Eric and Brady were still at the town square when the bomb went off at St. Luke's -- and they both heard the explosion but assumed that it was just thunder. "Let's get back to the bomb you just dropped," Eric prodded Brady.
Tripp, E.J., Johnny, Marlena, and Nicole regained consciousness within seconds of each other at some point after the church was destroyed. Nicole's right arm was injured, and E.J.'s forehead was bleeding, but everyone else seemed to be okay. Tripp soon found Ava, who wasn't breathing. Marlena helped Tripp perform CPR, and Ava eventually responded to their efforts but remained unconscious. "When I caught her outside, she said she was hard to kill -- I guess she was right," Johnny muttered.
Everyone was eager to flee from the church because they all suspected that the roof would soon collapse -- but one of its beams had already fallen on Nicole's right leg during the blast, so they were faced with the challenge of having to find a way to move it before they could make their escape. The combined strength of E.J., Johnny, and Tripp was still no match for the beam, but Marlena was able to find a lighter piece of wood among the rubble, and they used that as a lever to free Nicole's leg from its trap. Nicole limped out of the church, leaning on E.J. and Marlena for support. Johnny reluctantly agreed to help Tripp carry Ava out of the church, reasoning that Susan would have helped even an enemy in such a situation. No one thought about Sister Mary Moira or the priest at any point during the evacuation.
John, still with Kristen at the Evans-Black townhouse, continued setting a trap through the ruse of a heart-to-heart conversation between two old friends. "You keep insisting that you are not a good person. I don't think I have to tell an ex-nun that confession is good for the soul," John advised. "Yeah, well, it's too bad there's not a priest around," Kristen countered. "Settle for the next best thing?" John suggested.
Kristen argued that John was already well aware that only one of them could qualify as a good person. "I have spent most of my life on the naughty list," Kristen elaborated. "But, Kristen, you have got as big a heart as anyone I know! And let me tell you something -- sometimes, when we have the kind of spirit and passion that you do, and when we so fiercely go after something that we really want, we can inadvertently end up hurting people we really love, even though that's the last thing we wanted to do," John reasoned. "That is so true!" Kristen agreed before thanking John for being perhaps the only person on the entire planet who was willing to acknowledge that dilemma.
Kristen checked the time then rushed off to pick up Rachel, who was at an after-school function. John waited until the coast was clear then cringed, as if feeling dirty for having just played nice with an enemy.
Brady gave Eric all the details of Kristen's blackmail scheme. Eric promised to keep Brady's secret and vowed to help find a way to neutralize Kristen for good. Brady thanked Eric for the support then left the town square and returned to the Evans-Black townhouse. John could tell that something was wrong, but Brady decided to share Eric's drama instead of revealing the bigger issue, even after learning that Kristen wasn't around at that time.
Xander arranged a surprise party at the hospital to celebrate Sarah's birthday. "Gonna tell me what you wished for?" Xander prodded Sarah after they finished sharing a cake with various doctors and nurses. "That you would forgive me for making such a fool of myself when I accused you of being the clown that kidnapped Bonnie and Susan," Sarah revealed before starting to rave that Xander was clearly not that type of person anymore. "There's something you have to know --" Xander interjected, but Sarah received an alert about the victims of the explosion before anything else could be said.
Steve entered the Brady Pub and saw that Rafe was finishing off a glass of beer at a table near the bar. Steve claimed the extra chair at the table and offered to buy the next round of drinks, sensing that Rafe was upset about something and was going to need more alcohol to get through the night. Rafe confirmed the suspicion then explained that Steve wasn't the only person E.J. had angered in recent weeks. "The guy is shacking up with my wife," Rafe grumbled before telling Steve more about the tough and humiliating situation with Nicole. "Why 'humiliating'? You were in love!" Steve argued. "With the most neurotic, disloyal person on the planet," Rafe spat.
Kayla phoned from Seattle just then to let Steve know that Tripp had sneaked off to Salem earlier that day and was probably planning to crash Susan's memorial service and confront E.J. about Ava's death. Steve started to rush off in search of Tripp, and Rafe decided to tag along for backup. While following Steve out of the pub, Rafe received a phone call about the explosion. Steve and Rafe were both stunned to learn that Ava was alive.
Kristen returned to the Evans-Black townhouse while Brady and John were still discussing Eric's drama. Kristen jumped into the conversation, summarizing that Nicole had moved from Rafe to Eric to E.J. in record time. "I guess some women are innately fickle," Kristen mused, drawing forced smiles from John and Brady, the latter of whom was more interested in questioning Rachel's absence.
Marlena trudged into the townhouse while Kristen was admitting to having sent Rachel off on an impromptu play date. John and Brady were both alarmed to learn why Marlena was covered with soot, but Kristen was quick to joke that E.J. should have known better than to set foot inside a church. "I'm surprised he didn't get struck by lightning," Kristen elaborated, prompting Brady to advise that it was too soon to be making light of the situation.
Kristen gave Brady a shameless shrug then changed the subject, guessing that Marlena's near-death experience had put things into perspective and made it easier to forgive John for their earlier argument. Brady was confused, so Kristen clarified that John and Marlena had clashed before the memorial service but seemed to be back to normal already. Marlena scowled while Kristen was bragging to Brady about being the catalyst for the disagreement and having John's full support on the matter. Kristen fished for Brady's thoughts then flashed Marlena a triumphant grin after getting confirmation that John wasn't the only ally in the room.
Kristen sauntered off to the kitchen after teasing that Marlena might be outnumbered but was still welcome at the upcoming holiday celebrations and would have still been mourned if the explosion had ended in tragedy. John waited until the coast was clear then turned to Marlena, who hadn't said a single word during the entire exchange but was clearly not amused, and tried to lighten the mood with a silent promise that their plan was working.
E.J. entered the hospital with Johnny then rushed off in search of Nicole, who had arrived in an ambulance earlier and had already undergone an examination with Sarah that had resulted in a diagnosis of a sprained arm and leg.
Xander, who was waiting at the nurses' station for Sarah to return, prodded Johnny for details about the explosion then went pale and rushed off after getting the whole story.
Sarah was still with Nicole in one of the examination rooms when E.J. arrived. Sarah stitched up E.J.'s wound and found no signs of concussion. "No surprises there -- I've got a very hard head," E.J. confessed, and Nicole agreed.
Rafe and Steve entered Ava's room while Tripp was asking questions about the explosion. Tripp suffered several coughing fits while trying to assure Steve that there was no reason to worry. Steve argued that the coughing fits suggested otherwise, but Tripp didn't want to leave Ava's side to seek treatment for smoke inhalation. "You're under arrest for five counts of attempted murder -- and whatever else the D.A. decides to tack on," Rafe announced while handcuffing Ava to the bed. "Does this mean we're going steady again?" Ava teased before adding that Rafe's taste in jewelry had been better during their first courtship.
Tripp soon suffered another coughing fit, prompting Ava to agree with Steve's earlier advice. Tripp caved to the pressure then rushed off with Steve, promising to return to check on Ava as soon as possible. "You're going away for a very, very long time," Rafe advised Ava once the coast was clear. "We'll see about that," Ava countered before flashing Rafe a mischievous smirk.
Sarah finished treating Nicole and E.J. then rushed off to check on other patients. "I tried to hide it back at the church, but when I was under that beam, and we thought the roof might fall in...God, E.J., I was so scared," Nicole admitted. "Well, no one's here but us -- you can show it now," E.J. stressed.
Eric arrived while E.J. was comforting Nicole with a hug. "My mother said you were injured. I rushed over as soon as I could," Eric explained to Nicole, who insisted that everything was going to be okay. "Thanks for coming," E.J. concluded for Nicole, who didn't try to stop Eric from interpreting that as a dismissal.
Eric ran into Rafe outside Nicole's room. "She's doing great -- E.J.'s taking care of her now," Eric grumbled to Rafe while they were both watching Nicole and E.J. through the room's window.
