Two Cathedrals

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"Two Cathedrals"
The West Wing episode
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 22
Directed by Thomas Schlamme
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Featured music "Brothers in Arms" by Dire Straits
Production code 226222
Original air date May 16, 2001 (2001-05-16)
Guest actors
Season 2 episodes
List of The West Wing episodes

"Two Cathedrals" is the 44th episode, and second season finale of The West Wing.

President Bartlet is beset by memories of Mrs. Landingham as her funeral approaches. Meanwhile, the staff deals with a crisis in Haiti and questions from congressional Democrats regarding the President's health, following his disclosure that he suffers from MS.


Leo is talking to two Democrats who are convinced that the MS cover-up will be impossible to campaign with. When asked whether the President will run for re-election Leo says that there will be a press conference that night, and that they should watch.

Toby is preparing the Mural Room for the President's statement when Sam asks if the President is ready, so soon after Mrs. Landingham's death. Toby tells him that they have no choice and despite her funeral they will be proceeding with the plan. During the episode Toby is offered a 'lifeboat' by way of a job offer, but turns it down in a show of loyalty to the President.

CJ asks Carol to gather reporters from several news agencies in her office. Josh gives her a brief for a press briefing about an ongoing tobacco lawsuit, but she tells him that with the story the President is about to reveal, even news about the situation in Haiti will be ignored by the press.

Throughout the day, the President keeps visiting his early memories of Mrs. Landingham (Kirsten Nelson) when she was a secretary at the school where Bartlet's father was headmaster. She pushes Bartlet (Jason Widener) to talk to his father about why the women were paid less money than the men. Mrs. Landingham clearly sees something in Jed, "a boy king" who was "blessed with inspiration." She comments that if Bartlet won't say anything because he's afraid or can't be bothered, then she doesn't even want to know him. He then puts his hands in his pockets, looks away and smiles, which Mrs. Landingham knows to mean that he's decided to do it and will talk to his father.

Bartlet and his staff attend Mrs. Landingham's funeral at the National Cathedral. Afterward, Bartlet remains alone in the cathedral, cursing God in Latin. He then lights a cigarette, drops it on the cathedral floor, and grinds it into the ground with his foot before angrily declaring that he will not run again ("You get Hoynes!"). Later, in the Oval Office, during a pre-season tropical storm, Bartlet has a vision of Mrs. Landingham, who tells him that if he isn't going to run because he thinks he won't win or because it will be too hard, she doesn't even want to know him. Bartlet and his entourage then travel to the State Department to give a press conference. Scenes of the motorcade driving in the rain are juxtaposed with scenes in the cathedral, where a cleaning janitor finds the extinguished cigarette. For the press conference's first question, Bartlet disregards advice to call upon a handpicked reporter who will not ask about reelection. The chosen reporter immediately asks the President if he will seek re-election. He puts his hands in his pockets, looks away, and smiles.


  • President Bartlet's father was portrayed by West Wing writer-producer Lawrence O'Donnell.
  • The music playing during the ending scenes is "Brothers in Arms" by British band Dire Straits.[1]
  • St. Andrews School in Middletown, Delaware served as young Bartlet's boarding school. It was the shooting location of Dead Poets Society.
  • C.J. instructs the President to select medical correspondent Lawrence Altman of The New York Times for the first question, although he does not. While portrayed by an actor (Alfred Hurwitz), Altman is the name of the Times' medical correspondent and later wrote a story on presidents and vice presidents with health issues.[2]
  • Jane Lynch appears as a reporter in the White House Press Room.

Critical response, awards, and nominations[edit]

  • In his Inside the Actors Studio episode, Martin Sheen was told by host James Lipton that this was "one of the best episodes in the history of American television".
  • Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "The mile-a-minute season 2 finale was the show at its most brilliantly dramatic: President Jed Bartlet confesses that he has (and had concealed) multiple sclerosis, then announces he'll be seeking a second term."[3]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2001 Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directing – Drama Series Thomas Schlamme Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Episodic Drama Aaron Sorkin Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards[4] Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Martin Sheen Nominated
Creative Arts Emmy Award[5] Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Series Bill Johnson Won
2002 Banff Rockie Award Continuing Series Episode Nominated
Humanitas Prize[6] 60-minute Aaron Sorkin Won (tied)


  1. ^ "Brothers in Arms: the sound of The West Wing". BBC Radio 4. BBC Online. September 18, 2012. Retrieved April 2, 2015. 
  2. ^ Altman, Lawrence K. (2001-10-09). "THE DOCTOR'S WORLD - Very Real Questions for Fictional President". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  3. ^ Geier, Thom; Jensen, Jeff; Jordan, Tina; Lyons, Margaret; Markovitz, Adam; Nashawaty, Chris; Pastorek, Whitney; Rice, Lynette; Rottenberg, Josh; Schwartz, Missy; Slezak, Michael; Snierson, Dan; Stack, Tim; Stroup, Kate; Tucker, Ken; Vary, Adam B.; Vozick-Levinson, Simon; Ward, Kate (December 11, 2009), "THE 100 Greatest MOVIES, TV SHOWS, ALBUMS, BOOKS, CHARACTERS, SCENES, EPISODES, SONGS, DRESSES, MUSIC VIDEOS, AND TRENDS THAT ENTERTAINED US OVER THE PAST 10 YEARS". Entertainment Weekly. (1079/1080):74-84
  4. ^ "The West Wing". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 
  5. ^ Ankeney, Jay (October 17, 2001). "Bill Johnson’s Presidential Editing". TV Technology. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 
  6. ^ Brownfield, Paul (June 26, 2002). "'Iris' and 'West Wing' Win Humanitas Prizes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 

External links[edit]