The West Wing (1999–2006): Season 5, Episode 4 - Han - full transcript

A North Korean pianist announces his intention to defect in the Oval Office. While the staff passionately debate his request they also fight to get the President's choice of Vice President nominated by a new and hostile Speaker of the House.

Previously on The West Wing:

Our first priority is to name
a vice president.

The one guy the president wants,
and I can't get it done... be quiet for one moment?
-Who is Robert Russell?

-I wasn't sure you could pick me out.
-I didn't have to, Bob.

Folks in western Colorado
had four chances... change their minds about
Bob Russell, and they haven't.

Bob Russell?

-His playing?

It's classical piano.
Who can tell one from the other?

-The president.
-So he claims.

-So, what's--?
-He's North Korean.

God knows how he managed
to learn.

Their music's all hymns
to the barley harvest.

-Not that they ever have one.
-Too busy reprocessing plutonium.

Why they're a rogue state.

"Rogue state. " Makes them sound
raffishly charming.

It should be "thug state. "

-Psycho state.
-We'll ask the U.N. to so designate.

Punk state. That's what they are. Punks.

Bunch of punks with what could be
six nuclear warheads.

-In a minute, everyone.
-Thank you.

Okay, you could obliterate Australia,
but know what? You're still just a punk.

Good opener. Use that.

Yeah, I took lessons for six years.

No sense of time.

I could read okay
and get the fingering down...

...but I should've been sent
to rhythm prison.

What I did to the Appassionata,
war criminals can't get near The Hague.

I have to stay out of Vienna.

-More amusing in English.

My chief of staff, Leo McGarry.
C.J. Cregg, press secretary.

-An honor.

C.J. Cregg.

-He asks if you both play as well.
-No, no.


A beginner's piece...

...with an incredibly insensitive name.
I'm sorry.

Are we ready?

Okay, everyone. Remember, pics only,
no questions. Come on in.

Welcome to the White House.

I wanna say how honored we are,
hosting your first concert appearance... in the West.

We thank the North Korean

...for so generously sharing
one of their national treasures.

And we hope this marks just the first
of many such cultural exchanges...

...leading to improved relations
between our two countries.

He thanks the president for his words...

...and says all glory flow
to our dear leader...

...for whom he wishes long life
and good health.


Next time he's overseas,
be nice if Yo-Yo Ma said that.

I wanna thank you for the visit.

We greatly look forward
to tonight's concert.

Okay, everyone, thank you very much.

Will you be seeing any sights
during your day here in Washington?

We will visit Lincoln's Memorial...

...commemorating the shameful
practice of slavery...

...the Vietnam wall of death.

-CD, I will sign.

I'll treasure this. Thank you.

Pleasure all mine.

-Sweet kid.
-The handlers are a lot of laughs.

Bet they can pretty much transform any
place into their own little wall of death.

-This isn't an autograph.

It's a message.

This is complicated.

Get the counsel's office, Justice, NSC...

...State, lmmigration in right away.

-Find out what we're talking about here.

-But it's--
-Complicated. I know.

-Anything you need?
-When's he back?

Rehearsal and sound check at 2:30.

We behave like this isn't happening.

-It may not be happening.
-I don't understand.

We've been in secret negotiations
with North Korea in Geneva...

...the last three weeks.
About their nuclear program.

-This guy defects, everybody goes home.
-We don't know that.

-Let's find out.
-We're not turning him away.

-Of course not.
-It's complicated.

-Thank you, Mr. President.
-Thank you, sir.

Congressman Thiele
needs to come over...

-...before the VP confirmation vote.
-Which is noon?

Senate's noon. House votes at 4. Get
him in after the Punch and Judy show.

The citizens would be comforted knowing
how you refer to the economic advisers.

They don't have to sit
in a room with them.

-Why do you want Thiele?
-He's voting against.

Confirmation's gonna be 534 to one.

I can see why you wanna squeeze him.

Thiele's the only no vote.
He's catch-of-the-day.

Gets on every show explaining why
Russell's a lousy choice for VP.

-Which you agree with.
-But don't want anybody saying out loud.

I either turn him
or get 10 other guys to vote no.