Xander sneaked into Ava's room and approached the bed. "Just like old times, isn't it? Kristen DiMera had Rolf raise me from the dead, and you took care of me -- and now, you're gonna take care of me again," Ava declared, confusing Xander. "You're gonna first get me out of these cuffs, and then you're gonna get me out of this hospital...'cause if you don't, I'm gonna tell Sarah that you were my accomplice in the kidnapping of Susan Banks and Bonnie Kiriakis," Ava elaborated.
In the Kiriakis living room, Alex, Sonny, Bonnie, and Justin talked after dinner. As Bonnie smiled, Justin handed Bonnie a scratch-off ticket. Bonnie eagerly scratched the ticket and won a free order of fries. "Seriously, the real prize is having a nice dinner with my family. I think the bad times are finally over. Just in time for Christmas," Bonnie said. As Bonnie looked around the room, she imagined that Alex, Sonny, and Justin were wearing clown masks. Bonnie shuddered.
"Are you all right?" Sonny asked. Bonnie said she had an upset stomach. As Bonnie rushed out of the room, Alex said, "I'm guessing she's not all right, after all." Justin noted that Bonnie had not left the house. "Makes sense that she is freaked out. The same guy kidnapped her twice, and he's still out there?" Sonny said. "I'm hoping Xander scared him off for good," Justin said. Justin suggested that Sonny and Alex go out for a drink.
Gwen and Leo met up at the little bar off the square. Leo asked Gwen if she had talked to Jack. "I'm sorry, but he doesn't feel like a gossip column is the right fit for the Spectator," Gwen said. "Well, drinks are on you, I guess," Leo quipped. When Leo grumbled about the work Gwen had given him, Gwen said she hoped that everyone would no longer suspect Xander. "Even though it was him, right?" Leo countered. Gwen gave Leo a warning look.
"Have you thought about how you are going to cash in on that favor you did for Xander?" Leo asked. "I was helping a friend out of a jam," Gwen said. Leo urged Gwen to use the situation to seduce Xander. "[Xander] sees you in a new way, right?" Leo asked.
"The whole reason he's worked so hard to cover his tracks is because he can't bear the thought of losing [Sarah]," Gwen said. "She's totally wrong for him," Leo said. Gwen accused Leo of projecting on her. "You're thinking if I can get a married Xander into bed, you can do the same thing with Sonny," Gwen said. Leo stressed that he was only friends with Sonny. Sonny walked into the bar with Alex, and Leo went pale.
Sonny asked Leo and Gwen why they had been arguing. Leo explained that Jack had turned down Leo's gossip column idea. "Not to mention [Jack stole the newspaper] from my mother," Leo muttered. Gwen and Leo bickered about Jack's ownership of the paper. "I'm really sorry it didn't work out," Sonny said. "You know I don't handle rejection well," Leo said. "You should be used to it by now," Alex muttered. Sonny warned Alex to be quiet.
At the Kiriakis mansion, Justin explained to Bonnie that Alex and Sonny had gone out for a drink. "Because of me?" Bonnie asked. Justin stressed that Bonnie had not ruined the evening. When Bonnie turned toward Justin, she imagined he was in the clown mask. Bonnie dropped her glass, and it shattered. Bonnie averted her eyes from Justin.
"Sweetheart, what is going on?" Justin asked. Reluctantly, Bonnie admitted that she still saw the clown mask everywhere. "Why is this happening?" Bonnie wailed. Justin put his arm around Bonnie and let her sob. When Bonnie calmed down, she said she felt like a fool.
"You've been through a traumatic experience. Twice," Justin said. "This isn't like me. I went to prison, state prison, for years. I am a tough cookie," Bonnie stressed. As Bonnie sniffled back tears, Justin told Bonnie that Sarah believed Bonnie had PTSD. "Is that even a thing?" Bonnie asked. "It's a real thing. And the worst thing you can do is suffer with it in silence," Justin said. Bonnie said she was embarrassed.
"You are still feeling terrified. And you can't keep that feeling bottled up. You need to talk about it," Justin said. Justin suggested that Bonnie talk to Marlena. "There is no shame in seeing a therapist, and Marlena is one of the best," Justin said. "I guess it couldn't hurt," Bonnie said with a shrug. "We got this," Justin whispered.
At the nurses' station, Stephanie talked to Steve about Tripp. Steve explained that Tripp had gone to the church to confront E.J. about Ava's death, where Ava had planted a bomb. Steve noted that if Tripp had not shown up at the church, Ava would not have told everyone about the bomb before it exploded. "Probably made all the difference," Steve said. "Sounds like [Ava] has really gone over the edge," Stephanie said. Steve nodded in agreement. "I think she's been out there for a while. She just didn't let us see it," Steve said.
In an exam room, Sarah promised to release Tripp if his tests looked good. Tripp asked about Ava. "You saved her life," Sarah said. With a nod, Tripp said he had saved Ava's life, but she would likely spend the rest of it in prison. Tripp lamented that he had not forced Ava to return home with him.
"I am the one person that can still get through to her. What she did was horrible, but she's been through so much. And she really loved Jake, and she saw him get killed. And E.J.'s been putting all this pressure on her," Tripp said. Tripp was eager to visit his mother, but Sarah asked him to stay until his test results were back. Tripp asked Sarah to check on Ava for him.
After Sarah left, Steve and Stephanie visited Tripp. When Steve offered to check on Ava, Tripp noted that he had already asked Sarah. "It must have been a real shock to find out that Ava is still alive," Stephanie said. "I haven't really processed it yet," Tripp admitted. Annoyed, Steve muttered that it would have been better if Ava had died.
"How could you say a thing like that?" Tripp asked. "She's the reason you got kidnapped and why Susan Banks is dead. Everyone in that church could have died, all because Ava wanted to get even with E.J.," Steve argued. When Tripp countered that Ava was not in her right mind, Steve stressed that Tripp needed to stay away from Ava. Tripp refused. Steve admitted that he was afraid that Tripp would get hurt again.
"Nobody's going to look out for her except me. She's all alone," Tripp said. "She did that to herself," Steve argued. "No, E.J. pushed her over the edge," Tripp countered. Tripp reminded Steve that Ava had returned to a town where she had been hated by everyone, and she had broken all ties with her family at Tripp's request. Tripp argued that Ava had worked to be a better person.
"I just want her to know that I still love her, no matter what," Tripp said. "I get what he is saying," Stephanie said. "But I just can't get past the fact that she almost got you killed tonight. I can't. I can't lose you again," Steve said with tears in his eyes. Tripp hugged his father.
In Ava's hospital room, Ava demanded that Xander help her escape. "You're my partner in crime. I mean, who else am I supposed to turn to in my hour of need?" Ava asked. "Not me," Xander said. Ava threatened to tell Sarah everything if Xander did not help Ava escape. "Sarah believes in me. And now the whole town knows exactly what you are," Xander said. Ava said she knew enough details about the kidnapping to prove that Xander had been involved.
"You're still the heartless criminal you always were. And you're going to lose [Sarah] forever," Ava said. "You have gotten me into enough trouble as it is," Xander grumbled. Ava reminded Xander that he had agreed to her job offer. "You botched the job," Ava argued. "The job description didn't include murder," Xander countered. Ava pointed out that if Xander had not let Susan go, Susan would not have shown up at the airfield.
Frustrated, Ava blamed Xander for Susan's death. "And if you don't get me out of here, I'm going to be saying [you're to blame] to the cops," Ava said. Xander pointed out that Ava was handcuffed to the bed. "You're the guy who kidnapped Nicole and kept her in a cage," Ava reminded Xander. A look of guilt crossed Xander's face. Ava told Xander to help her escape before the hospital discharged her into police custody. "God, I wish it'd been you that died in that car crash," Xander muttered. As Ava mockingly said that Xander had hurt her feelings, Xander picked up a scalpel.
