"Mr. Willis of Ohio" is the sixth episode of the first season of The West Wing. Toby and Mandy work to convince some Congressmen—including Mr. Willis, an eighth grade social studies teacher who assumed his late wife's office—to approve a commerce bill that includes a vital census-counting provision, while the President's daughter gets into an ugly fracas in a Georgetown bar along with Josh and Sam. Elsewhere, C.J. swallows her pride and asks Sam for help to understand the basic components of the administration's stance on census-taking, and a peeved President Bartlet scolds Leo when he learns that Leo's wife has left him.
C.J., Josh, Leo, Mandy, Sam, Toby, and The President are playing a late-night poker game. President Bartlet can't resist giving his staff an obscure trivia quiz during the game: "What fruit is the only one that has its seeds on the outside?" "Name the 14 punctuation marks." "Name the three English words that begin with 'd-w'". The game ends, and The President tells Leo to kiss Jenny, being still unaware of Leo's separation from his wife, and tells Charlie not to stay too late while heading to the residence. Suddenly, a phalanx of Secret Service agents invades the Oval Office and makes everyone remain where they are—the building is not secure. The President tries to break up the resulting tension by starting his trivia quiz again, but no one is going for it. They get the all clear, and the staff disperses, with Mandy commenting that this sort of thing never happened in her old job.
The next day, Toby asks his staff to bring him a copy of the Constitution, and is clearly unhappy when no one can find one. "'Is it still in print' my staff wants to know!" C.J. comes to Sam and tells him she needs a tutor to explain the census process, since a bill is coming up on it. Sam realizes the extent of her bewilderment and realizes that it is better that she simply wants to know at all.
Donna questions Josh on why, since there is a $32 billion budget surplus, they don't simply give that back to the taxpayers.
In Leo's office, Leo is going over the various pork-barrel projects added to the latest appropriations bill. Toby points out what is really important in the bill. Mandy tells Leo that she and Toby have an appointment with Gladman, Skinner, and "Janice Willis's husband" (the titular character of the episode.) If they agree to drop the census sampling prohibition, the bill will pass. Toby believes they will have extra incentive to do so based on the fact that a long weekend is coming up and they will want to return home.
The President is meeting with Ron Butterfield about the previous night's incident. He learns that it was a woman who caused it, and that his youngest daughter Zoey was the target, to his obvious concern. The president feels that there is no need for Zoe to know. Alone, Leo starts to admit his separation from his wife but Ron comes back in, and Leo decides to wait until later. Ron confirms that the woman had a gun.
The 3 congressmen arrive for their meeting with Toby, Mandy, and Josh. Mr. Willis acts like what he is, a non-political novice who is simply filling his late wife's seat until someone smarter and more qualified can take over the job. The appropriations bill is laid on the table—it is four volumes that are all at least ten inches thick. It is 7000 pages long and weighs over 55 pounds. Toby details some more of the pork.
None of the pork, however, will stop the President from signing it, but what will is the prohibition on sampling for the census. Toby tells them that he will keep them there for as long as possible despite their non-refundable plane tickets, and Mr. Willis tells him that that's not an issue for him and he is willing to be there for as long as it takes to convince him, much to the dismay of his colleagues.
Sam has started tutoring C.J. on the basics of the census, and he tells her how it works, and that the mandated method is a door-to-door head count. C.J. is amazed by the whole process.
Mallory shows up at Leo's office with some stuff for him. He tells her that this 'thing" between him and his wife will blow over, but she sets him straight: "No, it won't dad. You understand that, right?"
Donna gets Josh out of the meeting to tell him the President needs to see him. On the way to the Oval office, she questions him again on why the taxpayers can't have their money back. Josh says it would be better used paying down the National debt and strengthening Social Security. Donna wants to buy a DVD player!
In the Oval office, the President asks Josh to take Charlie out to a bar, since Charlie has little time to be on his own. Josh is less than enthusiastic about this assignment, and is even less excited about it when Zoey and Mallory manage to include themselves in this errand, with Mallory telling him to include Sam in the expedition. "The president's daughter, the Chief of Staff's daughter, a Georgetown bar, and Sam. What could possibly go wrong?"
Sam, continuing his lesson, tells C.J. that the door-to-door headcount is staggeringly inaccurate, being unfair to inner cities, minorities, immigrants, and the homeless. Sampling is much more accurate, but that the Constitution does not allow it. Josh enters and tells Sam about their bar trip, and C.J. joins the party.
