The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 20

Evidence of Things Not Seen

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Apr 23, 2003 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The White House is locked down after a gunman on the street fires shots into the West Wing; Josh interviews a candidate to replace Ainsley Hayes; Bartlet negotiates for the return of a spy plane is forced down over Russia; the staff plays poker.

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  • A quietly engrossing episode.

    Shots are fired at the White House, but this is not what is memorable about the episode.

    What is memorable is the theme of not seeing anything. For example, C.J. insists that an egg can stand on its end at the vernal equinox (not the autumnal). She's seen it. She swears she has seen it. Well, Bartlet tries and says, "Yeah, this isn't going to work." Of course, he's referring to a "gag" he will try on Russia in order to retrieve a spy satellite that has crashed in Russian territory.

    Debbie keeps winning at poker, from what seems like bluff after bluff (apparently hidden by aggressive bidding). When Toby calls one of her bids, Debbie shows an impressive hand. Oops -- she might be just that good of a poker player. This also gave the chance for Joshua Malina, an avid poker player, to show his shuffling skills (which are impressive, by the by).

    And Josh interviews a replacement for Ainsley Hayes. He finds Joe Quincy (played by Matthew Perry, in a very effective performance). Joe is quirky, concise, highly skilled, and matter-of-fact. Why hasn't Josh heard of him? Evidence of things not seen.

    The theme, of course, is that the things not seen must be perceived differently. When Bartlet's plan to fool the Russian leader begins to unravel, he decides to be blunt about his intentions. This scheme proves effective because it brings the real issue to the surface. When Will researches the balancing egg, C.J. then says she "thought" she saw it. So she tries it again. Of course, everyone has left by this point. And it does indeed balance. Perception is everything.

    And Josh figures out Joe's true identity. Why would Josh not know Joe? Because he's a Republican. So why is Joe applying? Because he likes public service. Nice way to segue from Ainsley to Joe -- public service speaks above party lines. If only I believed that in the real world...but that's a different can of tomatoes.

    What "Evidence of Things Not Seen" is saying is that things can work if we have multiple points of view -- not bad for a political drama.moreless
  • Shots on White House

    Mm.. it should be the night off for poker game but it is far from silent night.. as first there is some friendly chatter and thing with egg.. but when they try to play around with cards in press room there are shots.. what? CJ seems to get all the bad luck.. and that scene there really spieced things up.

    But that is not the only exciting thing going on.. There is president who has plain crashed in mm.. however is called that part of Russia what stands between Baltic Sea, Poland and Lithuania.. And they have to get their team there without telling what they really did - spied.. and that's tricky..moreless
Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry

Joe Quincy

Guest Star

Robert Alan Beuth

Robert Alan Beuth


Guest Star

J.P. Hubbell

J.P. Hubbell

Agent #1

Guest Star

Lily Tomlin

Lily Tomlin

Debbie Fiderer

Recurring Role

Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss

Zoey Bartlet

Recurring Role

Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill

Ron Butterfield

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Interesting story connection: Will Bailey (Air Force Reserve attorney) is being sent to investigate a case where nuclear missle silo officers failed to launch missles during a perceived threat. John Spencer(Leo McGarry) played a missle silo officer in the 1985 movie "War Games" who failed in his duty to launch nuclear missles during a test.

    • In the final scene, as C.J. balances the egg, if you look closely, you can see the thin pedestal used to support the egg upright.

    • Goof: (Lt) Will Bailey is wearing his service blues, along with his service ribbons out of order. The Global War on Terrorism ribbon is on the left of the National Defense Service ribbon. They should be reversed. The Air Force Training ribbon is correctly positioned on the right.

    • At the end of the episode, CJ notes the time as being midnight, prompting her to test the standing-egg-on-its-end theory. However her own watch reads 7:25.

    • Leo McGarry says, during the briefing with the President, that the Baltic Sea is shared between Germany, Sweden and Finland. It is ALSO shared with Poland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania (this three being known as The Baltic States) and Russia.

    • Matthew Perry's father, John Bennett Perry, appeared on the second season finale episode Two Cathedrals.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Donna: This guy...
      Josh: Yeah?
      Donna: There are some who'd consider him handsome. I don't, personally, 'cause you're the only one I find handsome.
      Josh: Aha.
      Donna: But for the sake of appearances, here around the office, other people wouldn't suspect I'd pretend. I thought this guy was handsome if you hired him. Of course, all along it'd be a lie because of how handsome you are. And powerful.
      Josh: Your sense of humor's a bit of a high-wire act, isn't it? You're really trying to thread the needle.
      Donna: And half of it you don't even get.

    • Joe Quincy: Did you hear the shots?
      Josh: No, but I heard a brass quintet playing the first Noel, so I assumed someone somewhere was locked and loaded.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry later went on to star in the show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Stip"; which was also created by Aaron Sorkin.

    • This is Matthew Perry's first appearance as Joe Quincy.

    • Awards and Nominations:
      This episode won the 2003 Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Drama Series along with many other episodes from the season (Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Schlamme, John Wells, Kevin Falls, Alex Graves, Christopher Misiano, Paul Redford, Kristin Harms, Llewellyn Wells, Neal Ahern, Jr.)

      Matthew Perry received an Emmy nomination in 2003 for his portrayal here of Joe Quincy. He was nominated in the category of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.

      Bradley Whitford was nominated in 2003 for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in this episode and in "20 Hours in America Part 1 & 2"

    • Will is on his way to defend 2 missile silo airmen who failed to follow launch procedure. In the movie "War Games", John Spencer (Leo McGarry) plays a missile silo commander who refuses to follow launch procedure during a missile drill.

    • Will mentions a website called - this name was registered by Warner Brothers five weeks before the show aired, but had no content.


    • Joe:You know, I thought I heard what sounded like gunshots when we were talking before, but I didn't... Did you hear the shots?
      Josh: No, but I heard a brass quintet playing "The First Noel," so I just assumed somebody somewhere was locked and loaded.

      Josh is alluding to the second season episode Noël, where his psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Keyworth, concludes that Josh is associating Christmas music with sirens as a symptom of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he suffers after being shot in the season one finale, "What Kind of Day Has It Been?".