5.22: Memorial Day (with Josh Singer)
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And today we're talking about the season finale of season five it's called Memorial Day. It was written by John secret young and Josh singer. It was directed by Christopher MRI on. Oh. And at first aired on may nineteenth in the year two thousand and four. Here's a little synopsis Memorial Day is the season finale and president Bartlett wrestles with what to do in response to the killing of American officials in Gaza. But even as he weighs the options. The situation keeps escalating with Israel and Palestine attacking each other in retaliation and county Taliban. Meanwhile, Josh finds himself being used as a proxy for back channels with the Palestinian Prime Minister and Charlie and Toby try to ready the president for throwing out the first pitch and Orioles game. In Camden Yards. Coming up later. We're going to talk with one of the writers of this episode. Josh singer. He's an Oscar winner for the film's spotlight, which he co wrote. He also co wrote the post, and he wrote the new film. I man how about that. That's a good get. Yep. But first, let's talk about this episode a little bit. Josh, what did you? I liked this episode of that a good continuation of the last and they good end of the season. I like the very last moment itself. We don't have to begin at the last moment, but I like the heft of this episode. And where it kind of leaves us as we look forward to the next season. It let's take a second. Maybe before we even discuss the granular parts of the episode itself. And just reflect on the fact that this is the end of the season. This is our season five valley as well. As the show's major, you know, this is my first time watching the season as has been widely discussed by us and people told me a lot of negative things about season five before I watched it. And I think some of those comments set my expectations pretty low, and I'm happy to say that the show consistently surpassed my expectations. I'm delighted to hear it. Yeah. That is good news. Let's review a little bit. There are a lot of casualties in season five. This is Memorial Day and Fitz. Wallace skits brought home here, but they're. Also characters that we've lost to death by being written out. I guess like Mandeville is no longer just for Mandy RIP to the characters. Angela Blake Jackson Ryan Pierce Ryan peers and marina Angela Blake Jackson Ryan Pearson. Breen all introduced in this season and shown the door. Yeah. And shut the door off camera. Yeah. Angela Blake faded away without a mention we got a good satisfying end for Ryan Pierce played by Jesse Bradford. I thought. Yeah. We know what he's off tune. He's been promoted up out of the show. Yeah. And I think that was satisfying Jackson. We talked to Wilson Cruz, and we you know, we found out that was just a little bit of a one and a half off one in tenth off, but Rena just disappeared. Yeah. She evaporated. Her last episode was the Supremes, and I was appreciating her as a character, more and more. I'm not going to say that. I'm totally misheard. But in episode mauvais, she told us she had a little girl. And to me it felt like an indication that there was a lot more depth. To be explored with her character. Like a last name. Yeah. They could have made that commitment. You're right. That would have been nice. But no, that's it for that character. So no closure there. But Kate Harper's clearly coming back. She's here to stay. Yes. She's MRIs made quite an impression. Yeah. I like her a lot. I'm glad you mentioned all those minor characters because they did add flavor to season five. Yeah. This is our in memoriam real first season five. That's right. Poor one out. Yeah. Some other things that have been irreparably damaged maybe or I don't know in season five if not killed and changed forever. Maybe the playful dynamic between the president and the first lady. Yeah, we haven't they haven't bounced back by season's end. No. I mean, they're they're certainly better than they were at the beginning. But it feels like a different relationship, Toby and Will's friendship. I was just thinking about when Toby announces he wants to he tells Leo he wants will to be the deputy Leo says to Toby. Personally, but he had that meeting with that public affairs guy people stayed or a lot of displeasure on him and told him to have a bad meeting public appearance, and I want to use them again. But and you'd friendship stay right now. So what him to work under the radar? You should work out of this house and deal with us by phone exactly what I was gonna say. Set the part about him working under the radar and his. We all I want the president to appoint him deputy. Right. That feels like a long ago era distant past. Yes. And maybe for me the biggest casualty of the season was a level of likability to our characters overall. Yeah. I think that's true. And I think that's why some people tag this season as a low point or Downer. But I think there's also something to be said for getting to the less attractive depths of some of our characters to I I like that. I guess is what I'm saying. I've often bridled against these sort of hero worship of these characters. So I kind of like when we get to see the lesser side. The more human aspects of these guys, you know, I I was thinking about how in this episode at the at the very end when the president and Leo are in the tunnel. The most important moment of your presidency, and you're gonna blow it because you're human. You're a father who almost this is about. Zoe. You're damn right. It's about Zoe and Ellie and Elizabeth and Mallory I was glad that they brought that storyline back, you know, to just a long unfunny shadow. I thought it was reasonable that. It has such a long shot. But it wasn't that much fun to watch. And I thought maybe that is my takeaway from this season in relation to what you're talking about in terms of their like ability, you know, reasonable, but not so fun. Yeah. I think that's a fair assessment. How about great things that you liked about season five? Do you have any favorite aspects of it? Nothing really jumps out. For me. I will say I think Donna's storyline her evolution in this season. Is I really enjoyed that. That's what I meant to say. For four seasons. She basically didn't really Volve even as other characters did here and there, and I thought this is really interesting. You know, there are some ways in which is growing part from Josh in some ways in which you just growing up in her job and the way that Angela Blake introduced that dynamic in the way that CJ kind of encouraged it I thought all of that stuff was really neat. Yep. So Donna's my favorite thing about season five she perhaps had the greatest character development over this season. I suspect you're right. One thing. I also liked it's more of an absence of something. So it's a little bit harder to really feel. I think but one thing that we never really discussed in this season is DSS Maka, which is something that I felt like came up in the Sorkin era. It was less Goto device in the season. You're saying, yeah. And sometimes, you know, whether it's in the pilot, and the, you know, the president and the lambs of God or Stackhouse filibuster, Donna and her superhuman intuition about. Stackhouse in his grandchildren. I mean, right there weren't those kinds of huge leaps. And I like that those are little things that would sometimes mar episodes that I love in the first four seasons. Interesting. So would you you would choose that as a Lustre tive of Aaron's years, and the device that he he liked to go to I think so. Yeah, I mean, certainly it got sprinkled in certainly wasn't a thing that happened commonly. But it happened. I think what you're describing points out a tendency of Aaron's, which is less one of John's Aaron rights, and he does it very very well. And I guess pats at times less so for you. But he likes to write fairy tales that I think the show was a little bit more of a wish. Fulfilment vary tail under his four seasons than we've seen in the season. I guess that probably more than anything speaks to the two men who are running the show. I think you're right. Yeah. I have another category in our yearbook superlatives here. Yes, I'm gonna give most underrated character to Bob Russell again. It was communicated to me that this character was gonna be just terrible. And I like, Bob Russell. I think he's an interesting character. I think that Gary cole- did a great job. And I think that the writers did a great job providing the administration of foil through him. I like him. I think he's a neat dynamic. And I think I liked how he was widely and kind of underestimated at times and proved himself to be more savvy than people gave him credit for. Yeah. I totally agree. I feel like more often than not Russell has proven himself to be an always better than we've come to expect you know, again, and again, he sort of steps over the