The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 1

20 Hours in America (1)

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Sep 25, 2002 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
131 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Toby, Josh, and Donna learn the hard way about the lack of accessible public transportation in the heartland when they spend a long day trying to get back to Washington after the motorcade leaves them behind during a campaign stop in Indiana; Bartlet interviews potential replacements for Mrs Landingham while C.J. tries to find someone to fill Simon's shoes as Anthony's Big Brother; the Ritchie campaign whips up a furor when Abbey claims to be "just a wife and mother"; Qumar reopens the Shareef investigation; and the Dow takes a dive.moreless

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  • A touching but obvious attempt to explain the pain and fear of our working and middles classes.

    The so-called Allusion for this episode is a political statement and inappropriate. It doesn't site historical references or illuminate any questions of history. The episode was pretty good. The allusion isn't. It is, however, petty.

    I wonder why someone who is so obviously anti-Clinton watches West Wing at all. The series isn't a sub-rosa attempt to hide its ideology. You only need to hear Toby in any episode to figure that out. Not a mystery.

    I found this two-part episode a bit tedious and improbable, and it works too hard to make a few obvious points. Nevertheless, West Wing's weakest episodes are still some of the best t.v. ever.moreless
  • I work at the White House.

    *This is a review for Parts 1 and 2.*

    I enjoyed the scenes with Amy Adams early on in the episode, leave it to Sorkin to cast a gorgeous and extremely talented redhead. Bartlet's speech in the cold open was also great. I loved his joke about the farmer and the way he linked it to the Republicans. Despite most of the alternative fuel choices of that time turning out to be bogus it was still an inspiring speech.

    Bartlet: "This isn't a time for people whose doomsday scenario is a little less at the pump for Texaco and Shell. This isn't a time for people who say there aren't any energy alternatives just because they can't think of any."

    Toby, Josh, and Donna getting left behind by the motorcade and slowly working their way back to D.C. made for some incredible scenes. Toby and Josh's meltdown after finding out the county that they're in doesn't observe daylight savings time was the hardest I've laughed in awhile. When Toby starts wailing on the guardrail I lost it. The campaign volunteer, Tyler, they got to drive them also provided some good laughs. The conversations between Josh and Toby about the campaign were very well written and performed. While I did still agree with the Toby's strategy of pointing out Richie's faults(which are major), Josh was right about Toby caring more about crushing Richie than keeping Bartlet in the White House.

    Toby: "What he's saying is; 'Eastern education isn't for real men, but don't worry I'll have Jews for the money stuff.'"

    Of course, as Donna had to point out to them, they had both forgotten about the issues they had been fighting so hard for just months earlier, and the people they had been working so hard to help. Donna's reality check couldn't have come at a better time either as it led to what was probably my second favorite scene in the episode. Matt Kelley laying out his situation to Toby was a very emotional scene, and for a guest actor to come in and do that made it all the more impressive. I'm glad between him and Donna they were able to get Josh and Toby to make the campaign about helping people instead of talking about helping people.

    Sam also gave a brilliant performance while filling in for Josh back at the White House as Bartlet's "wide angle lens." I really enjoy his interactions with Bartlet(as I've said before) and the scene with Mallory when he tells her he realized Josh was smarter than him was another winner. Still I felt bad for Sam, poor guy never got his few hours of sleep.

    Sam: "Hi, it's Sam. I'm sleeping for a few hours right now, so you can leave a message or if you really need me you can shout into the machine and I'll wake up."

    Josh: "SAM!!!"

    I was glad to see Sorkin had further plans for Agent Donovan's little brother, Anthony. When he was first introduced it just seemed like a pretty obvious ploy to get the audience to like Donovan's character. The scene when Charlie decides to help him out was done well I thought, as was the scene when CJ gives Charlie the picture of him and his mom.

    I also loved Bartlet's second interview with Debbie. She's their kind of crazy I think, and finding out exactly why she got fired for hiring Charlie proved it. Risking her job on a gut feeling that Charlie was the better choice instead of just going with the nepotism hire showed her moral compass is pointing in the same direction as the rest of the staff's. I doubt I'll ever like her more than Mrs. Landingham, but I can easily see her providing just as many laughs.

    I've always liked Nancy McNally but she really topped herself in this episode. The scene in the sit. room with Leo and Fitz was uproariously funny, but damn if I don't get as fed up as her with the situation sometimes.

    Nancy: "Let's recommend to the President that we attack."

    Leo: "Why?"

    Nancy: "'Cause I've had it!"

    Fitzwallace: "I don't think the UN is going to let us do it for that reason."

    Nancy: "That's 'cause you're a sissy. You want peace in the middle east? Give me a pair of third generation ICBMs and a compass."

    The three of them also handled the drama well, in laying out the possible repercussions they would face for killing Shareef. I imagine giving Qumar carte blanche to invade any country they have a grudge against was among the worst case scenarios. The scene near the end with the three of them meeting Bartlet in the Oval was also great. Bartlet refusing to let them take the wrap was just the kind of selfless act I've come to expect from the character.

    CJ's announcement of the pipe bombs going off in the Kennison State University's swim team's facility was like a sucker punch to the gut it was so unexpected. The shot of Toby, Josh, and Donna as they see it on the news was an incredible piece of cinematography. And I Don't Like Mondays was another excellent song choice, first time I had heard Tori Amos' version and I thought it was pretty good. As much as I loved Bartlet's monologue from Two Cathedrals, I think it may have been overtaken by his speech in this episode. It really was the most beautiful dialogue I've ever heard and raised my admiration for Sorkin even more, something I didn't think was possible.

