West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Sixth Season Episodes * #602 "The Birnam Wood"
John Spencer as Leo McGarry, White House Chief of Staff
(with Teddy Roosevelt)
NBC Photo: Michael O'Neill
Written by: John Wells, Directed by: Alex Graves
Takes Place: Near the beginning of the school year which would make it late August or early September
Broadcast: October 27, 2004
Query: Where does the title come from?
Query: How crazy/blind/insensitive would the Administration have been to serve CRAB cakes to Jews and Muslims?
Query: Is Leo dead? Do not read if you don't want spoilers but do read instead of writing us or Warner Brothers or NBC on the subject or instead of refusing to watch any future episode.
Query: If Bartlet's granddaughter, Annie, was 12 six years ago, how can she be just "starting high-school" now?

So the Bartlet Administration has gotten the Israelis and Palestinians to a summit at Camp David where President Bartlet reminds the parties,
"Whether you choose to do this today or ten years from today, you will face the same geography, the same neighbors, the same ancient animosities. More years of bloodshed and pain will not change those facts. The only path to a real and lasting peace is through negotiation." The President then turns the floor over to Toby, only to take it back again a bit later with, "You'll be hearing this news shortly but out FBI has identified the group responsible for the deaths of Americans in Gaza and we're launch an attack on their camp in Syria."
Jed Bartlet
Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, Makram J. Khoury as Farad
NBC Photo

The senior staff is at the summit trying to help Bartlet give options to the two sides. But they keep saying, "We need Leo up here." And back at the White House, Leo is initiating efforts to help with the negotiations and with countering the Speaker of the House and others who are still focused exclusively on military action. Leo is continuing to push toward a goal he doesn't believe it is possible to reach.

Josh finally leaves Donna's bedside and gets back and Leo sends him up to Camp David where things are not going well: the Prime Minister of Israel decided to go home after one hour of talks (Bartlet talked him into staying), and the sides even have trouble talking about things they see in such different ways. As the staff discuss where they are during a basketball game at the end of the first day, Abbey says,
"Look at the bright side, nobody shot anybody else the first day."
"Okay," the President says, "we start small, see if we can get an agreement on anything no matter how inconsequential. Something we can build on."
A bit later the First Lady asks, "Jed? Where's Leo?"

On Friday evening Leo does join them and Josh and Toby ask him to bring the President back to reality. Then the two sides separate to celebrate and worship in what seems like similar ways in very similar languages. Abbey, Jed and Leo have joined the Israelis for Friday night's dinner. Kate and Charlie watch the Palestinians pray. Kate tells him,
"The tragedy is the Palestinians and the Jews are so much alike."
"How's that?"
"All through history, no one's wanted either of them."

Leo encourages the staff, even suggesting something that leads to their first breakthrough, but he keeps trying to point out reality to Bartlet. Meanwhile, Toby, Josh and Will start having success and join Kate in beginning to think that maybe something might come from all this. Then they reach the stumbling block everyone knew was coming: Jerusalem. "It's a search for two freedom. For Israel the freedom from terror. For the Palestinians freedom from Israel. That's what Efraim Nachum called it. His book on the Six-Day War is pretty---" Suddenly she breaks off. She has an idea.

The idea has drawbacks. Serious drawbacks from the American standpoint. Leo refuses to make his disagreement with the President public but when they speak privately, he says,
"I can't support this decision...."
"We can't keep having this argument."
"No sir, we can't. If my counsel is no longer of use to you, perhaps--"
"So, if I disagree with your advice, you have to threaten me?"
"This is your own League of Nation and it will ruin you like it ruined Wilson."
"Okay. I'll need your successor in place before you leave."
After a pause, Leo says slowly, "I'll get you some names." Josh comes out as the President returns to the meeting and Leo says everything is fine and that Josh needs to go back in and see what the President needs.

Leo is having trouble breathing but he doesn't want to disturb the meeting so he walks off into the woods where he has all the symptoms of a full fledged heart attack. The others are so busy trying to bring peace to the Middle East that it isn't until they are about to drive off that Josh and Toby wonder where Leo is and assume he headed back early. Josh tries calling him, but Leo seems to still be in the woods and unable to answer.

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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