Member Review: Secret Santa: The Gift of the Magi

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“The Magi, were wise men—wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manager.” Indeed, they invented the gifting of presents and certainly their gifts were wise ones. Do you recall those opening words, from a most famous Christmas story of love and devotion, of selfless love, with a twist at the end, the plot, with a typical O Henry surprise ending?

Remember young Jim in “The Gift of the Magi” who sold his prized possession, his watch, in order to buy his wife Della a “pure, tortoise- shelled,” bejeweled comb for her lustrous locks; they were so poor, so young; he loved her so much.

And Della, well, she loved Jim so dearly and they were so poor; she sold her beautiful tresses so treasured, to buy her beloved husband a present he would cherish always, a chain for his watch, his prized possession. And so these “two foolish children…most unwisely sacrifice for each other the greatest treasures of their house.”

And the great short story writer O Henry ends his classic tale: “But in a last word to the wise of these days, let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they, are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

“Secret Santa” is a “tale of redemption” as Rick concludes, replete with the O Henry-esque twists we all so love. But first Rick and Kate learn so much about traditions, forgiveness, selflessness and love. Others are redeemed, too, gaining wisdom and understanding, learning to live more selfless lives.

James Edmund Smith the Santa whose murder sparks the story line, sacrifices himself to rectify a wrong. And a valued clock is restored to its rightful owners by an unlikely gift- bearer. Martha and Alexis learn about sacrifice and love. Ryan regains his faith, his belief in goodness, love and friendship through the words of his partner. And Javi, perhaps the one most in need of someone to love and understand him, who pretends not to care, learns about sacrifice and generously gives of himself this Christmas season.

One Christmas Eve a while back, two things happen to begin the story of the murdered Santa, James Edmund Smith. Another man who is bankrupt, a man working three jobs to support his family, dies on Christmas Eve in a car crash, having fallen asleep behind the wheel. The man who put him in this dire circumstance Smith is a corporate raider who now believes he undoubtedly causes this man’s untimely death.

While watching “It’s a Wonderful life,” the classic movie of redemption of the heart and the soul, about a man who at his lowest point in his life, learns the value of life and is given a chance to turn his life around, Edmund Smith sees himself, a man who has done so much wrong and hurt so many lives, and he seizes the opportunity to right the wrongs he has committed.

He disappears from his wealth, from his life, from his wife and home, only to become a Santa, later with the hope of restoring the homes to those who have suffered, perhaps to gain some sense of pardon. Smith vainly attempts to push forward a class action suit, but he also befriends the son of the man who dies while driving from one of his three jobs, doing all he can to support his wife and his son Tim.

Through many twists and turns and suspects, Santa’s murderer turns out to be his own wife who greedily cannot part from her ill- gotten life style and murders her husband to preserve her expensive life. Ultimately a valuable clock, an heirloom Smith stole to return to the young man’s family is restored. The gift- bearer is an unlikely person, Javi Esposito.

With twists aplenty, we are entertained, but as always it is the people we care about, the parallels and the “Castle” 12th Precinct family. Even the “Castle” logo joins in the spirit of giving and sharing, displaying a green and red, snowy “Castle” logo scene with a candy cane pen, full of holiday spirits giving, magic and good cheer.

Iron Victoria Gates exposes more personality lately and seems a bit unnerved. And in an unguarded moment she reveals that she is intimidated by her mother-in-law, an airplane pilot who never stops bragging. Captain Gates is desperate enough and stressed enough this yuletide season to contemplate a retreat to a hotel herself and leave the in laws in her home, anything to get away from the difficult mother- in- law.

All the advice Gates can give Kate is “Think hotel,” (when the in laws come to visit), and “I hate the holidays.” Apparently Gates is not quite what mama wants and mama-in-law never stops telling her so. We see a chink in Sir’s armor, perhaps indicative of change and caring.

Still, I think I hear someone dare to mumble in her presence:”Bah, Humbug.”

Breaking with tradition, Martha and Alexis do not plan to stay at home after Christmas dinner with Rick. Each has a different agenda, and it does not include their traditional Christmas Eve gift exchanges. Rick is crestfallen: “What is happening to our family tradition?” Indeed, Alexis wants to go ice skating with a new boyfriend who will be leaving for vacation the following day. With whom will Rick celebrate?