-lf I tell you something, try not be so you.
-Yeah. What's going on?

I'm taking my aunt and uncle from
Wisconsin on a tour of the White House.

I'd rather not go through cheesehead
jokes, which are beneath you.

Know what's the state bird?
The Muenster.

State motto? "Live Brie or die. " It beat
"You can have my wheel of cheddar...

...when you pry it out of my dead,
stinky fingers. "

Drag about the unemployment numbers.

You're gonna be added to them if
you don't get out from behind my desk.

You have an office.

Don't read my memo.

I can't learn anything from you
if I'm sitting across the street all day.

Here's a lesson:
Ask permission before you do stuff.

-Where you going?

Can I go with you?


That was good.

Oh, I couldn't agree more.

Yes, the moment calls for bipartisanship.

I'll see you in the Rose Garden
for the announcement this afternoon.

Parlous. It's like I was talking
to John C. Calhoun.

This draft of the Rose Garden thing,
it needs more altitude.


If I don't sound enthused, how do we
expect the country to get excited?

-Yes, sir.
-You're not very excited about him.

Oh, no. I mean, sure.

-I'm not not excited about him.
-What you sounded like then... how this reads.

-Let's take the equivocation out of it.
-Yes, sir.

-Thank you, Mr. President.

So Will's working out.

-Seems to be.
-President loved his Zoey speech.

We all did.

-So I'm gonna start doing other things.
-What other things?

We're drifting.

-We've had to deal with some stuff.
-Which has left us drifting.

-We need to refocus. Get on message.

-So I'll start with that.

-Since Will's working out.
-The president's not crazy...

...about his Rose Garden draft.


-Morning, everyone.
-Mr. President.

Good morning, sir.

What's the bad news?

Well, sir, there are
some troubling indicators.

ISM's still below 50.
Consumer confidence remains low.

That's hangover from the kidnapping.

-The kidnapping, the bombing... .
-Regardless. It's down.

-With these unemployment numbers... .
-So where are we heading?

Signs indicate we could be
sliding toward...


Larry doesn't need a vacation.
That's the word we've agreed to use... avoid using the R-word.

I need your recommendation
for keeping us out of--

I don't have to call it that, do I?

-Of course not.
-For keeping us out of a thing.

We do nothing.

The tech bubble led to overinvestment.

-This is a normal correction.
-We don't know that.

Bubbles burst.
That's why they're bubbles.

Explain that to the 1.2 million people
who lost their jobs.

-Phone them. They're home.
-Fed does its thing.

A reduction of 25 basis points
stops the bleeding.

You can't. It'll look like
we're asleep at the switch.

-A stimulus package.
-Increase the deficit. That's responsible.

Something temporary. A one-year
increase in the standard deduction.

Which helps not at all the bottom
40 percent of wage-earners...

...who don't pay income tax.

Stop or I'm gonna start shooting people.
Starting with myself.

I asked for a recommendation,
not a debate.

-Wake me when there's a consensus.
-Thank you.

-Thank you, sir.
-What's the matter with you guys?

The man's got a Nobel in this.

My other meeting's here.

-Good morning.
-Good morning.

Good morning.


Thanks for coming. What do we think?

You don't blow a negotiation
of this magnitude over some kid.

I don't care if he plays with his feet.

-It violates international law.
-U.S. law.

One thing at a time.
The negotiations. They for real?

And we're not just talking about
another freeze.

Hundreds more sensors installed.

Inspectors on the ground
in Youngdoktong.

They've broken agreements.
What's different now?

The Chinese. They're worried
that the North's nuclear program...

...will push Japan
into finally developing the bomb.

The Koreans screw around this time,
they piss off the only ally they have left.

This is serious, they're gonna blow it
over some piano player.

It's the most unpredictable regime
in the world.

Walking out on negotiations
could be the least they do.

They'd shell Seoul over this?

You wanna find out?

Swell, but we can't send him back.

Listen very carefully:
It's against the law.

Title 8 of the lmmigration
and Nationality Act...

...prohibits sending an alien back...

...if he has a well-founded fear
of being persecuted.

Persecuted? He's the most privileged guy
in the entire country.

