The West Wing: Season 1, Episode 3

A Proportional Response (6 Oct. 1999)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
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Ratings: 8.6/10 from 423 users  
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After being offered "a proportional response" to the Syrian military's downing of a U.S. military plane on a medical mission (and carrying his newly named personal physician), the president... See full summary »



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Nancy (as Renee Estevez)


After being offered "a proportional response" to the Syrian military's downing of a U.S. military plane on a medical mission (and carrying his newly named personal physician), the president demands an option that will have greater impact. Leo gradually must talk him down, while Bartlet snipes at everyone, including Abby. The president ultimately agrees to the initial option, but is not happy about it. Charlie Young is introduced as an applicant for a messenger job whom Josh decides to hire as Bartler's personal aide (note: he mentions being sent to Josh by Mrs. De La Guardia, who is later introduced in season four as Debbie Fiderer, who becomes Mrs. Landingham's replacement). Written by meebly

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Release Date:

6 October 1999 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In the movie The American President (1995) (also written by Aaron Sorkin and considered the catalyst for creating this show), the president must deal with a very similar situation. In the movie, Libya bombs a US missile defense system and the president is pushed to make a "proportional response", at the end of which he ruminates "Someday someone's going to have to explain to me the virtue of a proportional response". The events are very similar to those in this episode, including that line, mirrored almost word for word by President Bartlett. See more »


Actress Kim Webster had a recurring role in the series as Ginger, a Communications office assistant. In this episode only, her character is not referred to by name, and she appears in the credits as Kim. See more »


Josh Lyman: Toby's right - what's the good of being in power if you can't haul your enemies in for questioning?
See more »


References Hard Copy (1989) See more »


West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

It's what our fathers taught us.
15 April 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is definitely the one that hooked me. I enjoyed the first two episodes but wasn't 100% sure the subject matter was going to keep me interested, but now I am. It started with the same humor I've come to expect and love from Sorkin.

"You know what, CJ, I really think I'm the best judge of what I mean, you paranoid Berkeley shiksa feminista! ...well, that was way too far."

"No, no. Well I've got a staff meeting to go to and so do you, you elitist Harvard fascist, missed the deans list two semesters in a row, Yankee jackass!"

"Feel better getting that off your chest there CJ?"

"I'm a whole new woman."

While the comedy was great,

"There is no law, there is no decency."

"He's just getting that now."

It was the drama that made this episode shine. I really got behind Bartlet in this episode, because in many ways I agree with him about the disproportional response. America does have the greatest military force on earth and the fact that we use it to do so much good should mean that those on their way to do good should be able to do so without fear of death. It was a plane full of doctors and nurses on their way to teach others how to become doctors and nurses, how much more altruistic can you get? And if an enemy has the gall to shoot down that plane they should expect more than a slap on the wrist.

"Let the word ring forth from this time and this place, gentlemen, you kill an American, any American, we don't come back with a proportional response. We come back with total disaster!"

But what I love about the show is that every issue has two pretty valid sides(exactly what politics is), and as soon as you mention civilian casualties things change pretty quickly. Though Bartlet's monologue about Rome still had me wishing they could have done more. But as Leo said it's the way a super power(the last one) should behave, has to behave.

"It's what our fathers taught us."

I even began to see the other side to Sam's situation with the call girl, though I still say he's almost crazy for doing it, I can see it might be more out of frustration with the system than his own personal agenda.

"It's not like you didn't know you were going to be held to a higher standard when you took this job."

"I don't mind being held to a higher standard I mind being held to a lower one."

Also Charlie's(Dule Hill)introduction was done quite well, looking forward to seeing more of his character.

Easily the best episode so far for me and the first(of many) truly perfect blends of comedy and drama that Sorkin produced.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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