"Your feelings aren't the only thing I'm capable of hurting," Xander said. Ava rolled her eyes. "You know you aren't gonna use it," Ava said. Xander noted that his problems would disappear if he killed Ava. "You don't have the guts anymore. Because if you did, you would've killed Susan when I told you to. You're not going to kill me, either," Ava said. Xander argued that unlike Ava, Susan was a good person.
"I dare you," Ava said. As Xander paused, Sarah walked into the room. Xander hid the scalpel behind his back. "What are you doing here?" Sarah asked. "I was hoping to be able to give Bonnie and Justin the name of the hired goon she's been using," Xander lied. Xander said Ava had not told him anything. Sarah encouraged Xander to let the police handle the interrogation.
"You're right. Let's go," Xander said. Sarah noted that she had to examine Ava. Xander refused to leave Sarah alone with a bomber. With a smirk, Ava asked, "How much trouble can I cause while I'm chained to the bed?" Reluctantly, Xander left.
As Sarah finished her exam, Ava appeared distracted. "Your son is really worried about you. He doesn't understand why you went to such extremes," Sarah said. "Are you kidding me? This was all his idea. He wouldn't leave me alone until I did what he wanted me to," Ava said. Confused, Sarah asked if Ava blamed the bombing on Tripp.
"No, the other one. Charlie. This is all his fault," Ava said. "Charlie told you that you had to get even with E.J.?" Sarah asked. Ava said yes. "I don't know why I ever listen to him," Ava said. Ava explained that Charlie had made her drive off the road. "Do you think it's possible you imagined Charlie?" Sarah asked. Ava shook her head no. "He was in the crypt. He was in the car. I don't know how he did it, but he came back to life," Ava said. Tripp walked into the room. Ava imagined that Tripp was Charlie as he stood next to Sarah.
"There he is. You see him, don't you? Now you know I'm not lying.," Ava said. Ava asked "Charlie" to confess the truth to Sarah. "It's me, Tripp" Tripp said. "Stop playing games with me, and you tell her that it was you! You wouldn't stop screaming at me until I planted that bomb. You know you nearly killed your brother," Ava yelled. "You're confused," Tripp said. As Tripp reached out to his mother, she swatted his hands away.
"You tried to trick me into killing your brother. You hate him so much because he is worth a hundred of you!" Ava screamed. Worried, Tripp asked Sarah what was wrong. Sarah noted that Ava's symptoms could be from head trauma from the explosion. Ava begged Sarah to stop talking to Charlie and call the police. "Listen to my voice. It's Tripp. You're seeing someone who isn't here," Tripp said. Ava laughed. "You're trying to con me, aren't you? Both of you," Ava said. Ava accused "Charlie" and Sarah of gaslighting her. Tripp continued to talk to Ava, but she grew more agitated. "What did you do to him?" Ava yelled. Sarah announced that she would sedate Ava.
"Don't let her do it, Mom. She's trying to drug you, just like your father used to do," Charlie said to Ava. Ava threatened to kill Sarah if Sarah sedated her. Sarah injected the sedative into Ava's I.V. as Ava screamed. Horrified, Tripp backed away from his mother.
At the nurses' station, Steve called Kayla and told her that Tripp was fine. Steve told Kayla that Tripp was eager to stay with Ava. As Steve ended his call, Stephanie asked Steve if he still planned to spend Christmas in Seattle with Kayla.
"As long as I can convince Tripp to come with us," Steve said. Stephanie told Steve that she needed to stay in Salem for work. "Go be with Mom and Joey. Hopefully, Tripp will decide to go with you," Stephanie said.
In the town square, Xander told Gwen that Ava was alive and that she had threatened to expose him. "Kristen blackmailed me into helping her escape, so I do understand what you're going through. What are you going to do?" Gwen asked. Xander pulled a pair of bolt cutters out of a bag. Xander asked Gwen to drive the getaway car. "If Ava talks, I'll lose everything," Xander said. With a sigh, Gwen said yes. "Now you really owe me one," Gwen said.
In the bar off the square, Leo asked Sonny and Alex to join him for a drink. Alex was reluctant. When Stephanie walked into the bar, Alex greeted her. "You would not believe the day I've had," Stephanie said. "Well, I wanna hear all about it," Alex said. Alex led Stephanie over to the bar, while Sonny joined Leo.
"I'm sorry the Spectator job didn't pan out. Maybe I could still find you something at Titan," Sonny said. "We've discussed this already," Leo said. With a sigh, Leo noted that the motel had asked him to leave. "On Christmas Eve?" Sonny said. "Probably shouldn't have spent my last $300 on skin care products," Leo said. Sonny groaned in disbelief.
After a moment, Sonny suggested that Leo move in with Gwen. "Chad's there. Makes it a nonstarter," Leo said. Sonny asked Leo his plan. Leo said he was waiting on a Christmas angel. "Why don't you come stay with me?" Sonny asked. "What does Will think about this idea?" Leo asked. Sonny noted that Will did not have a say. Leo clasped Sonny's hands in his, and he thanked Sonny. "What are friends for?" Sonny said. "It turns out I do have a Christmas angel, after all," Leo said.
At the bar, Stephanie told Alex about the bombing. "No wonder you needed a drink," Alex said. "In spite of all that, Tripp still wants to take care of [Ava]. He's still in her corner," Stephanie said. Alex admitted that he could relate to Tripp. "My mother did some crazy things, too. I still loved her," Alex said. Alex admitted that it was hard to be in Salem without his mother, but he was glad to be with Sonny and Justin. Stephanie told Alex that she needed to stay in town for work rather than join her family in Seattle.
"You're spending Christmas with me," Alex said. "So, you bailed out my Thanksgiving, and now you're doing it again for Christmas," Stephanie said. Alex reminded Stephanie that he was a great guy. "I am starting to believe you," Stephanie whispered.
As Steve sat in the hospital waiting area, orderlies pushed Ava on a gurney down the hallway, with Sarah and Tripp close behind. "I know why Mom has been doing the things she's doing. She said Charlie's been telling her to do them," Tripp said. "She's hearing voices?" Steve asked. "Seeing things, too. She thought I was him," Tripp said. Sarah explained that she had ordered Ava to be transferred to Bayview for diagnosis.
"Don't do this. Please," Ava whispered groggily. "What's going on?" Xander asked as he walked over. "This is all your fault. I'm going to tell everyone what you did," Ava said as she stared at Xander. Ava said it was "his" idea to kidnap Susan, to kill her, and to plant the bomb. "You don't know what you're talking about," Xander said. "Tell them the truth, Charlie! Tell them you made me do it!" Ava said to "Charlie." Sarah told Xander that Ava had been suffering from hallucinations.
"Well, it explains a lot," Xander said. Ava begged Sarah not to send her to Bayview. "I don't want to leave Tripp," Ava pleaded. Tripp took his mother's hand. "I'm right here, Mom. I'm going with you," Tripp said. Ava looked at Tripp, and she sighed with relief. "You're really here," Ava said. Ava told Tripp not to make her go to Bayview. "I'm scared," Ava whispered.
Steve called Justin. "Did [Ava] name her accomplice?" Justin asked. Steve explained that Ava was in no condition to answer questions because of her mental state. "I was hoping to be able to tell Bonnie that this is all over," Justin said.
At the hospital, Tripp said he would go with his mother to Bayview. "I want my mom," Ava whispered. When Ava looked over toward Xander, she imagined that Charlie was there. "Get me out of here," Ava pleaded to Tripp.
After Tripp, Steve, and Ava left, Sarah walked over to Xander. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I feel bad for her," Sarah said. "Not me. I mean, sane or insane, she hurt a lot of people," Xander said. Sarah kissed Xander goodbye, and she returned to work. Xander texted Gwen, "ABORT MISSION!!" "You still owe me one," Gwen texted back.
Abe headed over to the police station early on Christmas Eve to deliver a batch of cookies that Chanel and Allie had baked for Paulina.
