Last night's episode of "Brothers & Sisters" tried to pack in as many plot lines as possible, perhaps in order to wrap everything up - and quick! - before the winter hiatus. The episode included some great lines, and some nice moments, but it had a rushed feel, with a lot of information all at once. I mean, I know it's a big family and everything, but sometimes it's hard to care about everyone all the time.
The episode starts with the Paige story line, in which she's grappling with her religious identity. Noting that her mother is Jewish, she wonders why the family never celebrates Hanukkah, only Christmas. Jewish grandmother Nora doesn't really have an answer, except to say that Santa is "just so much fun!" She also adds that they are secular humanists, to which Paige says, "Secu-what?" Ultimately, it comes out that Paige is anxious about her spiritual self because she needs God to listen to her prayers so she will be cured of her diabetes. Somehow, this statement makes Nora go slightly crazy, and she goes on a mission to bring Judaism to the Walker household immediately and forcefully.
Meanwhile, Saul, Sarah, and Tommy try to trick Holly into selling the property she received from Nora's late husband William for far less than it's worth, so they can keep that money and save the family business. Holly, however, smells a rat, and Saul suddenly gets his conscience back and comes clean about the whole deal. This is a pretty weak part of the episode: If Saul cares for Holly as much as he claims to, he would never have deceived her in the first place. Holly, rightfully angry that he tried to swindle her out of $10 million, ends her personal relationship with Saul. But that's only a taste of the action, so read more
As for druggie soldier Justin, he and Kevin argue in court that to call Justin back to Afghanistan before he has the three months of respite promised him is "unconscionable." The brothers lose their case in court, and the judge orders Justin back to duty as scheduled. Outside the courtroom, however, Brigadeer General Hendricks randomly grants Justin six months reprieve, offering as explanation only, "I had a brother, too." And then, of course, "Merry Christmas." What? This part seemed pretty ridiculous and, like much of this episode, mighty convenient. The holidays must be a very magical time in Los Angeles.
During a particularly sappy moment, Justin thanks Kevin for all of his hard work in the courtroom, and then declares, "I love you." This is a bit much, even for a sentimental drama, so it is a relief when Kevin, his gay brother, responds with, "You're so gay."
And then there's Kitty, whose story line was thrown in clearly just to wrap things up before the hiatus. Instead of being fired from her political show, she is offered her own show without Warren, who, in a surprising twist, is getting fired from the show in one month. In the end, Kitty refuses to do the show and decides to take the job with Senator McCallister. So, goodbye Warren, hello Rob Lowe.
In the middle of the episode Nora throws a large, lavish Hanukkah party. By now, of course, Paige is utterly intimidated by Nora's crazy religious enthusiasm. Thankfully, the writers finally acknowledge that Saul speaks and is different from all the other members of the family when he says, "Nora, I couldn't be more Jewish, and I'm overwhelmed by your intensity."
He then swoops Paige over to the dining room table to conduct a proper Hanukkah lighting of the menorah and makes a nice speech about having faith, in order to live, "no matter what has come before," with meaningful glances to indicate that all the bickering and struggle (Justin with the military, Sarah with Holly, Paige's diabetes) is surmountable if they only have faith in themselves, and each other. Aw, how sweet.
This message of goodwill prompts Nora to pay a visit to Holly, and the two women have a moment of reconciliation. Nora admits that her husband did care for Holly and she wasn't just a fling. Although fairly sudden, Nora's declaration of forgiveness toward Holly is not totally out of character. She's kind of prone to doing crazy things in most episodes, and this one most of all.
In the end, Holly decides she wants only half of her $10 million paid out, and the other half put in Ohi Foods stock. This ensures, to Sarah's dismay, that Holly will be involved in the family's business, and, of course, that she will be in future episodes so there can be more conflict between Sarah and Holly.
Paige eventually learns that she will never be cured of her diabetes, regardless of whether she's Jewish or Christian and she declares Christmas her favorite holiday again. The episode ends with the family lighting the giant Christmas tree just as they find out that Justin has six more months for the writers of the show to figure out how he can avoid military duty—I mean, six months of more Walker family time. They all smile and hug to the tune of Sarah McLachlan's "Song For A Winter's Night." The strangest thing about this holiday episode is that, for a series that started with William's sudden death, there is absolutely no moment of remembrance or honoring of William during this first Christmas without him. One might think that would be important, but then again, the episode was rather full already.