Sports Night/The Sword of Orion

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The Sword of Orion
Season 1, Episode 18
Airdate March 23, 1999
Production Number N-318
Writer(s) David Handelman
& Mark McKinney
and Aaron Sorkin
Director(s) Robert Berlinger
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Sports NightSeason One

The Sword of Orion is the eighteenth episode of the first season of Sports Night.

News of his parents' impending divorce hits Jeremy hard as he studies a boat wreck. Dan hits a (metaphorical) wall when he tries to convince Rebecca to watch a baseball game with him.

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 (credit only))

Guest Starring: Kayla Blake (Kim), Greg Baker (Elliott), Teri Polo (Rebecca), Jeff Mooring (Dave), Ron Ostrow (Will), Timothy Davis-Reed (Chris)

Co-Starring: Suzanne Kellogg (Alyson), David Macer (Phil), Josephine Barnsdale (Celia), Dennis Hadley (Stuart)


Plot Overview

With five minutes to air, Dan and Casey are pumped up and they want everyone to know about it. Dan wants to know how a pitcher named Orlando Rojas fared, but Casey has no idea. Dan turns to Natalie, who also doesn't know. Natalie is distracted by the absence of Jeremy, who took a few days off work to visit his parents, and hasn't called for two nights.

In the control room, Chris, Will and Dave bicker over time zones. Dana is pumped up, and she vaguely reassures Natalie while trying to get her pumped too. Elliott has news for Dan: he's seen Rojas pitch, and it wasn't great. This doesn't damper his spirits, and he and Casey chatter away at the makeup girl right before they go live.

The next day, Friday, an annoyed Rebecca is in Dan and Casey's office while Dan tries to interest her in Orlando Rojas' next game. Rebecca seems to be totally apathetic to sports, which surprises Dan, since she's the ex-wife of a sportscaster. She gets pretty mad when Dan teases her about her own job at CSC, and declines to watch Rojas' game later that night with Dan, saying that Dan will like her less when he sees her lack of interest. Dan theorizes that Rebecca has built "a wall of pain" because of Steve Sisco's emotional abuse, and promises to tear down that wall.

Natalie is overjoyed when she spots Jeremy at his desk, but he's already buried his head in some work. After a perfunctory hello, Natalie asks why he didn't call, but Jeremy turns back to charts of the sea. At the rundown meeting, Dana is chagrined when Dan interrupts with a peculiar request: in order that Rojas' game not be spoiled for him and Rebecca, he has formulated a complicated plan to keep himself in the dark. Jeremy pipes up to pitch a feature story to Dana: the tenth anniversary of a racing sailboat wreck. Dana seems uninterested, but Casey senses that the story is important to Jeremy, so he supports it.

Dan is visiting Rebecca on her floor, once again trying to convince her to watch the game with him later that night. She tries to turn him down firmly, but gets flustered when Dan seems to be on a first-name basis with all her co-workers. When Dan tells her that the game is an exhibition game (which will have no effect on league standings), she tells him she just wants to go home for the weekend.

In the edit room, Casey is listening to Jeremy tell the story of The Sword of Orion, a sailboat that was caught in a strong storm when its navigation failed. Casey senses that Jeremy has been affected by the trip to his parents' home, but Jeremy insists he's fine. In the control room, Dana is bruising the egos of the graphics department when Natalie pulls her aside to worry about Jeremy's mood: his father, whom Jeremy is very close to, has moved out of the family home.

Rebecca loses her temper when she finds Dan sitting on her desk, giving her co-workers lessons on the split-fingered fastball. She orders him out, and Dan leaves disappointed. In the edit room, Natalie asks Casey to give her a minute alone with Jeremy. He starts to tell her about the sailboat, but soon spills the real reason for his distraction: his father has been cheating on his mother for 27 years.

On the air, Casey finishes the report on Rojas while Dan plugs his ears. Elliott gives Dan the tape of the game. He goes into his office to watch it, and finds Rebecca waiting for him. She explains that because her ex-husband insisted on keeping her away from his work, she felt very uncomfortable discussing sports with Dan. She apologizes for being so stand-offish and invites him to spend the night watching the game with her in a hotel room, with a bottle of champagne. As Dan and Rebecca walk out together, we see Jeremy talking over his troubles in the edit room with Natalie and Casey.



Arc Advancement


  • Dan deepens his relationship with Rebecca. She invites him to a hotel where they watch a baseball game and (presumably) make love.


  • Jeremy is profoundly affected by the news of his father's affair, and transfers his confusion onto the story of a boat wreck.


  • Jeremy tried to comfort his sister over their parents' marital difficulties last episode, but at the time he didn't know how serious the problems were.


The Show

  • Robert Guillaume's continued absence is explained by having Isaac away from the office.
  • Rebecca attended the Wharton School of Business and was married to Steve Sisko for 2 and a half years.
  • Dan attended Dartmouth College, where he went to class "on one or two occasions."
  • Casey can speak four languages, and claims he can juggle as well.
  • The song playing at fade-out is "Sloop John B" by The Beach Boys.

Behind the Scenes

  • The episode began with a "Previously on Sports Night" clip in which Jeremy tells Natalie that he needs time off because his parents are splitting up. It seems that this clip was intended to be part of last week's episode, when in fact it had been cut (perhaps for time).
  • From when Rebecca leaves Dan's office to when she arrives at the elevator is an 84-second Steadicam shot. From the office, through the main area, past the anchor desk in the studio, out into the hallway and around the corner in one shot.

