Trophy Wife: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

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There’s a very good chance that Trophy Wife made the leap last night. On of fall’s most surprising and quality new shows from the very beginning of this season, it entered the standard winter hiatus with an episode that was packed with not only laughs but great character moments from top to bottom. However you might feel about in media res openings, they tend to work much better in comedies than they do in dramas and it was a nice start to the first Christmas episode for a show that I hope has a lot more in the future. Opening a holiday episode with Christmas music has already been done not just this season but many times before, The Good Wife used it to their advantage just last week, but that didn’t make it any less hilarious when “Let It Snow” played over a tracking shot of unexplainable destruction and passed out family members splayed out all over the house. If you didn’t know any better it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that this was some sort of Die Hard spoof, what with the fire and the coyote present. Letting the audience simply take everything in before the unpacking of a forgotten night began was smart, as the opening shot didn’t give too much away but allowed for the viewer to remember callbacks all throughout the episode while also serving as a sort of Christmas lullaby for a bunch of hungover people.

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As each of the ladies worked towards remembering what in the world went down the night before and how a simple wine concoction could have put them in that position, Pete wondered why he was in a Santa suit, and the kids stood there dumbfounded about the state of their gifts and the presence of a wolf in the den (pun intended), you could just sense that the writers were clicking at every level for this first time this season. It helped that this was the first episode in a while with all major characters in the same room at the same time, and I think the break from that dynamic gave the show some time to perfect each person’s quirks and traits so that by the time this episode came around and they were all interacting again there was a sense that everything made much more sense than it had earlier in the season. You could always see how Diane and Pete ended up together and now  some light was shed on how the Jackie and Pete pairing made any sense at the time. Pete being persuaded to quit his job under Jackie’s drunk influence was an eye opener and managed to be out of character and make perfect sense for him at the same time. Another nice note that the episode snuck in was all of the wives getting along like old friends without faking it for a public event or the kids. That hasn’t really happened before, and it’s an important thing for the show that these women can get along with each other even if it takes being completely wasted. Kate has lived in the house for over a year at this point in the show’s timeline, and subtle digs from Diane are never going to go away (nor should they) but it is nice to know that there doesn’t have to be resentfulness or annoyance about her from the other wives all the time. Of course, their attempt at taking a group picture almost burnt the house down so maybe it’s better off that they don’t drink together too often.

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The realization that absinthe was involved in the festivities was the point where the entire episode jumped to a higher level. First of all, Natalie Morales sighting! I was worried that a full ensemble episode without Meg’s presence would spell the end to Morales’ time on the show and another lost opportunity for her to be her hilarious self on network television. My worry turned out to be falsely placed, as she got to be the straight man to everyone else’s blacked out messes when it’s usually the other way around. Her walking in on Kate, Pete, Jackie, and Diane karaoke-ing “The Sign” by Ace of Base was so amazing I had to pause the episode and take a laugh break before moving forward. Not only does Morales have a wonderfully spot-on “what is happening” face, but you could tell how much fun the cast was having in that moment, which is usually a great sign for a comedy with as much confidence as this one has.

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Even with all of the other craziness happening, including Jackie without eyebrows, Jackie stealing Mary’s from a nativity, Diane adopting a wolf dressed as a high class Red Riding Hood, Pete shredding his work documents and putting gifts down the chimney like an actual Santa, the use of Ace of Base was my episode highlight. Not since Happy Endings (RIP) had a hip-hop Santa dance-off have I laughed so hard at the tag of an episode. There was actually a very HE vibe from this Trophy Wife episode without seeming like an actual ripoff of the former’s style. The first drunk karaoke was the best part of the episode by far, but the tag took that idea and made it perfect. What I wouldn’t give to see that entire take (or multiple takes) of the cast putting on a fully choreographed performance of “The Sign”. It was all at once funny, heartfelt, and entertaining. “The Sign” has experienced a reemergence as of late with this and Pitch Perfect both using it in hilarious fashion. It would have been easy for Trophy Wife to pick any 80’s or early 90’s song and rely on the nostalgia for laughs, but you could sense the effort put in by everyone involved and it paid off. More sing-a-longs (and, one hopes, Christmas episodes) from one of the best new shows of the fall, please. Can you imagine this cast belting out a boy band staple or an 80’s rap? It’s all I want for next Christmas.

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