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The West Wing

Season 1 Episode 16

20 Hours in L.A.

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Feb 23, 2000 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
148 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Bartlet and the senior staff fly to California to attend an important fundraiser; Hoynes must decide whether he will support Bartlet's stance or go with his convictions when the Senate is deadlocked on an ethanol tax bill.

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  • After the misfire that was Celestial Navigations, this superb episode features whip-smart dialogue and an especially strong performance from Martin Sheen, portraying a President under increasing strain.

    I am compelled to write another review to ensure the record shows that I love this show. Season One has been terrific, but I know there are truly brilliant episodes ahead, so I hesitate to offer up a 9.0 or higher. Then there was the vast disappointment of Celestial Navigations, which seemed to have arisen out of writers in some alternate universe. 20 Hours in L.A. was a robust return to form.

    The Aaron Sorkin script is crackling with sharp exchanges. I particularly liked the discussions around flag-burning polling data, red meat for political junkies. Great guest performances. Marlee Matlin reels you in. Bob Balaban was electric as a David Geffen-esque Hollywood mogul, who is prone to "adolescent tantrums". And then there was Martin Sheen, who is always terrific, but really shines in this episode, as President Bartlet is overcome by fatigue, and you feel his exhaustion in his scene with Balaban, and later aboard Air Force One speaking to his Vice-President.moreless
  • Head west, young man.

    Loved the cold open, as Bartlet is boarding Air Force One.

    Bartlet: If you want to see the best part about having my job... (into telephone) Colonel, this is the President. I'm ready to go. (Engines Rev, Bartlet grins)

    Scenes like that just make me think he takes nothing for granted about getting to be the President. Got to say I agree with him about the Secret Service Agents guarding Zoey.

    Bartlet: Let me tell you something, when it's your kid you don't want 'em blending in. You want 'em wearing a sign that says, 'I'm caring a loaded gun and the safety's off.'

    I also agree with him on the flag desecration issue.

    Bartlet: I mean it, man. Is there an emergency level outbreak of flag desecration no one's kept me posted on?

    Bartlet: You would honestly think that there's an epidemic of flag burning going on, endangering countless lives...

    I imagine the majority of flag burning goes on outside the US, where such a law would have no effect.

    Felt bad for Josh, with Joey Lucas ending up being with Al, the guy Josh spent his lunch arguing with.

    As I haven't mentioned Leo's secretary Margaret(NiCole Robinson), I thought I'd do so now. She's funny and I like her and Leo's dynamic almost as much as Josh & Donna's. Really speaks to how good she must be at her job that Leo would put up with so much guff from her(as can be said about Donna).

    It was nice seeing Bob Balaban(one of my favorite actors), even if his character, Ted Marcus, was a bit of a jerk.

    Bartlet: Right now, right this second, the worst thing that could possibly happen to gay rights in this country, is for me to put that thing on the debating table. Which is what happens the minute I open my mouth. Do you get that? I'm a human starting gun, Ted! You gotta trust me, I know what I'm doing!

    I understand Ted knew all that and just needed his 10 minutes alone with the President so he could then allay the fears of the contributors. But still, he could have just tried asking instead of threatening Josh right off the bat. Though Ted did show concern for Bartlet in the end.

    I imagine Bartlet's insomnia is going to come up again, but for right now it just seems like everything is falling down for them.

    No Mandy + Plenty of Bartlet = a good episode. Plus it was interesting seeing almost all of the staff outside the office for an entire episode.moreless
  • The staff heads to the West Coast for an event filled schedule.

    This episode contains a brilliant turn by Bob Balaban as a heavyweight Hollywood Studio Chief, who, as it happens, is gay The culmination of the trip to California is a campaign fundraiser he is hosting at his home. He attempts to hold the fundraiser hostage unless President Bartlett makes a statement in support of Gays in the military. Towards the end of the evening, there is an exquisitely played scene with Balaban and Martin Sheen discussing Balaban's tactics and the wisdom of the President not making such an overt statement. The quiet intensity and weariness of both men, men who are charged with overseeing massive humanity on a daily basis, combined with an actor's generosity to create a scene that remains memorable 10 years later. The rest of the staff wander this party, star-struck, fending off development deals and pseudo-celebrity hangers-on. Much humor in this episode.moreless
  • Review.

