“I’ve spent the last 20 years in locker rooms with men, I promise you I’ve smelled worse.”—Roy Kent
It’s Christmastime for the AC Richmond gang, which sets up the theme of the episode. During the opening bit, we see the players enjoying Secret Santa festivities while the coaches, Keeley (Juno Temple), Higgins (Jeremy Swift) and Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) are exchanging gifts, sharing plans and having a few drinks. It’s in this opening that we get the nod to our three disparate stories—Ted’s (Jason Sudeikis) plans for a Facetime with the family, Keeley and Roy (Brett Goldstein) enjoying Sexy Christmas and Higgins hosting the players without local families. After a very special credit sequence we dive right in!
Roy and Keeley
Things start off well as Keely decorates for Christmas, complete with a chocolate fountain, an iconic Leg Lamp and a special outfit. But when she answers the door, she finds Phoebe (Elodie Blomfield). Sexy Christmas is on hold, but they settle on Sexy December 28 as an alternative. Meanwhile, Phoebe is inconsolable, not because her mom is working but because a boy at school gave her a tooth brush and toothpaste as a Christmas gift, saying her breath is terrible.
Roy and Keeley assure Phoebe it can’t be that bad but it turns out it is. As a result, Roy wants to beat up the boy that made Phoebe sad but instead leads her and Keeley on a tour of the neighborhood in search of a dentist. They find one who offers a medical solution that promises to get Phoebe back on track. Keeley asks Roy if it feels good to find a constructive solution instead of using his rage, to which he comes up with another idea. The trio visit the offending classmate, offering a Love Actually-style set of poster board messages that repairs the relationship. It’s a happy Christmas ending for all!
Ted’s Family Plans
Ted sets off on his plan to share Christmas with his family, but it quickly ends and he’s left drinking alone watching Jimmy Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life. But, soon enough, Rebecca arrives to rescue Ted, eschewing her party with Elton John to bring him on an annual tradition she once shared with her husband. After taking in a rousing edition of Last Christmas from some street musicians, allowing Ted to work in a John Holmes reference that was the true Christmas gift to the audience, Rebecca and Ted set off.
It isn’t long before they arrive at a home and Rebecca pulls out a giant stocking of presents. Turns out she is fulfilling Christmas letters for those in financial need and brought Ted along for the ride. They visit a few more houses thanks to a montage sequence that, naturally, features Carol of the Bells. Rebecca tells Ted she knows how hard life after divorce can be and wanted to extend the hand of friendship toward him that he’s always readily offered her. Instead of ending the night with Elton John, Rebecca suggests she and Ted go on one last adventure. But more on that in a minute.
Christmas with Higgins
As his family festivities begin, Higgins welcomes Sam (Toheeb Jimoh), the first of what turns out to be many, many players. Usually, Higgins had welcomed one or two Richmond players, but with such a close-knit collection of international players, this year most of the team pops by, and all begin having a lot of fun playing Nerf wars, video games and just enjoying family life. But it’s a group so big, it’s fair to wonder where they’ll all fit.
That leads to a creative table solution as Higgins, his wife (Julie Roscoe) and family celebrate Christmas dinner with a cadre of new friends. During his dinner remarks, Higgins acknowledges each player’s home country without fail or error before embarking on his toast. He says, “To the family we’re born with, and the family we make along the way, and, most importantly, go Richmond.” Which leads us back to Ted and Rebecca.
As a final hurrah for the night, Rebecca and Ted have collected the street musicians from earlier and made it to Higgins house, where they begin caroling. Not only do we get to hear Waddingham’s wonderful vocals again, Sudeikis joins in on the fun. Soon Higgins, his family and all the players join them outside for an impromptu Christmas concert. It’s a delightful end to a spirited, funny and incredibly moving episode.
Episode Grade: A-
There were a few delightful ones to choose from, but I’m going with Roy, Keeley and Phoebe’s creative solution. I love the film Love Actually and seeing how that sequence landed warmed my heart. It was a delightful addition to the episode that showcased the best of this trio, who have become and incredible part of the second season.
Pop Culture References
This one included all the trappings of Christmas, including many classic songs. I name-checked a few earlier but didn’t catch them all. Here’s the other references:
- People and References: Elton John, Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz were name-checked a few times throughout. We also got John Holmes and Helter Skelter. It was the most ambitious range of references yet. We also got a quoted line from A Christmas Carol, which seemed fitting.
- TV Shows: Paw Patrol came up when Roy wondered what might be upsetting Phoebe.
- Movies: We saw It’s A Wonderful Life, while Love Actually was referenced in deed and Ted managed to name-check Once.
There’s a few great choices here. I thought it was a good episode for Roy and Higgins, but I’m going with Rebecca. Waddingham adds such joy as a performer, and this was a good one for her, plus her sweet storyline with Ted got me in the feels.
That’s a wrap on Carol of the Bells. Check back next week as we recap Episode 5, Rainbow!
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.