Paulina appreciated the cookies but was expecting to be released on bail later that day and therefore saw Abe's visit as a bit of a wasted trip. Abe sighed then revealed that Paulina's bail hearing had been postponed until after the holidays. "Trask knew what she was doing by stalling," Abe explained. "She's just pure evil, making me miss Christmas with my family out of pure spite," Paulina grumbled.
E.J. heard a scream while passing through the halls of the DiMera mansion and managed to trace the disturbance to Nicole's bedroom.
E.J., who had already been en route to that particular bedroom with a tray of food, knocked on the door and called out a greeting then entered and wondered if Nicole was all right. Nicole started to apologize, but E.J. interrupted and insisted that there was no need to feel bad about a perfectly natural reaction to a nightmare. Nicole told E.J. that the details of the nightmare had already been forgotten.
E.J. translated that Nicole simply didn't want to admit that not even their near-death experience had been enough to stop "the suddenly promiscuous Saint Eric" from taking center stage in a nightmare yet again. Nicole confirmed E.J.'s suspicion then confessed to having been struggling to figure out why Eric had decided to check in after the explosion. E.J. argued that the decisions Eric had made before the explosion were more telling and that Nicole needed to resist the urge to apply too much meaning to what had happened after the explosion because that had probably just been a "vestigial reflex" from someone who had twice been a priest.
E.J. produced a cell phone and played a voicemail message from Sister Mary Moira in an effort to take Nicole's mind off the nightmare. The gist of the message, which Sister Mary had recorded while boarding a flight out of Salem earlier that day, was that God had blown up a church as a way of warning that E.J.'s mortal soul was in danger and would remain that way as long as Nicole was around. Nicole laughed about Sister Mary's use of phrases like "bombastic blonde bimbo" and "fornicating harlot" then thanked E.J. for the distraction and begged for a copy of the message. "That way, whenever I feel things start to get a little crazy, I can be reminded of what real crazy is," Nicole explained.
E.J. seized the opportunity to get Nicole's thoughts on Ava's apparent breakdown. Nicole translated that E.J. suspected that Ava had put on a performance to secure a transfer to Bayview instead of Statesville. Nicole allowed for that possibility then insisted that, in any case, there was no reason for E.J. to feel guilty about the destruction of a church or any of the other recent crimes Ava had committed.
E.J. thanked Nicole for the support then gestured to the tray of food and warned that it was getting cold. Nicole's sprained right arm was in a sling, so E.J. offered to help with the parts of the meal that required the use of a fork. Nicole tried to stop E.J., and they locked eyes when their hands touched. E.J. persisted until Nicole finally took a bite of food. E.J. pointed out that it was also going to be difficult for Nicole to shower. Nicole laughed then insisted that E.J. wasn't allowed to help with that task. E.J. sighed then admitted that it was nice to be spending the holidays with Nicole. "This house needs you to brighten it up, and you have done so spectacularly," E.J. declared before leaving so Nicole could shower.
Kristen entered the living room of the Evans-Black townhouse while Brady was going through a stack of Christmas cards. Kristen tried the mistletoe trick again, this time with a real bushel of the plant instead of a crafted one, but Brady still refused to take the bait. Kristen admitted to having been hoping for a "cease-fire" during the holidays, prompting Brady to counter that there wasn't a single date on the calendar that represented a good time for a person to get past being blackmailed.
Kristen complained to Brady about how frustrating it was to save the lives of three people and still be treated like a villain. Brady translated that Kristen was upset because it was impossible to make those people grovel without ruining a scheme that depended on them never finding out that they were supposed to be groveling. "You might want to think about how you talk to me," Kristen snapped before reminding Brady of the stakes. "Mommy, what's an 'orchid' -- and why are they 'life-saving'?" Rachel called out from the hallway. "Beautiful flowers -- and some scientists, they make them into medicine," Kristen answered. "I was just telling your Mommy how much I wanted to get one for Christmas," Brady elaborated.
Rachel protested that it had sounded like Kristen and Brady had been arguing about the matter. Brady and Kristen each laughed off the observation, and Rachel shrugged in response then changed the subject. "What I really want for Christmas is for you and Mommy to get back together forever," Rachel reminded Brady. "I know that's what you want, and you have to know that there's nothing more I want than to make you happy, sweetie, but you need to trust that we are doing what we think is best for you," Brady assured Rachel.
Kristen told Rachel to fetch a coat so they could head over to the town square to see the Christmas decorations. "She tells you what she wants most in the world, and you just pour water all over it," Kristen snapped at Brady once the coast was clear. "So, I'm a bad dad now because I won't make a big speech about how I can't live without you," Brady translated. "Maybe you could just stop hating me so much and love your daughter just a little bit more," Kristen advised. "That's beyond hypocritical, 'cause you tell me to put my family first while you play with her grandmother's health. I love that little girl with my whole heart, but I love Marlena, too -- and that's the only reason why you are in this house!" Brady countered.
Rachel returned just then and wondered if Kristen and Brady were still arguing about orchids. Brady and Kristen each laughed off Rachel's observation again. Kristen stormed off with Rachel, who was disappointed that Brady wasn't willing to tag along.
John and Marlena started their day with a breakfast of strawberries and whipped cream in their bedroom. John noted that Marlena had spent most of the previous night, tossing and turning. Marlena tried to apologize, but John dismissed the concern.
Marlena admitted to John that it was difficult to process the trauma of the explosion while preoccupied with concerns about Kristen's presence at the townhouse. "I am not sure how much more of this I can take!" Marlena fretted, and John agreed.
John assured Marlena that, on the bright side, their plan to get rid of Kristen had gotten off to a good start the previous day. Marlena didn't share John's confidence that Kristen was falling for their ruse. Marlena warned John that, in any case, the clock was ticking because Brady seemed to be growing closer to Kristen. "When I was making nice to her, and I was telling her just what a great big heart she had, my arms and my hands were trembling, 'cause all I could think about was just putting them around her throat. Now, if I am that close to throttling Kristen, I can only imagine what Brady feels like," John argued, but Marlena countered that Brady wanted to resist Kristen but might eventually give in to temptation.
Marlena informed John that Brady had somehow mistaken Sister Mary for Kristen the previous day and had seized a kiss to test the suspicion. Marlena suggested that it might be best to stage a divorce right away, but John didn't want to keep up the ruse during the holidays. "The last thing I want to do is tell Kristen -- or anybody else -- that you and I are fighting or I'm disappointed with you, even if it's not true...because, Doc, all you do is make me happy. You make me proud. You make me feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth," John declared. "You know, as much as I love this strawberry-and-cream tradition, I would give it all up in a heartbeat just to hear you say that to me again," Marlena swooned.
John moved the strawberries and whipped cream off the bed, prompting Marlena to object that they weren't done working on their plan yet. "Other things are even more urgent," John explained before climbing back into bed with Marlena.
Eric woke up in Sloan's bed at the Petersen apartment. Sloan, who had been awake for a while and was fiddling with a tablet computer, started to tell Eric that something bad had happened the previous day. Eric admitted to having already heard about the explosion then thanked Sloan for the concern and stressed that everyone had made it out of the church with only minor injuries. "You just showed up at my doorstep last night and didn't even say a thing about it?" Sloan sputtered while smacking Eric's chest. "We had other things on our minds," Eric explained before starting another round of sex with Sloan.
Eric later explained to Sloan that Ava had planted a bomb at the church as part of a revenge scheme. "Sounds like my type of gal," Sloan declared before guessing that Eric thought it was too soon to be making jokes about what Ava had done.
Eric confided in Sloan about having visited Nicole at the hospital the previous day. "What was I thinking?" Eric grumbled, prompting Sloan to argue that it was only natural for an ex-priest to have compassion for someone who had almost died.
