Follow TV Tropes


Recap / The West Wing S 02 E 20 The Falls Gonna Kill You

Go To

This episode focuses on the aftermath of the President revealing to his staff that he has MS. C.J. and Abbey meet with the White House Council to discuss how they may have lied about the President's MS, and Josh talks to Joey Lucas about how they might do a poll to see how to handle the situation. Several other situations arise, among them a satellite that might crash to earth, a speech Sam is writing for a Chicago appearance, and the CBO projections. Those other situations seem very insignificant compared to the MS one. The title comes from an analogy that C.J. makes at the end, of Butch and Sundance looking over a cliff and saying that they shouldn't jump because they might drown in the river at the bottom, but "it's the fall that's going to kill ya."



C.J. is waiting in the White House Council's office. Oliver Babish enters and questions her about whether anyone saw her. He then turns to the subject of th President's MS, asking her when she found out about it, which was last night. He asks her if she's ever lies about the President's health, she asks if she needs her lawyer, and Babish assures her that he is her lawyer. He goes on to ask her some more hard questions, about the timeline and so on. They spar a bit, and he asks her again:

(Oliver) Have you ever lied about the President's health? What's your answer?
(C.J.) Many, many times.

Smash cut to main titles.

Act I

Donna walks up to a guy who's waiting for her to tell him that Josh will be along soon. She goes into the bullpen and asks about the weather. Ed and Larry approach, and ask if she's seen C.J., because they just got a fax from NASA's associate administrator saying that a huge Chinese satellite is going to crash to Earth. They're laughing, and Donna is terrified.


Cut to Leo's office. Leo's there with Josh and Toby. They want to do some polling about the MS, to see what to do next, and that they suggest getting Joey Lucas to do it. They also haven't told Sam about the MS yet, and they discuss when to do so.

Josh and Toby leave. They both comment that they are having some trust issues at the moment. Toby splits away, and Donna approaches to tell Josh about the NASA satellite memo. They meet up with the man that Donna saw in the first scene and go into Josh's office.

The guy (Connelly) tells Josh that "the case" is running out of money. The case turns out to be the one against five tobacco companies. They need more, and it's a fight worth winning. Josh says he'll talk to Leo about it. Connelly leaves.

Back in Babish's office, he and C.J. are watching a video of one of C.J.'s press briefings, where C.J. says that the President is in "Excellent physical health." Oliver asks her how many times she's done that. She comes up with several times. Oliver asks her how it works when the President has a physical. The president's physician calls her and gives her a short statement including vitals, and she makes a statement to the press. Oliver asks her if she talks to the President about that, and asks her how she asks him the questions.


A staffer comes in and give C.J. a note from Donna. C.J. reads it and says, "The sky is falling down."

Act II

In the Roosevelt room, Sam is reading a draft of his speech to about a dozen aides. He says that they need to get back to fundamentals. There's a knock at the door and Sam goes to talk to a couple of people. The CBO has issued a new estimate of the surplus, it's down, and it's going to be front page news. Apparently the estimate going down is good, because it makes some political fights easier. Sam and the other two debate about some points in the speech, and then they leave.

Back in Oliver's office again, he and C.J. discuss the President's collapse a year ago (which we saw in the episode "He Shall, from Time to Time"). She didn't know that it was caused by MS at the time, but it seems pretty clear now that it was. C.J. is pretty mad about the whole situation and tries to take it out on Oliver a little. He coaches her not to answer more than what is asked.

In the White House mess, Toby is talking with Sam. They got good reviews on a commencement speech, and they discuss how they're the Batman and Robin of speechwriting, and also the CBO projections. They walk-and-talk back to Toby's office. (One gets the impression that Toby was trying to tell Sam about the MS, but couldn't quite bring himself to do it.)

Donna walks in to the outer Oval Office and greets Charlie. She tells him about the NASA memo. Charlie gets a page, and they both leave.

Outside the Whtie House, Abbey arrives in a black limo. She heads to the Oval Office, attended by aides, and they talk business. She arives at the outer office, greets Charlie, and goes on in. They tensely discuss the medical form, which Charlie realized was a problem, where they lied about the President's health. Leo had started to talk to Abbey about it, but then realized that Jed hadn't told her yet. Jed tells Abbey that she needs to go see the White House Counsel.


