Night of the Meek
Henry Corwin – Art Carney
Mr. Dundee – John Fiedler
Flaherty – Robert P. Lieb
The Bartender – Val Avery
Sister Florence – Meg Wyllie
Elf – Larrian Gillespie
We open on a crowded department store with a train set and a Santa chair in the background. You can really tell the switch to videotape in this episode. I don’t blame Serling for being upset with the switch. An irate line has formed in front of the empty Santa seat. a little, bald man is apologizing, saying that ‘Santa’ should be back at any minute. There’s a sign propped in front of the chair saying that ‘Santa Claus will be back at 6:00″.
At the local bar is a rough looking Santa downing shots. The bartender tells him that ‘they’ told him to tell Santa that it was 6:30. Behind him on the bar mirror is “Mery Christmas” in what looks like aftershave. The bartender asks Santa if his sleigh is coming for him. He wishes. Santa asks the bartender for another shot. There’s a couple of kids making piggy-noses on the glass, waving at Santa. Santa waves back and downs his shot. Corwin (Santa) wants to know why there isn’t a real Santa for kids like that. The bartender really doesn’t care. Corwin wants another shot but doesn’t have enough so he offers to flip the bartender for it. The bartender tells him to buzz off and answers the phone. As he’s on the phone, Corwin tries to snag the bottle. The bartender tells him if he tries that again he’ll break his arms and tells him to scram.
Santa stumbles out into the ‘snow’ and into the path of a car. Luckily the ‘snow’ isn’t slippery because the car stops just fine. I don’t suggest doing that around here in the winter. The kids see him and get excited. He trips on the opposite curb and falls. The kids run up, giving him their Christmas requests (the usual – the little girl wants a doll, the boy wants a pistol). The little girl also asks for a job for her daddy and the little boy asks for a turkey for Christmas dinner. Corwin hugs them and starts to cry, knowing he can’t actually do those things.
This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in a uniquely popular American institution. That of the department store Santa Claus in a road company version of the night before Christmas. But, in just a moment, Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found in the Twilight Zone.
Corwin comes back and fiddles with the train set, making the trains crash. The store manager grabs Corwin and tells him he’s an hour late and to get up there and try not to disillusion a bunch of kids and pretend Santa’s not a lush. Corwin stumbles up to his Santa chair, almost falling on the steps. The mom at the front of the line practically throws her kid at Santa. Corwin asks the boy his name. He says his name is Percival Smithers. Santa Corwin asks him what he wants for Christmas and Percival says that he wants a new first name. Santa Corwin goes to reach for a present and falls off of his Santa chair. Percival tells his mom that Santa’ s loaded and the mom starts freaking out. With the mom being such a harpy it feels like we’re supposed to feel sorry for Corwin but I really don’t blame them for being pissed either. Buuuut…the kid looks so smug and snotty and the mom hopes it won’t be “traumatic” for him (he’s freaking twelve, he’s probably already figured out the whole Santa thing). The manager wants to know what the trouble is and the mom says she’s not going to trade there ever again because they hire drunks for Santas.
The manager grabs Santa and tells him he’s had it and shakes him a bit (I don’t know if I’d stand within throwing up distance if he’s that tanked). The manager also tells Corwin to tell him to get the Santa suit back before he ruins it. Corwin thanks the manager and says that as to his drinking he says it is indefensible and Dundee has his abject apologies. Corwin says that lately he has trouble expressing his emotions…he can drink or he can weep. And drinking is more subtle than weeping. Well, sometimes but it’s not that subtle when you are literally falling over. He does, however, protest that he was rude to that woman.
“Someone should remind her that Christmas is more than barging up and down department stores aisles and pushing people out of the way. Someone has to tell her that Christmas is another thing, finer than that. Richer, finer, truer. And it should come with patience and love, charity, compassion. That’s what I would have told her if she’d given me the chance.”
Dundee manhandles Corwin toward the door and asks him how to go about living up to his lofty Yule standards. Corwin responds:
“I don’t know how to tell you, Mr. Dundee. All I know is that I’m an aging, purposeless, relic of another time and I live in a dirty rooming house on a street filled with hungry kids and shabby people, where the only thing that comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve is more poverty.”
Dundee tries to shush him but Corwin continues:
“You know another reason why I drink, Mr. Dundee? So that when I walk down the tenements I can really think it’s the North Pole and the children are elves and that I’m really Santa Claus bringing them a bag of wondrous gifts for all of them. I just wish, Mr. Dundee, on one Christmas, only one, that I could see some of the hopeless ones and the dreamless ones. Just on one Christmas I’d like to see the meek inherit the earth. And that’s why I drink, Mr. Dundee, and that’s why I weep.”
He makes his way out of the store with the kids somewhat behind him. Percy’s at the front, looking like he feels bad. Corwin goes down the street and back to the bar but all he has is the penny from earlier so he just peeks in the door. The bartender waves him away. As Corwin walks away he hears bells but brushes it off. As he keeps walking, however, he hears them again. He leans against a building for a minute. We can see a big bag sitting on some trash cans but he doesn’t notice it until a cat knocks it down. What spills out is a bunch of tin cans. He kicks them aside but when he looks back there are presents spilling out of it. His eyes get big and he starts yelling to everyone.
