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Throwback Thursday - The West Wing - Shibboleth

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past.

For this week's edition of Throwback Thursday, I picked "Shibboleth" from the second season of The West Wing.  It's one of my favorite Thanksgiving episodes of television, and I had fun re-watching it.  The episode reminded me of why I loved The West Wing especially in the early seasons.

At the beginning of "Shibboleth", C.J. interrupts Sam and Toby's speech writing session to ask if they've ever heard of the "Jamestown Mayflower Daughters of the American Revolution Preservation Society" or something like that.  She's not sure of the name.  They invited the White House to participate in some Thanksgiving Revolutionary War reenactment.  Toby and Sam seem very uninterested, and C.J. complains about how the guys always check out every time a holiday comes around.  After C.J. goes home, two turkeys are dropped off by Jasper Farms.  Josh says to put the turkeys in C.J.'s office, and Toby suggests the turkeys should be taken out of the cages and be allowed to roam freely.  

While the White House staff deal with actual problems, they also discuss their Thanksgiving plans.  Josh begs Leo not to tell President Bartlet that he's just watching football with Toby and Sam.  He wants to relax and not have to listen to the "history of the yam".  

C.J. discovers the turkeys in her office the next morning, and Donna explains to her the tradition of the President pardoning a turkey every year.  C.J. gets to decide who gets pardoned: Eric or Troy.  She thinks this is ridiculous.  She's also asked during a press conference if she will be leading the children in song on Thursday morning.  "Yes, of course I will be leading them in song as I am the press secretary" she says unenthusiastically.  The reporters all laugh, and I loved this.  Allison Janney was wonderful here.

C.J. decides to pardon Eric.  She tells Troy that the competition was "neck and neck", and he was in the competition until the very end. Then she says she's concerned that she's been talking out loud to the turkeys.  When it's time to send Troy back, she can't do it.  She decides she's going to take both turkeys even though Troy has already been sold for a Thanksgiving dinner.

After C.J. basically begs the president to pardon both turkeys, he decides to draft the turkey into military service.  This was so funny.  He writes a check so that the family who bought Troy can buy a butterball instead.  I love that C.J. got so invested in this that she couldn't let either turkey go.

C.J.'s not the only one dealing with Thanksgiving madness during this episode. Charlie has to pick out a knife for the President to use to carve the turkey, but the President is very picky. He rejects the first two selections, and on the third try, Charlie wants to know why this is so important.  President Bartlet explains that the knives are passed down to each generation, and he needs a new one as he's giving his old one to Charlie.  The one that the President gave to Charlie was his dad's and was made by Paul Revere.  This was such a nice gesture, and I teared up a bit when the President told Charlie he was proud of him.  I loved the relationship between these two.

"Shibboleth" wasn't all about Thanksgiving.  The staff dealt with Chinese Christians arriving in California seeking asylum and Leo's sister who is "controversial" with her stance on prayer in schools.  This episode did a great job showing the serious issues President Bartlet and his staff dealt with every day and how well the team worked with each other.  The episode was also funny and lighthearted which is what made the earlier seasons of this show so amazing.

Favorite Quotes:

Mrs. Landingham: "Sir why don't you use the intercom?  Because you don't know how to use the intercom."  
President Bartlet: "I was standing at the door."
Mrs. Landingham: "Maybe after the ceremony you can get one of the fourth graders to come in and show you how to use the intercom."

C.J.: "They sent me two turkeys.  The more photo friendly of the two gets a presidential pardon and a full life at a children's zoo.  The runner up gets eaten."
President Bartlet: "If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch."

C.J.: "Morton, this is President Bartlet."
President Bartlett: "Hey Morton."
Morton: "Wow."
President Bartlett: "Well said."

Mrs. Landingham: "I wouldn't get your hopes up, dear."
Charlie: "This is a very good knife."
Mrs. Landingham: "He's very particular."
Charlie: "That's one word for it."

Other Thoughts: 

- I really can't believe this episode aired 20 years ago.  That makes me feel so old.

- I've only re-watched this show once since it ended.  I was young when the show originally aired so I really only remembered the later seasons.  As I watched this episode I remembered that John Spencer (Leo) died before the show ended.  That was so heartbreaking as he was only 58.

I think The West Wing was definitely one of the best shows of the 2000s; it was certainly one of my favorites.  C.J. Cregg, Josh Lyman, Charlie Young, Leo McGarry, Donna Moss, and President Bartlet are some of my favorite television characters.  I only wish the real west wing was as great as this fictional one.

Have you all watched "Shibboleth"?  What did you think about it?  What are some of your favorite episodes from The West Wing?  I would love to discuss them with you!


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