Aaron Sorkin’s award-winning political drama TV series, The West Wing, still remains today one of America’s most beloved television shows. Following the lives of Presiden Josiah Bartlet and his cabinet members through White House campaigns and political drama, The West Wing ran for seven seasons and stole the hearts of American audiences for seven years.
While the show is packed with riveting storytelling, intelligent dialogue, and love stories we all relish to see unfold, some storylines are bound to get a little lost in the mix over the span of seven years. From the disappearance of White House staff to relationships that didn’t survive, here are 10 West Wing storylines that we’re still left to wonder about.
10 Zoey Bartlet & Charlie Young’s Break Up
Many fans of The West Wing have been left to wonder about the relationship between President Bartlet’s daughter, Zoey, and the president’s personal aide, Charlie Young. Several episodes in Season 2 bring about the subject of Zoey and Charlie developing an interest in each other, with President Bartlet skeptical about letting his daughter begin dating. After proving himself trustworthy, Charlie and Zoey end up together!
However, Zoey doesn’t make an appearance during Season 3 but returns in Season 4 dating a different man. Many West Wing followers were devastated at the fact that Zoey and Charlie’s breakup was never shown on screen, and only talked about in passing dialogue by other characters — at least we’ll be able to go back and watch the parts of their relationship we did get to see.
9 The Public Reveal of President Bartlet’s MS
Over the course of Season 1, President Josiah Bartlet slowly reveals to his staff and most trusted advisors that he is living with Multiple Sclerosis (or MS for short). Bartlet was diagnosed with the central nervous system disease approximately six years before being elected president. During his campaign and well into his first term as president, only his family and his Cabinet know about his incurable condition.
The last few episodes of Season 2 on The West Wing center around President Bartlet making the decision to reveal the fact that he has MS to the country and how that might damage his reputation. However, despite the building of this kind of tension over almost a whole season, by Season 3, the focus quickly shifts to Bartlet’s re-election campaign with no shocking reactions from the public over Bartlet’s condition.
8 The Sam Seaborn & Laurie Scandal
In the opening scene of The West Wing’s pilot episode, we are introduced to White House Staff writer, Sam Seaborn. Sitting at a bar, he meets a girl named Laurie who he then spends the night with and later grows close to, unaware that she works as a call girl in the local area.
Seaborn feels an instant connection with Laurie and takes interest in the fact that she was currently studying law. However, when his colleagues find out about his relationship with her, it causes quite a bit of tension that lasts the entire first season. Many staff members quickly realized the bad press this could draw on the administration, but despite all the speculation, the resolution to this storyline was never seen.
7 Mandy Hampton After Season 1
Dr. Madeline Hampton was introduced in the first season of The West Wing …but that was it. Working as the White House Media Consultant, Hampton worked closely with the president’s staff and White House press secretary C.J. Cregg. Her romantic past with Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Josh Lyman, however, served as a source for a lot of Season 1 drama.
It suddenly surfaces that Hampton had previously written a media piece that criticized President Bartlet which was, at the time, contradictory to her entire job. Despite carrying a lot of the media tension, viewers never learned why her character did not return after this season.
6 Josh Lyman’s PTSD
After being shot in the episode titled “In The Shadow of Two Gunmen” during the show’s second season, Josh Lyman then struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. In the following episode, “Noël,” Lyman is seen being urged by his colleagues to seek help and eventually finds a psychiatrist to speak to about the events of the past few days.
The West Wing is a show often commended for its realistic portrayal of many real issues, both political and otherwise. PTSD was one of them. Lyman states of his trauma, “it doesn’t sound like something they let you have when you work in the White House….” From the lighting to the sound effects present in these few episodes, the show was truthful in portraying what someone living with PTSD may feel like. However, after Season 2, his trauma slowly disappears and never reappears which is something many viewers have not forgotten about.
5 Danny Concannon After Season 1
Established early in Season 1, flirtations and close encounters between White House press secretary C.J. Cregg and reporter Danny Concannon seemed very evident. It was a relationship that many viewers wanted to see unfold a little more, considering how both Cregg and Concannon were so dedicated to their jobs.
Concannon played the part of “White House Insider” between the nation-wide press and the White House itself because of his close connections with Cregg. However, after Season 1, he disappears with no explanation. He returns in the seventh and final season of the show, and despite waiting six years for it, viewers did get the happy news that they end up married and with children.
4 Where did Ainsley Hayes go?
Raised in North Carolina and following in the footsteps of her Republican father and grandfather, Ainsley Hayes was introduced to The West Wing in the show’s sophomore year and returned for Season 3. As a strong and outspoken Republican, many of her views clashed with the Bartlet White House, but Sam Seaborn took note of her knowledge and skills, eventually welcoming her views into the White House. Hayes allowed viewers to openly see both sides to a political argument for the first time in the show.
Despite her strong presence, however, Hayes’s character left the show with no real goodbye. Though, she does return for a quick episode in the last season.
3 Zoey Bartlet’s Disappearance
As the President’s daughter, it was established over the course of many episodes that President Bartlet prioritized his daughter and his family over his job as President of the United States. The presence of Zoey’s character allowed for Bartlet to be a father on the show. From dangerous kidnappings to unwelcomed press publications, Zoey had been through a lot. Then suddenly, she was gone.
While Zoey did end up graduating and made it evident that she was no longer just her father’s daughter, many viewers wondered where she was during the rest of the show. Though Bartlet’s family and their location would be talked about occasionally in later seasons, it would have been cool if Zoey touched base with the White House staff again, especially after being so present at the show’s start.
2 Amy Gardner & Josh Lyman’s Relationship
With a long history of political experience and a close tie to the Bartlet family, Amy Gardner was a political lobbyist who worked for both the Bartlet and Santos administrations on the show. Both she and Josh Lyman had attended Yale Law School at the same together and served as each other’s romantic interests in the series for a time.
Though Gardner proved a constant and important female voice, character, and political opinion all throughout Seasons 2 – 7, her relationship with Lyman basically disappeared into thin air with no real explanation. With future romantic interest, Donna Moss, at Lyman’s side much of the time, it was a little difficult to see where one relationship ended and the other began. On the bright side, the romantic tension between Gardner and Lyman remains a fan-favorite storyline to follow.
1 When did Nancy McNally join the Bartlet White House?
Under the Bartlet Administration, Dr. Nancy McNally served as the National Security Advisor to the president and West Wing on Seasons 2 – 7. However, many viewers continuously wonder where she was in Season 1.
Season 1 saw many national security crises that White House Staff scrambled to handle on their own, and it’s a little strange that her character wasn’t present from the start. However, McNally continued to serve the White House faithfully after she was introduced and later became the voice of reason in many national crises and one of President Bartlet’s most trusted advisors. A victory for the character was seen in Season 7 when it is announced under the Santos Administration that she becomes the new Ambassador to the United Nations.
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