Recap: Donna and Ray are staring at the Christmas tree they just hauled over to the Martins' house from the Pruit Family Christmas Tree Lot. They start making out under the mistletoe as Felice and Papa Martin watch from the doorway of the kitchen. Felice frowns in disapproval, then noisily enters the living room and fake apologizes for intruding. She fake gushes about how beautiful the tree is, and Ray excuses himself to go get a tree stand from his truck. As soon as he's out of earshot, Felice gives Donna an incredulous stare and asks her if she actually likes this boy...and Donna smiles dreamily and says that if Ray asked her to marry him right now, she'd totally say yes. That's...kind of disturbing, considering she's known the guy for all of two months. She scampers outside to see if Ray needs any help with the tree stand, and Felice sarcastically remarks to her husband how charming it would be to have a son-in-law who works in a Christmas tree lot. Papa Martin says that Ray is more diverse than that and reminds her that the Pruit family also owns a pumpkin patch. Haha! Good one, John. This doesn't amuse Felice, and she tells him she doesn't want Donna doing something she's going to regret...but Papa Martin advises her to leave their relationship alone, since her meddling is only going to push the two closer together. Felice haughtily declares, "I'm not about to attend a prenuptial dinner in a trailer park." Heh. It's really too bad the writers didn't go down that path, 'cause watching Felice be forced to regularly mix with a boozy, chain smoking ne'er-do-well like LuAnn would've been pretty damn hilarious.
The Walsh house. Brandon and Kelly are lounging on the floor of the living room while Mama and Papa Walsh rush around and pack their suitcases. They're spending Christmas in London with Brenda, and Valerie announces that she too will be absent for most of the episode, since she's flying off to Buffalo for the holidays. Kelly tells Brandon he should feel free to go to London with his parents, because she and her burn injuries are not going to be much fun to spend Christmas with this year...but Brandon assures her that he really really wants to be with her.
Shopping mall. Ahn-drea and Jesse are taking Hannah for her first visit to a shopping mall Santa Claus. Ahn-drea wrings her hands about whether or not the baby's ready for this and remarks that Santa's "so big and red" - OMFG - but Jesse insists that having a photo taken on Santa's lap is a Vasquez family tradition. When it's their turn, Jesse hands Hannah over to Santa, but the kid instantly starts crying...and Ahn-drea scrunches her face with worry as she snaps a few photos of her wailing child.
The Peach Pit. Steve, David, and Clare help Nat prepare for the diner's annual Homeless People Christmas Dinner. Steve starts bellyaching about the Steve Sanders Holiday Curse and grumps that he should just erase Christmas from his calendar, and then recounts the stupidest of his stupid antics over the last three years:
And just when Steve thought the curse was over, his father ruins this Christmas season by selling him out...plus he has to do community service at an old folks' home. It's interesting how he leaves out the part about the rave fire, for which he was partially responsible and nearly killed two people, and is the reason why he's being "sold out" by Rush and then got sentenced by a judge to do community service. Nat tells him to shut up and quit complaining and says that when he sees all the poor wretches they'll be feeding at the diner on Christmas Day, he'll realize how much he has to be thankful for.
Clare tells David the two of them should run the Peach Pit After Dark now that Steve has been barred from doing it. After some hemming and hawing, David agrees to discuss it with Nat.
The Walsh house. Brandon and Kelly are sitting in front of the fireplace, enjoying the Christmas ambiance. Brandon reaches out to touch her shoulder, but she flinches and goes, "Ow." He reminds her that it must be time to change the dressing on her burn and offers to help - but she tells him she'd rather go home and have her mom do it 'cause she doesn't want him to see her torched skin. He tells her she doesn't have to be perfect, and that that's not why he loves her, but she can't bring herself to undress in front of him and heads home.
Beach house. David, Clare, and Donna finish decorating the tree in the beach apartment, then start clowning around and throw popcorn at each other. Donna checks the time and says she has to take Ray's white trash mother Christmas shopping. She says that LuAnn always has a hard time during the holidays, and that she gets emotional and starts hitting the sauce...so Donna worries that things will get weird. Clare assumes that LuAnn would be able to stay sober for the few hours they're together, but Donna says she isn't so sure. She remarks that her family is so different from Ray's that it's like they're "from different galaxies", so Clare tells her what should matter most is her relationship with Ray. Donna thinks that over and says she's right, and that she just needed to hear someone else say it. After she leaves, Chancellor Arnold drops by unannounced. Clare introduces David as "my friend", which annoys David, and he quietly wanders over to the sofa. The chancellor reminds his daughter that he's expecting her to put in an appearance at the Christmas faculty party, and tells her to bring her boyfriend Brandon, along with Donna and Kelly. After he leaves, David asks Clare why she hasn't told her father that they're going out, then suggests she's ashamed of him...but she assures him she's not and promises that the very next time she sees her dad she'll tell him that they're a couple.
Shopping mall. LuAnn tells Donna she doesn't know what to get for Ray for Christmas. She bought him The Club for his truck, but doesn't have any other ideas. Donna points at a suit in one of the store windows, but LuAnn says she can't afford it. As they stroll along, they spot a poster of a cruise ship...and LuAnn ogles it and says that a cruise is her idea of heaven, since all she usually gets at Christmas time is a crappy bottle of eau de cologne. She then shrugs and says, "You take what you can get" and this prompts Donna to put on her sad face and look contemplative.
