This is technically part of the regular season, but does not fit with the continuity of the storyline, so when the series resumes regular airtimes next month, expect the sexual tension between Mel and Joe to remain, but in a completely different time of year, as the series left off with a summertime trip to New Jersey. Otherwise, this holiday special stands on its own legs anyway. Meredith is a character rarely mentioned on the show, and with her portrayal here, it is easy to remember why! Mel has really stepped up and changed her life to rear her sister's teenagers, though Meredith believes that her monthly phone calls from prison are what keeps the kids on track. Joe not being able to go home for the holidays seemed like a sad idea, but because he just saw his family within in the previous few episodes, it is difficult to feel that bad for him. All that said, I really enjoyed Mel's "rise above" song, and kinda hope that Joey Lawrence releases a single of it, LoL.
When everyone is decorating the tree, Ryder lets it slip that they knew for weeks that Meredith was coming home, which upsets Joe. [though it seems like just as much is hid from Mel as is hid from Joe!] Meredith is now dating the judge from her trial, and he decides to propose as a Santa-suited Mel is handing out Christmas gifts. [public Christmas proposals are beyond awkward. I was present at one a few years ago and it's definitely something awkward to remember!] The judge puts aluminum foil over Meredith's tracking anklet and they take off with the kids to spend the day together, leaving Mel alone with Joe, who decides not to take a last-minute flight to New Jersey after all. [did Mel wear the same outfit only in red on Christmas Eve and green with a belt on Christmas Day?] Mel realizes later that Joe lied, but he did it to be a good person. They start to flirt a little when Lennox and Ryder get home, wanting to share Mel's Christmas to-do list with her. [awwww!]