Previously, on the West Wing: There's a "fictional" novel published that isn't necessarily good for the Bartlet White House. Mallory has it and tips Sam to its existence. He and C.J. try to figure out what to do about it.
C.J. knocked on Sam's doorjamb. "Well?" He closed the book and looked up at her.
"I hate to say this."
"I think I know who might have written this."
"Mandy?" she asked in disbelief.
"Remember her memo?"
"Parts of it are in here verbatim."
"You're kidding!" she said. Sam shook his head. "Have you read all of it?"
"And am going over it again."
"I'm about to go see Leo." Sam stood and tucked the book under his arm.
"This isn't going to be a fun meeting."
"Have you told anybody else about this?" asked Sam.
"You mean Toby or Josh?" He nodded. "No, you?"
"Those will be fun meetings, too."
"What about Tribbey?"
"I want to hear what Leo has to say."
"Okay," she said as the two started for Leo's office. He was busy yelling into his telephone at someone when the two appeared at his door. Leo waved them inside.
"No, I don't want to hold any longer. You tell the Senator he's going to be sitting in the cheap seats from now on!" Leo yelled before slamming the phone. Sam and C.J. exchanged nervous glances. "What can I do for you?"
"Um, Leo..." began C.J., "we have a question."
"What is it, C.J.?"
"How should I handle the book to the press?"
"What book?" Leo asked.
"The novel," Sam said. Leo was still lost.
"What are you talking about?"
"You don't know about the book?" asked C.J. Leo shook his head. "We figured Mallory had told you about it..."
"She came in to talk to me this morning but I was busy. What book?" Sam slowly stepped forward and handed him the book. Leo slipped his glasses on and started examining the cover.
"Mallory lent that to me this afternoon," Sam mentioned quietly.
"What is it about?" asked Leo as he started reading the summary. "What's so important about it?"
"Leo, the..." C.J. looked at Sam, for him to take over.
"The story you're about to read is true. The names were changed to protect the innocent." Leo quickly looked up at Sam.
"You're no Jack Webb."
"That novel... It's us."
"What do you mean, Sam?"
"I mean, Leo, that the characters portrayed in that book are us made over slightly. It's about the campaign we ran. It covers everything, from how we all came on board to our feelings about President Bartlet when he was a governor, the arguments we had, the primaries... Josh's father dying, our relationships, the whole nine yards."
"How?" Sam glanced at C.J.
"Tell him your theory," C.J. prompted.
"You have a theory?" asked Leo.
"Some of what's in there, Leo... I hate to say it but... It was a very familiar read."
"I'm not following you yet, Sam."
"Mandy? Mandy's memo?" Leo asked, getting to his feet.
"Some of it comes straight from the memo."
"Call her," Leo told C.J. "Get her in my office now."
"She's in Chicago right now."
"I don't care, C.J., I want to talk to her."
"It's entirely possible that it's not Mandy." Sam began. " I mean, portions of the memo were read on CNN and Fox News. It was printed, in its entirety, in some newspapers and magazines."
"Call her anyway," Leo said.
"What should I tell the press? I have a briefing in twenty minutes."
"Dodge the questions for a little longer."
"And call Mandy!"
"I will." C.J. left quickly.
"You've read this?" Sam nodded. "How bad is it?"
"When you know who's who, it's pretty bad, Leo. Whoever wrote it had an inside source."
"You suggesting somebody in the administration now?"
"I'm suggesting anybody who worked with us extensively. It could be anybody here or the OEOB right now, as well as anybody from the campaign, including..."
"Mandy," Leo said, spitting out her name resentfully.
"Leo. Should we tell the President?"
"Not yet," Leo said. "I want to go to him with more than we know the book exists and that one member of the staff has read it." Sam nodded. Leo suddenly shook his head. "Mallory..."
"She told me this morning that I'd regret not talking to her. We could have known about this at six o'clock."
"She came to me, too. I didn't listen to her either."
"All right. That goes no further than this room." Sam nodded. "Is it a quick read?" Leo asked, looking at the novel.
"For the most part," Sam said. "Especially since I knew each of those characters."
"How does it portray us?"
