The West Wing Episode Guide -
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Original Airdate 09-24-03 Rerun 01-21-04

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As the fifth season opens, it is seven hours after Zoey Bartlet's kidnapping and the President has temporarily relinquished his office to Republican House Speaker Glenallen Walken (John Goodman), who reviews military options upon receiving a ransom note demanding the release of Pakistani terrorists and a pullout of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia and Qumar. Meanwhile, Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield) tells C.J. he's going to post his story on the Shareef assassination; and the Democratic congressional leadership is unhappy with Bartlet's handover (as is Josh). Also unhappy with the President is his eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Annabeth Gish), who has arrived at the White House with her husband and two children.
From NBC:
Resuming from last season's cliffhanger, the world watches the desperate search for the President's (Martin Sheen) abducted daughter while rival administrations form an uneasy alliance as they weigh options that might include a preemptive military strike at terrorist targets -- a move that could doom the victim. After President Bartlet invoked the 25th Amendment, House Speaker Walken (John Goodman) addresses the nation after the news breaks about Bartlet's assassination of a Qumari terrorist leader last year, more anti-American violence occurs overseas and the weary President gathers his family at the White House -- but faces losing their respect after news reports of the Qumari incident.
From Warner Bros.:

As the White House reels from the kidnapping of Zoey (Elisabeth Moss), the youngest daughter of Democratic U.S. President Josiah Edward Bartlet (Martin Sheen), the government is temporarily passed from the distraught Bartlet to the Republican party--specifically Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken (John Goodman)--due to the prior resignation of Bartlet's Vice President. First lady Dr. Abigail "Abbey" Bartlet (Stockard Channing) staunchly supports her husband, but the trauma of potentially losing their child forces her to confront Bartlet with the harrowing notion that the crisis was the direct result of the assassination of a dangerous foreign official he ordered months ago.

As always, professorial Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) serves as Bartlet's political and emotional buttress. Ever present is highly regarded Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), whose capable assistant, Donna Moss (Janel Moloney), keeps him grounded. Press Secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney remains cool and competent in the media briefing room, and rumpled Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), focuses on the emergency, even as he quietly celebrates the birth of his twins. Deputy Communications Director Will Bailey (Joshua Malina) rises to the occasion, and the President's brilliant young personal assistant, Charlie Young (Dulé Hill), keeps a constant vigil over Bartlet instead of serving acting President Walken.

Knowing Walken's warlike tendencies, Bartlet's staff worries that Walken will order military action against Qumar, the country that seems to have harbored the terrorists who kidnapped Zoey, despite the fact that it is an ally of the U.S. A ransom note demands the release of three convicted terrorists in Pakistan and the removal of American military personnel in the region.

Meanwhile, reporter Danny Concanon (Timothy Busfield) threatens to print a story linking Bartlet to the assassination of an official from Qumar before the White House can admit the truth publicly. Josh and the others search for potential vice presidents for when Bartlet returns to office. Walken proves quite presidential in his first major press conference, although his political views diverge dramatically from Bartlet's. And, painfully, Toby and Will prepare two speeches--one if Zoey is found alive and one if she isn't.



Stockard Channing as Abbey (Abigail Ann) Bartlet M.D. First Lady
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
Joshua Malina as Will (William) Bailey Deputy Communications Director
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
Timothy Busfield as
Danny (Daniel) Concannon Washington Post Reporter
John Amos as
Admiral Percy "Fitz" Fitzwallace Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
Lily Tomlin as
Debbie (Deborah) Fiderer President's Secretary
Guest Starring    
Nina Siemaszko as Ellie (Eleanor Emily) Bartlet Bartlets' middle daughter
Anna Deavere Smith as Dr. Nancy McNally National Security Advisor
Annabeth Gish as Elizabeth "Liz" Bartlet Westin Bartlets' eldest daughter
Clark Gregg as Special Agent Michael Casper "Mike" / FBI
Geoff Pierson as Senator Triplehorn Senate Minority Leader
Zeljko Îvanek as Steve Atwood Walken Staffer
Steven Eckholdt as Doug Westin Elizabeth Bartlet Westin's husband
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Charlotte Colavin as Sheila Fields Member of Dem. Leadership
Thomas Kopache as Bob "Bobby" Slatterly Assisant Secretary of State
Ben Guillory as Jackson Member of Dem. Leadership
John Goodman (uncredited) as Glenallen "Glen" Walken President of the United States
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
Richard F. Whiten as Winston FBI
Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell (last name) / Reporter
Charles Noland as Steve Reporter
Mindy Seeger as Chris Reporter
John Colella as Reporter 2  
Hira Ambrosino as Reporter 3  
Ivan Allen as Reporter 4 Roger Salier

Information Links



Emmy Awards

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

ASC Awards

Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Episodic TV Series Nomination for
Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.

Media Quotes

TVGO: Will you take over as showrunner?
[John] Wells: I will in the interim, in the sense that Tommy and Aaron together have really been running the show. We knew that this would be Tommy's last season all year, so [other producers] have been taking over more and more of those producorial responsibilities. So what I will probably be doing is some additional supervision on the producorial end, and then putting the writing staff together and really supervising the writing of the show. And I'll probably get up the courage and try and write a couple of [episodes] myself.

TVGO: What changes will we see next season?
[John] Wells: I don't have a clue. We'll start that up in the next couple of weeks. We're very proud of the show and have continued to be proud of the show. I can't tell you why people stopped watching the show.

"West Wing Creator Quits! What Now?"
by Michael Ausiello
May 2, 2003
TV Guide Online

Martin and his "West Wing" troops are a bit on the ropes, what with the departure of the show's creator Aaron Sorkin and director, Tommy Schlamme. He says, "We felt a bit like we'd been orphaned for a few days, but after the initial shock, we determined to regroup and get behind our producer John Wells and carry on."


"But we have a solid staff. We still need a new head writer, and there is no other Aaron Sorkin. He was 'The West Wing,' but we will find our way. We are on for two more years should it continue, and I'll stick around for as long as it does."

"'Wing' and a Player"
by Liz Smith
May 14, 2003

The Bartlet administration is getting a shake-up and we're not talking about the departure of "West Wing" creator Aaron Sorkin. "Roseanne"'s John Goodman joins the cast of the NBC drama May 14 as a Republican speaker of the House. Now that VP John Hoynes (Tim Matheson) has resigned, will Goodman become Bartlet's wing man? Allison Janney hints that the situation is "pretty monumental" – something that could "happen in our government but has never happened. It's going to have amazing repercussions for next season." Adds costar John Spencer, "He's going to become quite involved in the Bartlet administration."

"On the Air"
by William Keck and Lynette Rice
May 16, 2003
Entertainment Weekly

In the wake of his daughter's kidnapping, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) relinquished his commander-in-chief post to the speaker (John Goodman) -- leading some to wonder whether Sheen's political activism finally did him in at NBC. "Martin's under contract," says a show rep. "He'll be back." As a result, Roseanne's former TV hubby shouldn't make himself too cozy in the Oval Office. Says Goodman's spokesperson: "He's only contracted to do one episode in the fall -- the season premiere."

"Spoiler Alert! Cliffhanger Mysteries Resolved!"
by Michael Ausiello
May 23, 2003
TV Guide Online

The West Wing: NBC Entertainment President Jeff Zucker assured TV critics that President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) will remain a central figure in The West Wing, despite surrendering presidential powers in the May 14 cliff-hanger. "Nobody will be leaving the cast. I don't anticipate that Martin Sheen will leave the show," he says. "I don't want to give too much away, and we do know where the story is going."

"Despite their finales, shows will go on"
by John Kiesewetter
May 28, 2003
Cincinnati Enquirer

Yet if there is a struggle as to whether Bartlet should regain the Oval Office, Section 4 of the amendment spells out the rules for what should be at most a 21-day political brawl.

"Television's newest star: the 25th Amendment"
by Jonathan E. Kaplan
May 28, 2003
The Hill

Regarding "The West Wing," in which she plays the first lady, she doesn't think the departure of Aaron Sorkin will be fatal, "unless the show completely turns to crap, but I don't think that's going to happen." - Stockard Channing

"Beating around the Bushes"
by Leah Garchik
May 30, 2003
San Francisco Chronicle

"I heard [John] Wells say that Aaron is irreplaceable and they won't create a faux Sorkin voice," Malina says. "I think it's going to become a more collaborative vision."


But political insight does make the series unique and raises it above the he-loves-me, he-loves-me-not fare seen on many other dramas. Thesps are concerned the relationship storylines might become too prominent come the fall.

"I fear that," says John Spencer, who plays all-business chief of staff Leo McGarry. "I love a healthy mix (of politics and personalities). I think you have to balance it."

"Personally, I would like it to remain a policy show," says Malina, who also starred in Sorkin's "Sports Night." "These people are so devoted to their jobs that Aaron felt it wasn't important to tell you who they're dating.

"But I think you need a touch of that. It's certainly possible more of that would mean more people would watch, but I don't know if that's good for the show."

"Political repercussions"
by Stuart Levine
June 13, 2003

Strangers keep stopping Elisabeth Moss on the street.

Perhaps that has something to do with the 20-year-old actress obviously knowing what happens next to her character, Zoey Bartlet, on NBC's "The West Wing."

The kidnapping of the president's daughter at the end of the season inspired a cliff-hanger. But Moss isn't talking. "If I told them," she says, "it would ruin the surprise for them."

"From Zoey to Franny"
by Barbara Isenberg
June 15, 2003
Los Angeles Times

Asked if she had reservations about going back to the show, Tomlin said, "Yeah. But they (left) such an imprint, such a template. I don't know what the network is doing. They brought in this whole other plot thing, with John Goodman, because I am sure they were getting nervous about the (show's) politics." The show has been accused of having a liberal bent. And, Tomlin said, "The country is so to the right, so conservative. And things like 'The Bachelorette' and whatever other reality show was hurting the ratings. And Martin is very political and he was very in the news, especially around the Iraqi war. ... But (remaining executive producer) John Wells is a very sharp guy and Aaron and Tommy ... left a big imprint."

by R.D. Heldenfels
July 12, 2003
Akron Beacon Journal

[All About] The Andersons cast exits the ballroom at the end of the press conference, at which point Amos can be overheard telling a reporter that he's actually "looking forward" to an Aaron Sorkin-less West Wing.

"Secrets Spilled at WB Fall Preview Event"
by Michael Ausiello
July 14, 2003
TV Guide Online

I haven't seen the first script yet. I don't even know what will happen. I hope it will continue to be as much fun as the past. - Allison Janney

July 15, 2003
MSN Chat

The accent routine gets a French twist when [Trent] Ford talks about returning to "The West Wing" this fall. "I do not know, you know? They leave me on coma, you know? I am on drug. I have no idea. ..."

"The life and times of Trent Ford "
by Linda Hoy Socha
July 17, 2003
Sun Newspapers

[John] Spencer said. "And now we have John Wells, who's certainly no slouch, taking over." Spencer, who won the supporting drama actor trophy last year, said he already has read the script of the first episode of the upcoming season, penned by Wells. "It's great, it all bodes well," he said.

"Emmys: Nominees react"
by Cynthia Littleton, Nellie Andreeva and Andrew Wallenstein
July 18, 2003
Hollywood Reporter

"We go back to work the 21st. I have no idea what's going to happen," says Janney. "We were all devastated that Aaron is leaving us because he's the star of the show and we could not imagine it without him, but now it's our reality that he's gone. That's what's in front of us, and we can either dread it or accept it and be excited about the new opportunities, which is what I'm choosing to do."

"What's in and out of Allison Janney's comfort zone"
by Chris Hewitt
July 20, 2003
Pioneer Press

"I don't think there's a huge change in the show," [Jeff] Zucker told critics and TV journalists gathered for NBC's presentation at the annual Television Critics Association press tour.

"Whatever is gone with not having that small talk and small banter, I think that what John has brought to these first two scripts is some incredible, emotional moments," Zucker said. "Where you might miss a little of the small talk in the hallway, you're going to be quite taken with how gut-wrenching and emotional it is."

" 'West Wing' Returns with New Writing Team"
by Unknown
July 24, 2003

After Sorkin bailed, John Wells (ER, Third Watch) was tapped to run the show and right what had become an off-course ship. Zucker says he has already written the first two scripts. That feat certainly made NBC's bean counters happy, because Sorkin's notoriously late scripts led to costly production overruns.

"We actually got to read the season premiere before they shot it," [Jeff] Zucker says.

Was there any change in tone?

"Obviously, I don't think there's a huge change in the show," he says. "Nobody was better at the small banter and the small talk than Aaron Sorkin. But what John has brought to these first two scripts is some incredible, emotional moments and some incredible character development. Where you may miss a little of the small talk in the hallway, you're going to be quite taken with how gut-wrenching and emotional (the episodes) are."

On the casting front, John Goodman will return as the new president.

"For a while," Zucker points out.

"NBC banks on 'Joey' spinoff"
by Kevin D. Thompson
July 26, 2003
Palm Beach Post

Work on the show's new season is just beginning for Janney. And although she doesn't yet know what's ahead for C.J., she hopes that romance is waiting in the Wing.

"I love the personal-relationship side of C.J.," she says with a chuckle. "I think I've got the press briefings down pretty much, and I'd love to get into some complicated relationship scenarios."

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

Veteran actor John Amos has made several "West Wing" appearances as Adm. Percy Fitzwallace. "I know it's going to be a change," said Amos. "You don't replace a talent like Aaron Sorkin. "We've all learned to speak Sorkinese, which is a very special language developed by Aaron for the cast. "I don't know what it's going to sound like. Is it going to go in a less liberal direction? Or more liberal? The show may very well become more conservative."

"Stars and strife"
by Dave Walker
August 9, 2003
New Orleans Times-Picayune

Last season ended with the president's daughter, Zoey, being kidnapped from a nightclub as she was celebrating her graduation. Martin Sheen, who plays the president, said he doesn't want "to spoil it" - but they go after the kidnappers and try to get her back.