    Spoilers - In this season 1 episode of the hit TV show The West Wing titled 20 hours in L.A. President Bartlet and most of The West Wing staff travel to L.A. to attend a program to ban flag burning and go to a fund raiser hosted by a Hollywood studio owner. Meanwhile back in Washington D.C. Leo and Sam try to get the Vice-President to cast the winning vote in a senate tiebreaker. Overall I thought the episode was really good and not bad. I like the L.A. storyline because we get to see the characters outside of The West Wing which made the episode refreshing. The rest of the storyline of the episode were great as wellmoreless
  • President is off LA

    Another really great episode with cleverly plotted intrigue, full of comic accidents and moments (like CJ on that party - all ways trying to escape conversations and asked Sam to pretend to talk with her). And also it had quite many hints what will be their problems in near future - the all storyline with vice president. It has been very promising from the first moments it was brought up and the security of Zoe and her relationship with Charlie - I am sure they will build something out of it. And Joey Lucas - she again did impressive performance. great episode.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

John de Lancie

John de Lancie

Al Kiefer

Guest Star

Robert Pine

Robert Pine


Guest Star

Bart Braverman

Bart Braverman


Guest Star

Marlee Matlin

Marlee Matlin

Joey Lucas

Recurring Role

Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien

Kenny Thurman

Recurring Role

Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill

Ron Butterfield

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (5)

    • In this episode Jorja Fox appears as Zoey's Secret Service agent, although her name is mispelled on the credits she is listed as Jorjan Fox.

    • Marlee Matlin (Joey Lucas) and Elizabeth Moss (Zoey Bartlet) have guest starred in many of ths same series. The have both had recurring roles on, of course, The West Wing, and Picket Fences. They have even appeared on Law & Order, albeit on seperate series of the francise (Matlin on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Moss on Law & Order: Trial By Jury). What's most interesting is that with the frequent recurrence in these roles they have never shared a scene on The West Wing or in Picket Fences. Take this episode for example in which they both appear but not together.

    • When Donna and Josh are checking in to the hotel, Josh has trouble opening his door with his key card. Years later, in the episode "King Corn", after they have both left the White House, they are checking in to rooms that are across from each other and as he is having trouble with his key card yet again, she comes over and helps him.

    • While Josh is talking to Joey Lucas with Kenny, Kenny says what Joey is signing a few signs before she even signed the word he said.

    • As the President boards Air Force One, the entire port wing is visible, including the six-foot vertical winglet at the end. The plane commonly used as Air Force One is one of two modified Boeing 747-200s; Boeing didn't add the winglet until the 747-400 model.

  • QUOTES (5)

    • Josh (about the President): How's he doing in there?
      Sam: Oh, he's got that look on his face like he's thinking about ways to kill himself.

    • Bartlet: Is there an epidemic of flag burning going on that I'm not aware of?

    • C.J.: If there's anything I can do.
      Jay Leno: You know what would be great? If you could get him to drive his bike into a tree again.

    • Toby: I just figured out who you were.
      Kiefer: He's gonna say Satan.
      Toby: No, you're the guy that runs into the 7-11 to get Satan a pack of cigarettes.

    • Toby: I'm not coming in the car?
      Bartlet: No, and you know why? Because you made fun of the guacamole.
      Toby: I didn't!
      Bartlet: I could tell you were thinking it.
      Toby: Fair enough.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Additional Credits:
      Production Assistancy by Korean Air
      Washington DC Prodcution Services by ThinkFilm Inc.

    • Moira Kelly does not appear in this episode, despite the fact that her character was the one who pushed for the fundraiser in "The Crackpot's and These Women."

    • At the party, a starstruck Donna exclaims, "Matt Perry, right there, goodbye!" Several years later, Matthew Perry appeared as a guest star in three episodes.


    • Donna: Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

      This is the first line of the poem "To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time" by Robert Herrick (1591–1674). The poem is advice to seize the moment, carpe deim, as Donna correctly interprets.

    • Jay Leno: You know what would be great? If you could get him to drive his bike into a tree again.
      Leno is alluding to the pilot episode, in which Bartlet rides his bike into a tree.

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