Eric changed the subject, wondering if Sloan had any plans for the holidays. "I stopped making plans when I lost both my parents too soon -- and my brother, he lives a million miles away, so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just like any other day for me," Sloan admitted, prompting Eric to extend an invitation to various family gatherings. "Don't take this the wrong way, but...is that really us? I mean, this is fun...but, like, we're keeping this low-key, right?" Sloan protested. "And I just suggested that I take you home to meet my family," Eric realized with a groan before apologizing to Sloan and explaining that it was simply a force of habit.
Sloan appreciated Eric's concern. "But I got my Christmas wish this year -- Paulina Price is behind bars," Sloan reminded Eric. "I'm sure Paulina's feeling very sorry for herself behind bars this holiday -- I wonder if she or her precious little daughter ever thought once about all the holidays they ruined for me," Sloan spat before apologizing for badmouthing Eric's friends then explaining that it just felt good to vent sometimes.
Chanel prepared a special dinner with Allie at the Horton apartment as a surprise for Paulina and Abe, intending to deliver it to the police station later that day.
Allie and Chanel were still hard at work when Abe stopped by for a visit -- with Paulina in tow. "Belle went to London and challenged our extradition over every technical issue she could find -- and won!" Paulina explained to Chanel.
Chanel had mixed feelings because the case hadn't been settled before Paulina had officially declined the gubernatorial election victory. Paulina assured Chanel that the job had lost its appeal in recent days because Salem was home and would have been missed. Someone knocked on the apartment door while Abe, Paulina, Chanel, and Allie were preparing to toast to their good news. Allie opened the door and found Sloan standing on the other side. "You must be feeling good about yourselves. Two people are dead, and here you are, enjoying a holiday toast like nothing happened. Well, you maybe managed to escape prosecution, but you will pay for what you did to my family, if it's the last thing I do -- count on it," Sloan spat.
Kristen and Rachel enjoyed seeing the Christmas decorations at the town square but agreed that they would be having more fun if Brady were with them. "Never, ever give up on your wishes and dreams, because they are the most important thing we have. I know how much your wish about Daddy and me means to you -- and I can't make any promises, but I don't want you to give up on us, and maybe we'll both get what we want most someday. But I want you to remember until then -- no one, and I mean no one, is more important to your daddy and me than you are," Kristen assured Rachel.
Eric headed over to the Evans-Black townhouse to check on Marlena but saw Brady first and seized the opportunity to reiterate that Kristen needed to be neutralized right away. "Look, brother, if you've got any good ideas, I'm all ears," Brady declared. "We need to hit Kristen where she lives if we plan on getting that orchid back from her. We need to kidnap your daughter," Eric suggested.
Li entered the Hernandez house in a Santa costume while Gabi was explaining to Arianna that the Mexican wedding cookies they were baking were also known as polvorones and that polvo meant "powder" in Spanish.
Arianna tugged on the beard of Li's "lame" costume while bragging about being too old to believe in Santa, earning a lecture from Gabi about manners. "Sorry, Mom, but I've been down this road before -- one of your boyfriends putting on a show to try to get me to like him," Arianna reminded Gabi before recalling that Chad, Stefan, and Jake had preceded Li. "I'm a lot older than you, and I'm still a believer...but since you're not, I guess I should send all these presents back to the North Pole," Li challenged Arianna, who softened and took the bait.
Li presented Arianna with a gift box that contained a bracelet. Arianna raved that the bracelet was pretty, and Li pointed out that it featured a Chinese symbol. "Means 'double luck'...and I'm lucky because when I marry your mom, I won't have only one beautiful, smart, incredibly fashionable lady in my life -- I'll have two," Li declared. "And I'll have three daddies," Arianna noted. "How do you feel about that?" Li wondered. "Special, I guess -- I mean, how many kids can say that?" Arianna responded before thanking Li for the gift with a hug.
Arianna donned the bracelet and told Li that it was going to be worn every day so its double dose of luck would always be available. "New Year's weddings are also considered lucky in China, so we are off to a very auspicious start," Li assured Arianna, who needed a translation but was relieved to learn that "auspicious" and "suspicious" had very different meanings.
Arianna wondered if Gabi's surname was going to change after the wedding. "Daddy Will and Daddy Sonny did it," Arianna pointed out. "Well...I'm not sure yet -- I need to think about it," Gabi answered.
Gabi changed the subject with a warning that Sonny would be arriving soon, and Arianna took the hint then rushed off to finish packing for a stay at the Kiriakis mansion.
Li made it clear that Gabi's surname didn't need to change after the wedding. "I became a DiMera when I married Stefan, and I stayed one even when I thought he was dead...but, of course, that worked because I was the head of the company. And now I'm not, and Stefan and I are divorced, and we hate each other's guts. So, I can't wait to feel like my very own person again," Gabi responded. "I think you've always been your own person," Li declared.
Gabi thought that "Gabriella Hernandez Shin" had a nice ring to it, and Li also liked the sound of it, so they sealed the deal with a kiss.
Gabi thanked Li for having been sweet to Arianna earlier. "My father isn't exactly the warm and fuzzy type. I promised that I'd be different with my children," Li explained. "You know, we haven't really discussed that -- whether or not you want kids of your own -- and, you know, it's just...I can't --" Gabi tried to warn. "You, Will, and Sonny are raising an amazing child. And being part of that, being Ari's stepdad -- that's all I need," Li insisted.
Wendy headed over to the DiMera mansion to check on Johnny but saw Stefan first. Stefan told Wendy that no one had seen Johnny yet that day. Wendy guessed that Johnny was just exhausted after the explosion, and Stefan shrugged in response.
Wendy thanked Stefan for the information then started to rush off. "I've left you several messages and haven't heard back from you -- are you avoiding me?" Stefan called out, stopping Wendy, who laughed off the accusation.
Wendy claimed to have simply been busy with work lately, prompting Stefan to note that they both seemed to be free for the time being. Wendy forced a smile and conceded the point then followed Stefan into the living room.
Stefan chastised Wendy for having helped Johnny steal the DiMera jet a few weeks earlier then wondered if they had really done that for no other reason than to satisfy their adventurous impulses. Wendy squirmed while trying to think of a response and breathed a sigh of relief when Johnny entered the living room and put a stop to Stefan's interrogation. Stefan walked away after warning Johnny and Wendy to never steal the jet again. Wendy and Johnny waited until the coast was clear then agreed that being around Stefan made them feel guilty about the secret they were keeping and also made them feel tempted to confess.
Johnny pointed out that faking a breakup with Wendy would mean having one less lie to sell on a daily basis. Wendy scoffed then advised Johnny that it would probably be easier to just keep their cover story going. Johnny conceded Wendy's point then stepped over to the Christmas tree in search of a gift while joking that it would have gone to waste if they had faked a breakup during the holidays. Wendy felt bad for having neglected to get Johnny a Christmas gift. Johnny dismissed the concern, insisting that Wendy didn't have to return the favor. Johnny helped Wendy don the gift -- a silk scarf -- then they locked eyes with each other.
Chloe ran into Kristen and Rachel while passing through the town square. Kristen guessed that Chloe was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. Chloe, who was carrying four shopping bags, wondered how Kristen had reached that conclusion. "Did you get me a present?" Rachel challenged Chloe before sensing the beginning of a negative response. "It's fine. I don't want anything from you," Rachel snapped before Chloe could say much. "Okay. Well, I hope you have a merry Christmas," Chloe declared with a forced smile. "I will, 'cause I won't need to see you -- I'll be with my real family," Rachel spat, amusing Kristen.
Kristen bragged about having made plans to meet up with Brady for lunch later that day. "Okay. Well, I'm gonna hit up some more stores -- my budget's so much bigger this year, after that huge promotion I got when you were fired," Chloe countered.
Kristen forced Rachel to apologize to Chloe for the earlier comments. "We need to be kind to everyone, especially on Christmas -- even people who tried to steal what belongs to us," Kristen explained to Rachel before teasing Chloe for having failed that particular mission. "Rachel, Brady, and I are a family again," Kristen summarized. "That's what I wanted most for Christmas!" Rachel informed Chloe. "But, Mommy, when will I get my whole wish?" Rachel challenged Kristen. "You and Daddy still aren't married. You don't even sleep in the same room!" Rachel pointed out, ignoring Kristen's attempts to change the subject.
