The West Wing

Season 2 Episode 8

Shibboleth

1
Aired Wednesday 9:00 PM Nov 22, 2000 on NBC
8.8
out of 10
User Rating
139 votes
3

EPISODE REVIEWS
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Episode Summary

EDIT
Toby encourages the President to appoint Leo's controversial sister to a national education post, against Leo's objections; Bartlet must decide what the do with 83 Chinese citizens who stowed away on a freighter ship and seek asylum on the grounds of religious persecution; CJ has to decide which one of two turkeys the President should "pardon" but then tries to save the other from the chopping block; Charlie is tasked with buying the President a new carving knife which is not as easy as it sounds.moreless

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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • A carving knife, two turkeys, and 83 Chinese refugees.

    9.0
    Great cold open. Sam's idea for the pilgrim detective show and him, Josh, and Toby putting the turkeys in CJ's office both had me rolling. I also loved Charlie and Bartlet's hunt for the perfect carving knife.



    Bartlet: "This is an American knife?"

    Charlie: "Yes."

    Bartlet: "No German knives for us."

    (five seconds later)

    Bartlet: "No. You know what we need?"

    Charlie: "A German knife?"

    Bartlet: "Yeah."



    Bartlet giving Charlie his family's knife was pretty moving(Charlie should have given him a coin though). I love how Bartlet could have given him the knife at Christmas but did it when Charlie wouldn't have expected a gift, classic Bartlet.



    I could have gone the rest of the series without hearing Mary Marsh's holier-than-thou rhetoric. Her just shrugging off a man threatening to blow up a theater full of people, just because the play was blasphemous, is just about the most disgusting thing I can imagine someone doing. Though I do enjoy watching the West Wingers shredding her.



    Sam: "So you're committed to religious freedom for all people unless you don't like what they have to say? Don't look now but I think the playwright's headed to China."



    Josh: "Mary, I swear to God, you're not gonna get anywhere in this building by threatening me."



    The scenes about Leo's sister and school prayer were well done. I'm atheist, but I've never had a problem with school prayer. I can definitely see Toby's point about it being just another way to single kids out, but it was never a problem at the schools I went to. It was nice though that even when I don't fully agree with them on an issue, I can still enjoy the show.



    The plot with the Chinese refugees was probably the best part of the episode. Bartlet's scene with Josh at the end was excellent(and I was glad to hear he didn't let them stay only because they were Christians).



    Bartlet: "You think I would've sent him back if he'd failed Catechism? Let me tell you something; we can be the world's policeman, we can be the world's bank, the world's factory, the world's farm. What does it mean if we're not also... They made it to the new world, Josh. You know what I get to do now? I get to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving. This is a great job."



    They came right back with great episode, after the so-so last one.moreless
  • It was interesting but nothing too attractive.

    8.4
    I would say maybe I am getting into more and more the regular tune this serie has, as lately the episodes are starting to have the same color and not been so much different and outstanding - like this episode. It has it's beauty - CJ and turkeys, the chinas immigrants. It had that beautiful reflection of problems from many sides and gave gorgeous overview... The Leo's sister storyline was also very enjoyable but was somehow left little background and did not worked out as much as I hoped. But the most beautiful place was defenetly Bartlet giving Charlie that special knife..moreless
  • In this episode, Bartlett must pardon a turkey and choose a carving knife. It sounds simple, but throw in 100 Chineese refugees and a dedebate about school prayer, and Thanksgiving gets a little more complicated.moreless

    10
    This episode is the reason I watch the West Wing. It has it all - fantastic comedy, great characters, and brings to light some of the most important issues in our current age in a poignant, challenging way. Dealing with a refugee problem, school prayer and two turkeys, Sorkin mingles laugh-out-loud moments with cut-to-the-heart tear-jerker scenes. He also manages to sock it to the Religious Right, show the plight of refugees, explore how one person's religion cannot be forced onto another, and also show how the fundamentals of Christianity can be used as a power for good, and for change.moreless
Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

President Jed Bartlet

Dule Hill

Dule Hill

Charlie Young

Allison Janney

Allison Janney

Claudia Jean "C.J." Cregg

Rob Lowe

Rob Lowe

Sam Seaborn (Episodes 1-84)

Richard Schiff

Richard Schiff

Toby Ziegler

John Spencer

John Spencer

Leo McGarry

F. William Parker

F. William Parker

Al Caldwell

Guest Star

Annie Corley

Annie Corley

Mary Marsh

Guest Star

Deborah Hedwall

Deborah Hedwall

Josephine McGarry

Guest Star

Melissa Fitzgerald

Melissa Fitzgerald

Carol Fitzpatrick

Recurring Role

Kathryn Joosten

Kathryn Joosten

Delores Landingham

Recurring Role

Nicole Robinson

Nicole Robinson

Margaret

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions

FILTER BY TYPE

  • TRIVIA (3)

    • The man representing the Chinese refugees names only 11 of the 12 apostles. "Peter, Andrew, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, Thaddus (aka Jude or Judas), Simon, Judas (Iscariot), and James." The oversight is understandable because there are two apostles named James: James, son of Alpheus (aka James the Less) and James, son of Zebedee and brother of John.

    • Title: Shibboleth is any language usage indicative of one's social or regional origin, or more broadly, any practice that identifies members of a group.

    • Ironically enough, Toby tortured history when he complained about torturing history. Jamestown was incorporated in 1607, which was the seventeenth century, rather than the sixteenth, as Toby claimed.

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Sam: So you're committed to religious freedom for all people unless you don't like what they have to say? Don't look now but I think the playwright's headed to China.

    • Josh: So the guy passed the test, huh?
      Bartlet: You think I would've sent him back if he'd failed Catechism? Let me tell you something; we can be the world's policeman, we can be the world's bank, the world's factory, the world's farm. What does it mean if we're not also... They made it to the new world, Josh. You know what I get to do now? I get to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving. This is a great job.

    • C.J. (Attempting to get the attention of Bartlet): I'm gonna step out there and begin the singing and lute playing.
      Bartlet: (Paying little attention) Whatever.

    • Bartlet (addressing the turkey): By the power vested in me by the Constitution of the United States, I hereby pardon you.
      Morton: Okay!
      Bartlet: No, it's not okay! Morton, I can't pardon a turkey. If you think I can pardon a turkey, then you have got to go back to your school and insist you be better prepared to go out in the world.
      Donna: You can't pardon a turkey, sir?

    • C.J.: Whatever! I'm the Thanksgiving cruise director around here!

    • 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, and the runner-up gets eaten.
      Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I'd watch.

    • Donna: Didn't you go to elementary school?
      C.J.: Yes, right before being a National Merit Scholar!

  • NOTES (2)

  • ALLUSIONS (1)

    • Josh: I was just flipping a nickel in my office - sixteen times it came up tails.
      This may well be a nod to Tom Stoppard's play - and later film - in which a flipped coin repeatedly defies the laws of probability.

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