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» » The West Wing: Im Zentrum der Macht Five Votes Down (1999–2006)

Short summary

When an admittedly weak gun-control bill the White House has been backing turns out to be five votes short of House passage, Josh makes deals and threats to several Democratic reps, while Leo appeals to Hoynes for help. Elsewhere, while working the bill, Leo misses his anniversary, which he tries in vain to atone for, but eventually his wife Jenny decides to leave him.

The long Steadicam shot in the episode teaser took thirteen takes and five hours of filming to accomplish.

While President is high on his back pills, he tells his aide Charlie that "Charlie's a great name." Martin Sheen, who plays President Bartlet, named his youngest son "Carlos" but nicknamed him "Charlie".

Toby says he drives a 1993 Dodge Dart. Dodge didn't make Darts in 1993, but Dodge Darts were a running punchline on the NPR radio show "Car Talk" at the time.

Martin Sheen almost kills the "walk and talk" at the beginning of the show? As the ensemble nears the exit of the building, Sheen delivers his line about Toby (Richard Schiff) being a 'pain the ass'. If you listen carefully there is a groaning sound - Charlie (Dulé Hill) jumps in with "Mr President" and Sheen replies "Oh yes, Charlie, by the way - did the first lady call?" Sheen had forgotten his line and Hill jumped in to try and save the scene.

"Previously on the West Wing" spoken by Leo (John Spencer).

In the pre-credits sequence there is one continuous steadycam shot which begins when the president leaves the ball room and ends when he reaches the motorcade outside. To get there the ensemble have to travel down flights of stairs, along corridors and keep the dialogue going with pin-point precision! Says Rob Lowe: "You'll have to ask Thomas Schlamme how many takes it was. It was either in the twenties or the thirties. The steadycam operator literally fell over from exhaustion when it was done. It's amazing that we did that in a weekly television show. In a movie, that would be a staggering achievement."

President Bartlet (Martin Sheen)'s back problems and medication is similar to the real back problems of President John F. Kennedy.

This episode takes obvious liberties with real life firearms, probably to avoid legal problems. The real life Ruger mini-14 is referred to as a "Rutger 14" and the real life Tec-9 is referred to as a "Tech-9".

Cal Tillinghouse (Michael McGuire) - the Democrat from Texas who opposes the gun reform bill in this episode - shares the same last name with the secretary of Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen)'s father, who preceded Mrs Landingham (revealed in season 2, ep 22).

Leo (John Spencer)'s home in the Pilot episode had a lawn and appeared suburban. Here, it's in a street that looks urban.

Several weapons are referenced in this episode. The "Rutger Mini-14" is mentioned several times, actually refering to the Ruger Mini-14, a gun that is indeed similar to the AR-15. When talking to Chris Wick Josh claims the "Mac-90, PCR, and NFR" are "both" copy cats of the AR-15 assault rifle except the grip is changed. This would be accurate if talking about the ARES SCR, however the Mak-90 would be more accurately described as a civilian version of the AK-47, the only PCR rifle that exists is bolt action and thus not similar to the AR-15, and the NFR is not a gun. In addition the Tec-9 is spelled in the captions as the "Tech-9" several times. There is also no such thing as the "Pat Maxi" grenade launcher. Congressman Richardson references the TEC DC-9, which is another name for the TEC-9 Josh says is getting banned, and both the Striker-12 and Street Sweeper, the latter of which is a complete copy of the former. Following this he says the "40 gauge barrel" which is unlikely to be addressed in a gun control bill since gauges are only ever used in reference to shotguns. He also references the "30 round clip and 20 round clip" most likely meaning magazine as most gun control bills address. At the end a reporter mentions the Mini-9, which in 1999 was not a gun that existed, and is probably mixed up with the TEC-9 and the Ruger Mini-14, which this reporter calls the Rutger-14.

Toby (Richard Schiff) claims to drive a 1993 Dodge Dart, but these where only produced from 1963 to 1976.

Scenes shot for the opening sequence are revealed by Making of documentary, as August 26th 1999. Placing the entire episode within the range, 23rd - 29th of August 1999, just prior to the season 1 broadcast.

Leo (John Spencer)'s alcoholism is first hinted at. His problem with substance abuse would become a subplot of the first season.

Tim Matheson' alcoholism is first mentioned. This would come up in Season Three when the Staff is briefly considering replacing Hoynes as the VP in the election.

Leo (John Spencer)'s wife leaves him in this episode. The divorce papers would be finalised in episode 2.7, West Wing - Tutti gli uomini del Presidente: The Portland Trip (2000).

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Fecage
    This episode endeared me more to the characters. I love how they fight so hard for a bill that they know isn't even what they really want, because they have to save face and get what they can. Just seems so fruitless, its hard not to feel for them. Then they don't even get to enjoy what little victory there would've been thanks to Hoynes(really speaks to how upset Leo was that he would still go to the VP's AA meeting after that). I swear, after five minutes in politics I wouldn't have a single strand of hair left to yank out in frustration. Just makes me wish they could get a real solid win. And as Josh said,

    "Sam, LBJ never would've taken this kind of crap from Democrats in congress. He would've said, 'you're voting my way in exchange for which I might remember you name, pal'."

