Since we're in the spirit of the holiday season, we're going to start with the positive facts about "The Old Man and the Tree". If you don't want to deal with the negativity this time of year, you can just stop reading when you get to the Jay/Tree nonsense. Our anger and annoyance at that stupidity will be still be around waiting to be read in the new year.
Phil vs. The Elliptical
Hands down our favorite part of the episode was Phil's quest to walk his way to Canada on his elliptical machine before Christmas day. It was a deal he made with Claire, in order to keep the piece of giant gym equipment in their bedroom instead of in the garage. Loved Claire's deadpan questioning about "the ladies," all of the "aboots" and the references to Phil's previous failures. The whole subplot just captured the character so well, right down to his determination and his love of technology being put to use with his go pro camera. Props to Ty Burell for nailing the awkward straddle walk of someone who has spent too much time on the elliptical.
Luke vs. The Recycling
Luke (who is aging so rapidly this season that we almost don't recognize him week to week) decided to motivate his dad on his quest to get those last miles logged, only because he didn't want to get busted for his growing pile of recycling that he didn't take out. His logic made so much sense (you don't want to take it out all at once and drawn attention), and we love that he opted to employ Dylan for the covert mission to help get rid of the bags. The fireworks (Dylan's payment) going off during Phil's fight to the finish was really clever timing.
Alex and Haley vs. the Angry Mob
Alex dressed up as Mrs. Claus at the mall and had to deal with a petulant Santa (though it perpetuated the disgruntled Santa trope we've seen in about every Lifetime/Hallmark movie this month… and we've watched a lot). This storyline could have been underwhelming, but Alex's nagging and subsequent wallowing was great, and the gingerbread house getting attacked while Haley (dressed as an elf) and Alex were trapped inside was just pure silly comedy. And while the sisters weren't being threatened by Santa-loving toddlers, they were separating their rooms, but still managed to have a nice "aw" moment together at the end.
Jay vs. The Artificial Christmas Tree
Now here's where this gets dicey. Jay doesn't like Manny's fake tree, so decides on Christmas Eve that he has to go out and get a real tree? And they have to chop it down? Did he not notice in the weeks leading up to the holiday that there was no real tree, or talk of a real tree, in sight? Just seems weird and the nonsense of him walking around in circles in the woods and then having trouble chopping down the tree seemed so uninspired that we were really just disappointed.
Cam and Mitch vs. The Puppy Pound
Cam ends up taking from the homeless because he misreads an invitation. Cue the hilarity, or not. The two guys misread what Lily put on her Santa Wish List and have to scramble, and they also misread Pepper's invitation. Can someone get them glasses in their stockings? This stupid comedy of errors features Cam contemplating stealing from the homeless in order to look like a better father and Mitchell running around like an idiot shopping. It was actually pretty painful to watch this unfold. And what's going to happen to the guppy pond?
Claire vs. Gloria
Gloria is irritated by her mother, but more irritated when Claire gets special attention from her mother. The two fight like sisters (which is an odd dynamic considering they are stepmother and stepdaughter), and then finally make up in a multi-lingual conversation. It wasn't as difficult to watch as the Cam stuff, but it just lacked any real punch.
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