Before I start this review, I’d like to make an observation that I’d only recently realized regarding the previous episode: Sometime after the series premiere, Mr. Ernst had air conditioners installed in the guest rooms.
Writer: Clifford Fagin
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: September 14, 1990
In the cold open, Melody has a new cowboy hat. Brad compliments the “cowgirl” on it. Melody thinks it’s a little too nice to wear around here, and Brad agrees. After a bit of banter (during which the audio gets really rough during one of Melody’s lines (damage?)), Brad brings up “that great Fourth of July party” that they had. It’s unclear whether this was “this summer” or “last summer”. Anyway, Buddy accidentally trimmed Melody’s hair with a fistful of sparklers. Melody tries to think of an idea for a party to be held at the ranch.
A guy comes by with a delivery for Brad, who assumes it’s her dry cleaning, but…
The delivery man is played by Billy Flick. “Hey Dude” was his sole acting gig.
Brad reads a card from her parents: “Dear Bradley, Her name’s Charisma, and we couldn’t resist. Think of it as an early Christmas present.”
That’s the inspiration that Melody needed.
The series is now shown in stereo (or at least it’s now advertised as doing so at the end of the theme song).
After the credits, on another day (I guess), Brad is practically making love to her new girl toy. Charisma seemingly talks to Brad.
Nah, it was just Jake. To her credit, Brad realizes it after only a second. The guys want to witness Brad riding Charisma for the first time, which she, strangely, hasn’t done yet. Jake banters a bit about “Daylight Savings [sic] Time”, and then Brad has him help her mount her beloved steed.
The guys compliment Charisma and Brad. Brad loves riding her “sweet girl”.
Melody comes by and is all “Christmas in July party, bitches! Let’s do it!” Since the earliest summer, pre-August Tuesday the 13th after the fall of the Berlin Wall occurred on July 13, 1993, this means this episode ends no more than 18 days after the beginning of “Superstition” (season 3, episode 06). Just so you know. I’m beginning to think this timeline possibly might not hold up. But bear with me. Since most episodes show no more than a few minutes from each day, and the passage of time from one scene to the next might be ambiguous in some cases, what if episodes overlapped with each other? Like scene 01 of episode y occurs on the same day as scene 03 of episode x? Maybe the characters need to change clothes, due to sweating from the heat. Maybe an entire later episode (or two) could fit between the second act and pre-credits scene of an earlier episode. Stuff like that. That could actually explain the full moon that we see throughout the series. I’m now entirely convinced I’ve put about a thousand times more thought into this than the writers did. Heck, I’ve tried to tackle the timelines of “Jem” and “Saved by the Bell”.
Holy shit, where was I? Oh, yeah, Melody says they never get to spend Christmas together. Buddy adds Hanukkah. Are the Ernsts Jewish, perhaps? Danny adds Geronimo’s birthday. Okay, two things. One: Geronimo was born on June 16, so, yes, they have fucking spent his birthday together. Two: Geronimo was Apache, not Hopi!
Anyway, Melody gets all sugary-sweet Christmasy and assigns Buddy to food. Buddy will whip up one of his “specialties”, which makes Danny sick just thinking about it. Look for Jake to playfully slap Buddy (his cousin) in support. Nice touch. Melody assigns Danny (the artistic one) to decorations and Jake to entertaining. Jake bullshits about reading “The Night After Christmas”. They will head “committees”, which will never come up again.
The others get butthurt over Brad hogging Charisma and not letting them ride her (Charisma, that is).
The next day (I guess), Mr. Ernst and Brad are taking a bunch of horse-related stuff to “some kind of ranch riding school down the road” that “a friend of Lucy’s” runs. A few things:
It’s “a friend of Lucy”. No need for the “‘s” to indicate possession in this case, because we already have the “of”.
The Bar None has a Toyota pick-up truck (which we’ve never seen before). I guess it makes sense that they’d have one.
There’s another ranch “down the road” from the Bar None other than the Snake Eyes. Yeah, it’s a riding school, but it’s still pretty convenient. Is the road called “Ranch Road” or something? (No, it’s Speedway Boulevard; I know.)
Lucy will be mentioned a lot in this episode, but she doesn’t appear. But that’s still better than Kyle, who’s neither seen nor mentioned. This makes the episode feel like it belongs in the “Jake-Only Era”. It if wasn’t for his appearance in the theme song, I would have forgotten about Kyle. I guess they really didn’t know what to do with him.
