KIP MOONEY: At least they got the “Express” part right.
Tonight’s episode, titled “Christmas Express,” is far too busy to get nearly anything right. In fact, this is the first holiday episode the show hasn’t nailed. The complaints often lobbed at this show tend to focus on the disjointed storylines, and some characters disappearing for episodes at a time to focus on the bigger arcs. But here’s an episode that tries to include literally everyone, and ends up with too little.
The episode begins with everyone hanging out at the pool and realizing this will be the first Christmas where they won’t all be together. Jay, Gloria and Manny are headed south of the border. Mitch and Cam are off to Missouri to see Cam’s handsy mama. And DeDe (Shelley Long, who I would have loved to have seen in at least a cameo) has canceled her trip to take a cruise with her new boyfriend.
So Phil comes up with a
bright dumb idea to rush the holiday season into the next four hours, with a big Christmas dinner that night. Everyone gets their assignments:
Phil & Manny: Dinner
Claire & Haley: Presents
Mitch & Alex: Tree
Cam & Jay: Wrapping
Gloria & Luke: Locate the angel tree-topper
On paper, I love these pairings. But they just didn’t work in execution. For one, I can’t buy a smart kid like Manny being scared of getting kidnapped at any moment. Meanwhile, Mitch and Alex were elitist peas in an pod and Gloria and Luke were too dense to be any fun. You gotta have a straight man. But over at Target (hello, product placement!), you can also tell where Haley gets her conniving streak.
Of course everything goes horribly wrong, because you can’t rush Christmas and all that. While I’ve had some complaints about this year, this is the first episode this season I’ve genuinely disliked. The series’ previous low points at least had other storylines I enjoyed. Tonight was almost all bad. Hopefully the writers will recharge over the holiday break and come back with some fresh stories.
BEST LINES (all-Cam edition):
“Who do you think we’re seeing in Missouri? The Oak Ridge Boys?”
– after Claire insinuates present company is the “real” family
“The way you wrap a gift: so much tape. No one can get in. Kinda like…”
– to the typically unemotional Jay
Jay: “You want to hug me, don’t you?”
Cam: “I kinda do.”
Jay: “OK. Four to five seconds.”
Cam: “Forty-five seconds?!”
Jay: “Four to five seconds!”
– after Jay does something unexpectedly jolly