The West Wing (season 7)

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The West Wing
Season 7
The West Wing season 7 DVD.jpg
DVD box cover. Cast from top to bottom and left to right: President Bartlet, Leo, Charlie, Annabeth, Abbey, Josh, Matt, Donna, Will, Kate, Sen. Vinick, Toby and C. J.
Country of originUnited States
No. of episodes22
Original networkNBC
Original releaseSeptember 25, 2005 (2005-09-25) –
May 14, 2006 (2006-05-14)
Season chronology
← Previous
Season 6
List of The West Wing episodes

The seventh and final season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 25, 2005 to May 14, 2006 and consisted of 22 episodes. The series changed time slots from Wednesdays at 8:00 pm to Sundays at 8:00 pm, and the series struggled in its new time slot against ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and CBS's Cold Case.[1][2]

The season was released on DVD as a six-disc boxed set under the title The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season by Warner Home Video being released first in Region 2 on September 11, 2006 and then in Region 1 on November 7, 2006. All episodes from the season are available to purchase and download to registered users of iTunes Stores in certain countries[3][4][5][6] and in the US through Amazon Video on Demand.[7] In Canada, the seventh season was due to be simulcast on CTV;[8] however, CTV dropped the series.[9] In the United Kingdom the season premiered on March 10, 2006 on More4.[10]


The season was produced by John Wells Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.[11] The executive producers were the production company's namesake and founder John Wells, Christopher Misiano, Alex Graves, political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell and Peter Noah;[12][13] Noah was previously a supervising producer in the sixth season,[14] and O'Donnell, who is a former Democratic chief of staff on the Senate Committee on Finance, provided insight into political life.[15] The West Wing was created by Aaron Sorkin. For the seventh season, regular staff writers were Wells, O'Donnell, Noah, Eli Attie, Debora Cahn, Josh Singer and Lauren Schmidt, while cast member Bradley Whitford wrote his second episode of the series. The regular directors were Misiano, Graves, Andrew Bernstein and Lesli Linka Glatter.


The seventh season had star billing for thirteen major roles, with twelve of these filled by returning main cast members from the sixth season. Jimmy Smits is the only actor to appear in all 22 episodes. Sheen (12 episodes), Alda (12 episodes), Janney (17 episodes), Whitford (20 episodes), McCormack (12 episodes), Chenoweth (10 episodes), and Spencer (7 episodes) are credited for all 22 episodes, despite appearing in a diminished capacity. Spencer died of a heart-attack in December 2005.[16] Hill (5 episodes), Channing (4 episodes), Schiff (11 episodes), Malina (13 episodes), and Moloney (13 episodes) are only credited for the episodes in which they appear.

Main cast[edit]

Recurring cast[edit]

Janeane Garofalo initially joined the show for a three-episode arc as Louise Thornton, a media strategist hired by Matt Santos;[11][17] however, she became a regular recurring cast member.[18] Other characters that returned in recurring roles were Ron Silver as Bruno Gianelli, campaign manager for Sen. Vinick.[19][20] Other guest stars returning to recurring roles include Teri Polo as Helen Santos,[21] Patricia Richardson as Sen. Vinick's chief of staff Sheila Brooks,[22] Lily Tomlin as Presidential secretary Debbie Fiderer,[23] Karis Campbell as Santos' secretary Ronna,[24] Allison Smith as Leo's daughter, Mallory,[21] Kathleen York as Andrea Wyatt, Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol, Renée Estevez as Nancy,[25] and Peter James Smith and William Duffy as Ed and Larry and all White House staff. Oliver Platt returned in his recurring role as Oliver Babish,[26] having previously appeared back in 2001.[27] In March 2006, it was announced that a number of former cast members would be reprising the roles of previous characters. These included Rob Lowe as political official Sam Seaborn, Mary-Louise Parker as women's rights advocate Amy Gardner, Anna Deavere Smith as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally, Emily Procter as Republican attorney Ainsley Hayes, Marlee Matlin as pollster Joey Lucas, Gary Cole as Vice President Bob Russell, Tim Matheson as former Vice President John Hoynes, Timothy Busfield as journalist Danny Concannon, and Annabeth Gish as Liz Bartlet Westin, eldest daughter of President Bartlet.[28]


