The first season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 17, 2000 and consisted of 22 episodes.


Main cast

Recurring cast


The first season, which begins in the middle of Bartlet's first year in office, is loaded with images of a West Wing "stuck in neutral" and powerless to govern. Several episodes (notably "Five Votes Down" and "Mr. Willis of Ohio") feature the White House desperately digging for a backdoor through which to pass a particular piece of legislation. This powerlessness ends in "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" when Leo and the president finally agree to fight any battle they believe to be important, even if they are not sure they can win. The season ends with a cliffhanger assassination attempt with an ominous call over a Secret Service radio: "Who's been hit?! Who's been hit?!"


No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
1 1 "Pilot" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin September 22, 1999 (1999-09-22) 475151
President Bartlet has ridden a bicycle into a tree; Josh Lyman, the Deputy Chief of Staff, is in hot water after a television appearance in which he makes an insulting comment to a representative of a Christian group; and Sam Seaborn, the Deputy Director of Communications, spends a night with a woman who turns out to be a call girl. The story also follows the fate of a group of 1,200 Cuban refugees, 137 of whom arrive in Miami and request asylum, while 350 are missing in a storm and presumed dead.
2 2 "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin September 29, 1999 (1999-09-29) 225901
Sam jeopardizes his political future when he decides to pursue a relationship with a call girl whom he met recently. C.J. arbitrates a disagreement between the President and the Vice President, and the President appoints a new White House physician. The White House hires Mandy as a political consultant, much to Josh's chagrin. President Bartlet connects with his new physician, Captain Morris Tolliver, MC, USN, whose first child was born 10 days prior. The episode ends when Leo informs the President that Dr. Tolliver and others died while en route to a teaching hospital in Jordan when Syrian forces shot down his military aircraft on the orders of the Syrian Defense Ministry.
3 3 "A Proportional Response" Marc Buckland Aaron Sorkin October 6, 1999 (1999-10-06) 225902
President Bartlet seeks vengeance after Syrian operatives shoot down an unarmed US Air Force transport aircraft carrying his personal physician and 57 other US military health care workers. The Joint Chiefs of Staff propose a proportional response to the attack, which involves air strikes against three low-level targets in Syria as well as one against the Syrian intelligence agency headquarters. However, President Bartlet wants a stronger response, so the Joint Chiefs respond with a plan to attack a much more prominent target: the international airport in Damascus. The subtext of the story involves the President's unease around the Joint Chiefs and his worries about receiving their respect due to his never having served in the armed forces. Leo talks with Admiral Percy Fitzwallace, USN, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who says that the President is doing fine. Despite that, Fitzwallace tells the President that his desired response is disproportionate, saying that he will have "doled out five thousand dollars worth of punishment for a fifty buck crime". Leo confronts the President about the disproportionate response and says that he will stand up against him if he continues to insist on it. President Bartlet confesses that he has personalized the terrorist attack because his physician, a good man with a newborn daughter, was among the victims. He then authorizes the proportional response and gives a televised speech, in which he explains the situation to the American people. In other story lines Charlie Young applies for a White House job, and C.J. talks reporter Danny Concannon out of writing a story about Sam's relationship with a call girl. Charlie, who applied for a messenger job, is so impressive that Josh insists on hiring Charlie as the President's personal aide or "body man".
4 4 "Five Votes Down" Michael Lehmann Story by : Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. and Patrick Caddell
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
October 13, 1999 (1999-10-13) 225903
The White House suddenly loses five crucial votes for a questionable gun control bill, so the West Wing staff members and the Vice President work urgently during the three remaining days to regain the votes for the passage of the bill. After Leo forgets his wedding anniversary, his wife announces that she's decided to leave him because of her feeling that he has neglected their marriage. Josh and Toby encounter difficulties over their financial disclosures.
5 5 "The Crackpots and These Women" Anthony Drazan Aaron Sorkin October 20, 1999 (1999-10-20) 225904
The staff members participate in Leo's "Big Block of Cheese" Day, when they meet with fringe special interest groups who normally cannot get attention from the White House. Josh receives a card from the National Security Council and later learns that he is the only senior staff member (other than Leo) who will receive protection in the event of a nuclear attack. Uncomfortable about his special treatment, he eventually returns the card, believing that he does not deserve to be singled out among his friends. Zoey arrives at the White House, and the President holds a celebratory chili supper for the members of his inner circle.
