The West Wing
Season 2
DVD box cover. Cast from left to right: Toby, C. J., Charlie, Leo, President Bartlet, Sam, Donna and Josh
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes22
Original networkNBC
Original releaseOctober 4, 2000 (2000-10-04) –
May 16, 2001 (2001-05-16)
Season chronology
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Season 1
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Season 3
List of episodes

The second season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from October 4, 2000 to May 16, 2001 and consisted of 22 episodes.


The second season made frequent use of flashbacks, revealing Bartlet's campaign for the presidency in the period prior to events covered in the first season. The first two episodes, "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part I" and "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II", showed how many of the central characters were introduced to Josiah Bartlet, his campaign for the presidential nomination, and his election. Aaron Sorkin originally planned to have such flashbacks as a major part of the entire season, but budget and logistical demands prevented this.


The second season had star billing for eight major roles. Seven of these were filled by returning main cast members from the first season, while Moira Kelly departed the cast at the end of the previous season. Rob Lowe once again receives star billing, while Martin Sheen receives the "and" credit for his role as President Josiah Bartlet. The rest of the ensemble, now including previously recurring Janel Moloney, are credited alphabetically.

Main cast

Recurring cast


The second season details the period between the end of President Bartlet's second year in office and the middle of his third. It covers a wider legislative array than the first season does, and presents issues including the rights of hate groups and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

In this season, The West Wing characters are shown as being more capable of legislating thanks to an increased approval rating (described as a temporary "bubble" due to the shooting that ends the first season). Also vital to this theme is the new doctrine for legislating laid out in the first-season episode "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet."

The multiple sclerosis arc (also introduced in the first season) becomes central late in the second season as staff members are introduced one-by-one to the President's ailment and the public made aware. This theme remains central to the entire series.

Mrs. Landingham, the longtime secretary of President Bartlet, dies in the penultimate episode, "18th and Potomac." In the final episode, "Two Cathedrals," Mrs. Landingham's funeral is central as is the question of whether the President will run for re-election.

The season ends with the President announcing his multiple sclerosis, and concludes just moments before he answers a reporter's question: "Mr. President, can you tell us right now if you'll be seeking a second term?"


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
US viewers
"In the Shadow of Two Gunmen"Thomas SchlammeAaron SorkinOctober 4, 2000 (2000-10-04)226201
During the aftermath of the shooting in Rosslyn, it becomes obvious that President Bartlet was shot in the back, Josh in the stomach, Charlie (the apparent target of the racist shooters, which a conspirator later confirms when he is arrested) remained unharmed, and the two shooters died at the scene. Gina reports an accomplice and a signal to the shooters from the ground. The motorcade heads first toward the White House and then to the George Washington University Hospital; Zoey, Leo, and Abbey join the President at the hospital. Josh, in critical condition, arrives in an ambulance, and Sam and Toby join the crowd. As Josh goes under general anesthesia, he starts to experience a series of flashbacks, first to the time when he ran the campaign for the nomination of Sen. Hoynes. He then listened to Leo's urging of him to go to Nashua, New Hampshire, to check out Gov. Bartlet, and then a completely-impressed Josh recruited Sam from a miserable, white-collar law job in NYC to join him and help elect "the real thing." Meanwhile, a high-level meeting takes place in the Situation Room. Toby also has a flashback about Nashua, when then-Gov. Bartlet's cronies want him fired. Leo instead fires them all and keeps Toby, telling Jed that he is sick of terrible campaigns between terrible candidates and wants to show a good man can be elected President of the United States. A large group of state and federal police grab the accomplice. C.J., in flashback, recalls the time when Toby, on behalf of Leo, invited her to join the Bartlet presidential campaign after she was fired from a high-powered Hollywood PR job to appease an incompetent, arrogant studio executive; she has several problems with the press corps and with her own memory. During a flashback about the campaign in New Hampshire, Gov. Bartlet explains the meaning of "What's next?", and Donna, who had driven from Wisconsin, introduces herself to Josh as his new assistant, then admits that she "may have overstated a little", yet he puts her on the staff. Josh also reflects on how Jed won the Illinois primary the same night his father Noah died, and we see that's also when Jed became "ready" to run for President. Eventually, after more flashbacks, Josh awakes from anesthesia, and he weakly asks the President, "What's next?"
253"The Midterms"Alex GravesAaron SorkinOctober 18, 2000 (2000-10-18)22620316.80[2]
Josh, speaking from his at-home hospital bed, advises C.J. at the West Wing. Since the shooting the job-approval rate of the Bartlet administration has risen from 51% to 81%. While the senior staff prepares for the midterm elections, 12 weeks away, much debate and discussion take place. Sam strongly encourages one of his law-school classmates, Tom, to run for a seat in the Congress. However, C.J. and Leo separately learn damaging facts about Tom and racism, so Leo directs Sam to cancel the support for Tom and Sam is left saddened and shaken. Later Josh returns to his apartment, where Donna visits him, often taking lunch and papers. The President takes an unusual interest in a school board election, which the senior staff is alarmed to learn is because a Republican who shared mutual loathing with (and narrowly lost a Congressional race to) Bartlet is running for an open spot, but the President eventually accepts his old foe will win that important, if overlooked, contest. Toby remains in a morose mood while he seeks to act against hate groups, and the President speaks with him. The President makes an appearance at a reception for radio talk show hosts, where he engages, questions, and completely blows apart the reactionary views of a radio counselor. Charlie has behaved toward Zoey in a cool and distant way since the attempt on his life, but warms up. C.J., Sam, Toby, and Donna chat with Josh on his front steps, and they share a patriotic toast.
264"In This White House"Ken OlinStory by : Peter Parnell & Allison Abner
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
October 25, 2000 (2000-10-25)22620417.11[3]
Josh returns to work. On a television political talk show a young woman Southern Republican lawyer, Ainsley Hayes (Emily Procter), soundly trounces Sam on the subject of competing bills under consideration in the House for funding of improvements in public education. The president of the African nation of Kundu, representing several African countries, visits the White House during a summit of officials of US pharmaceutical firms in an attempt to make certain drugs more accessible to HIV-blighted regions of Africa. At the direction of President Bartlet, Leo hires Ainsley as an associate counsel, and she takes the job after angrily telling her Republican friends that their disagreements with the Bartlet Administration are both personal and utter garbage. The Kundunese President learns there has been a coup in his country and his family is either dead or has fled the country; he is offered sanctuary in the United States but says he must return to help his people--where coup forces murder him at the airport upon his arrival in Kundu.
275"And It's Surely to Their Credit"Christopher MisianoStory by : Kevin Falls & Laura Glasser
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
November 1, 2000 (2000-11-01)22620518.47[4]

