West Wing: The Complete Adventures of Goldfish Gail and Her Fishbowl

Ever wondered about the props in Goldfish Gail’s fishbowl? I have answers.

Fans of The West Wing know a little secret: C.J. Cregg’s pet goldfish, Gail, often has her bowl decorated with props that wink at episode themes. Panda bears, cash, flags, cabbages, flamingos, a love bed, a space shuttle, a telephone, and a fire engine. They are planted just for our delight (and hopefully Gail’s as well). The trick is to try and spot them. And this friends, became my obsession recently.

Below, for the first time, is a complete list of all of Goldfish Gail’s adventures alongside C.J., Danny, and the rest of the West Wing gang. Let’s get swimmin’!

And, hey, if you think you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment. If you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!


Season 1

Gail 1.9

Season 1, Episode 9

  • Prop: Nothing. Welcome, Gail!
  • Gravel: None? Oh, com’on, Danny.
  • Nod to Plot: It’s a new fish! (And Danny loves C.J.)

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Season 1, Episode 10

  • Prop: Christmas tree, with some festive poinsettias atop
  • Gravel: White, like snow. Snow with fish poop.
  • Nod to Plot: Christmas episode!

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Season 1, Episode 11

  • Prop: What appears to be a military vehicle or building
  • Gravel: Red, like blood
  • Nod to Plot: India-Pakistan conflict

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Season 1, Episode 12

  • Prop: A little wooden lectern and two American flags
  • Gravel: Red, white, and blue
  • Nod to Plot: It’s the State of the Union address!

Continue reading “West Wing: The Complete Adventures of Goldfish Gail and Her Fishbowl”

The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 7

Gail the Goldfish, friend and companion to C.J. Cregg and the rest of the gang at The West Wing, is back for an exciting and FINAL seventh season!

This is sad and exciting. It’s sexciting. Wait, no. Sorry, Gail. I didn’t mean it like that.

Truly, though, Gail experiences the frost of terrifying allegations against her mama, deep loss, and the anticipation of moving. It’s a traumatic season for her, but she handles it like a champ. Let’s do this one last time! Here are Gail’s appearances in Season 7.

(If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!)


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Season 7, Episode 1

  • Prop: Gail’s opening the final season with a light bulb in her bowl
  • Gravel: Blue
  • Nod to Plot: I’m not entirely certain. Perhaps it is Gail’s epiphany that C.J. is the focus of the intelligence leak investigation. Gail is hoping that everyone stops and listens to her horrified realization. Gail’s has a lightbulb, people! A lightbulb!

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Season 7, Episode 2

  • Prop: Some little things are stuck in her gravel. Could they be a bunch of little U.S. flags?
  • Gravel: Blue
  • Nod to Plot: Well, maybe Gail is being supportive of candidate Santos’s military service. Plus, ya know, it’s America. So, flags.
    I, for one, am disappointed that Matt and Helen’s absolutely destroyed bed wasn’t in the bowl. Gail usually has more of a sense of humor.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 7”

The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 6

Gail the Goldfish, friend and companion to C.J. Cregg and the rest of the gang at The West Wing, is back for an exciting sixth season.

Gail moves offices, hosts a visitor, gets snubbed for an invitation to an ice cream party, and ponders classic literature. She also explores a little nihilism. That is one deep fish.

Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 6.

If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!


NoGailSeason 6, Episode 1

No Gail. She’s as appalled as we all are about the beginning of season 6. Since it looks like the gang is heading to Camp David, I fear we might be missing Gail for quite some time.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 6”

The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 5

Gail the Goldfish, friend and companion to C.J. Cregg and the rest of the gang at The West Wing, has a splashy season 5.

Gail plays Monopoly (to help Donna, of course), goes overboard for cabbages, and rightfully panics over C.J.’s new fishing hobby. It’s a rough season for the whole gang, since we start with Zoey missing and end with Donna being blowed up. So it’s anything but calm waters for our favorite little goldfish.

Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 5.

If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!


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Season 5, Episode 1

  • Prop: Maybe…probably…a little elephant figure
  • Gravel: Blue
  • Nod to Plot: GOP President Walken is in charge and Gail might just be showing a nod of respect to the new Commander-in-Chief.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 5”

The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 4

Gail the Goldfish, friend to C.J. Cregg and the rest of the gang at The West Wing, is in for a bowlful of drama during season 4. Boats, cows, flamingos, and more major closeups than ever before. Her Papa, Danny, is back and he’s bringing all sorts of new stress into C.J.’s life. It’s the beginning of President Bartlet’s second term and things are about to get crazy.

Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 4.

If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!

By the way, if you’re enjoying these posts I’m doing about Gail, a great way to say thanks is to head over to Heifer International and make a donation. Thank you!


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Season 4, Episode 1

  • Prop: A boat labeled “Washington D.C.” is dominating Gail’s space
  • Gravel: Dark green
  • Nod to Plot: Josh, Toby, and Donna missed the motorcade. So either Gail’s building them a boat to get them home to D.C., or she’s making sure she’s covered for transport in case she’s ever left behind.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 4”

The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 3

Gail the Goldfish has already seen a lot during the first two seasons of The West Wing, and season 3 only gets more exciting! Gail gets active in the re-election campaign, launches a protest for women’s rights, meets some diseased livestock, and has a close encounter of the Charlie kind!

Here it is, a list of Gail sightings from season 3.

If you think that you can identify one of the mystery props, please do comment and if you can convince me, I will happily give you full credit for the spot!


NoGailSeason 3, Episode 01

No Gail. She is still in shock over the tragedy that occurred at the World Trade Center.


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Season 3, Episode 2

  • Prop: Curious. Appears to be some sort of pagoda-like structure, but it isn’t clear how this ties into the plot.
  • Gravel: Dark green and white
  • Nod to Plot: Could it be a nod to Haiti? Somehow? I don’t think so. Maybe it is a pagoda and it is Gail’s way of telling CJ she needs more zen in her life right now!

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 9.52.22 PM.png

Season 3, Episode 3

  • Prop: Complete mystery. A shark? We never get very close to Gail. I blame Blabbish.
  • Gravel: Dark green
  • Nod to Plot: If it is maybe a toy shark, it would be because that’s what CJ needs coming after the Bartlet administration.

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Season 3, Episode 4

  • Prop: A whiteboard on an easel. It appears that Gail is helping out Sam, tracking the House votes.
  • Gravel: White
  • Nod to Plot: President Bartlet wants to veto a repeal of the Estate Tax, but House shenanigans threaten a veto override.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Inside Goldfish Gail’s Fishbowl – Season 3”

The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked

PART THREE

The West Wing ranking continues! We have made it through the good, the bad, and the Ted McGinley in PART I and PART II. There are a few flaws with some of these episodes, but on the whole, they’re classic–warts and all. And by warts, I mean Commander Crap Reese. So put on your oversized Josh jammies, grab some whiskey and Blow Pops, and snuggle up with Marion Coatsworth of Marblehay. It’s time for the best!

Here are the Top 50:

50. “Evidence of Things Not Seen” (season 4, episode 20)

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I love that Toby’s accoutrements for poker include a giant bottle of whiskey and two Blow Pops. With that noted, let’s play some poker! Oh wait, other things keep getting in the way, including a job interview with an actor who just got out of rehab, a telephone farce with a Russian leader, and a shooting in the Briefing Room (!!). The titular evidence and things not seen relate to each of these distractions, including Josh not seeing Joe Quincy’s (yeesh, what a name!) little Republican sticking out, and suppressing any feelings over the shots fired. The spy plane, the egg, Will hitting the fifth row. Get it? Hope? Faith? Skepticism? Fear? This is Sorkin being a little cutesy, and also trying to scare us a bit. See, we all know the season finale is approaching, but know not what shape the menace might take. Last episode we wondered about a plane crash. Now we wonder about another shooting. In the meantime, this fake spider under the sheets doesn’t move us very far but allows us to enjoy our favorite characters for a bit. That ain’t all bad.
Points Lost For: Very special guest star Matthew Perry. Blech. Joe Quincy is written like a pancake.
Awkward Suspension of Reality Moment: Remember back in “20 Hours in LA”, when Donna’s at the fancy-pantsy party and she wants to try and meet Matthew Perry? That makes Joe Quincy’s appearance less believable than his name.

