Fans of ABC’s primetime cloak-and-dagger hit Commander In Chief got a hefty dose of HIV intrigue in last night’s episode, when House Speaker Nathan Templeton (a sublimely slimy Donald Sutherland) targeted a key member of President Mackenzie Allen’s (Geena Davis) staff for exposure: Special Assistant Vince Taylor (Anthony Azizi), who’s both gay and HIV positive. When the Prez found out, she was so miffed not to have been in the loop on such politically volatile information that she accepted Taylor’s resignation—but then hired him back by episode’s end. Of course, she had a trick up her sleeve—a damning video—to keep arch-nemesis Templeton mum.

The episode wasn’t the first incidence of HIV in the White House. Remember Bob Hattoy? Openly positive in real life and a Clinton advisor in the early ‘90s, Hattoy missed the show, but did josh, “Who is this HIV upstart? Don’t they know I’ve already played this role? And an Emmy Award-winning performance it was indeed, if I do say so myself."

The show’s producers say they weren’t trying too hard to get art to imitate life. As for the characters’, well, dramatic reactions to Taylor’s status, “It is a highly specific place of leadership in the world. Would you take any chances if you didn’t have to?” asks Dee Johnson, executive producer (and occasional co-writer) of the show.

Johnson does admit to an interest in kicking up some HIV awareness, however. “The reality of HIV is that unless he takes a bullet for her and his blood sprays into her mouth, it’s not going to impact her per se,” she says. The episode wrapped instead with a feel-good press conference, in which Taylor, president in tow, disclosed his status to the White House press corps, hoping to inspire others not to live in fear. “We’re all aware that [HIV has] fallen off the radar in perception but not in reality,” says Johnson. “So why not put a person with that situation right into the biggest, most powerful place on earth?”

Did you catch the episode? What did you think? E-mail us at Also: Stay tuned for an exclusive, surprise interview with a Commander In Chief cast member!