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He Shall, From Time To Time...

Original Airdate 01-12-00 Rerun 06-21-00

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Bartlet (Martin Sheen) collapses while preparing to deliver his second State of the Union address; Leo (John Spencer) faces the press about his past substance-abuse problems.
From NBC:
The White House staff is in full crisis mode when President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is found unconscious as he prepares for the State of the Union speech while the India-Pakistan border skirmish flares again when a fearful Pakistan gives its field commanders control of its nuclear arsenal. While the President's condition is officially blamed on the flu, the First Lady (Stockard Channing) knows better, and Toby (Richard Schiff) is too busy to notice as he polishes his boss' upcoming address. Equally distracting is the inevitable disclosure of Leo's (John Spencer) former substance-abuse problem by political rivals, as well as the reappearance of the amusing Lord Marbury (Roger Rees) -- a besotted ladies' man who doubles as a key adviser on the India-Pakistan conflict. Despite the crises, C.J. (Allison Janney) and Mallory (Allison Smith) express their romantic feelings about two very different men.


Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Moira Kelly as Mandy (Madeline) Hampton Public Relations Consultant
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
Richard Schiff as Toby (Tobias Zachary) Ziegler Communications Director
John Spencer as Leo Thomas McGarry Chief of Staff
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Deputy Chief of Staff
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
Special Guest Stars    
Stockard Channing as Abbey (Abigail Ann) Bartlet M.D. First Lady
Roger Rees as
Lord John Marbury  
John Amos as
Admiral (Percy "Fitz") Fitzwallace Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
Guest Starring    
Allison Smith as Mallory O'Brian Teacher / Leo McGarry's daughter
Timothy Busfield as Danny (Daniel) Concannon (Washington Post) Reporter
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff
Harry Groener as Roger Tribby Secretary of Agriculture
Madison Mason as Admiral Hacket Doctor
David Spielberg as Congressman spoke of Arthur Murray/Miller
Austin Tichenor as Raymond Burns in Toby's meeting
Kathryn Joosten as Mrs. Landingham President's Secretary /
Delores (first name)
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
Devika Parikh as Bonnie Communications' Aide
Ivan Allen as Newscaster Roger Salier
Ronne Troup as Pratt in Toby's meeting
Ralph Meyering Jr. as Tom  
Marvin Krueger as Officer #1  
Christopher Kriesa as Mitch Officer
Roger Ontiveros as Officer #3 Sidney

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Nomination by
Stockard Channing

Media Quotes

"It wasn't there because I wanted to explore MS, or medicine," he [Aaron Sorkin] said. "It's there because it happened in that episode, and now it's part of the show's bible, and we'll live with it,"


"It rips on a lot of levels," he [John Spencer] said, including "the disappointment and the hurt that my best friend on earth didn't share something so great with me [and] fear, because there's a duality now, a kind of devotion and love for [Bartlet] as the man, and a desire to protect the presidency and the administration."

"That's established a big conflict for me, which is great," Spencer said.

Not that it wasn't a surprise.

"I found out at the table read, about three days before we started filming," Spencer said



Sheen, too, seems comfortable with Sorkin's style. And so far, Sorkin said, he's having no regrets about being tied to what could be a complicated plot line.

But if gets too difficult, Sheen, at least, has a solution: a miracle cure.

"I can always go to Fatima or Lourdes," he said.

"A doctored plot"
by Ellen Gray
January 19, 2000
Philadelphia Daily News

"How was the decision reached to have him have MS? I honestly can't remember," Sorkin said in an interview on the set at Warner Bros. Television in Burbank. "I think I wrote it four episodes ago, and it all started because I wanted the president to be in bed watching a soap opera - I wanted him to be experiencing daytime TV, and I didn't want it to just be the flu. I had to figure out how to get him there, and I also wanted us to discover that the first lady [Stockard Channing] is a doctor."

