Previously on The West Wing: Jed and Abby were at odds over his decision to run again; C.J. told Josh about the conflict with the FDA's RU-486 announcement; Bruno wanted POTUS to apologize for lying to the electorate; Shrug asked C.J. why Toby has a problem with him; Josh consulted Joey on his little plan to leak his press release about the tobacco-suit appropriations; Toby tells C.J. he knew she's thinking of resigning; C.J. was badgered into a disastrous error during a press briefing; everybody was pretty upset with her, and boy, was she mad at herself.
The show opens with bucolic shots of Awasiwi Odanack, the Bartlets' verdant rural estate. As it was, I wanted this place badly enough last week, and that was before we saw the "farmhouse." Wait until you get a load of this pad. Jed's in the barn rehearsing his speech, with an audience of Toby, Sam, Josh, C.J., Connie, and Shrug, most of whom are perched hither and thither on hay bales and farm equipment. They're wearing casual clothes in fabrics appropriate to the rustic setting: corduroy, suede, denim, linen, and cotton. Toby, in particular, looks very nice in an earthy brown casual shirt. There are also assorted chickens and other farm creatures about. Jed's saying, "We're more than a set of borders. We are bounded by the reach of human freedom. We have mastered every moment. We have vanquished every foe. We are strong, we are prosperous, we are at peace with the world. We are, as we have ever been, the envy of every civilization. We are, as we have ever been, the hope of all mankind. But I am not satisfied. Indeed, I am restless. And I come before you not to speak of the America we have, but...." Good lord, I would have thought this was way out of line years before September 11, 2001. Fortunately, Toby -- who may have to be my new #1 boyfriend -- interrupts: "Excuse me, sir... 'We're the envy of every civilization'?" Shrug says, "Yeah," rather affirmatively. Toby cackles merrily. "Really?" Shrug tells Toby that they don't vote in England. Sam points out that they do. Connie starts to explain what Shrug meant, and Toby abruptly responds, "We know what he meant, thank you." Sam says he'll change it. Toby asks for someone to stick some pompons in Shrug's hand. Shrug just looks annoyed, but doesn't respond. Jed goes back to the speech: "But I am not satisfied. Indeed, I am restless. And I come before you not to speak of the America we have, but of the better, stronger, more prosperous America we can create together." Suddenly C.J. notices something on the ground: "There's a snake over here." Sam wants to know what kind. C.J.: "I don't know and I don't want to ask him. Can somebody shoot it, please?" Sam suggests it's probably a garter snake; POTUS insists it is, and carries on: "I seek re-election to the Presidency not because of its glories but because of its challenges." Man, I thought that was weak last week, and I still do. So does Shrug, who says he's got a problem with that. Sam quickly points out that he wrote that. Shrug tells Sam he's happy for him. From the sound of things, this speech was constructed along the lines of the Exquisite Corpse game. Shrug complains that "challenges" makes it sound as though Jed is overwhelmed by the job. He feels it's exactly the wrong note to strike; Sam, naturally, disagrees. Sam argues that it's the right time to raise the stakes of the election; when Shrug asks why, Toby impatiently explains, "'Cause if it's all a day at the beach, then any bozo with a handshake can do it." C.J.'s keeping a slightly nervous eye on the snake. At least she's not doing any stereotypical squealing. Shrug says, "I'm sorry, but America wants a happy warrior to lead the country, not Dr. Kevorkian." Josh says that's true, and that they've got polling data on that. Jed promises they'll revisit it. As he tries to resume, C.J. complains that the snake is looking at her now. Josh looks to see if it is.