West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #518 "Access"
C.J. Craig
Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg
NBC Photo: Michael O'Neill
Written by: Lauren Schmidt, Directed by: Alex Graves
Takes Place: The documentary is shot a year into Bartlet's second term and broadcast after he leaves office
Broadcast: March 31, 2004
Query: Is there really a flak jacket passed from one Press Secretary to the next?
Query: Why did the narrator's voice seem so familiar?

A documentary opens with the voice of the narrator from "Frontline" announcing that this documentary was made possible by "The Kenneth C. and Mary E. Blackburn Foundation", "The Samuel Jones Charitable Trust", and "Individual Viewer Donations". In the beginning we see a little of the documentary being shot. And then we follow C.J. through a day but intersperse with interviews that were shot the day before and footage from early years in the Bartlet Administration all the way back to clips from Eisenhower and later Nixon. Back to the day the documentary is following C.J. who says,
"You begin every day juggling a very precise schedule which completely, completely falls apart mid-morning."
"...So, typical morning so far?"
"Yes and No."
"Because we're here?"
"I don't have to tell you about the Heisenberg principle."
Then the documentary follows C.J. into a meeting with the FBI Director and Leo who says, "Director Arnold has a situation unfolding. It's not for White House comment at this time...."
FBI Director Arnold takes over, "We have six Federal agents surrounding a remote cabin on Shaw Island... Washington State.... Gunfire was exchanged 90 minutes ago...."
Narrator: "When we return, breaking news turns the White House upside down."

But before we have the big crisis, we have a little one and we hear C.J. tell us,
"One of the hardest things to learn --- there are so many true crises, so many lurking situations that could be dangerous for the President, its hard not to get caught up in the adrenaline and make everything lethal.... It's more than picking your battles, marshalling your energy.... It's about grace under fire. All war metaphors. I guess that's it --- being able to tell when its a matter of life or death."

The situation on Shaw Island goes crazy and C.J. is getting her news from the TV and the documentary narration goes,
"As tensions mounted in the West Wing, the press secretary was kept at arms length about the negotiations and the condition of the wounded child on Shaw Island."

The documentary also interviews a previous Press Secretary who talks about what it is like,
"And, of course, we have the tradition of the flak jacket.... We've this flak jacket. It goes from one Press Secretary to the next. We all put little notes in the pocket. Uh, you know --- words of wisdom to the next guy on the job."

Throughout the documentary C.J.'s comments about how she tries to tell to the truth are repeated over and over,
"I see my job as making sure the press and, through them, the public is well-informed. I tell them the truth." Then she pauses for a long time. "That's my goal."
And "...there's a misconception that I am here to stymie reporters or to mislead the public to spin or even hide the truth."
And "Better way to put it: I am here to articulate the President's message and to honestly inform the press and through them the public about what is happening on any given day".
But the documentary itself doesn't quite support these comments.
"Yes, I guess there is an inherent tension there. I won't deny it. Conventional wisdom says that you can't serve two masters. I do.... Or I tell myself I do."

C.J. also says,
"Sometimes you just have to let yourself get beaten up. But, sometimes, its better to be beaten up for 24 hours than beaten up for the long run although the long run's something I have no sense of. You know, when I'm going home at night, I'm thinking about the next day's schedule.

And the final line from the narrator is,
"...C.J. Cregg who allowed us to share a day with her in the West Wing remains the only woman to have served two terms as the White House Press Secretary."

For additional quotes from this episode see:

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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