The season was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards in 2006, winning two. The show was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series for the seventh year running. Alan Alda, as Senator Vinick, won in the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Martin Sheen, as President Bartlet, was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series and Allison Janney, as C.J., was nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category.[29] Mimi Leder was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for the episode "Election Day" and Audio mixer Edward J. Greene and EFX mixer Andrew Strauber won the award for Outstanding Multi-camera Sound Mixing for a Series or Special for "The Debate".[29][30] Eli Attie and John Wells received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination in the Episodic Drama category for "Election Day Part II".[31] Attie and Wells were nominated for the $15,000 Humanitas Prize in the 60-minute category for the same episode, which was also the submission that won the show an AFI Award that year.[32] The show won the Hallmark Hall of Fame Heritage Award at the Television Critics Association Awards[33] and Alda received a nomination for Individual Achievement in Drama.[34] Alda was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series,[35] The Guild nominated the whole ensemble for the Outstanding Performance in a Drama Series award.[35] Supervising sound editors Walter Newman and Thomas A. Harris, supervising dialogue editor Catherine Flynn, and dialogue and ADR editors Virginia Cook and Steffan Falesitch were nominated for a Golden Reel Award in the Best Sound Editing in Television: Short Form – Dialogue and Automated Dialogue Replacement with the episode "The Ticket".[36] At the ALMA Awards, a Latino awards ceremony, the show won Best TV Series and Jimmy Smits (as Matt Santos) as Best Actor in a TV Series.[37] At another Latino ceremony, the Imagen Awards, the show won Best Primetime Series[38] with Smits nominated for Best Actor in Television.[39]

PopMatters said the final season "recovered its sense of humor".[40] David Hinckley of the Daily News praised the character of Bruno Gianelli as a "brilliant (...) shark of a campaign manager" and commended the series for never rushing the romantic character arc of Josh and Donna.[20] As the fictional Election Day approached, Aleksandra Stankovic of The Harvard Crimson said that "a more complex, more mature West Wing, but one with no clear narrative resolution in sight" was evolving and that she welcomed the "restoration of narrative tension".[41] Bill Brioux from the Toronto Sun agreed, stating that the seventh series was "enjoying a creative renaissance" and had been "enlivened by the election storyline".[42] Mike Duffy of the Detroit Free Press said that The West Wing had "rediscovered the vivid political zing in its farewell season";[43] however, Jeffrey Robinson from DVD Talk commented that the shift away from daily issues and operations in the White House meant "season seven did not feel like The West Wing".[44]

One episode, "The Debate", was aired as live television. Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that "real-life issues were brought to a prime-time national audience," but the first half was "boring back-and-forth [with] not much revealed about the characters" and had it not been live it could have been "stronger, better produced and with a less dull first half."[45] Janet Daley of The Daily Telegraph called the episode "riveting, and astonishingly brave" with "dazzling exposition of the central political argument of our time: whether free markets deliver better life chances, and a more virtuous society, than economies controlled by government."[46]

Despite slipping ratings and a fear the show would be axed, NBC announced in March 2005 that The West Wing would be returning for a seventh season.[47] The change from Wednesdays to Sundays cost the show approximately 30 percent of its audience;[42] the first two episodes of the season garnered the series' lowest ever ratings and Deseret News said the move of time slot sealed the show's fate.[48][49] In January 2006, it was announced that the seventh would be the final season. Kevin Reilly, entertainment president for NBC, said that after poor viewing figures for the "last couple of seasons [they reached] a point where you look at the ratings and you just say, 'it's time.'"[50]


The seventh and final season mainly follows Santos and Vinick on the campaign trail, while also addressing the aftermath of the shuttle leak investigation. The Bartlet administration's last year in office is featured, but not prominently. Toby admits to leaking the story about a military spacecraft and President Bartlet is forced to fire him. Later, he refuses to name his recently deceased brother as the source of the classified information, despite being urged to by his ex-wife, his lawyer and a federal prosecutor, as he feels it would be wrong to dishonor his memory. Also, C.J.'s tenure as Chief of Staff becomes more stressful as she deals with the war between Russia and China over Kazakhstan. The presidential race tightens up when Vinick's lead is dampened by an accident at a nuclear plant he had championed. Leo suffers a heart attack and dies on the night of the election — reflecting the death of portrayer John Spencer — which Santos eventually wins. The last few episodes show the final days of the Bartlet administration and Santos' transition; in the series finale, Santos is sworn in as President.