49. “Manchester: Part 2” (season 3, episode 2)

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Finally, we’ve settled at the Bartlet Farm! Can I just say that every single White House speech should be written in a barn with a serpentine test audience? Ach, but we’re doing the time warp again and it really dampens any dramatic crescendo that I might’ve enjoyed. What elevates this episode over its previous counterpart is the levity that we get from apple cider and Toby handling all the campaign signs with his magic marker.
LOST Crossover Theory: Has anyone considered that Evan Handler’s character, Doug, might actually be a figment of Sam’s imagination, just as his character on LOST, “Dave”, was Hurley’s imaginary tormentor? He is Sam’s conscience and coping mechanism after his recent paternal meltdown, followed by the revelation that his father-like President was also leading a secret life. He wants an apology from everybody. So he has invented Doug, who shouts at him and pushes him. Just like Dave. Connie might be his therapist who tries to explain what Dave Doug means and help him through this troubling time. Hmmmmm. I’m on to something here.

48. “Stirred” (season 3, episode 17)

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It seems to me that over the past few episodes, Josh and Donna really don’t have much to do. First, they were prank calling the Flenders of Hartsfield’s Landing, and then they were blowing up Lemon-Lyman.com. Now they’re debating the legitimacy of making a teacher appreciation day. Donna really is sweet, though, and I love the solution that they eventually cultivated. Most of us really did have one of those teachers, didn’t we? Mine was Mrs. Barbara McClanaghan. English teacher. Twelfth grade. She told me she saw something in me when really no one had to that point in my life. A friend, a wry mind, and really supportive mentor. She passed away from breast cancer in 2002. Darn you, Donna, for digging all of that up.
Points Awarded For: PB’s commentary on James Bond’s snooty martini order
Points Lost For: The gang seriously floating High Priest Leo’s name for V.P. He brings nothing electorally, he isn’t the folksy yin to the President’s brainy yang, and…I have a premonition that Leo might be really bad at campaigning.

47. “Bartlet’s Third State of the Union” (season 2, episode 13)

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Do any of you people have accents? How about you, you special bastard, Ted McGinley? Is that gum in your filthy Alpha Beta mouth? I’m interested, because, see, I just do not get a lady-boner for the State of the Union. Never have, doubt I ever will. As a matter of fact, I loathe it. But at least my annoyance can be channeled into Abbey’s anger. She gives such good wrath. And just to tie a big ribbon on this episode, I’ll note that any day, any time, I’d rather be dancing and drinking a Pink Squirrel in the steam pipe trunk distribution venue over watching even two minutes the SOTU.
“Women in Government? That’s Crazy!” Moment: Two of the most high-profile women in the White House are so bubble-brained they both sit on a bench with wet paint, in spite of signs. Therefore, they must go on TV bottomless, or dance in bathrobes. Why isn’t Rob Lowe in a banana hammock, damn it all?
Side Note: It always bugs me that Ted’s show is spelled “Capital Beat”, instead of “Capitol Beat”. The former isn’t exactly wrong, but the latter makes so much better sense.
Pink Squirrel Recipe: (Because you’re dying to know) 1 part almond liqueur, 1 part creme de cacao, and 1-2 parts heavy cream or vanilla ice cream. Mmmmm.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked”

The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked

PART TWO

The Bartlet fun never stops. We’ve already ranked West Wing episodes #101-155 in PART ONE. Now it’s time to move on from the awful episodes that Curtis had to carry around, to some truly lovely stories, killer lines, and classic moments. Most of these episodes below have some serious flaws, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worthwhile. Get ready to enjoy Chicken Bob, a goldfish pin,  and Toby singing.

On we march to the top 100:

100. “Han” (season 5, episode 4)

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I have han just watching this episode, even though it’s a sweet little LOST reunion of sorts (or was LOST a “Han” reunion? Time riddle!). Listen, this is an episode where PB and Leo are just wrong and so adrift in an ocean of uncertainty that they missed the obvious inevitability that the North Korean talks would fall apart. They sacrificed the young confused musician, and then PB had the nerve to blame the pianist’s lack of understanding of “freedom”. Really, Jed? Teach him freedom. Ack, the writers have positioned the POTUS as doddering, weak, confused, and myopic. Not cool.

99. “The Lame Duck Congress” (season 2, episode 6)

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Zzzzzz. ZzzzzzZzzz. This is one snoozer episode. I don’t care a fig about the drunken Russian getting to see the President. And Donna is petulant and ridiculous in this episode about repetitive stress injuries. Nothing about this episode is particularly offensive, it’s just boring and overly focused on procedures.