bar that has been set for him very low, which makes me think that maybe I guess it really is Will's character that people are reacting to negatively when the do react, I used to think it was his going to work for Russell. You know, explain the whole thing for those who don't like will. Then I I watch this. And I'm like, I can totally see what will season him. Yeah. And I don't have any problems with will in this season either except for the moments where he was very underused was clip e the Microsoft Office paper clip to showing up. Yes, he got a little annoying as the Greek chorus or the yes as the paper clip. Yeah. There were plenty of instances where he could have not been used in that would have been maybe a better call. Now. It looks to me like they were kind of. I guess it's the employment version of throwing me a bone by keeping me in. But as I watch and what's he doing there, literally even just physically like, what's he physically? Why is he there why leaning into the door jamb that way? Right. Exactly. But at least they got rid of Ryan. So it was only one guy constantly just walking around the hall. Leaning in. I think I will have to rewatch the season to really get some definitive feelings about this. But I think that my favorite episodes of this season were full disclosure, the Supremes and no exit. I remember two of those. Full disclosure is the one where CJ goes and confronts. The vice president Matheson comes back now, I remember that one to that. When I remain Lee. Remember for giving us the ability to spend an entire pie guessing full disclosure. About the lighting was really good. Yeah. Okay. And so now to maybe my least favorite thing about season five, and I don't know if this is the thing, but it was introduced in this episode. This is also my segue into us discussing episode more. Specifically is the dynamic and the bond between the president and Leo in trouble. Because based on this episode. I would say that it is there's this moment as they go from the president and Leo arguing and the president's saying, I'm the guy in the office. Leo. I'll be the one who's judge then cutting to the flashback and the president saying to to Leo even as he's about to go out into the public. He says to Leo. Not. Which is all fine. You know, that that doesn't seem so crazy. There's a look that John Spencer gives the performance that he gives Leo has this gleam in his eye that for the first time, it seems like maybe Leo agrees with him. I thought the same thing too is I watched it. And as a seemed somehow I guess deeply meaningful to him that Bartlett said it. Yeah. It's one thing to be like, oh that was awfully nice of you. But this is in the context of this. And and in my interpretation of it. This is Leo. Remembering this moment? He's like. Oh, yeah. Even the president thinks I should have been the president. It gives them the sense of sounds like I knew that. But I didn't realize you I knew it should be me. That's nice to hear you said. I mean, it's a this is a huge bummer for me. This feels like maybe tears at the suspension of disbelief that Leo who has been so staunchly the guy behind the guy would actually be like, you know, what maybe look to me the seems like Leo thinking about that the president should be the president and the he should be. The one in charge like beyond the way that he is often the one in charge as chief of staff, you know, he is the second most powerful person in the White House already. Well, what happens in present day? This episode leads you to think that there's a personal into relational Fisher beyond the actual decision. They're discussing I guess the tenor of their discussion about military force. We've had this kind of conversation before where the where Leo says look you have to dig in. And this is you know, you don't feel comfortable with military action. But this is part of job. There was something different about it here where Leo's just upset with the president for wanting to be cautious for wanting to take his time. Yeah, that's true. I also like the contrast between Leo remonstrating with if that's the way to put it commander Harper in the situation room when you think you're doing. Excuse me. We don't push agendas here. I don't believe I am. I'm trying to give them the relevant information. The UN. He's not the secretary general. He's president of the United States and our job is to make sure his priorities are clear, and then we see Leo throughout the episode Leo himself as a different relationship. He's going to absolutely lay in and Laon and get his sort of like that. We see him say, hey, hold back there to commit a Harper. And then we see in his personal relationship with the president. He's absolutely going to mean more than lobby him. He's really going to try to pressure him into the vision. I guess Leo would make. Yeah. I think you're right, there isn't necessarily something. So specific in the present tense that makes me feel that way. It's more. The fact in the moment of them arguing at Camden Yards and the president's saying, I'm the one who's going to be judged and then cutting to the president saying, it should be you Leo that juxtaposition. And then the look and Lia Lee as is makes me think, oh, Leo thinks this is well it should be for. Sure, the stakes are high the stakes are very very high and both the macro and micro levels. And so we get the sense that perhaps there could be a break in their relationship. Yeah. I want to go back to the part that you were talking about Leo and Kate Harper in the room that felt jarring to me as well. It's like what is Leo on this episode like he's never talked to somebody in the room like that even people who with whom he patently disagrees. You know, they're saying, hey, we should do this. He will be like that is the wrong caller. You know, he'll tell the president something else. But then to sort of go over to Kate after the president leaves and kind of give her a talking to and like putting her in her place of he does he he does. Yeah. It just felt not fun to watch. And I was disappointed in it. Especially as to whatever extent Kate is supposed to be the stand-in for Nancy. You know, Leo Nancy would have their own dynamics. But he's he's giving her that kind of respect. Right. Well, he's not going toe-to-toe with commander Harper on the issues. He's putting her in her place. Yes. Yes is saying you got to understand how this works the way you're acting as inappropriate. Yeah. Which it isn't. I would think not. Yeah. I would think that her job is to do what she's doing and the layout. What she thinks. I guess he also feels that. I don't know. We're getting some, you know, Leah's got a sort of hawkish nece to him. He says today's priority is not world peace. Right. What a line. Yeah. That's a great line of dialogue. I thought. Wow. He's just he's just laying it out there. He's just saying I would say it's a bombshell. If it weren't too literal of line. Yeah. So I'm hoping that this is a dynamic. That's introduced here in the finale, but I really hope that this is the biggest cliffhanger to me is like what's going to happen between Leo and the president which is not a fun cliffhanger bombing. Gosh, it could be the most dangerous move. This country is made in two centuries or not seventy five years, we'll know right or wrong. And nobody's standing here today can tell me that with any certainty jumping to another part of this episode. I really liked the line that Josh has when he's trying to go see Donna he says I worked for the president of the United States. I have the diplomatic rank of three star General Tommy, we're Donna moss. And it is not although Josh can be prone to bragging or whatever does not the moment where he's doing that. He's doing whatever he can to try and get in the room, and it's just a cool detail to find that out that the deputy chief of staff is that true. You think I think that is I I just seemed like something to say, I don't know. I didn't look at it. But I'm like. I I'm willing willing to go with it to me. It was very much like the way the guys go into the police station and celestial navigation. It's like that. Don't you know, who we are kind of thing? Really? Yeah. When he says. The nurses. Are you relative? He says I worked for the president of the United States. I have for three star. General tell me where she is. I guess I thought it was really when he just explained the situation, and she wouldn't stop for red lights if he were hurt I guess, he won't stop for inquisitive, nurses. Apparently not. Yeah. I wrote down not super cool of Josh to watch news coverage of the bus bombing in Donna's hospital room. I do put on a little Bob Ross. If something they've a little more soothing for the bomb victim behind. And maybe not CNN covering the bum. The bus blast. You know, a fun fact about Bob Ross has the diplomatic rank of three star general, I believe that. I'd like at the very cold open. First of all, we get Natalia yoga, which