I’m sure you were wondering a) when I’d get to West Wing and b) which episode I would choose. Of course, this is a show that can’t be missed at Christmastime. I love it. Those episodes are always done so well. Let’s be honest: The entire show is always done well. Man, I love West Wing.
Anyway, I chose “Noel,” which is one of my favorite episodes of the series, let alone for Christmas. The entire episode surrounds Josh, who’s reacting very on edge, given the Christmastime atmosphere. Musicians in the lobby are getting on his nerves. He’s losing his temper with many people. And the worst thing? One of those people was the President himself.
Bradley Whitford does a fantastic job in this episode, as it’s shown during flashbacks as he describes the last few weeks to a psychologist. Turns out that Josh isn’t quite over his shooting that happened at the beginning of the season. He has PSTD, and he needs to be able to handle remembering the event without reliving it. But what makes him relive it? Music.
This episode so wonderfully incorporates music into the plot. We start with a brass quartet and move on the bagpipes — all in the lobby, and even as someone who hasn’t been shot, you can feel something building in the harsh tones. But what’s even more interesting is the song by Yo Yo Ma, which is juxtaposed next to scenes from the graphic shooting. Something so beautiful (and it is, I have the CD) with something so horrifying.
In the end, Josh agrees to get the help he needs, and there’s a fantastic scene between Josh and Leo, when Leo insists that as long as he has a job, so will Josh. But it doesn’t end there. As Josh and Donna leave, they walk past carolers singing “Carol of the Bells.” I think this episode made me fall in love with this song. Normally beautiful in its complexity, it suddenly become haunting, as even as a viewer, you start hearing the sirens in the background of the song. It gives you winter chills, closing off the Christmas episode.
Recommendation: A must-watch. I’d be happy watching this every year. You should, too.