Anyway, Brad hands Mr. Ernst a salt lick, and…
Mr. Ernst seems to like it. Amusing side note: an Internet friend of mine (originally from Arizona) once compared drinking her husband’s cum to licking a salt lick.
Anyway, Mr. Ernst wants them to meet their neighbors, help them out, and maybe make a friend or two. He then makes a “definitely almost funny” joke (Brad’s words; she’s fucking awesome).
They soon arrive at the school, and Cindy Stone comes out to meet them. Cindy is played by Susan Sindelar. “Hey Dude” was her sole acting gig.
Cindy is happy for the stuff that they brought and has two guys named Buck and Wayne unload the truck. Buck is played by Jeffrey Krassow. “Hey Dude” was his sole acting gig. Wayne is played by Brent Rock. “Hey Dude” was his first acting gig. He then fell off the map for eleven years and then suddenly started acting again. He continues to act to this day. He’s also gotten some wrangling, scouting, producing, stunt, and transportation work done.
Since Lucy didn’t explain any of this to them, Cindy tells Mr. Ernst and Brad about the program, which is called “T.R.O.T.” (Therapeutic Riding of Tucson). They work primarily with handicapped kids. It’s a real organization. I assume they actually taped these scenes at T.R.O.T.’s location.
There’s a bit of noticeable tape damage.
Brad is sad about the kids, but Cindy says they’re not sad and talks about the benefits of riding a horse.
More tape damage.
Brad goes to check out the school as Mr. Ernst and Cindy talk. They’ve been here about fifteen years (T.R.O.T. was founded in 1974, which means they were here for around sixteen years when the episode was taped, and this statement utterly rapes my timeline theory, but let’s just continue to call it 1993, because Cindy was rounding down anyway), but there are programs all over the country.
A kid named Bobby advises Brad to watch but not stare. Bobby is played by Garett Lewis. IMDb accidentally combines his career (which, I assume, consists solely of this episode) with that of a Garrett Lewis.
Bobby doesn’t want to ride, just watch. He tells Brad that they have “CP” (cerebral palsy). T.R.O.T. isn’t limited to serving just that group, though. They work with kids (and adults) with different kinds of disabilities. Anyway, Brad says “What a tough break.”
An employee (the actor is uncredited) brings Bobby’s wheelchair over to take him to lunch. Brad didn’t realize Bobby has CP, and it makes her uncomfortable. She excuses herself and runs away. She decides to wait in the truck, which creates an awkward situation for Mr. Ernst, who excuses himself from Cindy to drive back to the Bar None.
Back at the Bar None, Jake’s practicing his drumming on a bunch of junk. Why not the tubs?
Melody wants to do…something to Jake but then has Danny and Buddy abort, because Brad and Mr. Ernst have returned.
We don’t hear what Brad and Mr. Ernst say, but he seems to understand the situation. Brad asks Jake what he’s doing. He’s considering doing a twenty-minute drum solo for the Christmas party. Jake informs Brad that he’s left several catalogs from “Drum World” by her bunk (they all take Visa and MasterCard) to help with gift ideas. Brad gets upset at him and sorrowfully talks about her T.R.O.T. experience. Jake gets the name of the place wrong and makes a stupid joke about kids doing wheelies in chairs.
Brad rightly calls him a jerk and kicks his stupid “drum set” over. She goes off on him about being insensitive. Jake tries to deflect the blame back at her by telling her that they want her to relate to them, not to their handicap. Maybe so, but Jake was still an insensitive ass, so Brad’s still in the right. Jake mentions a friend back home that has CP. When he had a broken leg (he doesn’t elaborate on this), they had wheelchair races, and the dude would pwn his ass. Brad doesn’t know why she’s uncomfortable around disabled people and guesses maybe it’s a sense of guilt over not being disabled. Maybe, but a lot of people are uncomfortable around disabled people simply because the very reminder of disabilities makes them uncomfortable, or else they just feel a sense of sorrow for the people. Jake and Brad rib each other about disabilities and weirdness, respectively. Jake makes a dumb joke about people not getting naked in glass houses, and what the fuck does that have to do with anything?
Oh, well, time for a “snowball” fight.
After the commercial break (which comes very early in this episode), Brad is riding her favorite girl and takes her over to T.R.O.T.. Cindy comes by (there’s some more tape damage). We learn Bobby’s been coming for about a year but never rides, just watches. Cindy guesses he’s fascinated but still a little terrified, and she gets Brad to come over with her and say hi. Brad asks what his handicap is (didn’t she already know?); it’s cerebral palsy. Brad asks about it, and Cindy explains. Cindy also talks again about the benefits of riding and guesses Bobby will eventually do so. She opens the gate for Brad and then excuses herself to go and do work.
