See how the Brown family celebrates Christmas traditions both old and new in the special Alaskan Bush People episode “A Browntown Christmas.” In years past, Christmas was a time to reconnect with extended family, but this holiday they’re staying in Browntown and bringing old traditions into their new home, as they build and acquire food and materials that they need for the perfect holiday.
Somewhere deep in the Alaskan wilderness, there lives a family cut off from mainstream America. A family so detached from civilization, they celebrate Christmas in late October, have it filmed by a TV crew, then get the footage edited in time for a mid-December premiere on Discovery Channel. These are the Alaskan Bush People, and this is the holiday we will call … Bushmas!
The Brown kids go hunting for the perfect Bushmas tree. Noah selects the tree, and Bear cuts it down with a handsaw. If Bear were truly filled with the spirit of Bushmas, he’d gnaw through that tree’s trunk instead. Zero EXXXXTREME Bushmas Points! Noah recalls one year the Browns didn’t actually have a tree, but they hung their stockings under a painting of a Bushmas tree. Bam has no memory of this. Bam has no time for you, Noah. Be gone!
Another Brown family Bushmas tradition is the Great Buzzkill, in which Billy reminds us of this from 48 years ago:
Yes, yes, we know how awful that was. There’s no denying that. “What I remember the most is my mom and dad were slow dancing to a Dean Martin song,” Billy recalls of the last Christmas with his parents and sister. “The next Christmas I spent alone in a parking lot and I was living in the backseat of my car.” Yes, Billy, you have our sympathy. Who should I write the check out to?
[DIGRESSION! In the George Dolan column on the front page, there’s a sentence that reads, “There’s no money and we’re out of mayonnaise.” I plan on using this. It could be the new “These pretzels are making me thirsty.”]
Billy just wants to make sure his wife, Ami, spends this Bushmas crying as much as possible. “I spent almost 40 years with her trying to give her a Rockwell Christmas, where we had our own house, our own everything, a real tree, just the whole bit, you know,” Billy says. Indeed, there’s nothing quite like a Rockwell Christmas.
“I want a big-time, real Christmas this year,” Billy says. Oh, please. As if anything on this show is real.
The Browns are dragging some old kith and kin from Texas up to Alaska to be on TV and celebrate Bushmas. We meet Cousin Billy, Cousin Dian and Cousin Cody. Bill and Margaret Fuller, who visited Brownton Abbey for all of 10 minutes last year in the episode “The Ballad of Billy Brown,” are back again to marvel at all the wonders of Brownton Abbey. Billy gives everyone the tour of the Alaskan Bush People set, including Matt’s stupid tire hut, the outhouse where most of them poop and that tent where Noah does disturbing, unspeakable stuff. Cousin Cody finds all of this fascinating, and he’d like to read the brochure.
Behold! Matt returns!
We know from last season that Matt went to rehab for alcohol abuse, though this episode doesn’t actually say where or why Matt was gone. Maybe the producers are still trying to figure that out.
No Bushmas is complete without the exchange of crappy gifts. “Bush Santa does give Bush-ish gifts like the stuff like him and Mrs. Claus like carved-hand themselves and all. And I always thought those hand-carved stuff was a lot better than, like, the plastic robot toys,” Bear semi-coherently explains. Bear is carving a long knife handle out of wood for Matt. Since it’s totally impractical, it might as well be decorative. Bear uses black powder to burn a bunch of Xs into the handle. Sure, everyone loves Xs! It will be a nice surprise, because Matt would never expect Xs! EXXXXTREME!
Meanwhile, Matt has some terrible gift ideas of his own. Remember those big water tanks littering the shores of Brownton Abbey? Matt’s going to render one of them permanently useless by bashing it with a rock.
When the rock plan fails, Matt goes for a rusty metal pole thing. “Sometimes you just need something that you can beat the crud out of something with,” Matt says, pounding away at the tank frame with gusto. Then Matt gets out the saw and starts hacking at the plastic tank until he’s cut out a sled to give to Bear. “There will definitely be EXXXXTREME Points going off in his head. Ding! Ding! Ding!”
The sled would be a nice gift if Brownton Abbey were ever covered in anything more than a light dusting of snow. Maybe the Browns brought the sled along with them when they hit the slopes of Vail, Colo.