He has counseled Alexis that “change is good,” and now he faces a reversal, a change in everything he wants for this Christmas. When Rick learns Alexis’ reason, he relents and understands. She will be back early and still respects the tradition. But still his comfortable plans are shredded.

Indeed, what is Kate’s excuse for not wanting to share the holiday eve with Rick, see his trains and decorations, enjoy movies and partake in the beauty of the season with the man who loves her. She lies to him so Rick learns from Captain Gates, and the disappointment and hurt on his face resembles the look he had when he learns that Kate remembers everything about the night she is shot.

That very morning Kate deliberately takes on a Christmas Eve shift to avoid a Christmas Eve celebration; sorrow is etched on Rick’s face when he realizes the truth. Why? How will he handle this information? Once again is he not enough?

He prepares a loving, delicate coffee in the break room, with an ever- green tree sketched in cream, sweetly presented for Kate’s pleasure, so heart-warming, and then he tells her he knows she lied. Although heartbreaking, he speaks his truth and does not harbor his hurt; it is healthy and honest and Rick speaks sincerely, directly to her: “If you aren’t ready why not just tell me.”

That is not the case; her love for him is written on her face. Kate answers his love and concern. When “December rolls around with a cold chill,” she cannot forget her mother’s murder, and she is “right back there in that alley.”

Kate tells Rick, recalls, that even by January 9, that day of despair and horror, “we still haven’t taken our Christmas decorations down.” Both she and her father know that when they do put away the decorations, it will be, “like putting Christmas away forever.”

And so it seems they do, father and daughter, put hope away, put Christmas away forever. Every year her father retreats to his cabin for the holidays, leaving his daughter alone to deal with her grief. Kate explains why she works the Christmas Eve shift: ”I know that there are families out there that are celebrating together in their homes, and I am keeping watch.” She is a warrior and she is a guardian.

Rick’s face lightens and brightens with love, and he exclaims that he did not know. That is Kate’s tradition; she honors her mother by protecting others, still so afraid to let go of her pain and make a new tradition.

Then Rick reveals why he loves Christmas, decorating and gifting so much. We catch a glimpse of Rick as a little boy filled with childlike wonder and we understand the man, just a bit more. Rick and his mother were poor, but Martha made the season magical as only she can for her fatherless son, for their little family. “Every year she would put on the Nutcracker Suite,” Rick explains to Kate. Martha brings a simple joy to her son and to their tiny household.

It is interesting to note the two different families although comparison is not entirely fair. We have two only and lonely children and two single parents, both with a story of hardship and regret, and sometimes despair, not unalike.

The boy grows up alone with his mother who is a dreamer who knows how to face reality and fight for herself and her son; the girl matures, with a distant father, for five years an alcoholic, a realist who will not allow himself to ever dream again. Or so it seems.

We learn how Rick becomes the most hopeful of men, and a source of inspiration, a flawed man, but still one who meets obstacles and rejection head on and forges ahead to become a happier, and magical person.

The celebration Rick explains to Kate, “Gave him hope that things could get better. I love that feeling.” And the most hopeful of all heroes explains the paradox of the season: “for on the darkest day of the year we celebrate the light,” and hope for tomorrow.

Kate and Rick part, leave each other with love and understanding, but it is the walk to the elevator and the appearance of the mistletoe which breaks the heart.. Rick leaves gracefully, not kissing or touching Kate, wanting her so much, looking festive and sad in his bright red shirt, and wishing his love a Merry Christmas. Kate sees how she has totally deflated and hurt this sunny man, even though he claims to understand her and gives her space;

Rick understands, and leaves. And Kate ponders.

And now to understand the magi part and our wise, but foolish lovers: Rick and Kate. Martha and Alexis realize how Rick is hurting, and they decide to give up their plans and lovingly stay with Rick after dinner to be together and complete their tradition. Kindly Rick tells them that he loves them, but he is “wrong about tonight.”

“There’s someplace I need to be,” Rick continues. And we know he is sacrificing his custom and its joy, comfort and pleasure to spend an evening partnering Kate, displaying a selfless love, giving of himself to her on her lonely Christmas Eve shift.

