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The West Wing (season 3)

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The West Wing (season 3)

The West Wing (season 3)
DVD box cover. Cast from top to bottom and left to right: Charlie, Sam, C. J., Jed, Toby, Donna, Josh, Abbey and Leo
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 21 + 2 specials
Original channel NBC
Original run October 3, 2001 (2001-10-03) – May 22, 2002 (2002-05-22)
Home video release
DVD release
Region 1 November 2, 2004 (2004-11-02)

The third season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from October 3, 2001 to May 22, 2002 and consisted of 21 episodes and 2 special episodes.


The season premiere was delayed by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. When the season did return, the first episode was a special episode titled "Isaac and Ishmael", in which the main cast paid tribute to those affected by the attacks and informed viewers about what to expect from the delayed premiere.

Series creator Aaron Sorkin acknowledged in October 2002 that the terrorism-related plots designed to keep the series relevant after the real-life attacks were awkward at times, saying "from week to week, you felt like you were writing the show handcuffed, a little bit. I didn't know how to write it anymore. It was a constant search for what I wasn't doing that used to make the show work. Maybe there was a way to make it work. There probably was. I wasn't able to find it in twenty-two episodes."[1]


The third season had star billing for nine major roles. Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Dulé Hill as Charlie Young, Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg, Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as Leo McGarry, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman and Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet all returned, while Stockard Channing as Abbey Bartlet was promoted to the main cast.


The third season, covering the administration's third and fourth years in office, begins with Bartlet announcing his intention to run for re-election and is dominated by the subsequent campaign. Other prominent story lines include a Congressional investigation into allegations Bartlet committed electoral fraud by concealing his MS, a death threat against C.J. and the ensuing relationship she develops with the Secret Service agent assigned to protect her, and Qumari defense minister Abdul Shareef's planning of terrorist attacks against the US. The season finale resolves several of these story lines when Bartlet meets his electoral opponent and reaffirms his commitment to defeat him, finally decides to order Shareef's assassination, and, just minutes after the man who threatened her is arrested, C.J.'s Secret Service agent interrupts a convenience store robbery and is killed.


