The West Wing

Season 1 Episode 15

Celestial Navigation

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Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Feb 16, 2000 on NBC

Episode Recap

Open with Josh at a seminar where he will be participating in a lecture with David Nessler, a lecturer. In the background Nessler is introducing Josh to an audience. Josh is on the phone offstage with Sam about Roberto Mendoza. Apparently Mendoza, the nominee for the Supreme Court from "The Short List," has been arrested in Connecticut for drunk driving and resisting arrest. Sam says that they vetted him and that he doens't drink. According to a meeting with C.J., Toby, Sam, and Leo back at the White House the press knows nothing and the police are not aware of the identity of the man they have arrested. Toby and Sam are sent to get Mendoza out of jail, C.J. is assigned the job of press misderection, and Leo wants calls every 15 minutes so that he can know what is going on.

Nessler as Josh to describe a typical day at the White House and Josh says that there is no such that. He goes on to start talking about the press cycle that wouldn't end. "Depending on how you look at it, it started either with a cabinet secretary losing her temper, a committee chairman baiting her during a hearing, the President answering a question he shouldn't have, a dentist appointment, or me being stupid. [audience laughs] For the record, I'd like to say that I don't think it was as much my fault as other people do. [audience laughs] One thing's for sure, it started out as a day that was supposed to trumpet the President's vision for educational reform."

We flashback to yesterday morning. Sam, Toby, and C.J. are in the empty press briefing room, going over the next briefing. The President is about to sign a massive education reform bill and Sam and Toby are prepping C.J. C.J. tells Carol to cancel her dentist appointment at noon and Sam doesn't let her and makes her go. Somewhere else Josh is telling Toby that the HUD Secretary Deborah O'Leary called Jack Wooden a racist.

Next the President finds out. He's not happy. He tells them to get the secretary. He goes out to Mural Room to sign the bill in front of the press. All the senior staff are there except for C.J. The press asks about the O'Leary-Wooden issue and the President is forced to respond that he feels that the Secretary should apologize. Sam ends the now disasterous press conference by telling the press that "this is gonna be covered in the two o'clock briefing. The President's late for lunch with the U.N. ambassador. I'm sorry," and they rush the President out. Leo says he'll fix it.

Back at the lecture hall Josh is saying, "Eight words. "The President's not taking any questions right now." If we'd just stepped in 30 seconds sooner." Josh's cell phone rings with a call from Toby. He excuses himself. Toby tells him that they're lost. That do a small exchange and Josh sits back down. Nessler asks what the call was about and Josh says it was the trade deficit. He picks up from if only he'd gotten there 30 seconds sooner and goes on to say "The day would've gone a lot differently. The President had said that Secretary O'Leary should apologize. The press wanted to know if she would be fired if she didn't and we didn't have an answer. She was coming up to the White House for a showdown. This was what the day was about now. And the day was about to get worse... because I was about to step to the plate."

Toby and Sam are in the car. They've been going in circles. Sam says he's using the navigation technique of celestial navigation. Toby says "Hey, Galileo, get off at the next exit and turn the car around." Back at the lecture hall Josh is detailing how Leo tells O'Leary to apologize. She relents and finally agrees. Josh back at the lecture hall says "So that should've been it, right? C.J. Cregg does the two o'clock briefing, tells them Secretary O'Leary has an apology for Congressman Wooden. All questions on the matter will be handled by her spokesperson, Donald Morales, and redirects their attention to the 700 million bucks of yours that we just spent on teachers. [pause] Who here has had emergency root canal?" Back to yesterday in Josh's Office. C.J. shows up saying that she had "woot canaw." Josh plays with her for his amusement. She says she has to "cancew the bwiefing." Josh says she can't. Sam can'r do it, Toby can't do it so Josh says he will. C.J. is terrified a the notion but she has no choice. Josh goes to do the briefing. Danny sees him walking toward the program. In short, Josh screws up spectacularly as he "creates" the President's secret plan to fight inflation.

Back at the lecture hall, Nessler says it's a good time to take a break. Josh gets up and calls Toby. Sam and Toby are still lost. Josh: "Toby, how hard can it be to find the Wesley police station?" Toby: "I don't know, Josh, but while we're looking, can you tell me a little more about the President's secret plan to fight inflation?" They hang up and Sam and Toby find the police station.