Josh is sitting by Margaret's desk. Leo comes in, asks if the First Ladyis back, and they go into his office. They briefly discuss the previous scene's topic, and then turn to the tobacco lawsuit. Josh wants to give them more money, and Leo is reluctant to do so. Josh is going to the airport, and Leo tells him to "do a job."

Sam goes into the Roosevelt room. He briefly discusses the CBO estimate with several members of Congress, and they turn to the Chicago speech; the Congressmen want to add a line to it: "Our opponents want to help the rich pay for bigger swimming pools and faster private jets." Sam refuses, saying it's bad writing. He then gives a longer reason, about how the rich really do pay their fair share.

At the airport, Josh greets Joey Lucas and her interpreter in the terminal. He takes Joey aside (away from her interpreter) and tells her about the MS situation.

Abbey arrives at Babish's office. They talk a little, and then he asks her about the medical form. She's a bit testy. After a bit, she even accuses him of wanting the publicity that would com with defending the President on TV. They then discuss the way that they will go public, and the scene ends with Oliver saying,

Mrs. Bartlet, I'm not sure you have an appropriate appreciation of the size of what happens next.

Act IV

Joey and Josh are still talking at the airport. They have a conversation similar to the one Oliver and Abbey just had. They turn back to the polling questions, and Joey describes how to pull it off: make it a governor of an industrial state, like Michigan, and give him a degenerative illness. Her departing flight is called, and they say goodbye.

In the exterior of the Oval, Donna and Charlie are talking about the NASA satellite situation. Donna leaves and bumps into Abbey, who then goes to C.J.'s office. They talk about how C.J. was told the previous night. Toby had told her "I'll be here in my office when you're done," which he repeats to Sam later.

C.J. asks Abbey about an injection she saw her give Jed during the campaign, which was Betaseron, which reduces the frequency of MS attacks. C.J. repeats that she asks the president "Is there anything else I need to know?" after a physical.

Josh goes into Leo's office and they discuss Joey's plan for the poll. They also discuss the big tobacco lawsuit. Leo goes into the Oval Office to tell him about the poll.

In Sam's office, Toby is there and they discuss Sam's earlier meeting. Leo calls Sam to his office, and Toby says "I'll be here in the office when you're done."

The scene cuts to an outside shot of Washington, D.C., at night. C.J. is walking home, and Josh catches up to her. Josh tells C.J. that the president is worrying about the poll and how that's going to look, which C.J. finds ridiculous. She summarizes the situation:

C.J. You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids 300 feet below, thinking you better not jump 'cause there's a chance you might drown. The President has this disease and has been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It's the fall that's gonna kill ya!

Josh corrects her, saying she meant "us" instead of "ya." She walks on with no answer, and Josh asks her where she's going, metaphorically. She says she needs to sleep for a while. Josh tells C.J. about the memo Donna got, which they apparently getevery week, but Donn'a didn't know that, so Josh had some fun with her.

The camera pans up to the "Pennsylvania Ave 1600 Block" street sign and the episode ends.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Artistic License: Economics- Sam notes that the top 1 percent pay their fair share of taxes, more than their fair share, which is not true, as while they may pay for at least 27 people's worth of roads, infrastructure, police, etc., they do use these services with their corporations, are able to get around taxes through rebates, and it is less percentage wise compared to the rest of the population. This means that while those of the 99 percent can't pay as much in terms of cash, they are paying more in percentage of income.
  • Worrying for the Wrong Reason: The scene from which the page quote is taken is referred to on this episode. It takes place during the arc about President Bartlet having to reveal to the public that he has MS, which the staff has been frantically preparing for. In order to gauge reaction, they put out a poll asking the people of Michigan how they would feel if they found out their governor had concealed a similar disease. The Title Drop comes in when Josh mentions to C.J. that Bartlet and Leo are worried that if anyone learns about this, it'll look like Bartlet only told the truth because a poll told him to. C.J. finds this hilarious at the end of a long day.
    "You guys are like Butch and Sundance peering over the edge of a cliff to the boulder-filled rapids three hundred feet below, thinking you better not jump 'cause there's a chance you might drown! The President has this disease and he's been lying about it, and you guys are worried that the polling might make us look bad? It's the fall that's gonna kill you!"

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: