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In the Room

Original Airdate 12-08-04 Rerun 07-23-05 9 p.m.

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President Barlet (Martin Sheen) was reelected just two years ago, but executive producer John Wells has been fast-forwarding through his second term and now it's in its final year. Bartlet's MS is recurring too, so might there be a new president in The West Wing fairly soon? One candidate is Sen. Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda), a moderate Republican who has even impressed the GOP-hating Josh (Bradley Whitford). Meanwhile, Penn and Teller display their First Amendment rights in a provocative way at Zoey's White House birthday party.
From NBC:
At a Bartlet family birthday, Penn and Teller burn the American flag in the White House, prompting a publicity nightmare. Aboard Air Force One, Bartlet (Martin Sheen) is stricken by a paralyzing episode due to his MS. Josh (Bradley Whitford) is approached to run the Vice President's presidential campaign.
From Warner Bros.:
At a Bartlet family birthday, magicians Penn and Teller burn the American flag in the White House, prompting a publicity nightmare. Aboard Air Force One, Bartlet is stricken by a paralyzing episode due to his multiple sclerosis. And Josh is approached to handle the Vice President's presidential campaign.


Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Deputy Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Chief of Staff
Joshua Malina as Will (William) Bailey Vice President's Chief of Staff
Mary McCormack as Kate (Katherine) Harper Deputy National Security Advisor
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 Former 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 Appearance By
Alan Alda as
Arnold Vinick Senator R-CA
Special Guest Stars    
Kristin Chenoweth as Annabeth Schott Deputy Press Secretary
Gary Cole as Robert "Bingo Bob" Russell Vice President
Ed O'Neill as Eric Baker Governor of Pennsylvania
Penn & Teller as Themselves  
Guest Starring    
Elisabeth Moss as Zoey Patricia Bartlet Bartlets' youngest daughter
Mary Kay Place as Dr. Millicent "Milly" Griffith Surgeon General
Ron Canada as Theodore "Ted" Barrow Under Secretary of State
Stanley Kamel as Stanley Trade Representative
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Renée Estevez as Nancy Aide
Timothy Davis-Reed as Mark O'Donnell (last name) / Reporter
Kris Murphy as Katie Witt (last name) / Reporter
Ben Murray as Curtis Carruthers Personal Aide to the President
Paul Rae as Walter Reporter
Tracey Costello as Secret Service Agent Agent Moody
Elizabeth Karr as Reporter #4  
James Sharpe as Reporter #5  

Information Links


Media Quotes

Question: For Martin Sheen: I was very excited by the episode where we found out that your character has MS. My mom has MS and it was great to see it addressed in prime time. Will there be more episodes that address this issue and what do you think will happen?

Martin Sheen: The President is gradually going to have to come to grips with the debilitating effect it is having on his body. Depending on how long the show is on the air, we will see the full effects of the disease. If we get the full term. Meaning I would finish 3 years in the 1st administration. If I am reelected it would be 7 years. By then the President would be in a wheel chair is going to be very very interesting.

TV Guide Awards Chat with Martin Sheen
March 5, 2000
TV Guide Online

"It's a slightly unreal element on the show that we haven't had the political sharks circling the White House. That dynamic will now be added." - Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.

"'West Wing': Is It Facing a Struggle to Survive?"
by Bernard Weinraub
August 12, 2004
New York Times

Alan Alda, the Emmy-winning star of the '70s comedy-drama series "M*A*S*H," will guest-star on 10 episodes of the upcoming season of "The West Wing."

Alda will play a Republican senator with presidential aspirations, according to Alda's agent, Toni Howard.


Howard said Monday that Alda decided to guest-star on "The West Wing" because of his experience working with producer John Wells on "ER," for which Alda received an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of an Alzheimer's-afflicted doctor. Wells is the producer of both shows.

"'West Wing' hires Alda"
August 26, 2004
Associated Press

Alan [Arnold] Vinick (Alan Alda), "a socially moderate and fiscally conservative Republican from California in the same political vein as Arnold Schwazenegger."

"‘West Wing' preparing for a new prez"
by Bill Keveney
August 26, 2004
USA Today

"We are moving into what will be an electoral cycle on the show," said Wells. "We came in, six years ago, a year and a half into the Bartlet administration. One of the things we haven't played is the latter part of an administration and, when you no longer have the same political pressures of being re-elected, what you want to accomplish. We want to look at an election campaign. We'll be having our political primaries this year (about a year off the real-life election cycle). During the fall, we're meeting with prospective candidates and watching everyone position themselves for the primaries and the general election."