6 6 "Mr. Willis of Ohio" Christopher Misiano Aaron Sorkin November 3, 1999 (1999-11-03) 225905
The senior staff and the President take part in a late-night poker game inside the West Wing. A social studies teacher from Ohio finishes the term of his late wife in the United States House of Representatives. Sam tutors C.J. about the census, and the staffers seek crucial votes in favor of a bill about a new sampling technique for taking the census. Zoey, the youngest Bartlet daughter, has an unfortunate encounter at a bar in Georgetown in the company of several friends from the White House, which displeases her father, who later gives her a speech about "the nightmare scenario" – the possibility of an abduction of Zoey and its being used against him or the government. The staff and the President sit down to another poker game while Toby watches the end of the roll call for the bill.
7 7 "The State Dinner" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin & Paul Redford November 10, 1999 (1999-11-10) 225906
The President and his senior staff deal with major problems – a hostage standoff between the FBI and a group of survivalists in Idaho, a hurricane headed toward Georgia (then the Carolinas and Virginia), and the threat of a crippling nationwide strike by the Teamsters – all while preparing for a state dinner to honor the new President of Indonesia, whose behavior is distant and uncommunicative. Toby requests a favor from a senior aide to the Indonesian president; the aide not only refuses but also lectures Toby about human rights. Sam sees Laurie while she works at the state dinner. In a predictable move to evade the storm, an aircraft carrier task group of the US Navy (including two cruisers and two destroyers) gets underway from Norfolk, Virginia, and heads into the Atlantic Ocean; however, the hurricane makes a surprise course change and moves directly toward and across the naval vessels. With difficulty, the President chats via radio with a young petty officer in the radio shack aboard a small ship in the task group. The First Lady, Abigail Bartlet, makes her first appearance.
8 8 "Enemies" Alan Taylor Story by : Rick Cleveland, Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. & Patrick Caddell
Teleplay by : Ron Osborn & Jeff Reno
November 17, 1999 (1999-11-17) 225907
In an after-midnight session the President teaches Josh about national parks. C.J. deals with a rumor that President Bartlet and Vice President Hoynes have expressed a disagreement with each other during a cabinet meeting. Sam accepts an invitation to a date with Mallory, Leo's daughter, with a condition attached; however, the plans change. Josh works long and hard to find a solution to save a wanted banking bill to which three Republican representatives have attached a harmful rider.
9 9 "The Short List" Bill D'Elia Story by : Aaron Sorkin & Dee Dee Myers
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin & Patrick Caddell
November 24, 1999 (1999-11-24) 225908
Josh, Sam, and Toby have spent two months vetting a strong candidate for an open seat on the Supreme Court, and he consents to the nomination. The senior aides show jubilation, but Donna advises Josh to use cautious optimism. The retiring associate justice privately expresses displeasure to President Bartlet. Sam receives an anonymous tip, meets the caller, and receives an old law review note with damaging material, which he reports to his colleagues and the President, who requests data on a different candidate. Danny gives C.J. a goldfish. A contrarian Member of Congress, seeking publicity, alleges that one-third of White House staff members regularly use illicit drugs; Josh tells Leo that the latter is the target of the campaign. After two serious meetings in the Oval Office, the President offers the nomination to the other candidate, who accepts, and who later wins the required confirmation.
10 10 "In Excelsis Deo" Alex Graves Aaron Sorkin & Rick Cleveland December 15, 1999 (1999-12-15) 225909
While the senior staffers discuss the preparations for the Christmas celebration at the West Wing, Toby receives a telephone call from the office of the local coroner, and he responds by meeting a detective of the Metro PD at "the wall" at the National Mall. Toby becomes emotionally and actively involved with the death of a homeless veteran, who had served as a lance corporal in the US Marine Corps in the Korean War. President Bartlet jovially chats with a group of grade-school students at a Christmas tree, and Mrs. Landingham reveals to Charlie a sad bit of her family history. Danny and C.J. continue to discuss the pros and cons of a first date. The President and his entourage sneak out for a short shopping trip. Sam and Josh visit Laurie, who reminds them to behave as the good guys; Josh hands Donna a special gift with a touching inscription. The President and various staffers attend a concert of carols by a boy's choir in the Mural Room, and Toby and Mrs. Landingham accompany the veteran's brother to his burial at Arlington National Cemetery with an honor guard.
11 11 "Lord John Marbury" Kevin Rodney Sullivan Story by : Patrick Caddell & Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin & Patrick Caddell
January 5, 2000 (2000-01-05) 225910
