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The Birnam Wood

Original Airdate 10-27-04

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As bombs fall on terrorist training camps in Syria, the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships gather at Camp David for negotiations on the ending of their impasse. It'll be a six-day war (of wills, anyhow.)
From NBC:
Bartlet (Martin Sheen) has convinced Israel and Palestine to visit Camp David for a round of peace negotiations. Leo (John Spencer) stays back in order to give the official okay to strike the Ein Hawa terrorist training camp in Syria.
From Warner Bros.:
Bartlet arranges for representatives from Israel and Palestine to visit Camp David in Maryland for peace negotiations. Leo remains at the White House in order to give the official order to attack the Ein Hawa terrorist training camp in Syria.


Stockard Channing as Abbey (Abigail Ann) Bartlet M.D. First Lady
Dulé Hill as Charlie (Charles) Young Personal Aide to the President
Allison Janney as C.J. (Claudia Jean) Cregg Press Secretary
Joshua Malina as Will (William) Bailey Vice President's Chief of Staff
Mary McCormack as Kate (Katherine) Harper Deputy National Security Advisor
Richard Schiff as Toby (Tobias Zachary) Ziegler Communications Director
John Spencer as Leo Thomas McGarry Chief of Staff
Bradley Whitford as Josh (Joshua) Lyman Deputy Chief of Staff
Martin Sheen as
Jed (Josiah Edward) Bartlet President of the United States
Special Guest Stars    
Armin Mueller-Stahl as Eli Zahavy Israeli Prime Minister
Makram J. Khoury as Chairman Nizar Farad  
Lily Tomlin as
Debbie (Deborah) Fiderer President's Secretary
Guest Starring    
Terry O'Quinn as General Nicholas Alexander Chairman of the Joint Cheifs
Steven Culp as Jeff Haffley Speaker of the House
NiCole Robinson as Margaret Hooper (last name) /
Assistant to Chief of Staff
Natalija Nogulich as Shira Galit Israeli Ambassador
Marcelo Tubert as Saeb Mukarat Palestinian Prime Minister
Eli Danker as Doran Mazar Israeli Defense Minister
Melissa Fitzgerald as Carol Fitzpatrick (last name)
Assistant to the Press Secretary
Kris Murphy as Katie Witt (last name) / Reporter
Ann Ducati as Maya Zahavy Israeli Prime Minister's Wife
Cameron Steele as Garner  
Wadi Sadellah as Prayer Leader  

Information Links



Emmy Awards

Submitted for consideration after Outstanding Drama Series Nomination

Media Quotes

I heard Mark Goffman (WW writer) speak this afternoon at Harvard; he said that he went on his summer break two days ago, and that they had written the first two episodes of Season 6 before vacation; the writing staff will re-congregate on a retreat in June.

Posted at Forum
by EustBev
April 24, 2004
Notes from seminar at Harvard with Mark Goffman

Little Hunting Creek served as the backdrop for an on-location shoot for NBC's "The West Wing."

Baltimore fly fishing expert Theaux LeGardeur, who helped script fishing scenes, kept busy between takes Monday by tossing cicadas into the stream. Each was devoured instantly by the trout in the well-stocked section of the stream.

As LeGardeur prepared to teach actress Lily Tomlin the basics of fly fishing, he wore a few home-tied flies on his chest that resembled cicadas.

"I think we'll catch one today," LeGardeur told The Frederick News-Post. "Ladies are lucky at fishing."

Tomlin, who plays the president's secretary on the series, said she was enjoying the surroundings.

"I'm going to buy this place," joked Tomlin, referring to the remote lodge near the Camp David presidential retreat in Western Maryland. "Right now I'm haggling over the price."

Martin Sheen, who plays President Josiah Bartlet on the series, didn't fish, saying he didn't want to disturb the fish in their natural environment.

"I don't fish," said Sheen. "I think fish belong where they belong."

"Frederick's Little Hunting Creek Featured on 'West Wing'"
by Unknown
May 19, 2004
Associated Press

The producers decided to film in Frederick County because they could not find a similar location in California that matched the actual Camp David area.