Brad introduces Bobby to Charisma. Bobby says Charisma smells. Brad is offended and chastises Bobby. Bobby says Charisma can’t understand him. Brad says she can sense what he’s feeling. She invites Bobby to touch her (Charisma, that is).
On another day (I guess), at the Bar None, Melody is working on popcorn strings for the Christmas tree and gets on Brad’s case for eating the popcorn. Brad is surprised there’s gonna be a tree. Melody gets all Christmasy again. Brad seems to threaten to destroy the tree to prevent the party from occurring. Melody gets on Brad’s case for not “overflowing with the Christmas spirit”. Brad points out that it’s fucking July and 105 fucking degrees in the shade. She also makes a joke about how “Santa Claus is at home with his air conditioning set on tundra”, but she’s not the least bit humorous about it. We also learn the snowballs were from the ranch’s refrigerator. Melody asks “Miss Scrooge” for her point. Brad’s never been much of a Christmas person. Her parents were always away, traveling, and Brad would “always be stuck with one of [her] aunts, being force-fed fruitcake” (which she makes Melody assure her that there won’t be any of). There’ll be “just the usual staff and maybe some guests”. So…Melody’s doing this for the staff first – with selected guests as an afterthought? Brad goes off on Christmas being “harder” because of fun, food, joy, ho-ho-hoing, and guys using fistfuls of mistletoe to steal kisses (which reminds Melody to add mistletoe). Brad accepts the Christmas in July party as a “pleasant diversion” but refuses to string popcorn, preferring to read a magazine.
Buddy comes by with a scheme to get money for the Christmas party. Buddy’s idea is to use their wagon (which I don’t think we’ve ever seen) as the “sleigh” and borrow Charisma.
Brad threatens to choke Buddy to death. Melody stops her. Brad is protective of Charisma and doesn’t want her pulling a wagon or being ridden by anyone else. After a bit more discussion about it, Buddy reveals they decided to go with reindeer:
Danny and Jake argue over who gets to be Rudolph. Buddy takes them away to get another red nose, so they can both play Rudolph. Danny agrees but wants to lead the sleigh. Melody and Brad call them fruitcakes.
On another day (I guess), Brad is hanging out with Bobby. They banter about whether Charisma likes him or just the apples that he feeds her. Brad playfully “hits” Bobby, who feigns being hurt to make her worry. She doesn’t feel as upset as I’d be if someone did that to me. Brad calls him “Bob”.
Cindy comes by and makes a joke about beating the kids up once per month to keep them from getting too cocky. She also gives Bobby a noogie. Gah, I fucking hate noogies. Once, a customer tried to get me to smile by getting up in my face (matching my head movements) with her tongue stuck out. When that failed, she gave me a noogie. I don’t know what kept me from hitting her. Then she blamed me, saying I shouldn’t be in customer service if I don’t know how to interact with the customers. Fuck that old bitch.
Anyway, Brad seems a bit displeased about the “comedians”. Bobby wants to ride Charisma. Brad is unsure. Cindy asks for information. Charisma is nine years old, quiet, sound, and kind. Cindy asks Brad what she thinks. Brad agrees to it.
Bobby tells Brad that he has four good legs now.
On another day (I guess), the Christmas Pixie leads the rest of the main teen characters (except Kyle; fuck him) and random extras in a rousing rendition of “Deck the Halls” in front of the Christmas cactus.
I’m really loving Betty’s leopard pants. I want a pair.
Brad praises the party and asks Melody about her cowboy hat. Melody had considered wearing it but ultimately decided on glitter over sophistication. Melody points out the tinsel that she’s wearing in her hair, and Brad says it’s attractive.
Buddy brings by his “Christmas Surprise” for the girls to try, but Danny silently warns them against it. Too late for Melody, though:
The “traditional Christmas colors of red and green” are sour chili and hot guacamole. I love how Danny just has a glass of punch or whatever at the ready and casually hands it to Melody.
Brad passes on the “Christmas Surprise” on the basis that her religious beliefs prevent her from eating anything with the word “guac”. Y’know what? I wanna try that shit. I love spicy food. Hell, I might make some of it someday.
Naturally, Jake, being the “weird” one, comes by for seconds. Betty is the Punch Bitch at this party (such is the burden of anyone that’s not in the opening credits – nor the closing credits), so Danny takes her entire tray (at least, he asks her first).