No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
US viewers
1331"The Ticket"Christopher MisianoDebora CahnSeptember 25, 2005 (2005-09-25)2T62018.90[51]
The season opener starts with a scene from three years in the future; a reunion of main characters at the opening of Bartlet's Presidential library and Josh introducing the President, whose identity is not revealed. C.J. and Danny are together and have had a baby, Will Bailey is a Congressman, and Kate Harper has written a book; Toby Ziegler is also present and received warmly by President Bartlet. Leo McGarry is not present at the reunion (coincidentally actor John Spencer died three months after the airing of this episode). The show then returns to the main timeline with the Santos/McGarry campaign getting off to a rough start with tensions between Santos and Leo and between the campaign and the White House, despite poll numbers which show the campaign doing better than expected. C.J. is questioned by the White House counsel as to her involvement with the leak about a secret military space shuttle.
1342"The Mommy Problem"Alex GravesEli AttieOctober 2, 2005 (2005-10-02)2T62027.66[52]
The Santos campaign takes a media hit on security issues because of the Bartlet administration's handling of the leak investigation. A White House reporter, Greg Brock, is sent to jail for failing to disclose his sources, and Josh clashes with both the White House and with a new communications director (Janeane Garofalo). The campaign debates whether Santos should respond to a summons to a weekend of military reserve training.
1353"Message of the Week"Christopher MisianoLawrence O'Donnell, Jr.October 9, 2005 (2005-10-09)2T62037.95[53]
The episode follows the ups and downs of the Vinick campaign as Santos gains momentum on national security, then loses momentum as Vinick presses him on immigration issues, although this prompts the resignation of a top Vinick aide. The religious right tries to corner Vinick into promising to appoint pro-life judges. Vinick's deception to appease them backfires before Governor Sullivan saves the day.
1364"Mr. Frost"Andrew BernsteinAlex GravesOctober 16, 2005 (2005-10-16)2T62048.15[54]
The Santos campaign's "education week" is derailed by a controversy over teaching intelligent design, however, the Santos campaign turns the issue around, playing off Vinick's vulnerability as a pro-choice Republican on religious issues. In the White House, subpoenas are being handed down. Palestinian Chairman Farad is murdered by a suicide bomber. As Bartlet is determined to attend the funeral despite security concerns, C.J. is hounded by a lone intelligence agent who believes Farad's death was part of a larger conspiracy. She then finds out another foreign leader has also been assassinated. In the closing moments of the episode, Toby reveals to C.J. that he was responsible for the security leak.
1375"Here Today"Alex GravesPeter NoahOctober 23, 2005 (2005-10-23)2T62057.85[55]
C.J. deals with the immediate repercussions of Toby's confession, including co-opting Will Bailey into his job, and White House Counsel Oliver Babish questions Toby until his lawyer intervenes. Josh struggles with the necessity to "clean house" on the Santos campaign, firing dozens of inexperienced staffers, including one man who has been close to Santos during his entire career. Kate Harper tangles with both the National Security Council and intelligence agent Frost as tensions rise between Russia and China. Ellie Bartlet reveals that she is engaged and lets her parents know she should get married very soon because otherwise she'll be a visibly pregnant bride. The president fires Toby and addresses the nation as Toby is led from the White House.
