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In Excelsis Deo

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"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by Sam

As Christmas Eve approaches, President Bartlet eagerly sneaks out of the White House for some last-minute Christmas shopping, while a haunted Toby learns more about a forgotten Korean War hero who died alone on the district's cold streets while wearing a coat that Toby once donated to charity. In other hushed corridors, Sam and Josh ignore Leo's advice and consult Sam's call girl friend concerning her confidential clientele when one political rival hints at exposing Leo's previous drug problem. C.J. wonders aloud about the President's public response to a notorious hate crime while her personal resolve weakens as a persistent reporter continues to ask her out.

Summary Edit


It's Christmas at the White House. Mandy describes the planned festivities to Toby, Sam, and C.J. while Toby complains about the fact that the 1999-2000 rollover is being described as the millennium. Toby gets a phone call from the D.C. police, and Sam asks C.J. what's more exciting? Watching the odometer of a car go from 99,999 to 100,000 or from 100,000 to 100,001. C.J. points out that the millennium is technically still a year away, but Sam says "Yeah, but we've made all these plans." C.J. tells a Secret Service agent to tell the President she's on her way to see him, and is very surprised to learn her new Secret Service code name is "Flamingo".

Act OneEdit

Toby goes to meet the police at the National Mall Korean War Memorial, and learns from the on-scene detective that a homeless man was found dead there on a park bench. The man was wearing a coat that Toby donated to the Goodwill that he had left a business card in. Toby wonders why the coroner's office is taking so long to remove the body, and the detective informs him that since it was not foul play, it's not a high priority. Toby asks the detective if he will be contacting the V.A., having recognized the man's tattoo as being that of a Korean War veteran's. The detective is apparently not impressed.

Back in the West Wing, Donna presents Josh with a list of presents he can buy her, all of them skiing related. Josh and Sam are headed to meeting with Leo. They want to go to Sam's "friend" Laurie to find the name of a Republican who has paid her for sex. Leo bans the mission unequivocally, dismisses Sam, then tells Josh about a gay teenager who was beaten for being gay by his peers. He tells Josh that it may be time to re-visit hate crime legislation and that CJ will be bringing it up during her briefing. In her briefing, CJ does exactly that while detailing the President's holiday schedule.

Toby tries to find information on the homeless veteran, Walter Hufnagle, but is continually put on hold. Mandy interrupts and tells him that while it might be trivial, the Santa hats clash with the Dickensian costumes. "This might seem trivial?"

Donna catches Josh and wants to know about what he is doing about Leo's situation. She has heard about what is going down. After closing the door, Josh confirms the situation and tells Donna that he is working on it, and to tell no one.

In the main lobby, CJ is preparing a group of visiting children to greet the President. The President is clearly enjoying being able to fool around for a few minutes, but gets a signal from Charlie. He gets the news that Lowell Lydell has died, but maintains a straight face as he goes back to the children, with approving looks from CJ and Charlie.

Act TwoEdit

Sam tells CJ to dial her talk back on the hate crimes legislation. She tells him her new Secret Service code name, learns, to her dismay, that his name is "Princeton". Sam tells Josh he will soon be in Bermuda: "Just me, some suntan oil, and 655 pages of briefing memos."

Josh closes the door to Sam's office and confirms that Laurie is "expensive". Clearly Josh wants her to divulge the names of Republicans who have used her services. Sam is outraged until he learns that Josh wants to use it to save Leo. Mrs. Landingham reminds Charlie that he must continue to remind the President that he is allergic to egg nog. Charlie tells her that the White House is festive this time of year, and asks her why she is not celebrating Christmas, and she tells him that her twin sons were killed in Vietnam on Christmas eve, while Charlie looks on like a deer caught in the headlights. "I miss my boys", she says.

At the Veteran's Memorial on the Mall, Toby finds family information on the dead homeless veteran from another veteran manning the visitor's information booth, John Noonan.

In the White House, the President invites Josh and Mandy to go on a secret shopping mission with him to a rare book store. Mandy wants to send some photographers, but is adamantly refused by the President. Josh is reluctant to go at all. "Couldn't you just drop me off the top of the Washington Monument?" The President: "It's Christmas Josh!, No reason we can't do both!"

