The West Wing (season 5)

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DVD box cover. Cast from top to bottom and left to right: Will, Toby, Leo, Abbey, Josh, Charlie, C. J., Jed and Donna
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 22
Original network NBC
Original release September 24, 2003 (2003-09-24) – May 19, 2004 (2004-05-19)
List of The West Wing episodes

The fifth season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 24, 2003, to May 19, 2004, and consisted of 22 episodes. This was the first season with executive producer John Wells as showrunner after series creator Aaron Sorkin departed the series after the conclusion of the previous season.


The fifth season had star billing for nine major roles, all nine of these were filled by returning main cast members from the fourth season. Martin Sheen receives the "and" credit for his role as President Josiah Bartlet. The rest of the ensemble are credited alphabetically, while Channing is only credited for the episodes in which she appears

Main cast


The fifth season opens with US forces successfully rescuing Zoey Bartlet from her abductors. Bartlet takes the presidency back from Acting President Walken, but is forced back into a level of powerlessness. He comes to terms with his actions that led to his daughter's kidnapping, a new Republican Speaker of the House (Walken has had to resign in order to assume the presidency) who forces Bartlet into several decisions he doesn't want to make, including the nomination of an unimpressive Democrat, "Bingo Bob" Russell, for Vice President. The conflict with the new Speaker comes to a head in "Shutdown", when the Speaker tries to force Bartlet into cutting federal spending more than had been agreed to and Bartlet refuses to sign the budget, forcing the federal government into a shutdown. Bartlet regains some of his power, cutting a deal to get a liberal Chief Justice of the United States, and season five ends with a bombing in Gaza leading Bartlet to push for Israeli peace talks and Josh to be closer to Donna after she is critically wounded. The fifth season begins toward the end of Bartlet's first year of his second term (fifth year overall) in office. By the end of the season, however, over a year has elapsed.


