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The West Wing (season 4)

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The West Wing (season 4)

The West Wing (season 4)
DVD box cover. Cast from top to bottom and left to right: Donna, Will, Toby, Josh, Sam, Charlie, C. J., Abbey, Jed and Leo
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 23
Original channel NBC
Original run September 25, 2002 (2002-09-25) – May 14, 2003 (2003-05-14)
Home video release
DVD release
Region 1 April 5, 2005 (2005-04-05)

The fourth season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 25, 2002 to May 14, 2003 and consisted of 23 episodes.


After the difficulties Aaron Sorkin encountered in writing Season 3, he saw Season 4 as a return to the form he and the show had previously enjoyed, saying "[we] came back to work, after the hiatus, and didn't feel any of that, just felt the week-to-week pressure of trying to write well."[1] In 2003, at the end of the fourth season, Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme left the show due to internal conflicts at Warner Bros. TV not involving the NBC network, thrusting producer John Wells into an expanded role as showrunner.[2] Rob Lowe departed the series after episode 17, citing he was not happy with his character Sam Seaborn and believed he did not fit in the show anymore.[3]


The fourth season had star billing for ten major roles. Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Stockard Channing as Abbey Bartlet, Dulé Hill as Charlie Young, Allison Janney as C. J. Cregg, Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler, Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, John Spencer as Leo McGarry and Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman all returned to the main cast. Joshua Malina joined the main cast as Will Bailey, the Deputy Communications Director, beginning with episode 11.


The fourth season covers the end of Bartlet's fourth year of his first term in office through the beginning of the first year of his second term. The season begins with the continuation of the election storyline with the president touring the nation and his staff trying to firm up presidential debates. The storyline ends in a clear victory for Bartlet less than halfway through the season in "Election Night". Other plots include Sam leaving the White House to run in a special election in California, the news of the Abdul Shareef assassination resonating both inside and outside the U.S., Will Bailey taking Sam's position after coming over from the California campaign's staff, the President and his staff facing the reality of an overseas genocide, and Vice President Hoynes being forced to resign after a sex scandal is uncovered. The fourth season ends with Bartlet's youngest daughter being taken hostage. Bartlet ends up invoking the 25th Amendment in the final episode, "Twenty Five." Since no one had been nominated to replace Hoynes yet, the presidency passes to the Republican Speaker of the House, Glen Allen Walken.