"The West Wing" cast and crew has been filming for the past week in the areas surrounding the Hunting Creek Lodge, the ThorpeWood Nature Preserve and Maple Run Golf course.


Richard Schiff, who plays Toby Ziegler, the White House Communications Director, told The Emmitsburg Dispatch that the scenes filmed for "The West Wing" in the Thurmont area will simulate peace negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders at Camp David hosted by President Bartlett (played by actor Martin Sheen).

Two special actors, an Israeli (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and a Palestinian (Makram Khoury), appear in this episode. Schiff said he was impressed with their acting abilities and noted that these actors are famous in their own countries.

Schiff was most impressed though with their off-screen friendship. "Both actors are working for peace (outside of the TV world) and are truly good friends," he said.


Many of the actors and crew enjoyed playing golf between shoots. Sheen confirmed that he'd already played 20 holes (by 1 p.m.). Schiff had only played about nine.

""The West Wing" films on location in Thurmont"
by Michele Cuseo
May 19, 2004
Emmitsburg Dispatch

The show then will move in a slightly new direction. A heart attack will strike the president's chief of staff, Leo McGarry (John Spencer). The president will ask McGarry to become a trusted adviser and press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney) to become his new chief of staff.

"New flight for 'West Wing'"
by Mike McDaniel
October 14, 2004
Houston Chronicle

"In Episode 2, Leo McGarry suffers a major heart attack and is unable to continue as the chief of staff," Wells reveals.

"Martin Sheen's West Wing Dilemma"
by Daniel R. Coleridge
October 14, 2004
TV Guide Online

Now, Bartlet's trying to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - an issue Wells believes is of vital importance.

"We spend quite a bit of time on that in the first couple of episodes," he says. "What we felt was that most of what we hear and see about the Middle East is presented to us in kind of bumper-sticker issues. What our audience hadn't seen was actually a more complicated and thoughtful discussion of the real issues that are on the table."


"Leo McGarry [John Spencer], at the end of Episode 2, suffers a major heart attack and is unable to continue as chief of staff," Wells says...

"We've been a little unrealistic on the show. The average White House staffer stays about 18 months. Burnout is so high," Wells says.

" In 'West Wing' time, it's more"
by Virginia Rohan
October 20, 2004
Bergen Record

Spencer will remain on the show even though Leo McGarry is going through tough times physically. He collapsed on the grounds at Camp David and nobody noticed (an unrealistic scenario, by the way).

"Roles shift on 'West Wing'"
by Dusty Saunders
November 9, 2004
Rocky Mountain News

He [Joshua Malina] also hinted at some major fighting that occurred in the writing Sessions while the staff tried to grind out the first few episodes of the show. Apparently, the writers disagreed over how to handle the issues of middle-east violence and the peacemaking process. Malina, in tone with the theme of the evening, said he was at least happy that Israel was getting the spotlight in the show, which he called a brave move.

Though it seems that in the weeks to come at Camp David (and it seems that it will be a few weeks), the peace-talks might not go as smoothly as hoped. "Obviously, mid-east peace: not gonna be solved on any one-hour TV drama."

"Josh Malina Talks Post-Sorkin WEST WING!!"
by "Leo"
October 26, 2004
Ain't It Cool News

Leo lives, and will continue to serve "an advisory role" for the staff, says an NBC rep. Spencer will remain with the show for all 22 episodes, his publicist says.

"Allison Janney's at center of a shakeup on 'West Wing'"
by Gail Shister
November 2, 2004
Philadelphia Inquirer

Despite his character's heart attack last week, Spencer - and Leo - are not going anywhere. At least that's what the actor told TV Guide's Mary Murphy last week. "I am not leaving," he said. "My phone has been ringing off the hook all week. People are asking me, 'Is Leo going to die? Are you leaving the show?' I have even gotten a few job offers." Spencer added that Leo will be around for the entire season

Ask Ausiello
by Michael Ausiello
November 10, 2004
TV Guide Online

But the reality is, Spencer's "frail" appearance is the result of a new diet, not some mysterious illness. Turns out, Leo's health scare served as a profound wake-up call for the actor. "Leo worked himself into a heart attack by not taking care of himself," Spencer told my colleague, Mary Murphy. "Unlike Leo, I do not want to burn out completely. I do not want to have a heart attack in the woods. Since [I shot that episode] I have taken much better care of myself. I went on a nutritional diet, I hired a cook to make health meals, and I did the thing I have been trying to do for years - I stopped smoking."

