It's Christmas Eve and John Monroe's (William Windom) wife Ellen (Joan Hotchkis) has him to go out and get their daughter Lydia's (Lisa Gerritsen) Christmas present. John comes across an impolite Santa Claus (series producer Danny Arnold) at a sidewalk corner ringing for donations. John walks into the neighborhood bar disgruntled over the fact his wife won't buy their daughter's gift this year and is psychoanalyzed by fellow writer Philip Jensen (game show panelist Henry Morgan). John feels women are using the holiday to impose their will over men and resists it, but Philip tells him to lay off a sacred institution such as Christmas and try to fight an issue like credit cards. John searches the frantic department store with largely wiped out shelves at closing time for Lydia's desired "Feverish Phyllis" doll. He makes eye contact with the last doll along with a fellow shopper (Stuart Nisbet) who John yields too. John ends up in a flag store and decides to get Lydia a flag. She is bemused to open a huge U.S. flag with a large staff and flies it from her upstairs window. The neighbors begin to gossip that the Monroe's must have something to hid and are masking it with the flag. The magazine John works for receives subscription cancellations from his neighborhood. John: "I'm doing something different and they don't understand it." He returns home to find three concerned veterans waiting for him. Lydia defends her gift from the neighborhood children, making John proud. She says she really does like the gift and it's an important thing to have. John: "It's a symbol. It points out that no matter how difficult it is for people at times in this country to understand each other...the flag is a reminder that somehow they've always been able to work things out."
The moral is a good lesson to learn in present-day. The opening starts much like "Jingle All the Way" (1996), and I wonder if the premise was inspired by this episode. The dry comedy is very light, but the performances are solid, the plot good, and the moral very good. It is set at Christmas, but a story good enough to watch in any season.
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