Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly)
Diedrich Bader (Vampires Suck)
Meg Donnellly (The Broken Ones)
Daniel DiMaggio (Tales of Halloween)
Julia Butters (Pals)
Ali Wong (Savages)
Carly Hughes (Lucky Stiff)
Leslie Bibb (The Skulls)
Despite what Greg insists, there aren’t many anti-Santa villains in Christmas stories. There’s the Grinch, there’s Krampus, and now there’s Katie Otto, accused of elf murder and general Christmas grumpiness. It isn’t that Katie gets grumpier at Christmas, but simply that everyone else gets more cheerful. As she observes the parents volunteering at the Westport School Christmas concert, it’s like someone watching the animals at the zoo. Katie can’t understand how one day suddenly changes everyone’s personalities.
Even Viv is more manic and cheerful than usual, which didn’t seem possible before we see the crazy in Leslie Bibb’s eyes. In “Krampus Katie”, Katie struggles with her position as Krampus to Viv’s over-medicated Santa. As Katie and Greg discuss a special speaking job Greg’s counting on, Viv bursts in and Anna-Kat is captivated. With her happy nature and love of splashy volunteer work, Viv seems just like real-life Santa. Katie, on the other hand, is apparently more like Krampus, the demon goat who terrorizes bad children during the holidays. Viv gives Greg and the kids pointy muffins and Katie “the gift of potential”, which is actually just a fitbit. Katie is offended enough to refuse to help Viv plan the annual Christmas concert. Although, she wasn’t going to do it anyway.
Normally, Katie would successfully ward off Viv, Viv would go away, and that would be that. Now, however, the Elf on the Mantle is in play. The Elf on the Mantle, which is half the price of the one you’re thinking of, is Santa’s little spy in the house. Anna-Kat is deathly worried that the elf will see Katie be grumpy and deny the entire family presents. Katie doesn’t listen to Anna-Kat’s warnings until she accidentally sets fire to the elf. Then, it just stares at her with its creepy little elf eyes until she goes down to the school and pretends to be merry. To impress the elf and survive the holidays, Katie turns to Greg for help. Unlike Katie, Greg can find the silver-lining in any situation. Even when Oliver and Taylor demand better presents, Greg decides that this is an opportunity to teach them a Christmas lesson. Greg’s heart is in the right place, but his optimistic way of looking at the world makes him a bad teacher for his much more cynical children. When he takes them to a nursing home, Oliver and Taylor get the basic idea, but their hearts aren’t exactly melted by the residents.
As Oliver and Taylor cope with their punishment of talking to delightful old ladies, Greg makes a friend of his own. His new actor acquaintance tells Greg the lesson he learned after being a pushy extra on Mad Men: you have to fight for what you want. It’s kind of a Christmas lesson, but Greg is too passive to take it to heart. The kids haven’t learned their lesson either. Oliver and Taylor completely luck out when they meet a befuddled old lady who thinks they’re her grandchildren and gives them Christmas money. They almost get away with it, until Greg catches on. Greg thinks he has another chance when Katie, eager to prove to that dumb little elf that she has Christmas spirit, agrees to help Viv deliver presents to a family in need. This leads to the most “Westport” scene of the episode, where the Otto family realizes that Viv’s definition of a family in need is much different than theirs. This family had their accounts frozen and can only afford to go to *gasp* Hawaii for Christmas. Greg and Katie are outraged, but polite enough to just give the family the presents and walk away. Some battles aren’t worth fighting.
Throughout the episode, Greg has slowly been losing it. He can’t get through to Oliver and Taylor, he was forced to give a rich family charity presents, and he loses the speaking position to Kidney-Disease Carl. At the Christmas pageant, he finally can’t take it anymore and chews out Anna-Kat’s music teacher for being too hard on the kids. Katie in particular is ecstatic that Greg is finally giving into the anger, but is once again reminded of the elf, Anna-Kat’s hopes, and the true spirit of Christmas. When Viv has a Santa-sized meltdown over planning the concert, Katie invites her over. As Anna-Kat tells her later, the elf is proud, and Katie can stand tall knowing that at least one Otto kid values charity and kindness. As for Oliver and Taylor – the jury’s still out. This is the last American Housewife of the year. I’ve enjoyed watching the show and look forward to it’s return in January.