The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 2

20 Hours in America (2)

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

By Users

Episode Summary

Donna teaches Toby and Josh an important lesson as their trek homeward continues; Sam staffs the President in Josh's absence and welcomes an old friend home; Bartlet hires a secretary and C.J. finds a Big Brother for Anthony; the situation in Qumar continues to escalate; Bartlet gets spooked by a photo op as the Dow continues its dive; and a pipe bomb kills 44 students at a Midwest university swim meet.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • 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
  • Road home continues

    Josh, Donna and Toby are still on their way back and it is not easy - more and more problems. When they get to catch the plain, the plain is delayed and they have to stay in hotel where Toby meets with a man who has very interesting view to the life. On the White House, the Qumar situation gets worse and they come up solution as they are sure the Qumar think someone else did it. There is also a bomb in college and 44 people die. And the way president reacts to it on his speech.. it was beautiful.

    And Sam talking with her ex-fiancee.. about Josh.. also greatmoreless
  • Josh Toby and Donna try to make it back to Washington.

    When you think that it is good the West Wing makes it better. I thought that Part 2 of 20 Hours in America was really good. I thought that it was funny that Donna yelled at Josh and Toby because they were not listening to people when they talked to them. I thought that it was really sad that there was a pipe bomb attack on a college. I really liked the speech that the President gave in this part of the episode. I liked that Toby and Josh listened to the guy at the bar about his day and how hard his life is.moreless
  • The second installment of the trio; Donna, Josh and Toby, as they travel across America. Josh and Toby analyze the way a campaign plays in Washington while the White House is in the midst of crisis when there is an explosion at a college swim meet.moreless

    The ortatorical style in this episode is great representation of the typical, wonderful Aaron Sorkin. Bartlet delivers an amazing speech that can only be complimented by Toris Amos's "I Don't Like Mondays." Josh, Toby and Donna's refreshing debates on a campaign in Washington foreshadow the upcoming seasons events as well as bringing a sense of heart to professional politics.
  • On a campaign stop to Indiana, Toby, Josh and Donna miss the motorcade. They spend the next 20 horus trying to make their way back to Washington. In news, a pipe bomb explodes at a swimming meet, killing several Americans.moreless

    Episodes like this, series openers like this, are the reason I watch The West Wing. This episode manages to bring in the familiar witty humour that is always present in Aaron Sorkin's writing, and raises political issues and tragedies that we face in everyday life.

    The first thing that went through my head after watching this episode was, "Why isn't Aaron Sorkin on the president's speech-writing staff?"

    President Bartlet's response to the pipe-bombings is beautifully written. "The streets of Heaven are too crowded with angels tonight," he says, bringing tears to the eyes of the on-screen audience, and I'm sure many of the show's viewers.

    The use of Tori Amos' "I don't like Mondays" was an ingenious musical choice, adding the perfect background music for the speech.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

Susan Allenbach

Susan Allenbach


Guest Star

Jeff Gage

Jeff Gage

Train Conductor

Guest Star

Aaron Marcus

Aaron Marcus

Desk Clerk

Guest Star

William Duffy

William Duffy


Recurring Role

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin

Debbie Fiderer

Recurring Role

Ron Silver

Ron Silver

Bruno Gianelli

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Lily Tomlin takes over the role of Martin Sheen's secretary. The role was previous played by Kathryn Joosten. Tomlin & Joosten would go on to play sisters on Desperate Housewives.

    • Sam Seaborn has worked in the White House for 3 years and 8 months.

    • C.J.: Today at 5:32 PM Central Saving Time, two pipe bombs were set off inside the Geiger Indoor Arena, which is the swimming team's facility at Kennison State University. The Kennison Hawkeyes. The women's team was hosting a match. A meet with Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. They're all Big Ten schools.
      Kennison State University is fictional. It is possible that it is meant to stand in for the University of Iowa, which is a Big Ten school and is also known as the Hawkeyes. Kennison State University is said to be in Cedar Rapids, while the Univeristy of Iowa is located in Iowa City, IA, placing it in the Central time zone. Cedar Rapids, IA and Iowa City are about thirty miles from one another.

    • Fitzwallace: Qumar saying it was someone else.

