Day 9: “Pee-wee’s Christmas Special,” Pee-wee’s Playhouse (1988)

On the ninth day of Christmas Philip (that’s, uh…me…) gives to us…

"Pee-wee's Christmas Special," Pee-wee's Playhouse

When I was little, I loved Pee-wee Herman. And looking back, I’m pleased that I don’t have to wonder why.

The show was, and is, a sheer delight. As Pee-wee, Paul Reubens taps into everything great about being a kid. The limitless wonder of daily life, the magic inherent in the world around us, and the sheer addictiveness of simple imagination. The concept that Pee-wee wasn’t a kid, but was an adult, was revolutionary to me; this was a grownup who understood.

It wasn’t dad, or a teacher, or an uncle. They had jobs and responsibilities and things to do…and so no matter how much you might love them, they didn’t understand. There was always going to be a barricade, an age-defined breaking point between youth and adulthood. Pee-wee Herman didn’t bridge that gap so much as he simply existed in isolation. He was a glorious, addictively cheerful exception to reality. He epitomized something we, as children, always wanted to believe, but hadn’t really been able to: the fact that you didn’t have to grow up.

Every Saturday morning I would get out of bed and watch Pee-wee’s Playhouse. It was an escape for me in very much the same way as the Muppets…from a sad and frustrated childhood I could find myself, through the magic of a television screen, transported into another world. A world where things weren’t scary, weren’t upsetting, and weren’t dangerous. A world where people were laughing, and having fun. A world dictated and shaped entirely by the bounds of our own creativity. I wanted that, and I feel as though I’ve spent, in some way, the rest of my life trying to recapture it…that elusive vision from the past, long faded and gone.

I was fortunate growing up to have two great shows — this one, and Muppet Babies — that both preached and demonstrated the value of imagination. I’m not sure how much of that exists anymore, but every Saturday morning I could count on being reminded of how important creativity really was, and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this shaped me, in enormous part, into the individual I am today.

Pee-wee’s Playhouse apparently had only 45 episodes. I almost can’t believe it…I must have seen each one a dozen times, because it feels like I spent a lifetime in the Playhouse. I still remember all the puppets by name. I remember Jambi’s incantation. I remember what to do whenever somebody says the secret word.

I remember vividly one morning when I must have been about eight. My friend had spent the night, and he was a Pee-wee fan too. We woke up and turned on the television and sat on the floor waiting for the show to come on. My bedroom door opened, and it was my mother, asking what we were doing awake at five in the morning. We hadn’t realized it was so early. We hadn’t even thought to look at a clock. We just woke up and immediately turned the television on, so that we wouldn’t miss Pee-wee.

"Pee-wee's Christmas Special," Pee-wee's Playhouse

“Pee-wee’s Christmas Special” doesn’t stand out to me at all. Perhaps that’s because every episode was like Christmas to me. It was all a gift beyond value…a missive from an imaginary world that offered invaluable escape. It really was the best gift of all, and I got to re-experience it weekly. I’d tune in to Pee-wee’s Playhouse and that was all I needed. They say that Christmas comes only once per year, but for me it came weekly.

Looking back on the show now I’m amazed by how quaint it feels. Pee-wee was a throwback I’d never, as a child, have recognized as a throwback. His rebelliousness was that of a 1950s school child. He was bratty, but wore a bowtie and a smartly pressed suit. His hair was immaculate and his smile bright. He was both significantly older than me, and was also my peer. He was someone you could look up to, and yet conspire with. And while I’d have never recognized the Playhouse as an absurd subversion of the tropes of children’s programming, I loved it for what it was. Pee-wee’s mocking was gentle. Adults could laugh at the inane undercutting of the shows they grew up with, and children could be proud to grow up with this one. Pee-wee didn’t exclude.

In “Pee-wee’s Christmas Special,” there’s a deliberate desire to overwhelm. Pee-wee is so overbooked with celebrities that he needs to turn Whoopi Goldberg away, and he hosts a conference call with Oprah Winfrey and Dinah Shore just to get them both out of the way at once. Magic Johnson is crammed into Magic Screen (they’re cousins) to help Pee-wee “connect the Christmas dots,” and when Grace Jones is delivered accidentally to the Playhouse (she was supposed to go to the White House) Pee-wee quickly orders her back in the box.

It’s overstuffed by design, so that even the opening list of celebrity cameos becomes a joke. With Pee-wee’s Playhouse, the simple act of putting a television show together offers a wealth of opportunities for comedy. The main joke is that the show itself exists, and literally everything else is just a continuous heightening of comic fulfillment.

