A Christmas Story

Writer: Thomas Thompson
Director: Gerd Oswald
Air Date: 25 December 1966
Guest Stars: Wayne Newton (Andy Walker), Jack Oakie (Thaddeus Cade), Mary Wickes (Hattie), Dabbs Greer (Sam), Dean Michaels (Mike), Ray Teal (Roy Coffee), Victor Sen Yung (Hop Sing)

This episode (the sequel to season 7’s The Unwritten Commandment) opens up with Joe and Hoss greeting former Virginia City resident Andy Walker back home.  Andy has been away building up his singing career with the help of his uncle Thaddeus Cade (who also is his manager).  The point of difference between them is that Andy loves singing for the joy of singing whereas Thaddeus can only see the dollar signs.  Thaddeus expresses this view when he questioned by Andy on why he is asking for 10% of the Orphanage Fund in return for helping raise $20,000 –  “Professional people don’t offer their services for nothing.”

When Ben leaves Hoss in charge of collecting the pledges for the Virginia City Orphanage Fund, Thaddeus sees this as a perfect opportunity to get some easy money.  Part of his scheme is charming the head of the Orphanage Fund, Hattie Mainwaring, a widow, who is easily flattered by his attentions.  Instead of collecting pledges as originally planned, Hoss with the help of Thaddeus ends up collecting the cash instead and soon raise the $20,000.  Unbeknownst to Hoss and everyone else involved, Thaddeus plans to skip town with the money on Christmas Eve.  The only two people to have real concerns about Thaddeus’ intentions are Andy and Ben.

Andy knows from experience that his uncle is capable of doing whatever it takes to get ahead.  Even though Thaddeus describes himself as a dreamer, he knows he has to be practical – something Andy wishes he wasn’t.  Throughout the episode, Andy tries to subtlety change his uncle’s mind about the way he sees things and that money isn’t that important.

As for Ben, upon finding out that Thaddeus has been helping Hoss and that they have collected the cash instead (and after his customary tirade), immediately jumps to the conclusion that Thaddeus will run off with the money.  He tries to convince Hoss and Sheriff Coffee but both are very reluctant to believe that Thaddeus would do such a thing.

Once again we see another episode that showcases Hoss’ gullibility and his willingness to see the best in people.  Hoss who reluctantly accepts the job of collecting pledges finds that everyone he approaches have changed their minds about the amount of the pledge they originally agreed to.  When Thaddeus offers his services, Hoss (after an initial hesitation) eagerly accepts and is happy for Thaddeus to do all of the work.

There are a number of songs performed during the course of this episode which takes place in approximately 1866:

  • Sweet Betsy from Pike (1858) – used previously in other episodes
  • Silent Night (1818) – sung both by Ben and Andy
  • Fare Thee Well Old Joe Clark – the origins of this song are unknown but it didn’t become popular until World War I
  • Looking Through a Tear and Home is Where I Want to be on Christmas were two songs recorded by guest star Wayne Newton (who played Andy Walker) in the mid-1960s
  • Jingle Bells (1857) is performed on piano during the Christmas party at the Ponderosa – no vocals

Points of interest in this episode:

  • Joe plays the amused bystander for most of the episode
  • Hop Sing (Victor Sen Yung) appears in the fourth of 16 episodes – the largest amount of appearances in a single season
  • Ben recites some of A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Story was the second of only two Christmas themed episodes in the 14 years Bonanza was on the air.  The story is uplifting one with good winning over evil (even though the villain is more comical than evil) and how doing something you love for the pure love it brings is more satisfying than money.  Thaddeus also learns in the end that doing the right thing will get you everything you dream of.

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