The West Wing Episode Guide -
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Original Airdate 04-03-02 Rerun 08-14-02

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The Vice President (Tim Matheson) makes a surprise announcement, and might be in for a surprise (except that he's not surprised when he hears it). Meanwhile, a truck carrying depleted uranium-fuel rods crashes in Idaho, and terrorism isn't ruled out; Donna wants Josh to see about a Presidential pardon for her favorite high-school teacher; and Bartlet helps Charlie with his tax return.
From NBC:
The President's staff reacts to the crash of a heavy rig bearing uranium fuel rods in a remote Idaho tunnel that could pose an environmental -- or terrorist -- crisis, while in another room, electoral strategy is stealthily mapped out that could include jettisoning Vice President Hoynes (Tim Matheson) from the next ticket. Meanwhile, the unwitting Veep ponders how to keep a favorite bill intact that would provide Internet access for the poor; earlier, Hoynes finds himself in the same meeting with Leo for Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition: Charlie (Dulé Hill) regrets getting advice from a meddling Bartlet (Martin Sheen) for filing his tax forms online; Donna's (Janel Moloney) request to Josh (Bradley Whitford) for a presidential proclamation honoring the retirement of her favorite teacher might prove more difficult than first imagined.
From Warner Bros.:
When a large truck carrying uranium fuel rods crashes in a remote Idaho tunnel, Bartlet's staff prepares for a potential environmental--or terrorist--crisis. Meanwhile, Bartlet's stealthily composed electoral strategy may exclude Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) from the next campaign. Unaware that his fate is in question, Hoynes ponders how to promote one of his favorite bills, one that would provide Internet access to low-income households. Also, Hoynes attends the same Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as Leo. Charlie regrets filing his tax return online, after heeding the meddling Bartlet's advice. At Donna's request, Josh seeks a presidential proclamation honoring the retirement of her favorite teacher, but the task proves more difficult than he first imagined.


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 Star
Tim Matheson as
John Hoynes Vice President
Guest Starring    
David Dunard as AA member who chaired the meeting
Randy Oglesby as AA member who didn't want Leo in the meeting
Felton Perry as AA member joked about drinking in the meeting
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Jim Jansen as Bill Fisher Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Kim Webster as Ginger Assistant to Communications' Director
Tim Van Pelt as Harry  
William Duffy as Larry Congressional Liaison
Peter James Smith as Ed Congressional Liaison

Information Links



Prism Awards

TV Drama Series Episode Nomination
Performance in a Television Drama Series Episode Win for
John Spencer
Tim Matheson

Media Quotes

The NEXT of NBC's drama, "The West Wing," is scheduled Wednesday to depict the White House dealing with the wreck a truck carrying uranium fuel rods in a tunnel in Idaho.

Nevada leaders call transporting radioactive waste the Achilles heel of the federal government's plan to entomb the nation's spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

"This could be very helpful," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. "It's becoming increasingly obvious this is not just a Nevada issue, it's a national issue. It's getting into the popular culture."

"If comes out with something totally misleading, we probably would have something to say," Mitch Singer, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The Washington-based institute is a leading nuclear industry lobbying group.

Christopher Klose, a Washington political consultant whose firm produces television and radio ads, told the Review-Journal that viewers realize the show is entertainment. But he said it could add to a general concern about nuclear waste.

"It's not quite on the par of Homer Simpson working at a nuclear power plant," said Klose, whose clients include Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

"But it's somewhere between that and being treated like a statement of fact," he said. "It's got to get you thinking whether something can happen if this is rolling through your town."

"Nevada nuclear dump foes welcome 'West Wing' episode about waste mishap"
by Steve Tetreault and J.M. Kalil and Britt Faulstick
March 29, 2002
Associated Press

People who have been briefed by the writers and who have been sworn to secrecy about the episode's outcome said it does not specifically deal with Yucca Mountain, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The story has the uranium en route to a processing facility of some sort.

Still, Nevadans were not about to quibble as the series will raise the possibility that "an unthinkable accident," the narrator intones on previews, could occur in the movement of nuclear materials.

"This could be very helpful," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. "It's becoming increasingly obvious this is not just a Nevada issue, it's a national issue. It's getting into the popular culture."

"When the number one show in America has an episode dealing with a nuclear waste accident, I think that says it all," said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Christopher Klose, a Washington political consultant whose firm Shorr Johnson Klose produces television and radio ads, said viewers realize that "entertainment is entertainment." But he said the show may add to a general concern about nuclear waste.

"If you're one of those 12 million viewers who really hasn't thought about this issue and this is your first exposure to it, it's got to get you thinking whether something can happen if this is rolling through your town," said Klose, whose clients include Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

"The West Wing" episode may carry some Nevada fingerprints.

Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary who helps series creator Aaron Sorkin develop story lines, called state and congressional officials early this month inquiring about nuclear waste transportation.

Among the questions was how proposed nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain might compare with other nuclear materials. Myers asked what the federal response might be in the case of a nuclear accident on the road.

"I did talk to her, I don't know if she used anything; I thought she was pretty interested," said Bob Halstead, a Nevada transportation consultant. Berkley press secretary Michael O'Donovan said he and Myers swapped several e-mails.

"They clearly thought this would be a good episode, and she was just doing some research on it and picking the brains of some folks," he said. The nuclear power industry plans to watch.

"I think somebody will probably monitor it, and it if comes out with something totally misleading, we probably would have something to say," said Mitch Singer, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute.

"It's a safe bet that with Martin Sheen as president, it's not going to come out singing the praises of the nuclear industry," Singer said.

Sheen is no stranger to Nevada or nuclear issues.

He has been arrested at least 70 times for involvement in protests on issues such as nuclear disarmament and homelessness and has participated in protests at the gates of the Nevada Test Site.

Deborah Thomas, a "West Wing" publicist, said she could not discover Thursday what input Sheen may have had on the episode.

"'Wing' plot to feature nuke waste road wreck"
by Steve Tetreault and J.M. Kalil and Britt Faulstick
March 29, 2002
Las Vegas Review-Journal

WXIA-TV will pre-empt Wednesday's episode of "Wing" in order to telecast the 27th annual Community Service Awards. An onscreen "crawl" that ran during last week's episode said the top-rated drama would air on local PAX affiliate WPXA instead.

That fired up the satellite users, many of whom can't get WPXA. Dozens battered WXIA with frustrated e-mails and calls. "The feedback we got was overwhelming: 'Please give us West Wing,' " says WXIA station manager Bob Walker, who confirmed Monday that arrangements had been made to get "Wing" to Dish and DirectTV subscribers as usual. "When you have that kind of feedback, it's our job to find a solution."

WXIA initially didn't realize its decision to air the Community Service Awards would clip "Wing" from homes that only have satellite hookup. By last Thursday afternoon, though, some 35 people had e-mailed or phoned the station, and technicians were busy seeking a solution.

Actually, two solutions. WXIA will use fiber technology to send "Wing" to DirectTV Wednesday night and park a satellite truck at the EchoStar Dish "receive" location to provide a feed.

"Lobbying satellite viewers get 'Wing'"
by Jill Vejnoska
April 2, 2002
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Just in case New Mexico television viewers were wondering, the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department wanted them to know that an episode of "The West Wing" scheduled to air Wednesday night is fictional.

The NBC drama series about life in the White House was to feature a story line about a crash of a heavy rig bearing uranium fuel rods in a remote Idaho tunnel.

"The scenario described is completely fictional," the department said in a news release issued Tuesday, later adding, "New Mexico has no tunnels." Neither, it added, does Idaho. In fact, New Mexico does have a tunnel on U.S. 82 between Alamogordo and Cloudcroft.

Anne Clark, the department's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant coordinator, said Wednesday that the news release should have said New Mexico has no tunnels on roads designated for vehicles hauling radioactive and other hazardous materials.

Diane Kinderwater, spokeswoman for Gov. Gary Johnson, approved the release, issued on the governor's letterhead. "We're not trying to offend anybody's intelligence but they see vignettes and think that it could happen," Kinderwater said. "Why not try to give correct information?"

Kinderwater said the idea for the release came from state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Betty Rivera.


"We want to assure people that this is not a possible scenario and we're prepared for anything that could happen in terms of an accident or some kind of security issue," she said.

"As officials of the state, they (Rivera and Clark) felt this was the time to let the public know that they don't have anything to fear from anything on the program," Kinderwater said. "Sometimes the power of television is very strong. They're just trying to be responsible."

"Remember, 'West Wing' is fictional -- New Mexico"
by Heather Clark
April 3, 2002
Associated Press

Hockey took it on the chin in the West Wing on Wednesday night as the NBC television show briefly debated the merits of the coolest game on ice.

In an episode whose storyline was attributed to Dee Dee Myers, onetime White House press secretary to Bill Clinton, White House deputy communications director Sam Seaborn -- played by Rob Lowe -- debated the merits of hockey after attending a Washington Capitals game.

"Hockey's merits up for debate on West Wing"
by Unknown
April 3, 2002
Sporting News

Nevadans differed Thursday whether this week's nuclear waste episode of "The West Wing" lived up to its hype, but the show drew an immediate and angry reaction from companies that transport nuclear materials.

Officials from two nuclear transportation firms said Thursday they are inviting transport companies, emergency preparedness and security officials to join a coalition to combat a Nevada-led "disinformation campaign" about shipment safety.