As a kid I’m sure I didn’t care that Cher was on hand to help reveal the secret word, or that Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello became Pee-wee’s indentured Christmas servants…I was just glad to have Pee-wee holding the show together.

"Pee-wee's Christmas Special," Pee-wee's Playhouse

Of course, in the end, we did have to grow up. The promise of Pee-wee was lost, forever, in 1991. That, I say without any trace of irony, was the moment my generation lost its innocence.

Paul Reubens was arrested for public masturbation, having been caught doing so in an adult theater. My parents, for what it’s worth, didn’t tell me the reason. (Or, rather, they told me that Pee-wee was losing his show because he was caught saying curse words.) But the school yard, as ever, filled in the blanks. Pee-wee was gone.

As much as I didn’t want to grow up, I no longer had a choice. Paul Reubens was an adult male masturbating to pornography — a fact not exceptional in any way — but because he was caught doing it, the Playhouse was closed forever. Sealed off from a nation of children who wanted nothing more than to find it for themselves. They instead found that it was totally erased from existence.

There was no more. The dream was over.

I don’t begrudge Reubens his choices. I don’t think he’s a bad person. He committed the crime of pleasuring himself in an adult theater — a crime I have a hard time of seeing in any way as criminal — and, all at once, it was over. I carry the scar of that forcibly lost world today, but it’s not a scar inflicted by Reubens…it’s a scar inflicted by the witch hunters that barred him from television and decimated his career. It’s a scar inflicted by the very watchdog groups that claim to be helping children, and keeping them safe. I think it’s a similar thing that children today are experiencing with Kevin Clash. Congratulations, kids. You’re all grown up.

The world is a cruel and dangerous place. That’s the unintentional lesson Pee-wee’s Playhouse taught children my age. Imagination can keep it at bay for only so long. Whatever time you spend at the top only pulls you closer to your fall back to the bottom.

I miss being a kid. I miss the things I’ll never see through that youthful filter again — Christmas certainly among them. I miss the world and how it looked before the curtain fell away and I saw the ugly, grinding mess of gears that kept everything operational.

I never wanted to grow up. Nobody did. But everybody had to. Pee-wee and Santa Claus appear together in this special, making the world a happier place for children everywhere, but their days were numbered. Children were getting older. Reality was intruding. Dreams were fading and promises were being broken. We’d have to grow up after all, and, what’s more, we had to do it quickly. There’s no time to get your coat, and there’s no sense looking back. We all fled together.

And the fact that we weren’t alone failed to make it any easier.

Tomorrow: The healing power of music.

Day 8: “Christmas Special,” The League Of Gentlemen (2000)

On the eighth day of Christmas, David Black gave to us…

"Christmas Special," The League of Gentlemen

In the run up to Christmas in the year 2000, The League Of Gentlemen published A Local Book For Local People and I wanted it. I was pretty certain that I wouldn’t get it for Christmas as my mother was unlikely to buy me a book that purported to be wrapped in human skin. It’s a scrapbook collecting together newspaper articles, leaflets, postcards and letters about, to and from the people of Royston Vasey. It’s fantastic. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Comedy tie-in books are never this good. I bought it as a Christmas present to myself and pored over every page. Nestled towards the back of the book is an illustrated short story called “The Curse Of Karrit Poor,” which I skipped right over. I looked at the pictures, but I never read a word of it and I can’t explain why.

I eagerly awaited The League Of Gentlemen’s Christmas Special that year and when it finally arrived I was not disappointed. The opening sequence gives us Royston Vasey in the snow, a mutilated robin, yellow snow and a controversial Nietzsche quote on the church noticeboard. It’s a very cinematic sequence in a very cinematic episode of a very cinematic TV show and a step up from some of the other quick gags that opened earlier episodes.

It’s Christmas Eve in Royston Vasey and Bernice Woodall, the town’s vicar, is visited by three characters each seeking solace. Bernice is a fascinating choice to be our guide. The joke that the irreverent Reverend with lipstick on her teeth and a confessional full of cigarettes is presumably an Atheist and possibly the least charitable person in an uncharitable town is one that wouldn’t have sustained her for an hour. We see her character develop here as a result of each of her three Christmas encounters.