1386"The Al Smith Dinner"Lesli Linka GlatterEli AttieOctober 30, 2005 (2005-10-30)2T62068.51[56]
An ad by a 527 group attacking Santos for his pro-choice stand has both campaigns up in arms, trying to avoid the campaign going negative or diving into the abortion issue — a touchy subject for both candidates: Vinick because his pro-choice position risks alienating pro-life conservatives, Santos because his risks alienating pro-choice liberals, including a major pro-choice interest group who are considering endorsing Vinick. Back at the White House, Will struggles with dealing with the press as the new Communications Director, settling into Toby's old office. Josh struggles with Lou Thornton's decision to bring Donna into the campaign as a spokesperson. In the final moments, as both candidates wait backstage at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, Santos and Vinick agree to an unexpected deal: a live debate the following Sunday.
1397"The Debate"Alex GravesLawrence O'Donnell, Jr.November 6, 2005 (2005-11-06)2T62079.58[57]
Candidates Matthew Santos and Arnold Vinick debate live in a forum moderated by Forrest Sawyer. During Vinick's opening statement, he proposes dropping the negotiated rules and having a freer debate format. During the hour-long debate (originally broadcast live in two tapings for East and West Coast audiences), the two candidates cover topics ranging from immigration to job creation to health care to African debt relief.
1408"Undecideds"Christopher MisianoDebora CahnDecember 4, 2005 (2005-12-04)2T62087.26[58]
Santos must face the challenge of visiting a black family in Los Angeles whose child was shot by a Latino police officer. Josh finally visits Toby and goes from being angry at Toby's accurate bluntness to somber as he realizes Toby's view that Santos isn't cut out to be President has some merit. C.J. must manage a crisis between China and Kazakhstan. And Will must go through Ellie's wedding guest list in a painful, protracted negotiation.
1419"The Wedding"Max MayerJosh SingerDecember 11, 2005 (2005-12-11)2T62098.13[59]
Wedding plans for the Bartlets' daughter move forward as Josh tries to pay for a windfall in the polls with a dwindling campaign war chest. Meanwhile, the President must balance his daughter's most important day with a potential war between two nuclear powers. Democratic Party leaders want Leo to be campaign manager rather than Josh, but Josh has the trust of Leo and that carries through to Santos.
14210"Running Mates"Paul McCranePeter NoahJanuary 8, 2006 (2006-01-08)2T621011.74[60]
At the beginning of the episode, Martin Sheen directly addresses the viewers out of character to pay tribute to co-star John Spencer, who played Leo and had died three weeks prior to this episode's broadcast. In the episode, Leo does poorly in Vice Presidential debate practice, making Lou and Josh nervous, and the media catches wind. Will and Kate set up a date, which turns out to be watching the VP debate in Will's office. Santos takes time off from the campaign trail to visit his family, finding himself out-of-sync with domestic issues amid a flurry of invasive media coverage. Josh calls Toby, who is currently between arraignments, about the VP debate. In the end, Leo performs unexpectedly well, and reveals he leaked stories of his poor practice sessions to lower expectations.
14311"Internal Displacement"Andrew BernsteinBradley WhitfordJanuary 15, 2006 (2006-01-15)2T62116.36[61]

