- Episode 3 of Season 1, A Proportional Response has possibly one of the best Heartwarming moments, as well as a perfect Establishing Character Moment for Jed Bartlett as he meets Charlie for the first time.
Bartlet: I'm Jed Bartlet.
Charlie: I'm Charles Young.
Bartlet: But you prefer Charlie, right? Listen, Leo McGarry filled me in on the situation with your mother, Iím so very sorry. I hope you donít mind but I took the liberty of calling Tom Connolly, the FBI Director. We had the computer spit out some quick information. Your mother was killed by a Western .38 Revolver firing K.T.W.s, or what are known as ĎCop Killer Bulletsí. Now we have not had a whole lot of success in banning that weapon and those bullets off the streets, but weíre planning on taking a big whack at it when Congress gets back from recess. So, what do you say, you wanna come help us out?
Charlie: Yes sir, I do!
- When Jed Bartlet, lying in a hospital bed, call Leo over and kisses him on the cheek.
- When Josh is being wheeled into surgery after being shot, and Sam comes running into the group surrounding the gurney and frantically shouts, "Josh, I'm here!" Actually, most scenes from both parts of "In The Shadow of Two Gunmen" qualify for this trope, especially the flashbacks.
- When Toby found Josh sitting against a wall holding a bullet wound and started calling for help, the rest of the senior staff came running.
- The flashback when then-candidate Bartlet and Josh discuss the death of Mr. Lyman. While a ballroom full of people is waiting for Bartlet to give an acceptance speech. Jed goes out of his way for his friends and colleagues so often, that trait itself is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Hell, he even offers to fly back with Josh just so he won't have to ride on the plane alone. Never mind that he just won the nomination, has a room full of supporters waiting for him, and needs to make an acceptance speech.
- Not only did he offer, but he totally, one hundred percent meant that offer. You can actually see him starting to rifle through his shirt and pockets, looking for his wallet to go buy the ticket, and is slightly disappointed when Josh reminds him that he's just won the primary. Afterwards, the look of gratitude Josh gives him is a heartwarming moment all of its own, showing exactly when the father/son relationship between the two was defined.
- In addition, the audience has seen through flashbacks that during the primary season Bartlet was often curt and abrupt with his staff, taking his fears that he wasn't ready and wasn't good enough for the presidency out on them, and Josh was clearly beginning to wonder why exactly he was putting himself through all the grief on Bartlet's behalf. The scene at the airport was likely the first time Josh had seen the fatherly side of Bartlet as well, and while Josh repeatedly insists that Bartlet needs to make his acceptance speech and continue the momentum gathered from winning the Illinois primary, he's clearly deeply moved by Bartlet's concern.
- On a related note, this comment from Donna to Josh a few seasons later:
Donna: You have health and strength. Both which, coincidentally, I prayed for when hot lead was shot into your body.
- And how 'bout that episode where Jed Bartlet sends his aide Charlie high and low to find a carving knife for Thanksgiving, finding some complaint with each of many knives that he dutifully brings. When Charlie finally vents a little of his frustration, the president reveals that he's giving away the knife that he already has—which was made by Paul Revere—to Charlie.
- The cherry on top is that Bartlet implies that a carving knife is supposed to be passed from father to son.
"I got it from my father, he got it from his father, and now, I'm giving it to you."
- After being encouraged to get immunity during the investigation into Bartlet's non disclosure because of the cost of lawyers, Charlie implicitly refuses, mentioning that accepting immunity implies lack of trust, and that he sticks to his team no matter what.
- When Donna learns about the President's MS, her first response is to ask whether the President is in a lot of pain or discomfort. Particularly heartwarming since pretty much everyone else who's reaction we've seen on learning the news has mainly been some combination of betrayal and anger at being lied to.
- The moment in Bartlet's famous "Two Cathedrals" monologue where he refers to Josh as his son.
Bartlet: What was Josh Lyman? A warning shot? *choked* That was my son. What did I ever do to Yours except praise His glory and His name?
- Or the scene where Bartlet gives his Secretary of Agriculture advice on how to run the country should something happen at the State of the Union.
Bartlet: You have a best friend?
Tribby: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: Is he smarter than you?
Tribby: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: Would you trust him with your life?
Tribby:: Yes, sir.
Bartlet: That's your chief of staff.
- The reason this scene is truly touching is because Leo, Bartlett's Chief of Staff, was standing nearby and heard the whole thing.
- This was during the story arc where Leo's alcoholism went public and he was getting pilloried by the President's more vocal critics.
- When Toby's ex-wife is expecting her children, he speaks to Leo about his concern that he won't truly love his children. Leo says that's ridiculous, not because all fathers love their children, but because he knows Toby will.
- How about in "In Excelsis Deo" when Toby uses the President's name in order to make sure a homeless Korean War veteran gets a burial with honors at Arlington.
