‘The West Wing’ Easter Egg: C.J’s Goldfish Bowl Offered Themed Spoilers

The West Wing cast organized a reunion earlier this year, and it reminded fans of just how great the show was. The political drama had a successful seven-season run on NBC.

What made the show great was its attention to detail. Creator Aaron Sorkin put a lot of care into each episode’s dialogue (at least until he left the show), and the performers were also nuanced and compelling in their depiction of their well-written characters. 

Another bit of detail the show took great care to include was a fishbowl belonging to one of the characters. It even provided spoilers for some episodes if viewers were watching closely enough.

Let’s take a closer look at the show, the character who owned the fishbowl, and how the show’s creative team cleverly hid some spoilers within it. 

What was the premise of ‘The West Wing?’

The cast of 'The West Wing.'
L to R: Allison Janney as Claudia Jean ‘C.J.’ Cregg, Richard Schiff as Toby Ziegler, John Spencer as Leo McGarry, Martin Sheen as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet, Rob Lowe as Sam Seaborn, Dule Hill as Charlie Young, Bradley Whitford as Josh Lyman | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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According to IMDb, The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. It followed the lives of multiple advisors to a fictional president named Jed Bartlet, portrayed by veteran actor Martin Sheen.

Barlet is controversial for being a no-nonsense politician who can be brusque, but always fair. Amid numerous plotlines covering presidential scandals and other political controversies, the team rallies behind the president throughout the show’s run.

One element of the show that’s refreshing is how it depicts modern politics. In an era in which political discourse is more polarized than ever, The West Wing showed that politicians on both sides of the aisle can disagree in a civil, respectful manner. The show eventually ends with the election to name Barlet’s successor. 

While Sheen drew plenty of critical acclaim for his performance, he was buoyed by a tremendously talented supporting cast. These actors included Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford, Richard Schiff, and Dule Hill among others. It also featured a great performance from Allison Janney

Who was C.J.? 

Janney played C.J. Gregg, the press secretary who later becomes the president’s Chief of Staff. According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, C.J. was Janney’s favorite role in her career.

The reason? She was exemplary for women: 

“She is my favorite character I’ve ever played because she’s someone that I aspire to. I wish I could be C.J. People come up to me all the time and say they changed their majors in college, they went into public service because of C.J. — and I get it….It’s a great role to champion women. Whenever I’m asked, she’s the one I most want to be like and the most I’m not like.”

C.J. climbed the organizational ladder effectively during her time on the show, earning a much more critical role in the president’s staff as time went on. She also had a goldfish with a bowl that could apparently predict the future. 

How C.J.’s goldfish bowl offered themed-spoilers

The difference between good shows and great ones often comes down to the little things. On the set of The West Wing, this included small details like production design elements.

The design team created an exact replica of the Oval Office for the sake of realism. There was another design detail that the production team added in each show.

According to ScreenRant, C.J. owned a goldfish bowl that was often seen on her desk. The show’s directors would alter the decorations within the bowl to match the theme of the episode. 

It’s that type of small Easter egg that would be a real treat for super fans of the show to discover. If you’re ever binge-watching The West Wing, take a closer look at C.J.’s goldfish. There may be a few episode spoilers stacked away in there that you otherwise may have missed.