actress of Serbian descent, a playing the Israeli ambassador. She does a good job. I think she's also a an Atlantic theater company a type person I remember being aware of her. Maybe knowing her back in New York when I knew all those guys, and I like that president Barlett is trying to kind of hammer at her and against further Isreaeli retaliatory action, and she poses him. A question basically says president we received information on the whereabouts of amend responsible for the repeated killing of our citizens. We had this specific location a little time. What you have done any differently. And we sort of get a moment where he doesn't have much of a response. And then just seconds later. Harper comes in and basically we have a president who is confronted with a similar situation. And we're going to find out what what is he going to do? I just thought it was cleverly in timed and well written I thought so too. I actually thought it first the first time I was watching it. I heard that line. I thought oh is she talking about Sharieff? You know, there was a conversation between fits and Leo were fit says we measure the success of emission by two things wasn't successful and how few civilians did we hurt they measure success by how many? Pregnant women are delivering bombs you're talking to me about international laws the laws of nature. Don't even apply here. I've been a soldier for thirty eight years and I've found an enemy. I can do. He can't can't reach Tripoli. You've got to tell him. He can't guarantee. And that is that ends up leading them to prompting the president. That's right. Ordering the the hit. And of course, Israel got drawn into that. And so I thought maybe she was talking about that. And then the double whammy of the next very next scene. Suddenly now, he has to answer the question that she's opposed to boom immediately. Yeah. I thought that was great. Oh, one other thing I liked that was also sort of a callback. But there wasn't really any attention drawn to it. When Josh comes back to the hospital after his spy mission. He comes back to find Donna's room is empty, and there's bloody bandages on the ground. And when you finally get some answers, he finds out that she's developed a pulmonary embolism. And they say it's we're trying to remove it. Now, he knows exactly what it is. There. Have you remember this? That's what killed his father. Didn't remember that. Yeah. Back in in the shadow of two gunmen partout. Josh. Governor your father done. Josh. I can't believe what happened. He went chemotherapy any unexpectedly developed what's called a pulmonary embolism. Yeah. It was hard. There was cardiac. Wow. Heavy. Yeah. So between the you know collapsed lung, and the pulmonary embolism thought this. It's a nice way of drawing, Donna even closer to him. Sure. It's sort of like the pilot who flew into the side of the mountain having the same birthday as Josh Noel. There these markers. I mean, she's not just endanger her health isn't just a at risk. There. These markers that bring Josh back to these other moments. Trauma is it possible that the entire series is Josh Lyman fever dream Saint elsewhere style sin? Elsewhere. Yeah. Right. We'll find out. Coming seasons. But I thought that was really nice again. There's no attention. Brought to like, oh, yeah. I know what that is. Because my dad had nothing like that that just a little moment that if you've been paying attention to the show, you get hey, don't you have to rub it in. I thought that was really great little subtle tidbit of writing. Now that I know I agree. There's a lot more to talk about. Let's go to our interview with our guest, Josh singer. And we can get into it. And find out some more from the perspective of one of the people who created why not all right? Let's take a quick break. And then when we come back, we'll be joined by Josh singer. The west wing weekly is brought to you by simply safe. 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We're joined now by Josh singer who co wrote this episode, and this is actually I believe your very first Tele play for the west wing. That's correct. I helped out on the stormy present. But this is my first credit. It's very exciting to welcome yet. Another yearly yet another cappella enthusiast and yet another fellow Oscar-winner. Oh, no, wait. I haven't wanted us. Four Rockefeller enthusiast. Former Oscar winner to I guess and for anybody who doesn't know Josh singer won an Oscar for best screenplay for spotlight in two thousand sixteen. Yeah, it's actually half an Oscar because I want it with Tom McCarthy. So it's actually it's funny because they take a little man they come right in half. So it's this very interesting people always come into his that NASCAR. Like, no, it's. And is it really a chocolate in the middle. Chewy nougat center. Nice nice. But great film. Well deserved. Their Oscar is well-deserved or your full Oscar was half deserved. That's I'd writing xactly. You know, it's funny because I feel like that I used to say all the time, and I still say now, I really learned to write in the John well's screenwriting school. And what's a little nice about coming to this particular program is the reason I am a screenwriter is because of the west wing, I was literally struggling trying to figure out what to do when I was in grad school, and I had come out Talaih to stay with this fella. Dave Katz who I worked at McKinsey with. I was interviewing for law firms out here. There's between my I guess second third year third and fourth year in grad school and law school. Yeah. I did a joint law business degree. And Dave said, you gotta watch this show. It's called the west wing, and I was captivated and easily. Became my favorite. If not the only show, I watched on television. I thought the writing was amazing. This was in the you know, the Aaron Sorkin years, and I also like oh my God. He's having a conversation on a weekly basis with the American people about things I care about. And while you can do that, you can have conversations about things you care about you know, and try to push ideas, and oddly, it was right at the time that gore lost Bush, and I'd gone down to Florida and tried to help out in the recount, which I was sort of an observer. But it wasn't really all that helps Lavi Asli. They could use you again, you know. Head to Florida. But anyway, so I saw the show, and I thought, wow, this could be exciting. This could be the kind of inside the kind of thing I would like to do. And so if it weren't for Aaron creating this show, I never would have. I don't think I would have thought that get into this industry in this way. Well, I'm sure lots of people watch the west wing and think this is great television. I would love to write like this. How did you actually make it happen? You know, I finished graduate school. I said to my father. I said, I think I wanna right. You paid for four years graduate school, and he was really he, and my mom were incredibly supportive, and he said how many years you're going to give it I said, I'll give it three years. And he said that sounds about right. And I took a hard time job and moved out and the part time job turned out to be very very little time job, and I met actually the yell connection was quite helpful because my friend Eric Simon's who had been in the with moves with he actually introduced me to a guy named John Stevens. And to another guy named Peter Blake who were television writers, and Peter actually told me, but what you do is write a spec script. Right. Mock scripts of shows that on the air and my favorite shows the west wing. So I started writing a west wings back. I was dating and Isreaeli woman the time who had very far right point of view. And I was reading a lot of Thomas Friedman. So I was more of a lefty he start arguing about Israel Palestine, and I thought okay. Well, this is a good. I little used all the op-eds. We were sending each other as the basis for a script about Israel versus Palestine because the west wing hadn't covered that at the time. And the most successful connection came from this sublet, which was random my friend, Sarah low had introduced me to this random woman who is acting and who is dating a fellow by the name of Llewellyn, Llewellyn wells, and Lou was as you guys know the line producer on the west wing and his brother John was an executive Bruce on the west wing and Lou very kindly offered to read my script when I was done and he read my west wing spec. And he liked it. And he had me come up to the Starbucks up in Burbank, the one not far from the Marlboros lot. And it was the greatest no session ever had because he basically said to me, what do you think is wrong with your script? Which was total Socratic method, which I love, and I was like, well, I think it needs this this, and this is like, yeah. That sounds right. And he sorted then brainstorm with me a little bit. He's like well when you're done send it back to me. And so I finished