Bartlet: "Toby, if we start pulling strings like this, you don't think every homeless veteran would come out of the woodwork?"
Toby: "I can only hope, sir."
- The entire subplot with Bartlet's daughter Ellie in the episode of the same name. It's clear that she and Bartlet have a difficult relationship, and after he accuses her of deliberately provoking a media fuss to make him unhappy ("You sure didn't do it to make me happy!"), she bitterly responds "I don't know how to make you happy, Dad." Later, during a screening of Dial M For Murder, Bartlet tries to make up with her, and eventually gets through to her by gently-but-sincerely saying "The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was come home at the end of the day." Upon hearing this, Ellie is visibly trying to hold back tears. She wasn't the only one.
- Or the subplot in the episode "Stirred" where Donna tries to get a proclamation in honor her favorite teacher, who is retiring. Bartlet calls her into the Oval Office to personally tell her that the teacher deserves one, but that he can't give it to her for political reasons... and then reveals that he has had Charlie place a call to the teacher so that Donna and he could talk to her from the Oval Office to thank her for all that she's done:
Bartlet: Tell her where you are.
Donna: Mrs. Marillo, I'm in the Oval Office with the President of the United States, and it's because of you.
- Also heartwarming is the fact that Josh wrote the President a memo on Donna's behalf, despite knowing full well that there was no way the teacher was going to receive the honor Donna wanted her to.
- At the end of "The Women of Qumar", when CJ has to dispassionately report the renewal of a military base in Qumar, a decision she was upset about the whole episode because of Qumar's barbaric treatment of women. She falters for a moment, near tears, and looks up at Toby, who is standing in his usual spot behind the back window where only she can see him, in support of her. He catches her eye and taps himself over the heart with both hands, giving her the strength to continue the briefing.
- Or the classic guy-in-the-hole speech from Leo.
- And the callback it gets later in the series from Josh.
Josh: I'm gonna help you out, you know why?
Leo: Because you're so obsessed with everyone you love dying that you're a compulsive fixer?
Josh: *smiles* No, Leo, it's because a guy's walking down the street and he falls in a hole, see.
- Bartlet's gift to Leo at the end of "Bartlet for America." "That was awfully nice of you." And it ends with Leo crying. Leo. Crying.
- In the final shot of the series, we see Bartlet flying home from the White House, looking at the same gift. It was returned to him following Leo's death, still pristine in its beautiful frame.
- The gift in question is a bar napkin. Leo had been stumbling about for days, struggling to figure out who - the one that Leo could trust above all others - could run for President. And he finds himself writing the same thing down over and over. On that napkin are the words "Bartlet For America".
- Earlier in that episode, Leo is describing Bartlet preparing himself for a debate: "You ever see a pitcher work the mound so the dirt does exactly what his feet want it to do? That's the President. He sees it as a genuine opportunity to change minds - also his best way of contributing to the team. He likes teams. I love him so much." He says the last line in such a tender yet matter-of-fact way that you know he means it.
- Toby to Sam on the eve of the special election in California:
Toby: You're gonna lose, and you're gonna lose huge. They're gonna throw rocks at you next week, and I wanted to be standing next to you when they did.
- Sam when he decided to run, especially his little story about the Republican wingnut candidate he met who wouldn't let go of his doomed campaign platform because "this is what I believe, and no candidate gets to run in my district without speaking to my issues."
- Abbey to Bartlet on the night of his reelection, after letting him know that she knew his MS was getting worse: "You've got lots of nights. Smart people who love you are gonna have your back."
- After junior staffer Karen Larson leaks the story of Leo's drug addiction, Sam figures out it was her, calls her into his office, brutally rips into her and then fires her on the spot. At the end of the episode, she's literally on her way out the door when Leo calls her into his office. He talks to her honestly about his own addictions and the fact that his father was a violent alcoholic; she says that her father also drank a lot. He refuses to blame anyone else for his addictions, and tells her that he hasn't had a drink or taken a pill in six and a half years. Then this happens:
Karen: You're not like what I thought you would be like.
Leo: You haven't answered my question yet. When you saw my personnel file, when you saw I'd been through treatment, what when through your mind?
Karen: My father used to... [She pauses, visibly uncomfortable] You have all these important decisions to make in your job, every day, all the time, decisions I can't even...people's lives.
Leo: Karen, what you did caused a lot of problems; for me, for the President, and for a lot of people we don't even know. But I'm not sure it wasn't a little bit brave. [Beat] Did you like working at the White House?
Karen: Yes, sir.
Leo: Okay. Then why don't you go unpack your carton and you and I will give each other a second chance?
Karen: [smiles, nods] Okay.
