Ten years ago today, one of the most memorable episodes of The West Wing aired, leaving a trio of characters stranded in Indiana, with CJ still mourning Special Agent Sunshine and Jed Bartlet giving one of the finest speeches of his fictional presidency. That episode was the season four premiere, 20 Hours in America.
Perfectly walking the line between the dramatic and the comedic, the episode shows Aaron Sorkin at the peak of his form. Each character within the ensemble has something to offer, from the show-stealing combination of Josh, Donna and Toby, to the rhetoric of Josiah Bartlet, the exploration of Sam’s naivety, the always-underused friendship between CJ and Charlie, Charlie’s loyalty to his hirer, Debbie Fiderer, and Leo, Fitz and Nancy trying to keep the President from seeing the inside of the Hague. Few fans of the show, I would imagine, would claim not to have enjoyed this refreshing change of pace - a chance to catch your breath following an intense Season 3 finale. It’s dialogue, performances and direction like this that make me both love and miss the show so very much.
an au in which donna is a spy
After the Speaker of the House dies suspiciously following a series of high level leaks and rumours of a rigged election, Donna goes undercover as the assistant to White House chief of staff, Josh Lyman. The well documented antagonism between Lyman and Haffley makes Josh the focus of the undercover operation and she uses their increasing closeness to acquire information. Despite even Santos’ suspicions, Donna quickly realizes Josh’s innocence and just as she does, also realizes that she is falling for him. After Josh makes it clear that he feels the same way over drinks at the Hawk and Dove, Donna ends up spending the night with him. When she realizes what happened, she knows that she’s compromised herself. But before she gets a chance to hand in her notice, she gets a lead in the investigation… As the truth of Josh’s innocence becomes public, so too does Donna’s cover - leaving Josh distraught by her betrayal. They part, and Donna is reassigned to an overseas assignment as Josh is left to his heartbreak back in DC. A few months later, Donna’s new assignment nearly kills her as the car she’s travelling in is bombed. While recovering in hospital, she is forced to dwell on her heartbreak and reaches out to a forgiving, concerned Josh. When she returns to DC, he is waiting with open arms.