"There's a lot of family conflict because it's revealed that I gave the OK to assassinate Sharif," Sheen told AP Radio. "And this kidnapping of my daughter is a retaliatory action it seems. So I have to confront the family on my decision."


"We appreciate Aaron's talent now, perhaps more than ever," Sheen said. "That doesn't belittle what we're doing now. It's just different. And we have to let go of the old and accept the new.

"Nonetheless, it's still 'The West Wing.' It's still his creation. We are still the characters he started with. And we're still going in the direction he pointed us."


"It's like having the same players, with a new playbook and a new coach."

"'The West Wing' Hits the Ground Running"
by Unknown
August 27, 2003
Associated Press

While the characters' personal lives will remain largely in the background, this season will have a renewed focus on the Bartlet family, including the addition of daughter Elizabeth (Annabeth Gish), who arrives with her husband (Steven Eckholdt) following Zoey Bartlet's cliff-hanger abduction. "We're going to get to know more about the First Family to illuminate what the costs of pursuing this office are," says Wells.


Despite the overhaul, "Wing"'s Commander-in-Chief continues to project confidence. "This show is never going to be what it was with Aaron and Tommy, and we've got to let it go. We can't live in the past," says Sheen. "I'm extremely gratified by John's first two scripts. John started with the show, and he knows why it works."

"The West Wing"
by Allison Hope Weiner
September 12, 2003
Entertainment Weekly

"John (executive producer John Wells) has a tremendous sense of obligation to keep the caliber up. There's an excitement about it. It's like the first year of a new show." - Stockard Channing

"Channing a classic late bloomer 'West Wing' role and Woody Allen movie give career a boost"
by Nancy Mills
September 14, 2003
San Francisco Chronicle

He [Jeff Zucker] is enthusiastic about his efforts to revive "Frasier" by urging its top writers to come back, and about the replacement of Aaron Sorkin, the creator and sole writer of "The West Wing," with the experienced producer John Wells. (Mr. Zucker called the first episode under Mr. Wells the best in the show's history, a rather tall claim for the award-winning show.)

"With No Knockouts, NBC's Champ Faces Jabs"
by Bill Carter and Jim Rutenberg
September 15, 2003
New York Times

John Wells tried to get Aaron Sorkin to write the first couple of episodes for this season on "The West Wing" but he declined, Wells says.

"I begged him for over a month to come in to do the first couple," Wells told TV critics during a phone Q&A session to discuss the return of the series.

"He felt it was time for us to do it on our own," Wells said diplomatically during that phoner late Thursday.


Writing the first two episodes of this season on "The West Wing," Wells said, was "like being Ethel Merman's understudy on 'Gypsy' and at intermission she comes down with the flu and . . . the stage manager announces to the crowd, 'In the second act, Miss Merman's part will be played by John Wells' and you hear this groan.

"It was a terrifying experience because you are staring up at the talent of Aaron Sorkin and that's daunting," he added.


He also promised that "The West Wing" would not turn into a melodrama dealing with the bleak personal lives of the characters -- as has "ER," a series Wells helped create and also executive produces. He acknowledged that they'd heard from "a lot" of people who expressed such fears, but said reassuringly, "I don't think that's where the show is."

"We are going to spend a little more time learning about the first family, but not to the extent where it's more than an episode here and there," Wells said. "The truth is that the rest of [the characters] don't have a home life, because of the job requirements."

"NBC's Early Emmy Preemption"
by Lisa de Moraes
September 20, 2003
Washington Post

But Sheen, who plays President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet on "The West Wing," said the season premiere should erase any doubt that the show has rebounded from the loss. "Honestly, it's one of the best episodes we've done," the actor said of the start of the fifth season, which airs Wednesday on NBC. "I suggest watching it with a lot of Kleenex."

"MILWAUKEE: Sheen shares his thoughts while visiting Marquette"
by Tom Cigelske
September 20, 2003
Associated Press via St Paul Pioneer Press

But we pledged our support to John Wells because we knew his commitment to excellence. He sure knew the show; it wasn't like they were bringing in another writer. We knew from whence he came, and we knew where he was going to go. But it wasn't until a few days ago when we saw the first episode . . . it is one of the best episodes we've ever done, and I love bragging about it. And bring some Kleenex. It is powerful.

Q. So what happens to the president's daughter?

A. Well, I won't tell you that, because you won't tune in and it'll spoil it for you. But it gets really interesting. It ends with a montage from the situation room to the Mass - there's a Mass for the family. . . . You're going to be really deeply moved, I promise you.

"Martin Sheen 'Takes Five'"
by Nahal Toosi
September 20, 2003
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

His latest endeavor, overseeing day-to-day operations on "The West Wing" after the departure of creator Aaron Sorkin in the spring, has him feeling like "Ethel Merman's understudy in 'Gypsy.'"