They said "The West Wing" was the final straw. "This film might as well have been produced in Las Vegas. It is part of a calculated campaign being waged by opponents of Yucca Mountain," said David Blee, a representative of Atlanta-based NAC International.

"We felt it was time to get off the sidelines," Blee said.

At a news conference, Blee and Jack Edlow, president of Edlow International, dissected a videotaped portion of "The West Wing" episode for inaccuracies.


Sheen portrays President Josiah Bartlet in "The West Wing." At points in Wednesday night's show, he and other characters seemed to be speaking from an anti-Yucca script.

Near the program's conclusion, Sheen's character delivers a commentary on nuclear waste cask safety.

"We pack this stuff in 2 inches of stainless steel, 4 inches of lead," he said. "We've rammed it with trains and dropped it from helicopters and it still isn't going to protect us from the thing we haven't thought of."

Sheen referenced a nuclear waste cask that was blasted by a missile in a filmed test at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. "They showed me a video," he said.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., made public such a video earlier this month. Dee Dee Myers, former press secretary in the Clinton White House, was credited with forming the story, in which "The West Wing" fictional White House staff learns that a truck carrying spent uranium fuel has crashed in a tunnel in Idaho.

Myers had discussed waste shipping scenarios with Nevada officials as she was developing a plot early in March.


"We'll take any of the free media," Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said after viewing the program. "They said all the right things, but because it was one of the subplots, I don't think it had nearly as much effect.

"It was a little bit disappointing," he said. Berkley, who watched the program with aides and environmental activists, said she was satisfied.

"It got the message across in a very soft way, it was woven into the fabric of the show," she said.

Nevada officials said they are considering how they could take advantage of whatever edge the television show might give the state.

Nancy Todd Tyner, a Las Vegas political consultant, said Nevada officials need to strike quickly if they want to capitalize on free publicity.

"The only way it would help is if people related (the episode) to Nevada," she said. "I would turn it into a real proactive campaign. I would have done that this morning."

"'West Wing' nuclear waste story line called Nevada 'disinformation'"
by Steve Tetreault
April 5, 2002
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Last week's thriller was written by Dee Dee Myers, President Bill Clinton's first press secretary. She had the idea of dramatizing the question of nuclear waste, which is about to be voted on in the Senate. Myers figured that the fight over a repository in Nevada's Yucca Mountain had the right stuff for the show, and she was right. She imagined an accident in a Nevada tunnel in which a truck transporting radioactive waste is hit by another truck, with God knows what consequences on a nearby city.


He is, as he tells his chief of staff, "a half-hour ahead" of those around him in technical information about the strength of the casks carrying the radioactive waste. He doesn't take sides on the question of storing radioactive waste from all nuclear plants in one state -- that isn't the "West Wing" way. Nor does anyone touch on the larger question -- the future of nuclear energy, which permanent storage would help decide. Senate Democratic Whip Harry Reid of Nevada, who is leading the fight against the Yucca Mountain site, was nonetheless ecstatic. Thursday morning his phones were ringing with congratulations that held out hope of checks to help the campaign fund and celebrity endorsements from Hollywood. Reid conveyed his joy to Dee Dee Myers.

Reid and his Republican colleague Sen. John Ensign are at the door-to-door phase of their drive. They call on their fellow senators, sometimes together, seeking support. Yucca is a tough vote. The White House is all for the repository -- Vice President Cheney is a nuclear energy fan. Democrats are torn between pleasing Reid and pleasing their constituents, who favor Yucca because they sure don't want to see radioactive waste dumped in their states.

If gratitude were the operating principle, Reid would have no trouble rounding up unanimous Democratic support. He made what most senators regard as the supreme sacrifice: He gave up the chairmanship of the Senate's environmental committee, stepping aside in favor of Jim Jeffords, the Vermont Republican who switched to independent and made the Senate Democratic. Majority Leader Tom Daschle asked Reid to deliver Jeffords, and Reid came through. Democrats with gavels owe their chairmanships to Reid, something they would just as soon forget now, as he comes knocking on their doors.


Clinton chief of staff John Podesta is a fan particularly of last week's "West Wing," since he is a consultant to Harry Reid on Yucca Mountain. He thinks the show conveys the "intensity and the commitment of the White House staff."

"'West Wing' View"
by Mary McGrory
April 7, 2002
Washington Post

For now, though, they say the "West Wing" episode is helping to spread their message.

"It certainly brought out some of the concerns [that] I think are legitimate," said Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.).

Others were less impressed. Spokesmen from the Energy Department and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry's leading lobbying group, played down the significance of the show, saying it would have little effect on public opinion or the debate in Congress.

Some industry officials, though, aren't taking their chances. Jack Edlow, president of Edlow International Co., a firm that ships nuclear materials, announced that he and other industry officials will launch a campaign to help protect their public image.

