Vintage Suds: GH Christmas 1996 in May 2009
Exhausted by another week of the show currently masquerading as General Hospital? Want to be reminded of how seriously, staggeringly, immeasurably better this show used to be? Read on.
(I know what you're thinking -- Dude, you're just now getting around to recapping the SOAPNet Christmas marathon? The answer is yes. You have my permission to be disappointed in me, or amazed by my slackerdom. As my penance, I've provided extra screencaps. Plus this post will be almost entirely free of bitchiness. Except about Miranda. And Tom. And maybe some hairstyling and fashion issues. There is a limit to how nice I can be, even when trying to curry favor. Sorry.)
It’s Jax and Brenda’s first Christmas together! (That “Eeeeeee!” you hear is Mallory, at the mere mention of Jax and Brenda.) Jax brought Brenda a whole box full of Christmas decorations from Australia, which he bursts into his penthouse with, forcing her to scurry and hide something (presumably his gift). Brenda hadn’t gotten a tree because she wasn’t sure Jax would be back in time, but of course he would, because he’s dreamy. So they’re off to get a tree. Jax jokes that he’s going to cut down one in Edward Quartermaine’s yard. Ooooh, the Jax/Q family rivalry! Remember when there were rivalries on this show that didn’t involve hitmen and “coffee importing”? Sigh.
Query: Why did I find Ingo (and Jax) so damned hot when he had outfits and a haircut like this?
The draw of an Australian accent is a remarkable thing. It is truly a wonder how I managed to maintain my Mel Gibson hate for so many years (long before he publicly became an epic ass, I mean).
Tom is at the Christmas tree lot, doing something lame, because Tom is lame. (I’m sorry, Matthew Ashford, you know I adore you and Jack Deveraux forever, but we both know in our heart of hearts that Tom was lame.) Lame Tom is with his son, Tommy, whom I had totally forgotten about, and who would make a good addition to the canvas now as a 20-something if the writing staff gave a crap about still incorporating the Hardy family into Port Charles.
Mike, Sonny, Jason, and some mob flunky we later learn is Joseph arrive at the Christmas tree lot too. Mike wants Sonny to buy a tree, but Sonny doesn’t see the point, since it’s Christmas Eve already. Jason says something offhand about Robin, and my little fangirl heart soars. Sonny agrees to a tree, but ends up picking the one Tommy wants, at the same moment.
Bobbie is preparing Lucas for the hospital Christmas party, an event she says is second in popularity only to the Nurses Ball. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate the current writing team and the fact that they insist on ignoring all this historical goodness? Anyway, when they arrive at the floor where the party is supposed to be, nothing’s happening.
Jackie Zeman, BTW, looks great.
Look at her original face! Her age-appropriate slight forehead wrinkles! Her ability to emote above the neck! It’s glorious. Compare to this week:
That is a public service announcement waiting to happen.
Audrey (yes, Audrey – she exists!)
informs Bobbie that Bobbie and Amy were always the ones to plan the Christmas party, and with Amy out on personal leave after the funeral (? – no recollection whose) and Bobbie having so much going on herself (? – was this in the wake of the Carly/Tony nastiness?), they have resorted to taping a few kids’ drawings to the walls and calling it a day.
Dr. Simone Hardy, about whom I had also forgotten, is like “this is lame, right?” and Bobbie is diplomatic but totally thinks it is. But no worries! There are two hours to party time and Bobbie is taking charge. She starts barking friendly orders, and who shows up but Alan! Not dead! And not in a tracksuit! It’s a Christmas miracle.
Edward is directing Justus how to put the angel on top of the Qs’ tree, and asking Emily (Amber Tamblyn, how awesome are you?) why she’s dressed like a spy, by which he means in black, including a leather skirt. “I am a spy,” she snottily responds. Ha. Monica, AJ, and Keisha arrive with ornaments. Lila says “finally” while Edward says it’s too late, the florist handled the whole tree because nobody had shown any interest. Monica doesn’t care, the Quartermaine ornaments are going on that tree. And Emily is going to add one of her mom’s favorites.
Query: Were Lila and Edward, and Alice and Tom on Days of Our Lives, the best soap matriarch/patriarchs ever?
No need for a poll, as the answer is yes.
Monica gets sad when she finds a dove ornament that Jason made in camp one summer, which is damaged. (These days, the only association between Jason and a dove is possibly the exclamation “pull!”)
Query: What can we do to ensure that the doctor who messed with this never gets a similar opportunity?
Alan calls to ask Monica to help with the children’s party at the hospital. They need presents and decorations and a tree. Guess who has all three? Everyone starts packing up the decorations and Emily heads upstairs.
Edward: I think so, young lady, because those poor children will think you’re the grim reaper.
I hope SORAS’d Michael changes his mind and moves into the Q mansion, giving Edward the opportunity to yell at a new teenager. It’s oodles of fun to watch.
