Hi. Welcome back to my re-watch of Punky Brewster. If you want to read my prior reviews, you can check them out HERE.
I will provide a short episode summary here at the top, then a long and detailed summary just below that. There’s a sub-section near the bottom (scroll down) labeled “reaction” if you just want to get right to my thoughts about the episode.
[NOTE: This episode is one of the episodes that was not included on the NBC App. It *is* on the Peacock app, which I now have. I’ll review this episode and the other episodes I missed and re-number my episode guide.]
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Henry goes to great lengths to find Punky’s mother but does not succeed. On his way home from a lead, on Christmas Eve, he steps into an antique store he has never visited before. While there, he tells the jolly old store owner the situation. Before Henry can leave, the store owner tries to push a jewelry box on Henry, to give to Punky, but Henry refuses.
The next morning, Punky finds a present from Santa on the coffee table that Henry did not know about. It’s the same jewelry box he turned down the night before. Punky is convinced that it belongs to her mother because it has the initials SB on its bottom and it plays the tune of her and her mother’s favorite song. She also notes that the present she wrapped for her mother is missing from under the tree. Henry tries to calls the antique store, Nick’s Nook, but finds that the place does not exist. He suddenly realizes that the store owner from the night before was Santa.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Sometime later, after Henry/Santa has heard that Punky wants her mom back for Christmas, Mrs. Johnson is helping him out of his costume. The beard is adhered so tightly to his face that Henry yells out in pain when she pulls it off. As this is happening, they discuss Punky’s request. Henry insists that he has to make this happen for her while Mrs. Johnson tells him that he should have told her that Santa could not do something like that.
Mrs. Johnson: She put her order in too late. For a mom, you have to allow six to eight weeks for delivery.
Sometime later, we see Cherie and Punky drag a large Christmas tree into Henry’s apartment. Mrs. Johnson is with them. They also carry in an assortment of tree decorations. The ladies then decorate the tree – and at times themselves – with the ornaments, tinsel, and lights. After they finish, Henry finally returns home.
Punky: Sorry we started without you but we waited as fast as we could.
Punky tells Henry that she has good news. After he tells her that he could use some good news, she excitedly tells him that she saw Santa Claus today. Punky goes on to tell Henry that this was the real Santa, too.
Punky: And you know what? Here comes the mind-blower. Santa said he was going to bring me my mom for Christmas.
Henry asks her if she is sure given that this is a tall order for even Santa. She replies that he would have said he could not do it, if that was the case. Henry is flabbergasted that she would not have minded had he said no and she tells him that Santa cannot do everything. Henry tries to convince her that Santa may have misheard her request. She asks if he is teasing her and says that she knows Santa heard her say “mom” and that she knows he will bring her mom to her.
Cherie runs out from the kitchen with cookies. Henry takes that opportunity to go into the kitchen and update Mrs. Johnson. He says that he went to all of the proper authorities – the police, the FBI, and the local hospitals – and that no one is closer to finding Punky’s mother than they were before. He asks her what he is going to do. She tells him that he needs to tell Punky the truth.
Henry: And what is the truth, Mrs. Johnson? I’ve told her that one must have dreams and that if one believes strongly enough those dreams will come true. I’ve spent my entire life dreaming that someday I would have a child and I believed in that dream with all my heart and now I have that child. And I’ll do everything in my power to see that her dreams come true.
Mrs. Johnson just pats him on the shoulder as Punky yells from the living room that they are about to light up the tree. Henry and Mrs. Johnson go out into the living room. The girls turn off the lights in the room before turning on the tree’s lights. It’s beautiful. Henry sighs sadly. Mrs. Johnson quietly asks him what is wrong.
Henry: I’ve just realized something. If against all odds I somehow do find Punky’s mother, I could lose Punky.
All four of them sing “Oh Christmas Tree” as the show’s score plays string music over the sound of their singing.
Sometime later, with a fully decorated apartment, the show plays the song “Santa Claus Lives in Santa Cruz (With a Weakness For the Island Booze).” Henry is in the kitchen on the phone with the Chicago Police. He leaves a message with a Detective to call him back while being put on hold repeatedly in the attempt. After, he joins Mrs. Johnson and the two girls in the living room. Mrs. Johnson asks Punky about a present under the tree with gold wrapping paper. Punky tells her that the gift is for her mother.
Henry starts to attempt some dampening of Punky’s expectations but she jumps up and tells the two adults that she knows that when her mom arrives that they will sing a song together. Mrs. Johnson asks if they can hear the song so Punky sings it.
Got no diamonds.
Got no pearls.
But still I think I’m a lucky girl.
I got sun in the morning
And the moon at night
I got sun in the morning
And the moon… at night!
They begin to clap but Punky jumps up on the table and continues singing
Got no mansion
Got no yacht.
But still I’m happy with what I got.
I got sun in the morning
And the moon at night
I got sun in the morning
and the moon… at… night!
After the performance, the phone rings. Henry is told that a woman was just admitted to the hospital, with exposure, and he is told that she fits the description of Punky’s mother to a T. Mrs. Johnson asks if he thinks it might really be her and Henry tells her that he is off to find out.