- What makes it heartwarming is that Leo understands that she didn't do what she did to gain favour with anyone, or because she was being judgemental about his addictions, but because she was legitimately frightened by the idea that a man with Leo's history of substance abuse could wield so much power. And that he gives her a second chance because it's important to him that she give him a second chance too. He doesn't have to care what she thinks of him. But he does.
- In "Two Cathedrals," Charlie comes out to the portico where Bartlet is standing in the storm to tell him that it's time to leave for the press conference. He's wearing a coat and holding one for Bartlet, but Bartlet walks by without putting it on. Back inside, before catching up to him, Charlie lays Bartlet's coat on his desk... and takes off his own coat and goes back out into the rain and wind in just his suit jacket. All of the other staffers wear their coats.
- From the Saga of Josh and Donna: The episode 17 People. Donna tells Josh a story about how she was once in a car accident, and her then-boyfriend stopped for a beer with his buddies on his way to see her in the hospital. Later in the episode, Josh says, "I'm just sayin'. If you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for a beer." Aww, right? Yeah, that isn't it. Donna replies: "If you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for red lights."
- The scene when Josh is outraged that she didn't tell him in the first place, especially because of the look on his face. "You told me it was a... late thaw."
- Of course, in a later season, when Donna is critically injured by a car bomb, Josh does everything up to and including pulling diplomatic rank to get to her side as fast as he can.
- Josh's expression when she wakes up, so concerned and hopeful, gets me every time.
- Not to mention that Donna's first words after surgery was saying Josh's name over and over. And that she asked to see him before surgery, not her boyfriend.
- It is also very heartwarming that (aside from Donna's new boyfriend) nobody bats an eye at Josh leaving the White House during a major crisis to fly to Germany and be with Donna. They all seem to think it's perfectly reasonable given their close connection.
- The scene in "Inauguration: Over There" where Josh, Toby, Danny, Will and Charlie all go to get Donna at her apartment.
Josh: You look amazing.
- And later in the same episode, Will's utterly flabbergasted reaction to his appointment as Deputy Communications Director.
- In the sixth season, presidential-candidate Matt Santos gives this gorgeous speech about the power of hope. It's a lovely speech, but what really makes it a Heartwarming Moment is that it's superimposed with President Bartlet slowly pulling himself with canes across the Oval Office after being nearly crippled by multiple sclerosis.
- In "He Shall, from Time to Time...," the episode where Leo gives his press conference announcing to the country that he's a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, and then both he and we find out that the president's sudden illness isn't the flu, but an MS episode.
Leo: Jed, of all the things you could have kept from me.
Bartlet: You haven't called me Jed since I was elected.
Leo: Why didn't you tell me?
Bartlet: 'Cause I wanted to be president.
Leo: It wouldn't have stopped me from getting you here. And I could have been a friend.
Bartlet: You have been a friend.
Leo: But when it was time to really...
Bartlet: I know.
Leo: When I was lying on my face in the motel parking lot, you were the one I called.
Bartlet: When you stood up there today, I was so proud. I wanted to be with you. [sighs] I tried to get up, I fell back down again.
Leo: I know the feeling.
- Bartlet to Sam in "Hartsfield's Landing": "You're going to run for president one day. Don't be scared. You can do it. I believe in you."
- Bartlet to Josh in "Guns Not Butter": "You know what the difference is between you and me? I wanna be the guy. You wanna be the guy the guy counts on."
- Bartlet to C.J. in "Manchester": "I need you too."
- Toby letting go of his prickly-unapproachable-boss persona to be protective of Sam, such as in "Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics" when he's photographed with Laurie, and Toby berates him for his stupidity all the way down the hall to the Oval Office, only to tell Bartlet when they arrive that Sam hasn't done anything wrong, that he's always been completely aboveboard about his friendship with Laurie, that "Sam's word is unimpeachable," and that he thinks the White House should stand by him and "aggressively go after the people who set him up." The look on Sam's face...
- Even better is Bartlet very casually telling Sam that, 1) He needs to spend time with the White House Counsel to see if he's broken any laws, 2) Sam should call Laurie to tell her the White House regrets the inconvenience she's about to face and that she has a cause against the tabloid, 3) Sam should tell her if she passes the bar exam she's about to take, the Attorney General (as in the highest ranking law enforcer in the country) will personally see to it she's admitted to the bar, and 4) that the President himself congratulates her for getting her degree. After all those little gestures that are so, so very big by the President himself, then you see the look on Sam's face...
- After Josh has been shot and Sam is trying to convince him to sue the KKK, he asks Toby and Leo what they think. They tell him all the reasons they think it's a bad idea, and finish with, "That said, say the word, and we'll all take a leave of absence and join your legal team."
- Bartlett buying Charlie the DVD player in "Stirred".
- Joey Lucas at the end of "100,000 Airplanes": "They remembered why they liked him in the first place."
