Days of Our LIves tried to give us a great Christmas experience by having Salem celebrate it all week long.
But thanks to a COVID-related scheduling snafu, Christmas ended a day early, plus there were a few Grinches roaming around Salem ruining what was left of the holiday.
The best part of any Days of Our Lives Christmas is the Horton tree trimming. Traditionally, someone gets an ornament to welcome them to the family, there's a beautiful Christmas toast reviewing and celebrating the year, and the entire family remembers Tom and Alice while carrying on the tradition.
For some reason, though, the traditional Horton Christmas has not always been very Christmas-y. In past years, JJ broke up with Paige and wasn't even around to hang his ornament, Clare and Ciara broke each others' ornaments, and there was the sense that this was just another day of heartbreaking drama.
This year, Days of Our Lives tried to do better. The Horton Christmas was super small, which was sad, but many viewers surmised that may have been due to COVID-era restrictions on how many people can be on set at a time.
And there were some nice moments. Doug and Julie stepped into Alice and Tom's shoes, encouraging everyone to celebrate the holiday as best as they could despite some sadness, and their Herculean effort to get both Eli and Lani to come was cute.
I loved the way Doug and Julie winked at each other when the estranged couple stared at each other, surprised that the other one was there after all.
And Julie's heartfelt toast to her great love with Doug while he made an embarrassed face was made even sweeter by the fact that the actors have been married in real life almost as long as they've been together on screen.
But the ornament hanging got short shrift this year.
With most of the cast absent, it was left to those who were there to hang their loved ones', and unless I missed it, nobody hung Abby or JJ's ornaments at all. And there was no explanation for where Abby was, either, which was weird.
Abigail could have been spending the holiday with Jack or she and Chad could have had their own celebration, but there was no mention of that. She was just gone. Conversely, Allie and Claire were at Jennifer's even though they'd been at a party of their own just before the big event, yet their parents were conspicuously absent.
If characters couldn't be present, there should at least have been some explanation!
In addition, there was too much focus on Ben putting up Ciara's ornament.
Yes, he is grieving as much as the rest of her family is. That's understandable (though I will always resent that JJ never got to grieve like this over Paige, who was just as important to him while she was alive as Ciara was to Ben.),
But what was not acceptable was that the biggest part of the ornament hanging was dedicated to whether or not Ben would hang Ciara's ornament, Ben seeing her ghost, and the way their ornaments looked together on the tree once he'd hung it.
Traditionally, the Christmas Eve episode ends with a close-up of Tom and Alice's ornaments as a tribute to Salem's founding couple now that Macdonald Carey and Frances Reid are no longer with us. But this year it ended with a close-up of Ben and Ciara's ornaments as if they were the most important people in Salem.
Considering the brief and co-dependent nature of their relationship, it was an insult to replace the tribute to Tom and Alice with a tribute to them!
Also, when Lani went into labor it was unnecessary for everyone except Claire and Ben to take off, especially since Ben didn't even know what had happened.
Claire staying behind to clean up made her look like Cindarella, and at least a few of the other people should have stayed home to help her while they waited for news.
As for Lani and Eli, it was silly that they didn't have any ideas for baby names ready to go, and I disliked the implication that these births were at all similar to the Christmas story.
I'm not even Christian, but I found the idea that Lani's twins being born on Christmas and/or her feeling her late baby son's presence during the birth was analogous to the birth of Christ to be mildly offensive.
I was thrilled, however, that Valerie came back for the birth. Now if only she can stay for more than five seconds.
She said she'd babysit, which she can't do from DC, so I'm hopeful she'll be around a while, but we'll see.
I dislike these drop-in only to drop out immediately visits. My heart was broken all over again when JJ left town almost as soon as he returned, and now Joey is randomly leaving Salem too.
Steve: Those kids wore me out with presents. How about a check from Daddy Claus?
Joey: Actually, I'd rather pay my own way. I need to support myself, which is why I got a job. I'm going to be working in Seattle with Stephanie. I'm leaving tomorrow.
I'm with Kayla: I'd much rather Stephanie come to town for Christmas than Joey spontaneously leave to work with her when he's only been back for a few weeks.
And while his desire to be financially independent is admirable (and one not shared by many young Salemites!), it seemed silly to reject Christmas cash from Steve. Plus, informing his parents he was leaving on Christmas seemed like an awfully big lump of coal to give to the people who love him most.
If this had been handled better -- e.g. not shipping Joey off to jail and then having him return for five seconds -- it could have made a nice, relatable story for Steve and Kayla about facing an empty nest. But the way it was done seemed awfully rushed.
