First of all: Props to my late mother, who tried to make me take shorthand in high school (yes, it was still offered then); with my hand curling up into a hideously deformed claw as I wrote this recap, I couldn't stop thinking of her admonitions. Mom, for the record: you were right; I should have learned it.
Previously on The West Wing: The Veep disses C.J., Leo tells the Veep to consider C.J.'s words a directive from Leo's office, whereupon the Veep wants to know where Leo gets the authority, Mallory asks about Sam and Josh tells her Sam doesn't need her booty call to add to his list of problems, C.J. wants to know what Danny's flirting means, and Leo tells the Prez Jenny's finally kicked his butt to the curb.
The title card tells us it's 1:30 AM. In the Oval Office, we see Josh and the Prez in shirtsleeves, obviously having had a long evening of work. POTUS is as indefatigable as usual, blathering on about state parks. Josh protests that it's late and wonders if they're through with work. Prez says yes, but insists that this is the fun part, "the part where I get you to sit down and teach you a little something." Josh tries, "You're not tired?" and "Maybe if you got into bed..." POTUS announces that he's a national parks buff, as if Josh and all the rest of us had not clued to that by now, and bets that Josh didn't know that. Josh offers that he didn't but that he's not surprised. The Prez wants to know why he isn't surprised, and Josh replies evenly, "You're quite a nerd, Mr. President." POTUS doesn't look too hurt or nonplussed. He begins rambling on again about the Everglades and mentions that there are fifty-four national parks, whereupon Josh pleads, "Please tell me you haven't been to all of them." Which, naturally, the President has, and he starts listing them off. While Mr. President is making like a talking encyclopedia, Josh reminds him that he needs to go home so that he can be back at work in four hours (really? The Deputy Chief of Staff has to be at work at 5:30 AM on a normal workday?), and that he can't leave until the President gives him permission. Meanwhile the President has landed on the idea of taking his staff on a "field trip to Shenandoah National Park, right here in Virginia! I can even act as the guide!" leading me to wonder if the Commander-in-Chief wouldn't rather be teaching eighth grade at PS 102. ["Most people who live in D.C. do not consider themselves to be 'right here in Virginia.'" -- Strega] As POTUS leaps up, presumably to make a note of this brilliant idea in his agenda book, Josh mutters that it would be "as good a place as any to dump your body" -- then wonders, rather disingenuously, whether he actually said that out loud. The President appears to have figured out what Josh said and launches into a lecture about Yosemite as Josh's punishment. (May I just note that, while the type and degree of good-natured snarkiness that dominates this show makes for entertaining television, I find it fairly unconvincing that the President's White House staff would generally speak to him this way, no matter how folksy and affable the President. Whatever.)