- The end of "Institutional Memory," when C.J. - worn nearly to the bone from almost a decade of politics and sacrificing her own life for the Bartlet and Santos administrations - admits, under a little prodding from Danny, that what she really wants is to accept Frank Hollis' offer to "take ten billion dollars to go and fix the world." Not only is it something of a renaissance of the C.J. of early seasons who "hates running because it takes time away from helping," it is truly, truly heartwarming to see this devoted, dedicated woman finally put herself first for once. The next episode, what do we hear? "[Danny]'s waiting for me at LAX with a tub of sunscreen."
- "I serve at the pleasure of the President." "I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States." "I serve at the pleasure of President Bartlett." "...I serve at the pleasure of the President."
- In "20 Hours in America", Josh, Toby, and Donna get stranded in Indiana when the motorcade leaves them behind. Toby loses a bet with Josh and must introduce himself to everyone he meets (who, for the most part, are all Republicans) with "My name is Toby Ziegler and I work at the White House", and he's pissed off about it. He and Josh have been arguing all day about re-election and campaigning and Donna finally gets fed up, lecturing them about the Indiana voters and their individual needs and how they feel the government has failed them. Toby is drinking at the bar when a man named Matt Kelly strikes up a conversation with him about how he's just lost a lot of the money he invested for his children's college funds:
Matt: I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I'd have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son's in public school. It's no good. I mean, there's 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can't pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers. I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it's hard. Putting your daughter through college, that's-that's a man's job. A man's accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. Just a little easier. 'Cause in that difference is... everything. I'm sorry. I'm, uh, I-I'm Matt Kelley.
Toby: Toby Ziegler. [Josh catches his eye and shakes his head no, to indicate he's waiving the bet for this one. Toby looks at Josh for a moment, then turns back to Matt] I work at the White House. Do you have a minute to talk? We'd like to buy you a beer.
- Additionally, after Josh and Toby and Donna get back to Washington, D.C. and start work on a plan to make college tuition tax-deductible, Toby calls Matt Kelley personally to let him know of what government is going to do to try and help.
- Also in 20 Hours In America, Bartlet has to respond to a bloody terror attack at an American university. Sam rushes out a last-minute addition to a prepared speech:
: More than any time in recent history, America's destiny is not of our own choosing. We did not seek nor did we provoke an assault on our freedom and our way of life. We did not expect nor did we invite a confrontation with evil. Yet the true measure of a people's strength is how they rise to master that moment when it does arrive. 44 people were killed a couple of hours ago at Kennison State University. Three swimmers from the men's team were killed and two others are in critical condition. When, after having heard the explosion from their practice facility, they ran into the fire to help get people out
. Ran into
the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight.
They're our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we're reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars. God bless their memory, God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
- If real politicians were that inspiring, our country'd be in a better place right now.
- This scene is especially heartbreaking/heartwarming when you think of the Boston Marathon attack, a hauntingly similar scenario. Many of the marathon runners—despite not knowing if there were any more bombs about to go off—immediately turned around and began to help the victims. We will do what is hard and great indeed.
- And the following exchange.
Bruno: Where did you write that last part?
Sam: In the car.
- The moments of just fundamental human decency overcoming politics, often from places the characters least expect — Republicans stopping one of their own from outing Leo's fall off the wagon in Bartlet for America, VP Hoynes taking his name off a bill that would make great political hay for him because the legislation is important in Stirred, Sam's defense of Ainsley in And It's Surely To Their Credit, The President's refusal to fire the Surgeon General in Ellie, the staff rallying behind Stackhouse in The Stackhouse Filibuster, etcetera etcetera...
- The scene when Zoey being safely returned from her kidnapping. To say nothing of Bartlett voluntarily handing over the Oval Office to a hard-line Republican until she is returned. And, despite the fears of Bartlet's staff, the hardline Republican and his staff pointedly refusing to take advantage of the situation to push through some favourable legislation.
- Leo's relationship with Ainsley Hayes in And It's Surely to their Credit:
- Going out of his way to take Ainsley down to her office in the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue.
Ainsley: I'm working in the steam pipe trunk distribution venue?
Leo: No, you're working in your office.
- Then explaining why other members of the senior staff take issue with her being hired:
Leo: Sam Seaborn had this innocent relationship with a girl - bam. Here comes the enemy. I'm a recovering alcoholic. Bam. Radio, TV, magazines, cameras in front of my house, people shouting at my daughter at the ballgame, editorials, op-eds. "He's a drunk. He's dangerous. He should resign."
Ainsley: I wrote one of those op-ed pieces.
Leo: I know.