Charlie enters the church to deliver a very late and myrrhless nativity scene and takes the opportunity to tell Bernice about a recurring dream he’s been having. We cut to Charlie and Stella line dancing, putting up Christmas decorations and arguing. Charlie and Stella are among my favourite characters and I absolutely love that they get this first vignette. Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton gave their relationship such depth that it always deserved to be explored further. The initial idea of the earlier sketches of the couple arguing for the benefit of a third party grows into to a brilliant short story with a fantastic twist. Liza Tarbuck, the Eyes Wide Shut coven who do voodoo and Stella’s mask are all wonderful, while the slow hand clap is unremittingly bleak.

We return to the church for one of my favourite moments in the entirety of television history: Charlie’s pause and subsequent answer to Bernice asking “In your heart of hearts, do you love your wife?”

Charlie departs and is soon replaced by another storyteller. Andrew Melville is fantastic as the old Matthew Parker, but I must confess that for years I was convinced it was Mark Gatiss in heavy make-up. He takes us back to 1975 in Duisberg in Germany and into the home of Herr Lipp. This is another short tale with another brilliant twist that I certainly didn’t see coming and a raft of sexual innuendo and references to Vampire films. Gatiss and Shearsmith are wonderful as Frau Lipp and young Matthew Parker respectively, but the truly astonishing thing about this segment is that Pemberton manages to take a grotesque character, not to mention a sexual predator, like Herr Lipp and yet give him a genuine sense of pathos all the while being very funny into the bargain.

Herr Lipp: Sometimes the inside of something can be beautiful, even if the package isn’t…well…isn’t.

And later:

Matthew: Leave me alone.
Herr Lipp: I will try.

"Christmas Special," The League of Gentlemen

Out goes Parker and in comes a bloodied Chinnery for our third story as the vet tells the vicar about his great-grandfather.

Bernice: Oh God, it’s getting like bloody Jackanory in here.

The resulting tale is as rich and classy a slice of Victoriana as the BBC has ever produced. Frances Cox, Freddie Jones, Boothby’s bicycle,  “next door,” and seeing Chinnery as his own great-grandfather are all great.

Boothby: Now then, lad. Old Majolica sings your praises and that’s good enough for me. I can offer you a hundred a year, food, lodgings and unlimited use of a bicycle. What do you say?
Chinnery: I’d be delighted.
Boothby: Capital! I think we’ll get along well. There is only one other matter, my senior partner, Mr. Purblind, is an invalid. He occupies the last room on the third floor. He never stirs from his bed from dawn till dusk…save to go for a wee.
Chinnery: You wish me to visit him?
Boothby: On no account! Mr. Purblind is a very sick man. The slightest disturbance is abhorrent to him. Do you hear me?
Chinnery: Yes, sir.
Boothby: All my doors are open to you, Chinnery. Except the ones that are closed.

For their part, Shearsmith and Pemberton’s creations Boothby and Majolica are wonderful, with the former’s bicycle obsession and the latter’s evil echo of Series Three’s Dr. Carlton being particular highlights.

Purblind: Touch them and see!
Chinnery: No…no, I…I mustn’t!
Purblind: Feel them! Feel the knackers!

In spite of his warning (and probably because of it), Chinnery later finds himself in Purblind’s room where the old man tells him the story of how he came to be cursed to kill every animal he came into contact with. The effect of Purblind’s story builds through the brilliant use of shadow puppets to the surprising reveal of a unique necklace and via a gleeful moment of Freddie Jones swearing. Chinnery feels the knackers and unwittingly takes Purblind’s curse upon himself, but dismisses the possibility as “cheap mummery.” His return to his London practise and a simple surgical tap that is but “the work of moments” causes an animal massacre of epic proportions.

Majolica: Another vet has touched the monkey’s bollocks. And now you and all your descendants shall suffer the curse of Karrit Poor!

There’s that name again. Every time I watch this I mean to search out my copy of A Local Book For Local People to read about the curse of Karrit Poor in “The Curse Of Karrit Poor.” I never do. We return to the present day and Bernice convinces Chinnery to get back to work.

Throughout its first two series, the show referenced and alluded to a great many horror films, but uses its Christmas Special to pay tribute to an often overlooked subgenre: the portmanteau film. These are films made up of shorter stories united by framing device. It was a subgenre that I was previously unaware of, but examples include Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors (1964), The House That Dripped Blood (1970), Tales From The Crypt (1972), New York Stories (1989) and Four Rooms (1995).

