Previously on The West Wing, The Prez learned everyone's names. Okay, that was a cute montage.
At a TV studio, Sam steps out of makeup to talk with Ted "Mr. Scream" McGinley. Mr. Scream says, "It won't be Wengland," and he "couldn't get Stackhouse." Sam, excited as a kid on Christmas morning, demands, "Who'd you get?" Mr. Scream answers, "A woman named Ainsley Hayes." He hits "woman" with a little extra emphasis, and I don't know for sure if that means he's a condescending pig, but it seems implied. Neither Sam nor Mr. Scream has heard of her before; apparently the producer recruited her for the show. Sam starts to say, "Tell me she's not one of those --" Mr. Scream confirms that she is, indeed: "She's got blonde hair, long legs, and she's a Republican, so --" Sam decides that it's his turn to interrupt: "She's in show business. A young, blonde, leggy Republican. I thought it turned out they didn't know anything?" "They don't," Mr. Scream agrees, and the game of conversational Ping-Pong comes to an end. Sam is approached by someone else, and Mr. Scream heads for the set. Ainsley is already seated behind the big desk of Capital Beat. Sounds like a game show. On VH1. Mr. Scream claims that he's actually named Mark Gottfried as he introduces himself to Ainsley. He confirms that this is Ainsley's first time on television, and offers some advice: "Don't try to do too much. Don't try to know more than you do. My show's not the place for you to become a star." He mentions that Sam's been on the show several dozen times and usually "wipes the floor" with his opponent. Not done intimidating her yet, Mr. Scream adds, "I'll take some punches for you if it gets out of hand," and says that if she sticks to the talking points she'll do fine. Sam finally arrives, shakes hands with Ainsley, takes his seat opposite her, and the room darkens as the show begins.
We see the show's opening on a monitor, which features the disembodied heads of the host, correspondents, and guests floating by amusingly. Throughout alternate-universe Washington, policy wonks make a game out of throwing little wadded-up balls of paper at their TV screens, trying to hit the heads as they waft across the screen. Mr. Scream explains that next week, the House will vote on the Prez's education bill, and he asks Sam, "Why is this bill better than its Republican counterpart that [sic] the President vetoed last year?" Sam says it provides money for textbooks, and tosses off the kind of random statistic that people tend to use on these types of shows: "Forty percent of teachers in Kirkwood, Oregon, report not having sufficient textbooks for their students." He then asserts that the Republican bill did not include funding for new textbooks. Ainsley is busily taking notes as Mr. Scream asks her if this is true. She says it isn't. Trying to get a little more in the way of a rebuttal, Mr. Scream asks her if Sam's lying. Ainsley says that lying is a strong word. Mr. Scream starts to try again, and Ainsley finally puts down her pen and declares, "Yes, he's lying." She then begins a long spiel, which Sam tries unsuccessfully to interrupt. "The bill contained plenty of money for new textbooks. Also computer literacy, school safety, physical plants." Physical plants? She continues, "The difference is that we wanted to give the money directly to communities and let them decide how best to spend it, on the off chance that the needs of Lincoln High in Dayton are different from the needs of Crenshaw High in South Central LA." Mr. Scream turns to Sam and asks why the Prez vetoed the Republican bill. Before Sam can answer, Ainsley jumps in saying, "Because it guaranteed by law that 95% of the money went directly to the classroom and bypassed the pork barrel buffet, which is troubling for this President because he doesn't work for the students, and he doesn't work for the parents of the students. He works for the teacher's union." She says that the Republican bill would have paid for new textbooks, and that "textbooks are important, if for no other reason than they'd accurately place the town of Kirkwood in California and not Oregon." And on that note, they go to commercial. Ainsley nervously asks Mr. Scream, "I'm sorry, did I overreach?" Mr. Scream chuckles and rudely fails to answer her question, choosing instead to lean over Sam's shoulder to note, "This one might know something." Sam mutters to himself, "Please, oh, please, let them not be watching."