West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fifth Season Episodes * #520 "No Exit"
Lily Tomlin as Debbie Fiderer, the President's secretary. seen at her desk outside the Oval Office
NBC Photo
Teleplay by: Carol Flint & Debora Cahn, Story by: Carol Flint & Mark Goffman Directed by: Julie Hébert
Takes Place: The night of the Correspondents Dinner (usually held around May 1)
Broadcast: April 28, 2004
Query: Is Tularemia plague?
Query: Is this title from Sartre (who is mentioned by Will as saying, as he does in his play, No Exit, "Hell is other people")?
Query: What was Toby whistling? ---"Sunrise, Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof.

Bartlet and many on his staff are returning from the Correspondents Dinner. Debbie tells her boss,
"...for an Anglo Saxon, you were darn funny...."
As Josh tells Donna, "The President had nine laugh out-louds...."

A joke Josh had added to the speech, got cut by the new deputy NSA, Commander Kate Harper. Josh has Donna call to have Kate report to his office. Just about the time Kate gets there, the White House is crashed and Bartlet, Charlie and Debbie are led away to see a doctor since they were in the room where something was detected. Everyone else is told to stay where they are which locks Josh and Kate in Josh's office, Toby and Will in Sam's old office, C.J. and Donna in C.J.'s office and Leo with Abbey in the Residence. Abbey isn't allowed to leave for her midnight to 8 am shift at the clinic. Leo didn't know she was working.
"You could've talked to somebody about this."
"I talked to the President. He didn't tell you I was working nights?
"He never tells me anything, either."

Toby and Will aren't having a great time together. Toby is complaining that the Vice President,
"...gave a humorless sermon at a humorous roast.... I want to know if Bob Russell is happy he upstaged the President tonight...."
After some give and take, Toby can't take it any more and tries to leave the room he is in for the office next door. When a secret service agent blocks his way, he tells him, "I'm not staying with this guy, you can---" and he tries to push past the agent. Toby ends up on the floor, with a bump on his head and still in the room with Will.

Toby isn't the only one who is finding all this inconvenient. When forced to take a shower, Bartlet regales the machinery that found the problem to his doctor,
"...this is absurd.... We have an oversensitive, overpriced piece of technology that's overreacting."
"Yes, sir. You'll find written instructions in the shower...."

Meanwhile Josh and Kate are not getting to know each other. And in another room, Toby is complaining to Will about the Vice President,
"He's a featherweight who only looks like a lightweight because he's got you propping him up."
"He's the heir apparent."
"Don't say 'heir apparent' when we have men in moon suits hermetically sealing the Oval. This is Russell's only shot.... A night like this."

Meanwhile C.J. and Donna are talking about Donna's upcoming trip to the Middle East with Fitzwallace, Andy and others. Donna is sure Josh is trying to give her every opportunity. C.J. counters with,
"If he was giving you every opportunity, you'd have grown out of this job three years ago. Can't blame him, he's never going to find anyone as capable as you. I wouldn't give you up either...."
"It's the White House."
"It's not the White House. It's him...."
After a little more of this, Donna says, "Let's not do this."

While silence settles over C.J.'s office, Toby finally tells Will what his real problem is:
"What you wrote for Russell tonight was profoundly disturbing."
"Because he upstaged the President."
"Because he might win.... It never for a second before crossed my mind but you keep this up and he may win."
"That's not a compliment. You need to get the hell out of there. You're grooming this clown for a victory and then what? ...I don't care who you surround this guy with, he's going to wield a tremendous amount of power.... Go find someone you can honestly respect. Groom him...."
"You go."

The crash is lifted. But that doesn't solve all the problems. Leo has seen Abbey take a pill he thinks is Xanax (which treats anxiety). He is worried about her. She thinks the same worries apply to all of them.
"You know what this lifestyle does to the body? The minute your system senses stress, it releases a hormone that constricts blood vessels, contracts the heart muscles, stimulates the adrenal gland. You stay in this state for not a hundredth of the time that you and I have existed like this, and the vessels begin to shred.... Relieving those conditions is the one responsible course of action I can take."

After Debbie and Charlie are told it was a false alarm when they had previously been told they had really been exposed to something, Bartlet, who has been briefed by Ron Butterfield, tells them,
"Tonight's exercise was a drill.... A live drill. Meaning the participants were unaware that it was a drill. Ron's agents. Hazmat. And the entire medical staff were being tested. The three of us were the guinea pigs...."
"We're trying to address critical holes in the security system," Ron explains. "We're fielding threats no one's ever had to face before.... [The Tularemia] was a simulant without harmful properties...."
Bartlet tells them, "You were both involved in a top secret exercise tonight. And for the time being it's going to have to remain top secret." Bartlet ushers them out then turns back to the head of his Secret Service detail.
"They didn't question it."
"I'm not surprised."
"You didn't know it would be tonight, sir."
"I knew it when you showed up. But it was worth it if we learned something useful. Did we learn anything, Ron?" Then Bartlet seems to change subjects slightly to talk about what seems to be what brought on this live drill. "Has the FBI made any progress?
"They have a chemist under survellience, who tried to order bacteria from the CDC. Tularemia won't get through again."

(Editor's note: For those who seem to be confused about whether this was a drill or not, here is our take on it. It was a live drill, that Bartlet had approved in advance but he didn't know when it would be and the drill was brought on by some previous incident in which Tularemia actually got into the White House but that incident was able to be hushed up so that few people besides Bartlet and Ron know about it. So, now ask us why they were still decontaminating the car after everyone had been told it was either a false alarm or a drill. Well, we have no explanation for that, but since the pathogen was never supposed to have been in the car, it doesn't make sense whether it was a drill or not.)

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