The West Wing

Season 3 Episode 21

Posse Comitatus

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM May 22, 2002 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
146 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Bartlet continues to struggle over the wisdom of assassinating the terrorist Qumari defense minister; after Ritchie declines to meet Bartlet, Sam and Toby play a dirty trick; as the search for Mrs. Landingham's replacement continues, Charlie finds the perfect candidate, who makes less than a stellar first impression on Bartlet; Josh's determination to pass a welfare bill costs Amy; as C.J.'s stalker is finally captured, the night ends in tragedy.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • It Just Doesn't Get Any Better

    This episode is, without a doubt, one of the finest hour-long dramas in the history of television.

    1) A floor vote on an important welfare renewal

    2) The death of a . secret service agent

    3) The Oval Office visit and subsequent murder of a terror kingpin

    4) An iconic meeting between Jed Bartlet and his Republican opponent for president

    5) A hilarious side story about blocking traffic on the Major Deegan to keep said Republican from getting from the Bronx to Midtown

    6) A hilarious side story on Debbie, who would soon become the president's new personal secretary

    7) This, as a close to the third season: 8MGc

    A triumph. This episode is the greatest thing Sorkin has ever done, and should be considered one of television's finest hours.moreless
  • Glorious in Peace

    Without a doubt one of the best episodes that the show ever had. There were 4 main things that made it as great as it was.1. C.J.'s reaction to Simon's Death

    2. Hallelujah being played throughout that scene

    3. Amy and Josh's clash and how the phone call ends it and she says "Honey, Simon Donovan was shot and killed."

    4. Glorious in Peace ringing out through Sharif's assassination

    The tragedy of the episode is simply brilliant. Ranks in my top ten episodesmoreless
  • Off with the crown, and with the crown his head.

    Charlie's search for a new executive assistant for Bartlet provided some comic relief to the brilliant drama of the rest of the episode. While she's at least a little crazy, I really liked his first choice in Debbie Fiderer(Lily Tomlin). I was as shocked as Bartlet at how cavalier she was in her interview, even knowing she was as high as a paper kite. Her back and forth with Charlie, both in the scenes at her home and at the White House, were also hilarious. I had been wondering what it was about her that would cause Charlie to push so hard for her, finding out she had gotten fired for hiring him cleared that up though.

    I loved how Sam and Toby were not only able to save face with Richie attending the same event as Bartlet, but also turn it around and make Richie look bad. It was great to see Sam get back in the game with what had to be one of the best sound bites ever when he and Toby were talking to the press.

    Sam: "What Toby means to say, is that if ninety percent of success is showing up were just happy there's someone standing up for the other ten."

    Despite my dislike for her, Amy and Josh's scenes impressed me, they're argument near the end of the episode in her apartment was extremely well acted on both their parts and the fact that she would throw herself off a cliff like that and be willing to do it again was admirable. I felt bad for Josh since he not only knew the whole time that he was going to win the vote, but knew how he was going to have to win it. I'm glad he wasn't so caught up in her that he would shy away from getting her fired to save the bill though.

    The scenes in New York were definitely the best moments of the episode. Despite never growing to really like the character, Agent Donovan's death was very moving. Those few seconds of agonizing suspense as he's securing the one robber were hard to watch because you just know there's another guy, and because I was thinking the whole time of what Donovan's little brother had jokingly said about him being slow witted and criminals sensing it. The red and white roses scattering on the floor as the shop clerk ran around the counter was a beautiful touch in an otherwise tragic scene. Hallelujah playing as CJ stumbled along the streets of New York was an excellent choice, though it probably would have been even better if I hadn't already heard the song used way too many times. Granted when this episode came out it hadn't been done to death yet.

    Bartlet's impromptu meeting with Richie was an incredible scene as well. I couldn't believe how ignorant and insulting Richie could be when Bartlet was laying out for him what his biggest flaw was and how to fix it. I think Richie is just too dumb to realize that just because you hate someone doesn't mean they hate you. Bartlet's final line made me want to stand up and applaud.

    Bartlet: "In the future if you're wondering, 'Crime. Boy, I don't know,' is when I decided to kick your ass."

    I mean what kind of scumbag hears the news of a secret service agent being killed and doesn't immediately ask to have their condolences passed along? Bartlet keeping his cool the whole time just further illustrated why he's the better candidate.

    The best scene of the episode, and possibly the entire season, was the one between Leo and Bartlet in the theater lobby, when Bartlet finally decides to kill Shareef. The relationship between Leo and Bartlet has always been one of the best things about TWW, and that scene was a shining example of why. Truly some of the best dialogue I've ever heard.

    Leo: "Would it be helpful if I brought you a list of names of Shareef's victims?"

    Bartlet: "What do you want from me?"

    Leo: "Who was the monk who wrote; 'I won't always know the right thing to do, Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please you pleases you'?"

    That last line was like a dagger. I've always felt Bartlet's faith was one of his greatest strengths and at the same time, one of his biggest faults. The struggle going on inside him was portrayed perfectly by Sheen. Patriotic Song playing over the last few scenes was another great musical choice.

    Well it didn't really come close to beating out Two Cathedrals, but it was still a brilliant episode and a great close to the season.moreless
  • Very good episode... but a bit out of character.