Since the penalty for attempted
defection is death, that may just change.

He's in jeopardy if the Koreans find out.
You gonna tell?

-Any straws in the wind?

This appears locked down for now.
My office is monitoring it.

-This gets out, it's game over.
-This conversation gets out.

-And we're comfortable with that?
-What's your point?

Understand, he doesn't wanna go,
he has a right to apply for asylum.

Can we get back to the real world?

North Koreans are peddling missile
technology all over the Middle East.

And sensors on the border have picked
up elevated levels of krypton 85.

They are making plutonium.
They can get it onto warheads.

Their best customers
are the people who hate us.

-Why are we talking about this?
-How we can get past the legal issues?

I don't see how you can send him
back to the bleakest place left...

...after he tells you
he doesn't wanna go.

It's not that bleak.
The DMZ is beautiful.

It's like a nature preserve.

Endangered blackfaced spoonbills,
Amur leopards.

-What's your point?
-I know more about this than you.

The legal issues.

The guy doesn't know his rights.
It's a nonproblem.

What's a big problem
is if he tells anyone else.

-Where is he now?

He'll be back at 2:30.

Don't let him back in.

Well, the good news is his handlers
don't let him out of their sight.

It's like they're working for us.

Our very own totalitarian helpmates.

Excuse me a minute.


-What are you doing?
-Don't let him back in?

-We look from every angle.
-The president's not sending him back.

My job is to present him with options.

Your job, at the moment, is to butt out.

We've certainly come a long way
from "give me your tired, your poor. "

If we don't allow this defection,
if we blithely exploit...

...this young man's ignorance,
then I don't know who we are anymore.

The VP intro needs to go on the
prompter by 2. How you doing?

-I have altitude sickness.
-I'm sorry?

The president wants altitude.
I'm having conscience issues.

You've had to say things you haven't
meant before. Read friends' poetry...

-...had girlfriends.
-I could use help.

-Hold your nose and hype him.
-The president hated this.

My self-confidence is down
around my ankles.

Well, hitch it up and start typing.
Come on.

-You're really not gonna help me?
-I have things to do.

-This being his first visit...

...can you share Jai Yung Ahn's
impressions of America?

You'd need to ask him. His impression
of our buffet table seemed favorable.

-Is there concern this cultural exchange...

...confers legitimacy on
the North Korean regime?

It's hoped exchanges help
bring light to such places...

...nudging them toward
more open policies.

Is he free to go where he pleases?

His mother didn't want him
hitting clubs...

...but, as far as I know, he's seeing
the sights even as we speak.

Moving to the economy, do today's
unemployment figures indicate recession?

Recession means two consecutive
quarters of negative growth.

That's not the situation.

How would you characterize
the economy, then?

-I wouldn't.
-lf not recession...

...what word would the administration
use? Slowdown, downturn, torpor?

-It means... .

I know what it means.
I'm feeling a little coming on now.

-Can't ditch the kid.

-Can't do it, Josh.

I don't need his old man
on my call sheet.


Our poll numbers are down.

-What poll?
-An internal.

His approval rating, down 11 points.

Was it high from the kidnapping?

-We knew it wasn't gonna stay up there.


-Where are we on Thiele?
-He's coming over.

He votes against, it'll be all Thiele,
all the time.

-Is something going on?
-Get us Thiele.


-My Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ted.
-Hi. Good to meet you both.

-Any chance of getting them in tonight?

Sorry. There are senators
on the waiting list.

Mostly Republicans.

You're Republicans.

There's a rehearsal I can get you into...

-...this afternoon.

Donna tells us you were meeting
with economic advisers?

Not so much meeting as fighting off
slipping into a coma.

-Pretty dense.
-They never agree.

Yet no one is remotely afflicted
by doubt.

Like with diets. There's all these diet
theories, all completely contradictory.

Most doctors agree
the healthiest advice... just to eat a variety of food
in moderate amounts.

Maybe that's the approach
to take with economists.

-Take from every theory in moderation.


-So, Ted, what is it that you do?
-I'm a sales rep for a dairy consortium.

-You mean cheese?

Well, enjoy your tour.