Sam and Toby walk up to the counter and tell the police that they are from the White House and that they are to give Robert Mendoza to them. The police think it's a joke until the see a picture on a neswpaper from yesterday's bill signing with Sam and Toby in the press conference. Sam tells the police that they've "arrested a federal judge who's the President's nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court." The station phone rings and Sam says that they "should get that. That's gonna be the Governor of Connecticut."

When Josh leaves the briefing room Donna is there to walk him to his office and to worry about their job security. C.J., Toby, and Sam hunt him down to his office. They beat up on him until Sam says that Robert Mendoza has said that the President was wrong to make O'Leary apologize.

Josh tells the people at the lecture that "Roberto Mendoza is the President's nominee to fill Crouch's seat on the Supreme Court. The President put Toby Ziegler in charge of his confirmation, which is a huge responsibility. A failed confirmation for the Court is a body blow to a presidency. Besides which, he's a brilliant jurist and we badly want him on the bench. The confirmation process is a tough needle to thread. You gotta make a lot of friends and Supreme Court nominees don't speak before their confirmation, they let the White House speak for them. Something Toby's had a little bit of trouble teaching Roberto Mendoza."

Leo has a senior staff meeting in the Roosevelt Room to go over all that has gone wrong.

Josh tells the people at the lecture that "If you read the papers, you know that this not the first time this had happened. In the eight weeks since the President named his nominee, Judge Mendoza has, on various occasions, publicly criticized the American Bar Association, the AFL-CIO, and the New York state legislature. Three organizations without which this President would not have been elected. Putting out the Deborah O'Leary fire from earlier in the day had been the only thing we'd been successful at, and now Judge Mendoza had... [his phone rings] ...started it up again. I-I... I'm really very sorry, but I have to get this. [gets up and answers the phone] Yeah."

Sam is telling Josh that Toby is talking to Mendoza.

Josh lectures, "Mendoza was summoned to the White House from his vacation in Nova Scotia. When you summon someone to the White House, you generally expect to see them within the hour. Judge Mendoza told us that he would see us in three days. Why three days? Because he was driving down to D.C., stopping in Connecticut to do some antiquing. Yet another thing we'd have to tell the President. Who, by the way, had still not woken up."

Charlie is waking the President up. He tells him that he has a senior staff meeting in the Oval Office.

In the Oval, the staff are waiting for the President. Leo wonders aloud how you would drive from Nova Scotia. Sam says, "Oh, my guess is, he'll take the Trans-Canada Highway to New Brunswick, then maybe catch the 1 and take the scenic route along the coast of Maine. 95 through New Hampshire to the Mass Pike, and then cut over to the Merritt Parkway round Milford." Toby says, "Something really kinda freakish about you, you know that?" as the President comes in. Josh tells him that he did the briefing and "created" a secret inflation plan and tells him about how the O'Leary-Wooden situation got "broken" again by Mendoza.

Nessler asks Josh if Mendoza ever got here from Nova Scotia. Josh says he's on his way right now and that, "he's spending the night in Connecticut to do some antiquing."

Yesterday at the police station, Sam has just gotten coffee from the vending machine. The Sergeant says, "I'm the one that pulled him over, you know. His driving was erratic. Still not entirely convinced he hadn't been drinking." Sam pokes a whole in his theory by saying, "Judge Mendoza has chronic persistent hepatitis, which is a non-progressive form of liver inflammation. If he'd had enough to drink to blow point one on the blood-alcohol, he'd be dead right now. [drinks] This is good coffee."

Toby is talking to Mendoza in the jail cell. Mendoza is on a pride trip and does not agree to leave. He's upset because he wasn't doing anything illegal and he had to suffer through racial discrimination in front of his son. Toby talks to him and tells him to let it go even though it stinks. He tells him to fix it when he becomes a justice.

Toby and Mendoza come out to meet up with Sam and the officers at the front desk. Toby tells them to apologize to Mendoza and then they all go on a road trip so that the officer can apologize to Mendoza's son.

At the lecture hall Josh hangs up and apologizes as he says that that will be the last time the phone will rings. Nesseler asks what all those phone calls are really about and Josh tells him to call him back after the Senate confirms Mendoza. Josh starts to take questions from the audience.

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