- The end of that episode, (which was marked by a recurring argument about duty with was thematically represented by arguing about the Gilbert and Sullivan play HMS Pinafore), Sam, Josh, CJ, and Toby plaster the stairway to Ainsley's office with vintage HMS Pinafore stage posters, hide inside it, and blare "For He Is An Englishman" (whose lyrics provide the title drop) when Ainsley opens the door, officially welcoming her into the White House as one of them. Particularly moving as they had been testy and suspicious towards her all day for being a Republican
- This last one also comes after Sam Seaborn (who was totally shellacked by Ainsley on national TV, which is why she was hired) follows her down to her office to apologize to her after she lashes out about how poorly she's been treated "in this place that I have worshiped." When he gets there, he finds that two staffers (both of whom worked for Sam and who Ainsley had met with earlier in the day and had treated her with contempt) had sent Ainsley a bouquet of wilted flowers with a card that said BITCH. When Sam sees it, he immediately finds the staffers and fires them.
Sam: You know what, guys? When I write something I sign my name. *pulls their calendar off their desk, turns it over, and writes on the back* You're fired. S. Seaborn.
- At the end of "Dead Irish Writers", while everybody is distracted and falling all over themselves laughing when a prank results in the band belting out "O Canada" (complete with Canadian flag backdrop) instead of "The Star-Spangled Banner", Abbey tells Jed that she has decided to forfeit her medical license to avoid embroiling him in ethics investigations over his MS. The contrast between the joyous atmosphere and music and Jed's shellshocked expression and almost-tearful "I love you very, very much" is devastating as well as heartwarming.
- At the end of "25", Toby pulls Bartlet aside for a moment and whispers in his ear "You know that there's not a person in this room who isn't willing to die rather than let you down."
- When it comes out that Bartlet ordered the assassination of Shareef, Abbey expresses her fury with him over the fact that this may have led to the kidnapping of their daughter Zoey before leaving the room. Their eldest daughter Liz follows her without a word, but the scene ends with their middle daughter Ellie coming up behind him to hug him and him taking her hands. It's especially heartwarming because it's previously been well-established that Jed has a turbulent relationship with Ellie, and that Ellie gets along much better with Abbey.
- At the end of "The Benign Prerogative", a man who could potentially have been given a presidential pardon but was rejected commits suicide. Donna, who met with the man's mother and strongly felt that the president should pardon him (along with all the other applicants), is deeply upset, and when Josh goes to comfort her she says that she needs to learn to keep things at arm's length. Josh responds softly that he hopes not.
- The part towards the end of "Noël", when Stanley tells Josh his diagnosis.
Stanley: You have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Josh: Well... that doesn't really sound like something they let you have if you work for the president.
Josh: Can we have it be something else?
- Leo's speech to Josh in the penultimate scene.
Leo: A man's walking down the street and falls into a hole, and a priest walks by. He yells up, "Hey father! Can you help me up?" The priest says a prayer for him, and then keeps walking. Then a doctor walks by. The guy yells up, "Hey doc! Can you help me up?" The doctor writes him a prescription, then throws it down the hole. Then a friend walks by. He yells up, "Hey Joe, it's me! Can you help me up?" The friend jumps in the hole with him. Our guy says, "What are you, stupid? Now we're both in the hole!" The friend says, "Yeah, but I've been down here before, and I know the way out." As long as I've got a job, you've got a job, you understand?
- Stanley's last exchange with Josh after he helps him figure out what triggered his PTSD flashbacks. One of the most heartwarming aversions of There Are No Therapists that you'll ever see on mainstream television.
- As close as the President and Charlie are, Charlie still was under the impression that the President gets nervous speaking in front of large groups in "Manchester", and he is corrected that it's only the one-on-ones that bother him. Shortly thereafter Jed comments to Leo that there'll be a big crowd tomorrow, and Leo just calmly replies, "well, that's your kind of crowd." These two are like brothers.
- Possibly the most low-key one of all comes in the series finale. CJ is watching the new President's inauguration on TV when the announcer says that Bartlet will be remembered for "his aggressive pursuit of peace on the world stage." Her smile as she hears what the legacy of his work—and her work, and all her friends' work—will be is just amazing.
- Near the end of "The Fall's Gonna Kill You", Leo asks Sam to come meet the President, where we know the President will tell Sam about his MS. Toby, who's also there, tells Sam, "I'll be here in the office when you're done." (We also learned he told C.J. this before her meeting with the President) Why is this heartwarming? Because we already know how Toby reacted when the President told him, and he's giving C.J. and Sam an outlet to express whatever they're feeling about it. Just another way of showing however prickly Toby may be on the surface, he always has the back of the rest of the staff.
- Right before Leo asks Sam to come to that meeting, Sam is ruefully confessing to Toby he may have screwed up a meeting. Toby asks Sam if he was right, and when Sam says yes and then tries to explain further, Toby replies, "That's all you need to tell me. I trust you."
