Last Christmas we only got one episode about the season, Peace on Earth in Album 3, and now this season we’re already on our second Christmas episode in a row. It’s starting to feel a bit like Album 1, which also had two Christmas episodes in a row. And speaking of Album 1, Monty is sort of a combination of both Davey Holcomb and Craig Moorhead, although he’s less cliché than either of them. Like Davey he’s a bit clumsy and insecure, and like Craig he gets pretty angry when his parents start fighting. And it’s also important to note that this is a follow-up to Album 1’s only two-part episode, A Member of the Family, in which Monty’s anger issues are first revealed. There’s also an important thematic parallel with Album 1, and that is the theme of dealing with divorce. Besides A Member of the Family, divorce is also touched on in the episode The Life of the Party when Freddy announces that his parents are getting a divorce, and in Connie Comes to Town when Connie arrives on the scene and reveals that her parents are divorced. Monty’s Christmas makes important ties back to previous Adventures in Odyssey shows while simultaneously making progress in story and character development.
Although she was the main character in the previous show, Jenny Whittaker now acts as the comic relief in this episode. Similarly to Eugene’s humorous displays of his knowledge and advanced vocabulary, Jenny is funny without realizing it. During a discussion of nicknames in the first scene, she says, “Monty has a few names he calls me. But I’m not sure they’re repeatable.” Not only does this line get a laugh, but it also provides insight into Monty’s character. It is a hint referring to Monty’s temper, which plays a large role in the story. Another funny moment is when Mr. Whittaker tries to get the Christmas tree lights blinking. He screws in a Christmas bulb and gets shocked, causing a sound similar to when that fuse blew in Whit’s Flop. Maybe Jenny should have warned him what the electricity would do to him. Jenny did just read all about transistors in the previous episode. She should be an expert by now. But all she has to offer is the definitive line, “Now they’re blinking, grandpa,” after the damage has already been done. It’s the kind of not-so-helpful advice you would expect Eugene to give.
The playfulness of the first scene ends with the sound of shattering glass. You might think clumsy Davey Holcomb just walked into the room, but you’d be wrong. Monty Whittaker is the one responsible for the crash. And, true to character, Jana Whittaker overreacts. She complains and gets angrier and angrier, causing Monty to get pretty angry too. It’s another argument set off by something small but with a larger cause at the root of it. And although it can be uncomfortable from the audience’s perspective, after all Adventures in Odyssey doesn’t exist to promote people yelling at each other, it’s important to note that when you focus on the family you’ll soon find out that no family is perfect. It was a brilliant decision on the writers’ part to make one of the most flawed families the Whittaker family. And what’s more is that Whit’s relatives are all immune to his grandfatherly advice. Either they’re too frustrated to listen, like Jana and Monty, or they’re too busy pretending to be an adult, like Jenny. Jenny’s contribution to the tense situation is saying that she believes Monty is suffering from “adolescent trauma.” The family isn’t exactly equipped to deal with its problems.
Not even Whit’s famous ice-cream shop and discovery emporium gets Monty to open up about his feelings. People from all over town come to Whit’s End to sit down and have an ice cream cone or a milkshake, all the while spilling their deepest secrets and dilemmas to Mr. Whittaker. But not Monty—his own grandson. The contrast drawn is quite powerful. Monty is unique and breaks the ordinary format of the show. He’s even unique in his own family, especially when compared to his sister. Just in case you weren’t sure whether Jenny is the comic relief in this episode, all doubt is removed when you hear the scene in which Jenny talks about building a snowfriend instead of a snowman. She goes on to emphasize the importance of “precision of language.” You would think since Jenny is Monty’s sister, she would be able to relate to his situation. But Jenny is of course too much of a grownup to speak at his level. So who else is there for Monty to turn to? Bring on the girl who never grows up, Connie Kendall. At last Monty finally opens up and Connie actually offers some really valuable insight on the effect divorce has on different family members. At the end of the scene Monty says, “I didn’t realize it was so complicated.” Connie replies, “Well, sometimes we kids have to figure these things out for our parents.” That not only applies to this episode but to the previous one as well, The Reluctant Rival. From time to time what a kid needs is to tackle a problem one-on-one with someone closer to their own age.
The title Monty’s Christmas has ring to it similar to the title of Whit’s Flop. And although Monty’s holiday does start to go downhill due to his arguments with his mother, the whole thing turns out rather well. This episode is the farthest thing from a flop. It follows Monty on a realistic, meandering journey marked by anger and confusion, before stumbling across the perfect ending. Not everything is solved, but at least the characters understand each other a little better. Connie is a great addition because of her experience with her divorced parents and her advice seems completely natural. Mr. Whittaker’s advice can sometimes feel contrived or weak, but this time Connie’s words of wisdom stand out as truly heartfelt. Not since Connie was fired and then rehired in Album 5 have we heard such a deep moment with her. This episode gets 5 out of 5 stars.