Sports Night/When Something Wicked This Way Comes

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When Something Wicked This Way Comes
Season 2, Episode 2
Airdate October 12, 1999
Production Number N-325
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Robert Berlinger
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Cliff Gardner
Sports NightSeason Two

When Something Wicked This Way Comes is the second episode of the second season of Sports Night, and the twenty-fifth episode overall.

Dana has a epiphany which surprises and confuses Casey while he plans their first date. Dan looks like a fool (or a religious bigot) in front of the First Lady. Have you heard the rumor about the ratings expert?

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: William H. Macy (Sam), Kayla Blake (Kim), Greg Baker (Elliott), Jeff Mooring (Dave), Ron Ostrow (Will), Timothy Davis-Reed (Chris)


Plot Overview

Jeremy and Natalie hurry nervously through the office corridors, discussing a rumor that the network has hired a "ratings expert" to make alterations to the show. Despite the show's consistent third place spot in the ratings, Natalie and Jeremy both deny the need for outside help, and grow more worried with each staff member who's heard the rumor. Both enter Dana's office and find her dressed for a bachelorette party she's attending after the show.

In the studio, Casey brags to the wardrobe girls about the plans he's made for his first date with Dana. He claims that he "has a rep" when it comes to first dates. Dan shoots down that nonsense and delivers his own good news, that he has been invited to a fundraiser breakfast for Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign. Casey mocks him for being proud of something that only required a monetary donation, but Dan reveals that he has a small crush on Mrs. Clinton, and he's hoping to impress her with a high-minded discussion on topics besides sports.

Dana completely denies the ratings expert rumor, but Jeremy continues to pester her. Isaac enters and confirms that the rumor is true, a ratings expert is indeed coming to work on the show. What's more, he was hired by Isaac personally, not by the network. Dana is stunned.

The next morning, Dana has not yet arrived for work after the bachelorette party. Dan arrives, full of smiles after the fundraiser breakfast. Dan describes how he spoke with Clinton about public schools, and how he opposes "secular programs that are publicly financed." Casey corrects him, saying that he meant "non-secular" meaning religious-based. Dan is suddenly worried that he misspoke at the fundraiser, and that Clinton thinks he's a fool.

Dana enters to speak with Casey. He tries to talk about his first-date plans with her, but she brushes that aside because she had an "epiphany" after the bachelorette party. She proposes that they postpone their first date for six months, while Casey dates other women. Casey is very confused, and Dana explains that at the party, someone predicted that the marriage wouldn't last very long because the bride had only dated one man as an adult and didn't know what else might be out there. Dana has decided that since Casey married his ex-wife after having dated relatively few women, he should earn dating experience to give their relationship a better chance.

Casey is angry and a little hurt as they argue on their way to Isaac's office. Casey is forced to wait outside while Dana questions Isaac about the ratings expert, Sam Donovan. Isaac tells Dana that the show's ratings were not rising fast enough for the networks, and asks her to work with Sam despite her reservations. Outside the office, Casey explains Dana's epiphany to Natalie, who denies any involvement in this decision.

After leaving Isaac, Casey and Dana argue some more. Dana points out that aside from his liasons with Sally, Casey has no dating experience, and despite their passionate kiss last episode, she wants her next relationship to be a sure thing.

Later that night, Dan is still depressed that he was unable to contact Mrs. Clinton to explain his earlier gaffe, and worries that rumors are now spreading about him. Dana has gathered the staff ten minutes before air to greet Sam as he arrives. As they sit, Dan tries to reassure everyone that ratings consultants are usually harmless obsequious types with little impact. After a brief wait, Dana is about to dismiss the staff when Sam enters with his suitcases still in hand.

Sam has barely arrived before he's taken a copy of the show rundown and begun making notes and changes. Dana asks him for an explanation but he rudely rebuffs her. Dan warns Sam that his first actions could result in a walk-out by senior staff, to which Sam responds that he is so confident that he can raise the ratings of the show, he considers the staff superfluous. After a surprised silence, Dana sends the team to the studio to start the show.


Arc Advancement


  • Dana forces Casey to postpone their first date because she wants him to date other women for six months.
  • Isaac hires a ratings expert to improve the show's position.


  • Casey is forced to admit that he has very little dating experience.
  • Dana has decided that she wants her next relationship (presumably with Casey) to be serious.
  • Isaac admits that he is feeling pressure from the network executives.


  • Dan name-dropped his Dartmouth education to Rebecca in 1x18.


The Show

  • First appearance of Sam Donovan.

Behind the Scenes

  • Felicity Huffman, who plays Dana, and William H. Macy were already married for two years when he took the role of Sam. They met in the 80's when she was one of his students at the Atlantic Theater Company.

