Christmas Specials Wiki
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Christmas Specials Wiki

"The Draft Dodger" is the third Christmas episode of the CBS sitcom All in the Family (which was based on the BBC One sitcom Till Death Us Do Part), aired as the fifteenth episode of the show's seventh season, on Christmas Day 1976, though the story takes place on Christmas Eve.

Synopsis[]

It's Christmas Eve, and Archie has invited his close friend, Pinky Peterson, to the house for Christmas dinner and has even bought a gag gift for him: a battery-powered Santa head that sticks its tongue out and squirts water from its mouth when its tie is squeezed. Archie tries it out on Edith, but it doesn't work until he turns it around to fix it, and gets water sprayed all over his shirt.

While Archie goes to change, Edith answers the door for a young man named David Brewster, an old schoolmate of Mike's from Chicago now living in Canada; he decided to pay a surprise visit to Mike for Christmas. Edith invites David to stay for dinner, which he accepts, and when she goes to check on her cookies, David and Mike (now with Gloria) have a private conversation, and Mike asks if David is taking a chance on being back in the States as he is still a fugitive, but David tries to compartmentalize his fear by saying that it's worth it for the holidays. Gloria tries to reassure him saying that they're among friends and that there's nothing to worry about―until they all hear Archie complaining about starched shirts from upstairs.

Now wearing a dry shirt, Archie comes back down and is introduced to David. Archie asks where he is from, to which Gloria quickly answers "up north", from which Archie deduces he is from Rhode Island. David offers to help Edith out, but when he asks what part of Rhode Island he is from, Edith unwittingly blurts out that he's from Canada. When Archie continues asking what David does up in Canada, Mike distracts him with the Santa gag gift he bought for Pinky, and it backfires on Archie again, but this time he decides not to change his shirt. Pinky arrives at the door, but before Archie answers, he cautions them to not say anything about Pinky's son Steven, who was recently killed in Vietnam. Pinky gifts Edith with a poinsettia plant, and Archie shows Pinky the Santa gag, but it backfires on Archie again, and while he goes upstairs to again change his shirt, David, who overheard what Archie said about Pinky, introduces himself to him.

Later, they all sit down to dinner, and when Pinky tells a Christmas story about his late son, Steven, Archie decides to tell a sad one on himself about how one year as a boy he cried when got heavy underwear for Christmas instead of a bike, which is all he really wanted; when he mentions that heavy underwear still makes him cry, Edith adds that it also makes him itch. When Archie asks David if he has a family story to tell, David begins telling about Christmas with his family in Chicago, but when Archie recalls Edith saying he was from Canada, David casually mentions that he prefers living in Canada. Archie continues pressing David, asking why he prefers Canada over America, and David finally reveals the truth to him and to everyone at the table: he fled to Canada to avoid being drafted into the Army and shipped to Vietnam - in other words, he was and still is a "draft dodger". David reveals that he even wrote to the president about his feelings, saying that the (then-)president (Lyndon Johnson) "just couldn't come up with as many reasons for killing people as I could for not killing them".  

Seeing Archie's anger begin to rise, David is ready to excuse himself and leave, and when Gloria, Edith, and especially Mike try to defend David, Archie will have none of it and tries to put David in his place, lividly roaring that what he did was wrong. When Pinky speaks up, Archie, believing that Pinky will back him up, yields to him saying that, "your opinion matters more than anyone else's in this room". But Pinky's tone is far more conciliatory; he states that even though Steven also hated the war, he did what he felt he had to do, just like David. He then points out that "David is alive to share Christmas dinner with us, and if Steve were here, he'd want to sit down with him, and that's what I want to do." In a healing gesture of forgiveness, Pinky wishes David a Merry Christmas and extends his hand to David, which David timidly accepts.

Everyone else sits back down at the table, but Archie, now confused and distraught at the turn of events, is about to excuse himself until Edith quietly points out that he had asked Pinky for his opinion on what to do, and that he should follow Pinky's example. Archie just sits back down at the table when a group of carolers start singing outside, and Archie, as only he can, goes to the door and scolds the carolers for singing while he and his family are eating...

Notes[]

  • Less than a month after this episode first aired, President Jimmy Carter, during his first full day in office on January 21, 1977, signed an executive order unconditionally pardoning more than 200,000 draft dodgers from the Vietnam War, including nearly 600 others imprisoned for refusing to be drafted.[1] In doing so, Carter fulfilled one of his major campaign promises when he ran against incumbent Gerald Ford in the 1976 Presidential Election.
  • A "draft dodger" is a person who avoids the conscription policies of the country in which he or she is a citizen by going into hiding or emigrating to another country.
  • Archie refers to Pinky as a "Gold Star" parent, defined as "a parent of a member of any branch of the U.S. armed forces killed while serving active duty during a time of military conflict, or who died as a result of such service". Accordingly, Gold Star parents displayed service flags adorned with a gold star to denote that they lost a son in combat. In contrast, blue stars represent each member of a family serving in the military during any specified conflict, while silver stars represent family members injured in combat.
  • Archie's angry line ("I don't wanna talk about that goddamn war no more!!", as he originally said it) sparked a good deal of controversy, but also much discussion among fans and in the media. Though it was generally agreed that Archie would have indeed said what he originally said, CBS censors forced Lear to overdub Archie's profanity with "...that rotten damn war no more!", possibly from the network's fear of more repercussion as they had previously let the word slide in the earlier episode "We're Having a Heat Wave". It should be stated that the overdubbed line attenuates much of the dramatic intensity of the moment.
  • This episode was remade by Lear in 2021 with a different cast, headed by Woody Harrelson as Archie and Marisa Tomei as Edith, for the annual feature Live in Front of a Studio Audience. Other Lear company productions like The Jeffersons, Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Facts of Life have also received this treatment, and this was in fact the second outing for All In The Family for this special, and the only Christmas episode thus far.

Cast[]

Actor/actress Character
Carroll O'Connor Archie Bunker
Jean Stapleton Edith Bunker
Rob Reiner Michael "Meathead" Stivic
Sally Struthers Gloria Bunker-Stivic
Liz Torres Teresa Betancourt
Eugene Roche Pinky Peterson
Renny Temple David Brewster

References[]

See also[]

External links[]

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