US satellite surveillance detects that India has moved six warships and 300,000 ground troops against Pakistan and its occupation of Kashmir, thereby raising the possibility of a nuclear clash; border skirmishes begin; the UN tries to get a cease-fire agreement. After receiving a dismal intelligence briefing on the situation with India, President Bartlet sends for Lord Marbury, a former ambassador of the United Kingdom to India, whom the President describes as colorful, and whom Leo describes as a lunatic. The ambassador from Beijing tells the President that China may enter the fight against India, the ambassador from Islamabad tells him that Pakistan will no longer tolerate any oppression of its people, and the ambassador from New Delhi tells him that India will no longer follow the directions of any other nation. However, Lord Marbury reports that the UK ambassador to the UN expects to obtain a two-week cease-fire agreement, and he agrees to stay to help. C.J. expresses displeasure about her loss of credibility with the press corps during the early hours of the crisis, so Toby apologizes. Josh obeys a subpoena to give a deposition about a recent investigation; Sam represents him on the second day, which does not go well. Mandy ruffles feathers among the senior staffers with her plan to advise a moderate Republican congressman. Zoey invites Charlie to ask her for a date; he asks for permission from her father, who first balks but later agrees and cautions him.
12 12 "He Shall, from Time to Time..." Arlene Sanford Aaron Sorkin January 12, 2000 (2000-01-12) 225911
After practicing for the State of the Union address, President Bartlet collapses onto the floor of the Oval Office; an admiral and medical officer from Bethesda says that the President has the flu. The First Lady cancels a trip and returns; Dr. Bartlet the physician treats Dr. Bartlet the economist and President. Skirmishes continue along the cease-fire line in Kashmir; Pakistan gives control of nuclear weapons to their field commanders. Leo faces the news media about his addiction and recovery from it, then he faces the First Lady about the President's medical condition; Abbey eventually admits that the President has relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, and she says that a fever could become fatal. Josh and Toby continue to wrestle with the speech; C.J. watches Sam and Mallory, and then meets Danny in her office. Lord Marbury advises the President, who sends India a message, which produces good results.
13 13 "Take out the Trash Day" Ken Olin Aaron Sorkin January 26, 2000 (2000-01-26) 225912
President Bartlet and his staff deal with an incendiary study on sex education in public schools, a forthcoming signing of a hate-crime bill, the parents of a young victim of a recent murder motivated by hatred, and an aide to the Vice President who has lived well at government expense. C.J. and Danny continue to deal with their friendship. An influential man offers Leo some unwelcome advice, which he refuses. A senior member of the House of Representatives summons Josh and Sam and leans hard on them; they make a deal, which avoids a hearing on Leo and the related inquiries. Sam finds out how Lillienfield and Claypool obtained the information about Leo's addiction and treatment. Leo and a young lady agree to give each other a second chance.
14 14 "Take This Sabbath Day" Thomas Schlamme Story by : Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. & Paul Redford and Aaron Sorkin
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
February 9, 2000 (2000-02-09) 225913
Late on a Friday the Supreme Court declines to set aside the death sentence of a federal prisoner for two drug-related murders; instead it orders the execution to take place early on the following Monday. One of the appellant's public defenders, who knew Sam in high school, calls Sam, who answers while he unsuccessfully tries to leave the White House for a weekend of sailing; the two then meet in person. On Saturday morning President Bartlet returns from Stockholm, and Donna finds Josh asleep and hungover in his office after a bachelor party. Sam calls Toby at his temple, while his rabbi presents a sermon against capital punishment because Sam's classmate found the rabbi and arranged for him to preach to Toby. Meanwhile Joey Lucas (Marlee Matlin), the deaf campaign manager for a Democratic House candidate from Southern California, using American Sign Language through Kenny, her interpreter, aggressively asks Josh why the White House has caused the Democratic National Committee to reduce the funding for her campaign, and she demands to meet the President. While Josh assures her that there is no way for her to meet the President, he steps to Josh's office, meets Joey, and escorts her to the Oval Office. The President calls the Pope and sends for the parish priest (Karl Malden) whom he knew as a boy; he also discusses the death penalty separately with Charlie and with Joey, who is a Quaker. As Joey and Kenny leave their hotel to return to California, Josh, at the request of the President, offers Joey an apology and a suggestion. The President continues to agonize over his decision and makes a confession to the priest.
15 15 "Celestial Navigation" Christopher Misiano Story by : Dee Dee Myers & Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr.
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
February 16, 2000 (2000-02-16) 225914