C.J. realizes that she barely has any time left in office and decides to try to solve the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, along with the crisis between Russia and China over Kazakhstan. Adding more to her stress level, the President's son-in-law, Doug Westin, is rumored to be having an affair with his kids' nanny; a Federal award of a major science project affects a U.S. Senate race in Kentucky; Danny makes his first appearance (outside of the season opener flash forward) since the fifth season to go on a date with C.J.; and Kate informs C.J. that a nuclear power plant in California is in serious trouble.

Note: The episode title refers to the forced movement of people within their own country's borders.
14412"Duck and Cover"Christopher MisianoEli AttieJanuary 22, 2006 (2006-01-22)2T62127.71[62]

Elections are underway in Kazakhstan, but Russia and China teetering on the brink of an oil war in Central Asia is the least of Bartlet and C.J.'s concerns as they face a nuclear reactor in California on the verge of a meltdown. While agonizing over whether to evacuate nearby citizens and release radioactive steam into the atmosphere, the Santos and Vinick campaigns stare each other down, trying to avoid being the first to turn the crisis into a political issue – all the more complex as, decades ago, Vinick lobbied for the plant's construction, while Santos has spoken about the dangers of nuclear power. When the news comes out, the election becomes, in Josh's words, "too close to call."

Note: The episode title refers to a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion.
14513"The Cold"Alex GravesStory by : Debora Cahn & Lauren Schmidt
Teleplay by : Debora Cahn
March 12, 2006 (2006-03-12)2T62137.02[63]
When new polling puts Santos and Vinick neck-and-neck nationwide, the Santos campaign staff are elated – Josh and Donna so much so that they end up sharing a kiss, which forces them to confront their feelings for each other. Vinick, on the other hand, has a cold, and is feeling pressure from the RNC to make a rightward turn in his campaign and play to the Republican base. This makes Bruno nervous and afraid he's going to be fired. President Bartlet summons both candidates to the White House so he can advise them that he's ordering tens of thousands of U.S. troops into Kazakhstan. Before he meets with either Presidential candidate, he meets with Leo McGarry, whom he has also called to the White House. Bartlet's meeting with Leo is more personal as he shares his concerns about the consequences of his decisions, with Leo back in his old role as the President's closest confidant. This would be John Spencer's last appearance.
14614"Two Weeks Out"Laura InnesLawrence O'Donnell, Jr.March 19, 2006 (2006-03-19)2T62148.07[64]
With the election two weeks out and both candidates polling even in California, both the Santos and Vinick campaigns scramble to the state to try to gain free media from public events. Toby advises Josh that California is the big issue and that Santos should head there immediately. Santos' press coverage in California is trumped by Vinick holding a til-they-drop press conference outside the nuclear plant. Vinick, whose hand is broken by constant handshakes, has a stroke of luck when Bruno discovers Santos' briefcase in a holding room. Vinick and Bruno must make a difficult decision: do they use its contents against Santos, or take the high road and return it? The briefcase contains evidence that suggests that the Congressman may be supporting an illegitimate child. Vinick asks to meet with Santos, whereupon the Congressman denies the allegation, saying that he is making up for the mistakes of his brother and leaves angrily while Vinick looks ashamed.
14715"Welcome to Wherever You Are"Matia KarrellJosh SingerMarch 26, 2006 (2006-03-26)2T62157.90[65]
It's 5 days before the election – Halloween – and the Santos campaign's stress levels rise as they kick off a whirlwind tour of battleground states, with Jon Bon Jovi along for the ride. Among the crises of the day: Helen Santos makes provocative statements about felons voting, Donna can't work out a sketch for The Tonight Show, Santos is irked that his security briefings are cut short, and Josh is receiving campaign tips from Toby – who is himself facing a federal prosecutor who threatens new indictments which could derail the Santos campaign. Toby gets a brief respite from visits to the prosecutor's office to see his kids (Molly and Huck) and his ex-wife, Andie, who urges Toby to blame his late brother for the sake of their children.
14816"Election Day Part I"Mimi LederLauren SchmidtApril 2, 2006 (2006-04-02)2T62167.27[66]
The episode opens late at night on the day before election day. Josh finally relaxes long enough to see various campaign staff hooking up, and he and Donna sleep together – twice. Election day brings stress in both campaigns: Josh is convinced he is finding problems in exit poll data, while the Vinick campaign worries the data shows them losing in key places. West Virginia is unexpectedly called for Vinick and the traditionally Republican South Carolina is called for Santos. The episode closes with Annabeth finding Leo in his room, her screaming for help, and Secret Service agents closing in calling over their radio, "He's down, he's down!"
