Plot summary: (Ahem… previously in Valete)
A secret service transport crashes, with its passengers unknown. It is revealed in a phone call from Annabeth to Josh that the passenger was Leo. Josh and Donna run to the hospital, where they can't get anything out of the people there, as there is a fear the crash could be a matter of national security; it isn't, and by the time they get around to seeing Leo, they find Annabeth who tells them that Leo has already passed.
People are informed of Leo's death, namely Sam, who decides to fly to Washington as soon as possible. In the meantime, Donna and Annabeth have a conversation about unrequited love, while Josh is sent to Leo's home to pick up a folder. Josh, relatively freaked out and overwhelmed by his location, calls Donna, and she speeds to Leo's. The two finally talk and straighten their relationship out! Sort of.
Sam arrives in D.C. and talks to a totally irritated Toby. Their meeting is angst-filled and disgusting. When Sam leaves Toby's, he gets a phone call from Ainsley. They haven't seen each other in years, but she needs a favor: a ride from the airport.
Josh and Donna finally admit to loving one another, and Sam and Ainsley spend quality time and finally get together.
Out of all the possible ways to be awoken after a full day at the White House, C.J. Cregg had decided that it was waken-by-cell phone that drove her insane and irritated her the most. She had told Danny that, and so, when the familiar old-school telephone ring that was C.J.'s cell began to scream at full blast, the gentlemanly reporter got the phone, looked at the number…
"C.J.," he whispered. "C.J." It wasn't as if he blamed her for not waking up, but – if she didn't get this soon, he would have to pick up the phone, and that would be – well, troubling. "C.J.," he said loudly, trying again. This time he was successful. "It's the President," he said, handing her the phone and giving a kiss on the cheek.
C.J. took the phone and opened it up. "Hello," she said sleepily, as Danny turned on the lamp next to his bed.
"Good – morning, Mr. President."
"I'm sorry to wake you, but there is a matter that – it's time sensitive."
By this time, she had dug in. "Yes, sir."
"C.J., what has the precedent been for pardons at the end of a term?"
"I'm sorry, sir?"
Bartlet shifted around on the edge of his bed, holding the phone in one hand and the base in the other. He stood up and walked farther away, not wanting to wake Abbey. "I asked, what is the precedent for pardons at the end of a term."
C.J. ran her hand through her hair. "I really wouldn't know, sir."
"I'm asking you this because I've been up all night thinking about whether or not I should pardon someone."
"Would anyone blame me for doing it?"
"Sir—" C.J. began, and then stopped. Obviously, he was talking about Toby. It was a conversation that she had known was coming, but had not expected to arrive over the phone. It was one of those times where she had to choose her words very carefully. "Mr. President, if Gerald Ford can pardon Richard Nixon, I don't think that anyone would blame you for doing the same for a certain person."
"I was hoping that would be the case. C.J., I'm going to need you to come in before the funeral. Not right now, but after the sun comes up."
"Yes, sir," C.J. replied. "I'll be there."
"Thank you, Claudia," Bartlet said, hanging up the phone and walking back towards the bed. He placed the phone on the table and rolled back into the bed, pulling the covers atop him.
Bartlet turned his head to see Abbey looking at him in the darkness. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
"Are you going to do it?"
He paused, rolling over, blinking eyes at the darkness above him. "Yeah."
After C.J. had closed her cell phone, she had thrown her head back against the wall behind Danny's bed. She sighed, and closed her eyes.
"He's going through with it?"
"We'll see," replied C.J.
"When do you have to go in?"
"Before the funeral, after sunrise."
"You wanna sleep?" Danny asked softly.
"Yeah," she smiled back, handing him the cell phone and moving closer toward him. He gingerly placed the phone on the nightstand, hit the light, and curled up next to C.J. Tomorrow was not going to be easy by any standards.
Passing about fifty Secret Service agents, C.J. made her way to the residence. It was about 6:30, and, thanks to the end of daylight savings time, bright and sunny. To say that she knew what the outcome of this meeting would be was false; Toby could be safe, Toby could be in prison. She hoped for the former. Everyone did.
C.J. raised her hand and knocked on the bedroom door. "Good morning, ma'am," she said, as Abbey answered the door. Looking inside, she noticed the President on the phone.