"In a fairly bad light, like Mandy's memo." Leo looked at his watch.
"And we've got an hour before the meeting." Leo sighed. "I want everybody in the second limo. I want to talk about this on the way."
"I'll spread the word."
Sam, C.J., and Leo sat with their backs to the driver. Josh and Toby noticed the three were unusually quiet as the motorcade started to leave the White House. "What's going on?" asked Josh.
"Have either of you heard anything about a book?" asked Leo. Toby immediately looked at C.J.
"I know one exists. What is it? How bad is it?"
"What book?" asked Josh. Leo handed the book over to Josh and Toby before explaining the content. "You're kidding," Josh said as Leo finished.
"You have to be."
"Look at my face, Josh. I'm not." Josh felt as though he had been hit in the stomach with a two by four.
"How long has this been out?" asked Toby.
"It was released Friday," informed Sam.
"And we're learning about this now, on Tuesday? Five days later?" asked Toby incredulously.
"Mallory had to bring it to our attention," said Leo. "If she hadn't come forward, we would have been in the dark still."
"What do we do?" Josh asked.
"I've put in a call to Mandy," C.J. said.
"You want *her* to spin this?" asked Josh.
"No way," Leo said. "We want an explanation."
"An explanation?" asked Toby. "Why?" Sam took the book back from Toby and opened it to a page marked with a sticky note.
"'It's come to my attention that the platform is nothing but holes. Vermont's former governor, Jim Benedict, stands on issues change with the wind. Should we suffer through four years of watching the weather to see where our policy stands?'" read Sam.
"Oh my God," Josh said. "That's from her memo."
"Exactly," said Leo. "C.J.'s got her on the next flight to D.C."
"When you skin her alive, can I watch?" asked Josh. Leo didn't honor his request with an answer.
"What does the press know?" asked Toby.
"My office has been bombarded with telephone calls. With us not saying anything, it's like an admission by default," said C.J. "We can't say no comment forever."
"But we can't comment until we know more than we do," said Leo. "Which is why you don't say anything off the cuff to the media tonight. Not a single word." The Senior Staff nodded.
"Have you read it, Leo?" asked Josh. Leo nodded. "Who else has?"
"Right now, Sam and Mallory and me. And probably several thousand Americans, various members of the press."
"You really think the press has the time to read fiction novels?" asked Toby.
"Danny's read it. If he hasn't, then he got the scoop from the book reviewer," said C.J.
"Does the President know yet?" asked Josh.
"Not yet. I'm going to warn him as he gets out not to say anything about any book," said Leo. "Josh, I'm leaving in about an hour to go back and meet with Mandy. You're going to be in charge of keeping the President quiet on the book, got it?" Josh nodded. "I mean it, I want no slip ups."
"I'll keep him quiet, Leo. Don't worry about it." Leo nodded.
"This book..." began Toby, "it doesn't cover our discussion on this particular topic, does it?" Sam exhaled slowly as Leo nodded. "He's going to be asked tonight, Leo."
"Josh is going to have to keep him quiet."
"Wait," said Josh. "Question about what? What are you talking about now?"
"It discusses the conversation during the last few weeks of the campaign, before Election Day, about the electoral college," said Sam.
"What does it say exactly?" asked C.J.
"When we laughed at the thought of abolishing the college," said Leo.
"How does the book spin it?" C.J. further asked.
"Badly for us," said Sam. "Like we were laughing in the face of the American people. Like we didn't trust the populace."
"But that wasn't what we were laughing at. We were laughing at the absurdity that the American people *can't* be trusted, according to the Republican view at the time."
"That certainly isn't the way it appears in the book. The dialogue says otherwise," said Sam.
"I'll be sure to keep the questions to a minimum," C.J. said. Leo nodded.
"Guys, this book implies a lot of things," Leo said. "Implies things like we've been keeping secrets from America about, among other things, President Bartlet's medical conditions."
"He's got a bad back," said Toby. "So what?"
"It implies that there's more to the story," said Leo.
"Well, is there?" asked Josh.
