The West Wing

Season 4 Episode 11

Holy Night

Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Dec 11, 2002 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
104 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

It's December 23, and the holiday brings several visitors to the White House: Zoey comes home with her new French boyfriend in tow; aided by Josh, Toby's father seeks a reconciliation; and Danny arrives bearing gifts of gold and a heads-up for C.J. about Shareef's death. Will moves into Sam's office at Toby's insistence, and is treated to some good-natured ribbing by the rest of the staff. Bartlet and Leo try to exercise their guilt about Shareef by asking Josh to add eleventh hour funding to combat infant mortality in the federal budget, and promoting peace in the Mideast, respectively.moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
No results found.
No results found.
  • Old times come to hunt..

    In so many ways it was about the past and about accepting it.. Toby has to deal with his father who he sees as a security risk and does not want to talk. Then there is a thing with CJ when Danny returns and brings up old topic of a plane they ordered to be shut down.. or at least they were behind it.. and that rises more questions and guilt inside the West Wing.. and CJ has to deal with Danny again.. not that she seems to be quite happy..

    And then.. the new writer staff.. Quite glad to have him in main cast now.. as it is soon off to Sam.. whose char I liked but I am sure I could like that new char too..

    And Zoe is back too.. :)moreless
  • The last Sorkin-Schlamme work on The West Wing -- unfortunately.

    I think it is fitting, and a little disappointing, to note that this was the last Sorkin-Schlamme work for the series. Some of the best episodes of the series (epitomized by the masterpiece Two Cathedrals) were written by Sorkin and directed by Schlamme. This is far from their best work, but it is still decent.

    An obvious observation about the episode: It is slow. Very slow. Almost calming when compared to the typical fast-paced antics this show has become known for. And, while this episode did serve a refreshing course in slowness, it suffered at times from somewhat pretentious direction/cinematography and also from the typical holiday sappiness we've grown to know and endure.

    My favorite scene of the episode is the teaser, which I think is a wonderfully "loaded" sequence. The usual Sorkin quirky dialogue (this time mixed with two languages) serves as a humorous, but uneasy, precursor to the horrifying drama that concludes the scene. Sorkin reminds us that the best drama comes from comedy.

    Meanwhile, back in our time, the West Wing is inundated with familiar faces we haven't seen in a while. Zoey returns with new boyfriend. Danny returns with big story. And Toby's father returns with a friend's aid.

    The main theme of the episode involves characters dealing with regret. Martin Sheen does this best. He has a great scene with special guest Adam Arkin, and I love his coatless silence in the calming snow. Leo has authoritative guilt and uses this to get Josh to solve a Mid-East crisis of strangely small proportions. Toby's guilt is for (or because of) his father. And Josh's guilt? A nice combo of Donna and agonizing over his family's tragedies.

    While there is a lot to admire about this episode, there are many things that I'm not too fond of. For one, while this episode was awarded for cinematography, I thought the episode touched on the pretentious in that department. I especially despised the fade-in/fade-out at the end of the episode. A nice look at the characters, yes. But this seemed kind of forced and unnecessary and certainly overdramatic to me.

    I also thought that Danny's return seemed kind of forced, more a dramtic plot line for the sake of a dramatic plot line (i.e., contrived and more than a little coincidental). It does add to the drama for the latter half of the season, but its origins seem ill-conceived to me.

    And, finally, while the slow pace is certainly appropriate, there were scenes that seemed slow for the sake of effect rather than for the sake of flow. Meaning...the pace of the episode seemed calculatingly slow (almost manipulative) in efforts to emphasize the drama. The West Wing certainly does not need to do this, and the episode teaser is proof of this. After all, it made a somewhat amusing scene with people we don't know, and it ended itself with an element of high drama without slowing the pace one iota. Why purposely slow a scene for the effect of drama? It adds up smelling like melodrama, and I don't like that smell.

    All in all, a good but below average episode for Sorkin and Schlamme. But I do miss them.moreless
Adam Arkin

Adam Arkin

Stanley Keyworth

Guest Star

Jerry Adler

Jerry Adler

Jules Ziegler

Guest Star

John Diehl

John Diehl


Guest Star

Timothy Busfield

Timothy Busfield

Danny Concannon

Recurring Role

Elisabeth Moss

Elisabeth Moss

Zoey Bartlet

Recurring Role

Trent Ford

Trent Ford

Jean Paul

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • This episode had Toby born December 23, 1954. Based on this series being in real time and first aired on Dec. 11, 2002, Toby would be turning 48. However, in Enemies Foreign and Domestic, first aired May 1, 2002, Toby declared that he was 44.

