I had thought Chapter 2 was the end of the conversation out in the trees, but I was wrong. Lindsey offers to show the little family her shed of Christmas decorations, which she and Jesse will put up all around the farm before too long. Jesse, though, with his hatred of Christmas, is having none of it, and basically insists on staying in the trees to clear brush or something.
Here we learn that Lindsey has “medical training.” (Interesting—how much? And in what?)
Fight or flight—the adrenaline rush that comes when a man is threatened. But why did Jesse Slater feel threatened? And by what?
By Christmas, Lindsey! He’s already shown reluctance whenever the subject comes up!
A note: it is still pure speculation on my part that Jesse’s wife (Erin was her name) died at Christmastime. But if that is the case, I’m surprised the female reference from the last chapter left out that detail. One might consider it pertinent, given the nature of this new job and the time of year.
Anyway, Lindsey can draw only one conclusion:
Whether he realized it or not, Jesse was a lost and lonely soul in need of God’s love.
Of course he is, Lindsey. Of course he is. A few Sunday school classes, and all his problems will be solved.
We also find out that Jesse has rented a trailer, and Lindsey is sweet enough to offer him dishes and linens and the like. Jesse has a nice moment of guilt and resentment (“Don’t make me like you.“) because he is about to start his “investigation.”
Very soon he would have the farm he’d coveted for the past eighteen years.
So, I understand the sequence of events to be: Jesse’s mom inherits farm, six years go by, mom dies, stepfather kicks out teenage Jesse. But how this amounts to Lindsey not rightfully owning the farm 18 years later, I hope we will learn.
A week goes by:
As many times as [Lindsey had] offered, Jesse refused to take his meals with her, but he hadn’t objected when she’d taken to preparing breakfast for his little girl.
Wait, so now Jesse no longer eats breakfast with Jade? What, does he eat before they leave their trailer? Does he wait until after the bus picks her up, then eat on his own? That seems inefficient? And why does he let Lindsey take all the trouble of preparing breakfast every day? Why doesn’t he pick up breakfast for all of them, at least sometimes?
Every morning [Jesse] made an endearingly clumsy attempt to fix the child’s beautiful raven hair. And every day Lindsey itched to do it for him.
He’s been at this two years. Why isn’t he better at it? Are men just assumed to be incapable of fixing hair? Here, a simple ponytail confounds Jesse, eliciting laughter from Lindsey (nice), who has to fix it for him.
Lindsey mentions that her Sunday school class (apparently all girls) “often” come over for “dress-up parties.” Again, no experience here, it just feels to me like Lindsey spends a ton of time with these kids outside of class.
Lindsey also thinks about how her former fiancé “betrayed” her (so I figure he cheated), and now she assumes she will never marry or have kids. (Yes, I know she could have a kid without being married, since she wants one very badly, but I doubt she thinks that is part of God’s plan.)
After Jade leaves and Lindsey and Jesse get to work, Jesse starts his campaign of learning more about Lindsey, presumably so he can steal her house out from under her more easily. Lindsey reveals that she caused vague “trouble” as a teenager, and was sent to live with her grandparents at the farm. Jesse keeps prying, and Lindsey keeps answering like it’s all any of his business:
[Finding out that Lindsey didn't grow up around here, Jesse was] feeling somewhat better to know Lindsey had not been involved in what happened eighteen years ago.
Um, Jesse? Eighteen years ago, you were fourteen. And Lindsey was eleven. Regardless of whether she grew up here or not, I highly doubt that a middle-schooler would have any part in whatever illegal land-grab you think went down.
“How long did your grandparents own this place?”
“Hmm.” Her forehead wrinkled in thought. “I’m not sure. They’d probably been here three or four years when I came. I’ve lived here nearly fifteen years.”
Jesse did the math in his head. The time frame fit perfectly. … So her grandfather had been the one.
Do you mean that he did something wrong, Jesse? Because if you do, I need some more evidence, please.
The too-familiar tug of guilt irritated Jesse. He had no reason to feel bad for her. She’d enjoyed the benefit of living here for years while he’d wandered around like a lost sheep.
I’m glad to see Jesse feeling guilt. Still, he is starting to get on my nerves.
We also learn that Lindsey trained as a “lab tech,” but turns out she prefers raising Christmas trees. And now that they’ve worked on that all morning, she enlists him to help set up for the “wienie roast” for her church, which will take place at her farm. Though that doesn’t seem like part of his job duties to me.
Lindsey convinces him to attend with Jade, and Jesse accepts…not because he wants to roast wienies, but because he wants to kiss some local ass.
The more people trusted him, the sooner he could have his answers—and the sooner he and Jade could take possession of this farm.
Huh. So you think that’s the way it’ll go, eh, Jesse? Methinks you will need to build a lot of trust to compete with a resident of fifteen years, who is also a Sunday school teacher. Good luck, pal. You’re gonna need it.
As Jesse leaves, Lindsey thinks about how his name sounds ever-so-vaguely familiar. I thought for half a second that she might be the daughter of his step-father, but they’re about the same age, so that can’t be right, can it? Unless her mom left with her before Jesse and his mom showed up. I don’t know.
Anyway, she thinks about how hot he is, but how “looks did not impress [her],” but damn, he sure is fine.
I’m kidding, of course. Lindsey would never use the word “damn.”
That afternoon, he comes back to the house, interrupting her while she’s “talking to the Lord and caring for the trees.”
A point in Lindsey’s favor: Jesse asks her (quite politely, mind), if she could put the dog away because the kid came along, and Lindsey does, but adds:
“If you’re going to work for me, we have to find a way for Jade and Sushi to get along.”
Good for her. This phobia really needs to be addressed while the kid is still young and it can actually be done. It’s not like dogs are an endangered species, after all, and it seems that Jade is equally scared of all dogs, not just the type that bit her. This is a real problem.
Interestingly, turns out that Lindsey’s ultimate decision to hire Jesse was made, at least in part, out of pity:
…his references had been glowing. One woman had gone beyond character references, though, and had told Lindsey about the tragic accident that had made him a widower, and about his raw and terrible grief. Her sympathy had driven her to pray for the man and his little girl—and to decide to hire him.
So Lindsey and Jesse talk about the job, while Jade sits nearby and colors with a coloring book and crayons Lindsey has stashed in a kitchen drawer.
This is striking me as increasingly weird. If a random six-year-old showed up at my doorstep, I would not have a coloring book and crayons handy. She would have to settle for the ole electronic babysitter, though I do have some animated movies, I guess.
This just seems over the top, even for a Sunday school teacher.
Lindsey immediately volunteers that Jesse should bring Jade with him to work each morning, and the school bus can pick her up and drop her off at her house. Wow, but she sure is trusting. Just letting this guy into her life in every single respect, isn’t she?
And you better believe that Jesse doesn’t seem quite so deserving of that trust:
The more hours he worked the more money he’d make. And the more time he’d have to question Lindsey and check out the farm.
Damn. That’s cold.
Finally, they take a walk into the actual tree farm part, and Jade is disappointed that the trees don’t look like Christmas trees. (I admit, it’s actually pretty cute.) And Jesse, Scrooge that he is, ruminates about how he is not looking forward to “having Christmas shoved down his throat at every turn.”
Dude, you live in the United States in the 21st century. That happens whether you work at a tree farm or not.
Wow…looks like my Actually Not That Bad category might be seeing a lot of use this Wintermas season.