"Of course not," lied Leo, knowing full well that he was keeping a volatile secret from, not only the American people, but the rest of the Senior Staff as well. "Plus, we're not made out all that bright. Sam's character seems to have been the exception."
"And even then, it wasn't that good," Sam said, looking at the book in his hands.
"Just know, guys, that we'll all probably end up having questions shouted at us. Don't let it get to you. Sam, I'd hide the book if I were you. Let's not tip the press that we have a copy."
"Actually, it's Mal's copy," said Sam.
"All the same, keep it in your briefcase. I'd better not see a picture on the cover of the Post tomorrow that one of you went out in the middle of the night to some bookstore and picked up a copy, all right?" warned Leo. They all muttered their answers as the motorcade pulled up to the Capitol building. "Show time, guys. Keep your game faces on."
Leo exited the limousine first and quickly walked over to Bartlet's. Josh and C.J. were next out, scanning the immediate area for the pockets of reporters. Toby followed a moment later with Sam the last out, having had to fight with his briefcase to fit the book inside. Sam noticed Mallory standing at the stairs leading to the Capitol. She had managed to get through security. Leaving Bartlet to greet some of the supporters who had gathered behind the rope lines, he crossed to her quickly. The rest of the Senior Staff lingered near the limousines, waiting to follow the President. "Hey," he said as he joined her.
"Hi. Did you read it?" He took her by the elbow and guided her into the Capitol.
"Yeah," he said quietly.
"What did you think?" she asked in a whisper.
"I think somebody's got it out for us. I think somebody's got us pegged wrong. I think there's going to be hell to pay when we figure out who wrote this, first amendment or no first amendment."
"What does everybody else say?"
"Right now, Leo's calling the shots. He'll keep us all out of trouble for the time being. And if we can keep the President from taking questions from the press."
"We're going to need it."
"Do you still have it?" He nodded.
"You don't mind if we keep it for a little while, do you?" he asked. "I mean, it'd look really bad if one of us went shopping for it."
"Oh, sure. Are you the only one who's read it?"
"Is the President going to?" Sam shrugged.
"He'll probably be calling for our heads collectively at the end of the evening because Leo's just now telling him about it."
"Just now?" asked Mallory.
"We weren't going to go to him until we knew more. Right now we don't know much."
"What do you know?"
"It's going to be weird, the next few days." He smiled at her; it was weak but it was an effort. "Thanks for coming." She hugged him quickly, supportively.
"Sure." They stepped out of the way quickly when the Secret Service led the way into the building, followed quickly by Bartlet and Leo with the rest of the Senior Staff and Secret Service behind them.
"Why the hell didn't we know about this earlier?" Bartlet asked. Leo noticed his daughter standing off to the side with Sam. He mouthed, "sorry, baby," to her while trying to come up with an answer for the President.
"It's under the guise of a fiction novel." Mallory and Sam quickly fell into step with the rest of the entourage as it passed them.
"Fiction or not, why didn't we know?"
"We don't have anyone keeping an eagle eye on the book market. We could but then I think it might be frowned upon by the publishing and entertainment communities," said Leo.
"How bad is it?"
"Better or worse than Mandy's memo?" Leo wished Bartlet hadn't brought that up.
"What does that mean?"
"That means. We don't know much right now." Bartlet threw his arms up in surrender.
"I love this. I'm about to go and throw my endorsement behind a bill that will change the Constitution and we don't know much right now."
"We'll know more before the night is out."
"How much more?"
"We'll know more," Leo repeated.
"Am I going to be asked questions about it?"
"More than likely." Bartlet stopped walking, causing all the staff and Secret Service agents to do the same, and turned to face those behind him.
"Is there anything we know for absolute certain?" he asked.
"Well, sir, you're going to be late if we don't continue walking," said Charlie weakly. Bartlet smiled a syrupy-sweet smile.
"Gee, thanks, Charlie," he said sarcastically. "Anybody else?" No one spoke up. "Well, guys, this is just great." He spun on his heel and continued walking again.
"I guess this is going rather well," Sam said as he leaned against the wall. Mallory shrugged.
"Kind of boring."
"'Which is what the President excels at, blowing steam,'" Sam said. Mallory turned to him.
"Now you're quoting the book."