"Christmas Special," The League of Gentlemen

The absence of Tubbs and Edward really allows some of the other characters to flourish and the portmanteau sequences allow the Gentlemen to have their cake and eat it too. Did those events happen as described? Will Stella be framed for murder? Is Herr Lipp a Vampire now? Is Chinnery’s inability to keep a patient alive the result of the curse? Possibly, but would it really matter if the only thing that really happened were the sequences set in the church? I don’t think so, because they are arguably the most horrific of all.

The framing story of Bernice has given us flashbacks to her childhood and reveals that her mother was abducted at Christmas when she was eight years old. She is invited by three visitors to reassess her attitude to Christmas and she does mellow as the evening has wears on. To the point that she inspires Chinnery, plans to do nice things for her parishioners on Christmas Day and, potentially a first, she apologises to someone. Bernice’s childhood catches up with her as Santa Claus comes to town again and this time he takes her away with him. Papa Lazarou’s fleeting appearance here serves to cement him as one of the most horrifying television monsters. Not only does he steal Christmas, but he undermines everything that has happened to Bernice all night. Even after the life changing visits of Scrooge’s three ghosts, it would probably have brought his new demeanour to a brief conclusion if he had been kidnapped and inserted into an elephant on Christmas Day.

There was a definite shift in style as the series progressed. While the first series could be legitimately described as a sketch show, the second was more of a sitcom. Now with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to see the Christmas special as the bridge between that and the more comedy drama style of Series Three. Not least because they dropped the laughter track and the funny thing is that you barely notice here

The three onscreen members of The League Of Gentlemen are rightly applauded for their acting abilities, indeed we can all be grateful that three of Britain’s best actors were on screen at the same time, but in complimenting that aspect of the show let’s not ignore the writing and the fourth Gent, Jeremy Dyson.

The genius of The League Of Gentlemen is their juxtaposition of highbrow and lowbrow. They can take a brilliantly intricate and rewarding story about voodoo revenge and dismiss it as a cheese dream. They can take a potentially one note character with pun for a name and single entendre dialogue and play him with complexity and honesty. They can make a sumptuous Victorian horror story full of intrigue and have the entire thing revolve around the cupping of a monkey’s lovespuds. They can take something as potentially sentimental and syrupy as a Christmas special, force its bitter central character through the wringer, make her learn a lesson and then ultimately prove her right all along. They take a central tenet of sitcom, that characters don’t develop, and then they earn it.

Here I am twelve years later and I’ve finally gotten around to reading “The Curse Of Karrit Poor” in A Local Book. I liked it. Not more than the TV version, but I liked it. The one thing I found most comforting and reassuring was that it also takes both the high road and the low road.

“A story so fantastic that it might seem to have sprung from the ravings of some brain fevered Eastern mystic. Or a twat.”
–From The Curse Of Karrit Poor, being the reminiscences of “Dr Edmund Chinnery R.C.V.S.”

Tomorrow: A very adult show for children reminds us of just how far apart these phases of our lives can be. (Not intentionally, obviously.)

Day 7: “Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa,” The Partridge Family (1971)

On the seventh day of Christmas, Jeff Zoerner gave to us…

"Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa," The Partridge Family

Set the dial on your hot tub time machine for Christmas Eve, 1971. Behold, it’s the Partridge Family, and they’re stranded in a ghost town! While they wait hopefully for an über-butch Keith to effect repairs on the family bus, a lonely old prospector entertains the family in his shack with a fanciful tale of the town’s past glory days. Will Keith fix the bus in time for the clan to make it home for Christmas? Will the senile old hermit’s narrative not suck a fat, greasy one? Can I at long last make it through leering at Laurie for an entire episode without spanking one off?

When I was offered this plum assignment, this was the first and only Christmas episode to come to mind. (Why I didn’t instead think of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the definitive Christmas classic, is beyond me.) Its official title is “Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa”–no relevance to the story, of course, but rather a shameful attempt to gain cheap heat from the Johnny Cash song with a similar title—and it holds a special place in my heart. But I haven’t seen it in 40 years. Will my childish assessment of the episode’s greatness hold up to adult scrutiny?

After all, it’s amazing how well many of the things we loved as children stand up in our adult years. In my case I can cite Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, The Odd Couple, Johnny Cash, Monty Python…the list goes on. For this reason I am eager to relive this very special Christmas memory and see whether it is worthy of its place in my heart.

And, fortunately, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I can do just that. So back to the episode: As you recall, the grimy old prospector is regaling the Partridge family with his crappy yarn from days gone by. For the viewers at home, the story is dramatized with the Partridge family members playing the various roles, with Charlie the prospector providing the voice-over when needed.