"New flight for 'West Wing'"
by Mike McDaniel
October 14, 2004
Houston Chronicle

"Part of what we're playing throughout the fall is the growing unease with the leading candidates that show up for the Democratic nomination," [John] Wells says, "and should the White House try behind the scenes to get more involved in seeing if a better candidate should be put forward?"

"Season of Change for 'The West Wing'"
by Rick Porter
October 18, 2004

M*A*S*H star Alda comes aboard in episode eight and plays a Republican senator from California whose wife recently died.

"End of ‘West Wing'? Not so fast"
by Hal Boedeker
October 20, 2004
Orlando Sentinel

The savvy [John] Wells tied both Alda and Smits to two-year deals, which are more code words for "covering your bets."

"Succession by ratings"
by Verne Gay
October 20, 2004

Bartlet, meanwhile, is pondering his legacy and feeling a "growing unease" with the prospective Democratic candidates.

"That, we think, is interesting territory, when you look at who is likely to replace you and realize that you need to stay above the fray and, at the same time, you're not happy with the direction the election is going in," Wells says.

" In 'West Wing' time, it's more"
by Virginia Rohan
October 20, 2004
Bergen Record

Janney, who turns 45 next week, actually has a 25-year-old connection with Alda. She was a classmate and friend of his daughter while the two were at Ohio's Kenyon College.

"Later we were in 'Object of My Affection' (a 1998 made-for-cable movie) together where I played his wife. I had to call him 'sweetie,' so it was very awkward," Janney laughed. "I'm excited about him joining the cast."

"C.J. reluctantly moves up"
by Rick Bird
November 8, 2004
Cincinnati Post

When "The West Wing" was starting up back in 1999, Alan Alda was reportedly one of the actors considered to play President Jed Bartlet, the role that eventually went to Martin Sheen. The story may be apocryphal. If it is true, the show's creator, Aaron Sorkin, and NBC must not have pursued Alda very doggedly, because he doesn't really recall it.

"People have told me that, and it may be true," Alda says. "I actually can't remember."


"He's one of those ideal candidates in a way, because he's moderate on social issues and conservative fiscally, and is willing to debate the issues," Alda says of the character. "So in many ways, he's an idealist."


Thus far, Alda has shot only the first episode of 10, spanning this season and next, that he's signed to do. In that time, though, he's discovered a few parallels between "The West Wing" and his best-known work.

"It's a lot like we were after we'd had a long run on 'M*A*S*H,'" he says. "We had a shorthand with one another, and we could just jump into a scene because we knew the characters so well. And in between scenes we'd kid around and have fun. These people are very funny between scenes. It almost feels like an extension to me of what we went through on 'M*A*S*H.'"

Alda sounds eager to dig deeper into Vinick, but he's appropriately diplomatic about the character's chances of actually becoming president: "I have no plans at this time," he says with a chuckle. "I do not plan to take office.

"Alda Throws His Hat in the 'Wing'"
by Rick Porter
December 6, 2004

"I realize this is way out of fashion, but I have a very high opinion of the American people," said Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller note.

Thus, Penn says he isn't worried about a negative hew and cry arising in response to the flag-burning trick he and his partner will be seen performing on Wednesday night's "The West Wing," which airs at 8 p.m. on NBC. On the show, the illusion sparks plenty of controversy, since it's performed at the White House.

"Anyone who watches this sees it's very respectful - all about how much can you celebrate the idea of freedom of speech," he said. "I think that Jefferson's Marketplace of Ideas is alive and well in the U.S. It's just that the last election was run so much on hate. Then you have the news channels, trying to fill 24 hours, doing the kind of TV that has to be hysterical. A small minority starts to believe the hype and drives themselves crazy. But I think that, as a rule, people of the United States have the basic tenets of what this country is about deeply ingrained in their hearts."

Penn is quick to point out that, as seen in their stage show, the flag-burning routine "is astonishingly patriotic." It includes his observations about the greatness of being able to perform such a trick in a free country, and finally, the flag not only reappears unscathed, but "up on the flag pole where it started, waving in the breeze."

On "The West Wing," they stop short of performing the ending, he said, and "Alan Alda gets to do the speech."

