panelists; Ainsley Hayes and ACLU Public Education Director Gretchen Tyler. Tyler admits she was dismayed to hear President Bartlet come out in favor of school uniforms, and says the ACLU feels this interferes with every child's right to an education. Ainsley concedes Tyler has a point, and she's not sure requiring school uniforms is constitutional, but she also says President Bartlet doesn't want kids who can't afford the same clothes their friends have to feel left out, and points to studies showing kids wearing uniforms do better in school. Sam, who had been watching this last part in his office, looks unhappy and walks towards the lobby. Tyler points out there already are dress codes in public schools, and Ainsley points out the ACLU objected to those as well. Gottfried wants to know how strongly President Bartlet feels about the issue, and Ainsley admits she's never met President Bartlet in person. Gottfried tells the viewing audience they're going to go to New York for a news break, but he'll be back in a few minutes with more coverage. When the cameras go off, Sam asks Mark if Ainsley can be excused, and she follows Sam. As they walk towards Sam's office, he tells Ainsley she shouldn't be making the ACLU's case for them. Ainsley again points out they have a reasonable position, but concedes Sam's point. Sam is also amazed Ainsley's never met President Bartlet, and wants to arrange a meeting, but Ainsley says she's scared of meeting him. Sam backs off, but as they walk back, he lectures her not to drink until she's off television, and she sarcastically thanks him for the obvious advice. Sam tells her to remember she's on their side.

At the reception, Abbey is entertaining the crowd with a non-official toast, and jokes that while there are a lot of focus group polls and numbers crunching, the most important issue is she changed her hair. As everyone laughs, she turns serious and thanks everyone for their work. As she walks off the stage to applause, Leo greets her. Abbey asks about Jack Sloan, and Leo says C.J.'s on it. He brings up the Blue Ribbon Commission, and Abbey reminds him she was there. She also says she doesn't want to get pissed at anyone, and she knows who the architect of the speech was. Just then, Toby walks in, and the crowd applause. Abbey, smiling, walks up to him, kisses him on the cheek, and tells him she wants to see him in his office in half an hour. Toby looks uncomfortable, but says yes.

At the National Studies Group, Josh is idly flipping through a magazine while watching Ainsley debate standardized testing with a Republican Congressman on Capitol Beat. The Congressman asks Ainsley about an NYC study, and to Josh's delight, Ainsley brings up the fact six out of ten students involved in the study were black or Hispanic. Donna comes over and continues to bug Josh about asking Joey out, which he doesn't want to hear, and tells Donna to not help him. Joey comes over, and Josh again asks for the numbers. Joey (Kenny) says he'll get them in five minutes, and Josh points out she said that 15 minutes ago. Joey (Kenny) says the response rate slowed down because people are going to bed, and Josh needs to calm down. Joey (Kenny) tries to reassure Josh they'll have numbers in five minutes. Just then, the power goes out in the room, and Joey (Kenny) sheepishly admits it might take longer.

In the West Wing lobby, Toby and Congressman Shallick are debating the Second Amendment. Gottfried interrupts for a commercial break. As the camera goes off, Toby tells Gottfried he has to sit out the next segment, but he'll get a replacement. He and Ginger walk to his office, where Abbey is waiting. Toby apologizes for being late, and reminds Abbey they're within earshot of the press. Abbey is upset about the implication she's going to throw a fit, but it turns out she's not upset about the Blue Ribbon Commission; she's upset about the language, specifically how "The first fiscal priority of the government must be, will be ensuring Social Security and Medicare" became "setting aside partisan blinders". She wants to know if they're considering raising the retirement age; Toby says there's nothing wrong with just considering, and they're not caving on the retirement age. He also points out on capital gains, missile defense, and the surplus, among other issues, they gave Republicans plenty to be pissed about, and he just pissed off Republicans about guns. Abbey falters and says she just was thrown by the last-minute changes.

