West Wing
A Proportional Response

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A Proportional Response
n a way that prevents Charlie arguing. Josh indicates that he's sure Charlie understands why they have to be so particular, because it's such a sensitive, demanding job. Josh is rambling about the various demands (long days, travel on short notice, the diplomatic difficulties of fending off kings and prime ministers) and asks Charlie if he understands so far. Charlie smiles a bit and says he thinks there's been a mistake, and tells Josh that he came looking for a job as a messenger. Apparently someone in HR has been instructed to keep an eye out for someone like Charlie, and he's been recommended for a different job -- personal aide to the President. Charlie's confused, but Josh rattles off the qualities they look for in a personal aide: "Traditionally a young guy, twenty to twenty-five years old, excels academically, strong on personal responsibility and discretion, presentable appearance..." Charlie tries to interject but Josh continues: "We obviously get quite a few candidates who meet those qualifications, so the rest is just gut instinct." Josh gives him a sly look and says with a straight face, "Or you could bribe me." Charlie tries again to register his objections: "Sir, I, uh..." Josh already told him earlier not to call him "sir," and says, "Seriously Charlie, we call the President 'sir.' Everyone else says, 'Hey, when am I gonna get that thing I asked for?'" At that moment an arm pokes into the screen with Josh's bottle of water: The arm belongs to Donna. Charlie says that there's been a mistake as Josh says, "I'll say! Donna!" She comes back so that he can point out a typo to her ("insuccessful"). Meanwhile Charlie's standing up and trying to leave. Josh turns his attention back to Charlie and complains that he's standing up again. Charlie insists that he came for a messenger job. Suddenly Josh asks, "Why aren't you in college?" Charlie looks hesitant as he starts to say something about his transcripts. Josh is looking through Charlie's file and remarks, "Your grades are better than mine. Well, not really, but they're close." Charlie modestly replies that it was "an easy school" but Josh persists, mentioning that he's looking at recommendations and test scores and so forth, and says, "You didn't want to go to college?" Charlie looks kind of sad as he explains that he has a little sister at home and that he takes care of her. Josh asks (a little too breezily), "Your parents are gone?" "My mom, she's a police officer. She was shot and killed on duty a few months ago." Josh looks stunned as Charlie adds, "Five months ago." Josh doesn't say anything.

Post-commercial, we're back in the Situation Room. Jed arrives and makes a crack about a delegation of cardiologists in the Blue Room. "You wouldn't think you could find a group of people more arrogant than the fifteen of us, but there they are, right upstairs, in the Blue Room." Chuckles all around. POTUS is ready to hear what Fitzwallace has to say. Fitzwallace, standing in front of a map projection (so that his face is thus patterned) launches into the new scenario, in which they attack Hassan Airport (which I'm fairly sure is a made-up airport name; I can only find a record of two airports in Syria, neither of which bear this name. Probably a good idea in case there are any viewers who have trouble separating reality and fiction ["Perish the thought." -- Wing Chun]). He indicates that in addition to the civilian casualties, which could run in the thousands, the strike would temporarily cripple the region's ability to receive medical supplies and bottled water. Fitzwallace points out that such a strike would be seen both in the U.S. and abroad as a "staggering overreaction by a first-time Commander-in-Chief. And without the support of our allies, without a Western coalition, without Great Britain and Japan, and without Congress, you'll have doled out five thousand dollars' worth of punishment for a fifty-buck crime, sir." Jed looks a little deflated, and slightly chastened. Fitzwallace continues: "Mr. President, a proportional response doesn't empty the options box for the future the way an all-out assault would..." Jed waves his hand politely and says quietly, "Thank you." He clears his throat, looks around the table and asks, "Does, uh...anyone have a cigarette?" The bald guy hands him a package of cigarettes and a lighter. I have to say, I did not figure Jed for a smoker, being the tree-hugging type that he is. He lights up and asks about the Pericles I scenario: "No civilian casualties?" Fitzwallace says that they can't promise that, but that they're as certain as they can be. POTUS asks about the military implications, and another military guy says that it will cripple both their intelligence network and their surface-to-air strike capability. Jed's quiet and finally asks Leo, "How does this work?" Fitzwallace interjects, "You give me the go order, sir." A military-uniformed flunky walks to a phone on the wall as Jed sighs and smokes and looks around at the chiefs. Finally Fitzwallace says, "Mr. President?" Jed looks at him for a few moments, expressionless, and finally nods his head. Fitzwallace goes to the phone and takes the receiver from the flunky and tells whoever's on the other end that they can start the clock on Pericles I and to stand by for a confirmation code. He tells the room, "We're underway." POTUS pitches his cigarette into somebody's water glass (Leo's, from the look of things) and gets up to leave, saying nothing. Fitzwallace tells Jed, as he reaches the door, "Well done, Mr. President." Jed turns in the doorway and says, "Fifty-buck crime? I honestly don't know what the hell we're doing here." He walks away.

Back in the conference room, Josh has, I guess, regained his composure after Charlie's alarming news about his mother, and is explaining to Charlie that he has to ask him a lot of routine questions and that there's no cause for alarm. Charlie's still resisting and as Josh asks him if he's ever tried to overthrow the government, Charlie asks if all this is because the messenger job is no longer available. Josh tells him that the aide job is better: The pay is better, he doesn't have to ride around town on a bicycle, and instead of being a messenger, he gets to be personal aide to the President. Charlie tries to wriggle out again, when Sam shows up for no apparent reason and interrupts. Josh introduces Sam to Charlie, and Charlie tries to indicate that he's there for the messenger job, and starts citing his qualifications for that. Josh indicates that he's got more questions, but Sam says, "You ever try to overthrow the government?" Charlie: "No, sir." Sam: "What the hell's been stopping you?" Hee. Josh smirks and says he's got to ask Charlie some personal questions. Sam's indignant: "No, you don't." Josh is still kind of smirking but looks at Sam, slightly puzzled: "Yes, I do." Sam wants to know why. Josh: "Because I do." Sam asks Charlie if he's going to come to work early, stay late, do his job efficiently and discreetly. Charlie seems to still be on the track of resisting and says, "Well, as I was saying to Mr. Lyman..." bur Sam cuts him off and says, "Thank you." To Josh: "What more do you need to know?" Josh gives Sam a bit of a look and asks Charlie to describe his social life, friends, and leisure activities. Sam mutters to Josh, "I cannot believe you," as Charlie tries to say something about his sister, Deena, but trails off, unsure what he's being asked. Sam says, "He's asking if you're gay, Charlie, and I wouldn't answer the damn question." Josh slaps the table and says, "All right, that's it, Sam. Let's take a walk." As Josh escorts Sam out of the room, Sam says to Charlie, "Feel free to sue our asses off. I'll represent you, if you like." They leave Charlie there to wonder what the hell is going on. Josh asks what that was all about and Sam grouses: "It's ridiculous." Josh says that it's not, and Sam points out that he knows right from wrong. Josh replies that it's not like Sam didn't know he was going to be held to a higher standard when he took this job. Sam: "I don't mind being held to a higher standard. I mind being held to

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