The West Wing

Season 3 Episode 0

Isaac and Ishmael

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Oct 03, 2001 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
133 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

While the White House is in lock down, Josh and the staff try to put the events of 9/11/01 in context for a group of gifted high schoolers.

Who was the Episode MVP ?

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  • Some aspects were too idealistic and thus not realistic.

    The KKK to Christianity thing has no real relevance -even at it's height in the early 20th century it claimed a few million members.

    While only a tiny fraction of Muslims actually engage in 'terrorism', it has been consistently demonstrated that the vast majority of Muslims in world -at the very least passively support those that do and there are over 1.5 bil muslims, so I think the math on this is obvious.

    "The non combatant extremists" glorifies the individual jihadi, goals and methods.

    "The moderates" often glorify the individual and his goals but often remain silent on his methods.

    "The liberals" remain silent on the individual but condemns the methods (thus gets killed off)

    It is very simplistic but does draw a decent enough picture.

    And the whole Leo thing seems forced and a bit out of character

    Overall the ep was pretty good and provided an okay rendition of a idealistic opinion on Islamic terrorism weighted against an pragmatic one even though a few elements slipped through -specially the interrogation of an 'innocent' man and the KKK thing, the former was just lame and one sided while the latter was a massive miss characterization.moreless
  • 7 years later this episode still resonates strongly in my mind.

    I was watching The West Wing when the planes hit the tower, and at first I thought it was part of the show. A few weeks later this was the first episode of The West Wing to come back on TV over here in Australia. 7 years later and Josh's quote "Islamic extremist is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity" still sticks in my mind and to be honest when someone is picking on Muslims for simply being who they are I will quote it. With the horrors that the world and particularly the Americans had undergone from those attacks, for the writers and actors to be able to go back to work and send across this strong of a message. Simply amazing. This episode highlights the ability of the writers and the cast to handle the big Subjects, the ones which make others shy away. Many shows did not mention 911 for a few months to a year. Not so this show, The West Wing got up and did a special episode that resonates with the world even more so today then when it was first aired.moreless
  • What can't be learned in classrooms.

    I was wondering how they were going to handle 9/11 since before even starting the series. I was also wondering if one of the storylines from S60 was influenced by Sorkin's experience on TWW with 9/11. Now coming off of the best episode I've ever seen of any show, it was kind of tough to fairly judge this episode. Add to that, that this episode was written and filmed in two weeks and it gets even harder. But keeping that in mind, I'll try to judge it as I would any other episode.

    I wasn't crazy about the entire storyline with Leo and the White House staffer, Rakim Ali, suspected of being a terrorist. It just had a feeling of forced drama to me. Even with tensions running very high and Leo's short fuse when it comes to issues of national security, I still find it hard to believe Leo would have acted like that in the interrogation. He's just too intelligent to be that ignorant. Basically I don't think he would have needed to come to that realization at the end of the episode because that would have already been Leo's mindset. Now obviously they wanted to do that story line to hopefully convince viewers to also maybe shed some of their prejudices, but altering a character's personality and behavior to do it, doesn't sit well with me. The scenes were still well acted and the dialogue itself was good, my only problem is I just don't think Leo's character would have acted that way.

    On the positive side, I loved the scenes involving the Presidential Classroom students. It did still have the feeling of, "we wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for 9/11" but the scenes were so well written and acted that I really didn't mind. While all the characters gave amazing performances, there were a few standouts. Charlie's comparison of terrorist camps and gangs was really well written.

    Charlie: "Gangs give you a sense of belonging and usually an income. But mostly they give you a sense of dignity. Men are men, and men'll seek pride."

    But Bartlet of course had to steal the show with only a couple minutes of screen time.

    Bartlet: "We don't need martyrs right now. We need heroes. A hero would die for his country but he'd much rather live for it."

    I also enjoyed hearing Abby tell the story of Abraham and his sons. Josh did an exceptional job as well, especially in the final scene with the students. His idea for how to punish terrorists was perfect and his final advice to the students was really moving.

    Josh: "You wanna get these people? I mean, you really wanna reach in...and kill 'em where they live? Keep accepting more than one idea; it makes 'em absolutely crazy."

    Leo's stuff brought it down(for me at least), but the main plot was still excellent.moreless
  • Not just the best episode of The West Wing but possably the BEST TV SHOW EVER!!!

    As a result of 9-11 the writers and cast decided to try to explain terrorist and their actions to the people of the United States. This is the best discription of terrorist and why they hate the US ever devised. It is easy to understand what motivated the terrorist after watching this show. Why goverments and people around the world dislike some of the actions of the US is also explained well.

    This is a MUST WATCH show. Every goverment student should be required to watch this episode.

    If you do not uinderstand why terrorist hate the United States you should watch this.moreless
  • Thoughtful...

    This is a episode that in first look does not have no story and no connection to nothing. It just pops out before season 3 and is. I was little surprised first but when while watching the episode, you are thinking the reasons this episode was written and what was wanted to tell, it works fine. I most say as this had no connection storyline and it was all about deciphering the terrorism and the feelings people have towards it, it was superbly done. The way all those char just came to the cafeteria and what they said.. and the man they arrested.. and what Leo was saying to him and what he said in the end. It was really well forwarded message.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

Ajay Naidu

Ajay Naidu

Raqim Ali

Guest Star

Jonathan Nichols

Jonathan Nichols

Agent Cleary

Guest Star

Jeanette Brox

Jeanette Brox


Guest Star

Michael O'Neill

Michael O'Neill

Ron Butterfield

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (1)

  • QUOTES (10)

    • Charlie: Gangs give you a sense of belonging and usually an income. But mostly they give you a sense of dignity. Men are men, and men'll seek pride.

    • C.J.: Sir, this is a group of high school students from the Presidential Classroom.
      Bartlet: (to the students) You women seem bright and lovely. The men, disturbingly dense.

    • Bartlet: We don't need martyrs right now. We need heroes. A hero would die for his country but he'd much rather live for it... It was good meeting you all.

    • Josh (on how to deal with the terrorists): You want to get these people? I mean, you really want to reach in and kill them where they live? Keep accepting more than one idea. It makes them absolutely crazy.

    • A student: What do you call a society that has to just live every day with the idea that the pizza place you are eating in could just blow up without any warning?
      Sam: Israel.

    • Toby (about a man his father knew, who had been in a Nazi concentration camp): He said he once saw a guy at the camp kneeling and praying.
      He said "what are you doing?"
      The guy said he was thanking God.
      "What could you possibly be thanking God for?"
      "I'm thanking God for not making me like them."

    • Toby: Bad people can't be recognized on sight. There's no point in trying.

    • Toby: The Taliban isn't the recognized government of Afghanistan. The Taliban took over the recognized government of Afghanistan. . . . When you think of Afghanistan, think of Poland. When you think of the Taliban, think of the Nazis. When you think of the people of Afghanistan, think of Jews in concentration camps.

    • Toby: There's nothing wrong with a religion whose laws say a man's got to wear a beard or cover his head or wear a collar. It's when violation of these laws become a crime against the state and not your parents that we're talking about lack of choice.

    • Josh (to the students): Islamic extremist is to Islam as "blank" is to Christianity.
      (after hearing the students' suggestions, writes down the answer: KKK) It's the Klan gone medieval and global. It couldn't have less to do with Islamic men and women of faith, of whom there are millions and millions. Muslims defend this country in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, National Guard, police and fire department.

  • NOTES (4)