"The stage manager makes the announcement to the crowd that in the second act, Miss Merman's part will be sung by John Wells, and you hear this kind of groan," Wells says of taking a more hands-on role in the series,...

"That's sort of the mental image I went into writing [the season's first two episodes] with. But I ended up having a lot of fun."


"We've put him through quite a bit," Wells says of the character [Jed Bartlet]. "The whole beginning of the season is actually about just that [question], which is ... he's questioning how he ended up making some of the decisions he's made, and how does he get back to leading in the way he originally envisioned himself leading the country."


n particular, viewers are less likely to see some of the dense monologues and quick banter that were Sorkin trademarks. "Aaron does that exceedingly well, and it's very difficult to do well," Wells says. "It's a wonderful stage technique he developed as a playwright, and when he uses it effectively it's terrific, but it's also one of the hardest things to actually do.

"So if we can do it really well, you'll hear a bunch of it, and if we can't, you won't see it nearly as much."


"The truth is, the rest of them don't have a home life, just because of their job requirements," Wells says. "There were a lot of people who expressed that would be a fear of where we were headed, but I just don't think that's really what the show is."


"Our characters aren't changing, but the world in which they live [is]," Wells says. "It will force them to have more and more of those conversations and to hear more of other points of view."

"New 'West Wing' Chief Toes Party Line"
by Rick Porter
September 22, 2003

In the midst of discussing tense issues, President Walken stops and scolds his ugly dog that's barking and scratching on the furniture.

A typical Aaron Sorkin scenario.


Taking over the spotlight Wednesday is Spencer as Leo McGarry, the president's chief of staff, now working for President Walken.

Bartlet wants to know what's going on in the Oval Office. McGarry politely, yet firmly says, "I can't tell you, sir," a reminder to Bartlet he's no longer president and is out of the loop.

"'West Wing' takes right turn"
by Dusty Saunders
September 22, 2003
Rocky Mountain News

"Aaron and Tommy left us with a brilliant fictional world," Llewellyn Wells said in a recent phone interview. "There may be a slightly different take on things, maybe a bit more plot-driven. Aaron's voice as a writer is so distinctive that I don't think anyone here wants to try to imitate his style. It's futile. There will be some changes in the way the characters sound, but they'll be subtle changes."

"New 'West Wing' team earns our vote of confidence"
by Diane Holloway
September 22, 2003
Austin American-Statesman

The show ended in a cliffhanger last May with President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) invoking the 25th Amendment after terrorists kidnap his daughter and the conservative Speaker of the House (John Goodman) becomes acting president.

"How am I supposed to get out of that?" Wells joked about the storyline concocted by Sorkin. Wells confessed he begged Sorkin to at least write the first episodes wrapping up the plot, but he refused. Wells said he felt like the "understudy to Ethyl Merman in Gypsy' when she comes down sick at intermission."

"'West Wing': Dark times, new writer"
by Rick Bird
September 23, 2003
Cincinnati Post

During "a self-pitying moment" this summer, Wells and his wife rewatched the season finale, which included President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) stepping down from office. "When it finished, I turned to her and said, 'How am I supposed to get out of that?' But doing it was actually a terrific head start. Aaron's instinct was right."

As for how the show will change in his hands, "My hope is that you don't sense it's very different," Wells said.

"'8 Simple Rules' will add Ritter's death to storyline"
by Gail Pennington
September 23, 2003
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"The world changed substantially just over two years ago," he said. "Because we're an entertainment program, we need to address the fact that in our audience's minds, something really has changed in the way that we look at the world and political problems and what we need from our political leaders."

Wells said he wants "The West Wing" to remain relevent to its audience "without making the show too ponderous or too earnest" -- and he sort of joked that the diversity of political viewpoints among the show's writers and consultants helps a lot to make that happen.he consulting staff including former Democratic White House staffers such as Dee Dee Myers, Gene Sperling, and Lawrence [O'Donnell Jr.] and Kenneth Duberstein, who served as Chief of Staff to former Republican president Ronald Reagan.

"We get to have hours of angry denunciation -- back and forth conversations -- which we're hoping to be able to infuse the show with," said Wells. "My own sense of it is that the country is more divided than it has been in my lifetime -- and I don't mean over sort of specific moral issues of the Clinton years, but over the direction that we should be taking. And the more that we can reflect that division, the more interesting I think the show is for our audience."

"Analysis: 'West Wing's' fresh start"
by Pat Nason
September 23, 2003
United Press International

As Walken, Mr. Goodman sheds all his usual bonhomie and lets the Bartlet loyalists know who is boss the way Johnson was wont to: he makes the press secretary, C. J. Cregg, come in close to straighten his tie while he questions her loyalty. His supercilious congressional aides do not bother to cloak their contempt for their Democratic hosts. Meanwhile the president and first lady are huddled refugees in a guest suite of their own White House, waiting for a whisper of hope, like ordinary distraught parents.