Have fun.

Did you know North Korea's
the only country...

...where it's impossible
to access the Internet?

All TVs and radios are preset
before they're sold... they receive only
state-controlled stations?

It's a bad place.

Imagine what it must be like
to live in a society... completely regimented, where the
only music allowed glorifies the state.

It's amazing he'd wanna go back.


We're controlling media access
to Jai Yung Ahn?

Pool spray at the sound check,
if he's still doing one.

-No questions.
-They understand...

...the Koreans won't allow it.

So he's being allowed back
in the building.

Leo tells me you have
a strong view on this.

Yes. For one thing, sending him back
would seem to be illegal.

Our hand's not forced
unless he tells anyone.

He's told us.

He's asked the president for asylum.

He'd have been better off
asking some cab driver?

You know the rationale.

So the Iranians don't wake up and
decide, "It's a good day to nuke Israel. "

Seven North Korean nuclear scientists
defected through China last year.

We helped pay for it. Are we saying if he
were more valuable, we'd accept him?

Is that such an unreasonable

This isn't your real argument.

Sending him back will play
as a disaster if it gets out.

That's not your real argument either.

No, sir, it's not.

This young man's asking for freedom.

It's what this country was built on.

Everyone's from somewhere else.
Someplace less free.

That's my argument.

-Thank you.
-Thank you, Mr. President.

Thank you, sir.

-We have a meeting.

Okay, you can't say things
like "outstanding" during it.

I was pretty sure you didn't
want me saying anything at all.

We're meeting with...?

Congressman Thiele,
Democrat from Rhode Island.

-He interned for my uncle.
-Of course he did.

He's voting against Russell. I have to
whip him into shape. Watch and learn.


Will's fixing the VP intro.

Good, since that would be his job.

I'm not sure I was clear before.

We need to get back our focus.
Work up a message calendar... in the campaigns.
-Long term.

I'm talking about something else.
Not articulating the message. Shaping it.

-You do shape it.
-I mean full-time.

-You have responsibilities.
-That I can turn over.

To Will?

We should discuss it.

Not today.

-Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

We are drifting.

This doesn't make any sense.

I don't like the guy. I'm voting against
him. What doesn't make sense?

You're embarrassing the president.

He's got a margin of 533 votes. He must
have a low threshold of embarrassment.

It's grandstanding. It's a way
to get in the paper...

...only it's gonna make
you look eccentric.

-Like some kind of goofball crank.
-I beg your pardon?

-You're embarrassing yourself.

You want his backing for anything
you wanna accomplish this term... opposed to pulling
publicity stunts...'ll swallow what petty animus
you bear toward the guy...

...about to be number two
in your party...

...and you will give your president what
he wants, a unanimous confirmation.

My petty animus is that
Russell's not good enough.

Which is what you've been saying to each
other since his name was announced.

Think I don't know how you got rolled
on Berryhill?

Or forced to settle for this party hack?

You've put someone second-rate next to
a president with a serious health problem.

You wanna talk about embarrassment?
Be embarrassed about that.

The North Koreans have canceled
the pool spray at the sound check.

-He doesn't like people around...

...when he's rehearsing.


Talk to Thiele?

Yeah. I'm gonna need a plan B.

The VP intro is finished?

-Will's doing last touches.
-Help him out, will you?

-He's got it.
-He was having trouble.

Look it over, punch it up.

-Yes, sir.
-Sir, something happened at the briefing.

I got questions about the economy,
and I felt like I was tap-dancing.

-Saw it. I thought you were fine.
-Deft. Extremely deft.

I appreciate your attempt
to compliment me out of my point.

I feel self-conscious about our lack of
vocabulary to describe the economy.

She get the bagel memo?

Argue the president's
responsibility to do it.

Setting a positive tone
helps bring about positive results.

I don't wanna don a shroud. I just think
the Pollyanna act's not wearing well.

I'm worried that avoidance starts to look
like maybe we just haven't noticed.

We appear out of touch. Like presidents
who don't know the price of milk.

-Sir, do you know the price of milk?
-Not precisely.

Neither do I. Do any of us?

Okay. Let's get on coming up
with a language plan...

