"Lonely at the Top / Divorce Me, Please / Silent Night"
Original airdate: 12/9/1977
Episode summary: A married couple spends their cruise desperately wishing the other would ask for a divorce. A man wrongly convicted for embezzlement seeks revenge against his ex-bestie. Captain Stubing plays Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and bonds with a group of boy orphans.
Recap: Julie moans to Gopher, Isaac, and Doc about how homesick she is for snowy Oregon, and that this'll be the first Christmas she's spending without her family. Isaac clucks sympathetically and agrees that Christmas is a time to be with family, while Doc describes his Christmas tradition: jet to Vegas and get treated to a turkey dinner by his ex-wives. Gopher starts nattering about his family's many traditions - just as Captain Stubing wanders over to say hey...and to tell the crew that, to him, Christmas is just another day and that they should stop this unauthorized yakking and get back to work. Gopher remarks on how nice it'd be if the captain n' crew exchanged Christmas presents, but Captain Stubing pissily reminds him about the ship's 'no present exchange rule', and makes it clear that he's totes unwilling to bend on it.
A married, hoping to soon be ex-couple, Audrey and Paul Baynes, are keeping to themselves how much each loathes the other when they arrive to check in with Julie and Gopher. Audrey gushes aloud about how thrilled she is that Paul is treating her to this cruise as the voice inside Paul's head grumbles, "If I didn't bring you, I'd have to kiss you goodbye", while the voice inside Audrey's head grumbles, "I'd rather be in a swamp with Idi Amin." Julie gives them their assigned cabin number and wishes them a wonderful time aboard, and Audrey's inner voice rails about her greatest wish for a present this Christmas: a divorce from her dumbass husband.
Lila Barton arrives on board with her haunted looking husband, Dan, who says it feels as though everyone's staring at him, and that he may as well wear a sign that reads EX-CON. Lila reminds him that he's not a criminal, but rather an innocent man who got a raw deal serving three years in prison for a crime he didn't commit...and that he should do his best to turn that frown upside down and focus on his fresh start. The two then check in with Gopher, who remarks to Dan that his pasty white face could sure use a dose of sunshine, and Dan growls in annoyance before stomping off.
Father Mike (an L.A. priest) arrives with six lucky boys from his orphanage to enjoy the Christmas cruise. He introduces the kids to Julie, and after they scamper off with Father Mike, Captain Stubing wanders over to look pretend aghast at the fact that there are going to be six orphans running amok on his ship and grumbles, "I hope they behave themselves." Julie points out that they're kids, and that the point of them being on this cruise is to run around and have fun...then tells him that some anonymous benefactor buys tickets each year for a group of orphans to enjoy the Christmas cruise, and no one has any idea who it is. Captain Stubing shrugs faux cluelessly at that before snarling, "Someone with more dollars than sense."
Lila asks Dan if he'd be more comfortable dining in their cabin, but he assures her that he's more than ready to be among people again. After a smooch, he glumly tells Lila he doesn't deserve her...and when she assures him that everything is going to be A-OK once they get their fresh start, he points out that since he's an ex-con, he won't be able to practice law anymore and sourly adds that there aren't many job opportunities for someone who's served prison time for embezzlement.
Father Mike finds Captain Stubing leaning against the railings on one of the decks, staring despondently out at the ocean. Father Mike tells him that the kids are getting ready for dinner, and that he managed to sort out whatever fights they were having amongst each other. Captain Stubing says he's good with kids...then sadly adds that he, on the other hand, understands the sea - but not people, and admits to feeling very lonely this Christmas. Father Mike clucks sympathetically about how the holiday season can often isolate people more than usual, then asks if he has at least one friend among the crew. Captain Stubing says he can't be both their friend and curmudgeonly boss - but Father Mike's like, "Sure you can" and suggests that he take the time to get to know them as people and insert himself more in their lives.
Over in the dining room, Audrey and Paul toast each other while the voices in their heads express the utter disdain each feels for the other as they desperately hope that the cruise ends with their divorce. It remains unclear what the barrier is to either of them calling a divorce lawyer and get the ball rolling in putting them both out of this already tedious marital misery.
Lila suggests to Dan that he call Walter Perry when they return home, and reminds him that Walter was his friend and law partner who defended him during the trial and was always good to her while he was in the clink. Dan gets visibly upset at the mention of Walter, then says he needs to go above deck for some fresh air.
Captain Stubing runs into Isaac and insultingly attempts to bond with him with a, "Hey man, whas' happening?" Isaac gives him a strange look and says he's on his way to the lounge, and the captain replies, "Well, I can dig that, you have to split. That's cool...I'll lay some words on you later." He then asks Isaac to give him five, and Isaac somehow refrains from asking if he's currently experiencing some kind of mental break.
