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No Exit

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"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by C.J.

After a black-tie dinner, the President and his staff are locked down inside the White House when a foreign substance is detected inside, forcing an odd coupling of people who are forced to occupy small rooms where they share personal reflections -- and some turn confrontational when Toby accuses Will of backstabbing Bartlet. As the inspection continues, the President, Fiderer and Charlie submit to intense inspection while in other corners, C.J. has strong career advice for Donna and Josh queries security adviser Kate on why his joke was deleted from the Chief's speech.

Summary Edit

OpeningEdit

The President is returning from the Correspondents Dinner, where he performed very well.  Leo and Debbie both compliment him on his remarks.  At they get out of the limousine, Bartlet bums a smoke from one of the Secret Service agents.

C.J. returns from the dinner and runs into Will in the White House lobby.  She gives him the flowers she has brought home from the dinner and they part.  Josh and Donna walk in and head for his office.  Josh is upset that a joke he added to the President's remarks was taken out by Kate Harper. He asks Donna to get her on the phone.

Outside the Oval Office, Debbie and Charlie are talking about the dinner.  Debbie remarks to Charlie about his hot water at home - which the President overhears and expresses concern for Charlie.  The President tells Charlie that he is planning on taking a call from the Japanese Defense Minister in the residence.

In a watch room in the White House, the Secret Service detects a spike in environmental pollutants in the White House, specifically outside the Oval Office - the Service crashes the building and surrounds the President, Debbie, and Charlie, and ushers them out. 

Act IEdit

Donna is on her way to see C.J. when a press aide gives her some material on her upcoming trip as part of the codel to the Middle East.  C.J. arrives in her office, escorted by an agent who tells Donna and C.J. they will need to stay in C.J.'s office.  Will comes to see Toby to comment on the number of jokes about the Vice President in the President's speech.  The two of them continue to spar when an agent arrives to tell them the building is crashed.  Kate arrives at Josh's office to talk to him - she looks down at her pager, grabs a case of water and brings it in to Josh's office - Josh is confused, then a Secret Service agent arrives to tell Josh the building is crashed.

The President, Debbie, and Charlie are ushered into a medical evaluation room, where the President is asked a series of questions and the three prepare for a series of examinations.  In the Residence, Leo and Abbey are forced to stay together for the duration of the crash; their relationship has been frosty of late.

Toby and Will discuss the Vice President's speech.  Toby is angry that the Vice President did not use any of Toby's suggested jokes - Will tells him that Toby doesn't work for the Vice President - he does.  Toby tries to leave the room, but a Secret Service agent doesn't let him - when Toby tries to push past him, the agent tackles Toby.  As Toby returns to the office - he and Will look up to see contamination draping being taped up on the communications bullpen.

Act IIEdit

While Debbie and Charlie are being examined, Ron Butterfield is briefing the President on the situation.  In response to a question to Debbie from the doctor - Debbie was sprayed with something at the Correspondent's Dinner - the doctor orders all of them into the decontamination shower.

C.J. and Donna call over to Josh's office to see if he knows anything more.  Donna asks him about her place on the codel and that she replaced another White House press aide (who is angry with Donna about getting bumped).  Josh's lies about his other line ringing and he hangs up on her.  Donna and C.J. continue to talk.  C.J. was supposed to leave on a camping trip with Ben - which is going to be significantly delayed.  In Will's old office, Toby and Will continue their strained conversations.  Will asks Toby why he dislikes the Vice President so much.

The President and First Lady talk by phone, she, still in the residence, and the President, fresh from the decontamination shower.  Bartlet is surprised to to hear that Leo is stuck in the Residence with Abbey.  Leo gets on the phone and the two talk about the plan for the Japanese call.  After hanging up, Leo and Abbey try to make conversation.

In Josh's office - he and Kate talk about things.  He asks her why she killed his joke - she replies that it wasn't a threat, it just wasn't funny.

In the decontamination room, the doctor comes in with Cipro, an anti-biotic, for the President, Debbie, and Charlie to take.   Ron Butterfield returns to tell them that they have identified the hazardous material - it is Tularemia, which is most similar to Plague.

Act IIIEdit

Josh presses Kate for information on what's going on - thinking that she must know.  She tells him what she suspects, based on the HVAC system being off.

In the decontamination room - Charlie and Debbie are trying to find something to do - there are several games in the room.  Butterfield tells them they have identified the location of the contaminant - it was on some discarded mail in his waste basket.  The President's call to the Japanese Defense Minister gets patched through to the decontamination room, as Charlie and Ron go into the other room to talk.  Later, Debbie is looking at a computer as to how the Tularemia could have gotten onto Charlie's mail.  She looks over to where Ron and Charlie are still talking, and tells the President that that Charlie is not going to forgive himself for this.

