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100,000 Airplanes

Original Airdate 01-16-02 Rerun 06-19-02 and 01-01-03

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On State of the Union night, Sam is being trailed by a magazine reporter (Traylor Howard) who has a history with Sam---they were once engaged. That's distracting enough. So is the fact that the speech is being delivered just weeks after the President was forced to accept a Congressional censure, which (as seen in flashbacks) weighs heavily on staffers' minds as they wrestle with including an anticancer initiative in the speech. Meanwhile, Josh can't get Amy Gardner (Mary-Louise Parker) to talk to him.
From NBC:
While the staff furiously labors over the President's crucial State of the Union speech, Bartlet suddenly demands to include a passage that ambitiously promises a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years while Sam (Rob Lowe) is interviewed for a Vanity Fair profile by a woman, (Traylor Howard) whom once was his fiancee. A lovestruck Josh (Bradley Whitford) brashly informs a prominent women's rights leader (Mary-Louise Parker) that her budding romance with a Congressman is solely a product of political machinations. While pollster Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin) studies the sampled responses to the Chief Executive's speech.
From Warner Bros.:
While the White House staff works intensely on Bartlet's crucial State of the Union speech, Bartlet suddenly demands that a passage ambitiously promising a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years be included. Sam is interviewed for a Vanity Fair profile by Lisa Sherborne (Traylor Howard), who was once his fiancée. Attracted to a prominent women's rights leader, Amy Gardner (Mary-Louise Parker), Josh tries to persuade her that her burgeoning romance with a Congressman is solely a result of political machinations. Pollster Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin) studies the responses from focus groups to Bartlet's upcoming speech.


Rob Lowe as Sam (Samuel Norman) Seaborn Deputy Communications Director
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
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 Stars    
Mary-Louise Parker as Amy (Amelia) Gardner Lobbyist
Marlee Matlin as
Joey (Josephine) Lucas Pollster
Guest Starring    
Traylor Howard as Lisa Sherborne Magazine Reporter /
Sam's ex-fiancée
Bill O'Brien as Kenny Thurman Sign Language Interpreter
Nancy Linehan Charles as Oncologist Dinner guest
Howard S. Milller as Oncologist Dinner guest
Nicholas Hormann as Bobby Oncologist
Brian Baker as John Tandy Congressman /
Amy's boyfriend
Charles Walker as Oncologist Dinner guest
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
Kim Webster as Ginger Assistant to Communications' Director
Peter James Smith as Ed Congressional Liaison
William Duffy as Larry Congressional Liaison
Marcus Eley as Bartender  

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Series Nomination for
Janet Ashikaga A.C.E.

Media Quotes

Watch for former North Olmsted resident Ray Dewey on [this episode of] "The West Wing." Dewey is a Grammy-Nominated composer who was West Coast director of NBC's broadcast standards while carrying on a career as a professional pianist.

He's sidelining in "The West Wing" episode "100,000 Airplanes". That means he's pretending to play the piano for the camera.

Dewey is truly faking it. He's never heard the track he's supposed to be playing in a Washington lounge (actually the Biltmore in Los Angeles). He also doesn't know the plot of the episode he's in, and hasn't even watched "The West Wing" - "Although I understand it's a quality product," said Dewey. He has sidelined as a pianist for other productions, including an episode of "Frasier." He was Frank, Dean and Sammy's accompanist on the HBO movie, "The Rat Pack."

"Former Rocky River man has spot high in Peru's Andes"
by Sarah Crump
January 10, 2002
Cleveland Plain Dealer

On "The West Wing" Gleevec -- called by its childhood name, STI -- prompts the president to want to launch a program to find the cure for cancer.


On "The West Wing," Gleevec gives shape to a political dream. The president's wife is having a group of physicians over for dinner. The Prez is a little down because he's just been censured by Congress. The talk turns to a "signal transduction inhibitor," and a Dr. Right stands up and says: "We're 10 years, $25 billion and a good luck charm away from curing human cancer."

Signal transduction inhibitor -- STI -- is none other than Gleevec, also known as STI571! The dinner-table mumble goes on about how this new drug is a "smart bomb" that can "control all the signal pathways in cancer."