Josh runs into trouble with an insurance carrier over its refusal to pay $50,000 of his hospital bill; while Sam lends a hand, he suggest Josh sue the Ku Klux Klan, who were indirectly responsible for him getting shot. President Bartlet uses many takes to tape a radio address. Ainsley meets her new boss, Lionel Tribbey (John Larroquette), the White House Counsel, who puts on quite a show. The first lady says the President is well enough for sex, but he faces frustrating delays. C.J. has to deal with a decorated Army general who finds the administration's defense pathetic; she eventually finds out he wears medals he may not have earned and gets him to shut up, but the President later tells her to allow him to speak. Leo shows Ainsley to her basement office. Lionel welcomes her in his own way, and he assigns her first task, which takes her into conflict with two other staff lawyers; Sam deals with the conflict. Sam, Josh, C.J., and Toby help Ainsley with the decor in her office.

Note: The episode title refers to the song "He is an Englishman" from the comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore.
286"The Lame Duck Congress"Jeremy KaganStory by : Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
November 8, 2000 (2000-11-08)22620618.48[5]
An announcement by a senator makes it appear that the administration will likely have no chance of a favorable vote on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in the next session of the Senate, so Josh, Sam, and Toby urge President Bartlet to call a lame-duck session that will get the 12 Democratic senators who were voted out a chance to pass the treaty. C.J. intentionally leaks to Danny that the President has begun to consider that possibility. A Ukrainian politician, who is both pro-U.S. and a raging alcoholic, arrives at the White House and demands to speak with the President; Josh meets him and a companion and deals with them. Ainsley goes with Sam to Capitol Hill for meetings. Sam asks Ainsley to summarize a 22-page position paper; she does so and more. Toby meets with a lame-duck Senator from Pennsylvania who explains to a surprised Toby why he will not go against the wishes of his home state's voters. Leo arranges for the President to speak briefly with the foreign politician. The President decides not to call a special session.
297"The Portland Trip"Paris BarclayStory by : Paul Redford
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
November 15, 2000 (2000-11-15)22620718.47[6]
Sam, Toby, and C.J. accompany President Bartlet on a red-eye flight aboard Air Force One to Portland, Oregon, for a major presidential speech on public education. Meanwhile, back at the West Wing, Leo and others deal with an oil tanker suspected of hauling forbidden black-market Iraqi crude oil in violation of UN sanctions, and Josh talks with a gay Republican member of the House who supports a bill against same-sex marriage. Sam questions his writing ability when he cannot find or create an inspiring tone for the speech. Charlie proposes a concept, which gets the President's attention and Toby's recommendation.
308"Shibboleth"Laura InnesStory by : Patrick Caddell
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
November 22, 2000 (2000-11-22)22620817.48[7]
Just before Thanksgiving Day a container ship arrives in San Diego, California, from the Far East; one container holds 83 surviving refugees from the People's Republic of China and the bodies of 13 who have died during the voyage; the survivors claim to be Christian evangelicals fleeing from persecution by the Communist government, and they request religious asylum. Toby and President Bartlet add the name of Josephine McGarry, Leo's sister, to a list of recess appointments, but Leo opposes the move. Leo points out a particular photograph in a newspaper, which helps him persuade her to withdraw. The President summons a representative of the Chinese illegal immigrants and speaks briefly with him in the Oval Office; the President then talks with the governor of California by telephone and makes arrangements to serve the needs of the immigrants and to allow the Chinese government to save face. Charlie spends a great deal of time finding a new carving knife for the President, who gives Charlie the one passed down through his family from Paul Revere. The President pardons one turkey and drafts another into military service.