CJ and Danny are talking as they walk about how he has realized the President has left on his not-so-secret shopping trip. Danny wants her to go out with him and has a list on why she should. CJ tells him she can give him a list on why she shouldn't. Danny tells her they should meet soon to compare them. CJ then asks Sam what they are going to do, not knowing about their planned visit to Laurie.

In the bookstore, the President shops for books, while Leo wants to talk about the best way he can resign his post. The President doesn't want to discuss it. Leo collars Josh and Sam and tells them that whatever strategy he was planning, don't.

Act ThreeEdit

At a homeless gathering under a bridge, Toby is looking for relatives of Walter Hufnagle. Another homeless man shows him Walter's brother, and tells him that Walter's brother is a little "Slow". Toby finds the brother, and tells him that not only did his brother serve, but that he served with distinction. He tells Walter's brother that Walter is entitled to a proper military burial, and that Toby can arrange it. He asks the first homeless man to make sure that Walter's brother will be available when Toby comes to get him. Toby gives all the cash he has on him to the other homeless man, but the man gives him back enough cash to ensure that he can get back home safely. Toby is clearly touched by the gesture.

In her office, CJ is running down her list of why the Press Secretary cannot date a reporter, Danny Concannon shrugs it off and gives CJ a present of goldfish food for the goldfish he gave her earlier. Leo comes in, and CJ tells him she is rebuffing his advances, but Leo doesn't care about that and tells her to dial down her rhetoric on hate crimes. "They made him say 'Hail Mary's' As they beat him to death". "I'm telling you to dial it down!" CJ relents, and asks Leo if he has Christmas plans, His plan is to do nothing.

Josh and Sam arrive at Laurie's apartment, to her surprise, and Sam tells her that they need the names of Republicans who like kinky sex. Sam doesn't tell her why they are asking, but she quickly figures out through conversation with him why they are here--they are trying to save Leo from being embarrassed. Josh recognizes her from The State Dinner and she asks him why he thinks that Republicans are the only ones who pay for sex. She tells him and Sam to get out, and she will pretend it never happened. They come to their senses and leave, but not before Laurie tells them that they are the good guys, and they should act like it.

Act FourEdit

On Christmas Eve, Leo and Margaret are choosing the Christmas cards he will sign personally. "Who's Elizabeth?" "Your sister!" CJ and Leo discuss the pending hate crimes legislation. Sam and Josh enter Leo's office, and Leo, very angry, tells them that he had them followed the night before and that they should not have gone to Laurie like they did. Josh says they meant well, and Leo says that while it shouldn't mean anything to him, it did. Lingering behind, Josh tells Leo it's going to get bad before it gets better, and the unspoken message is that it's time for him accept the help of his staff.

CJ dismisses the White House press corps, then invites Danny on a Christmas date to discuss hate crimes legislation.

Donna gets her gift from Josh, a rare book with a touching message from him written in the margin. Donna is touched by Josh's words. The President enters the lobby to applause, and welcomes the varied visitors. Mrs. Landingham greets Toby, and tells him that the President needs a word with him. "Did you use the Preisdent's name to arrange a funeral for a homeless veteran?" "You shouldn't have done that" she tells him.

As a Boys' Choir sings "The Little Drummer Boy", The President tells Toby that he has discovered that he (The President) has arranged for a military funeral for a homeless veteran, then he asks Toby if he used his name to do anything else. "We're still in NATO, right?" Toby's account of what's occurred includes the statement "I got better treatment at Panmunjom." The President asks him if he isn't afraid that it might bring every homeless veteran out of the woodwork. "I can only hope" Toby replies. The President smiles and claps him on the shoulder, then returns to the Christmas ceremony. Mrs. Landingham, dressed for the outdoors, asks Toby if she may accompany him to the funeral he has arranged.

The senior staff stands in the lobby and watches the choir's performance of the song, interspersed with images of the military funeral Toby has arranged. The gunshots from the 21 gun salute cause Toby and Mrs. Landingham to flinch. The staff begins to assemble alongside the President as a military officer tries to hand the flag that was draped over the coffin to Toby, and Toby directs him to George.

