The asshole walks out of the diner, smugly lighting a smoke. Then the helicopters shine their lights, and he’s down on the ground in seconds. I’ve never been happier to see a fictional arrest in all my life.
After the opening credits, CJ opens the show in the press room. Through this scene, we learn that Josh is still in surgery, hour six. The staff and the first lady are all in the hospital waiting room. They all look exhausted and haggard.
CJ is the only senior staff member back at the White House, and consults Sam and Toby on speakerphone. Sam is in charge of getting a letter from Nancy McNally, and CJ brings up that the press still wants to know why the president was greeting people in the open air. As Sam goes back to the White House, a flashback starts.
We find the adorable Sam Seaborn, as a lawyer, trying to talk an oil company into buying better ships (foreshadowing!). Sam gets glib with his boss, but he can’t quite reel himself in. His conscience isn’t letting him leave the ship issue along. He starts arguing that the more expensive, safer ships are worth it.
Then he sees Josh, soaking wet, standing at the board room door, smiling like there’s no tomorrow.
As the suits ask, “Sam, where are you going?” Sam answers, “New Hampshire.”
Josh salutes, and Sam leaves corporate life behind.
I love this flashback because it shows the history of this well-oiled machine that is the senior staff. They aren’t just co-workers, they are the closest each one has to family. The bonds illustrated in these flashbacks drive home how devastating the shooting is to the staff on a personal level.
Back at the White House, in those wee hours following the shooting, CJ finds Sam. She asks him if he knows who threw her to the ground. He claims ignorance. Danny then pops in, clarifies that he doesn’t want to be this guy, and then asks CJ the question,”Who was in charge while the President was under?”
She doesn’t have the information for him.
But we are then treated to a Claudia Jean flashback. CJ is summoned to her PR agency, where an eclectic client reads CJ the riot act. CJ answers right back, and thirty seconds later, she’s out of a job.
In the hallway, with the client in view, CJ talks to her boss:
CJ: Sorry I talked to him like that, but did he really think he had the Maltese Falcon out there?
Isabel: The thing is, CJ, he’s big business for me.
CJ: I’ll apologize to him Isabel. I’ll find someone to make him man of the year. I’ll ask around in Vegas.
Isabel: He wants you fired. He thinks you’re a smart mouth.
CJ: He’s going to pull his business unless you fire me?
Isabel: This is never what you wanted to be doing, CJ. You’ve always felt it was beneath you.
CJ: It is beneath me. So take me off of film & television. I don’t know anything about it anyway. We have plenty of accounts.
Isabel: I need to keep his business. I’m sorry.
CJ: So you’re firing me?
Isabel: I’m sorry.
CJ: Out here in the hallway? I need someone to call me a cab!
Isabel: I’m sorry?
CJ: I couldn’t get my contacts in this morning, and I broke my glasses getting out of the car. I can’t drive myself home. I need someone to call me a cab.
Isabel: I have to go back in.
CJ: It was a bad movie, Isabel!
I love how she gets the last word. CJ returns home to find Mr. Toby Ziegler waiting for her. But she can’t see, and she falls into her swimming pool. In this scene, we actually get to see the playful side of Toby. (He actually laughs! At CJ!)
Toby manages to convince CJ that working for $600 a week is better than her previous gig ($550,000 a year!).
After this glimpse into early CJ, we see the president talking to Abby and then Charlie. The president tells Charlie that the man in custody is a member of White Pride. And the president wasn’t the target.
What does a 20-year-old kid do with that information? I mean, really? You’re dating the first daughter and there’s an attempt on your life?
We then flash to Leo telling Margaret that the president didn’t sign a letter dictating who is in power. Margaret then tells Leo the she can sign the president’s name. It’s a riot, classic Margaret and Leo, and you just have to watch it to appreciate it (it’s around minute 22 in the episode).
CJ comes to Leo and begins to explain why going on the morning talk shows may not be good idea. As CJ starts to make her case, Leo notices that there is something wrong. He’s incredibly calm and paternal in the episode, and while he accepts that CJ won’t tell him what’s wrong, he holds firm that someone needs to go on television to represent the White House. Leo tells her to have Sam go on television. CJ brings up the fact that Danny’s been asking around about who was in power while the president was under.
Toby walks with Leo, and they discuss the issue of the president not using a tent. Toby says he’s going to talk to Butterfield, and Leo reminds him that the Secret Service doesn’t comment on procedure.
We then flashback to the Bartlet campaign headquarters. Bartlet meets with Toby, Sam, Josh, and CJ, They are explaining the campaign strategy to Bartlet, and he’s being purposely difficult. Toby reviews the states they’ll be heading into as the primaries unfold. Bartlet asks few questions, and when they are done, he asks his patented, “What’s next?”
Josh attempts to explain further, when Jeb says, “When I say what’s next, it means I’m ready to move on to other things. So, what’s next?”
Right after we see the staff getting to know Bartlet, we get to see Donna insert herself into Josh’s life. We get the back story on how Donna came to join the campaign. She wedges herself into his office, and he hands her his credentials. (Why haven’t they gotten it on already? I mean really.) After that lovely scene, we are then forced to watch Donna watch Josh in surgery.
CJ updates Sam on Josh, and CJ tells Sam why she couldn’t do the morning shows. She admits to Sam that she can’t remember what happened. She tells him that after hearing him on the morning shows, she realizes that it was him who pushed her to the ground for safety. He returns her necklace, they share a moment. CJ heads back to the pressroom.
Toby returns to the hospital, and has a conversation with Butterfield. He broaches the open-air topic. Toby shares that he’s responsible for the memo that initiated the president’s not using a tent or canopy when greeting the public. Toby tells Butterfield that he wants to let people know it’s not the Secret Service’s fault.
Butterfield then gives a great speech on the duty of the Secret Service, how this was an act of madmen and that the Secret Service doesn’t comment on procedure. It’s kind of amazing.
Toby’s still distressed.
CJ is back in the press room, giving more details on the shooters. CJ says that this is the fifth briefing since midnight. She then shares that there were 36 homicides, and more crime statistics at gunpoint.
Danny and Leo watch CJ, and bask in her awesomeness. They ride to the hospital together.
Back on the campaign trail, we see the results of the Illinois primary. Josh has an exchange on the difficulty that is her husband. Bartlet wins the Illinois primary, and Donna has to tell Josh that his father has died. While waiting at the airport, the secret service takes their spots, and Bartlet comes to talk to Josh.
They have a tender exchange, and Bartlet admits that he’s been a jackass. He and Josh talk some more, and when Leo is ready to accompany the president back to the ballroom for his speech, he announces, “I’m ready.” We then hear the audio of Josiah Bartlet of accepting the nomination for the President of the United States.
As we hear that, we see Josh waking up. When he comes to, the President and Leo are there, and Josh says, just so the president can hear, “What’s next?”