Edward wants to know where Ned is when they need him. Ned, in fact, is drinking. At his hotel’s bar, on Christmas Eve. How festive. Alexis arrives down the bar and asks the bartender “What would don my gay apparel?” Ha. The bartender thinks eggnog. Alexis thinks no because she needs her arteries for New Year's Eve, and instead orders a double martini, very very dry. I love her. Apparently this is Ned and Alexis’ first meeting, and the following flirty and smart exchange takes place:
Alexis: ::looks around perplexed:: How can you tell?
Ned: Bah humbug.
Ned: Infernal rubbish.
Ned: I’ll drink to that.
Back at the Christmas tree lot, Tom tells Tommy that they already have a tree. Sonny jokingly says he saw the tree first anyway, but Mike says the tree has to be bigger than you are. The tree Sonny has picked is wee. (Note: Opportunity to make short joke bypassed in honor of nostalgia.) Tommy wants the tree for his grandpa’s office, so that he can see it from heaven. Oh, this must have been the first Christmas after Steve died. Sniffle. The Christmas tree lot lady gives Tommy the wee tree, and Sonny takes another one, despite Mike’s statement that it is “not symmetrical.” Mike then gets into an argument with the very pregnant Christmas tree lot lady about the astronomical amount she is charging for the tree. Christmas tree lot lady then doubles over in pain, because, as Sonny overhears in Spanish, her water broke.
Mac apparently stopped by Katherine’s hospital room on his way to an ugly holiday sweater party.
His timing is perfect, because Robin calls to speak to Katherine. Mac hands the phone over. Katherine says they miss her, and asks how Robin’s trip to Washington is going.
They bond over letting someone (in Katherine’s case, Mac) take care of you, and pretending to be strong for that person. I cannot remember what was wrong with Katherine at this point, or why she was in the hospital. Presumably it involved either getting shot or a mishap involving a parapet.
Christmas tree lot lady doesn’t want to miss out on Christmas Eve sales so would prefer to just go into labor right there on the lot, thank you very much. Everyone talks her into going to the hospital, and her husband goes too, but only after Sonny says he will stay and run the lot. Christmas tree lot lady is not okay with that idea, until her husband whispers something to her after Sonny says he and Joseph (aforementioned flunky) will take care of things.
Jose: Oh it’s okay man, we’re cool.
Sonny: We’re cool?
Jose: Yeah, we voted for domestic partners. You know my cousin Victor? Drove Liza Minelli to the airport one time. ::leaves::
Mike: ::puzzled:: Okay, you three I can understand, but me?!
I have no idea why Christmas tree lot lady was more comfortable with gay guys taking care of her trees, but regardless, that was kind of funny, and the first time I’ve seen General Hospital acknowledge that gay people exist in at least two years. I will even forgive the Liza cliché, especially given that the writers tie it back in later.
Sonny and Joseph don Santa hats and Sonny gives Joseph a lecture about customer service and the retail business. Among other things, Sonny says remember that everyone steals – and at that moment he catches two young boys stealing chocolate from the lot. “Stealing is wrong” says the mobster, and then hilariously adds that they shouldn’t be stealing those anyway because they’re not all chocolate, they’re hollow!
Good goddamn, Maurice Benard could charm the spots off a leopard. What happened?
Edward arrives and is appalled to learn that Sonny is running the lot (“You’ve added Christmas to your list of criminal enterprises?”). Monica encourages Edward to just pick a tree, and asks Sonny whether Jason is around. (She just missed him, as he took Christmas tree lot lady to the hospital.) AJ picks a tree, and Edward directs him to “check it for explosives.” Ha!
Justus spots Sonny in the Santa hat and laughs uproariously.
Query: Why are there no longer any black people in Port Charles?
Edward is horrified to have to write a check to Sonny, who ups the hilarity ante by asking Edward to make it out to cash and present a photo ID. And oh yeah, the tree is $5000.
Carly has paged Jason to her apartment. Carly is going to the same party that Mac and everyone who shopped the Gap Winter 2008 line is going to.
Carly wanted Jason to come over so that she could give him his gift. It’s a key ring, which is not too personal, so that Robin won’t get mad. Jason -- who really did used to have multiple facial expressions! – says Robin isn’t mad. He’s bummed because she won’t be home in time for Christmas, though. Carly has nothing to do because Tony is spending the holiday with Lucas. Jason suggests they do something together – like watch people skate and drink hot chocolate.
WTF? This is after the accident! He sounds like med school Jason Quartermaine, not the nearly heartless mob hitman we’ve been told in recent years Jason Morgan has no choice but to be. I feel so misled.
Carly is throwing a pity party about how everyone hates her, but thinks there are people who would like nothing more than to see Jason walk through their door.