Trivia Edit

  • The decorations in C.J.'s goldfish bowl change depending on the theme of the episode. For this episode the bowl contains a Christmas tree. [1]
  • After reading through the script, the Pentagon was very touched by the handling of the story line dealing with the death of a homeless veteran of the Korean conflict. In fact, they were so impressed that they gave the show access to film at Arlington National Cemetery, (ANC is administered by the U.S. Army Military District of Washington). The Department of Defense then supplied the Marine Honor Guard and chaplain, and set up the whole funeral. During the funeral scene, all persons in uniform are members of the U.S. Armed Forces, performing their actual roles in a military funeral. Richard Schiff has said that it was such a powerful and moving story, that after every take, he broke down and cried. [2]
  • Margaret refers to "Elizabeth" as being Leo's sister, but the Season 2 episode Shibboleth introduces the character of Josephine McGarry as his sister. It is never explained whether Leo has more than one sister or if this is simply a continuity error.
  • On Mrs. Landingham desk appears a stuffed penguin. The same make of penguin is Joey's toy in the TV show Friends.
  • It appears that Josh and Sam visit Laurie in a very nice house, different than the apartment where she and Sam first appeared in the pilot episode.

Goofs Edit

  • During the funeral only four people are shown. There should be at least one more. The Arlington Ladies are a group of volunteers dedicated to ensuring that no deceased member of the United States Military is buried alone. Each branch of the military has its own group that represents them. Information on The Arlington Ladies can be found here.

Quotes Edit

Josh Lyman: An hour with you in a rare book store. Couldn't you just drop me off the top of the Washington monument instead?
President Bartlet: It's Christmas, Josh! No reason we can't do both.

Leo McGarry: Well, nothing says Christmas like animal fables in Iambic verse.

C.J. Cregg: What's your secret service code name?
Sam Seaborn: They just changed it.
C.J. Cregg: I know. What's yours?
Sam Seaborn: Princeton.
C.J. Cregg: Mine's Flamingo.
Sam Seaborn:: It's nice.
C.J. Cregg: No, it's NOT nice.
Sam Seaborn: Flamingo's a nice looking bird.
C.J. Cregg: The flamingo is a RIDICULOUS looking bird.
Sam Seaborn: YOU'RE not ridiculous looking.
C.J. Cregg: I know I'm not ridiculous looking.
Sam Seaborn: Any way for me to get out of this conversation?
C.J. Cregg: I'm gonna talk to someone.
Sam Seaborn: Excellent.




Guest StarringEdit



Opening credits

  1. Aaron Sorkin - Creator
  2. W.G. Snuffy Walden - Music
  3. Michael Hissrich - Co-producer
  4. Kristin Harms - Producer
  5. Jeff Reno - Consulting Producer
  6. Ron Osborn - Consulting Producer
  7. Llewellyn Wells - Episodic Producer
  8. Aaron Sorkin and
  9. Rick Cleveland - Writer
  10. Alex Graves - Director

Closing credits

  1. Aaron Sorkin - Executive Producer
  2. Thomas Schlamme - Executive Producer
  3. John Wells - Executive Producer
  4. Rick Cleveland - Co-producer
  5. Peter Parnell - Executive Story Editor
  6. Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. - Executive Story Editor
  7. Paul Redford - Story Editor
  8. Patrick Caddell - Consultant
  9. Dee Dee Myers - Consultant
  10. Julie Herlocker - Associate Producer
  11. Thomas Del Ruth - Director of Photography
  12. Kenneth Hardy - Production Designer
  13. Tina Hirsch - Editor
  14. Robert P. Cohen - Unit Production Manager
  15. Rodney Hooks - First Assistant Director
  16. Stacy Fish - Second Assistant Director
  17. Barbara Miller - Executive in Charge of Casting
  18. John Levey - Casting
  19. Kevin Scott - Casting

References Edit

"The West Wing" In Excelsis Deo (1999)
Movie Mistakes

See AlsoEdit

The Arlington Ladies