The Pruit Family Christmas Tree Lot. Felice drops by to see Ray and have a "little chat". She asks him what he'd most like for Christmas, so he takes the bait and tells her he'd really love to record his own album. She pretends to look thoughtful and remarks that that's an expensive dream...but one which she could make happen! She opens her purse, pulls out a check and hands it to him...and Ray looks confused and stammers, "You're, uh, not..." [Uh, yeah, Ray. She is.] Felice avoids specifying that the money is in exchange for him not dating Donna anymore, but says that the check should make him very happy this Christmas and then strides back to her car. Ray just stands there, dumbfounded, staring down at the check.
A little while later, LuAnn stops in at the Christmas tree lot. She notices Ray's spaced out expression and asks him what's wrong, but he doesn't tell her anything. She reminds him he's supposed to be helping out at the Peach Pit with Donna and says how he normally drops everything to be with her. Ray mumbles something about how he just had a rush of customers and couldn't get away. LuAnn tells him just to remember to bring "that sweet girl" [blech, writers] over to the house for Christmas dinner. Ray promises he will, then stares down at Felice's check again.
Federal Building. Dylan tells the receptionist he wants to see Christine Pettit, but is told there's no one in the building by that name. This gets him all agitated and he demands to speak to someone in charge, but the receptionist tells him that her boss is busy and won't speak to anyone without an appointment. Dylan identifies himself as Jack McKay's son, so the receptionist buzzes someone, and then directs Dylan to a meeting room down the hall. The agent who's agreed to speak with him, however, denies knowing a Christine Pettit, and Dylan gets frustrated and yells at him to stop it, otherwise he'll go straight to the newspaper and tell them all about how the FBI botched the Jack McKay investigation. Suddenly, the door opens and Christine enters the room...and the other guy sheepishly exits. She apologizes to Dylan about all the excessive security and explains that they have to be super careful. Dylan tells her he didn't come to blubber about Jack; he has another, more pressing problem he needs her help with.
The Peach Pit. It's the annual Homeless People Christmas Dinner. Steve sees Ahn-drea sitting at a table with Hannah, and for some reason decides to join her. She starts whining to him about mixing her Jewish traditions with Jesse's Catholic ones, and worries that it might confuse Hannah, blah blah. Steve shrugs disinterestedly and just says that it looks like the kid is getting the best of both worlds. Ahn-drea takes this as an invitation to start nattering about the Midnight Mass service that evening, and that she doesn't think Hannah's going to be able to make it through since she's teething. Steve mumbles something or other, and caps it off with, "Keep the faith." LOL. David, meanwhile, tells Nat that he and Clare want to run the After Dark nightclub, but Nat says he's too busy serving the homeless to think about that right now, and that they'll discuss it after the holidays. Kelly, who's also helping out at the dinner, overhears Steve comment on the ghastly appearance of one of the homeless diners, and when she goes over to her table to serve the person, she notices that it's a woman who has a large burn mark on the entire left side of her face. Kelly smiles pleasantly at her, but is clearly trying hard not to look wigged out.
Federal Building. Dylan tells Christine all about Suzanne and Kevin and how they scammed him out of his money...and then about the letter Erica wrote to him in the airport. Christine tells him that the Bureau is currently understaffed so she doesn't have an available agent to assign to the case...but then says she may have another, somewhat unorthodox way of handling his problem.
The Martin house. After Christmas Eve dinner, Felice tells Donna she thinks she's "been misguided by Ray's sensibilities" and asks her how much she really knows about Pumpkin Head. Donna's like, "Why are you asking?" so Felice tells her that in an effort to find out what his real feelings for her are, she confirmed an instinct she had. Donna's like, "What did you do?" so Felice tells her that she offered him a check for $10,000 if he'd agree to stop seeing her. Donna instantly gets teary and moans, "Oh my God!" and Felice tells her that he took the money, and that it broke her heart to see how eagerly he snapped it up and then gabbled on and on about how he wanted to record his music. She tells Donna it's better that she learn the truth about him now, but that she shouldn't let this ruin her birthday and/or Christmas...and, oh yeah, she and Papa Martin love her very very much.
Beach house. Donna is sobbing in her room as David and Clare try to figure out what's wrong with her...and Ray's in the living room, puzzled about why she's refusing to see him. Through her tears, Donna manages to croak to David and Clare that her mother offered Ray $10,000 to stop seeing her and that he took the money...then bitterly remarks that he's probably laughing all the way to the bank. Ray suddenly appears in the doorway and Donna yells at him to get out, but he insists on explaining himself, so David and Clare scurry out of the room. Ray tells Donna that he only took the check 'cause he didn't think she'd believe what her mother tried to do if he didn't have tangible proof...and then pulls the check out of his pocket to show it to her. Donna says she doesn't know what to believe, and Ray tells her he doesn't give a damn about her mother's cash...and eventually the two kiss and make up, and exchange blechy I love yous.