It is a Bushmas tradition for the Browns to go on a duck hunt, so I guess we’re going to have to sit through some of that now.
[DIGRESSION! I got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas around 1987. Those of a certain age know that the NES came with a Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge and the NES Zapper light gun. I had a terrible habit of snooping for presents, because the wait for Christmas is interminable when you’re 12 years old. I found the stash of gifts in the basement crawl space. One mid-December night when my parents were out of town, my sister and I took the NES out of its hiding spot, brought it upstairs, opened the box, hooked everything up to the TV, played Duck Hunt for an hour or two, disconnected everything, repackaged the console and accessories, and returned it to the crawl space. My folks were none the wiser until years later when my sister ratted me out. My mom could only shake her head in disgust.]
It’s Bear and Birdy’s job to burn up lots of screen time with this duck hunt, a Bushmas tradition dating back before the year in which Bear wore nothing but a loincloth (not to be confused with the year in which Bear wore nothing but a tuxedo). Bear and Birdy take the Rental Skiff out to blast away at some waterfowl, and of course they have to do this before the tide comes in because they don’t have enough rope and FAKE URGENCY! “We stalk up as slowly and as stalkily as we possibly can,” says Bear, inventing the word “stalkily.” But all the stalkiliness is for naught as the pair just open fire aimlessly at ducks, hitting none.
Eventually, Bear shoots down and punches a small duck that wouldn’t be enough to feed Rainy, let alone the Browns and their guests. Time is running out and the tide is rising. They shoot two more ducks that we don’t get to see onscreen — it’s a Bushmas Miracle! — and head back to the Rental Skiff. The success of the hunt was never in doubt for Bear, because “One, I never miss. And two, I’m the best.” And three, he won the Hoonah Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest for the second straight year!
Just to draw this subplot out a little longer with Unnecessary Drama, Bear and Birdy return to find the Rental Skiff floating on the high tide. Birdy wades out into the shoulder-deep water to find the rope. She finds it, and then there’s nothing more to see here. Please disperse.
Good Lord. This has already been the most tedious and tiresome Bushmas ever, and we’ve still got about 20 minutes left in this episode. Matt and Rainy kill more screen time by looking for spent gun shell casings to turn into Bushmas ornaments. “The Bush really brings Christmas out in people,” Matt says.
Another honored Bushmas tradition is shooting guns at stuff, so the Browns give their guests some firearms and let them squeeze off a few rounds at the targets. Cousin Billy is a Crazy Rich Texan with plenty of money to piss away. He puts a $100 bill on a target and he’ll award the C-note to the first person who’s able to hit it. Cody wins the cash. The contest was RIGGED! This goes all the way up to Putin!
I’m intrigued by Cousin Cody. Bear seems to take a shine to him, too, and Bear starts talking with some of the lines he usually reserves for the ladies. Bear shows Cody the treehouse and he shows him how to use sap to start a fire. “You ever do any howling or anything?” Bear asks Cody. I fast-forwarded through the next 30 seconds, because like hell I’m going to listen to howling. Cousin Cody is smitten by the seductive promises of the fabulous Bush facade. “If I didn’t love my job, I’d be out here with y’all,” he says. Cody’s probably better off staying in his current position as a servant of Lord Sauron.
Back in the house, Ami is slicing vegetables. (She’s not crying! It’s just the onions!) Ami and Diane spin yarns about the legend of Billy’s grandfather, Brownie Brown, who was once Sheriff of Borger, Texas. Brownie Brown’s claim to fame is supposedly refusing the chance to take out Bonnie and Clyde because he “didn’t believe in ambushes.” I’d love to tell people about all the crap I could’ve done but didn’t. I guess the Browns’ bullshit roots run deep.
That, mercifully, brings us to the end of this episode, as the Browns and their guests cram themselves on one side of the table and look at the food in front of them. Noah stares blankly at the floor, dreaming of all the things he’ll one day tell people he could’ve done but didn’t.
Billy closes out the episode as he usually does, pontificating about how his Bush ideals made his vision of a Bush Utopia a reality on a reality TV show. “My blood is half tree sap and half saltwater,” he tells his guests. Then Billy and the family board the first plane out of Alaska to spend real Christmas at the luxurious ski resorts of Vail and Aspen.
There’s no money and we’re out of mayonnaise.