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"Guess What I Got You For The Holidays" is the Christmas episode of the sitcom Rhoda, a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that featured Mary Richards' acerbic, cynical best friend Rhoda Morgenstern, having moved back to New York and now married to Joe Gerard. It first aired on December 16, 1974, during the show's first season.

Synopsis

As Christmas approaches, Rhoda shows her younger sister, Brenda, her gift for herself - the real cashmere sweater she couldn't have in 1956, when they were popular. Rhoda tells Brenda that she is really enjoying this Christmas season; she is married, with a successful window-dressing business, and has even saved two thousand dollars in the bank, a first in her life. Joe, on the other hand, is finding his demolition business harder and harder to sustain. After Brenda warns Rhoda that the heard-but-never-seen doorman, Carlton, is hinting at and hunting for gifts from the tenants, the sisters brainstorm a Christmas gift for their difficult mother Ida, agreeing that a pearl necklace, being their father Martin's perennial gift, is out. They finally settle on getting her a gift certificate for a makeover at Elizabeth Arden, though Rhoda wonders and worries just what they will make her over as.

At his office, Joe's frustrations mount geometrically if not astronomically. There is no money to pay a bill to an important creditor, and no possibility of an extension. His assistants, Mae and Justin, try to offer what help they can, but Justin actually makes things worse when he reveals that, due to union rules, he makes more and works less that his beleaguered boss, which he views as counter-balanced by the contortions he had to undertake as the first black member of his union shop, of which there are now three in a group of sixteen thousand, which he takes as progress. Joe regrets his inability to schmooze and romance clients, feeling that it's the work and quality that should be important. With only toll-booths and other small-scale projects ahead of him, Joe is not full of the holiday spirit.

Back at home, Rhoda tries to cheer Joe up by offering to take a bundled up December walk on the Coney Island Boardwalk, only for Joe to reveal that not only is it being torn down, it was yet another contract he failed to get. Rhoda decides to give Joe his Christmas gift early, the two thousand dollars she had saved up, this in the form of cash since she knew he would never cash a check. Joe reluctantly takes it, but it is easily eaten up by his immediate needs at the office. The next day, while Rhoda tells Brenda how to handle and circumvent Ida's motherly senses and deals with questionable fudge from Carlton, Joe again finds simply doing honest business impossible. When he refuses to bribe a city official in order to get his bid on a major demolition project looked at, he also finds his efforts to threaten the man with exposure turned around on him. In any event, Mae says that they should not be bribing officials - they simply can't afford it.

Finding Joe awake at 3am, Rhoda again tries to get him to open up about how these setbacks are eating at him. Joe finally admits that he likes being his own boss and that fear of losing his own business is less a matter of money than of pride and accomplishment. Joe finally begins to cry, after earlier declaring it not so much unmanly as pointless. With no solution to slow business and a fixed system found then and there, the two simply hold each other.

Just after Christmas, still shown wrapping some late gifts, Brenda and Rhoda talk about how well Ida liked her makeover, except that to Brenda, it looked a bit like someone had shellaced her.

Trivia

  • Despite being firmly established as Jewish (including a memorable Mary Tyler Moore episode about anti-semitism), the Morgensterns are shown to be quite secular here, with only a Hanukkah card on the kitchen wall of Rhoda's apartment as even a hint. All gifts are described as being for Christmas.

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