    I wish the other dems. would just get behind their administration. They've made it clear that Bartlet does what he wants whether that goes against party politics or not, but he also always does what he thinks is right. That's better than a Pres. who does something he knows or feels is wrong just because it's what is expected from a democrat. As when Leo is telling Rev. Al in the first episode that Bartlet went around the country trying to convince teen girls not to get abortions, I strongly disagree with that, but I respect him for not acting like a machine that just spits out a leftist's agenda. Josh's meetings with Katzenmoyer and Wick were great though,

    "President Bartlet's a good man. He's got a good heart. He doesn't hold a grudge...that's what he pays me for."

    "You know, I realize as an adult not everyone shares my view of the world, and with an issue as hot as gun control I'm prepared to accept a lot of different points of view as being perfectly valid, but we can all get together on the grenade launcher! Right?"

    Leo's personal stuff brought the episode down a little, just never cared for romantic relationships in my dramas, but the in office scenes were great. Coming off the excellence of A Proportional Response might have also taken some of the shine off this one, but there really are no bad episodes of Sorkin's West Wing.
  • comment
    • Author: Mash
    "Five Votes Down" gets "The West Wing" into the nitty-gritty of the legislative process for the first time -- but certainly not the last. In some ways, the episode's theme is revealed in the opening scene, as President Bartlet regales a supportive dinner crowd with jokes and political promises -- especially to pass gun control legislation -- while standing beneath a banner proclaiming "Practical Idealism." It's the introduction to an excellent episode that reveals much about both politics and the lives of the main characters.

    While some have taken the banner behind Bartlett as a political "sliding scale" -- that sometimes one must be practical, while at other times idealistic -- the slogan can also be read as a hopeless oxymoron, somewhat like the political motto in "Veep," namely, "Continuity with Change." The late Mario Cuomo (who knew a thing or two about politics) put it more gracefully: "We campaign in poetry. We govern in prose." It's the paradox of democratic politics: to get elected, one must take out mortgages with factions and special interests. Getting elected that way, however, leaves little political capital to accomplish the causes and goals for which one presumably got elected in the first place -- something the White House staff learns in this episode.

    And so, even as Pres. Bartlett is charming the crowd, word comes that they are actually five votes short to pass that gun control bill. So, over a 2:00 a.m. late dinner/early breakfast of Chinese food in take-out cartons (something that, apparently, never happens in the real White House -- for security reasons), the senior staffers try to figure out who the defectors are and what it will take to get them back in line.

    The first of two subplots line is equally gut-wrenching -- even as Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (John Spencer) deals with the possible consequences of losing this vote, he discovers that the enormous commitment to his job (especially the many, many late nights) has cost him his marriage. And in the second subplot, Toby Ziegler's annual financial disclosure reveals that he made a 2,500% profit on a stock purchase that could violate federal securities law.

    Toby's financial problems are played mostly for comic relief, but the first two stories entwine in some interesting ways. Leo admits that, if forced to choose between his marriage and his job, he'll (regretfully) pick the latter. And then, having twice clashed with Vice-President Hoynes in earlier episodes, Leo finds himself needing the vice-president's help to get that fifth vote. Seeing Leo's stricken face just moments after Leo has learned that his wife wants a divorce (and, truly -- no one ever did "stricken" better than John Spencer), Hoynes doesn't exact retribution for Leo's earlier mistreatment of him; instead he's gracious and supportive.

    This also gives Hoynes, who knows of Leo's alcoholic past, the chance to invite Leo to Hoynes' own, special AA meetings -- provided discreetly for politicians whose attendance at regular AA would be impossible. It's a lovely scene that allows some of the characters' back-stories to be revealed without fanfare, while also giving new perspectives on both characters. (And indeed, despite his genuine concern for Leo, Hoynes has a political trick still up his sleeve, adding yet another layer to his characterization.) But perhaps it's Leo himself who best summarizes this episode, in a line usually attributed to Otto von Bismarck: "Sausages are like laws. It's better not to see them being made."

    Practical idealism, indeed.
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Rob Lowe Rob Lowe - Sam Seaborn
    Moira Kelly Moira Kelly - Mandy Hampton
    Dulé Hill Dulé Hill - Charlie Young
    Allison Janney Allison Janney - C.J. Cregg
    Richard Schiff Richard Schiff - Toby Ziegler
    John Spencer John Spencer - Leo McGarry
    Bradley Whitford Bradley Whitford - Josh Lyman
    Martin Sheen Martin Sheen - Jed Bartlet
    Michael McGuire Michael McGuire - Congressman Cal Tillinghouse
    Thom Barry Thom Barry - Congressman Mark Richardson
    Janel Moloney Janel Moloney - Donna Moss
    Jay Underwood Jay Underwood - Congressman Christopher Wick
    Mark Blum Mark Blum - Rep. Katzenmoyer
    Sara Botsford Sara Botsford - Jenny McGarry
    Jillian Armenante Jillian Armenante - Leela
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