The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 13

The Long Goodbye

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Jan 15, 2003 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
114 votes

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Episode Summary

While Toby unsuccessfully attempts to fill her shoes in the briefing room, C.J. returns to Dayton, where she gives a speech at her high school reunion, reconnects with an old friend, and struggles to deal with her father's worsening Alzheimer's.

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  • A great episode for the wrong show

    A TV series change-up (an episode that deviates far from the norm) is a risk. Often it is met with audience frustration, indifference, or annoyance and often this reaction is unfair (Take the brilliant episode "Point of View" from M*A*S*H or "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'" from The X-Files). Often, however, the change-up is nothing more than a ploy, a way to shake things up -- and usually to add life-blood to a dying series. Although The West Wing was far from dying at this point (There were many great episodes from Season 4 to come), The Long Goodbye is an example of what the series would be like without Aaron Sorkin and without proper "interference" in making this series how it should be made.

    The Long Goodbye has many good things going for it. Mucho screen time for Allison Janney (always a plus) plus a downright stunning performance from Donald Moffat as the ailing father of C.J. This episode is unnervingly engrossing in its story, giving an intelligent "due" to the disease that is plaguing elderly America. Perhaps the best example of this is the fishing scene where Mr. Cregg goes off on a tangent and suddenly loses everything about himself. He doesn't recognize his daughter and is totally unaware of his surroundings. The scene is absolute power.

    But what is it doing on this show? The West Wing is and always has been about, well, the West Wing. The story is usually about the political stories (usually at the expense of personal backdrop -- personal characterization just emphasizes rather than explains the storylines). Personal issues certainly exist on the show, but they do not dominate as in this episode -- and if they do, they eke themselves out through the "job" context. Think of Noel, the holiday episode from Season 2, where Josh has post-traumatic stress syndrome -- but this is expressed via his behavior at his job.

    When you take the West Wing out of The West Wing, you lose the whole context, the whole comforting feel, out of the show (Here's one reason I dislike Seasons 6 and 7 so much). The Long Goodbye, unfortunately then, feels like a ploy -- a way to liven things up, in a downright depressing and somewhat manipulative way. It seemed a way to get Allison Janney her due (and it did, but she deserved it for all of her episodes -- not just this one) when she really didn't need it.

    Furthermore, there were elements of the episode that seemed unforgivably forced and manipulative. I despised the Marco Arlens character (played by Matthew Modine) and felt there was no need for him. I thought several of the supporting characters were in there as plot devices rather than important elements of the story. Finally, the pace of the episode, though generally slow and atmospheric, seemed occasionally inconsistent. This would become typical for Alex Graves directed episodes down the line, but here at least we find that he has not fallen down the pretentious path he has yet.

    So, even though Janney and Moffat were superb and the story itself was well-thought-out, this episode flops like a fish out of water. It was an unwelcome, if somewhat moving, aside in a show full of top-notch efforts.moreless
  • CJ episode

    Ok.. It was not bad episode in the whole story and the matter of time what i really enjoyed.. the topic of children's parents getting old and how we all have to face the chancing times.

    But somehow it was so off the usual line.. so off of what they usually do that it felt alien and it felt even in some point wrong. This is not what you expect on this show and maybe the shock of something so different just makes it impossible to joy the episode on it's best as it has very beautiful meaning and emotion.. So.. not bad, but different..moreless
Matthew Modine

Matthew Modine

Marco Arlens

Guest Star

Donald Moffat

Donald Moffat

Talmidge Cregg

Guest Star

Verna Bloom

Verna Bloom

Molly Lapham

Guest Star

Randy Brooks

Randy Brooks

Arthur Leeds

Recurring Role

Kris Murphy

Kris Murphy

Katie Witt

Recurring Role

Mindy Seeger

Mindy Seeger


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • C.J. Cregg grew up in Dayton, Ohio as did Allison Janney who portrays her.

    • This was the third of only three episodes to have not been written or co-written by Aaron Sorkin during his tenure as executive producer, the others being season one's "Enemies" and season four's "Swiss Diplomacy."

  • QUOTES (2)

    • Talmidge Cregg: I started smoking again because I forgot that twenty years ago I quit.

    • C.J. (on cell phone to Toby): No. I didn't mean that you have no social skills, Toby. I, I'm sorry if you think I was being insensitive to you... I, I think you're very... You're a very pretty girl Toby.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Dayton, Ohio is the home town of Allison Janney and Martin Sheen.

    • The Dayton scenes in this episode were filmed in Oak Park, Illinois, and the restaurant scenes were filmed at Horwath's in Elmwood Park, Illinois. Those were, however, real copies of the Dayton Daily News in the first briefing room scene.

    • Stockard Channing, Dule Hill, Rob Lowe, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, John Spencer, and Martin Sheen do not appear in this episode.


    • Episode Title: Alzheimer's Disease, the disease from which C.J.'s father is suffering, is often referred to as "the long goodbye." This is especially true during the later stages of dementia, due to the slow deterioration of the patient's mental and physical state (on average eight years from the first signs of the disease to death). Former First Lady Nancy Reagan often referred to her husband's Alzheimer's as "the long goodbye" and the Reagan's youngest daughter, Patti Davis, wrote a book by that title reflecting on her father's descent into the disease.

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