West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #512 "Slow News Day"
Toby Richard Schiff as Communications Director Toby Ziegler
NBC Photo: James Sorensen

Written by: Eli Attie, Directed by: Julie Hebert
Takes Place: Shortly after the State of the Union
Broadcast: February 4, 2004

Toby gets an idea in the middle of the night about how "to save Social Security". He wakes up Josh to pick his brain. Then he wakes up Charlie to take on the task of waking up the President, to whom he then, privately, explains his idea. Bartlet is skeptical. Toby reminds him:
"More college kids think they'll see UFOs than Social Security checks."
"But they don't tell you how many believe in UFOs; that's the number we ought to be worried about." Then Bartlet reminds Toby that the positions of the two parties are far apart on the issue.
"...I'm not saying there aren't sticking points," Toby agrees.
"More like Krazy Glue.... you can't save Social Security without cutting benefits or raising taxes, and this is the largest meeting in Washington where anyone's ever admitted it."
"When Social Security goes bankrupt, are we going to call that a benefit cut?" Bartlet is worried about this getting out and hurting his agenda.
"What if I do it? ...You'll have total deniability...."
"And if it blows up, I'm supposed to pretend we've never met?" Bartlet asks.
"We'll always have Paris."

C.J. explains to Josh how it is going to be a slow news day and when that happens "the press runs amok":
"If we're not running offence, we're running defence, and if we're playing defence, then there's some clever sports analogy that explains what happens then...."
"Wešre screwed."
"Thatšll do...."
"We'll find a... way to feed the beast."
"Please, 'cause the alternative's that it feeds on us."

Will comes to Josh to ask for advice on how to get the Vice President better exposure:
"Russell's instinct is to make fun of his blandness, salt his speeches with self-deprecating jokes."
"Such as?"
"'Bob Russell is so dull, his Secret Service code name is Bob Russell.'"
"...The problem is, telling people you're dull just removes all doubt. Russell needs to confound expectations, do something to really shock the party faithful." Now Josh gets an idea connected with the question that Toby asked him in the middle of the night about a Senator who isn't raising a lot of money at the moment and Josh figures this may give C.J. something to save her from a slow news day.

Toby is being secretive and he pulls his new assistant in to help after she tells him:
"Nobody here talks to me. I don't think they like me."
"Not really, no." Then Toby asks her "Can you handle something confidential? ... I'm offering you the chance to do something real." He explains that it is just copying but then goes on, "Tell anyone what you're doing or what the topic is, become any more likeable before this project is over---" They are, at that moment, interrupted by Josh.

Toby is keeping what he's doing secret from Josh, and that leads to them working at cross purposes as Josh seems to be sabotaging Toby's approach to a Republican Senator. Josh starts attacking this very person and the Senator asks Toby about it. Toby says, truthfully, that he doesn't know anything about the attacks. The Republican tells him:
"Either you're lying, or the left hand doesn't know what the far left hand is doing."

C.J. is trying to deal with the slow news day and at the same time she tries to run interference for Toby. C.J. tells Carol:
"A little tough love's what these people need. If that doesn't work, I'm moving on to Molotov cocktails."

Toby's behavior has Josh suspicious and he asks Donna to talk to Rena about her clothes and also to find out what Toby's working on. Donna's uncomfortable doing this and when it becomes obvious to her that Rena isn't going to be cooperative, she says,
"You know what? It's none of my busine--- Don't ever tell anyone what you're working on. Just keep doing what you're doing. I was tired of everyone dressing the same, anyway."

Toby's attempts falter, fall apart, and then fail. The Journal picks up the story. This forces Toby to take a drastic step. Then things turn around and the spontaneously laid plans of mice and Toby actually lead to a beginning of sorts, though not exactly what Toby and the President had hoped for.

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let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

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