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“Now I’m Having a Good Time”: The 10 Best Charlie Young Episodes of ‘The West Wing’

Where to Stream

The West Wing

Charlie Young has always had a special place in the West Wing universe. Added to the cast in the series’ third episode, it was easy to think that Charlie was merely a stop-gap solution for a show that had managed to cast itself as distressingly white. But Charlie was much more than a diversity hire. As the personal aide to President Bartlet, Charlie was able to forge as close a relationship to Jed Bartlet as anyone in the main cast save for possibly Leo. Charlie was like a son to Bartlet, a theme that came up many times during the course of the show.

As played wonderfully by Dule Hill, Charlie’s best storylines doubled as some of The West Wing‘s best storylines, including his romance with Zoey (Elisabeth Moss), the attempted assassination at the end of season 1, and his steadfastness during the MS hearings in season 3. Charlie was always a fan favorite, though his contributions just as often came from the sidelines than from the main plots of episodes. Due to his position at Bartlet’s right hand, Charlie was in a perfect spot to offer the President that crucial perspective on an issue that allowed him to unlock a different view on a subject. Charlie was the best.

We picked out the 10 episodes from The West Wing‘s run that best exemplify what Charlie brought to the table. We’re omitting Charlie’s debut episode, “A Proportional Response,” because we’ve already included it in so many of our other West Wing character lists. It was the first great episode of the show, so it makes sense. But once Charlie was established as a main character, we wanted to explore where he went from there. So here they are. From prank wars to sweet moments, these are our favorite Charlie episodes.

1

"Mr. Willis of Ohio" (Season 1, Episode 6)

The burgeoning romance between Charlie and the President’s youngest daughter, Zoey, was a true highlight of season 1. In this early-on episode, Charlie and Zoey are taken out to a Georgetown bar by the cool-older-siblings-ish trio of Josh, Sam, and CJ. While out, Charlie and Zoey run afoul of some dickhead college bros, led by the oft-reprehensible Eric Balfour, who try to hit on Zoey and bully Charlie with racial epithets. It’s an ugly scene until Josh calls in the cavalry (that would be the Secret Service), and Charlie gets to have the last laugh.

Stream "Mr. Willis of Ohio" on Netflix.

2

"The White House Pro-Am" (Season 1, Episode 17)

TWW-Charlie-White-House-Pro-Am
photo: NBC

The tensions brought up by the racist responses to Charlie and Zoey’s relationship added considerable strain in the stretch run of the first season. Special Agent Gina Toscano (Jorja Fox) was added to Zoey’s Secret Service detail to keep her safe, and, in this episode at least, attempt to play mediator between Charlie and Zoey as they have an argument. Both Gina and Josh end up giving Charlie great advice, and in the end he shows up with flowers and plans for a night in, and despite the ugly pall of racism that shrouds this whole storyline, it’s actually a rather sweet moment.

Stream "The White House Pro-Am" on Netflix.

3

"Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" (Season 1, Episode 21)

TWW-Charlie-Ken-Cochran
photo: NBC

This episode mostly doesn’t have much to do with Charlie. Bartlet’s staff is newly energized and looking to make changes on the Federal Election Commission, and to do so, they have to play a game of musical chairs with a handful of ambassadorships. One of whom is the U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, Ken Cochran, who’s been carrying on an affair with the prime minister’s daughter. As Bartlet makes plans to fire him, Charlie gets a look on his face, and while Jed catches him, Charlie denies it. But later, we see that Charlie has reason to smirk at Ken Cochran’s political demise, as Cochran was once a member of a whites-only country club where Charlie once waited tables. The scene where Charlie gets to have the last laugh and Bartlet gets to toldja-so about his keen sense of perception is an all-time fave.

Stream "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics" on Netflix.

4

"Shibboleth" (Season 2, Episode 8)

In a Thanksgiving-themed episode, much of the time is spent dealing with Chinese religious dissidents and/or C.J. herding turkeys to be pardoned by the President, the runner saw Charlie acquiring any number of carving knives for Bartlet, each of which is deemed insufficient for some reason or another. What initially seems like Bartlet being his usual persnickety self is revealed in the final moments, as Jed reveals that he’s shopping for a new knife because he’s gifting his old one, an antique knife gifted to his family by Paul Revere. He gives the knife to Charlie because he thinks of him as a son, and if there’s a dry eye in the viewing audience after that point, such a person ought to be very concerned.

Stream "Shibboleth" on Netflix.

5

"On the Day Before" (Season 3, Episode 5)

TWW-Charlie-CJ
photo: NBC

With the investigation into Bartlet’s MS cover-up heating up, it becomes clear that Charlie is being offered immunity for his testimony, and others in the West Wing (C.J., Leo) are trying to convince him to take it, lest he go down with the ship (if the ship indeed goes down). Charlie is steadfast in his stonewalling, though, and he ultimately sums it up to Leo: “I stay with my team. People should stop trying to get me not to do that.”

Stream "On the Day Before" on Netflix.

6

"Hartsfield's Landing" (Season 3, Episode 15)

In the middle of an episode where China and Taiwan are on the brink of military action, and President Bartlet is carrying on simultaneous deeply meaningful games of chess with Sam and Toby, respectively, Charlie is engaged in what can only be described as a prank war with C.J. Only “war” implies an equal show of force on both sides. But while C.J. sneaks off with a copy of the president’s schedule, Charlie revokes C.J.’s clearance, glues C.J.’s phone shut and collapses her desk. Um, don’t ever get into a prank war with Charlie.

Stream "Hartsfield's Landing" on Netflix.

7

"Stirred" (Season 3, Episode 18)

Charlie’s storylines were often light runners that helped to leaven whatever heaviness was happening elsewhere. And so, in an episode where a possible terrorist or at the very least environmental disaster is imminent in Idaho, we get recurring scenes of President Bartlet helping Charlie do his taxes. This is also the episode where Jed lectures Charlie on James Bond’s “snooty” way of mixing a martini.

Stream "Stirred" on Netflix.

8

"Posse Comitatus" (Season 3, Episode 23)

After a season’s worth of symbolically mourning Mrs. Landingham, Charlie spent the third season finale searching for her replacement. Specifically in the form of Debbie Fidderer, a former White House employee turned alpaca farmer with a penchant for both gambling and the odd downer. But Charlie believes in her, for reasons we won’t find out until later (“David Dueck wanna dwink a wawa”), and this first episode establishes their bond quite well.

Stream "Posse Comitatus" on Netflix.

9

"20 Hours in America, Part 2" (Season 4, Episode 2)

This episode not only features the conclusion to the “hiring Debbie Fidderer” storyline but also the scene where C.J. — having tried to pick up where the late Simon Donovan left off in his big brothership of Anthony — finds herself on the business end of Anthony’s lashing out. Charlie, having previously turned down the offer to mentor the kid, jumps to C.J.’s defense and in the process ends up with a little brother.

Stream "20 Hours in America, Part 2" on Netflix.

10

"Commencement" (Season 4, Episode 22)

TWW-Charlie-Commencement
photo: NBC

The occasion of Zoey Bartlet’s graduation is a chance to pick up the thread of her and Charlie’s relationship, a romance that was allowed to die on the vine due to lack of narrative oxygen. Zoey’s dating reprehensible French cutie Jean Paul, but she clearly still has feelings for Charlie, and the scene where they dig up a bottle of champagne together and toast her graduation is a sweet moment. The last sweet moment, in fact, before Zoey gets kidnapped by terrorists.

Stream "Commencement" on Netflix.