That gives the blinky-eyed Prez an idea for his upcoming State of the Union speech: "Why shouldn't I stand up and say we are going to cure cancer in 10 years?" He gives a stirring monologue: If we can land a man on the moon, why can't we cure cancer?

He's talked out of it for all the nonmedical reasons that make the show so entertaining. Too political, his aides say, as though he were just trying to gain sympathy after the censure. The Office of Management and Budget wouldn't have time to cost it out. No one brings up the fact that a former president already launched the war on cancer. But then, most of the cast of "The West Wing" is too young to remember.

Still, the aides were right to restrain the president. Finding a cure for cancer is not like landing a man on the moon. There will probably never be one cure for cancer. Gleevec works only in patients with CML and some other not very common cancers.

"Prime Time's Cancer Cure"
by Abigail Trafford
January 29, 2002
Washington Post

Pat O'Brien: How did the script for this show come down? Does Aaron [Sorkin] come to you and say we've got an episode for you, or do they just hand you a finished script?

Rob Lowe: No, sometimes Aaron will give you a heads-up. But in this case, it was just, 'Rob, you've got a lot to do in the next show.' I didn't know what it was about at all, which was good, because I read it fresh and got a fresh perspective on it.


Pat: So they have this woman in this episode that sort of comes back into your life. Is that based on anything personal in your life or is that a coincidence?

Rob: It was. We had talked about Sam's fiancee in the season opener of the second year and I always wondered why he didn't get married. I wondered why Sam didn't get married and what drove him to want to work for Bartlett [Bartlet]. To have those two questions answered three years into the show was really a surprise for me, and I think the audience will like seeing that glimmer into his past, particularly now that everyone knows the character so well.

Pat: Because of the way a lot of people look at your career, they'll look at a Melissa Gilbert situation and wonder why that never happened. We know you're married and happily married and have kids and all that, but did that come up in your mind at all?

Rob: Well, I think everybody has those relationships, sort of close calls, the near misses, the 'what could have been'. And you know, I'll run into somebody, whether it's Melissa or other people who I've known throughout my life, and I'll remember those great times we had together, but there's always that one reason why it didn't happen, and sometimes it's more tangible than not. The reason Sam and she didn't get together is such an interesting one and it's something I never would have expected. It's a really nice reveal, but clearly, you know, being a guy with a lot of near misses at the altar, you know I had a good well to go back to. (Laughs)

Pat: But the Melissa thing wasn't specific for that?

Rob: No, no. Aaron doesn't really write to the actor's particular personal experiences so much, I don't think, otherwise you'd have President Bartlett [Bartlet] down at an Indian reservation protesting.


Rob: .... You know Sam is the true believer in this episode. He is the one arguing with the President to make this audacious, amazing stand and everyone else is dealing with what it would mean politically. He just wants it done because he is a true believer. I relate to that.


Pat: Now, the issue about cancer... You're very involved with breast cancer. Tell me about that.

Rob: My grandma, who was my favorite grandma, died of breast cancer. She was one of the early long-term survivors of it actually. That really affected me. Unfortunately, it's so much a part of everybody's life today that any time you are dealing with cancer it's so weighted dramatically just in itself. It's such a hot button for people, that as an actor and a storyteller, you have to be really careful when you deal with it because it's such a heavy subject. I had a lot of concern with that we would deal in the episode with it in a way wasn't exploitive and, I think, we did. It was powerful to even say the words.

Pat: Because of your grandmother?

Rob: Because of my grandmother. And my father had lymphoma -- he's a survivor of that. And then you think what it would be like to have a President stand up and say we will cure cancer in a decade. We know more about curing cancer today then we ever knew about putting a man on the moon even when John Kennedy said we would do it in a decade. So one wonders ...

"Rob Lowe's Brush with His Past Life "
February 4, 2002

[Aaron] Sorkin acknowledged, however, that even after a "very successful State of the Union speech, President Bartlet's approval rating is hovering around sixty per cent."

by Tad Friend
March 4, 2002
The New Yorker

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