The West Wing: Season 2, Episode 8

Shibboleth (22 Nov. 2000)

TV Episode  |   |  Drama
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 378 users  
Reviews: 2 user | 1 critic

Dozens of Chinese stowaways are discovered in a container ship in California; Toby looks to pick a fight over school prayer with a recess appointment; Thanksgiving at the White House sees C.J. in charge of turkeys and Charlie looking for the ultimate carving knife.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Josephine McGarry
John LaSalle
Henry O ...
Jhin Wei


A container ship is caught attempting to smuggle nearly a hundred people from China into California. Toby urges the President to appoint Leo's outspoken sister to a position in the Department of Education as a way of starting a battle over school prayer. C.J. discovers that she is expected to arrange White House Thanksgiving ceremonies which include the traditional Presidential turkey pardoning. The President sends Charlie on a seemingly endless mission to find the ultimate carving knife. Written by Murray Chapman

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Release Date:

22 November 2000 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Shibboleth is used in modern parlance to mean any language usage that signifies a social or regional origin. The use originates from a story in the biblical book of Judges, in which one clan rooted out spies from another clan by asking them to say the Hebrew word, which both clans pronounced differently. The actual meaning of the Hebrew word is "an ear of grain." See more »


Toby places Jamestown in the 16th century, when in fact it was founded in the 17th (1607). See more »


Jhin Wei: is the true shibboleth.
President Josiah "Jed" Bartlet: Yes, it is. And you, sir, just said the magic word in more ways than one.
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West Wing Main Title
Written by W.G. Snuffy Walden
Performed by Pete Anthony
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User Reviews

The Best of All the Episodes
21 November 2014 | by (Old West Texas) – See all my reviews

I was going to write this review anyway, but seeing the horrible commentary already posted, I now have two reasons. First, this is one of the best series I have ever had the privilege of watching, the last two seasons notwithstanding. I enjoy going back to my favorites, and the Thanksgiving episodes from the first two seasons are two of them.

Whether it's the delightful story of CJ trying to select which turkey to pardon, or the very satisfying gift that the President gives at a crucial juncture of the show, this one is filled with wave after wave of good feelings and happy occasions.

Leo's confrontation with his own sister shows him for what he always was: the voice of integrity that kept the whole administration running smoothly, never too fast, never flying off the handle. It was a classic "Leo" episode.

But the best part of it all was the reason for the title. The president has to deal with the touchy situation of refugees from China who claim religious persecution. President Bartlett has to balance his own desire to do the right thing personally with the intricate economic and political ramifications of making the wrong decision, and he comes through majestically.

The short interview with the spokesman for the refugees is one of the best moments in the entire series.

I have watched this entire series on "Netflix," but I have only thought one episode was valuable enough to purchase as my own, and it is this one. I really don't know why the other reviewer would make the crude and insulting comments that he made about this show, but they are undeserved.

I will watch this episode every year at least once near Thanksgiving, just like some of the Christmas shows I never miss in season. Give this episode a fair shake, and see if I am right about this. If you have loved the great writing and insight of this show, you will love this one too.

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