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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.