The President – Episode 204
Through a series of unfortunate tragedies, 27-year-old Deputy Secretary of Transportation Holden Jackson became the youngest President in the history of the United States. Now he’s unemployed..
Episode 204 – Gaslight
Stone: Chamberlain, get in here!
(President Griffith Stone’s Deputy Chief of Staff — Wilbur Chamberlain — rushes into the Oval Office..)
Chamberlain: Yes, sir?
Stone: Why is my desk facing the window?
Chamberlain: I don’t know what you mean, sir.
Stone: My desk. It’s facing the wrong way.
Chamberlain: I’m sorry, sir. I’m not following.
Stone: What’s not to follow, Chamberlain? The Resolute Desk used to face the far wall, now it’s facing the window.
Chamberlain: Beg pardon, sir; but I do believe you’re mistaken. The Resolute Desk has always been positioned in that direction. Take a look at the photo there on the front page of the Post of you and the Honduran Prime Minister from a week ago. Same direction.
Stone: (picks up the newspaper) Hmm. My mistake, I s’pose.
Chamberlain: Perhaps you need some rest, sir. You’ve been extremely busy lately. And I’ve got enough catching up to do as it is.
Stone: Very well. I’ll be in the residence. Good to have you back, Chamberlain.
Chamberlain: Good to be back, sir. The whole kidnapping was a rather harrowing ordeal. It’s left me quite shaken.
Stone: I’m sure it has. That crazy Jackson. He’s truly off his rocker. I wonder what that crazy kook is up to right now.
Jackson: Gas, huh?
Flatman: (nodding) Gas.
(Holden Jackson is sitting in a Downtown D.C. coffeehouse with Abbott Flatman, an employee of the Department of Energy, looking for new ways to raise money for his reelection campaign..)
Jackson: Isn’t that just the same as oil?
Flatman: No, gas is a completely different form of fuel. And it’s much cheaper and easier to come by.
Jackson: (stroking his chin) Cheaper, eh?
Flatman: I’m telling you, Holden. Gas lighting is going to make a comeback. Cheaper than oil. Cheaper than electricity. Easier to handle. Gas is the future. If you wanna get in on the ground floor, I know a guy.
Jackson: I dunno, Abby.
Jackson: I got pretty hosed on my last financial venture with those darn Egyptians.
Flatman: Yeah, I read about that. I promise you, though. This is the real deal. I’d bet my job on it.
Jackson: Well, I dunno. You have a pretty crappy job.
Flatman: At least I have one.
(Wilbur sneaks off to a quiet office in the West Wing and pulls a burner cellphone from behind a bookcase..)
Chamberlain: Everything’s going as planned.
Mysterious Caller: The photoshop in the paper worked?
Chamberlain: Yes. He bought it hook, line and sinker.
Mysterious Caller: None of the other Cabinet members are beginning to suspect anything?
Chamberlain: They’re none the wiser.
Mysterious Caller: Excellent. Now we move onto Phase Two.
Chamberlain: Very well. But I’m going to need some time.
Mysterious Caller: Move fast. This operation must be completed by the end of the day.
Chamberlain: Affirmative. If I may ask, how did you manage to get that doctored photo onto the front page?
Mysterious Caller: Elmer’s Glue.
(Abbott Flatman drives Holden to a vacant lot near the Francis Scott Key Bridge on the Potomac, where they are greeted by a goateed man in a long black slicker..)
Flatman: Holden Jackson, I’d like you to meet Philip McKenzie. Mr. McKenzie, here, is the gas guy.
Jackson: Well, that’s an unfortunate nickname.
McKenzie: Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Jackson. I understand you’re interested in making some money.
Jackson: I am. But I’m not willing to kill anyone. I will not waver on that point.
McKenzie: (frowns) I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem. Listen, I’ve got guys in thirty states that are preparing to move on hundreds of cities and towns to completely overhaul their public lighting systems with gas lights.
Jackson: Like foggy old London town! Oh, Wilbur’s gonna love this.
McKenzie: If you get in on the ground floor now with a small cash investment, you will be a very rich man; just in time for your reelection campaign. And once reelected, you’ll be able to use your powers to put gas lighting in the remaining twenty states.
Flatman: Not to mention you’re gonna look like a genius for foreseeing the whole Gas Revolution.
Jackson: (staring out at the icy Potomac) A genius, eh? I like the sound of that.
McKenzie: You’ll be the Gas President!
Jackson: I don’t like the sound of that.
(President Griffith Stone is in the Rose Garden, about to make some remarks on his gun ban bill and is staring at the podium he is to speak on..)
Chamberlain: (trotting out from the balcony) Yes, Mr. President?
Stone: Take a look at the Presidential seal on the front of this podium. Anything seem peculiar to you?
Chamberlain: (shaking his head) Looks in tip-top shape to me. Is it dusty? Would you like me to get one of the maids?
Stone: There’s supposed to be an eagle, but that’s clearly a seal.
Chamberlain: Why, yes sir. It is the Presidential Seal, of course.
Stone: Yes, but it’s not literally a seal. There’s supposed to be an American bald eagle there. This looks like an advertisement for a circus. Or Sea World.
Chamberlain: Are you feeling alright, sir? You look a little faint.
