Sports Night/Smoky

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Season 1, Episode 12
Airdate January 5, 1999
Production Number N-313
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Robert Berlinger
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The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee
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Sports NightSeason One

Smoky is the twelfth episode of the first season of Sports Night.

Isaac decides that the time has come to groom Dana to take over his job. Dan decides to send Casey back into the dating world, with his guidance. Sally senses the professional and romantic opportunities, and goes after both with her usual lack of subtlety. Computer problems lead to an unusual conversation between Natalie and Jeremy.

Starring: Josh Charles (Dan Rydell), Peter Krause (Casey McCall), Felicity Huffman (Dana Whitaker), Joshua Malina (Jeremy Goodwin), Sabrina Lloyd (Natalie Hurley) and Robert Guillaume (Isaac Jaffe)

Guest Starring: Brenda Strong (Sally), Kayla Blake (Kim), Greg Baker (Elliott)

Co-Starring: Jeff Mooring (Dave), Timothy Davis-Reed (Chris), Ron Ostrow (Will)


Plot Overview

While Casey frets over bizarre statistics from a broken news wire, Dan pronounces Casey should start meeting women. Casey is wary on the idea, but Dan simultaneously pronounces that "it's time" while maintaining that it's "past time" but "there's still time." Dan intrigues Casey somewhat by pointing out that since divorcing Lisa, he is now a single man who's on television.

Isaac summons Dana to his office. He announces that he wants to start grooming her to replace him as managing editor, but Dana balks at the idea. Isaac insists that she begin to involve herself in CSC politics, so that she will be the natural choice for his successor. He asks her to keep it a secret, so of course Dana tells Natalie immediately.

Dan walks to his desk, interrupting a conversation where Sally exposes some leg to Casey (ostensibly to show him an old ankle injury). Dan shoos Sally away with a few rude words. Casey doesn't seem to have realized that Sally was flirting with him, and Dan expresses serious misgivings about Sally's career ambitions and her agenda.

While Natalie examines the malfunctioning news machine, she asks Jeremy to explain, in technical detail, exactly what the error messages mean. His "nerd speak" turns her on, and she gets frustrated when he won't continue. Sally follows Isaac into his office, all smiles and compliments, and when the door is shut, asks him point-blank whether he's quitting. Isaac denies it, but Sally still puts herself forward as the best person to take over Dana's job.

While trying to write the evening's show, Casey admits to Dana that Sally was flirting with him. He doesn't know if he was flirting with her, and he also doesn't know if he flirts badly in general. Dana tells Casey to flirt with her for practice. After a few false starts, Dana's fed up, but Casey surprises her by calling her "smoky." Dana likes the sound of it. Natalie interrupts, and Dana recovers enough to walk away.

Kim and Elliott barge into Isaac's office, each of them demanding to have Natalie's job (once Natalie takes Dana's job after Dana takes Isaac's etc.). Fed up, Isaac orders them both into the conference room. He finds Jeremy arguing with Natalie about the nerd speak/phone sex and orders them along too. They're joined by Dan, Casey, Dana and Sally.

Isaac lays down the law on them all: 1) He is not quitting today, nor tomorrow. 2) He expects Dana to keep their conversations more private. 3) Everyone on the production team had better show more respect for their co-workers, and 4) the crew of CSC's shows are to treat each other respectfully, like a family. Sally, naturally, is oblivious to the fact that this last comment was directed at her.

Five minutes to airtime. Dana tells Natalie how much she enjoyed being called "smoky." Jeremy takes the opportunity to call Natalie "a slow drink of whiskey," which pleases her as much as the nerd speak. Dan is displeased with Casey going off on his own for dating advice. Dan says he's changed his mind, he doesn't think "it's time." Too late, Danny, too late...


Timeline: Dana says to Casey that they have known each other for 15 years. In the episode Intellectual Property, she mentions knowing Casey in college. Dan mentioned to Casey in the pilot episode that he (Dan) was there when Casey got married. Dan says this episode that Casey got married at 23. This implies that:

  • Dana, Casey and Lisa (Casey's ex) attended college together.
    • It's possible that Dana and Lisa were rivals for Casey's affection in college, based on Dana's hostility to the mere mention of Lisa in Intellectual Property.
  • Casey's in his early 30s.
  • Dana has known Casey for longer than Dan, although possibly not by much.

Arc Advancement


  • Isaac begins grooming Dana to take his place as managing editor for when he retires (or if he is fired by CSC).
  • Sally flirts with Casey.
  • Casey is partially successful at flirting with Dana.


  • Isaac is beginning to feel his age, expressing some weariness with his job and the desire to have Dana replace him eventually.
  • Casey, after years of marriage and a difficult divorce, is starting to notice women again.
  • Natalie equates Jeremy's "geek speak" with a kind of phone sex.


  • Isaac describes his conflict with Luther Sachs (after the events of The Six Southern Gentlemen of Tennessee) as a "near death experience." He is concerned that Luther may wait a while, then fire him.