We see that the weather outside of Henry’s apartment is frightful. Henry steps into a store to escape the freezing snow and cold to warm his hands. Inside, he meets a store owner. The owner is a plump man with white hair. He offers Henry a hot cup of tea. Henry thanks him and expresses surprise that he is still open this late at night on Christmas Eve. The man tells him that Christmas Eve is his biggest night of all. The man tells Henry that he has an assortment of gifts to buy. Henry replies that he does not think he will find what he is looking for here. Just then, Henry notices that he received a macaroon with his tea and comments that this is his favorite cookie. The store owner asks Henry if he would like to talk about what he is trying to find. After say no, Henry proceeds to explain the situation in detail. The man laughs as Henry talks about dressing up as Santa. Henry tells him that it was his finest hour and he further says that the man has no idea what it’s like to look and see those happy faces. The man says that he can imagine. When Henry gets to the part of the story where he tells Punky that he will find her mother, the old store owner cannot believe he would say that.
Owner: You could have said Santa can’t do everything!
Henry: I couldn’t tell her that.
Owner: Why not? It’s the truth. It’s hard enough just taking toys to all the children without having to find missing moms. You don’t need Santa. You need the FBI.
Henry goes on to tell the man that he has tried the FBI and the police and that he is just returning from a lead at the hospital. The owner intuits that it was not Punky’s mother. Henry says it was not but that the woman said for $20 she will be whomever he wants her to be.
The man tells Henry that’s a tough break. Henry says in turn that when Punky wakes up in the morning she will no longer believe in Santa. The man suddenly tells Henry not to lose hope. He grabs him by the arm and says that Christmas is a time of miracles and maybe Santa will bring her mother. Henry looks at the man as though he is not quite certain whether he is sane and replies “of course.” Henry makes to leave when the man tells him that his problem is that he convinced Punky that Santa would bring her mother but he did not convince himself that Santa would do it. Henry says that he will believe when he sees Susan Brewster in his living room.
Henry: Seeing is believing.
Owner: You’ve got that a little mixed up. Where I come from, believing is seeing.
Henry tries to leave again but the man wants to give Henry’s girl a jewelry box. He tells Henry it is on the house and he assures him that the box is one of a kind. Henry declines the gift.
Henry: You know it’s funny. I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life and I’ve never noticed an antique shop here before.
Owner: I guess you’ve never needed one before.
Christmas morning finally arrives. Henry’s living room is covered with presents. Punky wakes up and calls for Henry excitedly. She pulls a sleepy Henry out into the living room and points out all the presents.
Punky: And I wonder where….
She begins opening closets and looking around for her mother. After returning from a search of the kitchen, Punky says sadly that her mom is not here. Henry replies sadly that he guesses Santa was not able to find her but that he bets he tried as hard as he could. Punky says that Santa told her all that she had to do is believe and she says that she did with all her heart. She asks Henry why Santa did not do what he promised and Henry says he does not know.
Henry suggests that the open presents. Punky agrees and gives Henry a present. It is a pipe – and it looks s though Punky made it herself. She has to explain what it is but Henry says he will treasure it forever. He points to a present that is for Punky.
Punky: Oh, sneaker skates, there are smasharoo!
Punky sees a present on the coffee table and asks Henry what it is. Henry tells her that he does not know and that he has never seen it before. She reads the tag on the presents and it says “to Punky, from Santa.” She opens it and finds a jewelry box inside. Henry looks in amazement at the jewelry box he declined to take from the store owner the night before. Punky tells Henry that it is her mom’s jewelry box. Henry asks what she is talking about and Punky tells him that her mom’s initials are on the bottom of the box. Henry flips it over and sees SB on the bottom. Henry tells Punky that lots of people have the initials SB but Punky replies that there is one way to prove it. She opens the box and it plays the tune of the song Punky sang for him the previous day. Henry puts his hand to his mouth in shock. Punky jumps to her feet and looks for the present in gold wrapping paper that she had intended for her mother. It is gone.
Henry: What? It can’t be.
Punky: I think I know what happened. For some reason my mom wasn’t able to come. So he gave me the jewelry box she wanted to give to me. And he gave her the earrings I wanted to give to her!
Henry is bewildered. Just then the Johnsons knock on the door. Punky opens it and they come in carrying presents. As they come inside, Henry calls the operator to ask for the number for Nick’s Nook on Michigan Avenue. He is told that there is no listing. When Henry returns to the room, he finds Punky showing a shocked Mrs. Johnson the jewelry box and playing its song. Henry looks up and thanks Santa.
This was a supremely well executed sitcom Christmas story. Obviously the show cannot deliver upon the hoped-for miracle (doing so would end the show) but we got some great wish-fulfillment and warm fuzzies with how everything turned out in any case. We also got some quintessential 1980s Christmas nostalgia with the classic songs intermixed with obscure modern Christmas music (i.e. “Santa Claus is from Santa Cruz.”) Punky maintained her belief in Santa and Henry probably lived out the rest of his life wondering about this miracle and believing in Santa himself.
It’s nice that Henry and the Johnsons are also believers in this miracle too because even if I try to imagine Punky reconsidering the whole thing in future years, her belief will be bolstered by her new-found family.
I do not think this show would have worked but for the actor they cast as “Nick.” Iggie Wolfington – the owner of Nick’s Nook – was an outstanding out-of-costume Santa.
I really enjoy the dynamic between the Brewster-Warnimonts and the Johnsons in this episode. Henry and Mrs. Johnson present a kind of united grand-parent front for those two little girls. They have what feels like one big family. AND the relationship between Henry and Mrs. Johnson is also warm and friendly. They’re the kind of people (at least in this episode) that you kind of wish you could spend time with during the holidays.
In any case, great two-part story. I really enjoyed it.