The premiere episode of the third season of "The West Wing" deals with some of the questions and issues currently facing the world in the wake of the tragedies that recently occurred in America. With the White House in security lockdown, Bartlet and his staff must cope with the fallout of a terrorist attack. Cast members address the camera in character. The episode is self-contained, with the series' ongoing story line being taken up again in the following weeks.
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Episodes: 23 | Released: 2001 | Certificate: PG | Genre: Drama | Director: Christopher Misiano
Actors: Martin Sheen , Rob Lowe , Allison Janney , Richard Schiff , John Spencer , Bradley Whitford , Janel Maloney , Dule Hill , Stockard Channing , Mary Louise Parker
Bartlet announces that he intends to seek reelection. Storms complicate a Haitian rescue mission. Bartlet and his staff travel to New Hampshire to work on campaign matters. C.J. commits an error during a press conference.
Bartlet refines his speech for a major reelection announcement, while his staff works uneasily with a heavyweight political strategist on this issue of whether or not Bartlet should include a public apology in his remarks. Meanwhile, C.J. considers drastic action in the wake of her ill-timed statements during a crucial press conference. Bartlet tries to reconcile with Abbey over a misunderstanding. He must also decide if he will accede to a corrupt Haitian leader's requests, which could lead to peace. Chief counsel Babish shocks Charlie with the probable cost of hiring a fancy lawyer, necessitated by the prospect of a special prosecutor asking Charlie some tough questions.
When a fearless special prosecutor, Clem Rollins, begins investigating Bartlet's failure to disclose his illness and issues subpoenas to the White House staff, C.J. cunningly reveals clues to the press that could force Rollins to be ousted and replaced by someone more favorable to the administration. Meanwhile, a forest fire rages in Wyoming, but the governor is incensed when Bartlet backs the forestry experts who believe the fire should just burn itself out. The President faces a quandary as he decides whether or not to push for the repeal of the estate tax, mockingly labeled the "death tax" by his savvy rivals. A wary Donna goes on a blind date with a charming Republican, Cliff Calley, who might represent a conflict of interest.
As a State Department dinner nears, Bartlet boldly vetoes the "death tax" bill, but his staff must scramble when they learn that the House of Representatives has enough votes to immediately override the veto. Some Democratic congressmen demand compromising political favours, infuriating Bartlet and Leo. Josh tries to influence promising Governor Buckland, who is considering running against Bartlet. C.J. rebukes an entertainment reporter, Sherri. Charlie is strongly urged by his White House teammates to ask for immunity in his upcoming testimony into the President's nondisclosure of his illness.
After a church shooting, Bartlet asks reluctant Vice President John Hoynes to speak at an antigun rally in Texas, but the uneasy allies confront each other in a starkly frank showdown. Donna testifies before a congressional committee investigating Bartlet's nondisclosure of his medical condition - and she lies to her inquisitor, Cliff Calley. Meanwhile, Leo debates with General Alan Adamley, a longtime friend and Air Force officer, about the United States' stance on the War Crimes Tribunal. C.J. informs Toby that a reporter, Will Sawyer, heard a compromising comment about the President that Toby made. Sam tries to make sense of Congressman Terry Beckwith's proposal of legislation that would eliminate the penny.
When an American spy submarine suddenly loses contact with the U.S. in hostile North Korean waters, a concerned Bartlet receives advice from Assistant Secretary of State Albie Duncan. Bartlet must decide whether he should notify the enemy or attempt a risky, secret rescue. Meanwhile, Abigail learns that her past malpractice suits might cause trouble during the criminal investigation of Bartlet; C.J. is ecstatic over a potential presidential candidate's indecisive public remarks; and Toby meets with an appropriations committee representative who wants to divert money from Congress' controversial funding of avant-garde artists.
While Bartlet worries about where he will be on Thanksgiving - and how to best cook a gourmet turkey - C.J. meets with two Native Americans, Maggie and Jack, who are camped in the White House lobby. Maggie and Jack threaten to bring negative media attention if they are not allowed to speak with someone in authority regarding better public health initiatives on their reservation. Meanwhile, Josh does some political maneuvering to gain the extradition of a teenage boy who murdered his teacher and fled to Italy; Toby informs Bartlet of an inexpensive way to improve his polling numbers; and Sam questions a new poverty income index that could cause trouble for Bartlet by immediately reclassifying millions of Americans as poor.
