The West Wing

Season 1 Episode 14

Take This Sabbath Day

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Feb 09, 2000 on NBC



  • Trivia

    • Bartlet: Why is [the execution] my problem at all?
      Leo: As opposed to who?
      Bartlet: The Governor of Michigan.
      Leo: Oh, you mean why isn't it a state crime? It was prosecuted by the US Attorney under the Drug Kingpin Law...

      It's a good thing the Federal statutes on executions are being argued in this episode--because in Michigan (the state in which Simon Cruz was apparently tried) the death penalty is not an option. The strongest term one can serve in Michigan is life imprisonment.

    • The small pocket bible Father Cavanaugh uses is the same one Karl Malden used in the movie, On the Waterfront, in which he also portrayed a priest.

    • This wasn't the first time Martin Sheen and Karl Malden had worked together. They previously had worked together on the TV series The Streets of San Francisco in the episode "Betrayed" in 1973.

    • This episode was a 2001 WGA Award Winner and a 2000 Award Winner of the Humanitas Prize in the 60 Minute category.

    • Toby: "Even two thousand years ago, the rabbis of the Talmud couldn't stomach it."

      Toby tells the President that the ancient rabbis were averse to the death penalty. This is fairly true since the Talmud states that the fundumental difference between capital crimes and property crimes is sentence reversibility. A miscarriage of justice in the latter can be reversed by returning the property to its rightful owner. But a miscarriage of justice in a capital crime can never be reversed and the Talmud warns the rabbis that the blood of the accused, and the blood of all his progeny will be upon them till the end of time. As a result they instituted impossible conditions that the state had to meet in order to execute a person (that it can be proven that he was warned that is actions carry the death penalty, that the witnesses know that if they are caught lying they will receive the same punishment they intended for the accused, that the witnesses actually saw him commit the crime, etc.).

      This is taken from the Babylonian Talmud's chapter "Sanhedrin". There are many more procedural restrictions mentioned there regarding witness examination, witness reliability, the judges involved etc.

    • Father Cavanaugh says to the President that God, "...sent you a priest, a rabbi, and a Quaker...." How did he know about Toby's rabbi and Joey Lucas (the Quaker)? Cavanaugh appears in only one scene with no breaks, during which the president does not mention either rabbi or Quaker. Maybe that part of the conversation was cut from the final.

  • Quotes

    • Joey Lucas: (barges in and beings signing while Kenny translates) Are you the unmitigated jackass who has the DNC choking off funding for O'Dwyer campaign in the California 47th?
      Josh: What in God's name is happening right now?

    • Josh: I can hold my liquor.
      Donna: No, you can't.
      Josh: I can drink with the best of 'em, Donna.
      Donna: You can't drink with any of 'em, Josh.
      Josh: I'm a politician, okay? I can drink.
      Donna: You have a very sensitive system.
      Josh: I wish you'd stop telling people that. It makes me sound like an idiot.
      Donna: You're gonna have two drinks and spend the rest of the weekend sleeping it off.

    • Bartlet: We can not execute some people and not others, depending on the mood of the Oval Office. It's cruel and unusual.
      Leo: If that's the only thing stopping you, I'll say for the first time in your presidency, let that be the next guy's problem.

    • Glassman: Say what you will about the Catholic Church, but their position on life is unimpeachable: no abortion, no death penalty.
      Toby:I spent yesterday...
      Glassman: You spent yesterday hoping the President wouldn't call the Pope.
      Toby: You're damn right I did.
      Glassman: If he had done it, after doing so, the fear of every non-Catholic who voted for him would be realized.
      Toby: Congratulations Rabbi Glassman, you may now join the White House communications staff!

    • Father Cavanaugh: You know, you remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town. And that all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, 'I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.' The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, 'Hey, hey you! You in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety.' But the man shouted back, 'I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.' A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, 'Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety.' But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety. Well... the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. 'Lord,' he said, 'I'm a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?' God said, 'I sent you a radio report, a helicopter, and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?'

  • Notes

    • Awards:
      Martin Sheen was nominated for a 2000 Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his performance in this episode in conjunction with "Five Votes Down"

      2000 Emmy award for Outstanding Drama Series in conjunction with many other episodes from the season

      2001 Christopher Award

      Won the 2000 Humanitas Prize (Lawrence O'Donnell Jr., Paul Redford, Aaron Sorkin)

      Nominated for 2001 WGA Award for Episodic Drama (Aaron Sorkin, Lawrence O'Donnell Jr., Paul Redford)

      Won 2000 Wilbur Award for Television Drama

    • Music: The piece the cantor sings in the synagogue, which is repeated at the end of the episode, is a prayer for peace called "Hashkiveinu" (Cause Us to Lie Down in Peace). This particular version is by Max Helfman, and is available on the CD Sacred Chants of the Contemporary Synagogue.

    • Marlee Matlin starts a recurring role as pollster Joey Lucas and Bill O'Brien starts his recurring role as her interpreter Kenny Thurman.

  • Allusions

    • Sam: The United States is one of five countries that puts to death people under 18.

      The other 4 are: Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.