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
45 1 "Manchester (Part I)" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin October 10, 2001 (2001-10-10) 227201
Surprising everyone, President Bartlet announces his intentions to run for re-election, angering Abbey. Meanwhile, Haiti's obstreperous dictator is giving National Security Advisor Nancy McNally fits. The staff scrambles to work the news cycle in their favor in the wake of the President's announcement. C.J. makes a critical error in a statement to the press.
46 2 "Manchester (Part II)" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin October 17, 2001 (2001-10-17) 227202
Senior staffers clash with newly hired political operative Bruno Gianelli and his aides Connie and Doug. Josh is upset because Leo won't let him "wave off the FDA" on RU-486. C.J. contemplates her future at the White House.
47 3 "Ways and Means" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Eli Attie & Gene Sperling
October 24, 2001 (2001-10-24) 227203
The special prosecutor begins his probe and the White House feels his objective, unbiased approach may hurt them politically. C.J. begins maneuvering within the press to persuade Congress to start their own investigation, believing it will be easier to win a battle with bloodthirsty Republicans. Meanwhile, Sam and Bruno are concerned about a powerful California labor leader and Toby and Josh are preoccupied with a congressional battle over the estate tax. Donna meets a young Republican lawyer.
48 4 "On the Day Before" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Paul Redford & Nanda Chitre
October 31, 2001 (2001-10-31) 227204
The President vetoes his first bill—the repeal of the estate tax—and staffers scramble to counter the GOP's override threat. An international crisis erupts when Palestinian terrorists kill two Americans in Israel. Meanwhile, Charlie has been offered legal immunity and everyone urges him to take it.
49 5 "War Crimes" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Allison Abner
November 7, 2001 (2001-11-07) 227205
The President asks a reluctant Vice President (Tim Matheson) to speak at an anti-gun rally in Texas after a church shooting, while Donna goes before a Congressional committee investigating Bartlet's lack of disclosure and lies under oath when her new boyfriend asks her a personal question. Toby deals with a leaked quote that is embarrassing to the President, while C.J. meets up with a gutsy reporter and Sam ponders a plan to eliminate the penny.
50 6 "Gone Quiet" Jon Hutman Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Julia Dahl & Laura Glasser
November 14, 2001 (2001-11-14) 227207
An American spy submarine suddenly goes silent in hostile waters outside North Korea, and Bartlet must decide whether he should notify the enemy or attempt a risky, secret rescue. Meanwhile, a top Republican contender can't articulate why he wants to be President, but C.J. is disappointed with President Bartlet's own answer to that question. Toby clashes with a Congresswoman over funding the National Endowment for the Arts. This episode guest stars Hal Holbrook as Deputy Secretary of State Albie Duncan, marking the first of several appearances for his character.
51 7 "The Indians in the Lobby" Paris Barclay Teleplay: Allison Abner & Kevin Falls and Aaron Sorkin
Story: Allison Abner
November 21, 2001 (2001-11-21) 227208
On the day before Thanksgiving, the President is talking turkey to whomever will listen (and everyone must). Meanwhile, C.J. deals with two Native Americans who have encamped in the lobby. Toby annoys the President when he finds out polls involving the First Family increase his popularity. Sam is dismayed by a new formula for poverty and Josh goes diplomatic on a case involving a Georgia teen who killed his teacher and fled to Italy.
52 8 "The Women of Qumar" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Felicia Wilson & Laura Glasser & Julia Dahl
November 28, 2001 (2001-11-28) 227209
C.J. argues with senior staff over whether to make public the possibility of an outbreak of mad cow disease, as well as the renewal of a lease on a Qumari military base despite her horror with that nation's treatment of women. Toby meets with veterans upset about the content of a Smithsonian Pearl Harbor exhibition, and Josh finds some sparks when he meets with a woman's group director named Amy Gardner.
53 9 "Bartlet for America" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin December 12, 2001 (2001-12-12) 227210
It's Christmas, and the most pressing matter is a threat to firebomb black churches in Tennessee on Christmas Eve. Leo testifies before a Congressional committee on the MS matter, recalling several critical moments from the Bartlet campaign.
54 10 "H. Con-172" Vincent Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Eli Attie
January 9, 2002 (2002-01-09) 227211
Leo defiantly rejects the Congressional committee's offer of a public censure of Bartlet that would end the investigation into Bartlet's concealment of his illness and spare Leo of any possible personal repercussions, while the President continues to weigh his options. In other stories, Josh puts his foot in his mouth over his courtship of Amy, Sam is angry over a White House tell-all book, and Charlie's heartfelt purchase of an old Middle East map for the President leads to some political problems.
55 11 "100,000 Airplanes" David Nutter Aaron Sorkin January 16, 2002 (2002-01-16) 227212
While the White House staff works intensely on the President's State of the Union speech, Bartlet and the First Lady have dinner with a group of her scientist friends who speculate that sphingosine kinase could lead to a cure for cancer. As a result, Bartlet demands that a passage ambitiously promising a crusade to cure cancer within 10 years be included. Sam is the point man for this speech, which is billed as the most important of the President's career and one whose failure will end his hopes for re-election. As Sam is very reluctantly interviewed for a Vanity Fair profile by Lisa Sherborne, who was once his fiancée, he lays out the process by which a State of the Union address comes about. Sam knows that the pledge to cure cancer is noble and the kind of over-reaching government should do, but also that for political reasons it can't be included in the final speech and removes it, taking out most of his frustrations on Lisa, who finally tells Sam she's taking herself off the story, and then reminds him that it was he and not her who ended their engagement. Attracted to Amy Gardner, a prominent women's rights leader, Josh tries to persuade her that her burgeoning romance with a Congressman is solely a result of political machinations.
56 12 "The Two Bartlets" Alex Graves Teleplay: Kevin Falls and Aaron Sorkin
Story: Gene Sperling
January 30, 2002 (2002-01-30) 227213
The staff debates whether to counter a fast-rising Republican presidential candidate's verbal assault on affirmative action at the Iowa caucuses and Josh postpones his tropical vacation with women's rights advocate Amy Gardner to defuse a risky situation in Vieques, Puerto Rico. C.J. surprises Toby with her lack of enthusiasm for affirmative action, while Sam has to meet with a UFO crackpot per Leo's orders. Toby and President Bartlet clash over the President's mental state and relationship with his father.
57 13 "Night Five" Christopher Misiano Aaron Sorkin February 6, 2002 (2002-02-06) 227214
Bartlet consults a psychiatrist, Dr. Stanley Keyworth, for a troubling sleep disorder and receives a sobering personal assessment. C.J. lobbies vigorously to help secure the release of a White House reporter who has been taken hostage while on assignment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Toby clashes again with his ex-wife over a speech for the UN that takes radical Islam to task.
58 14 "Hartsfield's Landing" Vincent Misiano Aaron Sorkin February 27, 2002 (2002-02-27) 227215
Bartlet engages both Sam and Toby in intricate chess matches that mirror the wily game of brinksmanship that Bartlet is playing with the Chinese, who are conducting war games in the Taiwan Strait. The small New England town of Hartsfield's Landing kicks off voting in the New Hampshire primary, and Josh is lobbying for every vote he can get. A prank war between C.J. and Charlie turns somewhat destructive.
59 15 "Dead Irish Writers" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Paul Redford
March 6, 2002 (2002-03-06) 227216
As Abbey contemplates the possible loss of her medical license, she grudgingly attends a big White House party for her birthday. Toby discusses the inclusion of a Sinn Féin member in the guest list of a White House event with British Ambassador Lord John Marbury. Donna's US citizenship is called into question.
60 16 "The U.S. Poet Laureate" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Laura Glasser
March 27, 2002 (2002-03-27) 227217
Bartlet makes a disparaging comment about a potential Republican nominee after a television interview, apparently not realizing that he is still being recorded. Meanwhile, Toby tries to dissuade the newly named U.S. poet laureate, Tabatha Fortis (played by Laura Dern), from publicly objecting to the government's lack of support for a treaty on land mines. Sam offers Ainsley Hayes a big promotion and Josh discovers he has an Internet message board following.
61 17 "Stirred" Jeremy Kagan Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin & Eli Attie
Story: Dee Dee Myers
April 3, 2002 (2002-04-03) 227218
When a truck carrying uranium fuel rods crashes in a remote Idaho tunnel, Bartlet's staff prepares for a potential environmental or terrorist crisis. Donna seeks a presidential proclamation honoring the retirement of her favorite teacher. The staff considers eliminating Vice President John Hoynes from the election ticket.
62 18 "Enemies Foreign and Domestic" Alex Graves Paul Redford and Aaron Sorkin May 1, 2002 (2002-05-01) 227219
As Sam is finalizing the details of Bartlet's upcoming summit with the Russian president, satellite photographs reveal an Iranian nuclear bomb facility being built using Russian technology. During a press briefing, C.J. voices her personal indignation that a group of schoolgirls in Saudi Arabia were prevented from escaping a burning building by religious police because they were not dressed properly according to Sharia law. After receiving death threats, C.J. is assigned Secret Service Special Agent Simon Donovan (Mark Harmon) for personal protection. Toby tries to help a Russian journalist he thinks is being suppressed by her government, and Charlie unravels a mystery involving a long-lost letter to FDR.
63 19 "The Black Vera Wang" Christopher Misiano Aaron Sorkin May 8, 2002 (2002-05-08) 227220
While C.J. gets used to being tailed by Special Agent Simon Donovan (played by Mark Harmon), the President must deal with a terrorist threat on a military installation that gets closer and closer to home and leads to a frightening revelation. Meanwhile, Toby plays hardball with network TV executives who want to cut national convention coverage, and Sam's plan to keep dirty tricks out of the Presidential campaign blows up in his face.
64 20 "We Killed Yamamoto" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin May 15, 2002 (2002-05-15) 227221
Bartlet agonizes over whether to disregard the principle of diplomatic immunity for an important Middle Eastern official who is known to be plotting terrorist acts. Bartlet is advised not to attend a fundraiser for a politically sensitive cause because his Republican opponent will also be attending. Josh and Amy clash over a welfare renewal bill, while Sam is gun-shy after the tape disclosure from earlier.
65 21 "Posse Comitatus" Alex Graves Aaron Sorkin May 22, 2002 (2002-05-22) 227222
Bartlet makes a life-or-death decision regarding the defense minister of Qumar who is a known terrorist. The flirtation between C.J. and her Secret Service bodyguard, Simon Donovan, is limited by their professional relationship and then cut short by tragedy. Josh defeats Amy in the welfare bill battle and their relationship is left with an uncertain future. Bartlet encounters his opponent, Governor Ritchie, at a Catholic charity event.


