Tag Archives: The West Wing

Festive Rewind: The West Wing “In Excelsis Deo”

24 Dec

It’s TV Ate My Wardrobe’s first festive season and to mark this occasion we are hosting a very special rewind series. What this means is that we will be featuring a whole host of guest posts and in the spirit of the holidays we have asked a variety of writers to discuss a festive episode of their choice. These will be appear on the site over the next couple of weeks and there’s an eclectic mix including teen dramas, science fiction, animation, comedy, drama and more to get you in the celebratory mood. Or to at least give you plenty of suggestions of TV to watch over the break.

I’m going to be chatting about The West Wing’s first Christmas episode “In Excelsis Deo” in relation to catching up with a show long after it has finished. The Christmas narrative reveals a whole lot more about these characters to the audience and for me personally, it shaped my feelings towards one particular pairing.

The West Wing Donna2013 is the year I finally sat down and watched all of The West Wing, prior to this the only Sorkin show I had seen more than a handful of episodes of was The Newsroom (I know). Marathoning a show this long after it has been on air and one that has a large fanbase means there are plenty of people who are willing to chat with you about this watching endeavor. While this isn’t the same as seeing something as it airs for the first time, it does still lend itself to the notion of a shared experience even if most of these chats occur with people who have already seen the episodes you are watching for the first time. “In Excelsis Deo” was mentioned by several different people as being a favorite West Wing episodes and it’s one that shows off a variety of strengths from character to story.

As you have probably gathered from this Festive Rewind series I like holiday themed episodes because they give shows a chance to do something different even if they are often variations of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life. Leo points out “In Excelsis Deo” that the country doesn’t shut down just because it’s Christmas Eve and while there are no visits from ghosts or angels these characters are faced with life changing events both big and small.

TobyFor Toby we get to see a softer, compassionate side as he becomes involved with the very real issue of homeless vets. CJ deals with another heartbreaking situation with the death of a teenage boy and the reason why he was murdered stirs up emotions. We see just how far Josh and Sam will go for Leo (something Leo does for Josh in the season 2 Christmas episode “Noël”), even if they go about it in the wrong way. Mrs Landingham reveals a heartbreaking piece of her past and why Christmas has the potential to make people feel sorrow as well as joy. The final sequences which cuts between the funeral and the carol singing at the White House brings the tears; “Little Drummer Boy” is the perfect rousing and misty eye inducing festive song.

West Wing groupIt’s not all despair and this brings me to the Donna and Josh of it all. Here’s the other thing about marathoning a show; you don’t have to wait seven years to see the couple you want to hookup finally make the move and get together. “In Excelsis Deo” is the episode in which the Donna/Josh stuff clicks for me; from Donna imploring Josh to do something for Leo and telling him “It was my regular face Josh, I wasn’t trying to guilt you” to the back and forth banter about what Josh is going to get Donna for Christmas. The scene that had me jumping on board this good ship is when Josh eventually gives Donna her gift – Heimlich Beckengruber on The Art and Artistry of Alpine Skiing.

It’s not the book but what’s written on the inside that counts (something that remains between Josh and Donna alone) and it’s the combination of the hug, Josh’s “I meant it” and the sneaky look back and smile that shows the intimacy between this pair long before they sleep together.

Julie Hammerle

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