Abbey stepped out of the bedroom and closed the door. "He's talking to Mallory. Trying to get the final preparations ready."
"Did everyone from her family make it out here?"
"Everyone except for Leo's aunt, whose health is too poor."
"That's good. Not her poor health, but, that almost everyone can be here to say goodbye."
"Yes," Abbey replied.
They paused. Reluctantly, C.J. asked, "Ma'am—" she took a breath and tipped her head before finishing the question. "how is he?"
"What do you mean, C.J.? Is my husband having trouble burying his best friend, or is he having trouble approaching the end of his Presidency?"
"… Well, both. Except, right now I'm focusing on this – on Leo."
Abbey sighed and walked over to the sofas outside the bedroom, motioning for C.J. to follow and take a seat. "It hasn't been easy for him."
"I would imagine so, ma'am."
"It really caps off his Presidency in a bad light."
"Not from a political standpoint mind you, but a personal one. C.J., eight years ago, would you ever think that we would be burying two of our people?"
"Eight years, and two times he's had to bid adieu to two of his closest friends. Two car accidents, two friends, two goodbyes. And I don't think he's taking it that well. It's the end of his administration and what has he accomplished? A great deal. But what he's going to remember, I think, is that he lost both Mrs. Landingham and Leo."
"We've – he's had his share of hardships," C.J. agreed.
"I really don't know what to tell you. Sometimes I think he's fine, and other times I think he's for the worse. It could be his health affecting his temperament… but he's lost his best friend, C.J., and it was unexpected. It almost seems easier sometimes with a prolonged illness, doesn't it?"
At this time, the President walked out of the room. "C.J.," he said quietly, motioning her to come inside.
"Good morning, sir," she replied solemnly, giving Abbey a nod goodbye and walking into the room, the door being closed behind her by the help.
"Obviously you know what it is I want to talk about," he said, sitting down on one of the sofas.
C.J. followed suit. "Yes, sir."
"What do you think?"
"I – I think you should pardon him, sir."
She blinked for a moment. "I'm sorry?"
"Why do you think I should pardon Tobias Zachary Ziegler, whom, by the way, has not submitted his name for consideration?"
Great, C.J. sighed inwardly. Obviously he was going to want her input, but she didn't want to give it. Talk about the conflict in Kazakhstan, that's fine. Talk about Toby and… no, not fine. At all.
"Originally I didn't want to pardon him," she confessed.
"No, sir. He betrayed his country by the strictest interpretation of the law."
"But on the other hand—"
"On the other hand, he did only what a good person would do: he tried to save others. It seems ironic for a man who tried to save lives to be punished for doing so."
"It has happened before."
"Yes, but in those cases the discipline comes at the hands of tyrants – that's what the people who punish the good man are called, tyrants. They're dictatorial leaders and sins against humanity themselves. Toby isn't like that, Mr. President. He did us good, and if only for his children and for no one else, he deserves to walk the streets free. He didn't hurt anyone."
"Yes, technically," C.J. sighed. "But for what it's worth – I don't know, sir, but for what it's worth, no one ended up hurt. People could have, but no one did, so let's count our blessings and let it go."
"And give him clemency."
C.J. watched as Bartlet seemed to ponder. She knew that he wasn't changing his mind; his mind was made up the minute she walked into the room. She was only there to validate his opinion, what Leo had done all those years. Leo.
"Then it should be done."
Changing from philosophical to business mode, the President stood up and began to walk around the room. "We'll go to the office, call the necessary people, and pardon him. Today. We'll pardon him today, C.J."
"Sir, we – technically we don't have to do it today. Doing it now means we have the pardon hanging around our necks for the rest of the term."
"Without the pardon it makes it nearly illegal for Toby to be in the same room as I. Screw the media, screw the press, let them say whatever of my Presidency. History will not look down upon what I have done and say that 'Josiah Bartlet was a two-term President, who, in late October of his second term, pardoned former Senior Aide Toby Ziegler, who was indicted for leaking state secrets. The move manifested the rapid deterioration of the former New Hampshire governor, who announced before his second run that he was suffering from a case of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.'
"No one's going to write that, C.J. They're going to focus on all the other great things you and everyone else has accomplished for me. It's been a great run, and that's what history will recognize."
"Then let's get this done."