I may be proverbially shooting myself in the proverbial foot here, guys: I really don’t think any Christmas romance can even hope to top the frakked-upedness of last year’s Christmas Town. But I admit to being still intrigued with the Christmas romance genre, and I still do love me some sappy Christmas stuff, so here goes:
Judging by the brief blurb on the back, it looks like this is yet another Christian romance where a Good Christian Woman brings the Christmas (and Christian) spirit to an unbelieving or fallen-from-faith man. I had hoped to find a romance in which the man was the believer, but one works with what one has.
Also, that title. Why the ellipses? Are we supposed to be surprised that it’s in the spirit of Christmas, and not in the spirit of something else? The first Google fill-ins are “in the spirit of Chartres,” “in the spirit of Crazy Horse,” and “in the spirit of full disclosure.” Is this some kind of Christian thing that I’m just not getting?
Oh well, enough messing about: a late Thanksgiving and a fascinating discussion on a fascinating movie have put me slightly behind schedule!
Our Hero, Jesse Slater, appears to be, at least in some ways, the opposite of Jordan Scoville (possibly the most beloved male character ever featured on this site). Jesse lives out of his truck, though he used to be a rodeo rider. (Of course he was. After “business tycoon” and “cowboy” (which always turns out to mean “rancher”) former rodeo riders are terribly populous in romance novels.)
Like Christmas Town (and yes, looks like there will be many comparisons with Christmas Town, because it pleases me to write of them), In the Spirit of…Christmas features an adorable child. But in this case, she’s the hero’s child, not the heroine’s. Jade is six years old to Nathan’s “seven years and eight-point-two months.” It should not be difficult at all to make Jade a more likeable character than the snotty, disrespectful, acquisitive, sexist brat that was Nathan Ratchford!
Jade is being raised by a single parent not because of divorce, but because her other parent died. This is not surprising. I wonder if there has ever been a Christian romance novel in which a mother abandoned her child?
As opposed to ever-complaining, self-absorbed Nathan, Jade is an easy-going, sweet child. But clingy, for reasons which will soon become clear.
Also, as is required by law, the adorable little daddy’s girl has an adorable nickname: Jesse calls her “Butterbean.”
He does not specify whether he means this kind of butterbean:
Or this kind:
We have moved from South Carolina to Oklahoma’s Kiamichi Mountains.
Pretty gorgeous. I’ve never been to Oklahoma, and I’ve always thought of it as really flat.
See, my blog teaches things!
Specifically, looks like the bulk of the action will take place at the home of one Lindsey Mitchell, who owns a farmhouse and the land it is on, where she grows Christmas trees.
I know very, very little about farming. Is this a thing that happens a lot? A farm raises nothing but trees for Christmas? My intense two minutes of Google research reveals that there are such farms in my own state, though many seem to have additional, non-Christmas sources of income, such as dairy farming or orchards. I’m not doubting the premise, but I am curious—I grew up in the suburbs, and until we got an artificial tree, we went to the tree lot for our tree. My family never did the “go out into the country and pick and chop your own tree” thing.
Check out young Leonard from Big Bang Theory!
Jesse and Jade arrive at the tree farm in the early morning hours, and it appears that Jesse, like Jordan before him, has an ulterior motive for his presence (besides wanting a job, that is).
Home—a funny word after all these years of rambling. Even though he’d lived here only six years after his mother had inherited the farm, they were formative years in the life of a boy.
[Jade] deserved a home. And he meant for her to have one. He lifted his eyes to the farmhouse. This one.
Hmmm…looks like Lindsey might need to watch her back.
So Jesse just walks up to Lindsey’s front door, neat as you please, and asks for a job, even though “he abhorred any mention of the holiday.”
Lest we think him some sort of Grinch-ish monster, it is clarified that he hates Christmas because it “had changed the direction of his life—not once, but twice.”
The first time, we are told, was “the Christmas his mother had died and his step-daddy had decided he didn’t need a fourteen-year-old kid around anymore.”
Well. God bless us every one, I guess. I’ll also guess that the “twice” is because his wife died on Christmas.
Jesse has played this really smart by bringing his adorable child along on the unannounced job interview, and Lindsey, being a Good Christian Woman, takes to Jade immediately.
Including when Jade loses her shit upon seeing Lindsey’s dog. Turns out the kid was “mauled” by a Rottweiler two years ago, so now the sight of any dog sends her into a panic. Which…okay, I understand, but something needs to be done about that. Kid’ll see dogs just about every day of her life, so this needs to be worked on.
But I have a feeling it will. The dog is a sweet-natured German shepherd, name of Sushi, so I figure the dog will pull Jade out of a well before the story is done.
Not two minutes after the panic attack, and Lindsey is inviting Jade to Sunday school. Turns out Lindsey keeps kiddie juice and snackies on hand at all times, because her Sunday school students regularly come over.
Which again, is not my area of expertise, so…is this usual? Do Sunday school students regularly hang at their teachers’ homes, even if they do own Christmas tree farms? If nothing else, Lindsey’s home seems way off the beaten track.
Anyway, Lindsey gives Jesse a perfunctory interview. (Again, smooth move bringing the kid along, Jesse!) He gives her a list of character references, and off they go. All while he regrets that she’s so nice, because that’ll make it slightly awkward when he steals her house out from under her, or whatever he plans on doing before they fall in love.
The plot thickens!
Wow. I did not see the ending to Christmas with a Capital C coming, and to judge from the comments, neither did many of you. I think we were all of us assuming the typical Christian movie ending: Mitch would be shown up, humiliated, and triumphed over by our Christian “heroes,” who would not only succeed in getting their nativity scene up at city hall, where God wants it to be, but would also personally lead evil atheist Mitch back to Christ.
Instead, although Mitch is humiliated some at the impromptu party at his empty house, by the end of the movie, he seems to have triumphed in every conceivable way: the nativity scene will be showcased elsewhere, he has a great job and will almost certainly be raising the entire town’s fortunes, and his mayoral campaign appears to be only temporarily be “set aside.” Indeed, Dan’s bitter prediction that the whole town would “forgive” Mitch for his “lies” appears to come true.
(On the matter of Mitch’s “lies”: looking back over the movie, the only time I can see where Mitch even arguably lied is the very first scene, in which he tells Dan and Greg that the U-Haul has “all his stuff” inside it. Which it probably does, notwithstanding that he doesn’t have a lot of stuff. Dan and Kristin later assume that the van took stuff away from the house, and it looks like it did, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t also taking Mitch’s possessions to the house. (It appears that Mitch has kept most of his clothes and enough personal supplies so he can semi-comfortably “camp” in his house for weeks on end.))
And, as in Part 3 of my critique, I would argue that such a lie pales in comparison to the lies Dan and Greg tell Mitch’s friend and co-worker…lies they flew 3,000 miles just to tell him.
Now, on to whether this movie was indeed a “true” RTC flick: commenters suggest several intriguing possibilities for why the ending of the movie is as astonishing as it is: executive input, non-RTC writing input, even an overall softening of the typical anti-atheism so prevalent in Christian entertainment.
Is this some kind of strange stealth job, in which an ostensibly RTC movie features the triumph of an atheist over narrow-minded and oppressive Christians?
First of all, I never did include the trailer, so here it is!
And, as is becoming more and more common in Christian films, there are actually goodies on this DVD, including a “making-of” featurette, so let’s explore!
The featurette immediately takes us to young Francesca Derosa, who plays Makayla. Introducing us to the plot, she calls Mitch Dan’s “enemy” and the “bad guy.”