Kristen produced some cash and told Rachel to buy some hot chocolate from a nearby vendor. "We're just taking things slowly," Kristen clarified for Chloe once the coast was clear. "In other words, he won't touch you with a ten-foot pole," Chloe translated. "That is not true -- we are becoming more intimate every day," Kristen insisted.
Chloe reminded Kristen that Rachel had just painted a very different picture of the situation. "Rachel wasn't there when Brady planted a hot kiss on Sister Mary Moira because he thought she was me in disguise!" Kristen snapped. "So, what you're saying is...a nun saw more action than you ever will," Chloe teased.
Kristen advised Chloe to instead think of the incident as the first sign that Brady was about to give in to temptation. "I asked him what would happen next if it was me he was kissing, and he leaned in to me, and the heat between us was off the charts, and we would have made love right there on that couch if John hadn't walked in and ruined everything...but there will be another moment soon -- see, I plan to ring in the New Year in Brady's bed," Kristen bragged to Chloe. "Sounds like an awful lot of wishful thinking to me," Chloe countered, annoying Kristen.
Kristen wondered why Brady's love life even mattered to Chloe at a time when Stefan was in the picture. "If all goes well, maybe this time next year, you'll be my sister-in-law," Kristen suggested. "My money says that this time next year, you'll be back in prison for the countless felonies that you are bound to commit," Chloe declared.
Chloe checked the time then observed that it seemed like someone was being stood up, prompting Kristen to insist that Brady was simply running late. Chloe gave Kristen a nod of skepticism then advised that Rachel had just wandered off somewhere. Kristen bragged again about being with Brady then rushed off in search of Rachel.
Stefan met up with Chloe later that day and handed over a Christmas gift, explaining that it was time-sensitive and therefore needed to be opened right away. Chloe, who was planning to fly to New York City the following day, was stunned to see that Stefan had somehow managed to score five center-orchestra tickets for a showing of Amahl and the Night Visitors that had been sold out for months. Three of the extra tickets were obviously for Nancy, Parker, and Joy, but Chloe needed Stefan to clarify that the fourth extra ticket was for Craig or Mike -- and that another option was available if neither of them was interested. "Don't you have plans in Salem?" Chloe protested. "With the dysfunctional DiMeras?" Stefan countered.
Chloe noted that Stefan had missed several Christmas Day celebrations while presumed dead. Stefan conceded Chloe's point but guessed that it might be best to miss at least one more. "Being in that house with those people after everything that happened yesterday at Susan's memorial service -- it might be a little too much," Stefan explained, prompting Chloe to warn that the Wesleys could be almost as crazy as the DiMeras at times.
Chloe agreed to let Stefan join the Wesley family's Christmas Day celebration in New York City, and they sealed the deal with a kiss -- just as Gabi approached with Li, en route to a bridal shop to fix a problem with Arianna's dress. Chloe and Stefan pulled away from each other after spotting Gabi and Li then seized the opportunity to congratulate them on their upcoming nuptials. Stefan and Chloe mentioned their plan to leave Salem the following day and stay on vacation until after the holidays, prompting Gabi to remind Li that they had an errand to run. Gabi and Stefan shared a look before parting ways.
Roman finished serving some customers at the Brady Pub then left the bar and claimed the extra chair at Kate's table. "It's that time of the year that Philip -- well, you remember," Kate fretted to Roman while fighting back tears. "I just thought that he would have progressed -- you know, I thought that maybe he would be released soon -- but when I called the hospital, they wouldn't even let me talk to him," Kate continued. "He's had another major setback. And then, at the prison, there's a viral outbreak, so Lucas can't have any visitors. I don't know -- it's bad enough that, you know, my kids aren't with me at Christmas, but to be cut off from the ones that need me the most, Roman, is just particularly intolerable," Kate concluded with a sigh.
Roman offered to summon Allie and Henry to the pub for a visit, but Kate didn't want to interrupt the Price family's celebration of their legal victory. "I should have realized when Will called me to tell me he was staying in California that it was a sign of things to come," Kate grumbled before thanking Roman for the concern then starting to change the subject -- just as Rex entered the pub.
Kate gasped and seized a hug from Rex then wondered what had changed since their previous conversation, when they had determined that their respective schedules weren't going to allow them to see each other during the holidays. "I convinced my supervisor I had more important work to do here," Rex began to explain. "The FDA has asked me to provide some follow-up data on the experimental treatment we gave Mom a few months ago -- they just need to know that it's safe," Rex continued. "Just some simple blood work," Rex concluded before starting to remove the necessary items from a medical bag.
Kate stopped Rex, seeing no reason to consent to the procedure. "I haven't had any setbacks, I haven't had any side effects -- I mean, no issues whatsoever," Kate insisted. "But this is exactly why I need your blood -- so I can prove that this treatment is 100% safe and effective. Plus, it'll get the FDA off my back -- and I get to keep my medical license," Rex stressed. "All right, I'll do it -- but I damn well better get a lollipop!" Kate grumbled.
Rex rushed off to the hospital a short time later, ignoring Kate's complaints about the ten vials of blood that had just been drawn. Roman insisted that Kate wasn't the only one who had been surprised when Rex had entered the pub. Kate fretted to Roman about having sent all of Rex's gifts to Chicago already. Roman was sure that Rex would understand, but Kate argued that everyone needed something to open on Christmas Day.
Kate produced an envelope and handed it to Roman while adding that opening gifts on Christmas Eve was also fun. Roman was stunned to find plane tickets to Zurich inside the envelope, and Kate misinterpreted the reaction as one of disappointment. Kate apologized for having made the wrong purchase then explained to Roman that a visit with Carrie, Austin, and Noah had simply seemed like the perfect gift. Roman dismissed the concern and clarified that the gift was so perfect that it was what Kate was getting, too. "Great minds? I mean, at least it isn't a Gift of the Magi kind of situation," Kate explained to Roman with a shrug.
Rex soon returned and reported that Kate's blood samples were at the hospital but probably wouldn't be tested until after the holidays.
Eric, still with Brady at the Evans-Black townhouse, argued that kidnapping Rachel would be a surefire way to force Kristen to hand over the orchid. Brady refused to go along with the "insane" plan, prompting Eric to demand a list of the better ways to thwart Kristen's blackmail scheme. Brady suggested that it might be best to just wait for the situation to resolve itself when the orchid was no longer needed, but Eric found it hard to believe that Kristen's leverage had an expiration date. "I guarantee she's gonna claim that these women need booster shots for the rest of their lives. She has too much power. She needs to be stopped," Eric stressed.
Brady didn't want to put Rachel through the trauma of a kidnapping, but Eric promised that the child would never know that anything was amiss. "We're gonna make her believe that she's going on a fun vacation with her uncle," Eric explained. "She's gonna get a few days in the sun while Kristen is losing her mind, and you're gonna get that orchid, then your daughter will be home," Eric continued. "You gonna rely on a psycho to do the right thing, or do you want to finally take control of your life again?" Eric concluded. "Who knew you could be so ruthless," Brady mused with a shake of the head. "I've been the good guy for years. Where has it gotten me? Absolutely nowhere," Eric reasoned with a shrug.
Eric declared that it was wrong of Kristen to keep playing God with people's lives all the time, prompting Brady to wonder when kidnapping people had stopped being wrong. "I am tired of being a victim and a doormat. Kristen DiMera, she raped and drugged me, all right? I feel absolutely no obligation to have any mercy on her," Eric explained to Brady -- just as Kristen and Rachel entered the townhouse.