      Qumar is not a real country.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • Bartlet: You were strange the first time I met you and you're strange now.
      Debbie: Hey, the first time you met me there was a good reason.
      Bartlet: What?
      Debbie: I was high.
      Bartlet: Okay...

    • Bartlet: Hey, do we have a GPS-read on Josh and Toby? Have they been sighted?
      Sam: I talked to them a little while ago, they're on their way.
      Bartlet: 300 IQ points between them, they can't find their way home. I swear to God, If Donna wasn't there they'd have to buy a house.

    • Sam: Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from them outright.

    • Bartlet: ...restoring abundance amid an economic shortfall, securing peace in a time of global conflict, sustaining hope in this winter of anxiety and fear. More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arive. 44 people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University.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 have 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. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United State of America. Thank you.

    • McNally: Leo. Yeoman Fitzwallace.
      Fitzwallace: Dr. McNally.
      McNally: Let's attack.
      Fitzwallace: Who?
      McNally: Qumar. Let's recommend to the President that we attack.
      Leo: Why?
      McNally: 'Cause I've had it.
      Fitzwallace: I don't think the UN is going to let us do it for that reason.
      McNally: That's 'cause you're a sissy. You want peace in the Middle East? Give me a pair of third generation ICBM's and a compass. You get B-2 Spirit stealth bombers over Qumar right now as if the Qumari Air defense sytem requires stealth capability. Just fly in at night, and while you're at it, could you order the USS Louisians to fire off a D-5 Trident just to see if it works? What's the worst that could happen?
      Fitzwallace (bewildered, to Leo): Is she talking to me?
      McNally: Yes!
      Fitzwallace: Well, 98% of all living organisms within a seven mile radius would die instantly in a torrent of fire.
      McNally: Admiral Sissymary... We're running out of options on the menu.
      Fitzwallace: Well, I'm with Dr. Strangelove on keeping our military secrets secret.

    • Bruno: When did you write that last part?
      Sam: In the car.
      Bruno: Freak.

    • Bartlet: The streets of Heaven are too crowded with angels tonight.

    • Bartlet: What I lack in memory I more than make up for in deductive reasoning.
      Debbie: Does that come with tights and a cape?
      Bartlet: I think the meeting´s over.
      Debbie: Yes, but let´s do this every once in a while."

  • NOTES (2)

    • Awards and Nominations: Episode received nomination in 2003 at the Emmys for Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series along with the Part 1 (Kenneth Hardy, Ellen Totleben).

    • Music:
      1. Tori Amos sings "I Don't Like Mondays" from her album entitled Strange Little Girls.
      2. The music playing in the bar where Donna, Josh, and Toby are is "The Wanderer" by Dion from the album Runaround Sue.


    • Fitzwallace says to Nancy, "I'm with Dr. Strangelove". This is a reference to the 1960's film by the same name which is about American advisers who are itching to start a nuclear war.

    • President Bartlet: The Depression started the day after Oct. 23, 1929.
      Since the stock market crash of 1929 took place on Oct. 29, some people think this date is wrong, or that Bartlet must have meant to say "the week after."

      Actually, the stock market crash DID start on the day after Oct. 23, 1929, which would later be dubbed Black Thursday, Oct. 24, when a record 13 million shares were sold. The sell-off contined until the market eventually bottomed out five days later, on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, Black Tuesday. So Bartlet was right. Black Thursday was the start of it, and then Black Tuesday cemented it.

      "On October 24, 1929, dubbed Black Thursday, the stock market crashed. Prices began to decline early in the day, triggering a selling panic in the New York Stock Exchange. When trading closed the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 9 percent and 12,894,650 shares of stock had changed hands, smashing the previous record of 8,246,742. Despite the crash, reports remained optimistic. Major New York banks united to buy up $30 million worth of stock in efforts to stabilize the market, and president Herbert Hoover announced that recovery was expected. Hoover's claims had little merit; the situation became bleaker during the next week. October 29 (Black Tuesday" broke the now four-day old NYSE record for number of transactions: 16,410,035 shares changed hands in total. The market dropped 17.3 percent, confirming, and cementing, the permanency of the crash."