98. “The War at Home” (season 2, episode 14)

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You know they’re seriously spinning their wheels when the SOTU takes up the better part of two episodes. The speech isn’t exactly a thriller movie, so I can’t believe we’re still listening to Ted McGinley and a very fake Detroit cop who is busy explaining his “Jump to Conclusions” mat while C.J.’s auctioning him off to the friendliest press outlets. The real point of this episode, of course, is the building tension between POTUS and FLOTUS. For the record, I am complete on the side of FLOTUS, and she is the mature, brilliant, feisty voice of reason among a mob of ostriches gathered in a sandbox. Quick bit of trivia: You could skip this entire episode, and apart from a handful of clever lines, you really wouldn’t miss it. Episode 13 to 15. Woosh! C.J.’s running crazy, Ainsley gets humiliated, Toby is frustrated. You’d never notice.
Points Awarded For: In the moment before Donna describes monogrammed towels, Josh gives her a brief look like he might rip her clothes off. And for three heartbeats I don’t breathe.

97. “The Black Vera Wang” (season 3, episode 20)

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Alternate Title: “Mark Harmon Episode #2”
Oh, Sam. Sam, Sam, Sam. My cats saw that ploy coming. But this is how much effort the writers are willing to dedicate to the re-elect campaign. After all, we know Bartlet’s going to win. They know Bartlet’s going to win. James Brolin knows Bartlet’s going to win. So a lot of this is marking time until PB can begin his second term (and, *cough*, season 4). That leaves us twiddling our thumbs while Toby argues about balloons, and Josh argues about moose meat, and CJ pouts around a department store with Special Agent Handsome. Our thumbs only stop twiddling when, in the last five minutes, the writers dangle a big, fat, juicy carrot in front of us: Shareef’s plot to blow up the Golden Gate Bridge.
Great Line: “Nah, I’m hoping it’s porn.”

Continue reading “The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked”

The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked

PART ONE

Well, damn. If I’m going to go to the trouble of ranking every Gilmore Girls episode, then I’d better get on the ball and fire up…whichever digital service has the licensing for… The West Wing as well! This paragon of American political optimism and snark is simply one of my favorite shows of all-time. But, it might also be the trickiest show to rank. See, I have to balance entertainment with political views. That’s dangerous stuff right there. So dangerous I might need the full box of Franzia and a big block of cheese to get through these tough negotiations. And maybe some pie. Definitely all the doughnuts and bagels in the land.

Let’s start with the worst, or as I call it “the Angela Blake end of the list”. The top 54 will take you through some pretty rough territory–Camp David negotiations, Brian Dennehy, heart attacks, some Harry Potter vomit, and human fruit fly.

From the bottom:

155. “Isaac and Ishmael” (season 3, episode 0)

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Alternate Title: “The 9/11 Episode”
Airing less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, this was never supposed to be an episode. This was thrown together in a matter of about two weeks, from writing to filming to post-production, specially to address the attacks. And it’s awful. Preachy and dark and utterly self-aware. This is an after-school special mixed with a 70s variety show, with a whole lot of racism thrown in. The shockingly prejudiced, rude, and naive teens–who accuse Toby of being a terrorist for wearing a beard, and ask P.B. if he thinks he’s a “man of principle”–are treated to a cast of characters who pop “on stage” one at a time. First Toby drops in! And then it’s C.J. And then a very special appearance by P.B. and the First Lady! The characters are each condescending as shit, using Biblical stories and and patchy WWII analogies to try and explain terrorism in short-prose form. Diarrhea would be more fun than watching this episode. If you ask me to swear on it, this is not West Wing canon. It isn’t even television canon. It does not exist, anymore than does the finger puppet show in which I pretend that Andy accepts Toby’s marriage proposal and loves the house he bought. They eat pie a lot.

154. “Here Today” (season 7, episode 5)

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My Toby. My brilliant and beautiful Toby. What have they DONE TO YOU? Let’s do a quick rundown of this episode: It’s crammed packed with Charles Frost (zzzzzzzzz), Oliver Blabbish questioning (please god nooooooooo!), the President reprimanding and firing Toby (sniffle), and the introduction of fucking Vic the Human Fruit Fly (ewwwww!). I thought Vic was super-duper skeezy and icky when he was banging Miranda on Sex and the City. And now he has impregnated Ellie? Gross! If I’m looking for something to believe in, my only hope is that Josh fired Negative Ned.