Magi are the wisest, so too, are those who follow the path of love, Jim and Della, Rick and Kate. Facing her own sorrows, Kate puts them aside, breaking thirteen years of her simple, sad tradition and appears at Rick’s door sill, there for him.

Of course, they speak at the same time informing each other that they were just going to go to each other. They both give up what they most want or fear, to bring joy and to be with their partner, the one they love.

Both agree: “I was thinking it was time for a new tradition.”

They kiss sweetly, together at last, although Rick did not exactly follow up on all the magi dictates. He did not have a present for Kate, but to be fair she repeatedly told him not to get her anything. Perhaps Rick will listen to what is not said…next time.

On this Christmas Eve, Ryan is at a cross roads in a crisis of belief and faith in mankind. His wife Jenny wants children, and seeing man’s inhumanity to man, the sensitive man doesn’t think he wants to bring children into a troubled world. Ryan explains: “It seems like the world is falling apart.” Seeing a Santa murdered, “a symbol of childhood innocence” shakes Ryan’s foundation. He has seen enough and is beaten down this holiday season.

With love and concern, Javier informs his partner that the world was ever thus. “Go home” and make babies. “Having kids, making a family, that’s what keeps it together.” Ryan thanks Javi and goes home to Jenny, convinced that there is hope for mankind, his partner has said so, and to a child, perhaps his own Christmas Eve baby.

Earlier in the day, desperate for someone to hold on to this Eve when everyone is supposed to be happy and content, Javier‘s offers to be with Lanie. She recognizes a standby and rejects and rebukes him. Lanie wants no part of his “sad, desperate holiday hook-up.” But she offers him hope for the new year and a new tomorrow. Still Javi has no one. His partner Ryan has someone waiting for him and is no longer available for a few celebratory drinks.

In the final scene, of “Secret Santa,” Javi spends his Christmas Eve returning the clock, the heirloom to its rightful owners, to the young man’s home, in an attempt to uplift this little family. And in a magical moment, Javi accepts an invitation to stay for dinner.

The magi have worked their magic for all who love selflessly this Castle season. Javier Esposito is a happier and a wiser man. He is a magi, too.


  1. Nicky says

    It’s so great to finally read your thoughts about the episode, Peggy. (Thanks for that, Admin. I hope you’ll be better, please take care.)
    I love reading your articles. They always bring new things about the episode to my mind. Thank you.

  2. southerngirl says

    Oh Peggy, I was so happy to see a new article from you and this one is just the perfect Christmas present to all of us from you! Thank you so much for sharing your insights and the comparison to the Magi’s gifting and to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is flawless. This is what I so love about Castle (all of it from the superlative writing to the amazing cast and crew); it is story telling at its very best. The depth of the Castle stories never fails to amaze me. Again, thank you and I hope you are doing well physically and would love if you could give us articles on all the episodes. Have a Merry Christmas!
    PS – my most favorite line in this was Rick’s about why we ‘celebrate the light.’ Isn’t that truly why we love this season?

  3. Anitasubtext says

    Loved this Peggy. Truly one of your best. And Admin, though I’ve come to hate snow (thanks to our blizzard of 2010), I love the snow falling here. It’s a snow globe feeling!

  4. scottish castle fan says

    Thanks Peggy (and admin).
    Peggy its lovely to read your thoughts and gain new insight into the episode.
    I had forgotten the “Gift of the Magi” so thank you for the reminder.

  5. Shena says


    Yet another beautifully penned article, flowing with insight and depth of understanding of the various layers that make up the “Castle” onion.

    “Celebrating the light” in the midst of the darkness… that’s what love and friendship is all about!

    P.S. ‘Min… Thanks again! You’re fabulous! :)

  6. Peeling the Onion says

    Yeah! It’s so good to read another one of your wonderful articles. I always get a new perspective on the episode from your words. I get to relive my enjoyment of the show while reading your article.

    I found this website because of your articles. I used to come here only to look for your work. I have now found out how fun and supportive you and the other members of this site are, and enjoy talking with everyone in the forums.

    Thanks again Peggy. Also thanks to admin for such a wonderful web site.

  7. says

    Hi Peggy!
    Again, a pleasure to see your insights, your ‘true heart,’ and how much they all jibe with this beautiful season of altruism and light. Of redemption and re-evaluating one’s traditions or entrenched thinking. Of getting rid of what is safe and truly focusing on what would make another person truly happy.

