Despite what the numbers may say on this one, this episode is an hour-long musical Christmas extravaganza. I’m just going to say up front that if you’re programming a holiday binge-watch, this episode must be included.
Linda wakes up from a dream about an epic Christmas party. She describes it to Bob, singing The Christmas of My Dreams. She realizes that her Christmas mission is to throw the ultimate neighborhood holiday party and bring the spirit of the season back to the town. After all, everything lately has been so…bleak.
At the breakfast table, Linda fills the kids in on her plans. Her Christmas cheer is especially needed as the morning news announces the closing of The Wiggle Room, a local gay bar that is known for its yearly holiday celebration. Inspired, Linda cuts the top off of the family Christmas tree to make a miniature tree for the restaurant and stocks it with her favorite ornaments.
The party is a moderate success. The locals mingle and enjoy Bob’s sliders and Linda’s terrible but very alcoholic eggnog. Teddy tells the kids the legend of the Bleaken, a Krampus-like figure that he describes as the anti-Santa. A horned, raven-headed man who steals the presents from naughty children.
The party comes to a close and Linda discovers to her horror that someone has stolen her tree and with it, her favorite ornaments. Linda calls the police and is informed by Sgt. Bosco that there has been a rash of Christmas decoration thefts across the town. Unfortunately for Linda’s tree, it is not Bosco’s priority to find the thief who he assumes is just some guy. Or gal. Or group of guys. Or group of gals. It is clear that only one thing will bring the ornaments home: vigilante justice served by Linda.
Linda and Bob go across the street to question Jimmy Pesto while the kids go upstairs to make coupon books for their parents. Louise posits that the Christmas thief is in fact The Bleaken. She sings a song rousing her siblings to go to battle against the Christmas scourge.
Bob and Linda continue their investigation at Mort’s, checking his security cameras to see if they can catch someone leaving the party with the tree. They spot Edith leaving the party with something under her coat.
They go to her art supply store Reflections to confront Edith and her husband Harold only to discover that they stole not the tree, but the cookie platter. She needed the snacks for the life model class. According to Edith, “Nudes need snacks! It’s hard work! They like cookies!” Bob and Linda realize that the nude model is none other than Art, an artist who attended their party. They question him, and through song Art answers their questions. (Art’s Song) He went to their party and then came to Reflections to model. As he points out, he is not hiding a tree or anything else.
The next day is Christmas Eve and with no leads Linda is ready to give up, until the kids show up to declare that the thief is the Bleaken. When Linda and Bob are not receptive to this theory, they bring it straight to Sgt. Bosco. He is equally dismissive, but Louise notices the map of the Christmas robberies. She triangulates the location of the Bleaken’s nest and convinces Tina and Gene to sneak out that night and confront him. Over a chorus of Silver Bells/Christmas Tree, our heroes prepare for the evening via montage.
On the street, Tina feels sneaker-outer’s remorse on the strange, abandoned streets. She covertly dials the emergency cell phone to alert their parents to their location. However before she can convince Gene and Louise to turn back, Gene spots one of the stolen ornaments and a trail of black feathers. They are on the right track. A significantly more terrified reprise of The Bleaken ensues. The siblings appear to have reached a dead end until they discover that what appeared to be an empty alley is actually a hyper-realistic doorway hiding a stairway leading down to nothing.
Bob and Linda, following Tina’s tip-off, locate the kids. They discover that there is a secret staircase inside the staircase, leading further underground. Bob is ready to go home, but when the kids show Linda that they have found one of the ornaments, she wants to stay and catch the Christmas thief. Bob doesn’t want to leave her alone, which means that the whole family is investigating.
Meanwhile, Teddy has his own plan to foil the Christmas thief. He hides inside his inflatable Santa and waits for the Bleaken to strike. He sings a version of Do You Hear What I Hear as he stakes out his yard.
When they reach the end of the tunnel the Belchers find, not a terrible nest of death, but a Christmas rave. Inside Linda sees her tree and instructs Bob to retrieve it while she gives the ravers a piece of her mind. She grabs the microphone from the DJ and scolds the partiers. They insist that they stole nothing and that the hidden nature of the gathering is because they lack a permit. Before the argument can continue, performer Miss Triple X-Mas appears to sing her Christmas song, Twinkly Lights, a song about light bulbs and radical inclusion, set to an inspiring light show. Touched by the song, Linda apologizes and confesses that she called the cops before she realized how magical the party was. Art steps forward to confess that he stole the tree and in fact stole all of the decorations. He needed to decorate for the rave, but he had no budget. After Linda’s party he hid the tree in the dumpster behind Bob’s Bugers and retrieved it after he modeled. The rave is a replacement for the party normally held at the now defunct Wiggle Room. Art just wanted it to be as special as it always was when it was there.
The cops arrive but Bob saves the day by donning a Bleaken costume and leading them away so that the celebration can continue. The ravers get their party and Linda gets her Christmas spirit back.
How Christmas-y Is This Episode:
Homemade Gifts: Before being distracted by their Bleaken hunt, the kids are making Christmas coupon books for their parents.
Improvised Celebration: Linda’s last minute party inspired by her dream is thrown together in less than twelve hours. The secret warehouse party is more planned than Linda’s but is still a last minute celebration.
Chosen Family: It’s clear that the majority of ravers are at that party, because they are each other’s family.
Singing: A lot. It is a musical episode.
Holiday Lover: Linda has the Christmas mission.
Christmas Sweaters: At Linda’s party all of the Belchers have festive sweaters.
The Krampus: The episode relies heavily on the mythology of the Bleaken, a fictional character who shares many of the nega-Santa qualities of the Krampus.
7/22 Christmas Tropes
But did it make me cry?
It did. When Art explains what the Wiggle Room party meant to so many people, there are definitely tears.
Total Christmas Score: 37%