At Abbey's urging, Josh meets with a powerful women's caucus over the proposed language of a United Nations treaty banning prostitution. Meanwhile, Bartlet grapples with the possibility of a mad cow disease epidemic and ponders how much the public should know. Staffers are stunned by C.J.'s emotional outburst concerning the administration's renewal of its air base lease in a Mideast country that condones abuse of its women. World War II veterans come to the White House to protest an upcoming Pearl Harbor exhibit at the Smithsonian. Bartlet is sued by an angry woman who intends to raise a public outcry over his remarks regarding the controversial issue of a national seatbelt law.
The White House is festooned with Christmas finery. Leo fears the worst when he testifies in the congressional investigation into Bartlet's lack of public disclosure about his illness. Flashbacks reveal the background of Bartlet's decision, when he was governor, to not come forward with the damaging information. In addition, Bartlet personally investigates a series of church burnings in the South after a 2-year probe proves fruitless. He threatens to use troops to protect parishioners on Christmas Eve.
Leo defiantly rejects the Congressional Oversight Committee's offer of a public censure of Bartlet that would finally bring an end to the investigation and spare Leo of any possible personal repercussions. Meanwhile, Bartlet's staff reacts to an exposé published by a terminated White House photographer. Josh awkwardly schemes to socialize with a women's rights leader, Amy Gardner, whom he finds attractive. Also, Bartlet wants to frame a controversial 1709 map of Palestine that Charlie gave him, but C.J. warns the President of the political implications, since the historical map excludes Israel.
While the White House staff works intensely on Bartlet's crucial State of the Union speech, Bartlet suddenly demands the inclusion of a passage that ambitiously promises a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years. Sam is interviewed for a Vanity Fair magazine profile by Lisa Sherborne, who was once his fiancée. Attracted to a prominent women's rights leader, Amy Gardner, Josh tries to persuade her that her burgeoning romance with a Congressman is solely a result of political machinations. Mischievous C.J. tries to upset Charlie by stealing his top-secret, coded copy of the President's upcoming address. Pollster Joey Lucas studies the responses to Bartlet's speech from focus groups.
Bartlet and his staff ponder whether or not to counter a fast-rising Republican presidential candidate's verbal assault on affirmative action. Josh must postpone his tropical vacation with women's rights advocate Amy Gardner in order to defuse a risky situation in Vieques, Puerto Rico, an area that serves as a U.S. Navy firing range. As he prepares to remove protesters who have put themselves in harm's way on the island, Josh telephones his longtime friend - who is leading the group. Meanwhile, Sam meets with an eccentric politician, Robert Engler, who believes that Ft. Knox is missing a fortune in gold bullion; C.J. defiantly debates Toby over the merits of affirmative action; and Donna asks Josh to intercede and relieve her of pending jury duty.
Bartlet consults a psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Keyworth, for a troubling sleep disorder and receives a sobering personal assessment. C.J. lobbies vigorously to help secure the release of a White House reporter who has been taken hostage while on assignment in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Toby risks the wrath of his ex-wife, Congresswoman Andrea "Andy" Wyatt, by writing an inflammatory speech condemning Islamic fanaticism. Sam asks Republican lawyer Ainsley Hayes to review a proposed act that calls for payback of U.S. debt to the United Nations in exchange for special requests. Donna is stunned when she is offered a prestigious and lucrative new job outside the White House.
Bartlet engages both Sam and Toby in intricate chess matches that mirror the wily game of brinksmanship that Bartlet is playing with the Chinese, who are conducting war games in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese threaten real war if Taiwan begins test firing its new U.S.-made Patriot defense missiles. Meanwhile, Josh is nervous about the 42 votes in a remote New Hampshire town's election, which are counted immediately and always predict the winner of that state's primary. Mischievous C.J. tries to upset Charlie by hiding his copy of the President's top-secret daily schedule - prompting a spate of playful tricks.