    Bartlet: "Three swimmers from the men's team were killed and two others are in critical condition. When after having heard the explosion from their practice facility they ran into the fire to help get people out. Ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They're our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. But every time we think we've measured our capacity to meet a challenge we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars."

    Two Cathedrals is still the best episode in my opinion, but this one is a close second with the best single scene of the series in Bartlet's speech.moreless
  • A 'little' transportation error traps Donna, Sam and Tobey in the rural heartland of America where Democrats are as rare as cell phone coverage. Meanwhile life goes on in D.C.

    This two part episode deals with several important, even emotional issues, with a high degree of insight and, for the most part, realism. First, is the issue of social class in rural communities where working and middle class voters are getting the short end of thepolicy stick but often prefer voting for a more folksy Republican who speaks to them on social issues The argument is not original, but it is wonderfully illustrated in this episode. Sam and Tobey are initially quick to write off the 'dumb' voters in the State as preferring a folksy sounding, church going Republican over any Democrat. Many of the voters are quick to view Democrats, especially Sam and Tobey, with a certain disdain. Democrats are seen, by many of the local voters, as being trouble making, aliens who kill babies. Thus illustrating not only the economic frustration, but the eagerness of these same voters to remain frustrated about their lives as long as certain traditional social and cultural values are defended.moreless
  • Lost in America

    Josh, Donna and Toby get to feel real life in Indiana when they are left behind and now they have to find their own way to back and this is road of troubles - first their car what they got runs out of disel and there is none around. Then they get some young volunteer to drive them to airfield, they miss that they changed time zones and now they are totally late.

    This means that Sam, who had day to sleep, have to go to work and help the president in things he knows nothing. And it only get worse as Qumar reopens the investigation of plain they crashed.moreless
  • Donna Josh and Toby get left behind by the motarcade.

    I thought that this was another great episode of The West Wing. I found it really funny that Toby was not allowed near the President and because of that they were left behind by the motarcade. I also thought that it was funny that Sam went back to the office when he was suppose to be at home sleeping. It was evan funnier when Josh woke him up. I thought that both of the people that the President was interviewing was really boring and i was glad that he did not hire them. I thought that it was nice of CJ to try and find Anthony an big brother.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

Tommy LaFitte

Tommy LaFitte


Guest Star

Rohn Thomas

Rohn Thomas


Guest Star

Ron Newell

Ron Newell

Store Manager

Guest Star

Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson


Recurring Role

Renée Estevez

Renée Estevez


Recurring Role

Melissa Fitzgerald

Melissa Fitzgerald

Carol Fitzpatrick

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

    • Leo: Qumar's reopened the investigation.

      Qumar is not a real country.

    • Unionville, Indiana, where Jed is giving his speech, is close to Bloomington, Indiana, an urban area where Josh, Toby, and Donna wouldn't have been stranded for long. There is also no passenger train station in Bedford, Indiana.

    • When one of the reporters tells C.J. about the Abbey incident, he claims the story came from The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee's newspaper has been named The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel since the two papers merged in the early 1990s.

  • QUOTES (4)

    • C.J.: We've got a new addition to our running list of things Robert Richie's not. Speaking this morning at the Philadelphia Financial Council,the Govener said, "I'm no scientist but I know a thing or two about physics." So for the week you can add scientist to doctor, mind reader, and Chinese.

    • (Toby is obsessing about the President's speech)
      Josh: Take you mind off it. Think about the lovely Cathy; farmer's daughter with a master's degree. Wholesome but... maybe not too wholesome. I think she liked you too. (to Cap) How do you know Cathy?
      Cap: She's my girlfriend.
      Josh:[awkward pause] That's great. She's really nice! Is that corn out there?
      Cap: Nope.
      Josh: What is it?
      Cap: Trees.
      Josh: Okay.

    • Sam: Do we have some sort of condensed, Reader's Digest Index of, well, all human knowledge?
      Ginger: We usually just use Margaret.

    • Toby: Toby Ziegler. I work at the White House.
      Friend: Wow. Humongous whoop.
      Josh: Come on! He's Communications Director. It's a decent sized whoop.
      Friend: How many unborn babies did you guys kill today?
      Josh: Whoa, hey. Danger, Will Robinson.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Awards and Nominations: Episode received nomination in 2003 at the Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series along with the Part 2 (Kenneth Hardy, Ellen Totleben).

    • Music:
      1. "National Emblem March" by the Boston Pops plays before Bartlet takes the podium to address members of the Navy at the Naval Warfare Center Crane. The song was written by E.E. Bagley.
      2. The Navy men sing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

    • The outdoor Indiana scenes in this episode were actually filmed in Western Pennsylvania.


    • Throughout the series, there have been several parallels between the Clinton and Bartlet administrations; the controversy surrounding Abbey's statments about being "just a wife and mother" seems, in gist and response if not in origin, to a similar incident with Hillary Clinton. She was questioned about her legal activities while her husband was governor, and responded that she could just have stayed home and baked cookies, inciting a national furor and confirming, for some, their suspicions about her contempt for traditional motherhood.