Everyone is bustling around, setting up the children’s party at the hospital. Felicia arrives with Maxie and Georgie and I am reminded that there was a time I didn’t want to kick Felicia in the shins. I am also reminded that Georgie is now dead. Because it is the faux holiday season, Bob Guza, I will not wish bodily harm on you. At least not in writing.
The Quartermaines arrive with the giant tree, singing “Oh Christmas Tree” and generally looking like the center of the Port Charles world. As it should be.
Brenda has found the perfect tree on the lot. Jax agrees it is perfect (once they chop a few feet off to make it fit in the penthouse), and asks about the price. To Jax and Brenda’s shock, 1) Sonny is the person to answer that question, and 2) he says it’s not for sale.
Query: To what hell-dwelling creature did Vanessa Marcil sell her soul to look like this?
Kevin wants to know if that was a card from Scotty in the stack of mail. Lucy sheepishly says yes, and gets teary over the picture that Scotty included of Serena, and how she is growing up so fast without Lucy.
Felicia calls and interrupts the moment with a request that Lucy join the hospital Christmas party and bring presents (cosmetics samples – I had totally forgotten about Lucy’s cosmetics company, but then I shouldn’t have because every soap has a cosmetics company).
Simone is paged to go deliver a baby, and she says she loves Christmas babies. Tom makes a comment about how Christmas babies never get birthday presents. She’s all “::eyeroll:: psychiatrists...” Even she knows Tom is lame.
Mac meets Miranda in the midst of the party preparations. She boringly got everything on the list Mac gave her, plus boringly included a gift for Katherine.
Brenda can’t stop laughing.
Sonny correctly ascertains it is because of the hat.
Damn, Sonny was sexy. (Shut up.) Jax is all, hi, hot Australian over here, what’s up with the big tree and why can’t I buy it? “Must be true that crime doesn’t pay, if you guys are having to moonlight.” Ha! God, how much better was this show when the non-mob characters all made fun of the crime lords instead of worshiping them? Anyway, Sonny gives them a tree for free, over Jax’s protestations that he can pay for it. Brenda wants to know why Sonny is so happy, when he’s usually “grinchy” this time of year. Apparently Sonny almost died a week ago so is living it up. Jax looks suspiciously at the two of them, because their sexual chemistry is seriously undeniable.
Brenda goes to get the car after she and Sonny wish each other a merry Christmas. As she’s leaving, she gets a call on her giant cell phone from Lucy, who is asking for spare L&B CDs for the holiday party.
Of course Brenda is in.
Meanwhile, back at the trees, Jax and Sonny are engaged in a good ol’ fashioned whose-is-bigger contest.
Sonny: Not all of us got that pony we asked for at Christmastime. I bet you did.
Jax: What’s wrong with that one?
Sonny: You have to have the biggest and best of everything, don’t you, candy boy? [???, yet hee! - Ed.] Not here.
Jax: Well, she’s still with me.
Sonny: Take your tree, and your jingle bells, and leave.
Which Jax, with a self-satisfied grin and his medium-sized tree, does. I guess his is bigger!
Reginald has set up a train around the Qs’ Christmas tree. Lila approves. Jason arrives with a small present; Lila is absolutely delighted to see him. Reginald says Lila stayed behind from the hospital party “in case an angel paid a visit.” Now see today, someone calls Jason an angel and Mallory or I go on a 4000-word rant about this effing show. But back then, when Jason still had layers, and hadn’t been anointed the town hero, Lila’s blind affection for him was endearing and totally understandable.
The present is peppermints for Lila, which “are not stolen this year.” Lila says the stolen ones were delicious. Ha! She takes Jason’s face in her hands and tells him how handsome he is.
And she’s right. Never let it be said that Steve Burton isn’t a total hottie. Yowza.
Jason: It’s just a messed up piece of paper.
Lila: You see, it’s in the form of a dove, but somehow, it got damaged.
Jason: The tree looks fine without it.
Lila: Not to your mother. She has so few things of yours, Jason. It may seem silly to you and to me, but they are how she keeps you in her heart, when she knows she can’t have you.
Jason: I don’t know how to fix it.
This show used to do family angst like no other. Now it does vicious murder like no other. So that’s . . . something.
Ned is using the tiny Christmas tree at the bar for target practice, throwing stuff to knock off the ornaments. Alexis tells the bartender she is not egging Ned on – for the record for when Ned gets kicked out. Ned is good and toasted, but when Edward calls the bartender looking for him, Ned has enough sense to have the bartender lie and say no.
Alexis: Why else did god make hotels?
Ned: Ned Ashton. Half a Quartermaine, half a man.
Alexis: Alexis Davis. Attorney at law. Should we file suit to get your other half back?
Ned: Wouldn’t work.
Alexis: Why I hate the holidays, by Alexis Davis: Because it’s like playing pin the tail on the donkey with bayonets. All fun and laughter and by the time it’s over, everybody’s bleeding.