Allusions and References

  • "Something wicked this way comes" (without the word "when") is a phrase from the Shakespeare play Macbeth.
  • Casey: Well, then here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.
    Casey is drawing a parallel between Dan's crush on Hillary Clinton and the Benjamin/Mrs. Robinson relationship in "The Graduate".
  • Casey's plans for his first date with Dana included stops at real New York City hot spots: a meal at Café des Artistes, drinks at Moomba (a now-closed nightclub that once featured a super-exclusive third floor where celebrities could often be spotted), and a carriage ride through Central Park.
  • Dan attends a fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton Senate campaign.

Memorable Moments

  • Natalie notices Jeremy noticing Dana's breasts.
  • Isaac confirms the rumor, and gets a withering look from Dana.
  • The horrified look on Dan's face after Casey corrects his vocabulary.
  • Casey's confused look: "That's not dating?"
  • Sam establishes dominance.


  • Jeremy: Three people have heard the rumor.
    Natalie: So I think we're justified in being nervous.
    Jeremy: I think we're justified in being damn nervous, and I'm someone who can be, frankly, nervous without much justification at all.
  • Natalie: (to Jeremy) Sweetie, Dana can tell when you're staring at her breasts.
  • Casey: (to Dan) Tell them about my rep!
    Dan: You don't have a rep. You don't have street cred. Your last date was 14 years ago, and you ended up with a marriage and a divorce.
  • Casey: You have a crush on Hillary Clinton?
    Dan: I carry a torch for her, yes.
    Casey: You're hot for Mrs. Clinton?
    Dan: Well, who isn't?
  • Isaac: What are you dressed as?
    Dana: I'm going to a bachelorette party. It's a theme bachelorette party.
    Natalie: Ask her what the theme is.
    Isaac: I just assumed it was hookers.
    Dana: It's biker chicks.
    Isaac: (smiling) Just as good in my book.
  • Dan: (re: Dana) She was skankin' around town all leathered up?
    Natalie: I guess so.
    Dan: Excellent.
    Casey: Hey, you're talkin' about the woman whose first date with me I'm planning! (pause) That was some pretty interesting grammar.
  • Dan: Hillary Clinton thinks I'm an idiot!
    Casey: Either that or a religious bigot.
    Dan: I went to an Ivy League school, Casey.
    Casey: Proud day for Dartmouth, Dan.
    Dan: I made an idiot out of myself in front of Hillary Clinton!
    Casey: Yeah, but at least you had to spend a thousand bucks to do it.
  • Casey: Was there a stripper?
    Dana: At the party?
    Casey: Yeah.
    Dana: Yes, there was.
    Casey: Did he have a better body than me?
    Dana: Of course he had a better body than you, Casey. He was a professional male stripper.
  • Casey: What if I just refused to go along with your plan?
    Dana: Then you do not get the wonder that is me.
    Casey: I'm not sure I want the wonder that is you!
  • Casey: I, I'm, wanna kill you right now!
    Dana: (smiling) Problem is that's not the only thing you want to do with me right now, is it?
    Casey: No, that's pretty much it.
  • Casey: (re: Dana) You don't think her epiphany sounds insane?
    Natalie: I sorta do, yeah. But she didn't run it by me, so this is the kind of thing that happens.
    Casey: No, this is the kind of thing that happens when she does run it by you, so I'm surprised to hear you weren't involved.
  • Dana: (re: Casey and Sally's past) That wasn't dating. That was two lonely and pathetic people slinking off after a crappy little 2 AM show, getting drunk and using each other for sex.
    Casey: (stunned silent for a moment) That's not dating?
    Dana: No.
    Casey: OK, but still, can I just do that for a little while and we'll call it--
    Dana: No sir!
  • Dan: There's such a word as "disheveled," but "sheveled" is nowhere to be found in the dictionary.
    Casey: Danny...
    Dan: I'm just sayin' English sucks.
  • Dana: Sam, what are you doing?
    Sam: Huh?
    Dana: I said, what are you doing?
    Sam: It's gonna be helpful if you get used to not asking that question.
  • Sam: You shouldn't think that just because I'm looking at you while you're talking to me, that I'm necessarily listening to or caring about what you're saying. It's just something I do to be polite. I was lying on a beach in Bali. I got a phone call, I got on a plane for 14 hours. I was hired to raise this show's audience share three points. Just between you and me, I'm gonna raise it three-and-a-half. I'm not lacking in confidence as far as that's concerned, and because of that I can say this: I honestly don't give a damn if any of you work here or not.