6. Christmas Special
Liz is full of the Christmas spirit and tries to encourage all the staff of TGS With Tracy Jordan to participate in a program of toys for underprivledged children. Jenna is just full of spirits and tipsily vounteers. The others, apart from Kenneth, aren’t so keen. But Tracy breaks down in tears on hearing the first letter to Santa and, rather than pledging the shoes the child pleaded for, intends to send the tot a jet ski. At least his heart’s in the right place, eh? The other writers then grudgingly agree to give.
When we last left Jack, his flight to Florida had been pre-empted by a snowstorm. This week, he makes it there, but not for the sun, sand, sea, sex and drinks he’d hoped for. Instead, this trip is to visit with his acidic mother, Colleen (Elaine Stritch). The plan is an early, hasty Christmas with his mom after which he’ll jet to Rio to “tan in the nude [and] bet on some monkey wrestling”. Except nothing goes to plan for this bunch, does it? Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much of a show.
Jack manages to run his own mother down with his car as he backs out of a driveway, thinking she’s off on her morning walk. Worse than that, he’s created undeniable evidence that he waited eight full minutes before phoning for an ambulance: on impact the “adequate” Christmas gift of the watch he gave Colleen (not the one she wanted, by the way) is shattered at the precise and damning moment that is eight full minutes before his recorded, itemised cell phone call for help.
Another getaway plan is thwarted for Jack as Colleen has to stay with him in New York after her hip replacement surgery. Rather than face the holidays alone with his mother, Jack cancels the holiday vacation for the TGS crew, keeping them around for a live Christmas Eve Special broadcast, so he, too, can work through the week and avoid his mom.
Liz ‘Totally Overboard’ Lemon plans a fabulous Christmas for her Santa letter writers, DeShante, age 9 and Marcus, age 5, filling shopping carts with games consoles, TVs, and toys galore. She’s trying to compensate for her own mom cancelling the usual family Christmas, which has left Liz to fend for herself for the first time in her 38 yuletides. It also leaves Liz free to visit with Colleen, where Jack admits he hesitated to get help for his mom after he mowed her down.
Liz is determined to witness first hand little DeShante and Marcus’ faces lighting up by hand delivering their gifts. Tracy, Dotcom and Grizz insist on going with her when they recognise the address as a very dangerous part of the city. When they arrive with the wagonload of presents, two grown men open the door and wheel it inside, slamming the door in Liz’s face. Still reeling, she can’t understand what’s happened and Tracy offers, “What’s the past tense for ‘scam’? Is it ‘scrumped’? Liz Lemon, I think you just got scrumped.”
Things go from bad to worse. Jack breaks his mother’s other hip during “an incident” and Liz is intent on a new mission – to shut down the Letters To Santa program altogether. The set is rife with whining.
Jack tells Pete, and anyone who’ll listen, about his horrendous childhood and barely bearable past Christmases. Liz complains that all her charitable effort and expense resulted in not a single hug, to which another Tracy-induced laugh lands reliably, like fruitcakes on countertops across the country: “Well, if all you want is a hug from a black person, maybe you should just host The Price Is Right.”
In the end, Liz is proved wrong as she discovers her gifts did go to children in need, but she simultaneously ruins Christmas forever for them by thoughtlessly revealing there’s no Santa. She marginally redeems herself later when, based on clues Jack’s revealed bit-by-bit, she figures out all his awful memories were actually selfless ways his mother assured her kids had presents on the day. The revelation changes Jack’s deep-seated angry feelings for his mom to warm, cosy love for the first time in his life. Happy, glowy good times all ’round for everybody.
Other memorable moments include:
Finally, a Toofer (Keith Powell) spotting around the writers’ table. (No sign of Josh still. I guess all Christmas wishes don’t come true, sadly.)
Kenneth volunteering to donate to the Letters To Santa program:
Kenneth: I love helping people less fortunate than me. Toofer: [sarcastically] Where do you find them? Kenneth: They’re these Nigerians on the Internet that help me.
Jack’s mom gets a titanium hip: “…like the Terminator. It’s only gonna make her more powerful.”
Yet another of Liz’s awkward mispronunciations of a name of a woman of colour.
Jack’s choice of nursing home for his mom: “…off the coast of Maine and run by the same French company that oversaw Napoleon’s exile. She will be treated humanely, but there will be no escape.”
Jack’s explanation of how he fell out with the Postmaster General over the Jerry Garcia stamp: “I mean, if I want to lick a hippy, I’d just return Joan Baez’s phone calls.”
This is the third Christmas special to come out of the plaza and it was as good as the two that preceeded it. Anyone with mommy issues could relate, and feel relieved that their mother isn’t quite as bad (or as good at goading through guilt) as Jack’s. And the cynicism and distrust many of us have felt for charities was handled deftly – and comically – through Liz’s character.
It was great to see and hear from Toofer, Jenna had some excellent cringe-worthy moments, of which she was, naturally, blissfully oblivious, and both of the major storylines were equally weighted and worthy of their time. Altogether, a very enjoyable episode with enough snow machines for everyone but Jack.
Check out our review of episode 5 here.
22 December 2008