West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Second Season Episodes * #218 (40) "17 People"

President and Toby
Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet and as Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler
- NBC Photo: James Sorensen
Writer: Aaron Sorkin, Director: Alex Graves
Takes Place: Over a holiday weekend 7.5 months before the Iowa caucus but it is April, (Josh has given Donna flowers over an April anniversary.)
Broadcast: April 4, 2001
Query: When did the shooting take place: May or August?
This episode starts the same night #39 ends. Toby is still confused by Vice President Hoynes's behavior. Over the next few nights, Toby continues to ponder even asking Leo if anything is going on. Leo assures him nothing has changed. But then Hoynes gives a speech which suggests he is preparing to run for President and Toby backs Leo into a corner and Leo tells the President that they need to let Toby in on the secret about the President's MS (revealed to Leo in #12). Toby is really upset about the Multiple Sclerosis and the fact that it has been kept hidden. Toby talks about the President needing a letter to make sure the country has a leader during any "episode" the President has. Toby refers to Episode #22 to the shooting incident when the president was operated on at the hospital, about which Toby says:
"The Vice President's authority was murky at best. The National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State didn't know who they were taking their orders from. I wasn't in the situation room that night but I'll bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that it was Leo, who no one elected! For 90 minutes that night there was a coup d'etat in this country."
While the intense meeting takes place between the President, Leo and Toby, another group tries to take a speech --- due to be delivered to the correspondents dinner the next day --- and make it funny! The job is harder than they thought it would be and they pull in everyone left in the building at midnight, including Ainsley and Donna. But other issues come up in the discussion including a heated debate between Sam and Ainsley on the ERA. Sam can't believe Ainsley is against the Amendment:
"I'm a Republican," she tells him. ". . . I believe that every time the Federal Government hands down a new law, it leaves for the rest of us a little less freedom. So I say let's stick to the ones we absolutely need in order to have water come out of the faucet and our cars not stolen. That is my problem with passing a redundant law."
Leo keeps telling Toby that no one has lied about the President's condition and no one has broken the law. But Toby replies:
"You don't have to break the law to be served with Articles of Impeachment."
Sam and Ainsley are still debating and he turns to some of the others with:
"So, guys. . . I made a decision: I'm going to register with the Republican Party. And I'll tell you why, if you're curious. It's because they are a freedom loving people."
"We also like beef," Ainsley interjects.
"You know, you insist that government is depraved for not legislating against what we can see on the newsstands or what we can see in an art exhibit or what we can burn in protest or which sex we're allowed to have sex with or a woman's right to choose. But don't you dare try to regulate this deadly weapon I have concealed on me for that would encroach against my freedom."
"And Democrats believe in freedom of speech unless you want to pray while you're standing in school. And you believe in the freedom of information act except if you want to find out if your 14 year old has had an abortion."
"We believe in the ERA. . . . How can you have an objection. . ."
"Because it's humiliating. A new amendment we vote on declaring that I am equal under the law to a man? I'm mortified to discover there's reason to believe I wasn't before. I'm a citizen of this country. I'm not a special subset in need of your protection. I do not have to have my rights handed down to me by a bunch of old white men. The same Article 14 that protects you protects me. And I went to law school just to make sure." Ainsley then leaves the room and Sam responds to the others with:
"I could've countered that but I had already moved on to other things in my head."
In addition to the argument between Sam and Ainsley, Donna and Josh also have a running problem about Josh's insistence that Donna came to work for him in April whereas she thinks she started in February --- what happened, it turns out, was that she started in February then left to return to her boyfriend then came back in April. Donna finally tells Josh that she didn't return to work because her boyfriend left her. She dumped him because when she called him to come get her at the hospital after an accident, he stopped to have a beer on his way. Josh is incensed:
"I'm just saying that if you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for a beer."
"If you were in an accident I wouldn't stop for red lights," Donna tells him.

For anyone interested in guest stars of this episode (as well as more information),
let us recommend the West Wing Episode Guide.

Background from Bravo: What you need to know from past episodes.

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