"It's hard not to." She stood closer to him.
"I really am sorry about bringing her up," she said quietly.
"I should have told you earlier," he said, flattening his tie against his shirt. "I've had so many weird relationships now that..." He shrugged. "I'm surprised the author, whoever he or she is, didn't make more of a to-do over it."
"It covered the campaign, not the administration."
"And for that I am eternally grateful," he said. Mallory watched as her father slipped out the back door.
"Where's Dad going?"
"He's going to find out more."
"On the book."
"Best not to ask right now, Mallory," he said.
"It's nothing illegal, is it?"
"Of course not."
"Okay," she said. She leaned against him and Sam wrapped his arms around her.
"When this story breaks, Mal," he said slowly, "it isn't going to be good for any of us." She realized he was holding her, not just for her but for him as well. He needed something to hold onto, to cling to.
"In the end, the administration will come out on top," she said, sounding relatively convinced, "as well as everyone in it. Including you, Sam."
"I hope so."
"I know so," she said, placing her arms over his.
The press was merciless, throwing out dozens of questions about the book. President Bartlet vehemently denied any similarity between his campaign and that of the book. The more questions that were asked, the sicker Sam felt. Josh paled whereas Toby turned a bright shade of scarlet. C.J. worked to steer the questions away from the book and to the subject of the conference itself and was having a miserable time at it. She shot a look at Josh, who finally stepped in and said that the President was done for the night.
"Sam, Mallory, would you ride with me back to the White House please?" Bartlet asked as everyone started heading for the motorcade.
"Mr. President, my car is here," Mallory said, wondering if she really wanted to be in the limousine when Bartlet hit the roof.
"Someone can pick it up for you," Bartlet said. Mallory looked quickly at Sam, who shrugged lightly.
"Sir," began Josh.
"I don't even want to see your face right now, Josh," Bartlet said through clenched teeth and a smile for the cameras. "Please go ride in the other limousine." He noticed C.J. and Toby offering excuses as well. "You, too. And, where is Leo?" he asked.
"He should be back at the White House, sir," Sam said. Bartlet nodded as he climbed into the limousine, followed by Charlie and Mallory and Sam. As soon as the door was closed, Bartlet started.
"Where's the book?"
"I have it," Sam said, opening his briefcase. Bartlet looked at Mallory.
"And you had it this morning. You tried to get us to listen to you before seven AM, didn't you?"
"Yes, sir," Mallory said, not exactly sure of where Bartlet was going with the conversation.
"Next time, Mal, come see me, why don't you? Since no one else had enough sense to listen to you the first time," he said, eyeing Sam hard.
"Sir, I-" started Sam.
"It wasn't his fault entirely," Mallory said, stepping in for him. "He was working on the comments you just gave on the Hill, and what lovely comments they were..."
"All right," he said as he started thumbing through the book. "I understand that the both of you have read it."
"Yes, sir," Sam said as Mallory nodded.
"What's Leo doing at the White House?" Bartlet asked.
"Probably questioning Mandy."
"Mandy? Mandy Hampton?" Sam nodded. "What on Earth for?"
"Because of her memo."
"You guys think she penned this?"
"Some of it is taken directly from the memo," Sam said. Bartlet sighed and closed the book.
"Well, this night just keeps getting better and better."
Leo met Bartlet and the staff at the door. "Well, Leo, thanks for leaving me to the lions back there. I really do appreciate it, old buddy."
"I'm sorry, sir, but I had to figure out if I could gather any information on the author."
"Were you able to?"
"It wasn't Mandy."
"She's too much a major player in the Democratic Party to have written it," Bartlet said.
"And yet she wrote a memo on how to defeat us," reminded Leo.
"It was her job," Bartlet said. "We always seem to forget that little fact."
"And it's important for what reason?" asked Leo. Bartlet sighed.
"Did you watch?" Bartlet asked. "Did you watch as the press, vultures that they are, tried to tear me apart limb from limb?" He looked at Sam and Josh. "I'm almost one hundred percent sure that's illegal, don't you think?"
"I'll look into it, sir," Sam said.