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
66–67 1–2 "20 Hours in America" Christopher Misiano Aaron Sorkin September 25, 2002 (2002-09-25) 175301–175302
Donna, Josh and Toby are stranded in Indiana when the presidential motorcade leaves a campaign stop without them, leaving Sam to staff the President alone. Leo is informed that Qumar has reopened the investigation into the death of its defense minister, Abdul ibn Shareef. In a stop in a hotel bar on their way back to the White House, Donna, Josh and Toby meet a man who is struggling with the thought of paying for his daughter's education. Sam spends the day as the President's "wide-angle lens" on policy issues. Debbie Fiderer has a second job interview with the President and her impressive ties to Charlie Young are revealed. A bombing at a collegiate swimming meet sparks a national tragedy.
68 3 "College Kids" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Debora Cahn and Mark Goffman
October 2, 2002 (2002-10-02) 175303
Josh and Toby consider a way to help parents pay for college tuition. Leo approaches Jordan Kendall for legal advice on the Shareef assassination. The staff are concerned by a judicial ruling to allow third party candidates into the presidential debates.
69 4 "The Red Mass" Vincent Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Eli Attie
October 9, 2002 (2002-10-09) 175304
A terrorist standoff in Idaho is complicated by the presence of a sick child. The White House negotiates on the number of presidential debates, which results in Sam advocating a risky strategy. Senator Howard Stackhouse considers a third party candidacy, leading Josh to accuse him of potentially stealing the "President's" votes. Leo and the Israeli defense minister discuss Qumar's investigation into Shareef's death.
70 5 "Debate Camp" Paris Barclay Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: William Sind & Michael Oates Palmer
October 16, 2002 (2002-10-16) 175305
Tension between Israel and Qumar escalates while Bartlet is preparing for the Presidential debate. Both the questions raised in debate preparation and those present lead to flashbacks to the administration's first weeks in office. Toby tries to get his pregnant ex-wife to remarry him.
71 6 "Game On" Alex Graves Aaron Sorkin & Paul Redford October 30, 2002 (2002-10-30) 175306
The President and staff travel to California for the Presidential debate. CJ is concerned over "which Bartlet" will be debating, the President at his best, or "uncle fluffy." Sam travels ahead to meet with the campaign manager of the deceased Horton Wilde to urge him to stop the campaign but ends up making a deal with him instead. Leo remains at the White House to meet with a representative from Qumar.
72 7 "Election Night" Lesli Linka Glatter Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: David Gerken and David Handelman
November 6, 2002 (2002-11-06) 175308
Results are coming in from around the country. Both Charlie and the First Lady are concerned for the President's health. The stunning result in the California 47th has serious implications for Sam. Donna, while trying to "swap votes," meets a new White House military aide. The President wins re-election in a landslide.
73 8 "Process Stories" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Paula Yoo & Lauren Schmidt
November 13, 2002 (2002-11-13) 175309
In the wake of the President's victory, C.J. deals with an impostor campaign advisor trying to steal the spotlight. Donna develops a relationship with Lt. Commander Jack Reece (Christian Slater). A potential military coup in Venezuela interrupts Leo's plans with Jordan Kendall, and Sam contemplates a possible congressional run, imposing on the President's private victory party with the First Lady. Toby reveals his ex-wife's pregnancy to the President.
74 9 "Swiss Diplomacy" Christopher Misiano Kevin Falls & Eli Attie November 20, 2002 (2002-11-20) 175307
The Ayatollah of Iran arranges through a Swiss intermediary for his son to fly to the U.S. for a life saving heart operation, which sends Leo and the President into political turmoil. Josh must deal with nervous Democrats in Congress already distancing themselves from the re-elected President and manages to insult the Vice President anew.
75 10 "Arctic Radar" John David Coles Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Gene Sperling
November 27, 2002 (2002-11-27) 175310
A charge against a top female fighter pilot has the women of the White House up in arms, driving the President and Leo to frustration. Josh unwillingly plays matchmaker with Commander Reece as a favor to Donna. Toby is in the midst of a powerful case of writer's block when Will Bailey (Joshua Malina) shows up at Sam's recommendation, to help with the Inaugural Address.
76 11 "Holy Night" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin December 11, 2002 (2002-12-11) 175311
Zoey Bartlet arrives with a new boyfriend of French nobility, igniting jealousy in Charlie. Toby's estranged father arrives to make amends. Danny Concannon returns with a hunch about who killed the Qumari Defense Minister, as well as a present for C.J. Bartlet begins to feel the weight of Shareef's assassination on his conscience.
77 12 "Guns Not Butter" Bill D'Elia Eli Attie & Kevin Falls and Aaron Sorkin January 8, 2003 (2003-01-08) 175312
Charlie tries to impress Zoey by showing the reach of his power, and draws fire from the highest levels of the Pentagon. Josh works feverishly on a foreign aid bill and winds up in hot water. C.J. sets up an unusual photo-op for the President.
78 13 "The Long Goodbye" Alex Graves Jon Robin Baitz January 15, 2003 (2003-01-15) 175313
This episode is notable as a change of pace from the typical West Wing format, as it focuses solely on one character's home life and does not touch upon operations at the White House. C.J. returns home to Ohio for a class reunion and to visit her Alzheimer's-stricken father. As Toby juggles C.J.'s daily press duties in The West Wing, C.J. struggles with how to care for her father from afar as he continues to worsen, and her feelings for a former classmate.
79 14 "Inauguration: Part I" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Michael Oates Palmer & William Sind
February 5, 2003 (2003-02-05) 175314
Will struggles with the politically correct vetting process for the inauguration speech. Charlie scrambles to find the right Bible for the President to take his oath. An African conflict begins to turn to genocide, with calls for American intervention.