    • Toby: You've been convicted of multiple felonies. You think the U.S. Secret Service lets you walk around this building unescorted? You can't. You're a threat to the President.

      Toby's office is 63 feet from the Oval Office. There are no Secret Service officers stationed outside Toby's office at this time.

  • QUOTES (8)

    • President Bartlet: (to Will, who has panicked at the thought of meeting with him alone) Thanks for stopping by.
      Will: Thank you, Mr. Justice. (flustered) Mr. Bartlet. Mr. President, actually.
      Bartlet exits to the Oval Office, leaving Will alone with Charlie
      Will: Oh my God.
      Charlie: You know what? I've seen worse.
      Will: Really?
      Charlie: (exiting) No.

    • Toby: Why do you sit in the lobby instead of my office?
      Will: The Holy Line of Demarcation. (indicates the floor) Right there. It's where the West Wing starts and I won't go past it.
      Toby: I wasn't listening to anything you just said.
      Will: I said the Holy Line Of Demarcation...
      Toby: It's because I didn't care.

    • Zoey: So I have to ask you and I'm nervous, but I'd like Jean Paul to come stay with us in Manchester this Christmas.
      Bartlet: Zoey, I think it's really sweet that you still come to me for permission. You're classy and you're old-fashioned.
      Zoey: So it's okay?
      Bartlet: Not in a million years.

    • Will: Seriously, Toby, you put me in that office and everyone on the speech writing staff is going to resent me.
      Toby: Don't be rediculous. It's a West Wing office, everyone in the White House is gonna to resent you.

    • Julie: Ich hub uuz deh gebracht.
      Toby: What?
      Julie: I'm having the strongest memory.

    • Will: Hey, your dad seems like such a nice guy. I was talking to him before.
      Toby: Yeah?
      Will: Is he retired?
      Toby: Yeah.
      Will: What did he do?
      Toby: He made ladies' raincoats, and before that, he worked for Murder Incorporated.

    • Toby: Listen, when you get home tonight you're going to be confronted by the instinct to drink alone. Trust that instinct. Manage the pain. Don't try to be a hero.

    • Toby: People, there are laws against campaigning in Federal buildings. If you're going to cover Will's office, please use plain oak tag or shaving cream, if you need to.

  • NOTES (5)

    • Awards and Nominations: Nomination for 2003 Emmy in Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series (Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.). Nomination at 2003 ASC Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in Episodic TV Series (Thomas Del Ruth, A.S.C.) Won the 2003 Banff Rockie Award for Continuing Series.

    • Toby's birthday is December 23, 1954.

    • Joshua Malina appears in the opening montage for the first time.

    • Jean Paul's full name is Jean Paul Pierre Claude Charpentier Vicomte de Condé de Bourbon.

    • Music: Special appearance by The Whiffenpoofs, who sang "Bye-bye Blackbird", "The Girl From Ipanema" and "O, Holy Night".
      Also "Silver Bells" was performed by someone else on a TV in the background.


    • Toby: (about his father) He made ladies' raincoats and before that, he worked for Murder, Incorporated.

      Murder, Incorporated was a division of the organized crime group National Crime Syndicate that operated from the late 1920s to 1950s. It performed contract killings for mob bosses across the United States and was run from the back office of a candy shop in Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY, a primarily Jewish neighborhood. A large number of the hitmen were Jewish. Targets were usually informants or gang and mob members. Murder, Inc. was reportedly responsible for hundreds of murders during its time. Very few of these murders were prosecuted, however, as a few of the hitmen were caught they plea bargained for lesser sentences by turning in their fellow murderers. With the murder of boss Albert Anastasia in 1957, Murder, Inc. dissolved to what is now known as the Gambino Crime Family and murders were again ordered by individual mob bosses.

    • Toby: When was Albert Anastasia killed?

      Albert Anastasia, a.k.a. "The Mad Hatter" or "Lord High Executioner," was a Mafia boss, most notably as the head of the contract-killing organization Murder, Incorporated. He hailed from Italy, but had a comaradarie with Jews from his early crime days. He reportedly ordered hundreds of ruthlessly brutal murders, but was not prosecuted for any of them, as key witnesses would mysteriously disappear if a trial seemed likely. Anastasia was killed in the Sheraton hotel barbershop in Midtown Manhattan, NY on October 25, 1957. Many people and groups have claimed responsibility for his murder, but the only consensus is that it was likely organized by his then-underboss, Carlo Gambino.