(Mayor Dan) give us his take on the story:
“In this movie, we’re talking about it right up front: y’know, this is a Christian family, with Christian values, and they’re not gonna not just talk about them, but they’re gonna find themselves pushed in a corner by the sort of political correctness of so much of the world today. And they’ve just decided that the only way to fight back is through what they really believe is their Christian values and beliefs, which is be kind, do the right thing. And wash the feet of the worst among you.”
“Be kind”? That’s what the Reeds were supposed to be? Okay, Makayla is kind. I will give you that. She is the only person in the movie who ever expresses concern for Mitch’s welfare and feelings. But Dan? Greg??? Sorry, I can think of many words to describe them, but “kind” is not one of them.
Oh, and I don’t think giving Mitch his own money counts as Christian-washing-of-feet. That was more like just-barely-deciding-not-to-be-thieves.
Nancy Stafford (Kristin) thinks of her character as the “conscience” of the story, which…no. That would, again, be Makayla.
Daniel Baldwin, however, earns my respect immediately by focusing on the development of his character instead of the “message” of the movie.
And…oh my. Turns out that Greg Reed/Jesus/Geico Caveman’s whole character was based off of Brad Stine’s own “comedy” routines. So yeah, the unwatchable diatribe from the coffee shop is actually a nearly word-for-word copy of Stine’s onstage rant.
Stine appears to have been directed to tone it down a bit for the movie. The featurette has a clip of Stine doing the rant for an audience, and his portrayal of the kind of person who wishes people “Happy Holidays” is…well, it’s something. And that something is a hand-on-hip, high-pitched, lisping, cross-eyed person.
Draw from that what conclusions you will.
(I’m not about to post a video of him here, but you can find his “work” on YouTube if you’re curious.)
A great deal of talk about how everyone got along, and how beautiful the Alaskan landscape is (very true). Daniel Baldwin gets even more props from me: his first thought is for others: that it will be a real challenge to match footage, what with snow falling then not falling, etc.
A lot of very vague things are said of the movie’s “spiritual message,” but there is one intriguing quote from David Cuddy, who was the executive producer and played the brown-nosing coach:
“The message, I think, is: figure out what your philosophy and your priorities are and stick with them, and don’t let yourself be pushed around.”
Okay, I am pretty damn sure he is not talking about Mitch, here, but honestly, I think it applies more to Mitch than to any other character. Mitch knows what his philosophy is, knows what his priorities are (and I happen to think they are pretty good priorities, like raising his hometown’s economic standing and helping others), and he doesn’t let himself be pushed around by RTC blowhards like Dan and Greg. Indeed, he meets such opposition with a sense of humor, and when he can’t do that…well, let’s just say that I stand by my philosophy that Mitch Bright is a master of the Long Game.
So, whaddaya think? Funnily enough, I think my final conclusion is that although the movie is not anti-atheist, that may have been by accident. Overall, this is yet another instance in Christian entertainment of the creators being utterly unaware of how characters look to others. Where they see good Christians living by good, kind family values, we see characters who are, at their best, smug, obnoxious, self-absorbed, and self-righteous. And at their worst, they are liars, would-be thieves, and aggressive jerks who delight in the pain of others.
Humans are fascinating: how is it possible that we see things so differently?
Well, this whole enterprise has been remarkable. Happy Wintermas, Part I, all!
The judge comes to town, and it’s a pretty informal affair—she checks out the handmade nativity scene, then sits down with Dan, Mitch, and Willa to discuss options. (And yes, the judge is a she. Refreshingly and surprisingly to me, she is an older lady. She’s also fucking awesome.)
She’s very sensible and wants things to be settled with a minimum of fuss and drama, and tells them that if they want an official ruling, it’ll be for Mitch, but they have other options. I’ll present them, along with Dan’s very mature and Christian reactions:
Judge: Well, there are three options to consider. You could add to this as a holiday display and include elements of a non-religious nature or elements that are of other faiths.
[Dan sighs and looks away]
Judge: Or the city could donate or sell them, the statues and the platform, to a private individual, who can display them in another place, either on private property, or with permission in a public setting where there is equal opportunity for others to put up their own holiday displays.
[Dan looks away, rolls his eyes, and shakes his head]
Willa: And the third?
Judge: Don’t display them at all. But if you ask me, that would be a shame.
If there’s one thing this scene drives home, it’s that Dan is very, very unused to not having his own way. He’s not even being told “no,” here; he’s just being told that he has to make some kind of small compromise, and cannot have things exactly as he wants. But clearly this woman is just a pawn in Mitch’s evil scheme to “hold the town hostage.”
Dan: With all due respect, your honor, all three of those are ruining our town’s traditions that we’ve had over fifty years.
You’re ruining Christmas, Judge! RUINING IT!
Oh, and it’s nice to see how well Kristin’s campaign is working on Dan, eh?
But the judge is apparently used to dealing with privileged blowhards.
Judge: Or you could look at it as creating a new tradition. Moving the Christ child to another place of honor does no harm to his reputation. Perhaps you are concerned more about yours?
OH. SNAP. Hot damn, I did not see that one coming!
(And no, Dan does not take this criticism in an open-minded spirit. He looks away again, and opens his mouth with a “do you believe this?” look on his face.)
Also worth noting that Mitch and Willa thank the judge immediately, making eye contact, while Dan mutters his thanks while not even looking at her.
Dan has pouty time at the empty platform (in the falling snow, mind you, so we know he’s really being persecuted). He also sees that the bouncy, brown-nosing coach is wearing a Mitch-Bright-for-Mayor button.
Later that evening, we get a shot of Mitch coming home to his big, gorgeous log home…only to see that he’s camping on a couch in the living room. Weirdly, the set has been decorated with a roll of holiday wrapping paper. Wouldn’t have thought a RTC movie would put that in an atheist’s room.
The music of sadness plays as we see the loneliness of an atheist’s life: reduced to eating pizza in front of a roaring fire.
Actually, that sounds kinda awesome.
Back at the mayoral homestead, Dan is still moping, and dude, it is way past time for you to get over this. He is hunched over, head in his arms, while his wife and kids and Jesus play Monopoly. I can’t even imagine how he would cope if something actually bad were to happen in his life.
Typically, Dan wants everyone else to attend his self-pity party, but Kristin and FTS are pretty zen about the whole thing, and Makayla is sympathetic to Mitch, saying she’d be upset, too, if she was living as he does, all alone on a couch.
Well. If there’s one thing guaranteed to perk Dan right up, it’s the thought of Mitch being unhappy!
The family puts the pieces together: Makayla saw nothing in Mitch’s house other than a couch, so the U-Haul at the beginning of the movie must have been to cart things away from the house, to sell them! (This doesn’t seem the kind of thing you could keep under wraps in a town as full of busybodies as Trapper Falls, but whatever.)
Dan and Jesus laugh as they discuss Mitch’s presumed fall from grace (and riches). Their eyes light up. They chuckle into their hands. It’s pretty disgusting.
Kristin attempts to distract them for 2.3 whole seconds, reminding them that this is all none of their business. But Dan and Jesus are not about to let the little woman dissuade them. With a “terrorist fist jab,” they agree to a ROAD TRIP (by which they mean a plane trip) to check out Mitch’s old law firm. Which means they are flying their little plane from Alaska to San Francisco in order to dig up dirt on Mitch.
Remember, Dan is the one who thinks Mitch has a vendetta against him.
(Kristin looks aggravated in the above pic, but she’s more good-naturedly moaning that “the Reed brothers are scheming again“! Aww, those adorable scamps! Trying to ruin a man’s life!)
At the law firm, good Christian Dan lies to a fresh-faced young attorney, telling him that they are there to see Mitch. Dan continues to feign ignorance and asks for the name of the firm he went to after leaving this one, or a forwarding address, but FFYA is not down with that, as the firm is “protective” of former employees.