There are several good omens. That Keith, he sure has a nice singing voice. And Laurie is every bit the sizzling fuck-bomb I remember… my resolution to keep it in my pants doesn’t even last 30 seconds.

"Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa," The Partridge Family

Then, alas, there’s the episode itself.

Mother of mercy, God must be against me. My heart sinks as I watch. The characters are painfully inauthentic. They’re not hip, as I remembered…they’re just nerds! And God damn, that kid Danny is ugly! They sure make him out to be an asshole, too. The poor guy is the kind of kid that adults find charming and other kids just want to pound into shitmeal. No wonder he went crackers as an adult…who wants to look back on his childhood and see himself being exploited as a buffoon for a nationwide audience?

As for the story…I won’t even recount it, because it’s not even trying to make sense. Example: in one scene, the sheriff, a lollipop-licking Keith Partridge, bumps into the town’s street sweeper and proceeds to–yup, you guessed it–stick the lollipop under his hat. WHAT THE FUCK??

The cherry on top of this squishy mound of shit is prospector Charlie’s inept narration. Is he drunk? Stricken with Alzheimer’s? A little (or lot) of both? The guy playing the role, Dean Jagger, has an Oscar under his belt… so how is it that he manages the worst thing about this whole debacle by far? You’re like, send this old motherfucker off to the taxidermist already. Confiscate his SAG card and delete all mention of him from Hollywood records. Find out where his kids live and pay someone to take their knees out with a baseball bat. Christ, he’s just awful. Seriously, they could have squeezed a better performance out of some random homeless guy for a free lunch.

So when it comes to pass that the Partridges’ bus is fixed and the family departs, abandoning this grubby little man to wallow in lonely squalor, you can’t help but cheer. That’s what the asshole gets for being such a bad actor.

But still, this is Christmas. And while you may realize on an intellectual level that it’s all bullshit, and that these hack TV writers are trying to pull at your heartstrings in the worst way, a part of you still wants this filthy old fart to have his Christmas miracle. You hope in spite of yourself. You hope even as you hate yourself for it.

And, as you struggle with this, something extraordinary happens…

What’s that racket wafting through Charlie’s window? Could it be? A rendition of the stomach-churning “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” so watered down it makes the Carpenters on valium sound like Judas Priest? And who’s that gathered in front of Charlie’s shack? Is it the lunchtime buffet entertainment crew from the Cracker Barrel? Why no, it’s the Partridge family, come back to keep Charlie from experiencing Christmas alone!

And does Charlie do? I tell you what Charlie does: he TOTALLY REDEEMS this episode.

This is no exaggeration. In a few heartwarming seconds, Charlie makes the entire episode worthwhile. And how, you ask, does he do this?

"Don't Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa," The Partridge Family

By standing there.

I shit you not. By standing there…and doing it surpassingly well. He stands there, beside himself, speechless, in overjoyed disbelief that anyone would sacrifice of themselves to make his life a little brighter. He has never experienced anything like it. And neither have I: a simultaneous desire to cry and to blow my brains out. I am whisked back 40 years, and I realize I fought back tears as I watched this for the first time, just as I am now. This fucking old guy…how does he do it?

With this one scene, Charlie reminds us all of the real meaning of Christmas. Life may be shit, and the world may be shit, but from the shit can rise moments of beauty, beauty that shouldn’t be but is. And if you are honest about the nature of the world around you but are too cowardly to kill yourself, really, can you ask for anything more than this?

It is beautiful. Yes, I’ve been ruthless so far, but it’s all in good fun. I love this episode, and I am grateful for it.

Having arrived at this epiphany, I am free to move on. I freeze-frame a close-up of Laurie and spank one off… just because I can.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tomorrow: A gothic, grotesque Christmas of horrors. But enough about my childhood! ZING. I ZINGED MYSELF.

Day 6: “The Constant,” LOST (2008)

On the sixth day of Christmas, Jacob Crites gave to us…

The Ending of LOST is still one of the more controversial television events of the past decade. Maybe you thought it was beautiful (like me), maybe you thought it was painfully heavy-handed (like most people), and maybe you thought they were dead the whole time (which they weren’t, you dope. Go watch it again). But if there’s one thing every LOST fan can agree on, it’s that “The Constant” marked a creative and emotionally resonant peak for the show, and is perhaps one of the finest hours of television ever produced. It also happens to be a sort-of-kind-of Christmas episode. But perhaps it’s fitting that LOST‘s only Christmas episode isn’t really a Christmas episode, because “The Constant” is a LOST episode that isn’t really a LOST episode, or perhaps it is the perfect example of what a LOST episode should be.