In the meeting, Mandy informs the three congressman that the last census undercounted over 8 million blacks while overcounting 4 million mostly whites. Toby tells them that sampling will give a much more realistic count, and for four BILLION dollars less than the door-to-door head count. The 2 veterans are rolling their eyes, but Mr. Willis looks to be actually considering the arguments. Toby and Mandy then point out the antiquity of the Constitutional Article, in which enslaved persons are only to be counted as 3/5ths of a person. Mr. Willis knows this because he taught high school social studies.
The 2 veterans tell Toby and Mandy that they wasted a meeting, but Mr. willis tells Toby that he will change his vote based on the arguments he has heard. Toby is clearly amazed by a man who is able to allow his mind to be changed by convincing argument, apparently unheard of in Washington! After the meeting, Toby asks Mr. Willis ("You can call me Joe.") what changed his mind. "You did". Toby tells him that the merits of an argument often take a backseat to politics, and Joe tells him that they worked on him.
Toby admits that he was taking advantage of his political naïveté, and Joe tells Toby he is aware of that. Toby also admits he left a few things out, like how there is a chance decisions like this could allow opinion polls to take the place of elections, among other things. "I thought about that. It's OK by me, as long as it's not the same people who decide what's on television."
Joe tells Toby that his wife was much smarter than he was, and never knew what she saw in a dummy like him. The problems they are going to face in the new century are going to be far beyond the wisdom of Solomon, but that the best place to start is to make sure everyone is counted fairly. He also tells Toby that this will be his first and probably last vote in Congress, as he has no desire to continue. Toby watches him go, clearly touched.
The President is off to dinner when Leo walks in and gives him news of the meeting. He also admits to his separation and impending divorce from his wife. Leo tells the President that his busy schedule is one of the causes, and that he didn't tell the President because the President would be inappropriately angry. The President leaves telling him to fix it.
At a Georgetown bar, Josh, Sam, Mallory, Charlie, C.J., and Zoey are having "fun". The subject of Sam's "friend" Laurie comes up, and Zoey reveals that she knows the secret—Mallory told her. Mallory tells Sam she hasn't told her father yet. Zoey goes to the bar to get the drink the waitress forgot, leaving her panic button behind. Josh is worried Charlie is having no fun.
At the bar, Zoey is hit on by three drunk frat boys who are unaware of who she is. The rest of the group become aware of the situation, Charlie first, and quickly move to intervene. Josh, having activated the panic button, tells the drunks that they are about to have a bad day. Secret Service agents come in, whisk Zoey away, and arrest the three drunks. Charlie says to Josh "Now I'm having a good time."
At the White house, the President is getting Zoey's version of what happened. She is dismissive of his concerns, and that the Secret Service should be more worried about him being killed. He tells her that him being killed is not the nightmare scenario. The President, growing increasingly angry and agitated, then relates what the nightmare scenario is—Zoey has been kidnapped from a party and smuggled to a cargo shack in Uganda, where terrorists hold her at gunpoint and tell The President that he has 72 hours to convince Israel to release 460 Palestinian prisoners from jail. The President pleads with Israel's Prime Minister to do so, but the Prime Minister tells the President that Israel does not negotiate with terrorists—it's the only way they survive! "Now we've got a new problem, because this country no longer has a Commander-in-Chief, it has a father who is out of his mind, because his little girl is in a shack somewhere in Uganda with a gun to her head! Do you get it?!" Zoey, clearly terrified and on the verge of tears, meekly says "Yes." The President, seeing how scared she has become, relents and apologizes. He wants her to have her freedom, but tells her it is a privilege and that she must never forget that. The President enters Leo's office and apologizes for his earlier remarks.
In a meeting room outside Leo's office, Josh, Sam, and Charlie are waiting to talk to the President, Donna brings sandwiches, telling Josh she has kept the change from the money he gave her for them, telling him she can spend it more wisely than he can. Josh is called in, and the President asks why Josh took his daughter to a bar. Josh tells him that that's what the President asked him to do. He tells the President how quickly Charlie put his body between danger and Zoey. The president invites the rest of his senior staff, including Charlie, in for another game of Poker. Toby tells them that he met an unusual man, one who came in with no political agenda and without his mind already made up. He genuinely wanted to do what was best, and wasn't afraid to say "I don't know". The game starts as Toby waits to join until he can see the vote: "Mr. Willis of Ohio votes yea".
- The President yells at his daughter Zoey about her being careless and what the dangers to her could be. His off the cuff description of her abduction (at a club in the bathroom, Secret Service agents being shot in the head) is very close to the events that would take place at the end of season four when Zoey is abducted. 
- This speech, wherein President Bartlet references his and the Secret Service's worry over his getting shot, could also be a foreshadowing of the end of season 1, where a shootout occurs during which he is shot.
- Two actors playing the minor roles of Frat Boys in the episode, Blake Shields and Eric Balfour, went on to have starring roles in television programs.