Sadly, FFYA is not so protective that he doesn’t reveal that Mitch made a bad investment and lost everything.
There is no possible way Jesus could be happier about this. This is seriously the best thing that has ever happened to him.
LOOK AT HOW HAPPY HE IS
I don’t say this very often, but dude needs to get laid. Maybe then his mind would be occupied by other things than reveling in the misfortune of others.
FFYA is yet another of our movie’s heroes, though. Naively taking Dan and Jesus’s word that they are friends of Mitch, FFYA gives them a wad of cash for him. Turns out Mitch was a total mensch, and gave FFYA a great start at the firm, letting him help with big cases, and getting him onto a rock star track.
FFYA: Just tell him it’s from an old friend or do it anonymously. I know it’ll be hard for him to take it, but he needs it. He really helped me out a lot back then. I just want to help him.
That is so sweet and so sensitive and so classy that I don’t even have words.
Now, all FFYA needs to learn is not to trust every neck-bearded, smirking asshole who walks in the door.
Back at the homestead, Dan and Kristin discuss how Mitch “lied” to everyone. Which is pretty hilarious coming from the guy who just flew some 3,000 miles to lie to the face of Mitch’s old friend.
And was Mitch supposed to call a town meeting and tell everyone he’s broke? Weird town.
Dan: Maybe people will forgive him when they find out the truth. Or we could just run him outta here on a rail.
Kristin: Oh yeah! That’d show him the real spirit of Christmas!
Dan: It’d sure feel good.
You monsters. You are both fucking monsters. I mean, Dan is a full-blown sociopath, but Kristin is enabling him, so she has definitely lost the Christmas-with-a-Capital-C high ground.
Also, it is implied that Mitch inherited his house and owns it outright, so how he could be run out of town is best left to Dan’s sick fantasies.
Teenage flirting. The big race. Girl wins. All pretty pointless except for the fact that Mitch is a no-show, along with the cruise ship business folks that he promised would be there.
Mitch shamefacedly shows up at the Reeds’ boat later that day, upset because the cruise guy cancelled and everyone must be disappointed.
Oh, did I mention that it’s Christmas Eve? Why did anybody, including Mitch, expect some big deal to go down today?
Then Mitch reveals that growing up, he was always jealous of Dan and Jesus. I like to think of this as Mitch’s crafty way to weasel into their good graces. Maybe one showing of humility will be enough to get them off his back, so he can do what needs doing, yanno?
I mean, probably not, since now that Dan and Jesus have laughed at Mitch for days, they can also pity him, as good Christians should.
BUT I CAN DREAM
Mitch wanders off and Jesus says to Dan:
“You gotta give him that money.”
Wait just one goddamn second. You weren’t going to give him the money, Dan? That money is Mitch’s. It is a gift from his friend. It is not now, and never was, your money, Dan.
Holy shit. Monsters. They are monsters.
Christmas pageant time, and as Josie comes to sit with Jesus and his family…
…Mitch is cold in his empty house. Like an evil atheist would be.
(By the way, not to be hard on a kid or anything, but Makayla’s pageant performance sucks on toast. She has, what two lines and she can’t remember them?)
And then Dan leaves, in the middle of his daughter’s performance, mind you (though she’s fine with it), and heads out to his truck. There, he contemplates the money and how many Bibles he could buy with it…
But the spirit of giving (people what is theirs) is in his heart, and he drives off with a purpose.
Mitch is busy getting all snuggly in front of his fire, but Dan, as usual, will not take no (answer at the door) for an answer, and eventually gets his way. Then he gives Mitch the cash and this weird exchange takes place:
Dan: It’s from an old friend. He asked me not to tell you who.
Actually, FFYA asked no such thing. He said Dan didn’t have to say who it was from. He also said Dan could do it anonymously, which probably would have been the kindest thing, as FFYA knew.
Mitch: How did he know where to find me?
Dan: You know who it’s from?
Mitch: Yeah, it’s the exact amount of money I lent him two years ago. He was working as a clerk and he and his wife were having a baby.
Wow. Color me naïve on the scale of FFYA, but that story sounds quite plausible. I know, we’re supposed to interpret it as Mitch just trying to save face, but Not Alec Baldwin delivers the line in a way that does not bespeak lying.
Makayla and Kristin have followed Dan, post-pageant, and are now outside Mitch’s house with a poinsettia.
Makayla: Can we come in?
Okay, Makayla, you’re a kid, so I’ll play ball: it is generally considered poor form to just show up at someone’s house at night and expect to be let in. Especially when it is immediately apparent that the homeowner has already turned in for the night. (And it is–Mitch has been snuggled on the couch for at least an hour now, and it shows.)
Your parents should be the ones to school you in such things, as they’re standing right there and all, but apparently they have no interest in doing so. But you can do better, Makayla—
Oh, hey! Looks like your mommy has invited the whole town over, too, because here they come with house-warming gifts.
Well, Makayla, your lessons in manners are screwed. As is Mitch.
Yanno, this would be quite sweet if they weren’t springing it on Mitch in the middle of the night. Guy was settled on his couch and has an empty house and…damn, it just seems so purposefully humiliating to do this all on their schedule.
HI MITCH! HOST OUR CHRISTMAS EVE PARTY IN YOUR EMPTY HOUSE! LEMME JUST SHOVE THIS USED PIZZA BOX OUTTA THE WAY AND WE’LL BE ALL SET.
I’m not sure this tops squatters buying a whole town’s worth of Christmas lights and stringing them on Main Street in secret, but it’s definitely in the same ballpark.
btw, Josie’s housewarming gift is awesome: it’s a tea kettle. I am going to forget that she sat with the Reeds, and hope that she and Mitch still end up together. She deserves so much better than that smirking troll.
Okay, I’m trying to be nice about this: at least Mitch can easily explain away the unfurnished house. Hell, the last time I moved, I was sleeping on an air mattress for 21 days, waiting for my furniture, and I wasn’t moving anywhere so remote as
Bedford Trapper Falls, Alaska.
Then again, I’m sure Dan and Kristin and Jesus have told everyone everything. And will never let anyone, least of all Mitch, forget.
Dan gives Mitch a condescending pat on the back as they head into the house.
But Mitch proves himself a much better human being than any Reed by being a total gentleman to the invaders of his home.
The most interesting shot of the whole “party”: Willa takes it upon herself to decorate Mitch’s lovely mantle with white holiday lights and…a “Mitch Bright for Mayor” poster.
A day or two later (or more, because who the hell knows with this film), all conflicts get resolved. Dan and Jesus have purchased the decorations and are putting them up on public property (I have no idea where—the shots are too tight to tell). Mitch drives up and it is clear that the impromptu party and the revelation of Mitch’s poverty and the spirit of Christmas have not affected Jesus one iota:
Jesus: I’m not ashamed of Jesus, Mitch. Never gonna be.
Jesus, for the last time. Nobody cares. Nobody likes you. Shut the frak up.
Mitch, as usual, takes the high road and refuses to be drawn into Jesus’s petty, ranting squabbling:
Mitch: Freedom of religion. It’s what makes America great, right?
Damn, two Wintermases in a row: Jordan Scoville and Mitch Bright—two atheists who are far, far too good for their tiny, oppressive, busybody, hateful towns.
Mitch has come by to show the
heroes assholes two things. The first is his motion to drop the complaint. Which is sweet of Mitch and all, but it’s a moot point since the evil, monster brothers actually went with the judge’s Option 2.