Kristen wondered what was going on, prompting Brady and Eric to take turns claiming that they had been discussing the gifts that were already waiting for Rachel under the Christmas tree. Rachel started trying to get more information out of Eric, and Kristen seized the opportunity to whisper to Brady that being stood up wasn't fun. Brady apologized for having lost track of time then pointed out that Kristen could have just sent a reminder via text message instead of returning to the townhouse to throw a fit. Kristen clarified that getting away from Chloe had been the main goal of the trip back to the townhouse. Kristen delighted in letting Brady know that Chloe was planning to ring in the New Year with Stefan in Miami.
Rachel produced the crafted mistletoe and explained that Brady and Kristen would have to kiss if they stood beneath it, prompting Eric to clarify that the rule only applied to real mistletoe. Rachel groaned then thanked Eric for the warning and rushed off to another room to research the whereabouts of the plant. "You trained her well," Eric admitted to Kristen once the coast was clear. "Don't you have enough to deal with in your own love life without butting into ours?" Kristen snapped at Eric. "We don't have a love life," Brady reminded Kristen, who suggested that wouldn't be the case for much longer -- and the prediction was made with a concerning tone of confidence.
Kristen soon rushed off to check on Rachel, and Brady waited until the coast was clear then agreed to go along with Eric's plan.
Chad visited Abigail's grave, and he told her it was the night of the tree trimming. With a sigh, Chad said, "I'm going to do my best to make it okay for the kids, because I know that's what you would want. But for me? I miss you more every day. Not less." Chad promised to find some joy for the kids. "They'll be surrounded by a lot of people that loved you. I love you, Abigail. I love you forever," Chad said. Chad placed a bouquet of flowers on the grave. As Chad squatted down, a hand touched his shoulder.
"You're here," Chad said. "Where else would I be on Christmas Eve but here with our precious girl?" Jennifer said. Jennifer noted that the flowers were lovely. "[Abigail] should be getting ready to hang her ornament and helping the kids hang theirs," Chad said. "I know," Jennifer whispered. Jennifer apologized for her absence. "You had to take care of yourself. You did that. You're here now," Chad said. Jennifer admitted that it was difficult to be home and sober.
"How are you doing? How are the kids doing?" Jennifer asked. "We're managing," Chad said. Chad admitted that work had helped him focus his energy on something other than his grief. "I hear that you're working for Stephanie's PR firm," Jennifer said. "It's been a lifeline. Stephanie has been a great boss. She's a great friend," Chad said. Chad suggested that they head over to the party. "Merry Christmas, my angel," Jennifer whispered to Abigail.
At the motel, Xander read a news story about Ava. "Ava's losing her marbles. Now, there is a Christmas miracle," Xander whispered. "What is this about a Christmas miracle?" Sarah asked. Xander joked that it would be a miracle if they arrived at the Christmas party on time. With a grin, Xander gathered Sarah in his arms, and he suggested that they stay in.
"Somebody is very naughty," Sarah said. Sarah grabbed a box from the table. "You said we weren't exchanging gifts until tomorrow," Xander said. "This one has to be opened tonight," Sarah said. Inside the box was a tree ornament with Xander's name on it. "It's your ornament. For the Horton tree," Sarah said. "But isn't that just for family?" Xander asked. "Baby, you are family. You're my husband," Sarah said. Xander frowned.
"It's just, I don't feel worthy of it, having an ornament on your family's tree. An ornament with my name on it doesn't belong in the same forest as your family, let alone the same hallowed family Christmas tree," Xander confessed. Sarah noted that not everyone in her family was a saint. Sarah told Xander about Bill and Mickey's rivalry over Laura.
"And Julie and her mother, my Aunt Addie, fell in love with the same ex-con," Sarah continued. "Julie was in love with some ex-con?" Xander asked in disbelief. With a smile, Sarah said it was Doug. "Doug, Doug?" Xander stammered. "Doug! And don't even get me started on my cousins. That's a whole other horror show. So, what say you, my husband? Still think you're not worthy?" Sarah asked. Before Xander could answer, Maggie knocked on the door.
"I feel like I walked in on something," Maggie said. Xander stressed that things were fine, but Sarah explained that Xander was concerned about his ornament. "Xander, your Uncle Victor got his own ornament when he and I got married," Maggie said. "And the Hortons were okay with that?" Xander asked. Maggie admitted that the family had been unhappy at first.
"But they got over themselves when they realized how much Victor and I loved each other," Maggie said. Sarah hugged Xander, and he smiled. "You are also reformed, but not just reformed. You are a wonderful husband to my daughter. And drumroll please, you also saved Bonnie from that sadistic kidnapping clown," Maggie said. Sarah asked about Bonnie.
"She's still suffering from that whole kidnapping ordeal. She sees demented clowns everywhere she looks," Maggie said. A look of guilt crossed Xander's face. Sarah said she hoped that Bonnie would see a therapist. "So do I, but for now, she's alive and she's well, thanks to you, Xander. We're all very grateful to you for that. For your bravery," Maggie said. As Sarah smiled at Xander, he appeared uncomfortable with the praise. Sarah insisted that Xander go to the party and hang his new ornament.
In the Horton living room, Doug and Julie talked to Hope on the phone. After, Doug and Julie discussed Hope's work teaching ice-skating. "I know that's great, but I wish I didn't have to talk to her long-distance," Julie said. "I miss her, too," Doug said. Julie said she missed too many people.
"Do you realize that this will be the first Christmas that we won't have one child or any of our grandchildren here to celebrate with us in Salem?" Julie lamented. "You're lucky you got me, kiddo," Doug said. "I'm very lucky I've got you, and I know it," Julie said. With a sigh, Julie noted that she was heartbroken that Eli, the twins, and Lani were separated for their first Christmas in Maryland.
As Doug nodded in agreement, he looked over at the doorway. Eli held a sleeping toddler in one arm as he quietly pushed a stroller into the living room. "It's just so depressing," Julie said. "Julie, dear," Doug said. Julie continued to talk about Eli, as Doug smirked with amusement. "I would give everything just to see them with my own two eyes," Julie said. "I think that can be arranged," Eli said. Julie gasped, then turned and saw her grandson. With a quiet squeal, Julie rushed over to greet Eli and the sleeping twins.
"Merry Christmas, Grandma. I missed you," Eli said. As Julie snuggled Eli and the kids, she asked Doug if he had known about the surprise. "Honey, I was sworn to secrecy," Doug said. "You devil!" Julie said. Doug advised Julie not to make jokes about the devil, especially after the events of the previous Christmas.
"How on earth did you manage to travel cross-country with these two all by yourself?" Julie asked. "I have learned to do a lot of things on my own since Lani went away," Eli said. Jack walked into the room with Charlotte, and Eli greeted them. "It is so good to see you here with those little ones," Jack said.
As Jules started to cry, Eli carefully picked up both the babies to carry them up to the playroom. Julie noted that she had hired a local babysitter to watch the kids during the party. "Lucy's waiting for you," Julie said. Jack and Charlotte followed Eli and the twins upstairs. With a laugh, Julie looked at Doug, and they agreed that it felt like Christmas.
In the dining room, Gwen set the table for Christmas Eve dinner as she talked to Leo on the phone. "It turns out I didn't have to help Xander out of that little jam, after all. Don't worry, I made sure that he knows that he owes me one," Gwen said. "Why does he owe you one?" Thomas asked as he walked into the room. Gwen ended her call. "Shouldn't you be upstairs, getting ready for the party?" Gwen said. Thomas noted that he was dressed.
"Why does Xander owe you?" Thomas asked again. With a forced smile, Gwen said it was impolite to eavesdrop on conversations. "I wasn't eavesdropping. You just talk loud. What did you do for him?" Thomas asked. When Gwen said she had done Xander a favor, Thomas asked about the favor.
"You are persistent, aren't you?" Gwen said. Gwen asked Thomas if he could keep a secret. Thomas nodded yes. "I helped Xander pick out cousin Sarah's Christmas present," Gwen whispered. Thomas promised to keep Gwen's secret. As Gwen and Thomas shook pinkies, Jack asked, "What are you two conspiring about?" Gwen said she and Thomas had been bonding.