- Also heartwarming is when Josh finds out that Donna has been told about the MS and he worries about how she's handling it.
- In Season 4's "Game On", the administration gets crotchety Asst Secretary of State Albie Duncan to agree to be a good soldier and provide post-debate spin for Bartlet. Duncan tells C.J. that he likes her, but complains that the subjects he's being asked to spin about (e.g. free trade) are far more nuanced than they're willing to admit, and she agrees, but asks him to do it anyway. Then, during the debate, Bartlet makes a virtue out of clearly demonstrating how complex the issues at stake are, and how Ritchie can't begin to understand them. After the debate, Albie is dutifully spinning away when C.J. asks him to elaborate on the issues and explain them properly, which is what he would have liked to do all along. On her way out, she kisses him on the cheek and tells him that she likes him too.
- In Season 4's "Red Haven's On Fire", the entire speechwriting staff has quit in protest against Will Bailey being made Deputy Communications Director, and all he has to work with are four interns who don't really know what they're doing. Will has to come up with a bunch of short remarks on the president's tax plan, so he needs to get them to write them as he hasn't got time himself. Nevertheless, although they're willing to work hard, their attempts at speechwriting are terrible. After much coaching, Will is beginning to despair when suddenly the deadline for the remarks is brought forward and he has to push them twice as hard to get them to do anything. Just when he's tempted to dismiss them all, his sister Elsie reminds him that they're overworked and he hasn't given them any encouragement yet, just told them off. So Will comes into the room and reads them some great writing on the topic of what the remarks are to be about, and when they ask him he wrote it, he tells them "You did," adding that he just polished a little, and quoting their own remarks back to them. He then tells them that, owing to a terrorist incident, they don't need the tax plan remarks after all, but well done anyway, go home and get some rest. He then leaves the room, but as he's going out the door, the interns don't leave but immediately start working on new remarks about the terrorist incident. He asks Elsie if they know they're allowed to go home, and she says "They know."
- Gail the goldfish! At the very beginning of the series, Danny Concannon, CJ's on-again, off-again love interest, is told by Josh that CJ likes goldfish. What she likes are the crackers. What Danny gets her is - an actual goldfish. Better yet, Gail remains on CJ's desk for all seven seasons, with the props in her bowl changing to match the seasons and holidays. Even when Danny disappears from the story altogether, Gail is still there, on CJ's desk, watching over her. In the flash-forward at the beginning of season 7, Danny and CJ are married and living together in California with their baby.
- The look on Josh' face when Santos mentions that Josh will be his chief of staff. Going by the look on Josh' face (and all the times their strategic viewpoints clashed during the campaign) he doesn't seem to have expected to get that job. What makes it even more heartwarming is that Santos says it like it's obvious that Josh will be chief of staff and that he never considered anyone else for the job.
- Also very heartwarming is when Santos has won the election and he mouths "thank you" to Josh.
- All in all, the relationship between Santos and Josh. Josh seems to feel he's always letting the congressman down or that Santos plain doesn't like him much as a person. However, Santos himself actually shows the exact opposite (except, possibly, Ellie's wedding episode). He seems to have utter faith in Josh's political mind, relies on him to a great degree and worries about him when he's stressed out or going through something difficult (one of his first questions after Leo is taken to the hospital on election day is to ask about Josh and how he's handling it, and when later asked if he needs Josh back at a crucial part of the day he responds that he needs Josh to be wherever he needs to be). Josh, on his end, has so much faith in the potential he sees in Santos that he quits his White House job and travels to Houston to convince Santos to run for president, and he never loses faith in Santos' abilities. There are several heartwarming moments between the two of them, for instance in "The Cold" when Santos is informed that they are now tied nation-wide with Vinick - his first reaction is to seek out Josh and celebrate with him.
- On a similar note, when CJ gets promoted to chief of staff instead of Josh (who clearly wanted it) he never shows any signs of being jealous and doesn't seem to have any problems being her subordinate.
- Not only is Josh not jealous of CJ becoming Chief of Staff, he's very encouraging and supportive, doing his best to make the transition as easy for her as possible. Even when, in a later episode, she has to exclude him from a summit he's been instrumental in arranging he gives her no criticism, in fact he assures her that she's making the right call.
- In spite of the crisis the characters are undergoing in the end of season four and beginning of season five many of the characters take the time to ask Toby about his kids, and seem genuinely interested and excited to hear more about them.
- Josh taking Donna with him for his first vacation in about eight years.
- In the season one finale the senior staff work out a hand signal to alert the president (while he's on stage) if a particular mission is successful. The mission ends up being successful before the president goes on stage. The staff then uses that signal to convey that the space shuttle Toby's brother was traveling on was able to land safely.
- Sam pulling CJ down and protecting her when they were being shot at.
