let bartlet be bartlet

The First Five West Wing Episodes You Should Rewatch on Instant Netflix

Photo: NBC

Have you heard that The West Wing is on Instant Netflix now? It is! That makes everything better! For those who have never watched the show, our deepest condolences: Yours is a dark world, but now it’s easier than ever to step into the light. Assuming you have seen the show over and over, like any sane person has, now’s the time to cherry-pick a few episodes to rewatch. We’re not saying these are the absolute best episodes or that this works as a primer for the uninitiated. But these are the first five you should jump back in with, to get back into the mix and really stimulate that Bartlet-nostalgia delight hormone.

1. “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen Part I” and “Part II,” season two
Everyone has a great moment in this two-parter. In flashbacks, we get to see a drunk and disgruntled Toby, a salty and unsatisfied corporate Sam, a salty and unsatisfied Hollywood C.J., an extra-naïve Donna, and a pre-glory Bartlet. And in the present day, there’s all the trauma drama in the aftermath of Josh and the president being shot. It’s pretty much perfect.

2. “The U.S. Poet Laureate,” season three
A few episodes of TWW revolve around a “mistake” actually being some scheming staff member’s plan to subvert the media cycle. (See: Leo leaking debate footage of himself.) But in “Poet Laureate,” that conceit works particularly well, because it’s Bartlet with the fake-out gaffe of calling his faux–George W. Bush opponent Rob Ritchie stupid. Plus it’s the episode with Josh’s fan site Lemon Lyman. And Laura Dern as a whimsical poet. And C.J. mastering the non-apology apology.

3. “Bartlet for America,” season three
There had to be a Christmas episode of this list, and “Noël” is too intense. (For these purposes. As an episode, it’s totally unimpeachable and arguably the best of the series.) In “BfA,” we get the Bartlet and Leo origin story; the saga of the fateful napkin. And in between the dark flashbacks about Leo’s relapse and the onset of the president’s MS, C.J. accidentally throws a basketball through a window. Levity!

4. “Debate Camp,” season four
Charlie might be the captain, but surely we are all members of Team Toby. “Debate” combines the joys of the slightly softer side of Toby with the fun of the prickly side of Bartlet. (Yeah, it’s another flashback-heavy episode. Those are the most fun.)

5. “The Cold,” season seven
It’s the one where Josh and Donna finally kiss! Bonus Will and Kate romance! Season seven is better than you remember!

And now you’re officially hooked again.

The Best West Wing Eps to Rewatch on Netflix