Josh gives an interview before a group of college students about a supposedly typical day at the White House, and Sam learns that Judge Mendoza, the nominee to become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, has become arrested in Connecticut on charges of drunk driving, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct; Sam and Toby go to Connecticut. After getting lost in Connecticut in a rental car, Sam and Toby eventually arrive at the small-town police station, where they first meet resistance but later talk with the judge and work out the delicate situation. During Josh's remarks, including a candid description of his own mistakes, flashbacks present one of the more difficult and challenging days at the White House when C.J. encountered an urgent dental problem.
16 16 "20 Hours in L.A." Alan Taylor Aaron Sorkin February 23, 2000 (2000-02-23) 225915
At 3 a.m. aboard Air Force One, President Bartlet, Josh, Toby, C.J., Donna, Zoey, Charlie, and others leave Andrews AFB, Maryland, for a grueling 24-hour trip to Los Angeles. The President expresses concern about a pending 50-50 vote on a Senate bill about a tax credit for the production of ethanol as a fuel. The President meets Gina Toscano (Jorja Fox), the Secret Service agent assigned to Zoey. The agenda, filling the day and evening, includes a debate on a proposed amendment to the Constitution to prohibit burning the national flag, a town-hall meeting on school vouchers, and a celebrity-packed fundraising dinner at the home of Ted Marcus (Bob Balaban), the president of a film studio. Ted learns that a conservative congressman has introduced a bill in the House to ban gays from the armed forces, but the White House does not actively oppose the bill, so Marcus threatens to cancel the fundraising event. Josh arranges ten minutes for Marcus and the President alone, and the party proceeds. Jay Leno makes a brief appearance. Joey Lucas attends and explains some interesting numbers to Josh, Sam, Toby, and C.J. Leo, back in Washington, asks the Vice President to break the tie in the Senate in favor of the bill, but the Vice President prefers not to do so because of personal, political, and ideological reasons; however, Sam and Leo arrange for three reluctant senators to vote "nay", thus taking him off the hook.
17 17 "The White House Pro-Am" Ken Olin Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. & Paul Redford and Aaron Sorkin March 22, 2000 (2000-03-22) 225916
The First Lady appears on television on behalf of the Children's Crusade against child slavery. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors dies; Leo, to settle the uncertainty in the investment markets, urges the President to announce a successor, but the President takes time to make sure, although, according to a leak, the First Lady has expressed her preference. Josh and Toby court additional votes in the Congress to run up the score on the vote on a global trade agreement, and a congresswoman gives Sam a courtesy advance notice of a forthcoming announcement about her rider on the exploitation of child labor, which Sam expects to "blow the vote out of the water". Sam speaks with the First Lady, who negotiates for the withdrawal of the rider. The First Lady reveals who leaked her preference; Jed and Abbey have what they call their first Oval Office fight, and they make up. The White House has received death threats and other hate mail from white supremacists about Zoey and Charlie, who argue about their plans for Friday night; later Charlie shows up at Zoey's dorm room with flowers, other gifts, and an apology.
18 18 "Six Meetings Before Lunch" Clark Johnson Aaron Sorkin April 5, 2000 (2000-04-05) 225917
The Senate confirms President Bartlet's nomination of Judge Mendoza to the Supreme Court, then the West Wing staff celebrate, and C.J. lip-synchs to "The Jackal". Zoey attends a frat party; after she leaves, the Washington DC police, while making a drug bust, arrests the son of a major fundraiser for the Democrats; a reporter for a conservative newspaper tries to cause problems, which C.J. and others minimize as a non-story. Mallory, Leo's daughter, quarrels with Sam about school vouchers. Mandy asks Toby for help in getting a replacement panda from the Chinese government and gets him to help her to cause pain for Josh. Meanwhile, due to an objection by a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Josh has a long and vigorous discussion about reparations (of $1.7 trillion) for slavery with a candidate for an appointment to the post of the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
19 19 "Let Bartlet Be Bartlet" Laura Innes Story by : Peter Parnell and Patrick Caddell
Teleplay by : Aaron Sorkin
April 26, 2000 (2000-04-26) 225918
Just before a speech by President Bartlet, the weather suddenly changes, but Sam forgets to change the introductory remarks, thus creating a humorous and embarrassing moment. Two members of the Federal Election Commission have resigned, so the staff members start preparing for new appointments; Josh meets with the Senate leadership from both parties, but the conversation does not go well. Both the staff and the press hear a rumor about the circulation of an unknown memo; Mandy volunteers to C.J. that, while she worked for Sen. Russell, she wrote a memo outlining both the weaknesses of the Bartlet administration and a strategy to defeat Bartlet for the nomination for reelection. C.J. demands a copy immediately; Mandy complies; C.J. reads it and approaches Toby, who shares it with Josh, who comments that their second year has not gone better than their first. Sam and Toby meet with a group of military officers about a recommendation to the President on the service of gays in the armed forces, but that discussion too does not go well; Admiral Fitzwallace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, pops in and offers his advice; eventually the meeting ends without achieving anything. Mrs. Landingham encourages the President to improve his eating choices. C.J. learns which reporter has the damaging memo, and she hears that a story will appear in print the next morning. Margaret has computer and email problems, and Leo reads the memo. The President reads it, then he and Leo have a heart-to-heart chat, after which Leo tells the senior staffers that they will start raising the level of public debate in the nation and let that be their legacy even if they do lose some political battles; they agree that they serve at the pleasure of the President, so Leo tells them to get into the game.