80 15 "Inauguration: Over There" Lesli Linka Glatter Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: David Gerken & Gene Sperling
February 12, 2003 (2003-02-12) 175315
As the inaugural balls commence, the President must make a decision regarding the Kundu crisis, at the risk of alienating many of his constituents. Toby wants Will considered for a promotion. Josh discovers that a recent comment in the press came from Donna.
81 16 "The California 47th" Vincent Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Lauren Schmidt & Paula Yoo
February 19, 2003 (2003-02-19) 175316
While Leo stays in Washington to oversee the Kundu situation, President Bartlet visits Orange County to campaign for Sam, but a list of problems arise, including the President's comments about the French, a traffic jam caused by the Presidential Motorcade, and an altercation that lands Toby and Charlie in jail. As the President shakes up Sam's campaign staff, Will is left with no speechwriting staff, an endless list of assignments, and four interns to get everything done.
82 17 "Red Haven's on Fire" Alex Graves Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Mark Goffman & Debora Cahn
February 26, 2003 (2003-02-26) 175317
Rob Lowe's final appearance as a member of the main cast. Toby takes over Sam's campaign with help from C.J. and Amy Gardner, but it quickly becomes clear the ship is sinking. The capture of three Marines in Kundu leads to a larger crisis. Josh's condescending comments to the First Lady lead to new competition for his office in the guise of Amy. Will's interns prove their mettle.
83 18 "Privateers" Alex Graves Teleplay: Paul Redford & Debora Cahn and Aaron Sorkin
Story: Paul Redford & Debora Cahn
March 26, 2003 (2003-03-26) 175318
A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution questions the validity of Abby's membership. Amy is ordered by the First Lady to shoot down a crucial foreign aid bill on her first day at work. Charlie continues his quest to win Zoey back.
84 19 "Angel Maintenance" Jessica Yu Teleplay: Eli Attie and Aaron Sorkin
Story: Eli Attie & Kevin Falls
April 2, 2003 (2003-04-02) 175320
A malfunction on Air Force One leaves the President, Will, and C.J. airborne over the Northeast. C.J. and Will try to keep the Press Corps in the dark, and the President works on the drug war via the issue of certifying Colombia's worthiness as a partner in it. Josh works on an environmental bill with a vulnerable Republican congressman, while Leo tries to keep the President calm via phone.
85 20 "Evidence of Things Not Seen" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Eli Attie & David Handelman
April 23, 2003 (2003-04-23) 175319
A late night staff poker game is continually interrupted by crises. The President must deal with a downed spy drone in Russia without upsetting the Russian President. Josh senses something strange about his new candidate for Associate White House Counsel. C.J. tries to convince Toby and Will that an egg will stand on its end during the vernal equinox, and a gunman fires at the White House from Pennsylvania Avenue.
86 21 "Life on Mars" John David Coles Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin
Story: Paul Redford & Dee Dee Myers
April 30, 2003 (2003-04-30) 175321
On his first day at work, new Associate Counsel Joe Quincy (Matthew Perry), uncovers a scandal of mammoth proportions, sending shockwaves through the administration. As he researches the possibility of classified Mars report, he discovers the Vice President's affair with a Washington socialite, and the President must make a decision.
87 22 "Commencement" Alex Graves Aaron Sorkin May 7, 2003 (2003-05-07) 175322
Josh begins the selection process for a new Vice President, with some surprising candidates. Charlie makes peace with his feelings for Zoey, but Zoey turns the tables. The President procrastinates on the commencement speech he must give at Zoey's Georgetown University graduation. Toby tries to win his pregnant ex-wife's affections with a new house, only to have her go into labor before a decision is made. A late night party turns tragic when a Secret Service agent is found dead, and Zoey Bartlet is missing.
88 23 "Twenty Five" Christopher Misiano Aaron Sorkin May 14, 2003 (2003-05-14) 175323
The First Family is reeling in the wake of Zoey's abduction, leading the First Lady to be sedated and the President to doubt his ability to make decisions clearly. Toby's ex-wife gives birth to twins. The staff begins to weigh the implications this tragedy has on all their jobs, and the country in general. In the episode's final moments, Bartlet realizes that he cannot act as President, because he cannot make impartial judgments about what to do next as Zoey's father, and temporarily steps down from the Presidency using the 25th Amendment. Due to the lack of a Vice-President, Speaker of the House Glen Allen Walken (John Goodman) becomes Acting President.


The fourth season received 15 Emmy Award nominations for the 55th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning a total of 2 awards. The series won its fourth consecutive and final win for Outstanding Drama Series. Christopher Misiano won the season's other award, for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for "Twenty Five". Notable nominations included Martin Sheen for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Allison Janney for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, John Spencer and Bradley Whitford for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Stockard Channing for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and Tim Matheson and Matthew Perry for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Aaron Sorkin was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for "Twenty Five".[4]

Thomas Del Ruth received a nomination from the American Society of Cinematographers for the episode "Holy Night".[5]


  1. ^ "Charlie Rose October 2002, Ep. 2". October 2, 2002. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  2. ^ Adalian, Josef (May 1, 2003). "Sorkin sulking away from 'Wing': Regime change for NBC White House series". Variety. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ "'"Rob Lowe leaving 'West Wing. CNN. July 24, 2002. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  4. ^ "The West Wing". Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  5. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved October 26, 2013. 
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