that script and I sent it back to him and about a month or two later. I got the call it change my life, which is from Chris Alec and Andrew stern who running John's company Lou had passed in the script. And when I didn't know John was taking over the west wing from air. And so John was going to take some of the writers who are in the room. But he was also looking for new writers, and Chris and Andrew like my script, and they pass it on to John and John light my script. So I pretty lucky. So thanks to Lou, and John and Sarah low who put me in us up. Let that's how I got on the west wing and your dad was site. Exactly, I I think I called them. And I really I call. I come. I send mom dad, and I said. I I was outside. I remember when I got the job because I had the interview John then took a y took a month or do and dill thinks shook out, and you know, and I literally was outside of kinko's. And I got the call from my agent, and I literally called them and sang them because they love the show, and it's pretty sight. So you were there for the entire fifth season. And this is this is your first tell play, but you're you're part of the writer's room the whole time. Right. I was I was wondering if you could give us a little bit of background before we get into Memorial Day, specifically a little bit about some of the stuff leading into this episode first of all Kate Harper. Yeah, there's a new character who'd been introduced just a couple of episodes earlier. Can you tell us about how that character was created and came about like what motivated the idea of a new recurring character, and sort of what her arc was going to be. I think we'd had a bunch of foreign policy episodes and wanted to do more foreign policy episodes. It was something. Peter, no is very interested in I was very interested in foreign policy, and we wanted to have an asset as opposed to you know, we had some incredible actress you've come in run candidate who played our secretary of state Iran Canada. He's great, right? But like we wanted somebody who would become a regular on the show. We wanted another strong woman, and we started playing with this idea as I a call of character who would be, you know, pretty much all business in my head shoes and Bill Volkan ride a little Spock ish. A little, you know, nerdy in that way. While being also attractive and charming if you want to prohibit us on without us, glinting, the conflict, of course, the chairman has consistently chosen violence over peace. He's doesn't really have the strength to take on HAMAs. He's walked away from offers that would have given his people a Palestinian state, and these rallies aren't likely to ever sit down to the negotiation table with him again. He's not the answer to the greater problem. He may be the answer to this one. And so we start brainstorming. I'm not sure I think I pitched the name cave. It's my sister's name, which is not really all that big of a deal because you know, when it comes to name characters like one hundred names or thrown out in a room and like youth route seventy each writer throws up fifteen, but but Katie is my sister's name, so as always pleased at the character wind up being named Kate, and yeah, so I love that character. It was actually really fun to write an incredibly useful though. I watched the episode last night, and I had a tendency. When I start on the show to get a little thick in the writing a little dense in the writing. If I have an achilles heel is a writer, it is it is tending to get a little dense. You know, I remember Alex graves when we gave him the script. And the story Pratt is literally like a couch. It's like some the density of that material. And I remember also Christmas Yana who God bless him was prepping for Morial day while he was shooting episode, Twenty-one Gaza. Remember him nice krypton saying, it's just dense. It's so dense. This sounds like like on said front of like stockers. They're like. Like little. Cried myself to sleep that night. So for those of you who just seen first man and think it's a little. Well, that's that's the trick isn't a writing. I think a really great episode of the west wing is the material is dense, and how do you write a forty four minute episode that takes on issues of great complexity, and yet still moves along at a clip and yet and doesn't just bounce along on the surface. You know, it's funny because you know, Carol Flynn at some point. Well, I want to do an episode or mandatory minimums, and we did it. But you know, we really only scratched the surface. And so I was helping out with the research. I went back, and I did all this research into men for minimums. And I went back and looked at the there didn't mentor minimums, and I realized what he had done is he charged picked the three most important facts about mandatory minimums, the three things that just grab you like, you know, about like that a, you know, three strike felony can wind up three times smoking dope can wind up with ten years in jail. Whatever it is like the most grab you by the collar facts, and he'd wound just those three facts, the episodes and. Nothing else because everybody else's super dense and not particularly interesting to Carol which is try to write his stuck with like everybody else, which is super interesting. An Aaron had this amazing ability just cherry pick like the three deaths. Little tidbits, you know. And so I think it's one of the reasons why his episode sing in some of our episodes. Because we get stuck in the muck as they say so in going back and watching Morial day, I felt very similar Christmas siato watching some scenes where they're talking about foreign policy, and my head starts hurting. I'm like, I can't believe I made yours watch that it's it's just don't. I really liked this episode. I think it's an excellent episode. In addition to all that you're also giving us flashbacks, and you're giving us early Leo Bartlett relationship. There's a lot going on in this episode. Yeah. So the episode actually came about in a sort of interesting way, I wasn't supposed to write the finale, of course, because I'm new guy. This was going to be twenty one Peters was going to be twenty. I think and then John was gonna write the finale right something like that. And I've been pushing all your do Israel-Palestine because I've written my spec on it, and I was super excited. And I thought it was something that would be fun cover new bunch about it. And it was something I wanted to write about and I remember in the room, then we got this ideal. Maybe we'll do like a couple of at Arkan Israel-Palestine. So we went on up settling on. Okay. We would do this episode with Donna and Gaza which Peter Noah wrote beautifully. Although we fought a lot about like because we wound up, you know. I it was somebody who start very far left on this issue, and the more I got to know in talking to all my friends back or who worked with eight back, the more I drifted towards the right? And so I wound up being the guy, and I'm still pretty far left. I mean, I'm Thomas Friedman Israel-Palestine guy as it were. Would you explain what that means? We'll just in terms of like where where you come down on this issue because it's a thorny one. You know, are you, you know, I wouldn't call myself pro Palestinian, but I actually don't you love the behavior of his rallies for the last ten fifteen years, and I'm not a huge fan of Netanyahu. But even being I think pretty moderate I was far right in our room. I think Peter no was much to my left. And so we had some good back and forth about certain stories used in various episodes, and as you're making points about this stuff. But anyway, so I was writing what was I guess going to be upset twenty one. And I wrote this outline from. From. I turned it in and John sort of canes means like, well, you know, it, you know, he's like Bartlett needs to be this. You know, John would generally say like have one great idea. But and they don't like Barton needs to be this. And that's about all I got. I gotta go. So I'm sitting there. I'm like, oh, God, I'm gonna get fired come ton not going very well. Do you? Remember what his what the critical point was? He was basically saying I think it was about Bartlett being more active. It was a typical, you know, writers rookie mistake of like lots of stuff happening in your main character is not actually active so Bartlett wasn't particularly active. So he's like Bartlett needs to be more. I think active and assertive and one whatever I think that's what it was which was actually an incredible note in some ways, the most important note, but the rest of the outline which was a mess. He basically was like this is a mess. And I did have the baseball thing in there because I had asked Lu at Tim could we ever go? I love baseball. So I said. Llewellyn's? I said would we ever shoot in the stadium? He's like, well, I don't know we could look into it. And he basically came back to me was very mile line said. Yeah, we