    I thought this was a very good episode but I was very surprised by several moments. The death of agent Donovan wasn't really needed. I know the writers were looking for a dramatic way to separate him and C.J. but it could have been handled much better. How about he finds out he's been re-assigned to another city and ending the season with a difficult "good-bye" between him and C.J. that leaves the door open for him to return down the line.

    Also the assasination of the Qumar dude was very out of character. I also thought the writers could have really could have done more to show the viewers the difficult decision that Bartlett "had" to make.

    I did enjoy the scene with Bartlett and Ritchie as far fetched as it was. I hope all the open storylines lead to another great season.moreless
  • The culmination

    So, those storyline they have been pushing last episode all get their culminations.

    First and the most tragic one - CJ and the special agent. While from episode to episode they had the storyline, I was quite sure they end it he dying for her but no.. he does die but on the pointless little shop robbery. It was just.. surprising and shocking and oh.. and then Cohen's "Hallelujah" on background and the reactions of CJ and others.. and.. it was worth it all.

    And the Qumar storyline gets end too as the pen did came to play and the man was killed. And how president took it.. how it took the whole storyline..

    And Josh relationship with Amy... Anyway, episode worth rememberingmoreless
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

David Huddleston

David Huddleston

Max Lobell

Guest Star

Mark Harmon

Mark Harmon

Simon Donovan

Guest Star

James Brolin

James Brolin

Robert Ritchie

Guest Star

John Amos

John Amos

Percy Fitzwallace

Recurring Role

Renée Estevez

Renée Estevez


Recurring Role

Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (4)

    • Earlier in the season, there was an episode titled "The Women of Qumar" which was also about the same fictional country.

    • Bartlet: I'm gonna be running for re-election while I'm fighting a war against Qumar.

      Qumar is a fictional country made up by Sorkin.

    • Fitz says that Shareef's plane is a Gulfstream, but the plane we see looks like a Lear jet.

    • Secret Service agents on "body" assignment are required to wear kevlar vests. The bullets struck Donovan in his upper left chest, an area that would be protected by the vest unless a large caliber gun or Teflon ammunition was used in the shooting.

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Pres. Bartlet: Something horrible happened about an hour ago. C.J. Cregg was getting threats so we put an agent on her. He's a good guy. He was on my detail for a while. He was in Rosslyn.
      He walked into the middle of an armed robbery and was shot and killed after detaining one of the suspects.
      Gov. Ritchie: Crime... Boy, I don't know.

    • Bartlet (to Ritchie): In the future, if you're wondering, "Crime. Boy, I just don't know." is when I decided to kick your ass.

  • NOTES (7)

    • In this episode Mark Harmon's character Simon Donovan is a Big Brother. In real life Mark's wife Pam Dawber is a national spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

    • Stockard Channing does not appear in this episode.

    • These are the lyrics of the song which is sung at the end of the play:

      England arise! Join in the chorus!
      It is a new made song you should be singing.
      See in the skies, flutt'ring before us
      what the bright bird of peace is bringing!
      See upon our smiling land
      where the wealths of nations stand
      where prosperity and industry walk
      ever hand in hand.
      Where so many blessings crowd,
      'tis our duty to be proud.
      Up and answer, English Yeoman,
      sing it joyfully aloud.
      Evermore upon our country
      God will pour his rich increase,
      And victorious in war shall be made glorious in peace,
      And victorious in war shall be made glorious in peace.

      See each one do what he can to further God's almighty plan.
      The benificence of heaven help the skilfulness of man.
      Ev'ry garner fill'd with grain, Ev'ry meadow blest with rain:
      Rich and fertile is the golden corn that bear and bears again.

      Where so many blessings crowd,
      'Tis our duty to be proud.
      Up and answer, fellow Britons,
      sing it joyfully aloud.

      Evermore upon our country
      God will pour his rich increase
      And victorious in war shall be made glorious in peace,
      And victorious in war shall be made glorious in peace.

    • Awards and Nominations:
      This episode was a 2002 Emmy Award Nominee for Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series (Alex Graves)

      This episode was a 2002 Emmy Award Nominee for Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin)

      This episode won the 2002 Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series along with many others from the season (Aaron Sorkin, Thomas Schlamme, John Wells, Kevin Falls, Alex Graves, Christopher Misiano, Michael Hissrich, Kristin Harms, Llewellyn Wells)

      Won the 2003 CAS Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Television Series

      Nominated for 2002 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series Night (Alex Graves)

    • Lily Tomlin joins the cast as Debbie Fiderer.

    • Music:
      1. Jeff Buckley sings Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" from his
      Grace CD.
      2. "Patriotic Song" plays at the theater when Bartlet gives the order for the execution of Shareef. The Music and lyrics are by Stephen Oliver and are from The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby.

    • The Latin phrase "Posse Comitatus" (able men of the county) is a reference to the tradition allowing local sheriffs to deputize a group of citizens as a temporary police force, known as a posse. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (18 USC 1385) prohibits the use of U.S. Military Forces for such civilian law enforcement on American soil, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. This law ended the era of Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War in which Federal troops were used as a police force in the South.


    • President Bartlet: The center fielder for the Yankees is an accomplished classical guitarist. The people who like baseball can't like books?

      This is a reference to Bernie Williams, who played on the Yankees from 1991 until 2006. In 2003 his major label debut, The Journey Within, was released.