"There were just so many inaccuracies that you can't really say that it was even anything other than total fiction," Edlow said of the show. "Yet it was presented in a way that the public would tend to think that there was some truth to it, because they don't know these things."

"Prime Time for Yucca Controversy Gives Wing to Opponents' Message"
by Brian Faler
April 7, 2002
Washington Post

"With nuclear energy comes the need to store spent fuel in a secure and environmentally sound fashion, and we agree with President Bush that Yucca Mountain is the right site in light of these concerns," said Michael Baroody, NAM's [National Association of Manufacturers'] executive director.

Baroody ridiculed a recent episode of the NBC-TV's "The West Wing," a fictionalized account of a Democratic White House, that featured a radioactive accident, the same type foes of the Yucca Mountain project warn could occur.

"Fictionalized television has everything to do with ratings and little if anything to do with real life," Baroody said. "The real record for transportation of spent fuel is incredibly safe."

"Nevada Triggers Nuclear Waste Battle in Congress"
by Thomas Ferraro
April 9, 2002

But the state campaign -- boosted by catchy slogans like "Hell no, we won't glow" -- is short of money. After failing to raise the $10 million it says it needs, Nevada is now soliciting donations $1 at a time.

Last week, Nevada had to pass on buying expensive commercial time on an episode of "The West Wing" that depicted the fictional White House dealing with a nuclear transportation accident.

The ads were expected to raise the specter of a radioactive accident in one of the 43 states through which trucks and trains would carry spent nuclear fuel to Yucca Mountain.

"Nevada Has Cash Crunch in Dump Fight"
by Ken Ritter
April 10, 2002
Associated Press

In the course of this plot line, President Jed Bartlet, an erudite Nobel Prize winner (but not in literature), refers to the great epic "Beowulf" as a classic of Middle English.

Zounds! It's in Old English, and didn't the e-mails make that clear! Will there be a script with a Beowulf makeup test?

In the same episode, actor Martin Sheen, who plays the president, pronounced "cavalry"--as in the George Custer horseback cluster--as "Calvary"--as in the last sufferings of Jesus. At least it isn't like Jimmy Carter, who spent four years, and not just one weekly hour of prime time, mispronouncing "nuclear" as "new-cue-lur."

Aaron Sorkin, creator of this prime-time administration, responded, "Ic agan nic answaru"--in Old English, roughly: "no comment."

"Cake Is High in Irony but Davis Isn't Biting"
by Patt Morrison
April 15, 2002
Los Angeles Times

Until recently, the long-running debate over the wisdom of burying radioactive waste for centuries beneath Yucca Mountain has been a dreary affair, dominated by technocrats, politicians and environmentalists spewing often conflicting and mind-numbing data about geological faults and transportation risks. As the Senate prepares to take up the measure next month, however, the battle is shaping up in part as a Hollywood thriller.

It pits the improbable team of former New Hampshire GOP governor Sununu and onetime liberal House Democrat Ferraro against an array of anti-nuke luminaries including Streisand, Martin Sheen, Melissa Gilbert, Tim Robbins, Alec Baldwin, Morgan Freeman and Mike Farrell.

"On Yucca Mountain, the Stars Come Out"
by Eric Pianin
June 16, 2002
Washington Post

Sorkin: There are AA meetings going on all over the world, 24 hours a day. I guarantee you that within five miles of you there's one happening right now. And you don't need a ticket ... nobody checks your I.D. There are a few exceptions. Commercial-airline pilots have private AA meetings, so do judges and surgeons. So it occurred to me that somewhere, deep in the basement of government, late at night in Washington, D.C., is an AA meeting for government officials so high-profile that they couldn't possibly go to a regular meeting.

Longworth: Do you know if your assumption was correct?

Sorkin: I have no idea, (but) I would be very surprised if there weren't. I have to believe that with 545 congressmen and senators, agency directors and White House staff, there have got to be a bunch of people there who are recovering alcoholics, and it wouldn't shock me at all if there were such a meeting.

"Aaron Sorkin worried about effect on writing of getting off drugs"
by Jim Longworth
April 11, 2003
Winston-Salem Journal

There are also some benefits to having your son work on a popular television show. On her [Helen Hanson] 75th birthday, she got a phone call from none other than Martin Sheen, one of the stars of the "West Wing."

"He was working one night, and when they weren't busy, he mentioned to Martin Sheen that it was my 75th birthday. So he called me and wished me a happy birthday," she said.

In fact, Patrick Hanson said the phone call even surprised him.

"It was just out of the blue, that just the kind of guy he is," Hanson said.

"Crivitz native nominated for Emmy for 'West Wing' work"
by Eric LaRose
August 23, 2003
Eagle Herald

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