Duck and Cover (The West Wing)

"Duck and Cover"
The West Wing episode
Episode no. Season 7
Episode 144
Directed by Christopher Misiano
Written by Eli Attie
Production code 2T6212
Original air date January 22, 2006
Guest stars
Season 7 episodes
List of The West Wing episodes

"Duck and Cover" is episode 144 of The West Wing.


Elections are underway in Kazakhstan, but Russia and China both on the brink of going to war in Central Asia over oil are the least of Bartlet and C.J.'s concerns as they face a nuclear reactor in California on the verge of a meltdown. While agonizing over the decisions over whether to evacuate nearby citizens and to release radioactive steam into the atmosphere, the Santos and Vinick campaigns stare each other down, trying to avoid being the first to turn the crisis into a political issue -- all the more complex as decades ago, Vinick lobbied for the plant's construction. Bruno is sure Josh will be the first person to speak out on this, but Josh surprisingly adopts a policy of not saying anything during or immediately after the crisis. Will Bailey manages the press situation and takes command by tossing a staffer who includes frightening and uncertain information about a controlled release of radiation to avoid a full meltdown and explosion. Two nuclear workers go into the reactor complex to repair cracking radioactive steam lines, and the President agonizes when one of them dies from exposure after the repairs are complete. The crisis winds down with a complete meltdown avoided but the long-term effects are unclear. Vinick responds to the news about his support of the plant's building with criticism of nuclear regulation, which leads to an angry private rebuke from the President. When the news about Vinick and the plant comes out, the election becomes, in Josh's words, "too close to call."


  • The episode title refers to a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear weapon which the United States government taught to generations of United States school children from the early 1950s into the 1980s. As Bartlet remembers, “We'd hide under our little wooden desks at school. At some point they stopped the drills... I guess they realized a piece of plywood wasn't gonna protect us from against an atomic blast.”
  • Both J. K. Simmons and Allison Janney appear in this episode. They played the eponymous main character's parents in the comedy-drama film Juno a year later.

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