Stone: I am feeling a little tired to be honest with you, Wilbur.
Chamberlain: But you just had that long nap.
Stone: I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Everything feels a little off today.
Chamberlain: Better go ahead and get behind that seal, Mr. President. We’re live in fifteen.
(Wilbur joins the line producer at the far end of the Garden and they stare at a small screen of the President’s speech..)
Producer: Why is there a sea lion on the podium?
Chamberlain: It’s a seal. The President’s trying something new.
Shimansky: …and President Stone seemed oblivious to what some are deeming a practical joke by a disgruntled government employee. Comparisons have been made in recent days to Reagan in the late Eighties. Marine biologists, on the other hand, are lauding the President’s choice as a fresh new look–
(Gary Busey shuts off the tiny black and white in Holden’s East D.C. apartment and turns back to his roommate..)
Busey: Gas, huh?
Jackson: (nodding) Gas.
Busey: Like farts?
Jackson: No. God Gary, not like farts.
Busey: ‘Cause if you need money for farts, I’ll give you money for farts.
Jackson: (pondering for a moment) Yup, it’s for farts.
Busey: (writes check)
Jackson: I promise I’ll pay you back, buddy.
Busey: (cackles) Farts.
(Wilbur is back in the dark office on the burner cellphone with his mysterious co-conspirator..)
Mysterious Caller: Phase Two was a success. He was publicly humiliated. Now it’s time for Phase Three. Soon the President will feel he’s lost control of all his faculties and he will be forced to step down, leading to Mr. Jackson’s reelection as President of the United States.
Chamberlain: Sounds cut-and-dry to me.
(That evening, Holden is back near the FSK Bridge with Abbott as he hands Busey’s check to the gas man, Philip McKenzie..)
McKenzie: You’ve made a wise decision here tonight, Mr. Jackson. You will not regret this.
Jackson: That’s what the Egyptians said.
Flatman: I promise you this is all on the up-and-up, Holden. In a year, this whole country’s gonna be gas-powered.
Jackson: I hope you’re right, Abby.
Flatman: It’s Abbott. Just Abbott.
McKenzie: (frowning) On the memo line of this check it just says “Farts”.
(Across town, Wilbur is taking notes while President Stone speaks in the Oval Office..)
Stone: How does that language sound, Chamberlain?
Chamberlain: It sounds fine, President Boobs.
Stone: Excuse me?
Chamberlain: Yes, President Boobs?
Stone: Why are you calling me “President Boobs”?
Chamberlain: Why because that’s your name, President Boobs.
Stone: My name is President Stone!
Chamberlain: I know, sir. That’s what I’m saying: President Boobs.
Stone: That’s not my name!
Chamberlain: President Boobs, you haven’t been yourself today.
Stone: (tearing at his thinning hair) What the heck is wrong with me?
(A Secret Service agent enters the Office..)
Agent: Sir, I thought you might want to take a look at this.
Stone: Quickly, son. What’s my name?
Agent: President Stone, sir.
Stone: Ha! See?
Agent: Sir, this cellular device was found hidden behind a bookcase a couple offices over from this one. We thought you might want to listen to this message.
Mysterious Caller: Now, Wilbur. Remember to keep repeating “Boobs” in place of his name. Along with the desk and the seal, this should be the final straw that sends President Stone to the funny farm and Holden Jackson back into the White House.
Stone: (glaring at Wilbur) Well, you’re fired Chamberlain.
Chamberlain: (nodding) Right, sir. I’ll collect my things.
Stone: You really thought you could drive me mad in a day and force me to step down. And then what? Your friend Jackson magically becomes President again?
Chamberlain: I’ll admit it was a bit of a far-fetched plan, sir.
Stone: (chuckling) You British really don’t understand American politics, do you?
Chamberlain: I suppose not, President Boob–er, President Stone.
(Wilbur is carrying a box of his belongings out the front of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue when he’s joined by Fox News correspondent, Jessica Sanchez..)
Sanchez: Guess they heard my message.
Chamberlain: That was you? How’d you disguise your voice? I thought you were a man.
Sanchez: (holds up a large plastic tape recorder) Talkboy.
Chamberlain: Ah, yes. From Home Alone 2. Didn’t know they made those anymore.
Sanchez: So what are you gonna do now? You want a job at Fox News? I kinda feel responsible..
Chamberlain: No, I think I’m going to begin focusing on the Holden Jackson reelection campaign full-time. I don’t quite trust Holden and Gary to handle it on their own. Gary said something earlier tonight about investing in farts.
Sanchez: You think that’s a fruitful use of your time, Wilbur? Sorta seems like a Sisyphean quest.
Chamberlain: Didn’t you just spend an entire day trying to help me in that very quest?
Sanchez: (shrugs) Slow news day. The Democrats haven’t done anything stupid this week.
Chamberlain: We’re friends. Friends help each other. No matter how stupid or pointless or impossible the end result seems. It’s not the outcome, it’s the act of getting there that matters.
Sanchez: (throwing an arm around the Englishman) You’re a better friend than most, Wilbur Chamberlain. Now let’s get over to Holden’s, because I’m beginning to worry that they actually did somehow invest in farts.
(Holden & Gary are rolling on Holden’s shag carpeting, cry-laughing..)