could shoot and Camden Yards. I was like, oh, my like that was the greatest thing, I could imagine. And so I had written the baseball storyline, which was fun. So that was kind of working. And then there was this big huge Palestine thing that wasn't working at all. And I didn't really have a b story except Josh Donna over in the hospital and nothing was happening there. And so John says, we'll Bartlett needs to be more aggressive and has to have more of a more active and then left the room. This was a real mats and other writers starts leave. And I literally I don't grab them. But I listen guys. You can't leave me I need. No. You can't leave me really go. And I said Lawrence. What do I do about to say store into Lawrence Li walk me through how I handle the story. Like, what are the, you know, an I think he probably came up with the thing where the speech at the top tyranny of terror get mongers, what is the stronger your language now, the more leeway watching it. So I think that was probably lar-, you know, because that's a pure lie brilliant Lawrence like, this is actually how these things work might have been Eli. But you know, I remember calling Lawrence, and I was like one of my going to do with this. Josh, and Donna and Peter Noah bless him. Peter Noah said, well, what if Josh were spy, right? What if Josh turned out to be a spy, which you know, at first sounded like a pretty goofy idea, but the more heater talked about it. And then, you know, I think a couple of other people in the room serve like said, that's not a bad idea. And we started hashing out like what would that actually look like, and I did a little research. And that is my favorite thing of a whole episode. Is that whole little storyline to we're supposed to meet. I turned in my first script, and like the meeting was cancelled or wasn't the meaningless cancel it was like I think John met with all the producers, so essentially any redder with a producer title, which meant that me and Deborah and more Kaufman and Larne Schmidt, the were mostly producer. So like everybody, but like the four of us. So like, I'm sitting in my office. I'm like, oh, I'm definitely going to get fired. This is in. I'm getting fired. And I was like I thought the script was good. And I think I've made Deborah read it ahead of time. And she'd she'd give me some notes and said, this isn't bad. You know, I thought it was good. What's going on? My god. I'm going to get fired. And then they came out and John had put John singer young onto the episode and made it the finale, and he made it the finale because in truth. He had right finales free are and I think he was just slammed and he was like, okay. If I make this finale, they can have a group of people bang out nineteen three or four writers all come together. And nobody right pieces in one thousand nine which she did. And just. Slide this down basically because this feels like Nelly it feels like something you end the seasonal, right? And you know, if you gin up is Donald going gonna make it and you have this separate real separation between Leo and Bartlett like this and this big major thing which is going to lead to Camp David at the beginning of the next season. Like this feels like a season. Finale, also, what kind of pitch did Heathrow? Let's not forget that. Cliffhanger. Exactly did he hit them. It. All you hear hit the MIT. That's true. We call that a Flint on this show audio that plays as the closing titles. Go Flindell is just syllables that Josh kind of regurgitated. And when I said, we we talked about this phenomenon that happens in the show a lot the story continues. Even though the visuals are done, then you see the executive credit, but they're still actually some meat to the story. And we thought that needed a term in. So Josh sort of reflexively said Flint, that's good. That's good. That's is the pinnacle of my writing career. It's pretty good. I don't think I've ever come up with anything that clever. Jeeze? Maybe I should look for another profession. You mentioned the dynamic between Leo and the president here. And that I think is the most shocking part of this episode. I mean with all of the Jew political stuff going on in the espionage with Josh. And everything to me, the part that was you know, was the most tense was this idea that suddenly for the first time I felt like we were seeing Leo we'd seen Leo look at the president and kind of caution against his more dovish tendencies, but these couple of moments towards the end of the episode when you start to see this a different kind of take from Leo on what the president was doing. That was really surprising to me and really very effective in terms of the tension. How many times have we tried negotiation? We're not negotiating with the chairman your priority should be the security of this country. I gotta say Johnston, sir was the loveliest love. Wlient guy. You know? I know he had how did the moon a bit in his use? But when we got him my God, I mean, I learned so much not only from the raiders of the show, but from the actors I mean because like what greater thing than coming in. And as John really believed in writers being producers and being on set. And the thing is there than sitting on set and watching John Spencer do take after take right house Janney. Do take after take Richard Schiff Radley with for a minute. It's a murderer's row. I'm not even talking about Martin or Stocker. I mean, and John or Molina? That's true. You're going to get you know by the fifth season. I've get to you. But, but, but, you know, Spencer used to call it riding the horse, and if retake was subtly different. It was such a major education for me and serve me. I think very well on the features side is maybe they'll do one take which was in your head. But most of the takes are not going to be anything close to what was in your head. And that's the beauty of it. You know, I have to say if I hadn't had that preparation of nonsense or when I worked on the post Meryl Streep is amazing. And was really amazing is she does take and it's non as non anything your head. You was the writer or like, there's no way that takes makes any sense in this moment it does. It's not what character is supposed to be doing. And then you see the whole thing together. And you're like, oh my God. That was the perfect take for this moment because she understands the story are better than you do. And so it's truly understand what collaboration with an actor is right. And and I learned that from John watching him do take after. After take, but the flashbacks so that I cannot take credit for that was John Young in some ways, it was his main contribution, at least, structurally, you know. And he had notes throughout and whatnot. But he basically is like why don't we do some flashbacks? You know, they've been affective previously and just as a way to illustrate how far apart these guys are. And what's funny is at the time. I never loved the flashbacks and washing the movie the movie the episode last night. I really enjoyed them really thought they give some nice shape to that falling apart of Leo and Bartlett, which is pretty it's hard to watch especially, you know, for fans of the show, you know, who think of them as mother and father or father and mother, you know, I mean, it said Bartlett, Leo have this marriage, and in some ways that story, it's richer, right? Because there's so much more to work with because they've been together for so long. That's what this. Stories with Leon Bartlett like we've never really we've seen Leone Bartlett fight. But it's always like a typical like a fight you have. And then the next day, you're fine. Right. It's just because couples fight because there's friction naturally, and that's that's that's what it is. You're both holding the rope. Right. But this is a fight of colossal size. Right. This is a fight that could destroy a relationship and to see Leo and Bartlett get this far apart from each other. And putting that context of that flashback. So for those of us who are new this show or having washed all five seasons. Right. Who don't understand? Oh, wow. These how close these two. Are you get to see like and remind them like we owe put jed there, right Lee was the one who made him president in a lot of ways. I can't do this. Now, you gotta like you. There's a reason I've stayed sober. So to have this moment where Bartlett doesn't listen to him right is actually ended that. To me one of the toughest moments in the whole episode is when Leo's pushing them in the oval. Time. We've tried elevating moderate you need. Thank you. Meaning I'm done, right. And then goes off, and it's a beautiful shot by MRI on. I love it. Because he's on the mound. Right. He goes off in front of the windows. It's like the JFK portrait. But he's got the ball behind them. Which is just it's a lovely shot with with Martin with the ball behind him. And you sense. He's on the mound, and he's alone. Right. And he's not he's push Leo