The West Wing

Season 2 Episode 21

18th and Potomac

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM May 09, 2001 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
147 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The staff prepares for the worst as they make arrangements for the public announcement of the President's condition; Sam and Babish grill Abbey about her medical treatment of the President's MS; a crisis erupts in Haiti; Josh deals with two Democratic senators who won't support the administration's suit against tobacco companies; Mrs. Landingham buys her first new car, with tragic consequences.moreless

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  • The water rises.

    Well that cold open pretty much summed up the episode,

    Bartlet: "Joey, is there any good news in there at all?"

    Joey: "No, sir."

    And I guess that poll might have some value, when you consider how negative the response is. It also tells them that in addition to making sure the public knows Bartlet is sorry, they're also going to have to educate them on MS.

    I was a little upset that Josh wasn't the one to tell Donna about Bartlet, I can see why Toby did it though. Her reaction in going right back to work was not only impressive, but as Toby said, it gives me hope that maybe some of the public will react the same way.

    It was interesting(and unsettling) to see how the other characters were reacting to the news after having some time to absorb it. Tensions were definitely running high. While they still had clever comebacks for each other, there was more bite to them. As if they're out of patience and misdirecting their hostility. It was tough to see them that way, especially the scenes in the basement. Then to add more fuel to the fire, the trouble in Port-au-Prince pops off, with the Haitian Army staging a coup of the democratically elected leader, Dessaline. Even knowing Leo was frazzled, I still agree with what he said to Bartlet about the Haitian soldiers trying to stop the plane from taking off.

    Bartlet: "We shot three men-"

    Leo: "That's what you do!"

    Bartlet: "We what!?"

    Leo: "A foreign hostile puts his foot on an American military plane; that's an attack! And rules of engagement give us every right to repel it."

    Despite all of those troubles, I still believed what CJ told the network owner.

    Paul: "Is the water over your head?"

    CJ: "No, the water's exactly at my head."

    And then they get hit by a rouge wave. I loved Mrs. Landingham's storyline throughout the episode, with her buying a new car for the first time. Charlie giving her grief over not getting a good deal was hilarious as was her final scene with Bartlet, and it was also a touching moment. I was dreading her day getting ruined by the news. Seeing Charlie cradling the phone in a state of shock I thought, "No, it can't get any worse." Leo's initial reaction mirrored my own, I just couldn't process it. Having no dialogue over the last minute or so of the episode was beautiful and Leo having to walk the long way to the Oval so he could get his bearings was really moving. I don't think I've been that upset by a TV show since the series finale of the UK Office.moreless
  • Trying to save themselves

    They are in big mess. First the staff have to works trough how to present president's announcement and the lawyer still does not give up on Abbey. And if that is not enough trouble yet, there is a situation on Haiti what turns quite bad and there are causalities. So we have quite many nervous and mad people. In the end, Toby also tells Donna what is going on so that she could help Josh and that makes Josh even more worry how she takes it.

    And to make things even worse, a innocent storyline turns into sad end when mrs Landingham buys herself a car...

    And this all leads us to the season final...moreless
  • The west wing is one of the best t.v. seris to come out of America.

    As a late convert to the west wing I have to say it was (is) one the best pieces of television I have ever seen. I am now watching all seven seasons for the third time and never tire of the gripping, funny and relentless pace. The two cathedrals episode is the best. Only the Americans could take such a dramatic event and crank up the drama even more just by adding a superb backing track and a storm.

    If this is a fairly accurate portrayal of the real thing then it sure beats the U.K. I did think season five or six got a bit bogged down but came back quickly.moreless
  • Sagitarius.

    Oh what a great episode! I have to do bullet points:

    * I love all the meetings in the basement with the secret password.

    *It's so amazing how they have so much going on, there's the MS, tobacco, Haiti and all this stuff and it all works together, it's amazing.

    *Mrs. Landingham!!! Sniff!!! But before she dies, all her scenes in this episode are great, with Charlie and Josh, and Jed about her new car. very great.

    *Any episode with Joey Lucas, no matter how small her role, gets a thumbs up.

    *Donna is great with Toby when he tells her. Just great.

    The penultimate season two episode! Builds everything up perfectly.

    One last word for you:

  • Haiti, Tobacco and a new car; all issues the staff at the West Wing deal with in 18th and Potomac.

