After an impressive 40 Emmy Awards (93 nominations) and seven seasons, the Bartlet administration and The West Wing have come to an end. Episode #154, appropriately entitled “Tomorrow,” aired on Sunday May 14, 2006. Though the Wing viewership has slipped in the past few years, as many as 17 million people tuned in every week during the height of show’s popularity. You can read the first part of the recap here. Here’s how the episode ended:
The President-Elect and Mrs. Santos are riding to the White House and discussing the service they just attended and the daunting nine inaugural balls to come.
Debbie is standing over the President as he finishes his letter to the incoming President. He still hasn’t decided on what to do about Toby’s pardon. CJ enters to give the present from Leo’s daughter Mallory, the President rises and time-conscious Debbie snatches it to include with his luggage so he can open it on the plane. After a long moment of silence, the President solemnly says “It’s been a pleasure Claudia Jean.” CJ responds “The pleasure’s been all mine, Mr. President.” and quickly leaves. The President sits again and then finally signs the pardon. He knocks on the desk hard with his fist, picks up his cane and leaves the Oval Office for the final time.
The Santoses leave their residence at the Blair House and walk over to the White House. They are protected by longtime Secret Service agent Ron Butterfield (Michael O’Neill) among others. The President and First Lady are now ready and wait for the incoming President and First Lady. Before they meet them, they take a last moment together to look around and soak it all in.
We next see the President and the President-Elect riding to the inauguration ceremony. President Bartlet is giving advice on how to handle the nine parties. He also warns him that a few of the pardons he made that morning might be a problem for the incoming Commander-in-Chief. They then talk about inaugural speeches and how President Bartlet will greatly miss the Marine Corp Band. They arrive at their destination and the two go their separate ways.
Will, Charlie, Kate and CJ are watching the ceremony on television at the White House. Margaret shows the last pardon to CJ and tells her it’s being sent immediately to the Pardons Attorney. CJ looks at the televised images of President Bartlet and smiles.
The incoming first couple enters and Cardinal Doherty makes the opening prayer. That is followed by Keb ‘Mo’ playing “America the Beautiful” on the guitar as Donna, Josh, The Bartlets, The Santoses, Annabeth, Incoming Secretary of State Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda), and many others look on. One special attendee is Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing. As this goes on, we see parts of the Oval Office being deconstructed and the furniture and personal effects, boxed up. President Bartlet’s portrait is replaced by President Santos’ at precisely noon.
President Santos is sworn in by Chief Justice Evelyn Baker Lang. As regular viewers might remember, this judge was the subject of episode #105 in season five called “The Supremes.” She was played by Glenn Close in that episode but is not played by Close here. We only hear the character’s voice and see the back of her blonde head. As the “Hail to the Chief” music is finally played, we see CJ sitting alone in her office with a box of her things on the floor.
We next see Josh, Sam and Donna entering the White House together. “Home sweet home,” Sam says. Donna is giving a quick tour and tips to the new Presidential secretary who is clearly overwhelmed. The Presidents say goodbye to each other. As they shake hands, President Bartlet says “Make me proud Mr. President.” “I’ll do my best Mr. President.”
The Bartlets head for the airport in the motorcade. Mrs. Bartlet asks her husband what Santos was trying to show in not wearing an overcoat. President Bartlet comments “youth and vigor.” She tells him that he made it and is still here. They hold hands.
Cut to the White House and we see Brem moving into Charlie’s office. Amongst all of the new staffers moving in, we see Charlie, Will and Kate decide to see a movie and wonder if there’s a theater nearby.
CJ is heading out and stops by the deserted pressroom for one more look around. Longtime reporter Steve (Charles Noland) enters and tells her that she looks good up there. He asks about Toby’s pardon and if she has an opinion. She coyly smiles and says “Sure, I do” as she leaves.
First Lady Chief of Staff Donna and First Lady Press Secretary Annabeth are being shown their offices. The size of Donna’s office overwhelms the former aide.
President Santos enters the Oval Office and it’s our first look at the new decor. He picks up the letter from President Bartlet, reads it, smiles and gets down to business as he waits for his Joint Chiefs to arrive.
CJ exits the White House gate and is approached by a tourist Dad and his daughter. He asks if she works there and she says that she doesn’t. She agrees with him that “it must be something to work there.” She walks down the street as we fade back to the Oval Office and the new President is already at work.
The Bartlets are on the plane back to their home in New Hampshire. President Bartlet opens the gift from Leo’s daughter and it’s the framed “Bartlet for America” napkin that Leo made when the two were discussing his possibly running for President over eight years ago. President Bartlet gave it to Leo, framed, in the third season episode “Bartlet for America.”
As he thoughtfully looks out the window, Abbey asks him “What are you thinking about?” He replies simply “Tomorrow.” We see a shot of the plane in the distance and fade to black.