Walken is a hawk and an unrefined bully. (He has a small, yapping dog that sits on antique silk armchairs and has to be walked by senior aides.) But as a commander in chief, he is also decisive, strong-willed and surprisingly good at news conferences. When asked by a reporter if he regrets his predecessor's secret order to assassinate a Qumari terrorist leader, Walken retorts, "My regret is that we only got to kill the bastard once."

Bartlet's staff members watch in awe and dismay, a few fretting over how the United Nations will react. "I'm sorry, he looks, I dunno," says Donna, assistant to a Bartlet aide, Josh Lyman, and at a loss for the right word.

"Presidential," Josh supplies gloomily.


There are a few awkward bits of dialogue that indicate that a new team is in charge. When a Walken aide recommends closing the markets to avert a financial panic, Toby, Bartlet's chief speechwriter, delivers a cliché that since Sept. 11 has often been reserved for satire. "If we close them," he says solemnly, "then the terrorists win."

"A New Regime at the White House"
by Alessandra Stanley
September 24, 2003
New York Times

"I was scared to death," Wells said in a conference call. "It was a terrifying experience because you are staring up at the talent of Aaron Sorkin."

Wells tried to talk Sorkin into writing the first episodes this season, essentially getting Bartlet, and Wells, out of the pickle Sorkin created.

"I think 'begging' wouldn't be too strong a word for it," Wells said. "I begged him for over a month to come and do the first couple, and he felt it was time for us to do it on our own."

Wells said he and Sorkin still talk often, but not so much about the show as about their craft.

"We had lunch last week," Wells said. "You know, writing is so damn hard. He was like, 'How you doing? Are you holding up?' It's shop talk. It's two writers getting together and complaining."

"Taking office"
by Rick Kushman
September 24, 2003
Sacramento Bee

But Wells brings something better to "7A WF 83429" (Zoey Bartlet's FBI case number): sadness and tension.

"'West Wing' has life; 'Practice' doesn't"
by Eric Deggans
September 24, 2003
St. Petersburg Times

Meanwhile, deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) is doing what many viewers like myself where doing last May when the president handed the office to his rival party for the good of the country. He wonders aloud if it is a mistake, which sends the wrong message to the world. Josh also asks some other pointed political questions that need to be asked.

President Bartlet, meanwhile, is off in the residential quarters dealing with his frightened wife, Abby (Stockard Channing), his other children who have come home at a time of crisis and his guilt for possibly provoking the family crisis. In various poses, the once and future president looks like a beaten man, holding on to hope with a wing and a prayer.


Little touches like the moment the Bartlet children arrive to greet their parents and the night the Washington, D.C., community holds a candlelight vigil for Zoe are underplayed superbly, saying a lot without saying anything.

There also is a decent media sub-plot involving the aggressive reporter, Danny Concannon (Timothy Busfield). One doubts that he would be as aggressive in reporting a story that could jeopardize the life of the president's daughter - or that his editor would allow him to be. Certainly, there would be some kind of debate over the repercussions for his employer if the report led to Zoe's death. But even with those doubts, it is a strong plot line that shows us another ethical side of presidential spokesperson C.J. (Allison Janney).

"'West Wing' looks for another successful term "
by Alan Pergament
September 24, 2003
Buffalo News

John Wells has been the driving creative force behind the most popular television show of the last decade, "E.R.," but he says the prospect of stepping into the breach to take over NBC's admired White House drama, "The West Wing," has left him feeling daunted.

"I have had a lot of sleepless nights over this," Mr. Wells said in a telephone interview. "There's going to be a lot of scrutiny, and I know it."


Mr. Wells himself wrote tonight's first new episode as well as next week's. He said he had consciously tried to emulate Mr. Sorkin's writing style.

While Mr. Wells said Mr. Sorkin had generously read scripts and given helpful advice, the show is not being run anything like the way Mr. Sorkin ran it.

So far the results have been gratifying, Mr. Wells said, at least in terms of the response he has gotten from the cast. "Martin Sheen said it felt a bit like being orphaned when Aaron left," Mr. Wells said. "But he's been very supportive, as has the rest of the cast. I think if we all do our best work, we might be able to get close to the work Aaron did."

"'The West Wing' Comes to Terms With the G.O.P."
by Bill Carter
September 24, 2003
New York Times

It even ends with one of Sorkin's favorite crutches, an operatic montage set to the heightened New Age strains of Lisa Gerrard's "Sanvean" that rubs our noses in emotional catharsis.