I admit I’m surprised that the nativity set never ended up back at city hall. Then again, when the next evil atheist moved to town, the issue would just arise again, and I think it is pretty clear that Mitch was proved to be Right All Along—many of the townsfolk were sick of the whole thing, but cowed into submission by the monster, ranting Reed brothers.
Oh, and the second thing? An e-mail from the cruise line guy that Mitch knows. The guy missed his plane and wants to have a big meeting in January with Mitch and other cruise people to bring more business into town.
Holy shit. Are we sure this wasn’t made by atheists as a Trojan Horse on film?
And the hits just keep coming: Mitch suggests that he head the Chamber of Commerce and go for a city council seat, in preparation for all the changes that are surely coming. He adds that he will be so busy that he’ll need to “set aside” his campaign for mayor.
Holy holy shit.
Mitch is playing the Long Game. HE IS PLAYING THE LONG GAME!!!!
Damn, but it is all so clear now. Mitch uses the revelation of his temporarily-poverty-stricken status to fool the Reeds into thinking he doesn’t have this all in hand. It’s like a Not So Weak come I Am Not Left-Handed.
Mitch will be running this town within three years, mark my words. “Set aside” my ass. Set aside for about 18 months, I figure. Until he has singlehandedly brought this town mad bank.
And in furtherance of his Long Game, Mitch wishes the monster brothers a MERRY CHRISTMAS and helps them set up the nativity scene.
Oh, I am on to your brilliant plan, Mitch Bright. Yes, I am.
He will frakking buy and sell your ass, Jesus. Best be ready.
Well, this movie turned out WAY better than expected.
I hereby nominate Mitch Bright for King of Everything.
What a glorious start to the Wintermas season. Next: on to Wintermas romance!
Escorting his son to school the next day, Mayor Dan runs into said son’s skiing coach, a bizarre man who apparently thinks he has to kiss the mayor’s ass:
Coach: Mornin’, Mayor. Your son’s getting faster every day.
Dan: That’s what I like to hear. How you doin’, Coach?
Coach: Good, good. It’s been a good year thanks to you. I hope this town keeps re-electing you as long as you’ll have us.
Oh, and when Coach says the above, Dan elbows his son, as in, “See? See??? They like me!”
Coach bounces from one foot to the other as he delivers his line, grinning like a schmuck, so I’m thinking he either has a huge crush on Dan, or is afraid Dan will have him disappeared if he doesn’t get sufficiently brown-nosed.
Later, the Big Bad Event occurs—somebody—and I’m not saying who, but his name rhymes with Rich Right—has filed a formal complaint, and the town is not allowed to put up the nativity characters on city property.
Dan: Who filed this complaint? The Grinch?
Yep, because the Grinch is the only person who could ever possibly be concerned about government endorsement of religion.
Willa, who appears to be the town’s attorney, seems oddly casual about the whole thing, and immediately suggests that Dan find a compromise, so the decorations can go up before Christmas (the judge won’t get to town for another few weeks). This is interesting to me, and even more interesting is the fact that according to IMDB, Willa’s last name is Rainwater. I wonder if that makes her one of those believers in “hocus pocus” “Native religion“ that Dan worries about.
Dan: No, I don’t want to compromise.
Well, fine, Mr. Second-Grader.
What Dan does want to do is discuss this with his brother. Because we all know what a level-headed guy Jesus-Greg is, right?
HA, just kidding! Jesus delivers a rant of a full minute about the evils of tolerance and those horrible atheists who don’t want to hear “bless you” when they sneeze and oh boy, nobody better mess with the Reed brothers, because boy they will BRING IT because this is a Christian nation and–
JESUS, SHUT UP, JESUS! NOBODY LOVES YOU! NOBODY CARES!
Dan calls a city council meeting, and the city council consists of himself, Willa, Josie (wooooo!!!), Some Guy in a Flannel Shirt, and Some Old Guy. In a shocking and refreshing twist, basically they are not on Dan’s side:
Dan: Willa’s got the legal under control; it’s not gonna cost us a thing.
Old Guy: It’s a waste of her time!
Hot damn, Old Guy, good for you!
Josie continues to be the most interesting character around—when Dan says…
“I assume you have enjoyed all these years [of the nativity scene on government property] as an indication of Christmas, right?”
…we cut to Josie, avoiding eye contact with a “Wellll…not really” look on her face.
I’m sure we are meant to see that as Mitch’s evil atheist influence working on her, but to me, it is more an indication that maybe Mitch was right, when he said at the party that some people might find Dan’s piety—and his use of government property to promote it—a bit annoying.
And they also have no patience with Dan’s little spat with Mitch:
Dan: Look, Mitch Bright has a personal vendetta against me–he has since we were teenagers. I mean, you all know that.
Yes, Dan, I’m sure the entire town keeps track of your 20-year-old feud. I’m sure everybody is so invested in you that they remember every tiff you ever had over a parking space. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY BE MORE INTERESTING.
Flannel Shirt: If this is personal between you and him, work it out. Don’t drag the whole town into it.
Damn straight, Flannel Shirt!
Then Josie points out that Mitch has good business ideas for the town and that they shouldn’t be so quick to “push him out.”
So we can see that Josie and Flannel Shirt are the true heroes of this story.
More teenage flirting. Still don’t care.
The next day, back in Josie’s coffee chop, Mitch is chatting up Old Guy and Flannel Shirt about getting more cruise ships to stop at the town and thus increase business. Mayor Dan shows up to interrupt them…
Dan: Do you really care about city hall decorations? Or is this about me?
…and Mitch asks the question we have all been asking ourselves since the movie began:
Mitch: You really think that highly of yourself?
Of course, being an evil atheist, Mitch has a problem with “so-called Christians” who go crazy for Black Friday deals and are…
“…the most unforgiving, unloving, even bigoted people I’ve ever seen.”
And seeing as how he’s talking to the Christian who has spent 20 years nursing a high school grudge, it’s kinda hard to argue the point.
So Dan doesn’t even try. Instead, he jumps up and snaps at Mitch in a coffee shop full of people that he will not let him “ruin Christmas for everyone” and “hold this town hostage.”
Boy, who says that RTCs blow things out of proportion and see persecution in every action, eh?
Oh, but he keeps going, accusing Mitch of trying to “tell people how to live and how to worship,” which…pot, kettle, Dan. Mitch isn’t the one putting a nativity scene at city hall.
Oh, and it’s probably worth pointing out here that Mitch is calm and cool as a cucumber, while Dan grabs a chair and shoves it out of the way so he can get more in Mitch’s face.
Again, who says RTCs overreact?
Then Dan accuses Mitch of “already campaigning” for mayor by trying to appeal to the “common people.”
Mitch: I think it’s quite apparent why I’m here every morning. *beat* Free wireless.
OH SNAP. MITCH, YOU ARE DA MAN.
I’m serious: I laughed out loud at that line. All the more so because I just love a hero who can stay cool and keep his humor while the other party is trying to escalate.
And the hits just keep on coming, and Dan just cannot keep his cool. When Flannel Shirt puts up a “Seasons Greetings” sign at city hall, to replace the “Merry Christmas” sign, it is “NOT OKAY” with Dan.
The battle for the holiday season is now ON LIKE RED DAWN, as a montage of the “War on Christmas” shows us that the town is just as divided as Mitch thought.
Hilariously, the first shot is of someone slapping a “Festivus for the Rest of Us” sticker on his truck.
Dude, is that supposed to be ominous? Did the filmmakers actually think Festivus was a threat to Christmas? Have they never watched Seinfeld? Festivus is a parody holiday.