319"Galileo"Alex GravesKevin Falls and Aaron SorkinNovember 29, 2000 (2000-11-29)22620918.99[8]
NASA prepares to receive the first pictures from their new Mars probe, accompanied by a live broadcast with the President. Meanwhile, the Russian government covers up a missile silo fire, a report that the President does not like green beans poses an electoral problem in Oregon, and Josh investigates the consequences of honoring a man who called for Puerto Rican statehood. C.J. promotes a staffer to Deputy Press Secretary but then faces a slew of disappointed interviewees at a Kennedy Center concert.
3210"Noël"Thomas SchlammeStory by : Peter Parnell
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
December 13, 2000 (2000-12-13)[note 1]22621012.23[9]
Josh grows ever more anxious and volatile after his shooting, and is ordered by Leo to see a psychiatrist. C.J. uncovers a Nazi-looted painting at the White House and Sam voices support for tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma makes a guest appearance.
3311"The Leadership Breakfast"Scott WinantStory by : Paul Redford
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
January 10, 2001 (2001-01-10)22621117.65[10]
With Congress reconvening, the White House is planning a "leadership breakfast" to encourage bipartisan cooperation. Toby locks horns in negotiations with the Republican Majority Leader's new chief of staff on minimum wage, against C.J.'s wishes and to a truly disastrous end. Both Sam and Donna try, and fail, to impress an influential newspaper columnist.
3412"The Drop-In"Lou AntonioStory by : Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
January 24, 2001 (2001-01-24)22621218.02[11]
Leo tries to convince President Bartlet of the importance of supporting a missile defense plan, while Lord John Marbury is appointed British ambassador to the United States. Toby and Sam clash over a speech the President gives to an environmental group. C.J. tries to talk a comedian out of embarrassing the Bartlet administration.
3513"Bartlet's Third State of the Union"Christopher MisianoStory by : Allison Abner & Dee Dee Myers
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
February 7, 2001 (2001-02-07)22621318.19[12]
The President addresses the nation, and five DEA agents are taken hostage in Colombia. C.J. discovers an invited guest to the State of the Union speech has a questionable background, while Capital Beat does a three-hour show live from the West Wing. Josh, Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin), and Donna run an important telephone survey that will influence a gun-control initiative the staff has been planning.
3614"The War at Home"Christopher MisianoAaron SorkinFebruary 14, 2001 (2001-02-14)22621418.39[13]
The crisis over the missing DEA agents in Colombia intensifies, as well as the fallout from the State of the Union Address.
3715"Ellie"Michael EnglerStory by : Kevin Falls & Laura Glasser
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
February 21, 2001 (2001-02-21)22621516.43[14]
The President is put in a tricky spot when the Surgeon General makes questionable comments regarding the legalization of marijuana, and his daughter Ellie makes a comment supporting her to Danny Concannon. Toby spars anew with his ex-wife but finds a clever way to work on Social Security reform, and Sam gets tough with a film producer who took a cheap shot at the President.
3816"Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail"Jessica YuPaul Redford & Aaron SorkinFebruary 28, 2001 (2001-02-28)22621618.08[15]

The staff participates in "Big Block of Cheese Day," Toby is assigned to speak with a group of unruly anarchists protesting the WTO, C.J. meets with The Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality advocating for an inverted Peters projection, and a friend of Donna asks Sam to consider a pardon request for an alleged Cold War spy.