    You start with Jim and Della, but you cite so many other instances of Christmas giving, and the beautiful thing is that all of this giving had nothing to do with materialism – indeed, materialism was the real bad guy in this Castle story. The gifts that really counted were those where people gave of themselves, whether it was Mr. Smith as Santa, Javi to Tim and his mom (and they in return with him), Martha and Alexis with Rick, Ryan and Jenny deciding to plunge into the love story of parenthood, and of course, Rick and Kate’s honesty with each other. No more walls, no more deception. No more subtext, except at the very end, humorously, causing us to chuckle when we learn that Rick really didn’t get Kate a present!

    But wait – that’s not really true, either, is it? Rick and Kate both gave the best part of themselves to each other, showing their selflessness and willingness to build new traditions – that will in turn keep on giving to their relationship year after year in the future. Talk about beating the odds!

    A true celebration of light!

    • Jim says

      Oh ye of little faith. Do you not yet know the character of your favorite writer, Mr. Castle? The Forever Child? The child who favors Christmas above all? Do you truly believe he could refrain from creating or buying a gift – probably several in fact – for his true love? His quest for the perfect gift would have started long before Christmas Eve. Then staying in character, he would play the fool for her and claim “no gift” at the proper moment.

      • says


  8. linlee says

    Trueheart, like everyone else, I was so happy to see your stories again. You are truely our Magi.

    Your love, devotion and selflessness has brought a rare gift to the Castle Fandom. It does not go un-noticed. May You and Yours have a joyous Holiday.

  9. Netsrik says

    Another beautiful article, Peggy. You bring me to tears, and I’m not a cryer! (In a good way, of course) :)

  10. alanapaints says

    What lovely gifts: Castle, the Gift of the Magi, Peggy’s article, and sitting here inside a snow globe.

    I know sometimes life seems dark, but we’re gathered from all over the world over these little stories. We live in an age of miracles and wonder. :-)

  11. catluver aka Donna says

    Ah Peggy, your comments have made me love this show even more. I have already watched it 5 times and I think will many more times. The Gift of the Magi has always been one of my favorite Christmas stories and always read it to my class at Christmas time. That is also why I love the silly Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas because it has touches of the Gift of the Magi in it. You have again brought to light a comparison that I had not seen even through 5 watchings. Thanks so much for your gift to us.

  12. Temp77 says

    Peggy, thank you so much for your wonderful article. Your words bring even more joy and depth to this magical episode of our favourite show!

    Thanks to admin as well for all your hard work.

  13. rahel says

    Great to read you again. Now that Castle’s on a winter break, it would be great to have your reviews on episodes 5-8 of this season. Merry Xmas in advance.

  14. Sally says

    So great to have a new article from you Peggy. I come and check the website each week after a new episode to see if you have written anything new. Always love hearing your insights.

    And Admin am loving the Castle Christmas theme.

  15. ann2217 says

    Hi Peggy -Trueheart and Braveheart, as well-, it is so great to have you back, right here, where you belong, sharing your gift of wonderful writing with us. It is always amazing, how you are able to bring these lovely details to light, which are so worthy to be seen and to be thought about. Especially in such a fast-moving time, in which we are living.
    Hopefully, our words do almost express and show you, what your articles and of course you, yourself mean to us.
    Admin, thank you so much for giving us this nice place to celebrate our mutual passion for a great TV show and to “meet” great people from all over the world.
    Have a joyful Christmas time, everyone!
    Oh look, it´s snowing again!

    • Trueheart says

      Thank you for your kind words, Ann2217.

      I do so enjoy your avatar, a scene from “Wrapped in Death,” with Rick lying down spread eagle on the elevator floor, after talking to himself, convincing himself that he will survive the ghost, or is it a curse attack.

      Apparently jumping up and down did not help. I cracked up when Rick finally got up, walked past an astonished Kate and announced that he would be better after he went to the bathroom, splashed some water on his face and threw up.

      It is the blending of the humorous and the serious that makes Castle such a wonderful show and, of course, Nathan’s incredible comedic timing and Stana’s dramatic perfection, both foils to each other, sometime reversing rolls. They are an incredible team. And we love them.