out. And it's made much more powerful decision itself is intellectual. But the fact that he's alone right that he's pushed away his dearest friend on this. That's what makes an emotional, right? As as the end of the episode, another emotional thing that happens in this arc is that fits walls dies. And I thought it was surprising earlier in the season. When -tario Quinn came in and his character replaced John Amos's character as as the joint chiefs and after fits gets killed. I was wondering if that had been sort of in the cards all the way back then. If you'd known that you were switching out these characters because you wanted to reserve that card to to play it here. And then, you know, it's funny because a couple of things for Saul. I think terrier Quinn was cast. I feel like it was in Johnson yangs jumped circuit was upset might have even been in the stormy present where we first meet terrier Quinn. But because I remember him being cast. And I remember thinking like a new like this guy doesn't feel like he has the weight of John Amos. I didn't know is he really much of an actor. And of course, then he's on lost. And he's the greatest actor ever huge fan. I'm awesome. So what's funny is we wanted Johnny most for these flashbacks and couldn't get them. It was the first version of the flashbacks were just a tad stronger because they had Johnny missing them is opposed to jerem mccranie. Who's who's terrific? Woodrow Wilson didn't know what battalion from a battery when he took office, and he did a heck of a job with the treaty of versa. Admiral Fitch Wallace thought, you might find it reassuring. He did. Allen, thanks for coming up. We'll start the full security briefings next week served -gratulations again and. Good luck with the press conference tonight. We got him because we couldn't get John Amos. There was like a scheduling conflict. He was either unavailable or mad. Right. Exactly something. So that was that was a pretty big bummer. But I think he might have been mad that we kill them off. But it was how do we make this have some weight ride for our viewers? And so fits Wallace was sort of a national candidate of sort of a beloved character whose we haven't seen in a while to do that with. I like there's there's one line in one of the flashbacks with Bartlett half-jokingly says office Wallis remind me. Remind me that far that guy. I thought had he done so he'd still be alive today. Right. Little moments and those little decisions that have great consequence. I mean that is the fun thing with flashbacks rate is you can always play with the sort of thing. Even though you you couldn't get John Amos for the fact that you were able to get Gerald mcrainey back was nice for people who have been following the west wing. And you know, it's a nice Easter egg because we know that Leo and he have a relationship from from episodes ago that he was his commanding officer. And so it was a nice way to kind of tie back to the the continuity of the of the show. Oh, right. Is that on K is that right? This is that the episode where he's commanding officer. It's from war crimes back. Yeah. In war crimes. He's the one in season three he tells him that Leo could have been prosecuted for whatever this war crunches legislation means Leo could be prosecuted for actions that he took in in the war. Right. Yeah. And again, like another great actor. I mean, you look at the I mean again, so we've got this cast. It's like the murderers row. Right. But then we've also got if you look at the secondary cast, Gary Cole's in there, you know, who later becomes a much bigger figure in our show. But like he's terrific in a in a pretty small role. And and I forget the name of the fellow who plays the house speaker. But if you watch sir teen days, I mean, he's a wonderful even Steven call. Yeah. So you've got these great great actors at every turn. It's again. I had no idea. How good I had it. Steven Culp is very good. I felt in this episode. He's got the briefest of appearances, but he's sort of exhorting president Bartlett to action. And there's something in his performance where it's just. There's a genuine NIST to him where it's sort of the politics fall away, and you can see in this face. The import of his words, I really like him in this. There's an obvious course of action here. And on that we stand firmly behind the president. Bombs right. I want to decide. Leo. He's got to do this. Yeah. He's very good at that sort of thing. Again, if you haven't seen thirteen days, he plays Bobby Kennedy and Bruce Greenwood plays JFK, and it's one of my more favorite political movies. Speaking of Kennedy, I thought president Bartlett just a little thing has a very Kennedy esque moment early on when he's giving his statement to the nation. And he says I ask for your patience while we hunt for answers of every now, and then Martin just can't help embodying JFK. You know, it's funny because Martin recently told me about meeting Bobby Kennedy at one of his rallies when Martin was on Broadway and went to, you know, sit on stage, and you know, and just with such reverence. And, you know, look, you know, Bartlett's from New Hampshire know might come by some of that at Boston is that naturally. So not truly exactly exactly another moment. I loved in this episode is when we're in Germany in the hospital room and Josh is talking to CJ on the phone extensively trying to tell her a strategic plan for what they're gonna do you need to come out fighting leak forced depletion report on blueprints for the invasion. It's language that is not diplomatic at all to talk about what the US is going to do in Palestine. But while that's happening. Call on his come into the room on his room. And that was a great forty and slip. And also, the kind of thing is also the kind of slip that you could imagine someone making from the White House podium and getting in trouble. Yeah. I mean, you know that moment with Colin Brad is just so wonderful. Right. I mean, like the way he's sort of gets distracted. And it's hilarious. I think that was Peter. Noah's he always loved this idea that Donna has this relationship, and then Josh has to confront it and confront his feelings. Or you know, where is he with Donna, I will say I never thought the Josh and Donna should ever get together. They always felt like brother and sister in me just for what it's worth. But I did like writing these seem like a game of thrones brother and sister. Well, then maybe way it goes. But, but yeah, that was that was that was not I love the even amid the greater goings on in this episode that we get the romantic subplot sort of being inched along even implicitly. There's a lot of great interplay among Jason Janelle and Brad preowned flight from Gaza, Germany. Not really it's nothing compared to the flight from DC. Look chewed mention. Anything in? This is going to be an issue. Then I think they're all they're all great in this episode, and I'd like their scenes and the jockey. And also if you ever had any question, you can see in Brad's countenance as Josh just the ways looking Donna in that bed that he is smitten man. Yeah. It's it's so good and Jason ISAACs another fantastic actor who I didn't know much of other than you know, a little bit of Harry Potter. But he was wonderful comes on. And really is a presence. Those those couple of episodes, which is great. We kind of wandered off of this. But I was wondering if Terry Quinn's character if you'd known that you were going to kill off fits Wallace a while ago. And so when you introduce the -tario Quinn that was sort of a long ball that you were playing. No, I think we were just. You know, I think we were just bring in new blood. You know, obviously in administrations people change, you know, people retire, you know, or they're forced out by crazy presidents who don't want people investigating. It's russia. But so with these kinds of changes, we just naturally, you know, were bring him, and there was no long-term planning in terms of the awesome. And all that something I think we came up with when we were trying to figure out. Okay. Who do we kill off to make this bomb? Meaningful rate have real stakes. Correct. What do you think was ended up being the hardest part about making the episode where you also onset when they were filming it. I mean this. This is the wonderful thing about John wells is that he really believes in writers producers. And so he wants his writers, you know, we do tone meetings. We did concept meetings. We would be part of form or in the prep process and then onset for the entire shoot. And every episode. I don't. The west wing that was the case which was which was pretty great certainly for a young writer, although could have moments I was onset for stormy present. And I remember I had no idea what I was doing. And so James Cromwell actually was was very good on his lines. But was switching up like that. You know, started president is you know, is very dense, and he was calling