As Abbey contemplates the likelihood that her medical license will be taken away the following day, she grumpily attends a big White House party for her birthday. Bartlet receives another visit from decorous British Ambassador Lord John Marbury, who argues against Bartlet's meeting with a murderous Irish terrorist. Meanwhile, Sam meets with Senator Enlow, who is blocking the funding of a controversial scientific project that would cost billions. Bartlet ponders making an effort to save a failing computer company. Donna discovers that the national border near her Minnesota birthplace has been redrawn slightly - making her officially a Canadian. Abbey, C.J. and several of the staff women mischievously hide in a closet to drink and gossip.
Bartlet makes a disparaging comment about a potential Republican nominee after a television interview, not realizing that he is still being recorded. For days, C.J. must control the scandal, and Sam recalls Republican White House legal counsel Ainsley Hayes from vacation to help formulate the administration's official response. Meanwhile, Toby tries to dissuade the newly named U.S. poet laureate, Tabatha Fortis, from publicly objecting to the government's lack of support for a treaty on land mines. Bartlet ponders saving a failing computer company. And Josh is both repulsed and intrigued by the fact that there is a fan-based Web site devoted to him.
When a large truck carrying uranium fuel rods crashes in a remote Idaho tunnel, Bartlet's staff prepares for a potential environmental - or terrorist - crisis. Meanwhile, Bartlet's stealthily composed electoral strategy may exclude Vice President John Hoynes from the next campaign. Unaware that his fate is in question, Hoynes ponders how to promote one of his favorite bills, one that would provide Internet access to low-income households. Also, Hoynes attends the same Alcoholics Anonymous meeting as Leo. Charlie regrets filing his tax return online, after heeding the meddling Bartlet's advice. At Donna's request, Josh seeks a presidential proclamation honouring the retirement of her favorite teacher, but the task proves more difficult than he first imagined.
As Sam finalizes the maddening details of Bartlet's upcoming summit with the Russian president, satellite photographs reveal an Iranian nuclear bomb facility built with Russian technology. The discovery could cause major problems with the leaders' meeting. Meanwhile, the outraged C.J. makes a harsh public statement about a group of schoolgirls in Saudi Arabia who were prevented by the religious police from escaping a burning building because they were not dressed properly. C.J. then receives a serious death threat, prompting Bartlet to assign Secret Service protection to her. Charlie seeks the source of a curious encoded letter addressed to Bartlet. And Toby ponders whether or not to allow a controversial Russian journalist, Ludmilla Koss, who has criticized the Russian president, to attend the summit.
Bartlet and his staff rush to deal with an anticipated terrorist attack over a broad area. Meanwhile, C.J. has trouble adjusting to being protected by a handsome and capable Secret Service agent, Simon Donovan. And Toby clashes with network television executives regarding future political convention coverage.
Bartlet agonizes over whether or not to forfeit the principle of diplomatic immunity for an important Middle Eastern official who is known to be plotting terrorism. Josh debates with his lover, feminist activist Amy Gardner, over a key welfare reform bill. Meanwhile, Bartlet is advised not to attend a fund-raiser for a politically sensitive cause. Sam must reject ecologically friendly legislation for the Everglades. C.J. gains new respect for her Secret Service bodyguard, Simon Donovan. And Donna travels to North Dakota to represent the Bartlet administration at a meeting to change the state's name.
In the season finale, Bartlet makes a life-or-death decision regarding a foreign diplomat who is a known terrorist. He ponders the situation during a charity benefit performance of a Shakespeare play about another conflicted leader, Henry VI. At the performance, Bartlet encounters Governor Robert Ritchie, his Republican rival in the upcoming presidential election. Meanwhile, Toby and Sam manipulate the press to discredit Ritchie. When Josh supports a key welfare reform bill that his lover, feminist activist Amy Gardner, opposes, their personal relationship is threatened. The flirtation between C.J. and her Secret Service bodyguard, Simon Donovan, is limited by their professional relationship. And as the search continues for a replacement for the deceased Mrs. Landingham, Charlie recommends Deborah Fiderer, a former White House secretary who was fired for hiring Charlie.
The West Wing blends drama with reality in this groundbreaking documentary episode that includes interviews with former Presidents and White House figures. Paying tribute to the real-life counterparts of the show's fictional Bartlet administration, the installment features U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, White House staffers David Gergen, Dee Dee Myers and Leon Panetta and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Highlights from the three seasons of "The West Wing" are interspersed throughout.