- President Bartlett's reference to a "malted" [milkshake] is compared to the Thornton Wilder play Our Town, set in 1900-13. Bartlett mentions that he once played the Stage Manager (the lead role) in a production.
Dramatic license Edit
- The Secret Service would never let the President's daughter out of their sight.
- In the House of Representatives, a "teller vote" where all names are called would last for hours and is therefore almost never takes place after the vote for Speaker on the first day of a new Congress. A modern Roll Call involves all 435 members voting electronically and simultaneously in a 15-min window or 5-min series. This is done so that Toby can spend the closing moments of the episode in front of the TV in order to hear Mr. Willis' vote read out loud.
- Nobody is ever "appointed" to fill a seat in the House of Representatives, as is depicted in this episode. A special election is us called for normally when a vacancy opens up.
- Charlie tells one of the men in the bar that, to buy 19-year-old Zoey a drink, "you'd have to take her to Maryland". The legal drinking age in Maryland has been 21 since 1982. 
- In a Congressional roll call, the names are given in alphabetical order and those after Willis are mentioned. The name "Wyatt" isn't called, however, even through Andi is a member of Congress.
- Toby Ziegler: I met an unusual man. He didn't walk in with a political agenda. He didn't walk in with his mind made up. He genuinely wanted to do what he thought was best. He didn't mind saying the words 'I don't know.'
- Josh Lyman: The President's daughter, Chief of Staff's daughter, a Georgetown bar and Sam. What could possibly go wrong?
- Toby Ziegler: Kathy, I need a copy of article one, section two.
- Kathy: Article one section two of what?
- Toby: The Constitution.
- Kathy: Is that something I'm supposed to have at my desk?
- Toby: Does anybody have a copy of the constitution? (blank looks from the communications staff) This is discouraging!
- Kathy: Bonnie, would you get Toby a copy of the consitution?
- Bonnie: Is it still in print?
- Toby: Oh for crying out loud! Try Amazon.com. And if they don't have it then just bust into the glass display case at the national archives!
- C.J. Cregg: You shouldn't yell.
- Toby: "Is it still in print," is what my staff would like to know.
- Sam Seaborn: You don't understand the census.
- C.J.: I don't understand certain nuances.
- Sam: Like what?
- C.J.: Like the census.
- Sam: C.J., we've been working on this commerce bill for 3 weeks. I've heard you talk about the census all the time!
- C.J.: Yeah, yeah...
- Sam: I don't understand, how can you-
- C.J.: I've been faking it
- Sam: You've been faking it...
- C.J.: I've been playing it fast and loose there's no doubt about it. But sitting in on some of the meetings we've been having and reading the briefing book last night, I have to say that the census is starting to sound to me like it's...well, important.
- Sam: Uh-huh.
- C.J.: And, I've come to the realization that if I'm gonna be talking about it all week it's probably best that I understand what I'm saying.
- Sam: When?
- C.J.: When what?
- Sam: When did you come to this realization?
- C.J.: About an hour ago.
- Sam: OK. Lets...I'll tell you what. Let's forget about the fact that you're comin' a little late to the party and embrace the idea you showed up at all.
- Leo McGarry: Just don't do anything to screw up or in any way embarrass me!
- Josh Lyman: Leo, Knute Rockne. Sometimes I get 'em mixed up!
- Toby: Mr. Willis?
- Joe Willis: You can call me Joe.
- Toby: If you don't mind me asking sir, what changed your mind?
- Joe Willis: What do you mean?
- Toby: Well I know it wasn't expediency, so I was wondering what changed your mind.
- Joe Willis: You did. I thought you made a very strong argument.
- Toby: Well thank you. Um...(chuckles) I'm smiling because around here the merits of a particular argument generally take a back seat to political tactics.
- Joe Willis: I would imagine. It worked on me.
- Toby: I was taking advantage of you sir.
- Joe Willis: I know.
- Toby: There's some things I did not mention. First of all it is partisan. Second of all, I'm not wild about the precedent.
- Joe Willis: You mean—
- Toby: What's to stop us from saying: "We don't need elections, we'll just use polling data. 1150 people with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 will decide who runs the country."
- Joe Willis: I thought about that.
- Toby: And?
- Joe Willis: It's OK by me. As long as it's NOT the same people who decide what's on television. (Laughs uproariously)
- C.J.: I now know everything there is to know about the Census. Go ahead, you can ask me anything.
- President Bartlet: How many people live in the United States?
- Sam: (After C.J. gives him a look) There is some material we haven't covered yet.
- Eric Balfour was uncredited despite his prominent role as the third abrasive Frat Boy.
- Bradley James was again credited as an unnamed Secret Service Agent despite his character being identified as Donnie in later episodes.