Ned: Well, if you’re going to make intelligent conversation, I’m afraid I have to leave. Andy, buy Miss Davis another drink.
Alexis: Well, that oughta put a stop to it.
Ned: I’d try to pick you up, but I’m married, and I’m not in the mood, and I’m not very appealing right now.
Alexis: Thank goodness you explained.
Alexis: ::looks sympathetic:: Thanks for the drink.
If I could insert an animated thumping heart here, I totally would.
The pediatric ward Christmas party is underway, and you would, of course, never know it was thrown together at the last minute.
Everyone is having a blast. For Mal:
Miranda looks on in a way that I think was supposed to be deviously, but that came across as boringly, because that’s the way she did everything.
Tony-as-Santa arrives and Alan directs him to where they will give out the presents. At the same time, Sonny arrives. The Christmas baby Dr. Hardy went to delivery is Christmas tree lot lady’s, which Mike runs out in scrubs to proudly announce is a boy. Sonny is quietly happy.
Alan asks Santa if he may borrow Santa’s chair in order to tell the story of Christmas. Santa agrees, of course, and Alan proceeds to read the story, to the delight of everyone.
Examples of delight:
Let's pay special attention to a few of the delighted onlookers though, shall we? Whatever happened to them, I wonder?
AJ: DEAD (brutally murdered). Keesha: Left town without ever having accomplished anything much more interesting than cashing in Jason's v-card. Emily: DEAD (brutally murdered).
Georgie [adorable baby in middle]: DEAD (brutally murdered).
And let's not forget that the storytelller himself is now DEAD (brutally murdered). (Heart attack blah blah -- that was murder by Jerry and his crew.) I have to stop now, as this discussion is harshing my nostalgic buzz.
Alan wraps up the story and shoots Audrey a wink,
which she catches,
all a nod to Steve’s memory. Adorable.
Jason counts down from ten as he dials his cell phone that is roughly the size of the pier on which he is standing, and of course reaches Robin just as it becomes Christmas.
Jason: Aw, I wanted to say it first!
Robin: Now it feels like Christmas.
Jason: It really is. You know I got a watch now.
Robin: Yeah, Sonny’s watch; you showed me. Next thing I know you’re going to have an electric toothbrush and I’m not even going to know who you are when I see you.
Jason: No, you’ll know me. I’ll be…I’ll be the guy who can’t think of anything to say.
Robin: Why am I here in this stupid hotel room? I’m sick of being the HIV poster girl.
Jason: Well Robin, it’s important.
Robin: I know. But it’s not as important tonight as you are to me.
Jason: So, uh, what’d you have for breakfast?
Robin: Um, cereal and some yogurt.
Jason: Okay. What’d you have for lunch?
Robin: Soup and some bread.
Jason: Good. Dinner?
Robin: No, I’m not losing weight.
Jason: Oh, ah, who’s Liza Minelli and why should I care how she got to the airport?
These two are utterly charming. Both of these actors have sold every single one of their romantic pairings over the years, and together they had rapport to spare.
Closing montage time! (Twinkly Silent Night on piano while nobody talks.) It’s started snowing. Ned is in the rocking chair in Brooke Lynn’s empty nursery, sadly thinking of his daughter. Carly is tearfully alone in her apartment. Lila is alone in the Q living room, looking at their gorgeous tree, especially the gold paper dove that Jason apparently fixed.
Sonny goes to visit Christmas tree lot lady with a wad of cash, much of which I suspect didn’t come from selling trees. Or else he actually did fleece ol' Edward for that $5K.
He holds the new baby very adorably.
I cannot stop with this Sonny/Maurice positivity; I don't know what's come over me.
Mac gives Katherine a diamond bracelet and a kiss. Emily hugs Alan and the two of them and Monica head home from the party. Lucy and Kevin hand out gifts to the kids, with Lucy visibly grateful to Felicia for her having forgiven Kevin for…something (I never claimed to have a great memory). Jax and Brenda follow Santa and the kids out of the party, while Bobbie and Audrey beam over what they accomplished. Miranda boringly/menacingly looks on. Lucas sneaks up on Bobbie, disguised as a big present. They laugh and hug. Edward comes up to Audrey at the nurses station and takes her hand; they share a knowing look.
And then as they look up at the tree, we fade to black.
Over the credits, it morphs from Alan reading the Christmas story back to Steve doing so.
So, to sum up, things that were better then:
- Long-term story arcs
- Daily story progression
- Cast diversity
- Character integration
- Multi-generational interaction
- Family-based storytelling
- Hospital-centered plots
- Drama and intrigue without near-weekly homicides
- Romantic pairings
Things that are better now:
- Some hairstyles
- Cell phones
So . . . six of one, half a dozen of the other, I guess.