something Middle East instead of Arabian peninsula, which nobody cared about except that newbie writer who had no idea what he was doing. And I kept trying to tell our dialogue coach, maybe she should give this to him. Hen she didn't want to and then on turnaround. She said, why don't you talk to them? And this was the scene that was like Cromwell and Martin and John Goodman, right and their like three huge heavy major league, you know, actors off my start talking to Cromwell, I understand that, you know, talking to actors is not like having intellectual conversation with a professor, it's. You. It's nothing like that. So so he starts getting heated not in a wise getting heated, but I am trying to pull out and suddenly I feel Alex graves, you know, grabbed me by the fact the neck. We're all good here. James just doing what she's doing sitting? When I thought I was going to get fired. I'm with you, though, the scripts the script, well, you know, that's the job. That's the gig. But so no, no nightmares. Like that on this episode, although I will say sort of a nightmare that turned into a dream, which is that. So I wanted to fly myself to Camden Yards because I wanted to be part of that. And my were from Philly, and my father and mom came down bought tickets to the to the game because we shot for an actual game at Camden Yards, and it was raining, and we had one day to get this shot, and it was like a five hour rain delay. And it was funny was when we were prepping, and we actually we shot the tunnel walk. That's all below Camden Yards. And then the walk up onto the field in the field. And when we were prepping it was actually it was fine now. And then it just started rain just as we were about start shoot. So we wound up waiting for like five hours, and it was inordinately fun at first because like when we went out to shoot, and, you know, Martin went up on the mound, and I had had my dad. My dad was a catcher when he was like in middle school. And so I had him bring. I'd bought them a catcher's mitt and bring down. So I got behind. I'm home plate and got catch for Martin. When he was so great, which was pretty cool. And then and then we wind up having this rain delays. And like we're all like, oh my God. Are we gonna get this often Christmas Yano tearing his hair out and Martin grass means says let's throw the ball out until in that tunnel where we shot that walk and talk with with Leo Martin. I wound up having catch for like an hour. Which is just like I mean, it was surreal and like super just like kind of great like here. I am. This is my first year writing for television. I'm having a baseball cash with Martin sheen while we're waiting for the rain to pass. And eventually, the rain did pass the crowd was actually a little it was not a full house because of the rain and and whatnot, and because a lot of people left. So we sort of had to you'll note the cameras pretty close on Martin because the wide shot us seem like there's like the stadium's half empty, but we waited out. And then we got the shot. And then stayed and watch the game. Which was pretty great seven's. A pretty great day was Martin feeling any pressure getting up there and throwing from the mound. He had a much better arm than Bartlett that. So I thought that might be the case. Yeah. We had fun. The thing where he has to throw on hit the lamp that was actually a lot of fun. I will say something and do a maybe mad at me for this. But delay is a wonderful, tap, dancer, and very athletic. But did not grow up playing baseball grew up playing soccer. So if there's someone who has a motion issue, right? It's less. Martin and more delay. So so I notice that we're not seeing a lot of. Throwing the ball back for hearing it and then seeing the ball go back to Martin his form is a little it's not what you would expect from from Charlie. So we had to shoot around that a little bit. So. I suspected as much I love those scenes, those seams are great. And I I like the marrying of sort of the sublime and the ridiculous and discussing actual US foreign policy in a tricky situation as the president in a bulletproof vests practices pitching. It's great writing. It's a great scene. I mean to me that's all stems from Aaron right? It's what Aaron does. So well in really all seasons, but the first two seasons in particular those scenes in the spiciness Cimoli were the most fun to write. I love that scene. The hallway seen as a response to this idea of John wells, saying, oh, the president needs to be more active. Right that you can actually add this physicality to him going through trying to figure out what his what he's going to do. And then have his pitching mirror his level of decisiveness, right? Really wonderfully realized. Bomb the whole damn place. Gaza the West Bank account, the whole Arabian peninsula were added. Right. You know, it's funny. So this episode and Supremes both got nominated for the WJ, which a friend of mine this guy, Michael cow. So the time like you should enjoy this. It's your peers. Right. It really is. It's a nice thing. Right. And I don't think I really appreciated at the time. But John Young appreciate it. And he bought a flask because he endeavor, and I drank bourbon drank plans on occasion, he bought a flash from Deborah cause Denver's episode the Supremes also got nominated Deborah, actually one. So he bought a flash for Deborah that said the supreme forever. Who really was the supreme as you all will see over the next two seasons and bought a flash. From me that said the big fat one. Sweden form to play my role in a big fat one right down the middle. That's great light. Is he manages to? So. Yeah. So you know, again that first season the west wing for me was my first year in writing grad school, and what a wonderful group of teachers, I had one another thing I'll point die, which we often point at it. Not only is the show itself. Evergreen in the issues that it deals with. But there's also a strange overlap with our podcast show as episodes come out as I was re. Watching this episode a news notification came up on my computer with the headline saying Palestinian infiltrates from Gaza, that's greenhouse on fire in Israel community. And then I clicked on the story. And then it added the additional reports say that Palestinians threw explosive devices at Israel defense forces soldiers than there were reports that the army responded that one tinian has been killed thirty seven wounded. According to that's Cording to the to HAMAs health ministry in Gaza. And it's just it's just a constant reminder on a lot of friends. How little progress is made. And also just how this show it's ever pertinent. Yeah. I mean, it's upsetting to me. Like there are so many issues that we grapple with today that we were grappling with fifteen years ago thirty years ago fifty years ago, this is one of them back at this point one. We wrote this show it's possible. Israel had a little more of a light stand on, you know, and they really work challenge to find a partner for peace as we talk about Arafat was it had been all their ninety three. And then it just slipped away. It's hard because I really feel like, you know, both sides are definitely that actors at this point. And I haven't studied the issue in a while. So I feel sort of a little off base saying it, but I do think you need to sacrifice both sides need to. Sacrifice in both sides need to be willing to sacrifice the same issue with climate change. I mean, that's the other one that comes, you know, like there was just as huge article about how you know. We really knew all this stuff. I've this NB wondering if there's a story there like, you know, back in the seventies eighties nineties. We knew we knew what was happening, and it was a lot less iron. We would've been more easy to do something. We just want really willing to make this out vices necessary. And I think that that's something that again, it was which remained the show. I mean, Aaron one it's celebrate the values that made our country great, which is hard work like all these guys work Burma, very hard. And they're all very very bright. And they all try their best to proceed not as easy, but as in accordance with American values and really understanding what those are what your democratic values which are inclusive values. Which again, sadly or the opposite of I think what's going on right now. One of the things that you have one of the leaders due at the end of this chairman fried pulls move on the Bartlett administration that they've actually used themselves chairman is on TV. He's thanking us for inviting him at prime minister mocha Ron to a summit with the Israelis. We didn't invite him. We haven't even formally invited accepted our invitation to campaign. I love how delicious irony was because it's the same thing they did to set Gillette earlier in the season three, you know, when they were trying to figure out how to get him on the blue ribbon commission because they invited