The West Wing

Season 3 Episode 8

The Women of Qumar

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Nov 28, 2001 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
110 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

C.J. is outraged about an arms sale to secure an airbase lease with a Middle-Eastern country which perpetuates atrocities against its women; the staff anxiously awaits test results to determine the possibility of an outbreak of mad-cow disease; Josh debates a women's group lobbyist over a treaty's wording concerning prostitution; Toby meets with veterans upset about a Pearl Harbor anniversary exhibition at the Smithsonian; Sam explores the idea of a national seatbelt law after Bartlet is sued by a woman whose husband died in an automobile accident.moreless

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  • ...and the life they lead.

    While I did understand CJ's anger, and empathize with her, over the weapons being sold to Qumar, I was a little irked by her misdirected hostility at Toby. Talk about killing the messenger, it wasn't so much her being pissed at him for no reason, but her actions in the scene with Toby and the war vets was just way, way over the line. I know she's hardly the only one to let her own personal feelings affect her work, but as press secretary she has to be the only person that doesn't let that happen. She more than made up for it though in the final scenes. To go from crying on the point of hysteria, to having to crack jokes in the press briefing was incredible to watch. While I already agreed with CJ, her words to Nancy removed any doubt that she was right; though I still say Toby didn't deserve to be her whipping boy for the day. Even knowing she was venting it still bugged me.

    The plot involving a potential outbreak of Mad Cow disease was both terrifying and interesting to watch. Leo laying out the consequences of the test coming back positive was very unsettling, and Bartlet summed it up perfectly.

    Bartlet: "The most costly disruptions always happen when something we take completely for granted stops working for a minute."

    I also enjoyed the plot with Bartlet trying to make sure Charlie understood they're are more important things than dates and names. It also led to my favorite lines.

    Bartlet: "Oh, hey, do you know when we passed the Clean Water Act?"

    Leo: "No."

    Bartlet: "How could you not know that?"

    Leo: "My water's clean, I don't ask questions."

    Bartlet: "What'd I just say?"

    Leo: "I wasn't really listening."

    I'm still not sure if I liked Amy Gardner(Mary-Louise Parker). She was funny but, like most of Parker's roles, she was just odd in a way that makes it hard to find her character believable. Plus I'm not thrilled about her and Josh starting a romantic relationship, but that's probably just because I would rather see Josh and Joey together.

    Sam's plot dealing with the lawsuit against Bartlet was great, and it was cool seeing Ty Burrell(Modern Family) make an appearance, he was hilarious in his defense of Rotarians. The best part though was Bartlet telling Sam why he wouldn't come out for a national seat belt law.

    I liked most of the episode, and while CJ did give a brilliant performance, she still annoyed me during some of her scenes. I also wasn't crazy about Josh's scenes with Amy. Still a good episode though.moreless
  • The senior staff and the President debate when to go public with a possible outbreak of mad-cow disease, C.J. is furious that the United States does business with Qumar and Josh wades into the thorny issue of freedom and 'forced' prostitution.moreless

    By all accounts this is a wonderful episode, fully entitled to the praise and awards associated with it. It deals with various complex and emotional issues (i.e. foreign policy, women's rights and prostitution) in an environment that seems real, albeit I have never worked in the White House before.

    Yet, the episode does have a few plot holes in it, that keep me from giving it a perfect score. C.J. reaction is necessary for the storyline to illustrate how amazing she is at her job, but also how public policy has very real world implications for real people and that it is not always easy to balance U.S. economic and security interests with concerns for universal human rights and dignity.

    Yet, this is the same C.J. who once strongly defended the 'realists' foreign policy perspective to a group of high school students when the West Wing was on lock down. Simply put, the realists tend to believe that when it comes to foreign policy; if you can do it, you probably should. If you want it, take it. Don't complain and don't fuss over human rights issues. C.J. defends this perspective when it comes to hunting down actual or suspected terrorists, but in this episode she seems furious that the U.S. is pursuing a realists foreign policy.

    No doubt that Qumar government is oppressive to many different segments of its society, women included. Yet, a realist would argue that foreign policy is about power, economic and national security and not liberal-feminist goals.

    Also, the arguments used in regards to the language in the international treaty regarding "forced" prostitution were a bit of a stretch, albeit it probably reflects the views of most audience members and the writers wanted the newly introduced character to be well liked.

    Prostitution that involves minors, slavery or any sort of force, harassment and or intimidation would be treated as "forced" prostitution. Minors cannot give consent and consent cannot exist when their is force or fraud involved.

    If adult prostitution was legalized and regulated for public health and safety it probably would make the lives of the women (and men) who are prostitutes a heck of a lot better. IMHO.

    True, few adults strive to be prostitutes and I can see reasons for giving such people alternatives; job training, education, etc. However, I felt that the arguments put forth as to why the U.S. needed to treat all forms prostitution as deserving of the same sanctions to be weak.

