West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fourth Season Episodes * #401 "20 Hours in America": I & II (2 hour Season Opener)
Campaign Speech
Martin Sheen as President Bartlet Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg
NBC Photo: Craig Blankenhorn
Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Director: Christopher Misiano
Takes Place: Six weeks before the first Tuesday in November (the 5th) & several months after Simon's death.
Broadcast: September 25, 2002 (2 hours)
Query: What was that song about Mondays that played in the background in this episode and which Donna and Josh discussed early on?
Query: Is Air Force One really piloted by a General?
Query: Does Milwaukee have a newspaper called The Milwaukee Sentinel?
Query: Did the Great Depression of 1929 start on October 24th or 29th?

It's September and the President is campaigning in Indiana and three White House staffers have a bit of a problem. But a farmer's daughter has access to a car that runs on soy bean diesel. A number of things go wrong which Josh summarizes for Sam when he calls him near the beginning of their trek back home:
"I'm with Toby and Donna and we are stranded somewhere in Indiana."
"You got left behind by the motorcade?"
"Yeah. And then we ran out of gas and then there was a time zone foul-up, and then we were waylaid by some mean schoolgirls. . . ."
"So what are you doing now?"
"We're getting a lift to the Connersville metro which is going to take us to Indianapolis where we'll get a flight to either Dulles, BWI or La Guardia."

While the three continue their attempts to use planes, trains and automobiles to get home, the Dow drops sharply and every time anyone mentions it, it is down another couple of hundred points. Sam has to fill in for Josh as the President's "wide angle lens" (called staffing the President) even though he has been up for two days straight and hasn't had a day off "since the convention".
"Do we have some sort of condensed, Reader's Digest index of --- well, all human knowledge?" Sam asks Ginger.
"We usually just use Margaret." Sam vaguely suggests that at some future time they talk about this.

Stopping for food, Josh says,
Campaign Speech
President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) Hits the Campaign Trail in Reelection Bid
NBC Warner Bros. photo
"It's Monday. . . ."
And a little while later Donna says, ". . .when you said it's Monday, I flashed on the song. A few days ago someone told me that a girl shot up her school one morning and when they asked her why, she said, 'I don't like Mondays' and that's where the song comes from." --- this turns out to be relevant to music played later in the background as the day continues to get worse, culminating in a bombing. The song starts to play as our stranded staffers make it to shelter from a driving rain only to see news reports on the tragedy. The music continues as Bartlet gives a speech at a black tie event during which he says,
". . . sustaining hope in this winter of anxiety and fear. More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arise. . . . every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. . . . We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars."

Later Mallory drops by to tell Sam how much she liked the speech she knew he had written. When she asks Sam what it was like to "staff the President". he says:
"You know anything about chaos theory?"
"I know it has to do with fractal geometry."
"That's about all I know about it to. But it has to do with there being order, and even --- great beauty in what looks like total chaos. And if we look closely enough at the randomness around us, patterns will start to emerge. . . I've worked here three years and eight months and until you sit in the room all day, you can't comprehend the chaos of the Oval Office. I've got to get back in there. That's where it's happening." But Mallory can see that he is in no condition to get back in there at the moment so she offers to take him home.

CJ & Bruno
Allison Janney as Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, strategizes with Ron Silver as campaign advisor Bruno Gianelli as the 'West Wing' staff hits the campaign trail
NBC Warner Bros. photo
Meanwhile, after a long hard day and stuck when their flight's delayed, Toby and Josh are arguing about the campaign (something they have been doing for much of the day). All three of our stranded staffers seem to be near the end of their rope and Donna can't take it any more and finally puts them both in their places with:
"Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers --- random conversations with twelve more and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you." Donna dismisses them and they seem to have run out of the will to argue or even to talk to each other anymore. But a stranger in the bar strikes up a conversation with Toby who finally decides to listen to someone instead of talk.

Unbeknownst to most everyone else, behind all the political campaigning, the fall of the Dow and the horrifying tragedy everyone is reacting to, the President, Leo, Nancy and Fritz are dealing with the after effects of the assassination of Shareef of Qumar several months ago. Three of the four have come up with a way to shield the President, but he will have nothing of it. He tells Admiral Fitzwallace,
". . . you talked Leo into Shareef and he talked me into it. It was my order and you executed it flawlessly and I stand by it. I stand by you all. --- I stand by it until I die. --- Plus I'm going to need some cell mates in Holland.

Finally in the early morning, Donna, Josh and Toby reach the outskirts of D.C. and they decide to walk to the White House. As they cross the bridge, with the Lincoln Memorial shinning on the horizon ahead of them, Toby tells his companions,
"If our job teaches us anything, it's that we don't know what the next President's going to face. . . . If we choose someone to inspire us then we'll be able to face what comes our way. . . . Instead of telling people who's the most qualified. Instead of telling people who's got the better ideas. Let's make it obvious. It's going to be hard." And they walk forward into the future.

While waiting for this episode, we imagined some of what it would consist of and collected some information on the filming:

Imagine with us:
Josh, Toby & Donna on the road in the wilds of Indiana.

Also see:

Renee Estevez's West Wing Photo Gallery with "Snapshots from the West Wing episode,'Twenty Hours in America'"
(This link was originally posted on the Television Without Pity West Wing forum)

Cameras roll on Lawrence County Farm for 'West Wing' season premiere
interesting report from the filming including pictures
(Link was originally posted at the Television Without Pity West Wing Forum)

The Herald Standard: 'The West Wing' to film in Greene County restaurant
(Link was originally posted by "Mama It" at the Television Without Pity West Wing Forum)

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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