Actually, I take that back. After Dan’s little meltdown and Mitch’s good humor in the coffee shop, it is apparent that there is to be NO JOKING about the baby Jesus’s birthday.
Dan and Kristin take a walk, and Dan, naturally enough, takes the opportunity to kvetch about Mitch, and to wonder if he, too, would have lost his faith if he had ever left the sleepy little town of
Bedford Falls Trapper Falls.
But later, in the coffee shop, things are anything but boring. You see, when Heroine Josie serves Dan and Jesus their coffee, she says two words that prove she has turned to the Dark Side, become an evil atheist herself:
Well. Can’t have any of that.
Thus begins a nearly two-minute rant on how great Christmas is, and how nobody should even be thinking about any other day in December.
I won’t reproduce any of the ridiculousness that Jesus delivers to a coffee shop full of people that didn’t ask for this, except to point out that Jesus thinks that 98% of America celebrates Christmas. Really, dude?
And there are two great things about this little rant: first, that it was occasioned by Josie, the woman on whom Jesus allegedly has a crush. Well, one great way to treat your crush is to lecture her and all her customers while standing on a chair.
The second great thing is that when Jesus gets on the chair, Mitch calmly pulls out his phone and starts filming.
Why, Christian entertainment? Why do you always make me root for your supposed villains?
Teenage flirting plus cross-country ski racing. Even more boring.
Mitch is officially running for mayor, now, guys! I’m going to pretend that I can hope that he wins, because that would be just so cool. Also, Mitch tells Dan to thank Jesus for his stupid rant, because it helped him get all the signatures he needed to go forward.
Dan, of course, has zero plan in place for dealing with any challenge to his authority, and can only tell his family that he will “stand by what I believe in,” and that everyone should do the same.
Of course, this inspires our young DVD cover girl to don her angel costume and get on the empty nativity scene platform and sing her dear little heart out.
As she does this, Jesus sits slumped on the edge of the platform, acting as her (really bad) bodyguard.
Of course, atheist Mitch shows up to SPOIL EVERYTHING and tells her (very gently and kindly, mind you) that she needs to get down. He reaches to take her hand to help her, and Jesus shoves him. Because he’s just that mature. Mitch, long-suffering martyr that he is, gives up the battle so he can win the war (on Christmas).
And by that, I mean that he calls the police. Nothing comes of it except that they make Makayla stop singing, but they also don’t arrest Jesus for assault, so there’s that. But Kristin decides it’s time to officially Do Something, and that something is call a meeting with Willa the Lawyer, the local Reverend, and Some Woman.
Ready for some Christian charity in action???
Dan: What are we supposed to do? Uh, are we supposed to put up—y’know, we put up a menorah and then we put up the Kwanza—I don’t even know what that symbol is. I mean, where does it end?
Our hero, everyone.
Reverend: The point is, the person bringing the complaint hates all religion. He hates God. He doesn’t want equal representation of religion, he wants none.
Some Woman: So, we’re supposed to bow down to these God-haters?
Oh, and she calls the matter “an injustice.” And she doesn’t mean it’s an injustice that only Christianity gets government endorsement in this town, but that someone would complain about that.
As this meeting is going on, Jesus is back at the house with Makayla and Flirting Teenage Son. Makayla is just about to start rehearsing for the pageant, when there’s a knock at the door: it’s Flirting Teenage Girl!
Flirting Teenage Son (or FTS for short) is understandably nervous and stuff, what with having FTG around, just hanging, and calls the Christmas pageant “the same boring old program.”
RIGHT IN FRONT OF JESUS
Time for Christmas Rant 2.0, in which Jesus and Makayla do their own version of the story, swapping parts every few seconds.
Trust me, that is way less interesting than it sounds.
I guess it’s one of those things where you just had to be there to find it funny.
Meanwhile, back at the
ranch meeting, Kristin gets the privilege of giving the show its title!
“Christmas starts with a capital “C.” The “C” comes from the name, Christ. Christ, the lord, is the center of Christmas, not our rights, not our tradition. None of that matters if it starts to detract us from the one whose birth we celebrate, right?”
Huh. She’s actually making sense. I mean, she’s still buying into the idea that their rights are in danger, but at least she’s not being a jerk. She suggests that they all spend more time worrying about “the needs of others,” which is also sensible and not jerkish.
Though I think it’s kinda funny that she’s the only one to even suggest charity to the reverend and the Good Christian Mayor, and it’s like two weeks until Christmas.
So, the “Christmas with a Capital ‘C’” campaign starts, which involves some charity:
Just think, if Atheist Mitch hadn’t come to town, this never would have happened!
And they hand out “hot chocolate with a capital ‘C’” to sledders. Har.
And Jesus even gets in on the act, sing-songing “Sorry” to Josie and wiping down the chairs in her coffee shop. She still doesn’t seem warm to him, though, so go Josie!
Teen. Flirting. Bored.
Back at the mayoral casa, little Makayla has an idea that makes Kristin, in the words of the immortal Jerry Jenkins, shoot her a double take. Makayla wants to bake cookies for Mitch, because “nobody’s done anything for him as far as I can tell.” And that is very true, notwithstanding the Christmas campaign—even though he is new to town and grew up here, nobody has so much as swung by the house to say “welcome back.”
Kristin drives Makayla and the cookies over, but won’t even get out of the car. Coward. Or maybe she’s just a bit shame-faced that after guilt-tripping the reverend and her husband and brother-in-law into doing nice things, she has now been successfully guilt-tripped by an eight-year-old.
She needn’t have worried, because Mitch is not home. Makayla double-checks at the window, then leaves the cookies on the frigid doorstep.
They get back to the house to the news that the judge is coming to town the next day (dun dun DUN), and Dan tucks Makayla into bed. They have the following odd conversation:
Makayla: …[Mitch] makes people grumpy.
Dan: I think he makes people grumpy because he’s grumpy.
He is? He does? Far as I’ve seen, he’s been nothing but pleasant to everyone. Dan’s been the one escalating and Jesus has been the one ranting, though I suppose it’s natural for Makayla not to see it that way.
Anyway, she prays for Mitch: for God to be with him and “make him nice.”
And on that note, waiting for the judge and for God to make Mitch nice, we’ll await Part 3.
I am so sorry, you guys! Black Friday got away from me!
But it’s okay. I mean, holy crap, just look at this.
All I know going in is that this is a movie about Christmas versus the evil forces of inclusion and political correctness. So I can only assume that Frowny-Faced Guy on the left is our Good Christian Hero (TM). Next to him is Jesus, so I figure he comes in at the end to wrest Christmas out of the Grinch-like hands of Not Alec Baldwin on the right there (we can tell he’s the villain since he’s wearing a suit and holding his chin and has a smirk on his face, not dissimilar to the one I have most days).
Also, there is some blonde lady, probably the mother of the little angel girl there. Probably the family is poverty-stricken and Not Alec Baldwin will buy them a turkey after his heart grows three sizes.
Our story takes place in a (very) small town in Alaska. The kind of town that is so small, and where people are so up in other people’s business, that the appearance of a U-Haul truck makes the residents stop dead in their tracks.
The U-Haul has been hired by Mitch Bright (Not Alec Baldwin), who left town to become a lawyer and has come back after a mere twenty years. The first people he runs into are the mayor, Dan Reed (Frowny-Faced Guy) and his brother, Greg (Jesus) (oops, my bad). The brothers are building a little stage for the nativity set…and it’s attached to the city hall.
