Friends of Gail, for the most complete compilation Gail’s antics from every single season,
plus reader updates and suggestions, head on over to my Complete Adventures of Goldfish Gail page.
Many fans of The West Wing already know the terrific inside joke and easter egg that frequently popped up in C.J. Cregg’s office: Goldfish Gail had little props stashed inside her goldfish bowl that were typically thematic for the episode. The trick is to try and spot what it is. And this friends, became my obsession recently. Some of them are pretty obvious and easily visible in any given episode. But some of them…are a bit of a guessing game.
Now, for those of you who need a re-introduction to Gail, she is C.J.’s office goldfish who was gifted to her by reporter Danny Concannon when he attempted to woo her through a gift. Josh had cleverly recommended to gain C.J.’s favor through her love of goldfish. Danny sweetly presented the Press Secretary with our finned friend, not realizing that she actually is keen on the cheesy bagged crackers. Such a cute mistake. But Gail would not be denied, and she became an important friend to the show.
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!
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.)
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!
Season 1, Episode 11
- Prop: What appears to be a military vehicle or building
- Gravel: Red, like blood
- Nod to Plot: India-Pakistan conflict
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!
Season 1, Episode 13
- Prop: [uncertain, best guess] Quill pen, podium, and small yellow television
- Gravel: White
- Nod to Plot: Pens used in signing a bill, Toby’s defense of PBS, and general communications-heavy episode.
Season 1, Episode 14
- Prop: [unknown , and driving me bonkers to figure it out!] Perhaps a horse miniature floating at top left? And some kind of disc that has a white bottom, and has a triangular slice out of its edge. Some red points on its blue/gray top. It’s making me crazy!
- Gravel: Black or brown
- Nod to Plot: I’m just at a loss. It looks like a dead horse and a crashed flying saucer.
UPDATE! Reader Mark C. has helped me to see that the “disc” I thought I saw is in fact a sailboat tipped over, so that we see it’s white bottom (hull? I’m not nautical). The top bit of the boat is a red, white, and blue flag. The disc illusion was created by the curve of the bowl. I see it now! The idea being that Josh says Sam should stay in the boat this time. Mark C. also believes the “horse” is a man with his arms outstretched, but I’m still iffy on that.
Season 1, Episode 15
- Prop: [really uncertain] Perhaps a diver man (with a secret plan to fight inflation?) and some vases maybe, that were purchased in a Connecticut antiques shop?
- Gravel: Blood red (like C.J.’s gums–she had a woot canal!)
- Nod to Plot: I’ll get back to you on that.
Season 1, Episode 16
Season 1, Episode 17
No Gail. Again! So sad. I hope she’s on vacation some place fabulous.
Season 1, Episode 18
- Prop: Two panda bears! Gail has friends today. I hope she had bamboo cake on-hand.
- Gravel: Black
- Nod to Plot: Mandy is pushing for the adoption of a panda bear couple.
Season 1, Episode 19
- Prop: The Easter Bunny and colorful plastic eggs!
- Gravel: None. Who needs it when you have plastic eggs?
- Nod to Plot: It’s Easter, and C.J. is briefing the press on White House festivities.
Season 1, Episode 20
Season 1, Episode 21
- Prop: A black telephone on a clear lucite stand
- Gravel: None.
- Nod to Plot: President Bartlet’s favorability is being polled via telephone. I hope Gail answers and only has nice things to say. Even though she can’t vote. Try as she might.
Season 1, Episode 22
- Prop: A space shuttle
- Gravel: Blue
- Nod to Plot: Pretending that we aren’t worried about Gina seeing a shooter, we’re trying to be worried about Toby’s astronaut brother’s safety in outer space.
Thus concludes Gail’s season one adventures. Ready for more? Check out Gail’s continuing adventures in….
And if you’re like me and just plain nutty about this show, please do take a peep (similar to leaf peeping, if you will) at my list ranking every West Wing episode in order of awesomeness.
Season 1, ep 14:
I see a sunken sailboat, tipped back, with American flag sails (red & white visible, as well as blue with a white star).
The object floating on the left appears to be a man with outstretched arms.
Maybe this is in reference to Josh’s joke that Sam should “just stay in the boat this time,” re: Sam’s sailing trip.
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Bravo, Mark! I totally SEE the sailboat now with the flag. Ach, the prismatic curve of the bowl threw me off!
Still not so sure about the man-horse floating at the top.
Thanks for the help!
Just listening to The West Wing Weekly podcast for S1 E15 – and Josh Malina suggests that the prop in the bowl is a podium – a reference to press secretaries if that helps?
Thanks for the tip! Since we never get to see a good view of the prop, Josh could be totally right. Then again, he wasn’t on set for the filming, so he mostly just gets bonus points for being awesome Josh Malina.
Appreciate the help!
Season 1, Episode 14, the thing floating on the top of the bowl is a dead fish, because they’re executing Simon Cruz.
For season 1 episode 14 “Take this Sabbath Day” it is plausible, and i am pulling this from a couple different similar lists one being from EmpireOnline, deducing that the prop in gails bowl is a fake dead fish floating on the top of the bowl tying into the main plot point in the episode about capital punishment.
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Derek, that is quite a grisly notion! For my part, I remain unconvinced from both a visual standpoint and a thematic standpoint. I just would be shocked if the prop people went so macabre with their theme. And I will point out, that with full respect to EmpireOnline, more than a couple of their Gail observations aren’t correct. 😦
However, I’m proud to share your viewpoint and proudly posted it on the main Gail page!