... but "things've just started happening, and we'll learn more as it goes on - how they hid it from the press and even his senior staffers," Sorkin said. "It wasn't there because I wanted to explore MS or medicine, it was there because it happened in that episode. When I wrote the pilot, I didn't have any idea what was going to happen in episode 2, much less 12. That's pretty much the way it works here."


"With this particular disease, he could be in a wheelchair in four years. It's possible," said Sheen, who also did research. For him, the development presents a welcome challenge and is part of what the show does best.

"The most remarkable part of doing this character is the change," he said. "It is letting go of what's worked and venturing out into more troubled waters and learning to be a better sailor. I'm fine with it."

"President's collapse surprised fans, 'The West Wing' "
by Tom Feran
January 19, 2000
Cleveland Plain Dealer

"We want to thank 'The West Wing' for helping to enhance understanding about a disease that strikes someone new each hour every day," said Mike Dugan, president of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "This is a first on network television," Dugan said.

The group is especially pleased, Dugan wrote in response to inquiries by The News, that the affected character is a world leader, that the show made clear MS is not fatal, and that Bartlet is taking advantage of "new medical breakthroughs" to effectively treat the more common and relatively mild form of the disease he has.

"Since fiction often becomes more real to people than fact," Dugan said, "President Bartlet's life with MS has the potential for great good or ill. If he does well, despite the challenges of the disease, the public will become more accepting of individuals with MS and, ironically, individuals with MS will become more accepting of themselves and their abilities to lead fulfilling lives."

Multiple sclerosis occurs in a few basic forms, and the kind and severity of symptoms varies widely from individual to individual. Dugan took issue with a comment on last week's show that a fever could be fatal to Bartlet. "A fever is no more deadly for people with MS than it is for the general population," he said. Fevers can trigger flareups of the disease, however.

"'West Wing' Boldly Confronts Disease"
by Eric Mink
January 19, 2000
New York Daily News

"Bartlet's particular course of MS is not severe. He can lead a normal life for the most part." - Aaron Sorkin

"'West Wing' twists in plot done on the fly"
by Mike Duffy
January 26, 2000
Detroit Free Press

"Basically, all I was thinking during that entire thing, was, 'was the MS a terrible mistake? My God, what have I done? I've absolutely torpedoed my series. What did I do?' I'm always thinking that," - Aaron Sorkin

"'The West Wing' creator talks about MS storyline "
by Lisa Lipman
January 30, 2000
The Post and Courier

For instance, when it turns out Sheen's president suffers from a form of multiple sclerosis, unbeknownst not only to the electorate but to his closest advisers?

"Well, that's a little farfetched," [Mike] McCurry [former press secretary for President Clinton] admits. "And yet it does remind me of the excruciating experience I went through when the president had a ruptured knee tendon."

"Presidential Seal"
by Roger Anderson
February 27, 2000
Scripps Howard News Service in Fresno Bee

The president collapses during a State of the Union rehearsal: What would happen next? (The press secretary's enduring instinct: Forget about the doctor; make sure no reporters are around.)

"The Real White House"
by Matthew Miller
March 2000
Brill's Content

On the other hand, how realistic is it that the show's president, Josiah Bartlet (portrayed by Martin Sheen), could have been elected to the nation's highest office without any member of today's press corps discovering that he had multiple sclerosis, as was revealed in a recent episode?

"We vetted that through Dee Dee Myers," says writer-creator Aaron Sorkin

"Acting president"
by Gloria Goodale
March 3, 2000
Christian Science Monitor

"I think it all started because I wanted the president to be in bed watching soap operas. I wanted him, for the first time, to be experiencing daytime dramas, ...And I had to figure out how he got there. And I didn't want it to just be the flu. Oh! I also wanted us to discover that Stockard Channing's character (the first lady) is a doctor and so things just started happening." - Aaron Sorkin

"What would 'West Wing' be without a chief executive?"
by Scott D. Pierce
April 12, 2000
Desert News