20 20 "Mandatory Minimums" Robert Berlinger Aaron Sorkin May 3, 2000 (2000-05-03) 225919
During a speech at an awards dinner, President Bartlet, to fill two vacant seats on the Federal Election Commission, announces his nomination of two people (one Democrat and one Republican), each known to favor reforms; a powerful Republican senator wages battle with the West Wing staff. Leo cautions the senior staffers not to make mistakes this week, and C.J. tells Mandy that Leo prefers that Mandy stay out of his way (because of her memo for Sen. Russell). Leo arranges for Toby and his ex-wife, Andrea "Andy" Wyatt, a member of the House of Representatives, to meet and talk; they discuss legislative matters, and they reach an agreement against minimum sentencing for drug users. Al, Joey, and Kenny arrive from California to help with the confirmation of the nominees. Josh and Toby tell Sam that his relationship with a call girl has become known to one of his political enemies. The senior staff confer with the President in his bedroom at midnight with positive and constructive results.
21 21 "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" Don Scardino Aaron Sorkin May 10, 2000 (2000-05-10) 225920
After last-minute quibbling over the wording of several questions, the senior staff start a nationwide telephone poll to measure the job-approval rating of the administration. Leo gives a snow job to the lone reform-minded member of the Federal Election Commission. With regret Sam explains to Laurie that he cannot attend her graduation from law school. He later presents her a gift, but someone takes a photograph, which reaches the attention of President Bartlet. The President accepts a round-robin plan to change several US ambassadors due to the personal misconduct of the present ambassador to Bulgaria. C.J. spars with the press corps about treatment, rehabilitation, and mandatory minimum sentences for convicted drug users. The President makes a deal seeking reform on soft-money political contributions. Eventually C.J. receives the results of the poll, goes to the Oval Office, and presents them to the President.
22 22 "What Kind of Day Has It Been" Thomas Schlamme Aaron Sorkin May 17, 2000 (2000-05-17) 225921
Iraqi ground forces, using a surface-to-air missile, shoot down an F-117 Nighthawk (a stealth fighter aircraft) of the US Air Force during a routine three-hour patrol of a no-fly zone; the pilot, a 26-year-old captain, survives, but Iraqis are only 10 miles away. President Bartlet orders a military rescue immediately. The staff learns that a space shuttle has incurred a mechanical problem and a resulting delay in its landing, and that Toby's brother, a payload specialist, is aboard the flight. Later the officials learn that the rescue of the downed pilot has succeeded. The President, Zoey, and the entourage go to a college in Rosslyn, in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, where the President speaks in a town-hall meeting. While he speaks, Josh signals him that the problem with the shuttle has been resolved. Afterward, as the group returns to the motorcade, Gina sees something, then two unknown concealed gunmen open fire and apparently hit one or more people.


Critical response

The first season of The West Wing received positive reviews, and scored a Metacritic rating of 79 out of 100, based on 23 reviews.[1]


The first season received 18 Emmy Award nominations for the 52nd Primetime Emmy Awards, winning a total of 9 awards. It won for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Richard Schiff), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Allison Janney), Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (Aaron Sorkin and Rick Cleveland for "In Excelsis Deo"), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Thomas Schlamme for "Pilot"), Outstanding Main Title Theme Music (W. G. Snuffy Walden), Outstanding Cinematography for a Single Camera Series (Thomas Del Ruth), Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series, and Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series. Notable nominations included Martin Sheen for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, John Spencer for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Stockard Channing for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and Aaron Sorkin for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for "Pilot".[2]

Thomas Del Ruth received a nomination from the American Society of Cinematographers for the pilot episode.[3]


  1. ^ "The West Wing: Season 1". Metacritic. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  2. ^ "The West Wing". Emmys.com. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ "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