The Walsh house. Brandon and Kelly return from church and tell each other how happy they are that they went, blah blah. They share a smooch, and Kelly tells her she has to change her bandages and will meet him in bed.
Dylan's house. Dylan and Iris are having a friendly, lively conversation and wish each other a Merry Christmas. Dylan tells her he hopes he has the strength to fight his druggie demons, and Iris assures him that it'll get easier with time. They end the call by exchanging I love yous...and then Dylan studies Erica's note again and has a flashback of last Christmas, when he first discovered he had a frizzy haired sister.
The Walsh house. Brandon's in bed when Kelly enters his bedroom in her bathrobe, looking troubled. She tells him she can't change her bandage by herself and needs his help, so Brandon rushes over. He takes off the bandage as gently as possible, and she starts crying silently. He murmurs, "Oh man" and tells her he had no idea how bad it was. Kelly says she knows how grotesque it looks, but Brandon says that's not what he meant. [Just stop talking, Brandon.] She says she must have done something horrible to deserve this, but he tells her that sometimes bad things happen for no reason. As he puts on the ointment, she says she thinks about the fire and Alison every minute and can't make it go away, and that she has a permanent reminder of that trauma...but Brandon insists that it doesn't change who she is to him.
The Martin house. Donna drops by to confront her mother, and a clueless Felice wishes her a Merry Christmas and a happy birthday. Donna stares at her icily and informs her that Ray explained what happened, and that he gave her the money back. Felice looks confused and says, "I don't understand" and Donna retorts that she does, and tells her that she used her "generosity" to make someone else's Christmas a happy one. After she stalks out, Papa Martin is all, "Wha-at's going on?!" and then glares at his wife and demands to know what that was all about.
Ahn-drea's/Jesse's apartment. Jesse snarks at Ahn-drea because Hannah didn't make it through Midnight Mass without crying and being fussy. Ahn-drea reminds him that Hannah's teething and doesn't know what he expected her to do 'bout that, so then Jesse accuses her of looking for any excuse to leave early. In an effort to keep the peace, she suggests that they open their presents, so he agrees and half-heartedly unwraps one of Hannah's gifts. Hannah just cries at the sight of her new stuffed toy, and Jesse gets mad and blurts out, "I can't take this anymore!" He adds that they should just forget about Christmas altogether, since it's what she (Ahn-drea) wants anyway...and Ahn-drea yells back, "That is not what I want!" Oy. I can't decide which of these idiots to root for, since Jesse is being rather cunty in this episode about expecting a teething infant to make it through Midnight Mass...though he is enduring the daily stress of being married to Ahn-drea, so I guess I'll call it a draw. That said, I'm more than ready for the Zuckerman-Vasquez family to move across the country and for Ahn-drea and Jesse to file for divorce off-camera and rarely be heard from again.
Dylan's house. There's a knock at Dylan's door...and whoever it is keeps knocking relentlessly. When Dylan answers it, he finds a guy who looks pretty rough around the gills, coughing and retching on his doorstep. Dylan assumes it's a Christmas beggar and closes the door on him, but the guy starts up with his knocking again. Dylan opens the door a second time, and the guy introduces himself as Jay J. Jones, aka "Jonesy" and says he's a friend of Christine Pettit's. He tells Dylan he's there to help him, invites himself inside, and starts scarfing down a donut from a plate of goodies. Dylan just stares at him, puzzled, and asks him what he's doing here, so Jonesy explains that he's a Christmas present from Christine. She told him all about Dylan's lost fortune and calls himself a "salvage expert" and says his terms are this: if he manages to recover Dylan's dough, he'll take half of it, plus expenses. Dylan doesn't look entirely confident in the salvaging abilities of this quirky stranger, but agrees to let Jonesy give it a whirl. Dylan's like, "When do we leave?" and Jonesy says he'll be going to Brazil alone, but will get in touch if he discovers where Kevin and Suzanne are hiding out. Sounds like we have an exciting caper to watch in the foreseeable future!
The Pruit house. After dinner, Donna tells LuAnn that she and Ray have a special gift for her, and hands her a small box. Inside, LuAnn finds a first class ticket for a two week cruise in the Caribbean, and is surprised and excited. Ray tells her it was all Donna's idea (well...Felice's failed bribery attempt), and LuAnn hugs them both and says that this is the first good Christmas she's had in a long time.
Ahn-drea's/Jesse's apartment. Ahn-drea offers to make Jesse a sandwich and suggests they go for a walk later, and Jesse mumbles something in response. Suddenly, Steve appears at the door dressed as Santa and tells Ahn-drea he came over to make sure that Hannah has a special first Christmas. He enters the apartment, followed by Brandon, David, and Nat - who are also dressed as Santa - and they're accompanied by Clare and Kelly, who are dressed as elves. A minute later there's another knock on the door, and it's Dylan, who probably realized he couldn't avoid seeing Ahn-drea's spawn indefinitely. Everyone congregates around bewildered little Hannah and gushes about how adorable she is, blah blah. Jesse looks over at Ahn-drea and mouths, "I love you", and Ahn-drea blows him a kiss.
Please move to Connecticut.