"Penn burns flag on 'West Wing'"
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
December 7, 2004
Creators Syndicate

"I know that Arnold Vinick is a moderate Republican on social issues and a fiscal conservative," Alda told critics during a phone interview.

"So I guess he might be considered an ideal presidential candidate - at least for The West Wing.

"You'll learn more about him as the series rolls along."


"I'm really not interested in doing a regular weekly series again," the 68-year-old actor said.


Alda, a fan of The West Wing, took the role after getting a call from Executive Producer John Wells, who outlined the character.

"I have a lot of respect for John, whom I worked with a couple of seasons ago on ER," Alda said.

"The West Wing is one of the best acted, directed and produced series on television."

Alda indicated he didn't take the role of a Republican senator from California simply to modify his reputation as being a Hollywood liberal.

"I simply like the idea of working on a good TV show in a role that's fun to play. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything."

Responding to a comment by a critic that The West Wing was full of "giddy optimism," Alda said. "One reason I enjoy The West Wing is because it attempts to show what is possible in the democratic process."


Alda claims that one of the joys of working on The West Wing is the on-set camaraderie and humor among the cast and crew.

"From that perspective, The West Wing is an extension of M*A*S*H."

"'West Wing' déjà vu for Alda"
by Dusty Saunders
December 8, 2004
Rocky Mountain News

"Although this guy on The West Wing is a Republican, he's one of those [idyllic] candidates because he's moderate on social issues and conservative fiscally," Alda says. "He is willing to debate issues, looks to do good for his country and is not trying to use public service as a way to increase his holdings in the bank.

"What I'm trying to do with my character is to show what's possible in the democratic process, not look at how awful they are," he adds. "We see how awful it is every night on the news."

Alda certainly sums up the White House drama's spirit very neatly. Sounds like he's angling for Martin Sheen's job once President Bartlet's term expires. "It seems like everybody's falling apart!" he jokes. "I think I'm coming in at the right moment."

But seriously, Hawkeye. "I'm gonna do five episodes this season and five next season," says Alda, who adds he's unaware of any plans for Vinick to actually win the Oval Office. "I don't know what [producer John Wells and his writers] have in mind, but I seriously, strongly doubt that I'd want to do a weekly show. Before I even get to that, what would they do with all these Democrat [characters] that they have under contract if I took office? Let's get serious here."

"Alan Alda for Senator"
by Daniel R. Coleridge
December 8, 2004
TV Guide Online

What clinched the deal for him, said Mr. Alda, was the chance to reteam with John Wells, who took over the reins on "The West Wing" two years ago and continues to lord over "ER." The actor appeared in a multi-episode arc of the medical drama during its 1999 season.

"I trust John Wells completely," Mr. Alda says. "The way he's shepherding the show now is wonderful."

Mr. Alda may be new on the "West Wing" set, but he quickly recognized the bond between cast mates.

"They're a lot like we were after we had a long run on 'M*A*S*H.' We had a shorthand with each other. ... Between scenes we'd kid around and have fun," he reports.

"Alda's political roles"
Compiled by Christian Toto
December 8, 2004
Washington Times

[Anchorage] Mayor Mark Begich fired off a letter Friday to the producers of "The West Wing," taking exception to President Jed Bartlet dissing Anchorage on Wednesday's show.

For earwigs who missed the show and the KTUU story about it, Bartlet had an MS attack while flying to a summit in China. With Air Force One headed west over Alaska, there was a discussion about landing to get medical help. "Fairbanks is closer, but Anchorage is better for us," noted an attendant.

"I have better doctors up here than I'd get down there," Bartlet replied.

The Begich protest notes we have 500 board-certified primary care and specialist physicians, a better doctor-resident ratio than most American cities, and four state-of-the-art hospitals.

"If President Bartlet doesn't obtain the medical care he needs in China in next week's episode, I'm confident he can get it with a quick stop in Anchorage on the way back to Washington, D.C.," Mark said.

"The Divine Appendage"
by Sheila Toomey
December 12, 2004
Anchorage Daily News

For a while, Pat Gove thought Josiah Bartlet was getting off easy.

That changed when Bartlet - the fictional president on the NBC drama "The West Wing" - started having symptoms she recognized.

Gove and Bartlet have something in common: Both have multiple sclerosis (MS).

The disease - a chronic degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system - only had caused political fallout for Bartlet until a few weeks ago. Now the character, played by Martin Sheen, is shown suffering the disease's many physical effects, including numbness, paralysis and loss of vision.