(Oh, before I say anything else, I would like to applaud the writers for their wit if their choice of a last name for Mitch was a deliberate play on the Bright movement. Seriously. It’s not a label I embrace at all, but if they are attuned enough to the atheist movement to even be aware of the term, then good for them.)
Anyway, Mitch just wants to shoot the breeze for a few minutes, and asks after “Kristin.”
“Here it comes!” says Jesus/Greg, so we know he’s the kind of obnoxious twerp who does commentary on other people’s conversations as they’re having them.
“She’s good. Our kids are good, too,” responds Dan, giving Mitch the steely-eyed treatment.
“Hey, I-I-I didn’t mean anything by it, yanno, I was just being polite,” Mitch says, no doubt disturbed by the fact that merely asking after somebody is about to get him beat up…and he’s only been in town for five minutes.
Mitch beats a hasty retreat, and as he and the U-Haul pull away, Greg offers, in a half-kidding tone, “Hey, want me to follow him?”
What??? NO! I just…NO! Why would you even think…dude, do you not have anything else to do with your time, freak-show?
We cut to two teenagers sharing semi-flirtatious banter about the upcoming Christmas Cup, which is apparently a cross-country skiing race. I don’t care.
That night, we find that Blonde Lady and Little Angel Girl are not our Cratchit stand-ins, but rather the wife and daughter of Mayor Dan—the infamous Kristen and Makayla. The smallness and in-your-business-ess of the town is reinforced—Makayla knows that a “rich guy” has moved to town, because apparently all the teachers at school could talk of nothing else.
Dan can’t let this issue drop either, as he considers Mitch’s appearance to be “highly suspect.”
One might wonder, at this point, what is so lacking in Dan’s own life that most of his day is spent ruminating on the motives of a former townie.
In fact, is it too early to tell this entire town that they need to get a life?
They sit down to dinner, and we find that Dan and Kristin also have a son, Cody, one of the semi-flirtatious skiing teens. He is studying up on vampire novels, since “all the girls are reading them.” Smart move, my man.
Dan confusingly states that he knows just how his son must feel, since “your mom read all those books.” Really? These characters are around age fifty—were vampire books really a big thing in the 1970s? I dunno, I figure girls back then were reading Go Ask Alice and Forever… and old-school bodice-rippers.
The next morning, the family’s obsession with Mitch continues. Dan and Cody go snowmobiling without helmets, and Cody asks about “that guy.”
Dan is only too happy to talk about Mitch, and the fact that they used to compete over “football, basketball, skiing, running, class offices, parking spaces, Mom.”
Hmm, I can’t help but notice that you left “grades” out of that list of high school achievements, Dan. A bit self-conscious when in competition with the guy who went to law school, perhaps?
Dan also makes sure that Cody knows that Mom was “The Girl” in high school, and “I won that one.”
Ah, guys who peak in high school. Nothin’ like ‘em in the world.
Cody couldn’t really give much of a crap (and is understandably reticent to hear about how his mother was the hottest prize around)…he was really just trying to segue into his own high school woes. You see, being a clueless teenage boy, Cody thinks the skiing girl wasn’t being flirtatious, but that she is his Mitch, his high school rival.
I suppose, in a Christian film, it’s a good thing that the teenager is more interested in beating a girl’s ski time than in getting into her ski pants.
Meanwhile, Mitch is patronizing a local coffee shop, and unlike some coffee shop employees, owner/barista Josie is friendly and chats with Mitch about his ideas to increase her customer base. I’m sure this will all turn out to be ominous, because Mitch is the bad guy and takes his coffee with soy milk, like some librul commie socialist , but it is really hard for me to see this as anything other than him being kind.
We take time out with Mayor Dan and Jesus to talk about how much Christmas rocks.
Jesus: I mean think about, this is the only time of year the entire world has this like shared experience of peace and hope for the future and strangers are lovin’ each other. And there’s that somethin’ in the air, man, it’s something.
Oh, yeah, you sold me, man. Also, what the hell? The entire world? Damn, but these people are insular.
Sadly, Mayor Dan has no time to revel in Christmas joy—he’s too concerned about the new guy in town. Especially since Kristin has invited him over for some Christmas party they’re throwing at their house.
Dan: I know he’s got an angle. … What’s he after?
Good lord, how did Dan ever get along in his daily life without Mitch to plot and scheme against? He just cannot stop thinking about him!
We have no idea how many people were at the Christmas party, but at the end of the evening, only Jesus and Mitch remain at Casa Mayor Dan. Apparently, the discussion has turned to politics over the course of the evening–we hit the middle of a discussion in which Mitch says that Dan’s politics are “wildly conservative compared to the rest of the country.”
Jesus, of course, can’t let such a horrific slur lie, especially as Mitch used to live in that wretched hive of scum and villainy…dun dun DUN…San Francisco.
Mitch is not one to be dissuaded by Jesus’s silliness.
Mitch: Look, there is a surprising amount of hocus-pocus here.
Dan: Oh, you mean—what, Native religion?
HA! Love that his mind immediately goes there.
Mitch: No, I mean Christianity.
Shockingly, the family kinda lets this comment go—Dan is more interested in “what you’re implying.” That is, how this affects him. And it does:
Mitch: I would wager that a majority of the people in this town find your religious piety annoying.
To his credit, Dan reacts to this pretty mildly (milder than Jesus, who pulls a face (a recurring theme of his) and snaps out, “Annoying?”)
Interestingly, Dan turns the focus back to the nation at large:
Dan: Just because God’s out of vogue in the big city doesn’t mean we throw him away like last summer’s fashion magazine.
Weird analogy, Dan. Read a lot of fashion magazines, do you?
Mitch casually agrees to disagree, and casually mentions that perhaps he would make a good mayor (turns out Dan was unopposed in the last two elections!). And on that casual note, the party concludes.
But the evening’s not over yet! Jesus makes a late-night visit to Josie’s coffee shop…to ask her out!
There are not words to describe how creepy and weird Jesus acts as he (kinda sorta) asks Josie out. It really doesn’t help that he does it in that infuriating, backhanded “well if you wanted to go to the movies and I wanted to go to the movies, and we both just so happened to be at the movies at the same time…” way.
Jesus: I was thinking about Christmas.
Josie: Yeah, they have it every year.
Oh, and did I mention that part of Jesus’s date-asking technique involves pulling faces?
So attractive! (And I swear I am not just screencapping his face at an inopportune moment—he makes faces like this throughout the conversation!)
Jesus asks Josie to the Christmas pageant (since his niece, the angel, could “magically make a chair appear next to me”) and Josie seems less than enthused about this prospect. She has a smile pasted on her face the entire time, but gives Jesus no signals whatsoever, only saying:
Josie: Yeah, I’ll probably come.
This doesn’t exactly strike me as a “He asked me! He asked me!!!” moment. Also, this is Josie’s church, so yeah, presumably she would go in any event. So after Jesus wishes her a Merry Christmas and leaves, I can only assume that Josie immediately called at least five of her closest friends, so she could nail down a group to go to the pageant, and thus make it very clear that even though he is there, and even though she is there, it is not a date.
Things are starting slowly here in Wintermas Village, Alaska, so I can only hope they will pick up tomorrow, in Part 2!
So some of us have been saying all along that if Ranold was really the super-agent that he’s supposed to be, and if the NPO was really the super-organization it’s supposed to be, they would’ve had Paul figured out long ago.
WELL GUESS WHAT????
Aw yeah, baby, it is time for Ranold to be Teh Awesome.
Of course, we’re not supposed to think he’s being awesome here. We’re not supposed to be on his side. And we know he’s going to lose.