Inside of the Salvation Army a lady is singing ‘Joy to the World’ (very badly) to the gentlemen sitting there. An older man comes in, excited, with a new-looking scarf around his neck. He is telling the men there something but the lady is singing louder. Damn woman, ‘Joy to the World’ is insipid at best but you’re killing it. And not the good killing it. Mrs. Scrooge finally stops singing and wants to know who dares interrupt her damn joy?! The older man says that he’s not touched a drop but Santa Claus is coming down the street giving everyone their hearts desire. They don’t need to go out because Santa Corwin comes in and starts handing out gifts,a sweater, a pipe…and so on. Sister Scrooge wants to know where he got the gifts from. Because that’s your business, how?
Corwin says he can’t explain but he’s got a Santa Claus bag there that gives everyone exactly what they want/need and “as long as it’s puttin’ out, he’s puttin’ in”. In the spirit of the season I will resist the dirty joke that springs to mind. He asks Sister Scrooge if she wants a new dress but she gets huffy and runs off. He hands a box to one of the men and tells him to give it to her when she comes back. There’s a man sitting in the front row that doesn’t say anything but Corwin pulls out a cane for him and the older man says thank you.
He hands out socks and as a police officer comes in the door he hands him a new whistle (not a Wienie Whistle). Sister Scrooge brought the cops. How very charitable of her. The police officer asks Corwin if he’s drunk and Corwin says yes, he’s drunk with the Spirit of Yule.
The police officer asks him if he’s got a receipt for all of the stuff he’s handing out. Seriously?! If I had bought a bunch of stuff legitly I wouldn’t keep all of the freaking receipts. The police officer deputizes Sister Scrooge to collect the “stolen goods” and put them in a pile. He’ll collect them when he figures out whom they belong to. Uhh, I don’t think that’s procedure there. Even though he has no proof he owns it they have no proof that he stole it. So I don’t think they have the right to take it. Especially her! She’s not a cop! Ok, on with the episode. The officer tells Corwin to come with him and Corwin tells the gentlemen not to worry. He’ll be back when he gets it straightened out. As they walk off he starts to tell Officer Flaherty how it all happened. The best place to start probably isn’t “I was in the bar getting hammered”.
They go to the police station (which appears to be about five steps from the Salvation Army place) and Dundee is there. Because Dundee has apparently decided that all of that stuff came from his store. Again, without a shred of proof. He’s thrilled at the prospect of Corwin going to prison. Flaherty tells Corwin that it doesn’t look good. They have no proof he did anything!! I’d be asking Dundee to prove that it’s his stuff. Does his store even sell that stuff? I’d be asking him for inventory sheets proving that the stuff is missing. Flaherty tells Corwin that they’ll go easier on him if he tells them where the rest of the stuff is. Corwin starts to say there’s obviously a slight discrepancy because…but Dundee interrupts him to yell at him some more for ‘stealing’ from him. To which I’d say “Prove this stuff is yours, douchebag”.
As Dundee is yelling at Corwin for being a thief Flaherty pulls a couple of tin cans out of the bag and Dundee pulls a cat out (I guess the cat’s out of the bag…I’m sorry, that was bad). Flaherty says that it was giving out gifts when he saw it and Corwin backs him up. Dundee starts bitching about Flaherty not being able to tell the difference between a sack of garbage and a bag full of stolen goods. Flaherty says that they’re dealing with the supernatural. Dundee is a smart-ass about it and tells Corwin he fancies a bottle of cherry brandy, vintage 1903. Dundee goes back to griping at Flaherty while Corwin pulls out the brandy for him. He gives it to Dundee, tells them Merry Christmas and heads out the door. Dundee decides to have a drink.
Corwin is handing out toys to the neighborhood kids until they’re gone and the bag is empty. He looks a little bummed out now and he sits on the steps. The gentleman that he gave the coat, scarf and pipe to comes out. They give each other good nights and Merry Christmases. Corwin starts to walk away, leaving the empty bag there. We hear magical, mystical music so we know we’re not out of the Twilight Zone yet, baby.
Santa Corwin finds a sleigh with actual tiny reindeer! Well, they got that right! A tiny little elf pops out and says “Hey! We’ve been waiting for you, Santa!” He pokes the elf (that sounds dirty but, really, it’s not) to see if she’s real. She says they’ve got a lot of work to do before the next Christmas. So the new Santa Claus hops in and away they go.
Flaherty and Dundee stagger out of the police station and see Corwin fly off overhead. They decide they’ve drunk enough straight brandy so they’re going to go to Dundee’s house to pour out some hot coffee and pour some brandy into it. And toast Santa Corwin and…miracles.
A word to the wise, to all the children of the 20th century whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers, or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas, and theirs a special power reserved for little people. In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek. And a Merry Christmas to all.
Basically it’s The Santa Clause without all of the depressing child custody battles. Other depressing stuff, though. And, unfortunately not stuff that can be fixed in a night (oh would that it were so). But, whatever holiday you celebrate (or don’t, we’re easy) I think we can all agree on the wish for next year to improve so, peace out, y’all, I’ll see you next year on the first with a little Twilight Zone take that makes its owner tell the truth. That oughta be a good one.