"She [Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State for President Clinton] said it was one of the best expositions on foreign policy on TV that she'd seen," - Patrick Cadell

"You Could Call It the Wonk Wing"
by Jay Branegan
May 15, 2000
Time Magazine

"I worried over the episode when Bartlet collapsed and was diagnosed with MS. That wasn't a particularly strong show." - Aaron Sorkin

"'Wing' cliffhanger a sellout? Hang in there"
by Dusty Saunders
July 18, 2000
Rocky Mountain News

Channing's original appearance was slated to be a one-shot guest shot, so she came in during a five-day hiatus from a film she was shooting. After it aired, Sorkin took her out for lunch.

"And he said, 'Well, everybody thought that was great. And also our ratings went up a lot when you went on, which might have had something to do with it.' Then, he said, 'So I'm thinking, do you want to be a doctor? That's a good idea, because I have this thing -- he has a really bad cold in the teaser, and I'm thinking he might have MS. And you could be his doctor.'"

"Channing Calls 'West Wing' Deal 'Something for Nothing'"
by Brill Bundy
July 21, 2001

The original story line called for the president to be in bed with just the flu. Then, Mr. Sorkin said, while dining with Stockard Channing, who at that time had played the first lady in one episode, he seized on the idea of her being a physician, "and so I searched for an interesting way to show that she was an M.D., rather than have her say, 'as you know, I am a doctor.' "

His solution, Mr. Sorkin said in an interview, "was that while everybody thought that this would be a cold or the flu, she knew it could potentially be something much more serious than that."

Mr. Sorkin asked his research staff to find an affliction that did not put Mr. Bartlet in a wheelchair, could go undetected for years at a time, and that could be in remission and undetectable in checkups because there was no laboratory test for it. The search turned up multiple sclerosis, an ailment that Mr. Sorkin said he knew little about. Putting the spotlight on multiple sclerosis also tapped television's great potential to educate, even though Mr. Sorkin said that was not his intent. "As storytellers primarily, our only obligation is to captivate for however long we have asked for your attention," Mr. Sorkin said. He also said: "We try not to lie on the show, and I know that is a strange thing to say in the context of fiction."

"Very Real Questions for Fictional President"
by Lawrence K. Altman, M.D
October 9, 2001
New York Times

Somebody clearly felt something, because Channing was asked to return. But first she had to have a clearer idea of who she was supposed to be. She had lunch with the show's creator and principal writer, Aaron Sorkin, who initially was no help at all, saying, "I don't work that way." Then he began to brainstorm right there at the table. "He said, 'I've written the teaser for this episode, and he [President Bartlet] has a really bad cold," Channing says. "And now I'm thinking--as he's talking to me he's thinking--'you could be his doctor.' I'm not making this up. This is totally true. This is the way it's done over there. It just comes together."

"A Formidable Presence"
by John Clark
December 3, 2001
Los Angeles Times

She [Stockard Channing] and Sorkin subsequently sat down to lunch and brainstormed her character's development, sussing out that she would be a doctor and she would have a "certain parity" with her husband.

From that point on, Channing felt: Now there's "a path in the snow," as her friend, playwright John Guare, used to say. "Anybody could follow it. Originally, it was just -- snow."

"Taking Stock(ard) of the First Lady on The West Wing"
by Douglas J. Rowe
December 30, 2001
Associated Press

The West Wing's [John] Spencer, sipping on club soda, refers to the parallels between his early alcohol problems and those scripted for White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry. "It was weird. I really wasn't acting."

"Pitch and catch"
by Dusty Saunders
January 24, 2004
Rocky Mountain News

"I never have a lot of medical terminology. They learned that about the first or second year of 'West Wing.' I'm hopeless at it. They just let me go with other stuff. On take 10, they said, 'This is the end of this. This is clearly not her forte.' I don't see how they do it on 'ER.'" - Stockard Channing

"Channing Returns for More 'Practice'"
by Kate O'Hare
March 22, 2006

For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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