Note: The episode title refers to the song "New York Minute" by Don Henley, which was used in the episode.
3917"The Stackhouse Filibuster"Bryan GordonStory by : Pete McCabe
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
March 14, 2001 (2001-03-14)22621717.16[16]
Staffers are blindsided when an elderly Senator begins a Friday night filibuster before a vote on a crucial health care bill, until Donna discovers information that changes their perspective. Meanwhile, Toby is puzzled when the Vice President, normally a champion of the oil industry, volunteers to attack it for "price gouging", and Sam is alternately annoyed at and impressed by a feisty GAO intern.
4018"17 People"Alex GravesAaron SorkinApril 4, 2001 (2001-04-04)22621816.56[17]
Toby is told about the President's multiple sclerosis, becoming the 17th person to know, and he and the President have a heated row over the matter. Meanwhile, the President considers an extensive security alert for the nation's airports, and staffers struggle to punch up a speech the President is set to give at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
4119"Bad Moon Rising"Bill JohnsonStory by : Felicia Wilson
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
April 25, 2001 (2001-04-25)22621916.77[18]
The President decides that he needs an opinion from White House Counsel Oliver Babish (Oliver Platt) on whether his MS cover-up constituted a criminal conspiracy. Meanwhile, an oil spill off the Delaware coast hits home to Sam, Josh must deal with a Mexican economic crisis, and C.J. searches for the source of a press leak about a possible change in the President's position on school vouchers.
4220"The Fall's Gonna Kill You"Christopher MisianoStory by : Patrick Caddell
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
May 2, 2001 (2001-05-02)22622016.61[19]
White House Counsel Oliver Babish questions C.J. and Abbey about the President's MS cover-up. The staff begins to develop a strategy to deal with the impending MS crisis. Josh learns of a problem with funding for the government's Big Tobacco lawsuit. Sam works on a speech involving a tax increase and is later told the MS story.
4321"18th and Potomac"Robert BerlingerStory by : Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
May 9, 2001 (2001-05-09)22622117.01[20]

A crisis in Haiti takes much of the President and Leo's time, while the senior staff are planning the announcement of the President's MS. The democratically elected new Haitian president is facing a military coup and the U.S. finds itself in the middle of the storm when a U.S. diplomat smuggles the new President into the safety of the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. An evacuation operation turns deadly when U.S. soldiers shoot and kill several rebel Haitians who tried to stop a plane from taking off at the airport. Donna is told by Toby about the President's condition. The staff considers how to deal with the bad news of a poll by Joey Lucas that reveals voters have hugely negative reactions to the possibility of a politician having a potentially fatal disease and covering it up. The President agrees with Leo that he should have a discussion with the staff about whether or not to seek reelection. Josh follows up on his previous week's discovery that a Congressional lawsuit against major tobacco companies is running into funding problems. In a brief conversation with Mrs. Landingham, directly before she goes to collect her first new car, the President says he'd like to have a word with her on her return. It is later revealed that she was killed by a drunk driver.

Note: The episode title refers to the intersection in Washington, D.C. where Mrs. Landingham is killed.
4422"Two Cathedrals"Thomas SchlammeAaron SorkinMay 16, 2001 (2001-05-16)22622220.72[21]
A tropical storm is bearing down on Washington on the day the President is to disclose to the American people that he has MS. The President attends Mrs. Landingham's funeral, beset with memories of how they met. Staffers must also fashion two responses to the question that is certain to be asked first at Bartlet's prime-time press conference: Will the President seek re-election?
  1. ^ In Canada; the US airing was pre-empted for one week by Al Gore's concession speech in the 2000 United States presidential election.


Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has an approval rating of 88% with an average score of 10 out of 10 based on 24 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "President Bartlet is tested by his biggest scandal yet, but The West Wing's approval ratings are way up in a second season that is teeming with dramas on a national scale and burning with an idealistic fervor that will have viewers cheering."[22]


The second season received 18 Emmy Award nominations for the 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards, winning a total of 8 awards. Consecutive wins included Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme for "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen"), and Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series (Thomas Del Ruth). Bradley Whitford won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, and the series also won for Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series, Outstanding Single Camera Picture Editing for a Series, and Outstanding Single Camera Sound Mixing for a Series. Notable nominations included Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, John Spencer and Richard Schiff for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Stockard Channing for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Oliver Platt for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Aaron Sorkin for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen", and Laura Innes for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for "Shibboleth".[23]

Thomas Del Ruth won an award from the American Society of Cinematographers for the episode "Noël".[24]


  1. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 11, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  2. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (Oct. 16–22)". The Los Angeles Times. October 25, 2000. Retrieved April 9, 2021 – via access icon
  3. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 11, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  4. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 11, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  5. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 27, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  6. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  7. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  8. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on January 24, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  9. ^ "National Nielsen Viewership (Dec. 11–27)". The Los Angeles Times. December 20, 2000. Retrieved April 9, 2021 – via access icon
  10. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 11, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  11. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on April 17, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  12. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on April 16, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 28, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  14. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on July 9, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  15. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on June 22, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on August 2, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  17. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on April 16, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  18. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on June 8, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  19. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on June 3, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  20. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on June 8, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  21. ^ "Top 20 Network Primetime Report". Zap2it. Archived from the original on June 8, 2001. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  22. ^ "The West Wing: Season 2". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  23. ^ "The West Wing". Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  24. ^ "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". American Society of Cinematographers. Archived from the original on November 12, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2013.

General references