West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #504 "Han"
Gary Cole as Vice President Robert Russell, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler;
in the background is Joshua Malina as Will Bailey
NBC Photo: Paul Drinkwater

Teleplay: Peter Noah, Story: Peter Noah & Matt Goffman and Paula Yoo, Director: Christopher Misiano
Takes Place: Maybe late July since Congress had to be in session to approve the VP, who they said would be quickly confirmed after the Fourth, and Congress recesses for all of August.
Broadcast: October 22, 2003
Query: What were those Chopin pieces played in the episode?
Query: If the White House piano is a Steinway, why did we see a Yamaha being played there?

During a time when the Administration has been in secret negotiations with North Korea, a pianist from that country passes Bartlet a note about wanting to defect. At the same time there are inceasingly strident indications that the country is slipping deeper into recession. Leo has to investigate every angle of the Korean situation and C.J. is climbing the walls as arguments that accepting defection would risk too much.
"We've certainly come a long way from 'Give me your tired, your poor,'" she tells Leo. "If we don't allow this defection, if we blithly exploit this young man's ignorance then I don't know who we are anymore."

Meanwhile the President has told Will, that the speech he's written for Bartlet to give introducing the new Vice President, doesn't have enought altitude --- is insipid. But Will tells Toby, he doesn't know how to truthfully talk about their new VP:
"I have altitude sickness... The President wants more altitude. I'm having conscience issues."
"Well, I'm sure you've had to say things you haven't meant before. You've read friend's poetry, had girlfriends.... Just hold your nose and hype him."
"The President hated this. My self-confidence is down around my ankles."
"Well, hitch it up and start typing...."
"You're really not going to help me?" It seems Toby wants to prove Will can do the job by himself (this would leave Toby free to move into advising the President on policy).

Donna's aunt and uncle are visiting and she warns Josh about making cheese jokes to them. So, he talks to them about the economists he is meeting with and how they not only bore him into a coma and they never agree yet
"...no one is remotely afflicted by doubt," Josh tells them.

The President specifically asks Toby to help Will with the speech. And Toby sees how difficult it is to describe the new Vice President in glowing terms that have some relation to reality. Searching for the right word, Toby says,
"'Distinguished' is as high as we go. You'd have to be high to go loftier. Here's what it should be: 'In a triumph of the middling, a nod to mediocrity, and with gorge rising, it gives me great nausea to announce Robert Russell --- Bingo Bob, himself --- as your new Vice President.'"
Will is typing this and gets into the spirit, adding, "This lapdog of the mining interests is as dull as he is unremarkable---"
"--- as lackluster as he is soporific.... this reversion to the mean---"
"---this rebuke to the exemplary---"
"---gives hope to the millions unfavored by the exceptional.... Bob Russell: not the worst, not the best, just what we're stuck with."

The President decides he has to tell the North Korean,
"I'm sorry but I cannot let you defect.... There's an important nuclear agreement being worked out...."
"I try to stay --- you arrest me?"
"You give me back to them."
"Freedom means choice. You must decide which is the most responsible course."
"You know Korean word 'han'?" He then plays a mournful melody (turns out to be Chopin's Prelude #4).

Well, predictably, the joke lines that Will and Toby added to the speech actually got to the teleprompter. Bartlet thinks on his feet but Russell, standing next to him, sees the the lines. After the ceremony, he seeks out Toby and Will, who know they screwed up. Will thinks he might be fired.
Toby and Will turn to see Russell in their doorway. Toby sighs. "Mr. Vice President, please accept ---" Toby begins.
"I'd like a copy."
"There are no copies. We've shredded ---"
"Wiped hard drives," Will tells him. "We're considering putting out our own eyes."
"Find one. Send it to my office. I thought it was hilarious."
Toby snorts, then says, "Hilarious, sir?"
"I know my public profile, my political persona. I'm just glad to see there's such a keen awareness of the scale of the job you've all got ahead of you. I'm part of the team now, which makes all this pretty much your problem. Good luck with it."

Bartlet has looked up the word 'han' and he explains to C.J. what he has learned:
"There is no literal English translation. It's a state of mind. Of soul, really. A sadness. A sadness so deep no tears will come. And yet still there's hope."

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

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