"Good," Bartlet said with a nod. "I want you all on damage control. See how far this is going to go. Call all your sources in the media."
"But don't be pushy," Leo warned.
"Leo, I do believe we need to have a nice conversation in the round room."
"Yes, sir," Leo said. The Senior Staff started for their offices. Mallory remained in the corridor until Sam looked back at her.
"Aren't you coming?"
"I really don't have anything I can do."
"Come wait with me. I'm sure we'll have another meeting on this book in about twenty minutes."
It was an hour before Leo called to talk with Sam, C.J., Toby, and Josh. Mallory tagged along seeing as how Toby and Josh had already left for the evening, trying to touch base with their contacts in person. "Well?" Leo asked as they filed into his office.
"We can't stop the stories. We know basically what's in them so I know what to feed the press tomorrow," C.J. said.
"Good," Leo said with a nod.
"How's the President doing?" asked Sam.
"Well, he's off to call Abby in Poland. We'll see how his mood is in the morning." Sam started to say something but stopped. "What is it, Sam?"
"It may be nothing. I certainly hope it's nothing, but there's a possibility that it could be something and it could be something big and quickly at that."
"I didn't understand any of what you just said," Leo sighed. Mallory squeezed his hand gently.
"There's already talk of a movie version."
"What?" Leo and C.J. asked simultaneously.
"It's a rumor but it's fairly substantial."
"Can you imagine?" asked Leo. "A movie about us?"
"I wonder who would play me." thought C.J. wistfully. Sam looked at her for a moment.
"Really? You think so?" Sam shrugged.
"She's tall. Red hair. I think she's tall. Isn't she tall?" asked Sam.
"You aren't having this conversation, are you?" Leo asked.
"Who do you think would play the President?" Mallory asked curiously.
"John Travolta maybe," C.J. said with a grin.
"Oh, no. Not Travolta," said Sam.
"Then who?" asked Mallory. Sam thought for a moment.
"Oh, yeah, have a guy who's been arrested sixty-some times play the President of the United States. That'd go over *real* well."
"Who do you think, Dad?"
"Harrison Ford," Leo answered without hesitation.
"But he's already played the President before," said Sam.
"See, he's already got experience."
"And who would play you?" asked C.J.
"Me?" asked Leo. She nodded. "Richard Gere."
"You've already got this all thought out!" Mallory exclaimed.
"Do not," Leo said innocently.
"Do, too," she said with a smirk. Then she sighed. "That means Julia Roberts can't play me."
"Mallory, you're only mentioned in passing," Sam reminded gently.
"Doesn't mean Julia Roberts couldn't play me. But with Richard Gere as Dad, well that's just too odd."
"All right, Sam. Who'd play you?" asked C.J. Sam had to think long and hard. A smile slowly appeared on his face but it disappeared. "Who?"
"You'll laugh," he said.
"We won't," Mallory said. "Promise."
"Speak for yourself, Mallory," Leo said. She shot her father a look that clearly told him to agree or go away.
"Who, Sam?" C.J. asked again.
"Rob Lowe." Leo erupted in a belly laugh. Sam instantly looked hurt but was surprised at the dreamy expressions on Mallory and C.J.'s faces. "What?"
"We're just picturing Rob Lowe in your office," C.J. said.
"Know what, I think I'd rather play me," Mallory said, "especially if Rob Lowe is going to play Sam."
"You know," C.J. said, "he used to do a lot with the Democratic Party. He does know about politics. You think we could convince him to give up his acting career to come work for us?"
"You. You'd rather work with Rob Lowe?" Sam asked dejectedly.
"Seeing as I'm the Chief of *Staff*, Sam, you have nothing to worry about. I'd rather lose my daughter to you than a married actor."
"Thanks," said Sam. "I think."
"C.J., go get your answers ready for tomorrow. It's going to be a long day." C.J. nodded as she left. Mallory and Sam slowly walked out as well.
"You'd rather go out with Rob Lowe than me?" She pretended to mull over the question. "Mallory?" he asked worriedly. She waited until they were no longer in view of her father's office before kissing him.
"What does that tell you?" He smiled.
"You want to go out for coffee?"
"Sounds good to me."