The Show

Behind the Scenes

Allusions and References

  • Casey: (on-air) [I]f you haven't seen Davis Love play Pebble Beach, then you haven't seen Shakespeare the way it was meant to be played.

Casey is mixing two cliched expressions: the first, where fans of an athlete will say s/he plays a sport "the way it was meant to be played" and the second, that the staging of a play is "Shakespeare the way it was meant to be seen."

Davis Love III is a professional golfer with many wins to his name, and Pebble Beach is a community in northern California, famous for multiple golf courses.

  • Dan: (on-air) How 'bout Oklahoma, where the corn's not the only thing high as an elephant's eye.

Dan is making reference to the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! by quoting a line from it's title song. For earlier references to musicals on Sports Night, see The Head Coach, Dinner and the Morning Mail.

  • Dan: Sally is an alien, do you understand me? At night she peels her body off and lives on Steve Guttenberg's boat.

In the film "Cocoon", Steve Guttenberg's character encounters an alien who wears the guise of an unnaturally beautiful woman. Dan also compares Sally to a Superman villian, and a Stepford Wife.

  • Dan announces himself to be a fan of Yoko Ono's music, and repeatedly suggests that Casey date her.

Memorable Moments

  • Sally puts her ankle on Casey's lap
  • Dan's paranoid suspicions about Sally
  • Natalie and Jeremy have "phone sex"
  • Casey flirts with Dana for practice
  • Joshua Malina's (Jeremy) deadpan delivery of "I told many, many people."


  • [Casey wants extra time for a segment.]
    Dana: Five seconds. You go to ten, I kick your ass.
    Casey: You ever hear of artistic freedom?
    Dana: You ever hear of me kicking your ass?
  • Dan: A lot's changed since the last time you been out there.
    Casey: Out where?
    Dan: There. Out there. Where the women are.
    Casey: Everybody still wears shoes, right?
    Dan: Do they ever!
  • Casey: (on-air) If you haven't seen Davis Love play Pebble Beach, then you haven't seen Shakespeare the way it was meant to be played.
  • Dana: (re: Isaac's "grooming") I think your job stinks. You get to create your own show and make all the decisions and have a big staff and make a lot of money. That's not for me, Isaac. I like to answer to people. I don't want to create. When I get a thought in my head, I like it to die right there.
  • Dana: You're thinking about how you'd re-decorate my office right now, aren't you?
    Natalie: I was not!
    Dana: Yes, you were.
    Natalie: I was totally not at all.
    Dana: In your little mind, you were measuring for new curtains.
    Natalie: I was not measuring for curtains.
    Dana: You'd keep the curtains?
    Natalie: And dump the plants.
  • Dan: It's not time to dally with Sally.
    Casey: Dan.
    Dan: That was an unfortunate rhyme, but still...
  • Dan: She scares me, she's too good looking. Nobody's that good looking. I'm not that good looking.
    Casey: You really think she was flirting with me?
    Dan: (ignoring him) And her beauty comes from a very strange place, have you noticed that?
    Casey: The places her beauty comes from weren't that strange to me. I can identify almost all of them.
    Dan: Don't do it, Casey, she's got an agenda.
    Casey: You think she wants a job on Sports Night?
    Dan: No, I think she wants to rule all of Metropolis!
  • Casey: I say she's a very nice person.
    Dan: I say she has no reflection!
  • Sally: Can I be blunt?
    Isaac: There's evidence to suggest that you're capable of it, yes.
    Sally: I think I'm the right person for the job.
    Isaac: Who's job?
    Sally: Dana's job.
    Isaac: Dana wants Dana's job.
    Sally: No, Dana's gonna have your job.
    Isaac: No, sadly, I'm gonna have my job.
  • Sally: As we speak, one of your LC-Wire frames is misprocessing data while two of your associate producers stand over the monitor attempting to have phone sex.
    Isaac: God please don't tell me which two.
  • [Dana is teaching Casey how to flirt.]
    Dana: Flirt with me. Tell me why you like me better than Sally.
    Casey: I do like you better than Sally.
    Dana: Tell me why.
    Casey: I don't understand.
    Dana: I don't think you're ever going to have sex again. I gotta go. (starts to walk away)
    Casey: You're smoky.
    Dana: (turning around) I'm sorry?
    Casey: The difference between you and Sally, you're smoky.
  • Casey: Are we really flirting, or ar you just pretending to be you flirting with me actually being me?
    Dana: You think I'm smoky?
    Casey: Classy. Impressive. Sexy. Was "sexy" going too far?
    Dana: (momentarily speechless) It was fine.
  • Kim: (to Isaac) When I get Natalie's job, is there a union regulation that prevents me from making Elliott my man-slave?
  • Isaac: Let me add, Dana, that things that I say in my office, stay in my office.
    Dana: Natalie's my second in command, she's the only one I told.
    Natalie: Jeremy's my boyfriend, he's the only one I told.
    Jeremy: I told many, many people.
  • Dan: You could be having sex with Yoko Ono right now.
    Casey: Please don't ever say that again.