Dan spots Walter Perry asking Gopher to cash a traveller's check for him...and after Walter saunters off, Dan stares after him, his face contorted into a bitter looking expression.
At bedtime, Audrey and Paul wonder aloud what the other bought them for Christmas, followed by their inner voices once again expressing their deep hatred for one another. Audrey grimaces at the sound of Paul's gargling/man noises in the bathroom...and later when she goes into the bathroom, Paul grimaces at the sound of her shrieky singing voice. When she emerges from the bathroom, wearing a layer of unsightly facial cream and a hair net, his inner voice expresses how desperate for a divorce he is...as does Audrey, despite the illusion she's somehow under that he wouldn't be able to live without the wondrousness of her singing voice.
Captain Stubing finds Julie working on some needlepoint...and when she abruptly stops 'cause she assumes he's about to yell at her for slacking off, he remarks on how pretty her needlepoint is and asks if she wouldn't mind teaching him how to stitch. She gives him a funny look, but dutifully gives him a demonstration...so then he gives it a try and suggests he get a kit that the two of them can work on together. A weirded out Julie blurts out that needlepoint bores her stiff, tells him he's welcome to continue her needlepoint project, and flees...and a few seconds later, Father Mike wanders over and chides Captain Stubing for spending his time on needlepoint instead of getting to know his crew better, like he'd suggested. Womp womp!
Lila and Dan encounter Walter Perry sitting at the end of one of the ship's bars...and when Dan approaches him, he visibly pales and says he's shocked to see him 'cause he assumed he was still in the can. After Lila gives Walter a warm greeting, he starts chatting nervously about a hair appointment he made with the barber, then scurries off. Lila remarks on his strange behavior just now, to which Dan snarls, "He is strange" and adds that he's now 100% certain that Walter was the one who screwed him over and let him rot in prison for a crime he committed...and a shocked Lila's all, "Wha-a-a-a-a?!"
Audrey shops in the ship's boutique and asks the salesgirl what various items cost, and Doc remarks on how how refreshing it is for a woman to be concerned about finances, then explains that he divorced his ex-wife 'cause she never asked for the price of anything and spent him into the poor house. Audrey perks up at that possible shortcut towards her own divorce, then asks the salesgirl to show her the most expensive jewelry in the store.
Paul, meanwhile, gets into an elevator with a woman who's happily telling her friend that she just divorced her imbecile of a husband 'cause he got drunk to the point of dancing with a lampshade atop his head, and just generally acted like a horse's ass whenever he was out in public. When the woman warns her friend, "Never marry a man who drinks", Paul perks up at that possible shortcut towards his own divorce...and after he exits the elevator, makes a beeline to the nearest bar.
As the crew decorates the ship's large Christmas tree, Captain Stubing asks Father Mike if he could recommend any funny jokes for him to re-tell...so Father Mike tells him a lame joke (that apparently is a lot funnier in Latin) about a Martian who comes to earth, enters a saloon, and gets so turned on by a pinball machine - with it's flashing lights and noise - that it delivers the pick-up line, "Hey sweetheart, what's a pretty girl like you doin' in a place like this?" Captain Stubing mulls that over, then walks over to where the crew is decorating the tree and repeats the joke, which goes over like a lead balloon. Doc then changes the subject to which of them is going to play Santa this year (minus Julie 'cause women apparently aren't allowed), and the Captain imperiously declares that since he owns the suit, he plays Santa Claus.
That evening, Julie, Gopher, Doc, and Isaac are enjoying some very strong rum punch...and when one of Father Mike's orphans tries to scam his way into getting a glass, Isaac hastily steps in to fill his glass with 100% fruit juice.
Lila asks Dan if he can put his general aura of glumness aside for one night so that they can have a pleasant Christmas Eve, gives him a hug, then wanders over to the chest of drawers and gasps when she sees a gun laying in the midst of her dainties. She cries, "Dan! OMG, noooo!" and says she now realizes that he knew full well Walter Perry was going to be aboard The Love Boat, and that this pleasure cruise was all about revenge. Dan grumbles that it's his business whether or not he shoots Walter - but Lila reminds him that his three year incarceration also directly affected her, implores him to not remove the gun from this cabin, and declares that if he murders his ex-friend, their marriage is toast. Dan picks up the gun, then puts it back into the drawer before giving his wife a hug.