Two special episodes, not part of the official continuity, were produced to complement the series and were broadcast on NBC. Both episodes ran within the third season and were included on the season's DVD.[2]

"Isaac and Ishmael"

Written by series creator Aaron Sorkin and directed by Christopher Misiano, this episode was a terrorism-themed episode produced in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The episode pushed the scheduled season premiere back a week and encouraged viewers to donate to charity—profits from the episode and cast members' weekly pay were also donated.[3] The episode "was written and produced in record time" – less than three weeks,[3][4] and aired on October 3, 2001. Although timely and well-intentioned, the episode was criticized for being condescending and preachy.[4]

"Documentary Special"

The second special interspersed the characters' fictional lives with interviews of real West Wing personnel, including Presidents Ford, Carter and Clinton; press secretaries Marlin Fitzwater and Dee Dee Myers; presidential advisors David Gergen, Paul Begala and incumbent Karl Rove; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; presidential personal secretary Betty Currie; and speechwriter Peggy Noonan.[5] The documentary won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2002 for "Outstanding Special Class Program".[6]


The third season received 21 Emmy Award nominations for the 54th Primetime Emmy Awards, the most-nominated season, winning a total of 4 awards. The series won its third consecutive award for Outstanding Drama Series and Allison Janney also won her third consecutive award, this time in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category. John Spencer and Stockard Channing each won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, respectively, after being nominated twice before. The season received several acting nominations, which included Martin Sheen for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Dulé Hill, Richard Schiff and Bradley Whitford for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series; Janel Moloney and Mary-Louise Parker for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series; Mark Harmon, Tim Matheson and Ron Silver for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Paris Barclay (for "The Indians in the Lobby") and Alex Graves (for "Posse Comitatus") were each nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, and Aaron Sorkin was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (for "Posse Comitatus").[7]

Thomas Del Ruth won an award from the American Society of Cinematographers for the episode "Bartlet for America".[8]


  1. ^ "Charlie Rose October 2002, Ep. 2". October 2, 2002. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The West Wing: The Complete Third Season".  
  3. ^ a b "West Wing airs attacks show".  
  4. ^ a b Poniewozik, James (October 4, 2001). West Wing': Terrorism 101"'".  
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Zarchy, Bill (March 2003). "The West Wing documentary special.".  
  7. ^ "The West Wing". Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  8. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved October 26, 2013. 
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