14917"Election Day Part II"Christopher MisianoEli Attie & John WellsApril 9, 2006 (2006-04-09)2T62178.39[67]
Everyone involved with the election is stunned when Leo McGarry has died of a massive heart attack. During an exhausting and adrenaline-filled night, the electoral votes come in as the Santos and Vinick campaigns wait anxiously. C.J. breaks the news of Leo's death to President Bartlet, and the news hits the airwaves less than an hour before polls close on the West Coast. After Santos and Vinick win their home states of Texas and California respectively, the two campaigns agonize over whether to mount legal challenges before final results are announced in Nevada and Oregon. In the end, both states break for Santos, who gives his election night speech as the President-elect.
15018"Requiem"Steve ShillEli Attie, Debora Cahn & John WellsApril 16, 2006 (2006-04-16)2T62188.29[68]
Leo's funeral brings back fond memories and old friends, including Amy Gardner, who urges Josh to consider appointing a Congresswoman from Florida Vice President; Ainsley Hayes, who approaches C.J. about a job in the Santos administration; Danny Concannon, who tries to rekindle his relationship with C.J.; and Bob Russell, who fruitlessly offers himself as a vice presidential prospect. Meanwhile, Santos and Josh clash over Barry Goodwin's place in the transition, Santos isn't happy when he's pushed to become a kingmaker in the race for House Speaker, and Bartlet and the staff reminisce about Leo in the Residence.
15119"Transition"Nelson McCormickPeter NoahApril 23, 2006 (2006-04-23)2T62198.42[69]
Josh's astoundingly hectic schedule begins to catch up to him, and friends and co-workers worry that if he doesn't take some time off very soon, he won't be able to function as chief of staff in the long run. Meanwhile, Josh has his hands full, acting as liaison between the President-Elect and the White House, and trying to staff the West Wing for the new administration. Top of his list is former Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe), who is reluctant to leave his happy life working in the private sector. Sam steps in when Josh is about to make a talented young staffer into his scapegoat and outlines a deal: he'll become Josh's Deputy Chief of staff only if Josh goes on a week's vacation and comes back at his best. In the end, Josh flies off with Donna who had previously given Josh an ultimatum to define their relationship. Meanwhile, Santos enrages C.J. by undermining Bartlet's military agenda with a phone call to the President of China.
15220"The Last Hurrah"Tim MathesonLawrence O'Donnell, Jr.April 30, 2006 (2006-04-30)2T62208.34[70]
The transition is speeding ahead, and Matt and Helen Santos are overwhelmed by almost everything about their new lives – including Secret Service protection, choosing a DC school for their kids, and dealing with the White House household staff. Vinick slips back into anonymity with too much time on his hands, and his staffers come to realize he's plotting another run for the presidency. Santos is trying to figure out how to get his vice-presidential choice confirmed, and makes a surprising offer to Vinick: be the new administration's Secretary of State.
15321"Institutional Memory"Lesli Linka GlatterDebora CahnMay 7, 2006 (2006-05-07)2T62217.94[71]
The episode is set two weeks before the inauguration and the Bartlet administration staff is preparing to leave the White House. Most are seeking jobs in the Santos administration or the lucrative private sector. C.J. is offered two jobs she is interested in - one to manage a billionaire's philanthropic foundation and one as a high-ranking counselor in the Santos administration. C.J.'s relationship with Danny is suffering because he feels she is not taking it seriously. C.J. also visits Toby for the first time since his dismissal and considers whether she should urge President Bartlet to pardon him before leaving office. Will Bailey is offered a job with the DCCC to help get Democrats elected but finds himself becoming interested in one apparently unwinnable Congressional seat in Oregon.
15422"Tomorrow"Christopher MisianoJohn WellsMay 14, 2006 (2006-05-14)2T622210.11[72]
President Santos is inaugurated and President Bartlet leaves office. It is revealed that Santos plans to try to make Governor Eric Baker the vice-president through the Twenty-fifth Amendment and Bartlet pardons Toby in the last hours of his presidency.

DVD release[edit]

DVDs for season seven were released first in the UK on September 11, 2006 and then in the US on November 7, 2006. As well as every episode from the season, the DVD release features bonus material, including two featurettes on "The Debate". Two episodes of "The Debate" were produced, one for the East Coast and another for the West Coast.[73] The West Coast version of "The Debate" is the one used on the DVD.[74]

The West Wing: The Complete Seventh Season
Set details[74] Special features[75]
  • Featurettes:
    • Live from the Director's Chair
    • Countdown to West Wing Live
Release dates[74][76][77]
 United States  Canada  United Kingdom  Australia
November 7, 2006 September 11, 2006 August 8, 2007


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General references