153. “Ninety Miles Away” (season 6, episode 19)

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Alternate Title: “Leo Takes On Fidel Castro”
What the fuck is going on? Why is the former White House Chief of Staff meeting Fidel Castro? How is the Cuba issue a single-serving flyby? Why is Brian Dennehy on my screen? And why is he making orange juice really creepy? What is the point of setting up an intertwining history between Kate and Leo? Oh, and speaking of Kate, why has every episode become about her analysts cultivating some new urgent international crisis? Has the Bartlet administration given up on domestic issues so much and has decided to go legacy shopping internationally? This is a baaaaad episode. Baaaaaaad.

152. “The Birnam Wood” (season 6, episode 2)

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Alternate Title: “The Third Israeli-Palestinian Episode”
Camp David negotiations keep going. Hhhhhhhhhhhhh. Okay, we can do this. It’s like getting a pap smear–no one enjoys it, but it’s something we have to do, so we slide down and relax, make polite chitchat with the well-meaning jelly-fingered doc, and get ready for the negotiations to come. I love how the director decided that we’d have an easier time getting us to swallow the conflict debate if we heard it over basketball, skeet shooting, and NERF football. SPORTS! It doesn’t work. All that truly comes of it (because there are no good answers to this quagmire, not even from TV writers), is that Leo quits. Leo quits. Then, like a wounded animal, sweaty and gray, he staggers into the woods away to isolate himself while he has a major cardiac attack. Oh, Leo. I almost feel bad for all the horrible things I’ve said about you lately.
Suspension of Reality Moment: While the early-morning gang is still trying to decide on talking points, PB shows up in a dark three-piece suit that seemed a little stuffy for the gnat-infested cabin in the dewy hours of the morning. But then he shows up to the initial review of topics a few hours later with the other two leaders wearing a sweater? While they’re wearing suits? What’s going on, wardrobe?
Points Awarded For: The way they do skeet shooting in Brooklyn. Heh. Oh, Toby.

151. “Impact Winter” (season 6, episode 9)

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Alternate Title: “The Second Stupid China Summit Episode”
Ever since this episode, I can’t hear the Mamas and the Papas without thinking of Josh and Donna. Sigh. But let’s get to it: PB is making a huge mistake–I have already made this point to perfection during the previous episode’s review–but let me reiterate: This season of international healing is not only ridiculous, it’s brain-stabbingly boring. Oh, and there’s a thing where Phil from LOST comes in with bags of Utz potato chips and warns that the world might end. And, yes, the episodes of LOST and Mad Men I just referenced are more entertaining than this story. Oh, and did I mention that this is this year’s Christmas episode? CHRISTMAS! This episode is everything dry and irritating that this Sorkin-less era embodies. Fail. Christmas Fail.
Points Lost For: Jed’s “LOOK AT ME!” moment of leg pounding. The self-pity may be realistic, and I’m not attempting to judge his angst, but this isn’t the show we signed on for. And my mom has been a drama queen in a wheelchair her entire life, so I’ve heard the “LOOK AT ME!” speech every time she’s brushed her teeth since 1986. Actually, probably longer than that, but my younger self blocked it out.

150. “Access” (season 5, episode 18)

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Oh no. John Wells, this isn’t E.R. And this is hack filler crap that tries to treat this show like it is a hospital procedural is irritating because it doesn’t add to the Bartlet universe. Moreover, this adds nothing to the overall narrative or the characters. This was a gimmick. And a really unwatchable one.
Suspension of Reality Moment: Casey Creek. No fucking way. You can’t rewrite the history of the administration to which we have been such close witnesses. Casey Creek never happened.
Suspension of Reality Moment #2: C.J.’s phantom staff that magically materializes, and then instantly vanishes. Maybe they’re all really ghosts…from Calvin Coolidge’s administration! They died there and didn’t realize they had passed, so they just keep holding imaginary ghost staff meetings with whomever is Press Secretary once every seven years on the day of the full moon.

Continue reading “The West Wing: Every Episode Ranked”