Y’know, this series is really fucking illogical when it comes to crediting its guest actors. Two guys that walk past the camera in the background get credited, because…their characters were named? I guess. But neither the T.R.O.T. employee (whether real or fictional) that calls Bobby to lunch nor Betty, a recurring staff member, get credited. What the fucking hell, show?
Danny proposes a special Christmas toast that his father taught him when he was just a little kid (his father was very open-minded when large, festive meals were involved):
“To good friends, good food. Good night.”
Brad says it’s a short toast. Danny explains his father usually dozed off after the first turkey (yeah).
Melody feels like she’s in a movie like “Miracle on 34th Street” (the audio’s a bit rough when she says this), but then…
Brad declares it just turned into “Halloween, Part 5” (which isn’t the film’s title; then again, the filmmakers were inconsistent with the title anyway). Why that specific movie?
Anyway, Mr. Ernst is so dumb that he bellows “Ha, ha, ha!” instead of “Ho, ho, ho!”, and Jake has to correct him on “the traditional Santa expression of merriment”. However, Mr. Ernst still fails, because the bag is seemingly too heavy for him, and so…
Later, the main teens (except Kyle; fuck him) open their presents.
Brad seemingly gave her friends pictures of herself. She actually gave them picture frames to use as they wish; she just hates “those ugly pictures of strangers”. Melody wants to keep it “right on her bunk”. Really? Why not on a night stand?
Jake shares a picture from his wallet: Buddy as a baby. Buddy is surprised Jake keeps a picture of him in his wallet, but Jake is surprised the others don’t. So, so weird.
Jake got new jeans. Danny and Buddy shredded them themselves. Danny did the front, and Buddy did the back. Melody is surprised. Brad flirts with Jake, telling him to try them on. Jake will try them on later if Brad’s good. Jake thanks them and remarks Christmas is a “pretty holey holiday”.
Jake passes out envelopes to everyone. When he gets to Brad, there’s some kind of banter between them that I can’t understand. Anyway, each of them has a star named after them “in a galaxy far, far away”. Buddy asks if they’re really from NASA. Jake says they’re from MASA (the Minneapolis Association for Star Assignments, which isn’t a real organization as far as I can tell). Anyway, yes, NASA does exist in this universe. Space Agency isn’t a stand-in; it’s a competitor or something.
After some banter, they get to Melody’s present to Brad. Brad is excited, loving presents.
Melody gives Brad her cowboy hat. Brad refuses, but Melody wants her to have it. Thoughtful gift – if a tad awkward. Imagine Betty Cooper saving up for an expensive article of clothing and then giving it to her bestie, rich girl Veronica Lodge, who could easily afford a dozen of them. What would you say to something like that?
Brad wishes them a Merry Christmas, and the others join in.
The pre-credits scene at the end has Mr. Ernst trying to figure out the balance of oil and gas to put in the lawn mower. He makes it sounds like he’s putting both in the same tank. Yeah, he’s gonna fuck it up bad.
Luckily, Danny comes by to help him.
Melody comes by, asking Mr. Ernst if he knows where Brad is. Brad usually spends her day off by the pool, but she’s not there. Jake mentions he hasn’t seen Charisma around either. Melody misinterprets Mr. Ernst’s wording as Charisma dying and going to “Horse Heaven”. Brad had asked him to not mention it to anybody, but she’s at T.R.O.T. right now, and she’s decided to donate Charisma to them (Mr. Ernst guesses Brad was inspired by Melody’s gift) and volunteer part-time at T.R.O.T.. That’s really amazing. However, I admit I have mixed feeling about it (donating Charisma, not volunteering). Brad gave them an amazing gift, but she also gave them her beloved friend. I don’t agree with donating pets unless you really can’t care for them any longer. Your pet is part of your family. Love and cherish your pets. Take care of them. Sacrifice your own wants to that end if need be. But don’t just pass your pets along to someone else. Just the opinion of a schmuck writing a blog, but it’s something that I feel strongly about.
So ends another day at the Bar None.
The closing credits feature a calming, beautiful version of the theme music. There is no coyote howl. The episode runs a tad shorter than the others (by probably around 10-15 seconds), and so the credits run a little longer than usual.
This episode was very nice. We learn a lot about Brad, past and present, and she goes through some character growth. As another “very special episode” (and a bit of an advertisement for T.R.O.T.), it certainly could have been heavy-handed, but it managed to avoid it.
Countdown to the Second Coming of Ted: 5