No. in
No. in
Title Directed by Written by Original air date Production
89 1 "7A WF 83429" Alex Graves John Wells September 24, 2003 (2003-09-24) 176051
The world watches the desperate search for Zoey Bartlet while rival administrations form an uneasy alliance as they weigh options that might include a preemptive military strike at terrorist targets—a move that could doom Zoey. Toby and Will prepare two speeches, one that will be given if Zoey is rescued, the other if she is killed. After the president invokes the 25th amendment, Speaker of the House GlenAllen Walken becomes the new president. The code in the episode title refers to Zoey Bartlet's case file number. The full story behind the assassination of Abdul Shareef is revealed, and a deadly terrorist attack occurs in Turkey, leading to several shocking reactions.
90 2 "The Dogs of War" Christopher Misiano John Wells October 1, 2003 (2003-10-01) 176052
The international crisis concerning the terrorist abduction of Bartlet's daughter Zoey reaches a critical point as Speaker of the House Glen Allen Walken, the acting President, orders the bombardment of Qumari terrorist camps and fences with Leo over the impact of his actions. The kidnappers issue a 24-hour deadline for the removal of American troops from Qumar, but an intelligence break brings a swift and stunning end to the crisis. Meanwhile, Josh fumes over his perceived notion that the Republicans will exploit and push forward their own legislative agenda. And Toby visits his newborn twins while pondering what will happen.
91 3 "Jefferson Lives" Alex Graves Teleplay: Carol Flint
Story: Carol Flint & Debora Cahn
October 8, 2003 (2003-10-08) 176053
Following a harrowing chapter in the nation's history, the White House celebrates the Fourth of July, but most of the staff is not in a cheerful mood. C.J. is moved by the resignation letter of a senior State Department diplomat who could not stomach the Shareef assassination. Bartlet endures the painful process of nominating a candidate for Vice President. But his first choice, Secretary of State Lewis Berryhill, can't be approved and he and his staff are unimpressed with the "compromise candidate" they end up with, reflecting on how recent events have emboldened the Republicans. Meanwhile, while the reclusive first lady tends to personal matters and expresses clear anger towards her husband and Leo, Amy champions Abbey's violence prevention provisions for an upcoming bill and the President drops in on a citizenship swearing-in ceremony. And Donna is appalled by a cocky new intern, Ryan (Jesse Bradford).
92 4 "Han" Christopher Misiano Teleplay: Peter Noah
Story: Peter Noah & Mark Goffman and Paula Yoo
October 22, 2003 (2003-10-22) 176054
A renowned North Korean pianist is greeted at the White House for a solo performance, but the formalities change when the musician slips a message to the President stating that he wants to defect. Despite C.J.'s passionate argument, others counsel Bartlet that granting the defection would endanger crucial ongoing nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang. Also, members of the staff work hard to get the President's new choice for Vice President, Colorado Congressman Robert Russell (also known as "Bingo Bob") unanimously approved by both houses of Congress and must convince a Democrat who is not a fan of Russell's. Toby and Will's contempt for the new VP has an unintentionally amusing end result.
93 5 "Constituency of One" Laura Innes Teleplay: Eli Attie
Story: Eli Attie and Michael Oates Palmer
October 29, 2003 (2003-10-29) 176055
After Josh is hailed as the "101st Senator" on his birthday in a newspaper profile, he clashes with conservative Senator Carrick, a Democrat from Idaho. Carrick withholds his approval of a backlog of military promotions so he can secure an expensive but faulty missile launcher that a former Republican President pledged to build in his state. Will gets a flattering offer from the newly approved Vice President, Robert Russell, while C.J. runs afoul of Leo's temper when she deviates from the administration's scripted line regarding an Environmental Protection Agency report on coal-based energy. Likewise, Amy earns the President's wrath when she aggressively pushes for funding of the first lady's agenda on violence prevention. Meanwhile, Toby creates a message calendar to maintain focus during Bartlet's second term.
94 6 "Disaster Relief" Lesli Linka Glatter Teleplay: Alexa Junge
Story: Alexa Junge & Lauren Schmidt
November 5, 2003 (2003-11-05) 176056
The White House faces new crises in a time gone bad. Toby continues to be angry that Will left his post to work for the VP. President Bartlet flies to Oklahoma to lend support after tornados devastate an area, but CJ is not impressed with his actions and lets him know he is not doing the job he was elected for. Leo has to deal with plans for a visit by the German Chancellor, a brewing conflict in the Ionian Sea, and the SECDEF's latest over-reaching actions. Josh is in the worst shape when Sen. Carrick follows through on his plans to go from being a Republican mole to outright abandoning the Democrats, and Leo takes away his budget responsibilities as Josh goes into a downward spiral.
95 7 "Separation of Powers" Alex Graves Paul Redford November 12, 2003 (2003-11-12) 176057
The President's staff wrangles with new Speaker of the House Jeff Haffley over the pending federal budget. Meanwhile, Toby dispatches former Supreme Court clerk and White House lawyer Joe Quincy (Matthew Perry) to check on the condition of stricken Chief Justice Roy Ashland, an elderly Supreme Court icon who has Washington wondering if he will finally resign. With the budget deadline quickly approaching, aggressive advisor Angela Blake faces a mighty challenge as she tries to work out an agreement that could compromise Bartlet's campaign promises. But the President is also focused on a crucial national television interview that Zoey has agreed to tape with a well-known newswoman, Diane Mathers, who has a knack for exposing raw emotions.