"A new chief slightly alters 'West Wing'"
by Matthew Gilbert
September 24, 2003
Boston Globe

" 'The West Wing' is still really high quality, even after Aaron left," she said of creator-guiding spirit Aaron Sorkin, who left the show after four seasons. "It's a very familial kind of set. Most of the cast has been together a long time, and they know they have a really great show."

"Busy Tomlin makes time for live comedy in Akron"
by Clint O'Connor
October 1, 2003
Cleveland Plain Dealer

In the season premiere of NBC's The West Wing last September, there was a great scene where fictional Washington Post correspondent Danny Concannon pressures White House press secretary C.J. Cregg to comment on information he's confirmed about the clandestine assassination of a Qumari terrorist leader by the U.S. government. When she feigns ignorance, Danny blurts out, "You've got two hours to find out before we post it online."

I had to smile when I watched that scene, because it represents the idea that the printed newspaper is no longer king -- even in the upper echelons of the newspaper industry. Getting out hot news before everyone else trumps the scheduled print press run, even at The Washington Post.

Is that just fiction? Nope. That's really the way it is at the Post these days.

The Post is one of the leaders in this movement to become less paper and more news. You can spot it elsewhere among leading newspapers -- Wall Street Journal , The New York Times, the Financial Times. Each of these papers will periodically break stories off the print cycle, on the Web because they want to beat their Internet and broadcast competitors.

But I'll put the Post at the head of the pack thanks to its "Continuous News Desk," which was set up last year and now has grown to employ five experienced news editors and writers (who work for the newspaper, not for That small department, which sits smack dab in the middle of the Post newsroom (you can see their desks on CNN when Post reporters do regular on-air interviews), is fast rewriting some old rules about how the venerable Washington Post operates.

"News Is Really Continuous at"
by Steve Outing
January 14, 2004
Editor and Publisher

"We're no longer really a romantic entity," he said. "It's more naturalism and reality-driven drama now."

"A New 'Wing' Takes Flight"
by Noel Holston
January 15, 2004

"I don't write the way that Aaron does," he [John Wells] says. "I've tried hard to write some of what he did because I don't want it to seem so jarringly different to people who like the show. At the same time, Aaron's talent is huge and very specific, and what he does better than anyone else is this extraordinary repartee, the dialogue, the wit, the pace. I couldn't replicate that if I wanted to, and believe me, I've tried."


Sorkin still has a hand in the show, Wells says. He lunches with Wells once a month, receives all the scripts and makes his views known.

"Policy shift on 'West Wing'"
by Hal Boedeker
January 16, 2004
Orlando Sentinel

"What sort of pulled us through [after Aaron Sorkin's departure] was the quality of the performances. This is a show in which the cast is so good, even the scenes that you don't quite hit are interesting, because the performances are interesting." - John Wells

"West Wingers still proud of what they do"
by Tom Jicha
January 28, 2004
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"A lot of us talk sometimes about the new things that we have to deal with as actors," says Janel Moloney, who portrays Donna Moss. "We think they're new, and then we'll say, 'No, no. Actually, we've done something like this three years ago.'


"I don't feel like it's been a spectacular change," Moloney says of the Sorkin-Schlamme departure. "I feel like the integrity and the voice is strikingly close to where we had been, much quicker than I ever expected."


Bradley Whitford, who portrays Josh Lyman, deputy chief of staff, says there's no doubt it was "a hugely emotional and difficult thing to see Aaron and Tommy go away. It was bewildering and disorienting. I always say being on a one-hour drama is like being in an acting cult, and it's like David Koresh left.

"All of us really wondered: Does the idea hold? And I think I speak for the cast that there was a tremendous sense of relief very early on this year that the idea does hold, the characters hold, and the quality of the scripts was going to be high, and that these were going to continue to be interesting stories to act out. And that's a testament to the talent of the writing staff, and it's a testament to Tommy and Aaron's vision, which I think was very strong and audacious."


Just as he might in character as White House communications director Toby Ziegler, Richard Schiff interrupts, "I actually think it's kind of even better than that. I think Aaron Sorkin is a wonderful writer with a certain style of romantic lyricism. He created a very romantic world with 'The West Wing.'

And time is running out on that kind of romantic honeymoon," Schiff says, "in the fictional White House in very much the same way that the real White House runs out on their honeymoon, usually a whole lot sooner. And Aaron presented on a silver platter, I think, for the next generation of writers and for us as characters, the shattering of that romanticism."


He credits Wells for making "the transition as seamless as it was." For his part, Wells says he still lunches with Sorkin once a week and shares all of the scripts with the creator and with Schlamme. "They both watch all the cuts, and we hear from them," Wells says. "They're both involved. It's just harder for Aaron just because it was such an emotional sort of individual activity."

