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17 People

Original Airdate 04-04-01 Rerun 08-15-01

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Toby (Richard Schiff) puts two and two together and finds out about the President's "thing" - his multiple sclerosis - in this episode. Toby is the 17th person to find out - but only the second (after the First Lady) to challenge him on it. And he does so forcefully. Also challenging Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is a terrorist threat, and he must decide whether to beef up security at U.S. airports. Meanwhile, Josh and Donna bicker over their "anniversary"; Sam and Ainsley (Emily Procter) squabble over the ERA; and staffers struggle to punch up a speech the President is set to give at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
From NBC:
After a foreign terrorist is caught at the border with explosives, Bartlet (Martin Sheen) ponders the impact of ordering a heightened security alert for the nation's airports while an exasperated Toby (Richard Schiff) is shocked to learn of the President's secret affliction with multiple sclerosis -- and he details its political and legal ramifications. In other White House corridors, Sam (Rob Lowe) and Josh (Bradley Whitford) try to punch up an upcoming presidential speech with snappy one-liners while Josh jousts with Donna (Janel Moloney) over many contentious subjects, including the exact start date of her employment. In addition, Sam and Ainsley (Emily Procter) fuss over the 14th Amendment and equal rights for women.


Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Janel Moloney as Donna (Donnatella) Moss Assistant to Deputy Chief of Staff
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 Star
Emily Procter as
Ainsley Hayes Associate White House Counsel
William Duffy as Larry Congressional Liaison
Peter James Smith as Ed Congressional Liaison

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Nomination by
Richard Schiff
Submitted for consideration for Outstanding Drama Series Win

Media Quotes

[Richard] Schiff rose from a sick bed Tuesday to report that what happens on [this] show is so "upending" that "The West Wing will not be the same after this."


"Toby's on a mission because things aren't making sense," Schiff, fighting cold symptoms, said in a brief phone conversation. "He figures something out, challenges Leo and ultimately confronts the president. The result will change the nature of this fictional White House forever."

Forever is a long time. Does he mean Toby won't be able to trust the president ever again?

"The conclusions you draw are really up to you and the audience," Schiff said. "I don't really know how Toby's going to react in the long run, but his reaction in the short run is volatile and personal."


"George Stephanopoulos just happened to be at the (script) read-through that day," Schiff said, "and he came up to me after the reading and said, 'My God, we've never dealt with anything like this. This is mind-boggling.' He was very helpful to me in realizing the gravity and the potential disastrousness of this situation."

"Chaos will enter The West Wing"
by Mike McDaniel
April 3, 2001
Houston Chronicle

"When Caesar crossed the Rubicon, he could never come back. We're crossing the Rubicon. The series is going to change, and go to a place where it can never go back to where it comes from. That's real exciting to me. The season is going to build, and the last five shows (of the season) are amazing. Something really big is happening. Really, really profound. (Former White house Advisor George) Stephanopolous was on our set, and he was going 'Oh my god, we've never dealt with anything like this!' He was blown away by it. It's exciting to have real White House people (feel that way, and to have them there and have them get into a whole discussion with us about the ramifications (of the story.) It's just great." - Richard Schiff

"How the West Has Won"
by Robert Schork and Deanna Barnett
April 3, 2001
Soap Opera Weekly

This morning, the judge in the trial of Ahmed Ressam, 33, told the jury here NOT to watch NBC's hit television show, West Wing, tomorrow night.

The hour-long drama, which gives an inside view of the Oval Office, deals with "a foreign terrorist. . . caught at the border with explosives," according to the network's web site.

U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenhour, on learning the show was to air tomorrow, told the jury: Don't watch it.

"It has subject matter touches a little too close to this case," the judge said.

"Ressam jury told not to watch 'West Wing' TV show"
by Unknown
April 3, 2001
Seattle Times

"The best way to put it is to say we turn a corner from which we can't go back," [Richard Schiff] he says.

"It's disturbing. There are always secrets in this world that are meant for certain ears and not for others -- for practical and political reasons. But this miscalculation is going to cost us dearly."

Schiff says that ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, who was the communications director during the Clinton administration, was taken aback when he watched the episode being filmed recently for his report on the hit drama for ABC's Good Morning America.

"He was stunned," Schiff says. "He said, 'Oh my God, we never had to deal with anything like this.' "

Schiff says the episode sets up a chain of events that aren't going to be resolved anytime soon. "It'll change the perception of the presidency in our fictional world."

"'West Wing' delves into Bartlet's disease"
by Peter Johnson
April 3, 2001
USA Today

Thanks for the nice words about 17 People, we're all pretty proud of that episode. It was born from a budget crunch. NBC and Warner Bros. give us a good budget to do the show, but even that, we can't live within our means and we'd put an awful lot of money into the season opener. So I was asked to write a show with no locations, no guest cast, no new sets and minimal extras. So I wrote a play. Ironically, given that, it was probably the most cinematic opening we've done so far. I thought Alex Graves did an amazing job, topping even his direction of In Excelcis Deo, The Midterms and Galileo (to say nothing of some of the best Sports Nights.) - Aaron Sorkin

Posted at
by List Owner
April 11, 2001
Message 3571

Speaking later to reporters, Mr. Manley [Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs] acknowledged that Canada's reputation was tarnished in 1999 when an Algerian-born man was caught trying to enter the United States to mount a terrorist attack on Los Angeles during millennium celebrations. Ahmed Ressam, part of a Montreal terrorist cell, was caught on Dec. 14, 1999, with chemical explosives and timing devices in his car while entering the U.S. at Port Angeles, Wash.

"Don't blame Canada, Manley says"
by Sheldon Alberts
November 6, 2001
National Post

"I think I'm the only actor in West Wing to miss one whole episode, because I was in London shooting that movie," she [Allison Janney] says of The Hours. "It's always kind of a pain for them to have to accommodate us if we do other things, so I don't think they're going to be as accommodating anymore."

"Allison Janney is the softer side of C.J. Cregg"
by Jay Boyar
July 29, 2003
Orlando Sentinel

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