96 8 "Shutdown" Christopher Misiano Mark Goffman November 19, 2003 (2003-11-19) 176058
While negotiating the federal budget, congress reneges on a deal for a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running. Bartlet refuses to concede to the Republicans' demands and the government is sent into shutdown (all nonessential employees to leave work), which lasts for several days. Toby gets a new assistant, Donna (who wasn't kept on her job as she is non-essential) saves Social Security, Speaker Haffley gets out-maneuvered by President Bartlet on both PR and substantive issues, and the shutdown has a surprising resolution.
97 9 "Abu el Banat" Lesli Linka Glatter Debora Cahn December 3, 2003 (2003-12-03) 176059
As the entire Bartlet clan gathers for the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony (though Ellie's late, as usual), Christian missionaries are arrested in Sudan for proselytizing. Meanwhile, the DEA has suspended the license of a doctor who assisted with the suicide of a terminally ill patient in Oregon (where it is legal), and Bartlet's attorney general is siding with the DEA; and Bartlet's son-in-law, Doug Westin, has decided to run for Congress, even though he will not receive the support of the White House.
98 10 "The Stormy Present" Alex Graves Teleplay: John Sacret Young
Story: John Sacret Young & Josh Singer
January 7, 2004 (2004-01-07) 176060
When former President Owen Lassiter dies, the two remaining ex-Presidents (former Democratic President Newman and former Acting Republican President Glen Allen Walken) fly on Air Force One with Bartlet to attend the funeral. Onboard, Bartlet's two historic guests partake in a lively debate about their administrations. Lassiter and Newman's past actions haunt the current administration when massive pro-democracy protests are held across Saudi Arabia and the protesters surround a compound containing 50 Americans, leaving Bartlet to decide whether to support the Saudi regime or to risk the fragile status quo by supporting the protesters' efforts. C.J. meets with an eccentric representative from DARPA and Josh and Angela spar over a states' dispute.
99 11 "The Benign Prerogative" Christopher Misiano Carol Flint January 14, 2004 (2004-01-14) 176061
Toby finishes the State of the Union Address a few weeks early, and a pregnant Joey Lucas polls responses to the speech from everyday people. Charlie is intrigued by Meeshell Anders, an aspiring female journalist with a secret. Abbey pressures her husband to pardon a Native American tribal leader convicted of killing two FBI agents in North Dakota. Bartlet opposes minimums and guidelines for prison sentences and later pardons over 30 inmates who were harshly sentenced under mandatory minimum laws. And Toby hires a new assistant, Rina.
100 12 "Slow News Day" Julie Hébert Eli Attie February 4, 2004 (2004-02-04) 176062
Toby convinces Bartlet to secretly sanction his solo attempt to make history by reforming Social Security, but his efforts to recruit a Republican senator and a Democratic cohort are publicly divulged—forcing the administration to back down while Josh and Leo are left clueless and furious, until a ray of hope is found. Meanwhile, an equally unaware C.J. parries with a reporter who is ready to print all the backstage details.
101 13 "The Warfare of Genghis Khan" Bill D'Elia Peter Noah February 11, 2004 (2004-02-11) 176063
When the flash of a secret nuclear detonation is detected over the Indian Ocean, President Bartlet calls upon his people to investigate which nation now has the atomic bomb — and since conventional thinking favors Iran, Bartlet orders bombers into the air to destroy that nation's most likely uranium-enriched targets. Meanwhile, Josh chides NASA personnel on the future of space exploration — until he is introduced to an attractive female administrator. C.J. fumes when a combative television talk-show host, Taylor Reid, denigrates her on the air, and Will discloses to Vice President Russell that Russell is considered a buffoon by the White House staff. However, it is Russell whose smarts come to keep the President from bombing Iran, at least for now.
102 14 "An Khe" Alex Graves John Wells February 18, 2004 (2004-02-18) 176064
Two US aircrew are left stranded in North Korea, prompting a difficult rescue operation, and bringing back memories for Leo of when he was rescued in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the man who rescued him, now the head of a major Defense contractor, faces questions in a Senate probe, forcing Leo into a potentially dangerous conflict-of-interest. Josh is corrected by an intern when he misquotes data in a briefing to the President. C.J. appears on the Taylor Reid show to face his on-air taunts.
103 15 "Full Disclosure" Lesli Linka Glatter Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr. February 25, 2004 (2004-02-25) 176065
The West Wing goes into damage control when sensational allegations by former Vice President Hoynes appear in a magazine interview, and with suggestions that an even more damaging book is on the way. Meanwhile, Toby holds talks with union leaders regarding trade with China, particularly bras. Josh tries to avoid a protracted meeting with the Base Closing Committee but ends up angrier with his intern than ever before. Charlie provides a viewpoint when the Democratic Mayor of D.C. surprises everyone with his views on school vouchers.
104 16 "Eppur Si Muove" Llewellyn Wells Alexa Junge March 3, 2004 (2004-03-03) 176066