- The relationship between Josh and Leo has a lot of heartwarming moments. They've probably know each other all of Josh's life as Leo was an old friend of Noah Lyman's and Leo becomes a father substitute for Josh after Noah dies. The way Josh reacts to Leo's death and him saying "Thanks, boss" after they've won the election is very touching.
- After the leaders of Israel and Palestine sign a form of peace agreement Josh makes sure to get his hands on one of the pens and then gives it to Donna.
- Josh helping Charlie dig up the bottle for Zoey's graduation.
- Not to mention Charlie going to get the bottle in the first place - and Zoey beating him to it.
- What Josh says to Donna when he has to turn her down for a job with the Santos campaign and she thinks it's partially due to her quitting as his assistant.
Josh: I've got an airplane hangar out there filled with 500 strangers looking to me for direction; I've got a candidate who doesn't trust any of them, and frankly neither do I. And if you think I don't miss you every day...
- Danny to CJ (especially aww-worthy since it was written by one of the show's cast members):
Danny: If I'm gonna jump off the cliff, and your gonna get pushed off the cliff, why don't we hold hands on the way down?
- When Josh is handed a card from the NSC with directions of where to go in case of a nuclear attack (or other national disaster) he is really bothered by the fact that neither Sam, Donna, Toby nor CJ got a card. He hands it back to Leo with the following words:
Josh: I can't keep this. I think it's a white flag of surrender. I want to be a comfort to my friends in tragedy. And I want to be able to celebrate with them in triumph. And for all the times in between, I just want to be able to look them in the eye. Leo, it's not for me. I want to be with my friends, my family, and these women.
- Seeing all the flowers, messages and candles for Zoey when she's been kidnapped. Doubles as a Tear Jerker.
- A season one episode has the senior staff listening in while the president talks to a young man on a ship of a large fleet that has been caught in a hurricane and is unlikely to make it through. Not only is Bartlet's conversation a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming but in the background Josh can be seen putting his arms around a visibly upset Mandy (his ex-girlfriend whom he spends most of his time bickering with).
- From the series finale:
Bartlet: Make me proud, Mr. President.
Santos: I'll try my best, Mr. President.
- Josh and Donna discussing spending money on space exploration in "The Warfare of Genghis Khan".
Josh Lyman: We're the most dominant nation on earth. But too often the face of our economic superiority is a corporate imperialism, our technological dominance shown by Smart bombs and Predator drones. We could do something else. Something generous and uplifting for all humankind. We could send the first representatives from Earth, to walk on another planet. We could land people on Mars. ...Needs work.
Donna Moss: Needs something.
Yeah, that inspiration thing. Voyager, in case it's ever encountered by extra-terrestrials, is carrying photos of life on Earth, greetings in 55 languages and a collection of music from Gregorian chants to Chuck Berry
. Including "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
" by '20s bluesman Blind Willie Johnson, whose stepmother blinded him when he was seven by throwing lye in is his eyes after his father had beat her for being with another man. He died, penniless, of pneumonia after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that burned down. But his music just left the solar system.
) Okay, that got me.
- And on the topic of space exploration:
- The stargazing scene from earlier in "The Warfare of Genghis Khan" and how excited Josh gets.
- Sam's similar discussion with Mallory in "Galileo".
- CJ telling the president he should go speak to the class in "Galileo", even if the mission is a failure, to teach them about perseverance.
- Donna is the first person on the assistant level to learn that the President has MS. Toby sits her down in his office and tells her, tells her that she's the first, tells her that Josh is going to need her, and that things are going to be difficult. The first thing Donna says, the very first:
Is the president in a lot of pain?
- This exchange between Mallory and Sam, regarding Leo:
Mallory: You are so just like him.
Sam: That is the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Thank you.
- Bartlet interacting with the kids in "Excelsis Deo".
- Toby giving Ginger a hug in 2x01.
- When Leo's divorce papers arrive Margaret is concerned that he might drink. Leo appears to be annoyed by her at first but then...
Leo: You're a good girl.
- President Bartlett getting Supreme Court nominee Evelyn Lang to sign a copy of the 14th amendment for Toby's daughter.
- At one point, the President mentions that he attended Notre Dame because he was thinking of becoming a priest. When C.J. asks what made him change his mind, Bartlet has a three-word answer: "I met Abbey."
- In the last episode, Josh, as incoming White House Chief of Staff, goes to visit CJ, the out-going Chief of Staff. Josh asks if she ever stopped thinking the office of the White House Chief of Staff as Mc Garry's office, and she says, "No." That's pretty Heartwarming right there. But then CJ hands Josh a note that reads "WWLD?" and tells Josh that as long as he keeps it in mind, he'll never do the wrong thing while Chief of Staff. WWLD naturally means "What would Leo do?"