Toby finally admits to Will that the Vice President's speech was good - it was the speech the President should have given and that Will should have written it for the President, not the Vice President.  In the Residence, Abbey and Leo talk about her work at the DC clinic and how it is playing in the right wing press.  In C.J.'s office - C.J. pushes Donna as to why she is still working for Josh - she could be doing so much more - C.J. is aggravated at both Donna and Josh for enabling each other.

Act IVEdit

In Will's old office, Toby questions Will on the Vice President's (and Will's) motives.  Toby knows that Will is pushing hard for the Vice President and Toby is afraid that Russell could actually win.

In the Decontamination Room, Butterfield announces the all clear - but asks that if questioned, they tell anyone that it was a false alarm.  He wants to brief the President and then speak with them in the Mural Room before releasing them.

Leo comes to Abbey to tell her it was a false alarm - she is making ready to go to her shift at the clinic.  Leo expresses (again) his reservations about her working there - but she is not giving in.  She tries to tell him that he should look after his own health as well - but he dismisses the idea.

An agent releases Donna and C.J and the two part ways - only partly having resolved their argument.  Kate comes into Josh's office after talking with an agent to tell Josh it was a false alarm.  Josh wants to know why a five minute conversation resulted in only a "false alarm."  Donna comes back to her desk, takes some things off it and leaves, ignoring Josh's call to her.

In the Mural Room - The President and Butterfield tell Debbie and Charlie that it was a live drill using a harmless simulant of tularemia, with the participants (everyone but Butterfield) not knowing what was happening.  He tells them that for the time being, it is going to have to stay top secret.  After Debbie and Charlie leave, the President and Ron talk. Clearly they were hiding something from Debbie and Charlie, but exactly what is unclear. There is evidence that it really was a drill: Butterfield stops the doctor from giving anyone antibiotics and stated that because part of the ventilation system failed to shut down, people in the communications area would have been exposed if it were a real attack, but no action is taken. However, after Debbie and Charlie are told it was a drill and leave, the first thing Butterfield says to the President now that they are alone is "They didn't question it." This could mean they were just lied to and didn't seek to uncover the truth, or it could mean they didn't question the need for a live drill on a biological attack. It is revealed that there is an ongoing FBI investigation and a suspect is under surveillance, and Butterfield says "Tularemia won't get through again." It is open to interpretation what is implied by "again." It could refer to this time, where it got through to the communications area, or it could refer to an earlier incident, perhaps which triggered the FBI investigation. If he means the latter, it would have to have been an attack that did not affect anyone and was hidden from the entire West Wing staff. Future episodes never reference this incident, so it is left to the viewer to decide what exactly is the truth.

Trivia / Goofs Edit

  • Unlike the majority of West Wing episodes, this episode's title is not spoken outright by a character. "No Exit" is a play written by Jean-Paul Sartre. It was originally published in French under the title "Huis Clos." In the play, three people arrive in Hell and find it to be much like a hotel when they are all put in a room together. Sartre strays away from the conventional ideas that Hell was all about fire and pitchforks. The theme of the play is that Hell is other people. So in the play, as in the episode, the people who are stuck with one another torture each other.  Also, Toby and Will actually do discuss Jean-Paul Sartre during their confinement.
  • This episode uses the classic sitcom convention of locking two people with differences into a room and forcing them to work it out; however, it is used on a much larger scale.
  • It is unlikely that a secret service agent would park his car in a garage as depicted.  Firstly, there are no such open air garages like that in proximity to the White House and secondly, many White House staff park in surface spots surrounding the White House.
  • There is some considerable foreshadowing here when Abbey pushes Leo on his health and urges him to get an EKG. 
  • When Toby and Will look out of the office window, everyone visible is wearing at the very least filter masks, but the agent on the door has none.

Quotes Edit

Doctor Gordon: Tularemia's likely to manifest as a severe respiratory infection: pneumonia, eventually systemic.
Charlie Young: Sounds bad.
Doctor Gordon: In the world of known pathogens, tularemia is closest to... well, in fact, it is plague.
President Bartlet: When I came into office, we knew the word "terrorist." It was in the daily briefing. But we pictured guys with turbans in the desert or some mad survivalist in a cabin in Montana. That party's over. Now anyone with high school chemistry is a potential threat.
Toby Ziegler: You need to get the hell out of there. You're grooming this clown for a victory and then what? ...I don't care who you surround this guy with, he's going to wield a tremendous amount of power.... Go find someone you can honestly respect. Groom him....

Cast Edit

StarringEdit

Special Guest StarsEdit

Guest StarringEdit

Co-StarringEdit

ReferencesEdit

"The West Wing" No Exit (2004)
The West Wing: No Exit