"'West Wing' Remains Stellar"
by Roger Catlin
February 4, 2004
Hartford Courant

I joined "The West Wing" at the beginning of this season. The writers and producers expressed concern at making sure that the arguments of conservative characters be reflected in an honest and straightforward way. I think that this season the creative team at the show has made substantial efforts not to caricature and belittle the conservative characters and their ideas. - John Podhoretz

"Politics: Bush Country"
by John Podhoretz
March 15, 2004
Washington Post Chat Transcript

"It's been a pretty seamless transition, and I think a healthy one," she said. "We were getting to a point where there was a sort of pattern and a style that was choking us a little bit. So it had to be pruned and shaped to improve the health of the tree. We were getting a little tangled up with ourselves. And so far, so good." - Stockard Channing

"She took 'Wing,' and she's still flying"
by Ed Bark
March 17, 2004
Dallas Morning News

But he [John Goodman] hopes a strict diet doesn't make him as crazy as quitting smoking did.

He adds, "I quit a year and a half ago and I turned into a werewolf. I went nuts. I've been smoking since I was in junior high school.

"I did a couple of episodes of THE WEST WING two years ago and I was in the middle of one of these psycho things and turned around and smacked the stage door as hard as I could and my fist immediately swelled up.

"Thank God I didn't break anything but that was the last episode I had - nicotine withdrawal."

"Goodman's Urgent Diet to Avoid Serious Health Problems"
January 12, 2005

"Aaron leaving was hard because everybody loved Aaron," says [Alex] Graves. "And it was hard setting out to keep making the show with John. You can't replace Aaron Sorkin. It was weird because you liked the guy who was there, but he's gone and you like the guy who's come in, but he's not going to write like Aaron."

"The West Wing's Political Shakeup"
by Kevin D. Thompson
February 6, 2005
Palm Beach Post

"It was very challenging -- the most difficult thing I've ever tried to do," Wells says of taking the reins on Season 5 of "West Wing." "But nobody else had really written the show or run the show week in and week out, so the experience I had was required."


At the time, he was "despondent," Wells admits, but eventually he realized that the behind-the-scenes upheaval was a good test for the show.

"The basic premise of ('West Wing') is the continuity of government -- the sense that the government itself is more important than any individual," Wells notes.

"Change Is Good for TV's Master Juggler"
by Cynthia Littleton
February 13, 2005
Hollywood Reporter

"We thought we were done after Aaron left," says two-time Emmy nom Janel Moloney, who plays Donna Moss. "It takes time for a show to deal with a big change like that. We knew the shows would have a different tone."

"Rejuvenation Station"
by Stuart Levine
June 1, 2005

Sorkin stopped writing for the show two years ago. How did that feel?

At first I thought that after he left that would be it for me, but John Wells has taken over and we have a whole staff of writers. I do miss my friend, but they've really kept the show true to what he created. - Joshua Malina

"'West Wing' actor looks east"
by Talya Halkin
June 27, 2005
Jerusalem Post

'I don't watch it,' he [Aaron Sorkin] says over tea at Claridge's. 'I was told never to watch it again by Larry David, who co-created Seinfeld and who stepped away from that before it finished. He said, "Either it's going to be wonderful and you'll be miserable, or it won't be wonderful and you'll still be miserable."'

So, despite writing 70 episodes of The West Wing almost singlehandedly, he hasn't glimpsed a scene since. That sounds very tough.

'It is tough and it was very difficult leaving, a rough transition.'

"Wing and a prayer"
by Jay Rayner
July 10, 2005

Malina has heard the criticism that "West Wing" hasn't been the same since Wells took over for Sorkin three seasons ago.

"I can understand that kind of reaction," Malina said. "But I think people underestimated or were under uninformed about John Wells' background. Not only has he produced some great blockbuster shows, but he is a great writer."

"If you are an Aaron Sorkin fan, and I am, I understand always lamenting his departure. But I also think it is a tribute to Aaron that he created a situation and these great characters that are so solid that with good writers taking them over they still are viable and compelling."

"'West Wing' speechwriter addresses celebrity politics"
by Alan Pergament
September 13, 2005
Buffalo News

"We had a lot of odd internal transitions going on," Alex Graves, one of the show's executive producers, told me at the time. "Aaron leaving was hard because everybody loved Aaron. It was hard to keep making the show with John."

"'West Wing' leaves a proud legacy"
by Kevin D. Thompson
May 13, 2006
Palm Beach Post

"It's a pinnacle for an actor because the writing is so fantastic," says Annabeth Gish, who played Elizabeth, Bartlet's oldest daughter. "In my career, I was the most nervous guest-starring on that show because you have to speak politically, you have to speak eloquently and you have to speak rapidly."

"'West Wing' finale a perfect coda"
by Charlie McCollum
May 14, 2006
San Jose Mercury News

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