      And thinking about the serious and the light heart blended together, and acted to perfection, I look to “Secret Santa,” and the sweet finale.

      I feel a lightening of Kate’s heart and soul when she wishes Rick a whispered, Merry Christmas, two words too difficult to utter casually, before, so meaningful now; words and wishes kept private before, not easily shared through the pain and memories of her mother’s murder, one holiday season years before.

      Kate’s words to Rick speak to the love she finds today with him, to the trust and the safety she feels with Rick, to the feeling of hope in tomorrow renewed, reborn again.

      Yes, it is snowing again and the snow globe is beautiful. And now for a new year of Castle.

  16. MLibraryGal says

    I’m so glad we get to read another of your articles. I’ve missed them so much. Your insights into our shared passion that is Castle make me love and appreciate it that much more. You and Castle are the gifts that keep on giving. Thank you so much.
    A big thank you to Admin for all your hard work “rebooting” the site. So festive…and snowy. It’s wonder filled.
    Happy Holidays everyone.

  17. Ali, Sr. says

    Admin. THANK YOU – you knew what we wanted for Christmas! & The Website?-OMG-magical-love it ! :)

    Dear Peggy Trueheart & Braveheart – here is my compressed version upon learning of your return:
    :) :) YAY !!! :) :)

    My Christmas miracle – the answer to prayers from all over the world – WELCOME BACK !!! You were sorely missed but now you are back & our dreams have come true :)

    I of course cried while reading your article – hence I call you “Demolition Ex!pert” because you bring down the walls we build around ourselves – like Beckett – to ‘protect’ us from being hurt again. Sweet tears while reminiscing – wall down :) While we read your articles “all the love songs make sense” because you make us believe in the possibility of magic …. ALWAYS !!!! :)

    No need to analyze the Christmas Episode – you said it all … but with much more feeling. I loved it & you added so many more layers the better to understand & enjoy it. Thank you :)


  18. TracyLee55 says

    “Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store”.
    -Dr. Seuss

    Thank you Peggy, good to see your return. And what better way then on the first Christmas episode of Castle “Secret Santa”. As always your insights continue to amaze and touch my heart. Thank you!

    Admin: Thank you for the snow, thank you for the festiveness on the site. Thank you, for you! You are appreciated and loved. I pray you are feeling better and getting rest. Take Care.

  19. Steve Q. says


    If you have the chance visit p-32 of the #2 forum named in your honor of course. My comments on your wonderful article are there. Merry Christmas. Thanks to Admin. for this wonderful forum, website and allowing us to comment on all things Castle. Merry Christmas to Admin. in Australia.
    Steve Q.

  20. Babble says

    I haven’t read your article yet, Peggy. I wanted first to tell you how happy I was to understand that you are better AND back (!) :-))

  21. Trueheart says

    The snow globe we are sitting in on this site is beautiful, thank you, admin, and the banner is so picturesque, too. Thank you !

    And thank you everyone, for the kind comments and for your shared insights into our favorite show. Castle is the best show on television. Well, we are a bit prejudiced.

    Every time I see “Secret Santa” I am amazed at the beauty of the Castle loft setting. Would I love to have the decorating talent the set designers display. The tree, the table, our beloved cast, Martha’s jewelry and very person, everything is so colorful, green, silver, purple, orange, gold and red, a myriad of colors to tease our senses, a Christmas card to behold, a gift, I am sure from the creators, writers, cast and crew of Castle.

    This episode, an ode to the magic of the season and the power of selfless love and giving, will remain an all time favorite, and as I write through the virtual snowflakes, I wish you all the blessings of the seasons: peace, love, joy and hope.


  22. Lynn says is so wonderful to have you back! I always wait in anticipation for your next posting. You add so much to each story and touch the heart like no other writer I have read for so long! you were missed!! Merry Christmas and keep well.

    Thank you Admin…you have given us so much!!