When a Republican congresswoman starts a campaign against publicly funded research into sexual diseases, effectively targeting the President's daughter's work, links emerge to the Vice President's office. The First Lady, reeling from reaction to her assistance at a health clinic, agrees to soften her image by appearing with characters from Sesame Street. Josh tries to sort-out a deadlock on the appointment of Federal Court judges.
105 17 "The Supremes" Jessica Yu Debora Cahn March 24, 2004 (2004-03-24) 176067
When a conservative Supreme Court Justice suddenly passes away, the White House is on a rush to find a suitable candidate for the spot. Glenn Close plays a federal judge whom Josh is pushing for the Supreme Court. Trouble is, she's too liberal to be confirmed. Instead of settling on a compromise candidate moderate enough for the both sides of the aisle, Josh and Toby decide to nominate her as the first female Chief Justice of the U.S. to replace Justice Ashland while also nominating a very conservative but brilliant young judge (William Fichtner) to fill another open seat. Meanwhile, Andy Wyatt is joining a congressional fact-finding mission to the Middle East that troubles the White House. Other guests include Milo O'Shea (as the Chief Justice) and Robert Picardo (another prospective nominee).
106 18 "Access" Alex Graves Lauren Schmidt March 31, 2004 (2004-03-31) 176068
A television documentary crew follows C.J. around to film a "typical" day. But the presence of outsiders adds stress when a crisis involving a terrorist shootout with the FBI has C.J. trying to keep the story secret. Meanwhile, C.J. supervises her team in preparation for a formal papal visit with Bartlet and dodges difficult questions about the imminent future of the current FBI director.
107 19 "Talking Points" Richard Schiff Eli Attie April 21, 2004 (2004-04-21) 176069
On the eve of the President's controversial trade summit meeting in Brussels, Josh is troubled when he learns that Bartlet will reverse his position about sacrificing American jobs to foreign lands. C.J. is frustrated with a new Federal Communications Commission ruling allowing multimedia companies increased ownership of TV stations. Meanwhile, the administration tries to downplay job-loss statistics, and Donna tells Josh about her dissatisfaction with her limited role on his staff. In the midst of it all, Bartlet meets Kate Harper, the brash new deputy national security advisor.
108 20 "No Exit" Julie Hébert Teleplay: Carol Flint & Debora Cahn
Story: Carol Flint & Mark Goffman
April 28, 2004 (2004-04-28) 176072
Resentments fester when the White House is locked down after a suspicious substance is found in the air near the Oval Office. Staffers must remain where they are—and with whomever they are. This is particularly bad news for Toby and Will, whose already-unraveling relationship is spiraling downward ever faster in the wake of a Russell speech (written by Will) that Toby feels undercut the President. Meanwhile, C.J. has some career advice for Donna; Leo and Abbey spar over health issues, personal and political; and Josh gets to know new NSC staffer Kate Harper.
109 21 "Gaza" Christopher Misiano Peter Noah May 12, 2004 (2004-05-12) 176070
The episode opens with the American delegation to Israel in the Gaza Strip. A British photojournalist, Colin Ayres, has paired up with Donna Moss, and takes pictures of her right before an explosion flips the Suburban carrying her and Adm. Fitzwallace over. In a series of flashback/current scenes we see that in the flashbacks, Colin shows Donna the human side of the conflict, taking her to visit both Palestinians and Israelis, and Josh reads the emails Donna sends; meanwhile in the current (now) scenes Josh and Toby attempt to find out what happened. Two Congressmen and Adm. Fitzwallace are confirmed dead, and Donna is flown to Germany. Leo lets Josh go to see Donna.
110 22 "Memorial Day" Christopher Misiano John Sacret Young & Josh Singer May 19, 2004 (2004-05-19) 176071
Gaza slayings of key U.S. officials might drag the fuming President into an unending cycle of violence. Events in the tinderbox Gaza Strip spin out of control after the murders of high-ranking U.S. officials as the angry President weighs appropriate military action—even as Israel launches its own strikes and surrounds the Palestinian chairman, prompting more retaliatory terrorism. The dangers are compounded when Bartlet suddenly cannot communicate with the chairman and a strange undertow of intrigue finds a wary Josh meeting with a mysterious foreign operative while tending to Donna in Germany.


The fifth season received 12 Emmy Award nominations for the 56th Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one award—Allison Janney for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, her fourth win. It was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, the first year the series did not win the award. Acting nominations included Martin Sheen for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, John Spencer for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Stockard Channing and Janel Moloney for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, and Matthew Perry for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series.[1]

Thomas Del Ruth received two nominations from the American Society of Cinematographers for the episodes "7A WF 83429" and "Gaza".[2] called the episode "Access" "memorable" and described the episode as a "Frontline-type 'day-in-the-life' documentary". They said it was one of Allison Janney's (who plays C. J. Cregg) "showcase hours".[3]


  1. "The West Wing". Retrieved September 4, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "The ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography". American Society of Cinematographers. Retrieved October 26, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The West Wing – The Complete Fifth Season (2003)". Retrieved July 15, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
General references