C.J. meets with Officer Jack Sloan (Richard Riehle) in her office. He's excited to be there, but less so when C.J. brings up the excessive force charge. He explains he was chasing a suspect (Walter Tappas) of an armed robbery on foot, and Tappas broke Officer Sloan's hand and nose when he tried to cuff him. C.J. says Tappas accused Officer Sloan of breaking his leg, and Officer Sloan points out he couldn't have caught Tappas if his leg wasn't already broken, since he was a two-time bronze medalist at his high school's track and field championships. C.J. wants to know why Officer Sloan didn't bring this up before, and Officer Sloan admits he thought all was forgiven when he was invited to the State of the Union. He asks if the press knows, and C.J. says they don't yet, but she has to tell them so she can stay ahead of the story, which Officer Sloan is unhappy about. He says his wife and kids are at the party, and C.J. agrees he should go back, and cautions him not to speak to the press.

At the National Strategies Group, Donna tells Josh a 13,000 volt cable caught fire in a building on M Street and Washington, which caused the power outage, but she admits she doesn't know when the power will come back on. Josh tells her to call Sam, and yells that he wants numbers. Donna tells Josh everyone else is having fun, but he says Donna is the only one having fun. Just then, Joey and Kenny sneak up on Josh and she bumps into him. Joey (Kenny) assures Josh the numbers are safe, but she can't make the West Coast calls until the power goes back on, and she has no idea when that will be. Josh takes the cell phone away from Donna, and tells Sam about the power going out, which Sam knows about, and that he's desperate. Sam, who's in the north entrance of the White House, brings up Donna trying to get Josh to ask Joey out, and Josh admits he thinks Donna's been acting strangely about that. Sam sees President Bartlet coming in and abruptly hangs up. He greets Bartlet and tells him about the power outage, which Bartlet knows about. Bartlet congratulates Sam on getting applause for parts of the speech Bartlet fought him on, and Sam says Bartlet can pay him back by introducing himself to Ainsley if they happen to be in the same hallway, as she's scared to meet him. Bartlet wants to know if there's anything in particular he should say, and Sam says he should assure her along the lines that she's doing a good job and contrary to opinion, she wasn't hired for her looks. Charlie comes over and tells President Bartlet he's needed. They walk towards the outer Oval Office, where Leo is waiting. President Bartlet asks for an update on Officer Sloan, but Leo says Sloan isn't the story anymore, and as they walk into the Oval Office, where the staffers from the Situation Room are waiting, Leo starts to explain what happened in Colombia.

As Bartlet reads the briefing, Secretary Troop tells him sources paid by the Colombian police have confirmed the DEA agents are alive and being held in a CRF outpost. Bartlet also confirms the only way they'll get released is if President Santos of Colombia releases Juan Aguilar from prison. Leo thinks the CRF are going to kill the agents anyway, regardless of Aguilar, but Secretary Troop says they would have done so already. Generals from the Joint Chiefs brief President Bartlet on a rescue mission which will be ready in three hours. Secretary Troop thinks they should continue to negotiate, as any rescue attempt could lead to further casualties and even a war, but President Bartlet says while he's wants negotiations to continue, he wants the rescue operation ready in three hours. He also tells Leo to round up the senior staff, and he'll be walking the halls.

At the National Strategies Group, where it's still dark, Donna is surprised there hasn't been more looting. Josh, of course, is fixated on getting numbers, and even asks Joey if it's possible to open up the computer and get the numbers. Donna brings Josh his cell phone; it's Sam, who tells Josh he's needed back at the White House. Sam is in his office, and asks Ginger why Ainsley isn't meeting him there; she says Ainsley wants to meet in her office because she's not wearing any pants.

Down in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue, Ainsley is wearing a bathrobe, holding a drink, and dancing and singing along to Rosemary Clooney's "Blame it on the Bossa Nova" when Sam enters. She admits she sat on the bench in the sculpture garden but didn't see the "Wet Paint" sign, and her assistant is getting her clothes. She also tells Sam she's drinking a pink squirrel, and admits she is feeling the adrenaline high Sam talked about earlier. Sam tries to tell her the President is coming, but she's too busy singing and least until she sees President Bartlet walking behind Sam. She screams and throws the drink away. Sam turns around, and President Bartlet casually asks, "What's up?" Sam introduces him to Ainsley, and Bartlet gives her the little speech Sam had given him, but Ainsley looks mortified. Bartlet reminds Sam they're meeting, and then leaves. Sam tries to say the moment could have been worse, but then sees Ainsley's pained expression and admits it couldn't have been.