  23. just4fun says

    I watched this episode again as I wrapped Christmas presents. About 2/3 of the way through, it reminded me of a teacher I had in college that emphasized the importance of names in a story. It may have been a mistake or coincidence (is there such a thing when it comes to murder?), but there is also a parallel to another Christmas story. If you recall, C. S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (also a story of love and redemption) also included a character named Edmund who betrayed his brother and sisters for virtually ill-gotten gain, but gained redemption later in the story and lived to defend his family and Aslan’s honor. Castle’s Edmund also betrayed his customers and family, and spent the rest of his life trying to make up for his transgressions–even with his family. As I said, it may be a crazy coincidence, but I thought it was an interesting parallel and another sweet layer added to the Christmas Castle cake. (I never used to watch episodes more than once until Castle came along. There’s just so many layers I can’t catch it all in one view. What a treat to be challenged like that! Many thanks to everyone involved and Merry Christmas!)

  24. Kathy says

    Welcome back Peggy and thank you Admin for taking time out of your busy life to post this article as a Christmas gift to the Castle Fandom.

    Peggy – once again you have hit a home run. I did not read your article until now, Christmas Eve. Last night my husband and I watched Secret Santa for the third time. We had tears in our eyes at the end. We are trying to think of the light as darkness looms for us. My eldest sister is in her last days/hours after a one year battle with lung cancer. One of her sons arrived in San Diego late last night and the other arrives late tonight. We just hope that she can hang on to see all three of her children one last time before they give her the greatest gift of all – permission to rest in peace. It has been difficult for all of us to move forward with our family traditions and be joyful at this time, but we know it is what she would want us to do, so we soldier on to honor her wishes.

    I hope you are getting stronger every day and that we will see more of your inspiring articles in the future.

    Merry Christmas to all you Castle lovers. Can’t wait for the next episode on January 7th.

    • Trueheart says

      Dear Kathy,
      Words escape me Kathy. I don’t know how to say how sorry I am to hear about your sister’s battle with lung cancer. I hope and pray her children get to spend the last few days with their mother and with you and your family.

      I, too, believe that your sister would want you to honor family traditions, keeping faith and love alive this Christmas, for your entire family, granting your sister peace, the greatest gift, and as you said, permission to pass, knowing that her children have you, have hope and faith, believing life can go on.

      God bless you and your family .

      • Kathy says

        My sister passed away early Christmas morning with her son and daughter at her side. Her youngest son did not make it in time to see her alive but when he arrived her body was still warm and he embraced his mother and said his goodbyes. She is at peace now

        • Trueheart says

          Dear Kathy,

          I am so sorry to hear of your beloved sister’s passing. Words are never enough at this time, I know, but please know that all who read here and share their thoughts understand the pain you and your family are experiencing.

          This site is that spectacular, and Castle fans are a very special kind of people who care deeply about others. It is inspiring that your sister’s children were there with their mother in her last moments. They were there for you, too, their aunt– her sister.

          Sisters have such strong ties and bonds. We share your sorrow and sadness for your sister’s passing from us to her life hereafter.

          I know in time you will recall the many shared moments of happy Christmas times, of services and decorations, of happy meals and exchanges of presents, of memories of your parents and the happiness of everyday life, of vacations and adventures you shared with each other, but most important you will remember the love you have for each other.

          Once again you will keep traditions, faith and hope alive on Christmases to come, now and always, and celebrate the many loving memories of your sister; that is a good thing.


  25. says

    Peggy, Welcome Back! I have just read your article on”Secret Santa” and once again I am moved to tears at your beautiful synopis! Your words always leave me speechless.I cant een begin to express my joy to come to this wonderful web site(Thanks, Admin!) and your beautiful words. You have been missed so very much and it is sooo good to see you back.It is such a pleasure to come here after ecah episode and read your insights .How very Blessed we are to have this web site and your thoughts so beautifully written! Having you back again is a gift in and of itself- a magi gift! Thank-you so very much!Praying for your good health! I again watched “Secret Santa” several times yesterday as snow fell outside,which is a rarity for my part of the world and will watch it again today(probably several times).I am anxiously waiting for Jan.7th and to see what your thoughts will be! So for 2013(still 6 days away), I’d like to wish you all Love, Health and Happiness for the upcoming year! God Bless you all!

  26. Ian Johnstone says

    Hi all, I am just new to Castle and this site. I have read several of Peggy’s insightful thoughts. I must say they are wonderful and highlight the subtext of the episodes. I am just about to watch Secret Santa episode for second time and after reading Peggy’s thoughts I will be viewing it differently now.