    Beyond these two complaints, it is a wonderful episode.moreless
  • This is a story about the sheer strength of CJ and how good she is at her job. Amongst the brilliance of the show and it story telling abilities, "The Women of Qumar" stands out as being truly outstanding story telling.moreless

    I love the west wing and the way it tells the stories. This is a story about the sheer strength of CJ and how good she is at her job. Amongst the brilliance of the show and it story telling abilities, "The Women of Qumar" stands out as being truly outstanding story telling. It stands out by handling a topic that ALL women should be passionate about as just one of the usual five stories in an episode, but by treating it this way it highlights the issue. Bartlet at the start of the episode after brokering the arms deal makes a slight comment about CJ's reaction, and throughout the story it seems as though CJ is the only one who cares about this subject of selling arms to a country that condones the beating of women and who CJ feels that one day the US will fight a war against. The scene where CJ breaks down while speaking to Nancy McNally, the passion was truly in Allison Janney's voice, the line "They are beating the women Nancy" was delivered with true anguish, to then follow it by doing a normal press briefing where she managed to joke about it, shows CJ's depth of character and her dedication to her work. One of the best episodes of season 3.moreless
  • Moved and moving..

    I liked the storyline of this episode - it all was on important topics and it did felt like they take it seriously and they have a message to forward and something to think about. CJ really managed to move by the way she cares and the conversation she had with Nancy.. it was maybe the best part of this episode.

    But we just cannot get episode without some fun and even if the topic why Amy and Josh met was far from fun, the way they ended it and Josh yelling if she is twelve years old.. That was worth it.

    Thoughtful episode.moreless
  • Difficult issues tackled with style.

    I have to admit that I'm a CJ Cregg fan and this episode is one of her best. Though it is crammed with interesting themes such as food scares and forced prostitution, one story line jumps out (and gives rise to the title). CJ's unease and anger with the administration's decision to sell weapons to a country that ignores the most basic of women's right, gives Allison Janney a chance to make of CJ more than just a talking head. CJ's efforts to get people to change their minds are heroic and each time she fails, the exasperation shows more clearly in her body language. In the end she has to accept a very clichéd answer from Nancy McNally and announce the sale in the press room. She does this with a straight face, even using humor. Remember that you are watching an actress playing a woman who is hiding her emotions. Her tragedy still hits you.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

Dinah Lenney

Dinah Lenney

Mary Klein

Guest Star

Bruce Kirby

Bruce Kirby

Barney Lang

Guest Star

Elizabeth Liang

Elizabeth Liang


Guest Star

Anna Deavere Smith

Anna Deavere Smith

Nancy McNally

Recurring Role

Mary-Louise Parker

Mary-Louise Parker

Amy Gardner

Recurring Role

Kim Webster

Kim Webster


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (11)

    • Josh: How am I not supposed to call you a hypocrite when you say that the government shouldn't tell women what to do with their bodies?
      Amy: Exercise some self control, I guess. Prostitution is about the subjugation of women by men for profit.
      Josh: But the profit goes to the women.
      Amy: In some cases. But I know of no little girl, and neither do you, who says "I want to be a prostitute when I grow up."

    • Leo: A national seat-belt law is never gonna happen.
      Sam: Why?
      Leo: What's the most important state in the primaries?
      Sam: New Hampshire.
      Leo: What's the most important state in the general?
      Sam: Michigan.
      Leo: What's the only state without a mandatory seat-belt law?
      Sam: New Hampshire.
      Leo: And where do they make the cars?
      Sam: (giving in) Fair enough.

    • Josh: I just came from seeing Amy Gardner.
      C.J.: Yeah? How'd it go?
      Josh: I showed her who's boss.
      C.J.: Who'd it turn out to be?
      Josh: It's still unclear.

    • Donna: You think if you make prostitution legal, the prostitutes are suddenly going to want everybody to know they're prostitutes?
      Josh: Hm.
      Donna: What?
      Josh: The rare valid point.

    • Bartlet: Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity. You can't sue the king. We brought it over from England.
      Sam: Yeah, but he's not immune from the court of public opinion.
      Bartlet: Forgot to bring that one over.

    • C.J.: The point is that Apartheid was an East Hampton clambake compared to what we laughingly refer to as the "life" these women lead, and if we had sold M1-A1s to South Africa 15 years ago, you'd have set the building on fire. Thank God we never needed to refuel in Johannesberg!

    • C.J. (on being criticized for her lobbying about Qumar): If I were living in Qumar, I wouldn't be allowed to say, "Shove it up your ass, Toby." But since I'm not, shove it up your ass, Toby.

    • C.J.: Three weeks ago a woman in Qumar was executed for adultery. She didn't need a lawyer 'cause there wasn't any trial. It was her husband's word against hers. . . . Later today I'm going to be announcing that we're selling them tanks and guns.

    • C.J. (on hiding a possible mad cow outbreak): I don't know how many more times we can get caught keeping a secret.
      Leo: Sometimes that's what we're supposed to do.

    • Bartlet: I'm starting you out with a copy of the speech George Perkins March used in 1845 to rouse the agricultural community of Rutland, Vermont. Then you're going to need to study the word "ecology" as coined by the German biologist Ernst Heikl.
      Charlie: Am I being punished for something?

    • Bartlet: Go and apologize to C.J. for whatever you did.
      Toby: I didn't do anything.
      Bartlet: Like that matters.

  • NOTES (3)

    • Additional Credit: Washington D.C. Production Services by Thinkfilm, Inc.

    • Awards and Nominations:
      Allison Janney won the 2002 Emmy in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in this episode

      Mary-Louise Parker was nominated for the 2002 Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in this episode and in "H. Con-172"

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

    • Mary Louise Parker starts her recurring role as Amy Gardner.