A drunken Paul asks Isaac to ply him with some more booze...and when a bemused Isaac says he thought he heard him refer to himself as teetotaler, Paul jests that he must have been drunk when he said it. Audrey suddenly rushes over, is all 'the fuck?' about him drunkenly staggering around, then hands him a stack of receipts for all the expensive jewelry she purchased at the boutique. When Paul squints at the receipts and is all 'the fuck?', Audrey gleefully asks him if there's something he'd like to ask her...perhaps that starts with a D? ... but he just slurs, "Ya wanna dance?" and drunkenly takes her for a spin on the dance floor as she snarls at him to get off of her foot.
Dan ambles over to the punch bowl to get a refill when he overhears Walter Perry grumbling to someone about how he once had a law partner who stole all of his money and went to prison. As Dan twitches with rage, Walter obliviously shuffles off...and a few seconds later, Dan - who now looks like he's on a mission - trails after him.
Captain Stubing makes his grand entrance as a "Ho-ho-ho-ing" Santa Claus. He opens his sack o' gifts and starts handing them out to the orphans...but runs out when he gets to the last kid, Tony. As Tony stares at him with hope in his eyes fading, Santa Stubing admits that, yep, he's one present short and is going to have to race back to the North Pole to retrieve something. Tony reacts by tearing up and racing off...and when Father Mike goes after him, the crew sympathetically clucks, "Poor Captain Stubing."
On the deck, Dan draws his gun on Walter, who's all, "Ack! Don't do anything foolish!" ... and Dan growls that he already has, namely spending three years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. As a worried Lila eavesdrops from an upper deck, Walter admits that, yeah, he got himself into some deep shit to the point that he desperately needed money, so decided 'why don't I dickishly ruin the life and career of my law partner and then assume I can get him acquitted?' Walter tearfully begs for his life - just as Dan hears the orphans et. al. singing Christmas carols in the nearby pool area. He abruptly throws his gun overboard and snarls, "Merry Christmas", and a relieved looking Lila rushes down the staircase and gives him a grateful hug.
Santa Stubing finds Tony hiding in a shower by the pool area. He cries, "Go away! You blew it!" and Santa Stubing admits that, yep, he definitely did blow it - but then tried to fix his screw-up by looking around his office for anything he could pass off as present for a young boy and hastily wrapped it up. He hands him the present...and as Tony unwraps it, he explains that it's an old instrument that the seamen of yore used to navigate ships. Tony mulls that over for a few seconds and decides it's a pretty cool gift, thanks Santa Stubing, and scampers off to show the makeshift gift to his orphan buddies.
Audrey tells Paul that after the cruise she plans to blow a whole lot of cash on a new furniture set for their living room, and he's like, "I see your furniture set and raise you a clown suit that I'm going to wear to work from now on." Audrey chuckles at that self-sabotaging inanity and says that lately she finds him delightfully hilarious, and he compliments her beauty before planting a big smooch on her lips.
Santa Stubing returns to his office, where his crew has been waiting to bellow, "Merry Christmas!" When he stares at them in shock and asks whassup with them being in his office all cheery and festive, they explain that they were feeling sorry for themselves for having to work during the holidays instead of being with their families - but then realized that, in fact, they all have two families...and that as captain he's the head of their Love Boat family. Santa Stubing gets all verklempt and tells them he's soooo proud to have them on his crew, but even prouder to count them as friends. When they give him his present, he happily breaks the 'no present exchange rule' by going into his desk drawer and pulling out a stack of wrapped goodies for them.
Audrey sings Christmas carols in the dining room as the passengers arrive for the big turkey dinner.
Walter intercepts Dan as he enters the dining room and sheepishly informs him that since he didn't shoot him earlier, he decided to contact the LAPD, plans to make a full confession of his crimes, and will ensure that he (Dan) gets his law license reinstated. Lila's all, "Hooray!" and thanks him, then steers Dan over to the captain's table to dig into the turkey dinner.
Doc tells Father Mike that a bunch of stuff was collected for the orphanage...and when Gopher asks where they should send it, Tony suggests they just give it to Captain Stubing, since he visits the orphanage every month to say hey to all the kids and do fun stuff like take them out to ballgames. Julie suddenly realizes that Captain Stubing must be the mysterious donor who finances the orphans' cruise tickets every Christmas, but he doesn't admit to that and lightheartedly bellows, "Bah humbug!"
The next day, Lila and Dan thank Gopher for a great cruise, and Dan is all smiles and declares that today is the first day of the rest of his life.
Audrey and Paul, meanwhile, have decided they now love all the things they once hated about each other and are no longer desperate to be divorced...which, er, OK.
The orphans give Captain Stubing a bottle of champagne as a thank you gift for his kindness...and as the crew wonders aloud how in blazes the kids got their hands on a bottle of alcohol, one of the boys says, "Where there's a will there's a way" while two other boys - one atop another's shoulders with a long coat over them to look unconvincingly like a fully grown man - ambles off the ship.
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