West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Fourth Season Episodes * #421 "Life on Mars"
Fake Washington Post
Fake Washington Post edition from the display case at Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Picture taken by Linda Mayberry.
Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story: Paul Redford & Dee Dee Myers, Director: John David Coles
Takes Place: Shortly after the last episode.
Broadcast: April 30, 2003
Query: Where does the word "shyster" come from?
Query: Whose voice was the voice of Washington Post gossip columnist, Stu Winkle?

A rainy Tuesday around 6 am is both the start and the finish of this episode as a letter is delivered to the President --- although it should have gone to the Secretary of State --- that John Hoynes is resigning the Vice Presidency. We then jump backwards 24 hours to find out why.
All this starts with a reporter's question to C.J. about the NASA Commission on Space Science and Research:
"Is the White House concealing a report from the commission containing two different pieces of evidence of water molecules on Mars?"
C.J. disbelieves that anyone would bring her such a fantasy. "Your question is 'Is there life on Mars and is the White House hiding that there's life on Mars?'"
But then this leads to the Vice President, who heads this commission. And there are questions that lead her to bring in someone from the Counsel's office and since she knows there is a new Associate Counsel, she takes this silliness to him.
"Come on. It's going to be fun. And if it's not you should pretend it is anyway.... Would you find out if we broke the law, please?... though I do hate you and everything you stand for."
"Claudia Jean, you've only known me for four minutes. It usually takes people the better part of an hour to hate me and everything I stand for."
"I'm the Press Secretary... I don't have that kind of time."

Will thinks the White House needs to beware of an attack ad from the opposition that claims that demands for automobile fuel efficiency will endanger the American family.
"I think it says the President and a bunch of Hollywood types want to put your kids in a small car so they can save the sky."
"How did the Hollywood types get into this equation?"
"I don't know. How do they ever?"
Toby wants to know what ideas Will has but it turns out Will only wants to convince Toby to do something but doesn't know what. After Toby goes on and on into incomprehensibility about this, Will says, "Toby. either get Andy to marry you or kill yourself."

Joe Quincy asks Leo and Josh about the report he thinks is fictitious about life on Mars. Turns out there is a report. Then Josh brings up another matter the Washington Post is asking about and their information seems accurate.
"There's a leak." Josh tells Leo and Quincy. Quincy learns the Vice President had access to both pieces of information.

Then Quincy learns that Helen Baldwin, a Washington socialite, is writing a book. She seems to be talking to a new gossip columnist and Quincy gets C.J. to talk to this Stu Winkle and the conversation confirms some of what Quincy already suspects. Quincy then shows C.J. Stu's column about Helen's new book, points out a couple of leaks that could have come from the Vice President and then shows her White House telephone logs that show Hoynes calling Helen Baldwin. C.J. then calls out,
"Carol. I need to see Josh and Toby and Joe needs to see the Vice President."
Later those four visit Hoynes. Josh asks the relevant question, "Mr. Vice President, have you been having an affair with Helen Baldwin while here at the White House?"
"...Yes. ---And I like to show off. I said things. I said I'd seen proof of life on Mars. I said I'd intervened at the Justice Department to put 100,000 computers in the classrooms which I thought made me seem like a good guy.... What do I do now?"

Later Hoynes goes to meet Bartlet and Leo,
"Forty-seven phone calls?" Leo says to him. "Did you not know that the White House keeps records of phone calls? ...Didn't it ever occur to you that she might do this?"
"No. I didn't think she would."
"...Do you think there is anyone else behind this? ...John, if we're going to weather this---"
"We're not going to weather this.... I'm resigning.... I leaked classified information.... It's... a felony."
"Apologize and move on," suggests Bartlet. "Accept responsibility. You don't need to disclose details. She's going to take care of that for you.... How the hell did you do this to us? You can't resign, John, it's a terrible signal to send...."
"You can make it," Leo says. "I can help you."
"I don't want to take my family through it."
"You're a giant, John," Leo goes on. "You're a U.S. Senator, the Vice President of the United States and presumptive nominee of your party, You cannot be taken down by this cheap person.... It's cause for divorce. Not resignation...."
"The President knows I'm right. So do you. The truth is, I took an oath, too so---"
"Didn't you have any sense that this was the kind of person who would do this?"
"Hasn't it been your experience that they look pretty much like the people who wouldn't?"
"Well, I want you to sleep on it. I want all of us to sleep on it."

For additional conversations 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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