Allusions and References

  • Casey: ...McKenzie Blane falls mainly on Tulane...
    Located in New Orleans, Tulane University has several Division 1 athletic teams, including football and men's basketball. Casey's comment is also a reference to "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain", a phonetic exercise featured in My Fair Lady - yet another musical reference on Sports Night.

Memorable Moments

  • Rebecca asks if "a perfect game" is good.
  • Dan describes Rebecca's "wall of pain."
  • Dan outlines his no-spoilers safety precautions.
  • Jeremy describes the constellation Orion to Natalie.
  • Rebecca asks Dan to "take the tape", and he momentarily forgets what she's talking about.


  • Dan: Five minutes to air.
    Casey: Best words in the English language.
    Dan: Aren't they?
    Casey: Yes.
    Dan: They're the best words in the English language.
    Casey: Cinq minutes avant d'etre en direct.
    Dan: And those are the best words in the French language.
    Casey: Yes.
    Dan: Oui.
  • (Natalie hasn't heard from Jeremy in two days.)
    Natalie: I left a message.
    Dan: Maybe he's just busy.
    Natalie: Yeah.
    Casey: Maybe he met another woman and forgot all about you.
    Natalie: Maybe I'll jam a #2 pencil up your nose.
    Casey: Maybe he's just busy.
    Natalie: Maybe that's right.
  • Elliott: (re: Orlando Rojas) Kelly was there, she saw him throw.
    Dan: How did his fastball look?
    Elliott: Should be crossin' the plate any minute now.
  • Casey: (to the makeup woman) Alyson, did you know I speak four languages?
    Dan: You speak three languages.
    Casey: I speak four languages.
    Dan: You speak French, Spanish and German.
    Casey: I dabble in a little English.
    Dan: (pause) What were we talking about?
    Casey: I was hoping you'd know.
    Dan: The point is we're pumped.
    Casey: Yes.
    Alyson: Do I have to keep standing here?
    Casey: No, go get pumped!
  • Casey: (on-air) We'll show you why McKenzie Blane falls mainly on Tulane and we'll do other things that rhyme as well.
  • Rebecca: Hey, is it okay if I hit you in the head with this big book?
    Dan: That's Casey's. (Casey enters.)
    Rebecca: Casey, is it okay if I hit Dan in the head with this big book?
  • Dan: (re: Orlando Rojas) Eleven years ago he pitched a perfect game.
    Rebecca: A perfect game?
    Dan: Yes ma'am.
    Rebecca: And a perfect game is good?
    (Dan and Casey look at each other.)
    Dan: (to Rebecca) Listen, I know there's a lot of jargon, but some of these are pretty self-explanatory.
  • Rebecca: You think Neil Armstrong's wife was an expert in astro-propulsion?
    Dan: I think she's heard of the moon.
  • Rebecca: Have people ever tried to kill you?
    Dan: Yeah, but I defend myself with my superior wit and guile.
  • Dan: You've built yourself a wall. A wall of pain. A wall whose bricks are made of pain, and whose mortar is made of tears, and whose... what's the other one? There's bricks and mortar and--
    Rebecca: That's it.
    Dan: Really?
    Rebecca: Just bricks and mortar.
    Dan: There isn't a third thing?
    Rebecca: Nope.
    Dan: Whatever. You got a wall.
  • Dan: I'm gonna tear it down! For I am Dan: doer of good things where women are concerned.
  • (Natalie sees Jeremy after a few days absence.)
    Natalie: You wanna know how good I am? I'm not even gonna ask why you didn't call.
    Jeremy: Thank you, 'cause what I really gotta do right now is get a hold of--
    Natalie: Why the hell didn't you call?
  • Dana: I'm feeling really good about this meeting so far. I'm serious, I'm getting a really good vibe from this meeting, so here we go. Ready? Elliott, Item 1--
    Dan: Dana?
    Dana: Oh, this meeting sucks!
  • (Dan wants to avoid having an Orioles game spoiled for him.)
    Dan: Once the American League wrap-up starts, I need to be outfitted with a blindfold and Walkman and just to be on the safe side, Dana, you better throw a Hefty bag over the floor monitors.
    Dana: (to Natalie) Kill me. Kill me now.
  • (Dan is visiting Rebecca on the 37th floor.)
    Rebecca: How is it you've become buddies with everyone who works down here?
    Dan: I have a way about me.
    Rebecca: For you are Dan?
    Dan: For I am.
  • (Dana is previewing graphics.)
    Dana: Show me 30. You'll see how nice I can be.
    Chris: 30's up.
    Dana: Oh that blows!
    Chris: (into his headset) Yeah, she's not wild about it.
  • Jeremy: (re: The Sword of Orion) It's worth it, I think, to figure out... exactly how this boat, that was supposed to win... met with this kind of disaster.
  • Dana: (right after a show) Would you tell graphics that the wise thing for them to do is to leave the building right now very quickly.
    Natalie: (into her headset) Hey, Dana says you guys come on up for a well-deserved pat on the back.
    Dana: (amused look at Natalie)
  • Dan: I'm gonna tear down that wall, Rebecca. Bit by little bit. It may take weeks, it could take months, but I'm gonna do it. I'm hunkering down for a long period of wall-demolition, just bit by little bit. I expect the process to be excrutiating, but ultimately worth it.
    Rebecca: I've booked a suite at the St. Regis for tonight. Room service has a bottle of champagne chilling in the room right now. Could I take you there, please?
    Dan: (pause) Well, that'll speed things up considerably.