Sunday, May 14, 2006

EXIT THE PRESIDENT. (JOSIAH BARTLET’s study. He is sitting at a polished oak desk, surrounded by Presidential mementoes and bric-a-brac. He wears a royal blue bathrobe over a stained white t-shirt, and looks annoyed.)

BARTLET: (Shouting) Abby! For crying out loud, where are you?

(ABBY BARTLET runs breathlessly in.)

ABBY: I’m here, Jed! I’m here! What is it?

BARTLET: (holds up the New York Times) Abby, have you seen this intelligence? Russian troops massing at the Ukrainean border, and Secretary of State Vinick’s cocker spaniel kidnapped! And I can’t get through to the Joint Chiefs!

( JOSH holds up the receiver of a red PlaySkool phone)

ABBY: Oh thank God! I thought you were having an attack!

BARTLET: Attack? They’ve attacked? (hurls away the newspaper) I need fresh intelligence! (shouts into the PlaySkool phone) Hello? Hello? This is your President speaking, dammit! (slams receiver down) They’re trying to cut me out of the loop, Abby. Where’s Charlie?

ABBY: Jed, President Santos is taking care of everything.

BARTLET: Santos! Get him on the line!

ABBY: Why don’t you come down to breakfast, Jed? There’s cranberry pancakes.

BARTLET: Cranberry? No! Massachusetts is a lock; what we need is the Deep South. Get me biscuits and gravy! (Runs to the window, shouts) How all y’all doin’? (flashes thumbs up) Bartlet for America!

ABBY: Jed. Jed. Look at me. (takes out penlight, shines it in his eyes) Try to breathe. Listen to me, Jeb. You are no longer President of the United States.

BARTLET: I rescinded that order. Now that our little girl’s back, I think I can do the people’s business.

ABBY: Alright, Jed, if you won’t come down, you have some visitors and I’m going to bring them up.

BARTLET: What is this? A walk-through? Foreign dignitaries? That’s not on the schedule -- (consults an old copy of Entertainment Weekly) Aha! There it is! Crisis in the Ukraine! Right after "Scrubs."

ABBY: It’s your senior staff, Jed. Very important meeting.

BARTLET: Fine, get ‘em in here. We’ll sort this thing out.

(Several cast members of The West Wing shuffle into the room.)

BARTLET: (standing, majestically flipping off his half-glasses) Alright, what have you got for me?

TOBY: Mr. President… (holds up two fingers; thoughtful pause) How… (thoughtful pause) many fingers… (thoughtful pause) am I holding… (thoughtful pause, quizzical turn of head) up?

BARTLET: I’m not sure I take your meaning, Toby. Speak frankly.

JOSH: (stepping forward) Sir, the thing is… you… are not the Commander in Chief. You never were Commander in Chief. You’re Martin Sheen, an actor…

C.J.: A very fine actor.

JOSH ... and you played the President for seven wonderful years, but they’re over and it’s time to… give it up.

BARTLET: (gives a blank look; then chuckles, puts hands on hips) So that’s how it is, huh? I see. Well, you won’t catch me pulling a Nixon. I’ll go with dignity.

JOSH: It might help if you put on some pants, sir.

BARTLET: (wags finger at JOSH) That’s good. Pants. Send someone in here to pack up my things.

(HE rummages through some papers; the others look around, then silently file out, leaving ABBY with BARTLET. She goes to him.)

ABBY: Maybe you should do some theatre, Marty. When you think about it, TV’s not very fulfilling.

BARTLET: Ah, but it was, Abby.

ABBY: Stockard.

BARTLET: (smiles) Doctor Bartlet. (Puts his arm around her.) It’s a heady thing, running the country, even on TV. Hell, maybe it’s not so different from running the country for real. Who could blame me if I had a hard time letting go? (Kisses her forehead, walks to the corner, drops his robe, pulls on some Levi’s, tucks in his t-shirt; ABBY sits against the edge of the desk) I remember when I was kid, watching Jimmy Dean, thinking, "That’s what I want to do." Forty years later, I’m President of the United States. But what I really wanted was to be James Dean. (runs his fingers through his hair) Is that strange?

ABBY: No. It’s just a different kind of… power.

BARTLET: (sits by her; in a lower, less articulate voice) Yeah. It’s about being misunderstood. Down in the polls. No one on your side. That's when you got to be the decider. (points to the Times on the carpet) Lookee, there’s a piece of paper on the sidewalk. Probably blame that on me, too.

ABBY: (Uncertainly) Yeah.

BARTLET: Listen, now that this is over, I’m gonna sit down and buy you a big, thick steak.

ABBY: I don’t want a steak.

BARTLET: We’ll see about that.

ABBY: (v.o.) Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with his bean.

(Music: "Trois morceaux en forme de poire," Satie)

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