"Get ready for some more family bonding. Eli and the twins just showed up," Jack said. Jack promised Thomas that they would decorate the tree soon. With a nod, Gwen promised to meet everyone in the living room after she checked on dessert. Jack walked out with Thomas. "Nosy little brat," Gwen muttered.
When Eli returned to the living room, Julie asked how he was doing. Eli admitted that life had been difficult. "As much as the twins love them some Grandma Val, she is no substitute for their mom," Eli said. Eli noted that as hard as Lani's absence was on his twins, it was not as difficult as the loss of Abigail. "At least I get to reassure the kids that their mom will be coming home soon. Chad can't make that promise to his [kids]," Eli said.
"I just can't imagine anything that would make this day any better," Julie said. "You sure about that?" Chad said as he walked in with Jennifer. Jack and Thomas entered the room, and Thomas ran into Jennifer's arms. Jack noted that Charlotte was upstairs with the twins and the babysitter. Jack asked Jennifer why she had not let him pick her up at the airport. Jennifer looked across the room at Chad.
"I had to make a quick stop first," Jennifer said. As Jack hugged Jennifer, Chad walked over to Eli. "How are you?" Eli asked. "Just taking each day as it comes," Chad said. "I know this Christmas is going to be a tough one for you and the kids," Eli said. "For you, too," Chad countered. Eli said he was thankful that the family was together and that the kids were surrounded by love.
In the corner, Doug and Julie beamed as they watched their family interacting. "This is turning out to be a lovely Christmas, after all," Julie said. "Indeed, it is," Doug agreed. "There's nothing like being with family for the holidays," Jennifer said. Chad smiled as he watched Jennifer cuddle Thomas on the couch.
After Eli checked on the sleeping twins, he returned to the living room with Charlotte. Julie announced that she would get the desserts, but Jack said Gwen was handling that. "Gwen? Allie and I are doing the desserts. So, if you all will excuse me," Julie said. As Julie rushed out in a huff, Doug joked, "Now it's officially Christmas."
In the dining room, Gwen placed a plate on the side table. "What do you think you're doing with those?" Julie asked. "This is British Christmas pudding. It's a holiday tradition," Gwen said. When Gwen made a crack about doughnuts, Julie took a moment to swallow her anger. "My beloved grandmother created the recipe for those doughnuts. They are a Horton family legacy, passed on through the generations. She also created this beautiful home that you are squatting in. So, if I were you, I think I would show a little respect," Julie said.
"I think it's you who should be showing me some respect, because if it weren't for me, your precious cousin Jennifer would be spending the holidays in Statesville," Gwen said. Julie looked taken aback. "That can't be true. This is just another one of your manipulations," Julie said. Gwen told Julie to ask Jennifer.
"Although I think that might be quite stressful for her to have to relive the accident. I'm guessing it was quite traumatic of her to have to get behind the wheel of a car, high as a kite, and run down her stepdaughter. I wouldn't want to trigger a relapse for her now, would we?" Gwen said. Julie asked Gwen if she wanted to blackmail Jennifer. Gwen rolled her eyes.
"Jennifer and I will probably never be friends, but she is my father's wife, and I love my father, which is why I haven't said anything. And I'm not going to," Gwen said. With a sigh, Gwen asked if there was room at the party for her British pudding. Julie told Gwen to leave her dessert, but she warned that there would never be a space on the tree for an ornament with Gwen's name on it. With a smirk, Gwen noted that Julie would not have a say after Julie died. Julie stressed that she would always have a say, even in death.
In the living room, Maggie, Sarah, and Xander arrived. As Eli hugged Sarah, he said, "I hear you've finally made an honest man out of this guy." "I don't know if I would go that far," Xander said. Eli welcomed Xander to the family. "That means a lot. I know you and Lani didn't always have the highest opinion of me, justifiably," Xander said. "That changed since you rescued the twins from that crazy-ass Vivian Alamain," Eli said. Xander said he was glad he had been able to help. Xander asked about Lani. "She'll be home soon," Eli said. Sarah asked Eli to send Lani their love. Eli nodded yes. "And you're making our cousin a very happy lady," Eli added. Xander beamed.
As Sarah went to retrieve a sweater, she saw Thomas in the foyer with a plate of cookies. "I hope that you're having a nice Christmas," Sarah said as she kneeled down next to Thomas. "It's okay. I miss Mommy, though," Thomas admitted. "We all miss her very much," Sarah said. Thomas said that he believed his mother was watching them from heaven.
"I hope you like the present Xander bought you," Thomas said. "I'm sure I will," Sarah said. "Aunt Gwen helped him pick it out," Thomas blurted out. Thomas clapped his hand over his mouth. "Oops. It was supposed to be a secret. She only told me because I heard her on the phone," Thomas confessed. When Sarah asked about the phone call, Thomas said he had overheard Gwen say that Xander "owed her one." Sarah forced a smile, and she promised to keep Thomas' secret.
Gwen entered the living room, and she awkwardly said hello to Maggie and Jennifer. "I'm glad that you're doing better," Gwen said. With a nod, Gwen walked over to Xander by the tree. Gwen started to warn Xander about her conversation with Thomas, but she was interrupted by Sarah. Before Xander could defuse the moment, Julie announced that it was time to hang the ornaments.
Doug started to sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and the family joined him. The family hung their ornaments. Gwen caught Xander's eye after he hung his ornament, and Sarah noticed. Chad placed Abigail's ornament on the tree, then he hugged his children.
After the party, Doug and Julie sat in the living room together. "You outdid yourself, my darling," Doug said. "In spite of all the sadness this year, I think tonight's party was as lovely as it's ever been," Julie said. Doug and Julie said "I love you" to one another. "Christmas Day. I can't wait to spend it with you, my love," Doug said. "Right back at you, my husband," Julie said.
In the foyer, Jennifer told Jack that the kids were asleep upstairs. When Jennifer asked Jack if he was ready to go to sleep, he noted that sleep had not been on his mind. "Jack! In a house full of people?" Jennifer teased. "I know I can be quiet," Jack said. "Since when?" Jennifer quipped. "I'll show you some of my stealth moves," Jack whispered as he danced over toward Jennifer. Jennifer's phone rang with a call from J.J. As Jennifer wished her son a merry Christmas, Jack smiled at his wife.
At the motel, Xander and Sarah climbed into bed. "You had fun tonight?" Xander asked. "Up until a certain point," Sarah said. Xander agreed that it was sad, as well. With a smile, Xander said Sarah's family had made him feel like he belonged. Xander gave Sarah a present. "Is this the gift that Gwen helped you pick out for me?" Sarah asked. "What?" Xander said. Sarah explained that Thomas had overheard that Xander owed Gwen. Xander explained that he had run into Gwen while he had been shopping in the square.
"[Gwen] agreed to help me," Xander said. Sarah stared at Xander for a moment. "Let's see what happens when you two put your heads together," Sarah said. Inside the box was lingerie. "This is what you and Gwen picked out for me?" Sarah asked. "Merry Christmas?" Xander said cheerily.
In the Horton living room, Chad looked up at the angel on the top of the tree. "I did it. Made it through my first Christmas Eve without you. I managed to stay strong for the kids. I think they had some fun... I hope it helped them," Chad said. "I'm sure it did," Abigail's voice said. Chad looked at the top of the tree, but the angel was gone. Chad turned around, and a vision of Abigail stood there.
"You're here," Chad said. "I'm always here. You think a little thing like death is going to come between a love like ours?" Abigail countered. "I miss you," Chad said. Abigail told Chad that she missed him, too. Abigail advised Chad to live his life. "And I'm going to be with you every step of the way. With you and Thomas and Charlotte. Look for me in their faces," Abigail said. Abigail wished Chad a merry Christmas, and she disappeared. Chad looked back at the tree, and the angel was back on top. "Merry Christmas, my love," Chad said.