Ask Ausiello
by Michael Ausiello
November 17, 2004
TV Guide Online

In his heart attack scene, he actually looked ill. Is his health OK?

Spencer, 58, is healthy now but wasn't when those scenes were shot. "I had lost [20 pounds]," he says. "I was living on caffeine and nicotine, working 16 to 17 hours a day. It's very easy to neglect yourself, and that's what you were seeing."

February 20, 2005
USA Weekend

The sixth season, which has yet to be shown in Israel, begins with Middle East peace talks. What can you tell us about these upcoming episodes?

You guys will probably find it funny or silly or shake your heads. It is ultimately just a TV show, and maybe it's more fantasy than reality, but I give John Wells credit for it. He didn't think he would solve the problems in this region by writing two episodes that dealt with it, but it's good for America to have two hours of prime-time TV that deal with these issues in a substantive and balanced way.

Were there any debates about the political nature of these episodes?

John [Wells] told me there had never been bigger fights in the writers' room than when they were writing these episodes - they've all got their political opinions, and they really go in deep and discuss the issues.


Flash forward, I was talking to Wells about something else and told him I was going to speak to the Jewish federation, and we talked a bit about Israel. It was when he was writing the episodes about the Middle East, and next thing I know - I read the script, and it's like, "Will Bailey - a Zionist is born." John is more to the right than I am, but he's very pro-Israel.

Have there been any instances when you felt Josh Malina's real-life opinions were in conflict with those of Will Bailey?

We argue about issues sometimes on the set. I don't want to be too specific, but I've got into discussions about Israel.

If you were writing the script for next season, what would you like to see taking place in Israel? I don't want to be one of those loud Americans who think they always have the solution. But I'd like to see peace, a two-state solution, and I pray that the disengagement in Gaza is successful and is able to be carried out in a way that isn't disastrous for the country. - Joshua Malina

"'West Wing' actor looks east"
by Talya Halkin
June 27, 2005
Jerusalem Post

Season six basically happened because everybody was getting bored. All of a sudden John Wells was like, "hey! What if Leo had a heart attack and CJ was Chief of Staff! What if this! What if that!" Everybody got energized again, but then "the big complication became 'y'know, we're going to have create a republican...'"

Posted by cyren_2132 @
November 11, 2005
Notes from Alex Graves talk at the University of Kansas

Spencer died of a heart attack while battling pneumonia, but it was eerily reminiscent of a "West Wing" plot that saw Leo suffer a heart attack while in the woods at Camp David.

"John did not have heart troubles," Wells said. "He had some health problems 16 months earlier that were not connected to this. Giving Leo the heart attack was tied in part to the fact he was going to have to be away for 41/2 months recuperating from surgery. He and I talked and we said, 'Let's give him a heart attack.' We were sort of glib about it, and ironically he died of a heart attack."

"On a sad note, 'West Wing' will end its seven-year flight"
by Rob Owen
January 23, 2006
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The cantankerous politician with a soft side and a sense of humor survived a heart attack last season, an illness Wells said he would have never written for the character had they known Spencer would be prone to it.

"'The West Wing' to end in May"
by Maria Elena Fernandez
January 23, 2006
Los Angeles Times

Biggest challenge : Casting 20 Israeli and 20 Palestinian extras for a week of shooting in Thurmont, Md. "These are working professional men who have to look the part and can take off that amount of time," said local casting director Betsy Royall .

"The Reliable Source"
by Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
March 5, 2006
Washington Post

For more information about this episode:
Continuity Guide to "The West Wing"
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