I really don’t know. LOST was always confusing like that.

Now, LOST was such a spectacular show in part because of how unpredictable it was, and not just from a plot-twist standpoint, but from a structural standpoint. Throughout its six season run, there were many wonderful episodes, several weak episodes, but never a formulaic one, in part because there was never a formula established in the first place. Just as we were settling into a groove with flash-backs, the series would throw in a clip episode, except with clips from another part of the island featuring new characters which we had not previously seen (“The Other 48 Days”), or an episode that takes place entirely in the past (“Flashes Before Your Eyes”), or introduce the concept of a flash-forward (“Through the Looking Glass” and all of season four), or a flash-sideways (most of season six…sort of). But what could always be predicted about an episode of LOST is that it could not be predicted, that the episode would not in the least be self-contained, and that characters would generally end up in a much worse place than when they started. And this is where “The Constant” becomes rather special.

The Constant is one of perhaps only two episodes of LOST that succeed as self-contained works (the other being the pilot, which remains one of the best pilots in the history of such things). One does not need to see the previous half-billion episodes and be up to date on their backgammon visual allusions and Dharma mythlogy to understand what is going on (though it helps); this is an episode with its own unique narrative structure, a single character arc, and one of the show’s most satisfying emotional resolutions. Also, it’s Christmas, and the episode’s lead character is often portrayed in the show as a Christ-like metaphor. So there’s that.

That Christ-like metaphor in question is Desmond Hume (to reveal why he’s Christ-like metaphor would spoil much of LOST, and also, who cares?) and Desmond Hume has become unstuck in time. Only not his body, so much, but his consciousness. Desmond has recently been exposed to an inordinate amount of electromagnetic energy, and in LOST, that generally means (as Daniel Faraday will tell us) “side effects.” The side effects in this case being consciousness-time-travel, which would not be all that bad were it his present consciousness doing the traveling, and not his 1996 consciousness. But it is the latter, and in 1996, Desmond is in the Queen’s Army. This is inconvenient.

And thus begins a great deal of madness. The episode follows Desmond’s consciousness as it jumps back and forth through time with increasing frequency. It is the sort of thing that would drive anyone crazy, and that, as we find, is the trouble. What Desmond needs to keep from losing his mind completely is a Constant—something that exists in both his present (1996) and the show’s present (2004) to help his mind from collapsing with disorienting confusion. The Constant, it would turn out, is his one true love. Penny.

To save himself (and, in effect, their relationship *BOOM*) he must find Penny in 1996 and get her to call him (he’s on a freighter off the Island with access to the phone…it’s a long story) eight years in the future to the day and hour. Which is 2004. Christmas Eve.

Now, I, like many other of the show’s characters, do not celebrate Christmas; but I also, like most people with a beating heart, do always enjoy a good “Christmas Episode.” The Christmas Spirit, in actuality, is more of a nice thought than a really nice thing; during Christmastime, people are generally quite stressed about the difficulty finding parking spaces, the annoyance of hanging elaborate decorations that are only really fashionable for about three weeks, and being forced to buy presents for people they may not very much like.

But in Christmas Episodes, The Christmas Spirit is a wonderful thing, wherein faith is rewarded, relationships are rekindled and true love is often found. This is why “The Constant” is sort-of-kind-of a Christmas Episode.

LOST was always a show that attracted people of all kinds of faiths and all levels of cynicism (which is why a good deal of people were put off by the fact that one of its final scenes took place in a Church), and this is why it does not beat its Christmas setting into the ground; but even non-Christmas-Celebrators usually are fond of the things that Christmas is supposed to bring (indeed very few people despise gifts and bright colors and good will among men), and this is why everyone, regardless of personal beliefs, loves “The Constant.”

I will not ruin the ending of the episode, because I think you should watch it, but suffice it to say it is a happy one. It is about losing your mind only to find it in a better place, about resparking relationships that were once doomed to fail, about finding true love when it is at its most needed, and being rewarded in the faith that sometimes people will do the right thing. Basically, it is an episode in which good things happen to good people, a thing for which LOST was not, until its final season, very well known. That it is a Christmas Episode is not important, or perhaps it is incredibly important. I really don’t know. LOST was always confusing like that.

Tomorrow: Come on, get merry!