...for talking more realistically
about the economy.

That session this morning
with the advisers.

Everybody's got a magic lever
they want you to push.

I've studied economics all my life,
but in this job, only a fool is ever certain.

You don't push any one lever.
You wanna push a little on them all.

-From every theory in moderation.

-Thank you.
-Thank you, Mr. President.


These negotiations are the real thing.

I can't allow this defection. I know you
disagree, but that's my decision.

Thank you, Mr. President.

It's not that I disagree, sir.
I'm disappointed.

We'll get someone
from State to tell the kid.

No. I'll do it.

-It's my call. I tell him.

Is she okay?

I don't know.


Got my ass kicked
a little bit ago by Thiele.

-The Russell vote?

It was in front of Richie Rich.

The Pierce kid?

Thiele's gonna be everywhere.

The republic will stand.

I'm gonna do damage control.
I'm gonna leak it that Thiele wanted it.

-The vice presidency?
-Yeah. Make it just look like pique.

A congressman from the smallest state
expecting to be named VP.

-He's really gonna seem like a crackpot.

Don't ever get mad at me.

-I've gotten mad at you.
-Why it's better when we don't talk.

Come by tonight.
We can not talk some more.

-"It's with abundant pleasure and pride--"

More altitude.

The prompter guys needed the disk
a half an hour ago.

Go away.

"It's with surpassing
pleasure and pride... .

Robert Russell... .

Confirmed by overwhelming vote,
as befits this distinguished choice. "

-"Distinguished. "
-Wanna use "surpassing" again?

Eminent, illustrious.

-He's none of those things.
-This is my problem.

Nor is he laudable or someone you'd walk
across the room to shake hands with.

And the president wants altitude.

"As befits this vertiginous choice... . "

"Distinguished" is as high as we go.
You'd have to be high to go loftier.

Here's what it should be:

In a triumph of the middling, a nod
to mediocrity, and with gorge rising... gives me great nausea
to announce Robert Russell...

...Bingo Bob himself,
as your new vice president.

This lapdog of mining interests
is as dull as he is unremarkable.

-As lackluster as he is soporific.

-This reversion to the mean...
-This rebuke to the exemplary... . hope to millions
unfavored by the exceptional.

The vice presidency,
being famously described... not being worth
a warm bucket of spit...

...let's now hock a big loogie
for Bob Russell.

Not the worst, not the best...

...just what we're stuck with.


-Where were we?
-Let me get back to it.

-"This distinguished choice. "
-"Redoubtable choice. "

Nobody knows what it means.

Ryan Pierce.
Is Congressman Thiele in, please?

I love this Chopin.

Fooled with it myself, but could
never get the fingering down.

The White House photographer's gonna
get some shots of them.

Excuse me, Leo.

We in the way?
You mind a minute? Please.

So how's your day been?

I'm sorry to say
I cannot let you defect.

Do you understand me?

You have to keep playing.

There's an important nuclear agreement
being worked out.

Do you understand my English?

I try to stay... arrest me?

You give me back to them.


Freedom means choice.

You must decide which is
the most responsible course.

You know Korean word, han?


I could practice the fingering
for the rest of my life...

...I'd never be able to play it like that.

It is this... .

Mr. President, I think we have
to cancel the concert.

-You don't know if he understood you.

His English is better than he lets on.

You don't know if he understood
your English, much less your meaning.

You're persuasive, but it helps talking
to someone who speaks the language.

We're not canceling the concert.

Sir, you're not positive
if he got it or not?

-You need to come down with some flu.


...we're putting the fate of what is
the most significant agreement...

...of this presidency in the hands
of a 23-year-old...

...who may have only understood
every fifth word.

We cancel the concert, it's a red flag.

I told him freedom means choice.

My choice is to trust in his decision.

Get things ready in case
it goes the other way.

Thank you, Mr. President.

-It's a crapshoot.
-The negotiations are a crapshoot.

Whole damn job's a crapshoot.










Josh, Dory Macklin from The Post
returning your call.

Yeah. Tell her never mind.

-Nice work on Thiele.

-How'd you get him to turn?
-I don't know, exactly.