    The White House faces two major issues in 18th and Potomac, growing political pressures in Haiti and the inevitable knowledge of President Bartlet's illness reaches the media and American public. Mrs Landigham is buying a car and the majority of the staff including the President have an opinion on what extras she should be buying. Meanwhile Sam,, CJ and Toby continue to struggle with how to deal with the President's disclosure of MS without threatening his survival as President. Donna is told of the illness by Toby, the first person on the assistant's level to find out, she deals with it professionally and goes about her business.

    Concerned that she would violate federal stipulations about receiving gifts, Mrs Landingham pays the full asking price on her new car and despite Charlie's efforts to get her to barter, she sticks to her guns.

    Josh needs $30 million more from a Senate committee to continue the Justice Department's case against Big Tobacco companies but hits a road-block when he soliticts the crucial votes of two Democratic Senators, and virtuous Mrs. Landingham pays sticker price for a new car because she fears anything less will violate federal stipulations about receiving gifts. Bartlet asks Mrs Landingham to call back at the White House after she picks up her new car so he can kick the tyres,; Mrs Landingham agrees.

    As Josh, Toby and Leo discuss the tobacco issue, Charlie receives a call informing him of an accident on 18th and Potomac involving Mrs Landingham.. A drunk driver went through a red light and hit Mrs Landingham's car, she didn't survive. Leo informs the President.

    A wonderful episode, very disappointed to see mrs Landingham's character written out of the West wing, to me she was a pivotal part of the West Wing's operations. Her dry humor and no nonsense attitude was amazing.moreless
Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

President Jed Bartlet

Dule Hill

Dule Hill

Charlie Young

Allison Janney

Allison Janney

Claudia Jean "C.J." Cregg

Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe

Sam Seaborn (Episodes 1-84)

Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

Toby Ziegler

John Spencer

John Spencer

Leo McGarry

Ana Mercedes

Ana Mercedes


Guest Star

Roger Ontiveros

Roger Ontiveros


Guest Star

Victor McCay

Victor McCay


Guest Star

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin

Joey Lucas

Recurring Role

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

Nancy McNally

Recurring Role

Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • In the episode, Joey Lucas says that "we are eating more beets" at the conclusion of her report on the opinion poll.

      Gary Trudeau, a famous political cartoonist who has lampoons the real world President and White House, once had a collection of his comics collected in a book entitled "We Are Eating More Beets", some of which include cartoons on the Reagan/ Bush White House and what was part of the Presidental coverup of that time period.

    • Pump Action Shotguns aside, the Marines would not be armed with M-14s. The M-14 was replaced as the standard individual weapon by the M-16 in the early '70s.

    • The subplot about a military coup in Haiti includes two serious errors. First, there has been no army in Haiti since early 1995 to launch such a coup - the army was disbanded following the American invasion in the fall of 1994. Second, the National Security Advisor tells the Chief of Staff that there are "37 Marines armed with M-14's" guarding the embassy. I served at that embassy at the time the episode aired (and was consequently curious to see if I would be "rescued") and can assure you that, while we had a great group of young Marines, there were nowhere near 37 of them and their standard weapons were pump action shotguns. Most of the security force was, in fact, unarmed locally hired Haitians.

    • Nancy states that the Haitians have two Bradleys with 120 mm cannons. The Bradley is an IFV and has a 25 mm autocannon. The M1A1 Abrahms MBT has a 120 mm gun. Neither is in service with the Haitian army, since the Haitian army no longer exists.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Various Members of the Senior Staff: Sagittarius.

    • Charlie: (on Mrs. Landingham's new car) Are you getting an eight-speaker stereo?
      Mrs Landingham: No.
      Charlie: Six-speaker?
      Mrs Landingham: (shakes head)
      Charlie: How many speakers?
      Mrs Landingham: I have two ears, how many speakers do I need?
      Charlie: At least 6, and a subwoofer!
      Mrs Landingham: I'm not getting a subwoofer.

  • NOTES (1)


    • C.J.: Sam, Ted Baxter is going ask "Mr. President are you seeking re-election?"

      Ted Baxter is a character from The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). An egotistical and ignorant news anchor on a local Minneapolis TV station, the character has come to represent incompetence in journalism.

    • Leo: Dessalines is in the trunk of the ambassador's car!

      The name of the Haitian President-elect, who was stuffed in the ambassador's trunk for his own safety, is a reference to revolutionary general J.J. Dessalines, who was the George Washington/Napoleon of Haiti. The main highway through the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince is named after him.