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The West Wing: Season 04 ()

Once the fourth season of The West Wing gets past its semi-serious two-part opener, in which White House staffers Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), and Donna Moss (Janel Moloney) get lost somewhere in Indiana while campaigning for the re-election of President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen), the series hunkers down to more vital matters. Driving the action during the early stages of season four is, of course, the tense election battle between the Democratic Bartlet and his Republican opponent, Robert Ritchie (James Brolin). Despite the controversy surrounding the president's multiple sclerosis and his staff's presumed efforts to cover up his illness, Bartlet easily defeats his opponent. But the victory is not altogether sweet: First Lady Abby Bartlet (Stockard Channing) may put on a happy face for the public, but inwardly she is outraged that Jed reneged on his promise to serve only one term. The other major development this season is the defection of Bartlet's longtime deputy communications director, Sam Seaborn (played by Rob Lowe, who was reportedly dissatisfied that his role had become secondary to Martin Sheen's). Running for a seat in the House of Representatives, Sam is assured of full support by the Bartlet staff -- and he has been promised that if he loses, he would someday be invited back to the White House as senior advisor to the president. Meanwhile, Sam's replacement, Will Bailey (Joshua Malina), initially hired just to help write Bartlet's acceptance speech, calmly assumes the duties of his new post. Elsewhere, Bartlet's daughter Zoey (Elizabeth Moss) begins an ill-fated romance with a charming but slightly sinister Frenchman; Press Secretary C.J. (Allison Janney) tries to cope with her father's Alzheimer's; the president's new secretary, Debbie (Lily Tomlin), imperiously plays no favorites when it comes to honoring White House protocol; Bartlet courts international disfavor by condemning genocide in the war-torn nation of Kundu; and Mary-Louise Parker joins the cast as Amy Gardner, the first lady's new chief of staff. In the season's controversial closing episode, an anguished Jed Bartlet learns that his daughter Zoey has been kidnapped by Qumari terrorists -- forcing him to avoid a conflict of interest in handling the situation by invoking the little-used 25th amendment, which will place the reins of the government in the hands of Jed's second-in-command. And since the vice president has resigned, the power passes to Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken (John Goodman) -- a powerful Republican! Hal Erickson, Rovi Hide synopsis

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