Margaret, I'm gonna need State again.

-We have a vice president.
-About time.

I may actually sleep tonight.

-Probably not.
-Probably not.

-See you in the Rose Garden.

Good afternoon.
I wanna welcome you all.

It's with surpassing pleasure and pride
that I announce that Congress...

...just a short time ago,
voted to confirm Robert Russell... the new vice president
of these United States.

Confirmed by unanimous vote,
as befits this redoubtable choice.

In a triumph of... .

In a triumph of the meritorious...

...Bob Russell is someone I know... and immeasurably respect...

...over the past five years
of working together... have all of us here
at the White House.

His estimable legislative record
is but one facet...

...of his laudable public service
to his country.

Service that now ascends
to an even loftier level... he assumes his new responsibilities
as vice president.

Mr. Robert Russell.

-I'm gonna get fired.
-Nobody's getting fired.

I'm the new guy. I'll be an example.

-They'll put my head on a pike.
-You're working out. Leo agrees.

You're not gonna get fired.


-Mr. Vice President. Please accept--
-I'd like a copy.

-There are none. We've shredded.
-Wiped hard drives.

We're putting out our own eyes.

Find one. Send it to my office.

I thought it was hilarious.

-Hilarious, sir?
-I know my public profile, my persona.

I'm glad there's such a keen awareness
of the job you've all got ahead of you.

I'm part of the team now,
which makes all this your problem.

Good luck with it.

Sometimes it happens that way.

Delayed reaction. Obviously, my little
talk stayed with the good congressman.

-That's the reason you hammer hard.

It's all they understand.

That's not my personality. I'm more
of a "get more bees with honey" type.

-You'll learn.


So, what's the deal there?

Friends with privileges?


Something's going on.

You like Chopin, Charlie?

Am I gonna get the life history
of the guy and a shopping list?

-You'll thank me.
-I thank you now. Could you hold off?

I'm still working through the 14 disks
of Bach you made me buy.

-The Well-Tempered Clavier?
-Both books.

-You know what that means.
-You told me.

Good. Listen...

...I need you to research
something for me.

Could you find out the price
of a gallon of milk?

Two dollars and 69 cents.

Two eighty-nine in Georgetown,
and 2.54 with a coupon from the paper.

Will you make sure everybody
knows that tomorrow?

Thank you for earlier.

You were absolutely right.
They were perfectly nice.

I meant when I went into that
whole diet/economics harangue.

-Quite an oratorio.
-I was showing off. It was ridiculous...

...and you didn't make fun of me,
and I appreciate it.

The president made almost
the exact same point this afternoon.

-Very funny.
-It's true, actually. It was uncanny.

-Oh, my God.
-He left out the whole goofy diet part.

-Don't blow it now.
-Perfectly nice people.

For residents of the only state...

...that consider rind one of
the four major food groups.

Good, I didn't miss it.

No. I think there might be
30 or 40 seconds left.

You look great.

Thanks. So do you.

Everyone looks great in a tux.
Chimps look great.

With none actually present,
I'll have to settle for you.

So listen. Ryan...

...of all people, asked me straight out
about our relationship...

...and I couldn't have avoided
the subject more if I had faked a stroke.

-Cheeky little brat.
-That's not the point.

Even if I'd wanted to answer him,
I wouldn't have known what to say.

It's like what C.J. said today
about the economy.

By refusing to put language to it,
we're trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

But it's something.

Even if we don't know what to call it.

I just think it's time to start thinking
about a language plan...

...for whatever it is we're doing too.



Ladies, gentlemen.

I wish to... .

I wish to...


...the president...

...the American people...

...for this opportunity.

I wish it be start...

...many exchange...

...improve relation...

...between our country.

He didn't realize what it was.

What what was, sir?


You could've canceled the concert.

There's a Korean word, han.

I looked it up.

There is no literal English translation.

It's a state of mind.

Of soul, really.

A sadness.

A sadness so deep no tears will come.

And yet, still, there's hope.

Good night, Mr. President.

I got a call from Geneva 15 minutes ago.

The negotiations are on hold.

The North Koreans didn't like the size
of everyone's flags at the table.

Good night, sir.