Back in Sam's office, an exasperated Mallory is standing over Sam while he struggles to write the birthday message. They argue a little, at which point something dawns on her. Sam doesn't tell her, but she figures out that it wasn't the Prez who gave him this bogus assignment. He admits it was her father and she bombs off to confront Leo. Sam's so deep in his writer's block he doesn't seem to notice or care.
Leo's in his office dictating letters to Margaret when Mallory storms in and calls him an "addle-minded Machiavellian jerk." Um. This was the only really bad line in the whole episode; unlike the rest of the script it felt forced and unnatural. Things like this stick out like a sore thumb in a good script, but since it is a good script I'm gonna let it go. Margaret asks if she should step out and Leo agrees that she should. Mallory accuses him of deliberately giving Sam that "idiot assignment" and Leo readily admits to it. Leo tells her that while her mother has a genuine beef with him, given that he essentially widowed her when he took over the campaign, he doesn't think he's done anything to Mallory to deserve being treated badly by her. He emphasizes that working in the White House doesn't allow for any flexibility with regard to leisure time, as she discovered tonight, and he is "done being blamed by her for this." Personally, I figured he was just doing it to keep Sam out of his daughter's pants; if he was trying to develop Mallory's sympathy for himself by forcing Sam to do to her what Leo has done to her mother so many times, I can't see how that's a good plan. I guess I'll never make Chief of Staff. At about this point Jed wanders in and greets her, notices she's all dressed up, and calls for Margaret to bring him Leo's schedule for that day. Has he been eavesdropping or is he just exceptionally intuitive? While he's waiting on Leo's secretary, he mentions that Mallory looks a little glum, as if she had plans to go out with someone who had to cancel due to circumstances beyond his control. Mallory accuses him of being a co-conspirator. Margaret appears with the schedule and The Prez proceeds to somewhat sarcastically read of Leo's hefty list of accomplishments for that day, adding that it was a light day. Mallory wants to know (with due respect, of course) what point he's trying to make. Leo suggests that he'll take things from there. Jed tells them that he's right next door. As he's leaving, he tells Mallory, "My point is, give your dad a break. He's your father." (Wonder if anyone said that to Chelsea Clinton?) Mallory says, "Thank you, sir." Jed comes back with a gentle, "Are you blowing me off?" (which, in this day and age, is a pretty ballsy line to stick in the President's mouth, to say nothing of the way in which I phrased this comment). She allows that she is and he exits. Mallory tells Leo that she's not blaming him; he counters that it sure feels like it. She proposes that they go catch the second act of the opera, but Leo, obviously no more a fan than Sam, pleads to do anything else. His daughter relents and suggests coffee and dessert, an offer Leo gratefully accepts. She wants to ask Sam to come along too, and Leo doesn't bother to hide his lack of excitement: "Yes -- by all means, let's ask Sam." Mallory admonishes him to be nice as they head off to where Sam's office.
Sam's balling up another piece of paper and pounding the desk with it as Mallory knocks. She tells him he's off the hook for the opera but that she and Leo want him to come for coffee. "Also, my father has something he wants to say to you." Leo's got the look of a man who wasn't warned he'd need a prostate exam and asks if this is really necessary. Mallory insists; Leo confesses: "Sam, I gave you the thing to do because I was pissed that you were taking, you know, blah blah blah." (Psst, Leo: the word you're looking for is fishcakes.) Mallory makes a sarcastic remark about the inadequacy of this apology and he says, "Anyway, I'm sorry about that." Sam says he figured as much but wants to skip the coffee because he wants to "nail this thing." Leo tells him fuggedaboudit (okay, he doesn't use that exact word), the first draft was fine, and Mallory adds that the Prez was in on it too. No go -- Sam's firm. What a dweeb. Mallory tells Sam he is "so exactly like him" (meaning her father) and Sam considers this while Leo looks vaguely stricken. ["Paging Doctor Freud!" -- Strega] Sam finally responds that that is nicest thing she's ever said to him; Leo's still in vaguely-stricken mode. They take off and Sam's back to his birthday message. ["Way to replicate the relationship patterns that led to your own parents' imminent divorce, Mallory." -- Wing Chun]