"Now it's getting more into how MS really is," the 54-year-old Mason woman says.

Multiple sclerosis patients and their doctors say the series is offering a realistic portrayal of the disease's unpredictable progression.


Dr. Michael Schmerler, a neurologist with Riverhills Healthcare, says the symptoms shown so far track with textbook examples of how MS affects patients.

"We see these symptoms, unfortunately, all too often," Schmerler says.

Nancy Corbett, 41, a Newport artist, has suffered the same vision problems and paralysis as Bartlet.

The series "is pretty accurate for most MS patients," Corbett says.

"'West Wing' showing 'how MS really is'"
by Peggy O'Farrell
December 15, 2004
Cincinnati Enquirer

"I don't think the answer is for us to stop disagreeing with each other," Alda said. "As I sit and watch, it seems to me that the essence of democracy is to continue to disagree with each other until we see deeply into the issue but do it respectfully."

When asked whether his character represents California's socially moderate, fiscally conservative Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Alda said: "The first name is Arnold; there's a great chance. It'll be interesting to see."

"Alda 'Winging' it in part-time role"
by Dave Mason
December 15, 2004
Scripps Howard News Service

The show's cameras have already followed Vinick to Ventura County, where he announced his candidacy for president last year.

The only problem is Vinick made the announcement in front of Fillmore City Hall.

Don Gunderson, a former Fillmore city councilman, said he would prefer it if "West Wing" used his town when bringing Vinick home.

Fillmore doesn't get the respect it deserves in the county as it is, Gunderson said.

"We're the Rodney Dangerfield of the county," he said.

"Santa Paula seeks role on 'West Wing' show"
by John Scheibe
February 8, 2005
Ventura County Star

On "The West Wing," Sheen plays a president who finds ways to do his job despite multiple sclerosis. A University of California consultant has advised Sheen on how to play the struggle with the disease.

"What she told me was to be subtle. I can have many ups and downs," he said.

Subtle and optimistic. "(MS) patients see the light at the end of the tunnel," Sheen said.

Sheen isn't an official spokesman for MS because, unlike his character, he doesn't have the disease.

"Sheen shuns political aspirations"
by Dave Mason
February 18, 2005
Scripps Howard News Service

Wells and Alda both reject any suggestion that the actor's well-known liberal leanings make him an inappropriate choice to play a Republican. "One of the first things I'm asked . . . is, 'But we've seen you espouse points of view that don't seem to be Republican. Can you possibly play a Republican?' " Alda said. "I was never asked that when I played a murderer.

"There are good ideas on both sides of the aisle, and this program has the amazing ability not to deal with the daily events in a national debate but to deal with the core issues that throw light on those events. And you can do that by hearing what people are saying, regardless of what their political position is.


"That's one of the issues that we're going to deal with. The real fear of Democrats in any election is that you would have a Republican who actually came from a more moderate state. The reason that we crafted this is, when we talked to the Democrats about the kind of person they never want to run against, it's someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone from a large, typically Democratic state who's likely to carry that state. Because if you don't get the 52 electoral college votes out of California or out of New York, you're in trouble." - John Wells

"Liberal leanings - Can Republicans get a fair shake in 'West Wing' elections?"
by Scott D. Pierce
March 18, 2005
Desert News

[John] Wells was quick to realize that it was important in casting Vinick, a likable Republican centrist. "I sat down with Alan before the season and talked about a political campaign," recalls Wells. "It was clear that, for the Republican candidate, we would need people that had the same stature as Martin (Sheen)."

"Rejuvenation Station"
by Stuart Levine
June 1, 2005

Season six basically happened because everybody was getting bored. All of a sudden John Wells was like, "hey! What if Leo had a heart attack and CJ was Chief of Staff! What if this! What if that!" Everybody got energized again, but then "the big complication became 'y'know, we're going to have create a republican...'"

Posted by cyren_2132 @
November 11, 2005
Notes from Alex Graves talk at the University of Kansas

O'Donnell, who was charged with writing Vinick, called it "my greatest pleasure on 'The West Wing,' especially since I once said that it would never be a Republican political show."

He said his mind was changed after attending the 2004 GOP convention in New York and seeing the party's future in people like former New Jersey governor Christie Whitman, mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: politicians who are liberal on some issues, conservative on others.

"Sun sets on 'West Wing'"
by Aaron Barnhart
May 14, 2006
Kansas City Star

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