In the White House lobby, C.J. is back on Capitol Beat. Gottfried asks her what President Bartlet and the First Lady are doing at that moment, and she guesses they're still at the reception and will stay up late with friends. Gottfried jokes about being invited to the reception, and then cuts to a commercial break. Once the cameras are off, he asks C.J. if they can talk in private. They take off their mikes, and behind the stage, he says he didn't want to ambush her with the news, but, as C.J. guesses, he knows about Officer Sloan. As Toby comes to pull C.J. for the senior staff meeting, C.J. pleads for Mark to give her 20 minutes.

In the White House kitchen, Abbey is sitting eating a sandwich while various staffers work. President Bartlet wanders down, and asks the staffers to excuse themselves, which they do. Bartlet says he's heard Abbey was upset, and Abbey snaps she's not his mommy. Bartlet turns to go to his meeting, but Abbey asks him loudly why he didn't include the Violence Against Women Act in the speech. She mentions Jane Robinson - Charlie tracked her down to a battered woman's shelter, and found out Robinson didn't cash the check because she had it framed - which is what made her think of it. Bartlet says some things had to be cut for time, and Abbey angrily wonders why school uniforms weren't cut instead. She bitterly says Bartlet has decided to run for a second term, and says they made a deal, which Bartlet points out he made three years ago. Bartlet then brings up the situation in Colombia. Charlie comes in and reminds him of the senior staff meeting. Bartlet turns back to Abbey, but she tells him he needs to focus, and she'll stay up. As Bartlet and Charlie leave, we see a TV with Gottfried back from a commercial break, where he promises continuing coverage of the State of the Union.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: The episode where Ainsley was established as the Trope Namer.
    Sam: I think if you said something along the lines of "You know, a lot of people assumed you were hired because you’re a blonde, Republican sex kitten and they were obviously wrong".
  • Call-Back: A very subtle one. In the intro, six minutes before the State of the Union, Leo asks the President, "How you feeling?" with a rather terse and solemn expression on his face. It seems as if Leo might be thinking about what happened with the President just before the last SOTU.
  • Fanservice: According to Gottfried, C.J. not wearing pants ("Take the desk away and I'd pick up three share points").
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Mocked by C.J.:
    Sam: They have bathrobes at the gym.
    C.J.: In the women's locker room.
    Sam: But not the men's...Now, that’s outrageous. There’s a thousand men working here and 50 women...
    C.J.: (exasperated) Yeah, and it's the *bathrobe" that's outrageous.
  • Foreshadowing: We learn exactly what the "deal" was that Bartlet made with Abbey three years before.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Josh was a lot more cavalier about polling when he wasn't the one in charge.
  • Meaningful Echo: Gottfried brings up the fact he and C.J. "have done some things together" as a reason why he didn't ambush C.J. about Officer Sloan. When she in turn asks him to hold off for 20 minutes, and he asks why, she says because "we've done things together."
  • Noodle Incident: We never learn exactly what act of heroism led Officer Sloan to be invited to the State of the Union, let alone mentioned.
  • Sherlock Scan: Mrs Landingham is somehow able to tell that CJ isn't wearing pants just by watching her - with her lower half concealed behind a desk - on tv.
  • Shout-Out: Sam calls Ainsley "Gracie".
  • Spy Speak: This is where it's established "Leo McGarry would like you to say hello to an old friend of his" is code for "Please come with me ASAP."
  • Stealth Insult: After C.J. praises President Bartlet's public speaking ability, Congressman Shallick concedes it's an admirable quality - "not unlike juggling".
  • Tactful Translation: Played for Laughs:
    Josh: Kenny, really, that better have been her talking.

How well does it match the trope?

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