him. He would say, no. And and they couldn't have that. And so they just announced his except. You know, it's funny. I don't know if we thought about that when we did it, and I can't even remember where that twist came from. I didn't remember it sounds like. So it's a pretty good to us, and it sets up what it sets up nicely as you know, we do to episodes on Camp, David. And actually, they were teeny little bits the lily, maybe a half page. They were teeny little bits of that first break script that made it into one of the to Camp, David episodes. That's great. I was actually wondering if you've talked about your original spec script while you were working on these two episodes. I don't think any of the original spec script made it into this episode. But again like, and literally it's probably like, I think it's one seed from that spec that made it into one of the two and more Kaufman. I think Lauren Schmidt historic and I did a bunch of research for John on the Camp, David episodes, which were real challenge, but which were fun to work on in season six what's you figured out that this was going to be the finale, how far ahead were you? You already planning in the writer's room for the next season not much John. Did this thing? This is another good story. So John do this thing every year where he would have us. He'd have all the writers Hawaii for treat prior to the season. And that's really when we would beat out the season. And you know, that sounds amazing. Right. Like, I joined the west wing brand new to the show, and I'm going to Hawaii in. It's it's quite right. It's the cool island, right? And like super exciting, right, except it was the most stressful week of my life, right? And it's all these renters who have all these shoes credits. And here I am by cruise never worked in the business before and I'm terrified right? And so like the first three days of a week in Wii, you know, and we're all staying in this mission house. So like, you can't get away from it. Like, I think I was rooming with Mark Goth men. Like, you know, it's terrifying. Right. And so like, and so the first three as I don't say a word in these rooms, right? 'cause I'm just scared. Yeah. Right. And then at some point. We're taking a lunch break, and I walk up to my boss. John wells. And I say, John, I say, I hope it's okay. Haven't said anything. I mean, I'm just I'm, you know, and he's like, oh, he's like you don't want us anything for like, six months. I mean, he's like he can do is say something down. And then everybody thinks you're. Really takes the pressure off. On the one hand took the pressure off on the other hand was you know, so and of course, then I had to say something the next day. But but it actually was really kind of him because it did take the pressure off. And he was making point like that you're here to learn. And it really like that's the one thing that John did. And I'm sure still does with staff writers, you're getting paid to learn. Our first episode was about twenty fifth amendment, right? 'cause Glen Allen walk and becomes the president right because Bartlett steps down takes himself out. Right. And so like John had me my first assignment was write me a memo on like, we'll how would that work? And what would you call on walk in? And you know, would you call Mr President which call him distracting president? I wrote like a twenty five page memo with like seventeen pitches for like ways. This would be a really cool, you know thing to do with the twenty fifth amendment in your episode. None of it made it stretch because it was all useless, right? Because. 'cause I didn't know what I was doing. And that was the wonderful thing about John is he was really bringing in young writers to teach them, right? And to let them have an opportunity to learn at the footsteps of all these really great writers. And then hopefully be able to contribute by the end of the first year right or by the second year. But so to answer your question. I don't think we had a whole lot plan for the next season of than when John decided we'll slot this in for the finale, the lessons, I learned. I mean, it's funny. Most people say they go to law school and a different way of thinking. I think I went to John wall screenwriting school and learn a different way of thinking. I didn't get to ask the second half of my two parter of what was the hardest part about making the episode. My other part is after watching it. Now, do you have a favorite moment from this episode? Whether it's the writing or the performance or just how something was realized I would say like I'd like to think that I've grown as a writer over the last fourteen years, you know, and so what's not surprising is how many the moments I want to strangle myself there. They're so tense. Like really come on. Could you like lose half the words in that, please? But then there are other bits that I'm actually like. Wow. Okay. And look a lot of them work. Because Brad is so good, right? Like Brad does comic moments like that better than anyone, you know. So it's less writing and more than performance, but surprised that some of the stuff actually works, and we'll say, you know, it's funny. I'm working on this anthology television show about the Oval Office opponent pick a different president each year. And sure democracy in crisis. I think it's a maybe a good way to comment on what's going on today. And also a fun way to get back into the Oval Office. And as I've been writing the pilot. I suddenly got this like, oh, I know what this is like, right? And so it's been a lot of like I've been here. You know, Debra Kahn used to look through my scripts and should see dense writing and dense rain desert, and then she'd get to a page where it was lying line my mind line line, which is the way Aaron rights, and she's like that's the scene. And so and and by the way. That's the most fun. It's fun to write that stuff. Right. When you can actually get that band going, and it actually still feels like these are real characters, you know, like, and so I've been playing with that which has been a lot of fun. That sounds great. You're terrific writer, and I've been very pleased not surprised, but very delighted to see your your subsequent success. That's very kind. I've been I've been very lucky and very fortunate to work with some great people as I was back, then thanks so much for joining us, and congratulations on first band and everything else and everything to come. Thanks, guys. That does it for another episode another season of the west wing weekly. We're halfway through. Our show very exciting. Thanks so much to all of you for sticking with us for five seasons. Very special. Thanks to the people who make this show possible alongside Josh. And me Nick song. Our research assistant, Margaret Miller, our editor Zach macneice are postproduction supervisor. They're the best in the biz next week. We have a special episode for your special bonus episode while you get ready for thanksgiving. A we're going to be talking about our other favorite political, show parks and recreation a show that you urge me to watch on this very podcast itself. That's true. And I love parks and rec and had some out just gotten by me. And now, I've certainly seen every episode. I would hazard guest that I've seen every episode more than once it became a real family favorite meal watch together over and over. But don't worry. It is still a west wing weekly episode. Our conversation is a deep look at all the ways in which. The west wing, influenced parks and recreation. That's right. Our guests are Michael Schorr who co created the show, Adam Scott and Rob Lowe so look out for that next week. And then enjoy your thanksgiving. We're going to be off the week after that as we get ready for season six, and we'll be back in December with our sixth season, the sixth six sheiks sixth sheep's sick what he said. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter. Follow us an Instagram. Follow us on Facebook reach out to us at the west wing weekly dot com. You can follow our guest Josh singer on Twitter at J singer ten you can give as a five star review on itunes. He wanted to give us less than a five star review. I'm not sure where you're supposed to do that. But you can you can Google it. You can buy our merchant, west wing weekly dot com slash merch. And it makes a wonderful present for all of you who are getting ready for the holidays. You've got a variety of options to give to your favorite west wing fan or just give it to yourself inclosing. Thanks to you Josh for also sticking with me for five seasons. Thank you Ritchie for coming up with the idea of this podcast and lying to me about how little work. Anytime. And if you'd like to look for a new podcast, check out our siblings at radio, topiary dot FM a project from PR ex a curated collection of excellent cutting edge, podcasts radio, topiary dot FM. All right. See on the other side. Okay. Okay. What's next? Radio. Ex-?