- At one point in "Holy Night", season four, Josh tells Toby he'd give anything to have a living father who was a convicted fellon, displaying how deeply Josh misses his father. At the end of the episode Josh spends the night leading into Christmas Eve together with Leo, who basically is his substitute father at that point.
- In the episode "Shibboleth" the same group of Christian leaders from the pilot episode reappear to try and convince the White House staff to grant political asylum to a group of persecuted Chinese Christians who stuffed themselves into cargo containers on a ship to reach the United States. Although the meeting starts out poorly, Reverend Caldwell makes it clear that they are genuinely motivated by the wish to help those seeking freedom from persecution and want to ensure everyone has the right to practice their religious beliefs. Nice change of pace for both the characters and writers.
- Best part is that President Bartlet does indeed grant the asylum request after speaking with the leader of the Chinese Christians during which the man demonstrates the earnestness and veracity of his belief in Christ.
- Actually, Bartlet can't grant them asylum because it would cause problems with China. Instead, he has the guards of the facility where they're being held stand down so they can "escape". This keeps the Chinese Christians in the US while letting China save face. He also explains to Josh that he never had any intention of sending them back, whether or not they could prove their faith.
- After destroying Ritchie in the final Presidential debate, Bartlet shakes his hand and reassures him he'll be back.
- Leo's distress when he learns that his army friend Kenny has been using the system to get a contract deal and make millions. He spent three days in the jungle together with Kenny during the Vietnam war, with Kenny carrying a badly wounded Leo on his back and caring for him. He tells Jed about the men in the rescue choppers who died saving them and how he and Kenny had a responsibility to live their lives with dignity and integrity to honor their sacrifice. Jed gently tells him that Leo has done enough all on his own to honor that, and that those men would be as proud to know him as Jed is.
- This exchange between Leo and Margaret when he visits the White House after his heart attack.
Leo: Hey sweetie!
Margaret: Hey boss! *they hug*
- In the episode King Corn (season six), Russel, Santos and Vinick all oppose the useage of ethanol as fuel but it would be near political suicide to say something about it in Iowa. Santos almost does anyway, but reins himself in at the last second. Vinick, however, does speak his mind on the issue. Later on Santos tells Vinick that although his staff might be horrified, Santos is proud of what he did.
- Similarly, after Santos turns down Russel's offer of being his VP running mate, despite more or less the entire democratic party urging him to do so, Santos asks Josh if he's mad. Josh's response? That he is proud.
- Annabeth clutching Leo's hand while she sleeps on the plane in an early season seven episode.
- Despite their previous fighting during the later parts of season six and early season seven, and despite Toby not believing in Santos as a potential winner in the presidential race, when election day draws near Toby begins to secretly help Josh with campaign strategy and Josh follows his advice. After all the time they've spent at each other's throats at that point it's great seeing them working together again.
- While Vinick's team are discussing how Leo's death might affect the election, not to mention the fact that they can contest a Santos win because of Leo's death and they can try to use the tragic event to sway undecided voters in their favour, Vinick himself is adamantly against drawing any gain from it. He reminds them that he knew Leo personally for a long time and that this is about a person's life. Meanwhile Bruno sits quietly, having also known Leo personally for quite some time and refusing to want to spin his death in their own campaign's favour.
- After Leo's funeral, Toby is reluctant to leave the cathedral until the members of the press have cleared out. Charlie asks, on CJ's behalf, if Toby will be at Arlington, making it fairly obvious that she's hoping the answer will be no. Charlie then shows Toby that he supports him as a friend by walking out of the cathedral with him.
- Ronna welling up at the sight of the Oval Office. After seven seasons with the Bartlet administration you've gotten used to the locations where the show is set and it's not so awe-inspiring anymore. Then someone from the new president's administration walks in and her reaction reminds us of the significance of the room.
- From the season six Christmas episode, the scene where the three Bartlet sisters stand together and watch a choir singing Christmas songs. It's one of the few times we see all three of them together and they seem so fond of each other and relaxed when they are together.
- On a related (and also heartbreaking) note, the episode "7A WF 83429" shows Ellie being very affected by her baby sister's kidnapping. Nina Siemaszko does it with hardly any dialogue, a brilliant performance. You really get the sense that she and Zoey have a close relationship.
- In Season 3 episode 6, as Bartlet heads out for the debate, Leo tells him, "There is no such thing as too smart. There is nothing you can do that's not going to make me proud of you."
- A minor example: in season 3's "Gone Quiet", when everyone on the senior staff hears the Senate Majority Leader's incoherent response to the question of why he wants to be president, they immediately break out in gloating. When President Bartlet hears it, however, he gently asks C.J. to go easy on the guy if the White House is asked to respond, demonstrating his empathy even for his political opponents:
President Bartlet: Go easy on the guy; he's a dedicated and conscientious man, and it's a difficult question to answer.