The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 12

Guns Not Butter

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Jan 08, 2003 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
96 votes

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Episode Summary

Josh, determined to make sure a foreign aid bill passes even though it's a hopeless cause, sends Donna out to track down a reluctant senator; in an attempt to impress Zoey's new boyfriend, Charlie unwittingly gets over his head with the Department of Defense; Danny continues to pursue the Shareef matter; a Bartlet photo op with Heifer International creates unexpected opportunites -- for C.J. to perfect her spin-doctoring techniques, and for the staff once again to test Will's mettle and sense of humor.moreless

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  • Well written example

    So most of this episode goes around foreign help bill and it gets them much trouble as they lose one vote and in the end they need to get someone for vote for them.. And it comes out that Donna is a great stalker.. and even if they manage to get two votes.. Donna manages to ruin it.. and in the end it is a little amount of money for study of praying for one yes vote.. all they need but they do not take it..

    So.. a lot of story.. I specially liked Charlie's one.. his little initiative.. and then the whole thing with Will Bailey.moreless
  • One of the season's best episodes.

    This episode contains everything I love about the series. Interesting character analysis, hilarious and fast-paced walk-and-talks, good natured camaraderie, and issues ripe for the picking. This is one of the best episodes of the season.

    Guns Not Butter is a great character study, both of Josh and of Donna. Janel Moloney gets to show some of her stripes in this episode, and I love it. She portrays Donna as a devoted and intelligent woman who goes the extra mile to get things done.

    Of course, so does Josh -- which is a major theme of the episode. It leads to several classic scenes, the best of which involves Josh and the President. The President asks, "Do you know the difference between you and me? I want to be the guy while you want to be the guy that the guy counts on." In one sentence, the President has described Josh to a tee. And yet, his character is amazingly complex (and really the best developed character on the series).

    This is a credit to both Aaron Sorkin and Bradley Whitford, who have written and portrayed (respectively) one of the most engrossing and endearing "big guys" of the television era. His work in this episode is extraordinary, from the intensity of the episode teaser to the modesty of the Oval Office scene. This was Whitford at his best.

    Isn't it interesting how the President's line can also be used to describe Donna? It's not surprising given they both admire each other for the trait that both of them possess. One of the best male-female duos in the business.

    Also noteworthy in this episode is the hilarious "hazing" of Will. Joshua Malina tackles his role in this episode with a fresh-faced humility. His scene with C.J. at the end was classic. But the entrance into his office (full of goat) was sublime.

    Finally, the issues -- which range from political soap opera to refusing to face tough issues to voter ignorance and apathy -- were rampant in this episode. I especially liked Josh's commentary on polls, which are eerily accurate. Polls are not only inaccurate for their generally small sample size -- but, more importantly, for their sample. 68% thought foreign aid was too expensive while 59% said it should be cut. The point? If you say yes to one, you should say yes to both.

    Polls have become smarter these days -- often questions like these are thrown in as red herrings -- and give a general clue as to audience knowledge and regard to the questions they are being asked. The major point being -- the numbers in the polls do not necessarily dictate the opinions of the constituents. Interesting discussion on the subject provided in this episode, and it certainly brings about a point in professional politics and polling that certainly is not given enough attention in the real world.

    But the points wouldn't work without the great effort by the actors. Allison Janney was en fuego in this episode, and Martin Sheen provided another great performance. Nice to see more of Elisabeth Moss and Timothy Busfield as well. Matter of fact, there was little I could find to complain about in this particular episode.

    The West Wing is an ensemble effort, and Guns Not Butter is proof that with a winning creative and acting team -- the results are unbeatable.moreless
Christina Grandy

Christina Grandy


Guest Star

Derek Coleman

Derek Coleman


Guest Star

John H. Wan

John H. Wan


Guest Star

Ron Ostrow

Ron Ostrow


Recurring Role

Kris Murphy

Kris Murphy

Katie Witt

Recurring Role

Timothy Davis-Reed

Timothy Davis-Reed


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Goof: President Bartlet goes over to the crowd to "work the rope line" and shake hands. Normally, there would be Secret Service agents surrounding him, including one right behind him literally holding onto the president's belt. That is known as the "body man", and his job is to make sure the president isn't pulled into the crowd. However, there weren't any agents around him at all, including a "body man".

    • The Senator who offers Toby a vote for foreign aid in exchange for funding a study of prayer refers to Duke as a non-sectarian school. Duke is actually a United Methodist school, complete with a full United Methodist seminary.

  • QUOTES (3)

    • Barlet: Turn around causually and tell me if Le Vicomte de Valvert's got his hands near anyone who's related to me.
      C.J.: That's a good-looking young man.
      Barlet: Zoey!
      Zoey: I don't respond when you shout.
      Barlet: Yeah? I think you'd respond if I stopped feeding you!

    • Will: You like that stat?
      Josh: I do.
      Will: Why?
      Josh: Because nine percent think it's too high and shouldn't be cut. Nine percent of respondents could not fully get their arms around the question. There should be another box you can check for, "I have utterly no idea what you're talking about. Please, God, don't ask for my input."

    • Will: I will take my hazing like the Eton valedictorian I am.

  • NOTES (3)

    • When Charlie Young is handed a letter on the rope line, it is a plea for help from an enlisted soldier whose family needs food stamps. Charlie phones a contact at the Defense Department to inquire to whom he can send the letter for action, a Sergeant Major Barry Moreland, with whom he plays basketball. The name seems a likely tribute to the movie Taps, where the main character, the ranking cadet at a military academy, leads a revolt when the Board of Governors decides to close the school. That character, played by Oscar winner Timothy Hutton, was Cadet Major Brian Moreland, and his father, who criticizes his actions, was played by the late character actor Wayne Tippit (L.A. Law, Melrose Place), was Sergeant Major Kevin (not Barry) Moreland.

    • Episode Title: The title of this episode comes from a quote from Paul Joseph Goebbels, German politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, made during an address in Berlin on January 17, 1936.

      "We can do without butter, but, despite all our love of peace, not without arms. One cannot shoot with butter but with guns".

      The term has evolved into a macroeconomics model which determines a nations' investment in civilian goods and services or national defense.

    • The title of this episode refers to the theoretical extremes of how a nation may choose to spend its money, "Guns" (all defense and no food) or "Butter" (all food and no defense).