But GORRAMITALL, I so want to see Paul get his at the hands of Ranold and Jae. Just let me dream for awhile, okay?
Jae arrives in Washington. Presumably, she took a route much like this one, and since Jenkins halves all travel times in Atheistopia, we can assume it took just over five hours to get there, plus eating and potty stops. Then again, the kids are still friggin’ asleep, so maybe Jae blew right through. I can tell you from experience that much of that drive is incredibly boring, so it’s a good thing Jae had something to listen to, even if it was the New Testament.
Ranold is in a late meeting (ONE GUESS WHAT IT’S ABOUT!!!) and Jae’s mother greets her.
Once the luggage was inside, Jae’s mother asked her if she was hungry or thirsty.
“No,” she said. “I need to get to bed and so do you. Thanks for everything.”
Her mother tried to express how thrilled she was to have Jae and the kids, but Jae shushed her and nudged her toward her bedroom.
Jae, it is like nine or ten at night. I think you can take twenty minutes and have a cuppa tea with your mother who loves you. Damn, girl, but that is cold.
We can see that Jae’s Stepfordization progresses ever smoothly—she would rather listen to the Bible than talk with her mother. She takes the discs to her room with her for bedtime listening…and then some.
Oh, and Jae apparently listens to the discs slooooooowly. She was in Romans when she left Chicago, and five hours later, she is into Ephesians. Even counting all of Romans, that is not even 27 pages in my Bible.
But here’s the spooky part:
Jae didn’t intend to memorize [Ephesians 2:4-9], but she wanted to hear it again and again. So she set the coordinates and programmed the player to repeat, and she listened to the passage all night, six or eight times before she drifted off.
So creepy. Jae is basically brainwashing herself through repetition.
Next morning, Jae’s mom takes the kids out for breakfast and then to the zoo, and Ranold sits Jae down for a breakfast that he prepared himself, while revealing to her…dun dun DUN…her real job with the NPO.
“I’m going to let you in on some highly classified information, and I need to know you can handle it. You’re smart, you’re patriotic, and I’ve always known you to be a loyal citizen. Does that still apply?”
In spite of herself, even knowing that her father was flattering her for his own purposes, Jae lived and died for positive input from him.
Jenkins leaves out the logical rest of this thought. Jae lived and died for positive input from her father…because she damn sure didn’t get positive input from anyone else, least of all her husband.
Jenkins tries to paint Ranold in the worst possible light—flattering his daughter, lumbering around like a doofus in the kitchen (even though Ranold turns out to be a good cook), talking with his mouth full (quelle horreur!), but he can’t fool me! Ranold is about to do what we have all been hoping and dreaming he would do for two books now…ATTEMPT TO NAIL PAUL FOR TREASON.
“Jae, are you familiar with Stockholm syndrome?”
“Where a hostage becomes sympathetic to the kidnapper?”
“In a nutshell. Being as generous as possible, that’s what we think happened with Paul.”
It’s happening, you guys. I can hardly believe it, and I know it won’t end well, but Ranold is ON to Paul’s stupid games. He has facts and inside information. He has been wise to Paul for MONTHS now.
And we get to see it all! Goooooooo, Ranold!
And on that awesome note, we will leave Ranold to celebrate his glorious, treason-hunting Wintermas in peace.
Godspeed in your quest, Ranold. Godspeed.
So, I have a plan!
The next two chapters bounce back and forth between Paul and Jae as he arrives in Paris and she arrives in Washington. So I’m going to do a Paul post and a Jae post, which will leave us at the midpoint of Silenced as we enter that most wonderful and Atheistopic of seasons…
I know, I know, I usually do a poll around this time for the Wintermas fare. But this year, I have discovered a wondrous Wintermas movie of joyfulness. Stay tuned on Black Friday for Part One of this Very Special Wintermas Special.
This will be followed by a Wintermas novel, and since we had so much fun last year when evil Joella Ratchford and her spawn of Satan son worked their dark magic on all-around awesome dude Jordan Scoville, I decided to try another Steeple Hill Christmas romance, just to see if they all provide such wacky fun. Coming up after the movie!
Having accomplished absolutely nothing in Rome as far as the hunt for the terrorist, and nothing for the cause of the underground Christians other than contributing to a man being sent to his death, Paul heads to Paris. Why the international government would even okay this move on from Rome when nothing whatsoever has been done is a question I cannot answer.
In Paris, Paul meets Alonza Marcello’s counterpart, one Karlis Grosvenor.
He was about five-ten, and Paul guessed him at close to two-hundred-fifty pounds.
Good to see Paul’s obsession with other men’s body measurements continuing apace.
Grosvenor is psyched to give Paul a tour of the city and show him the “Arch” de Triomphe, which Paul immediately disparages, like the good guest he is:
…Grosvenor finally turned enthusiastic tour guide and bragged that [the Arc] remained “at nearly fifty meters, the largest arch in the world.”
“Largest triumphal arch maybe,” Paul said, unable to hold his tongue.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Chief, the St. Louis Arch has to be nearly four times the size of this one.”
Grosvenor made a dismissive sound. “That is a mere novelty. This is a magnificent work of art, more than two hundred years old and decorated with the figures in relief.”
Paul couldn’t argue with that.
No shit. Damn, but Paul just cannot let anyone like anything without barging in with how much better his country is, can he?
“Isn’t the Island of the City where Notre Dame stands?” [asked Paul]
Grosvenor nodded. “Of course it’s not called that anymore, and the crosses are long gone. It houses the University of the Self-Movement now.”
(Insert poop joke here.)
(Insert “atheists are selfish” joke here.)
Now known as the University of Getting Enough Fiber in Your Diet
They finally get to the actual attack site, and Grosvenor plays for Paul a surviving security recording of the moments pre-bomb. There’s not much to tell (despite Jenkins’ best efforts), but a truck labeled “Henri Foods” (’cause they’re in Paris, get it???) delivered the bomb along with a bunch of croissants. I wish I was kidding.
I’d go into greater detail, but it’s not like Paul gives a flying crap about solving this case, so why should I?
“Would you care to take a walk-through [of the attack site]?” Grosvenor said. “Not too many will get the privilege, if you can call it that.”
“I’d be honored,” Paul said. “I’d regret it if I didn’t.”
You guys are weirdos, y’know? I’m just putting that out there. You’re both very weird.
Yeah, I’d also regret not seeing the horrific aftermath of a bombing that destroyed a national monument and killed hundreds. I’m sure the mangled corpses wouldn’t haunt my dreams forever!
Then again, it’s not like Paul gives a good gorram about the deaths of nonbelievers—we know that from L.A. Still, there might have been a couple of secret Christians among the horribly murdered. But hey, at least they’re not burning in Hell now, amirite?
Grosvenor then takes Paul to lunch (at a bistro, because they’re in Paris), and eats more than twice as much as Paul, because he’s FAT, haha! Then he takes Paul to his hotel. I don’t know what Grosvenor or the international government expect Paul to do with his time, but Paul just calls Straight, and once again gets complicated instructions on how to meet the local underground dude, the “intense” Chappell Raison.
And off he goes into the French countryside, inwardly whining all the way about the wind and the language and the Celsius temperature. Oh, and he rents the smallest car he can find, because…
Anyone who knew him would not be able to imagine him in an economy car.
Jesus, does Jenkins even realize how Paul sounds when he says stuff like this?
So here is where we will leave our ever-humble and self-denying Christian hero: reduced to an economy car, a stranger in a strange land, never having bothered to learn even the rudiments of a language not his own. Poor guy.
See you next year, Paul.