It also gives Steve more reason to focus on Tripp, who is his only remaining child in Salem. I just wish that the writers would have given the vigilante justice against an innocent man angle a rest for Christmas.
Tripp: I won't report this, because it's Christmas and I'd like the rest of my day to be merry, if not uneventful. So how about you keep this jerk and the rest of his family away from me?
Rafe: I'll do my best.
Lucas: Really? You're protecting him?
Rafe: I'm protecting you. Get out of here. Goodbye.
Of course, this was probably meant to air next week, since Days seemed to be an episode ahead of schedule. But regardless, I could have done without Lucas threatening Tripp with a pair of scissors.
This just is not Lucas' character. He's usually the saner one who tries to talk Sami out of doing things like this! And nobody needed to see this on Christmas Day, either.
There was too much violence altogether during Christmas week. We had scene after scene of Charlie threatening Ava, and though it was well-acted, this story has been done a million times before.
We also had a ridiculous and utterly degrading fantasy in which Kristen was the queen of the Kiriakis mansion and Victor and Maggie were her servants.
That was unnecessary filler, and I couldn't believe Brady liked that fantasy. He should have been encouraging Kristen to at least be kind to Maggie, who had never done anything to her and in fact, often goes out of her way to be accepting of Kristen.
And of course, we also had Roman spilling the beans to Sami about Allie's rape.
Oh, how I wish this had been a well-written story about a family coming to terms with a member's rape and struggling to find the best way to support her, especially after the justice system allowed her case to fall through the cracks.
We could even have addressed the rape kit testing backlog instead of having a ridiculous story about the DNA proving one guy was the rapist, except his evil brother that no one knew about was the actual perp.
But no. Instead we have a lot of nonsense centered on Tripp's difficulties because of being found guilty in the court of public opinion.
As a sexual assault survivor advocate, it makes me cringe every time someone totally violates Allie's boundaries and shares the rape with someone she didn't want to know about it, only for her to say it's fine.
But Sami's reaction was well-done. For once, Sami didn't go over the top (though we could have done without Lucas taking over in that department!) and instead offered support as best as she could and regret that she hadn't been able to be there for her daughter.
I won't be surprised if a less-subdued Sami shows up in Salem, but the scenes between Sami and Allie were probably the best part of this awful storyline.
Elsewhere in Salem, Ericole fans had the rug pulled out from under them as Nicole announced a surprise visit from Eric... only for him to not be able to make it.
I wasn't surprised that he didn't show up, because there was no way that Days of Our Lives could have kept that big a secret under wraps. Some dedicated fan somewhere would have found out early.
Nor was I surprised that Rafe showed up. I've been shipping Nicole/Rafe for ages and predicted I would finally get my wish as soon as Nicole welcomed Rafe back to town.
However, if Days of Our Lives does go the Rafe/Nicole route, I hope that Eric won't come back to town just as things are heating up. That's another overused trope, and if we're going to go for Rafe and Nicole, I'd like Days to be committed to it.
Nicole and Rafe are good together, too. I liked the way she convinced him to check into what was going on with Ava and Tripp. This is much better than that awful Rafe/Hope pairing the show tried to push on us for several years.
Belle and Shawn finally got married on Christmas Eve, too.
It wasn't bad for an impromptu wedding, though I was annoyed that everyone acted liked Sami committed some grave faux pas by calling to say Merry Christmas and interrupting a wedding she didn't know anything about.
And Marlena needed to stop harping on the fact that she'd forgotten to mute her phone. Sheesh.
But the vows were nice, and it was a Christmas miracle that the biggest interruption was a phone call that Marlena put off until later.
I much preferred Marlena talking John into giving Steve a second chance.
The whole time John was ranting about Steve, I couldn't help thinking about the fact that Steve's blindness and related problems -- all the way up to him being implanted with Stefano's consciousness -- stemmed directly from John deciding to poison him instead of standing up to a rogue ISA director.
If Steve can forgive John that, John can forgive Steve believing Tripp's side of the story.
Also, I wish that John's greater emotionality since his aneurysm wouldn't be treated as a joke. Men are allowed to cry and have feelings, and Days of Our Lives needs to stop spreading messages suggesting otherwise.
Your turn, Days of Our Lives fanatics. What did you think of Christmas 2020 in Salem?
Hit the big, blue SHOW COMMENTS button and let us know!
Want even more Christmas cheer? Check back on Sunday for our Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
Days of Our Lives continues to air on NBC on weekday afternoons. Check your local listings for airtimes.