Click here to see past years’ episodes of A Very Special Holiday Season.
Sabrina’s a senior in high school in this episode and has decided she’s too old for pranks and trick-or-treating. So she gets a job at a coffee shop and decides to work there instead of celebrating Halloween. Um. Okay. I mean kind of an extreme reaction to not wanting to collect candy door to door but always good to build that résumé I suppose!
Meanwhile her aunts are fully into celebrating the holiday, so they conjure up Edgar Allen Poe for Halloween dinner. You know what I very much love? The idea of a formal Halloween dinner with special guests. Add that to my post-quarantine to do list please!
Sabrina’s aunts warn her that witches “can’t run away from Halloween,” but she ignores them and works at the coffee shop (alone) anyway. As it turns out, not being able to run away involves having what amounts to a low-key psychotic episode. So you know…idk I would probably just go to Halloween dinner if I were here…
But anyway Sabrina tries to push through the hallucinations, which include “hearing” a customer say, “I want to chop you up in little pieces,” (!!!) when he’s really just ordering a cup of coffee. And don’t worry, the worst thing that happens with that dude is she serves him coffee that is so strong it tastes like mud.
When the coffee shop gets too crowded for Sabrina to handle on her own, she starts whipping up lattes using magic. Cut to: zombies in the alleyway.
Now I’m not saying that Sabrina’s use of coffee shop magic caused the zombie apocalypse, but the show’s editing is leading me down that road of logic. And then a giant storm appears and the power goes out!
Sabrina tries a spell to get the zombies to go away, but it doesn’t work. Meanwhile, Edgar is really enjoying Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda’s cooking. When Sabrina calls home for help, they’re too busy chatting to talk to her, so she’s only able to ask Salem for advice. He explains that witches who run from Halloween get chased by Halloween. Yikes!
The zombies eventually break into the coffee shop, but it turns out they don’t want to eat human (or witch) flesh. They just want to dance!! We are then treated to — I kid you not — a 90 second montage of terrible dancing with even worse stock music.
Finally in the last four minutes of the episode, Sabrina realizes that the only way to make the zombies go away is to celebrate Halloween. She calls out to her boyfriend Harvey, who is across the street TP’ing the Christine Science Reading room, and tells him to come over and prank the coffee shop instead. We are then treated to another montage — this time 20 seconds of toilet-papering zombies.
Things aren’t much better back at the house. Edgar Allen Poe has decided to read a tepid romance. He’s branching out from horror! But it’s dull and totally not the Halloween experience the aunts were looking for. Luckily, Salem has somehow managed to write short stories without the use of opposable thumbs and reads some of his own scary stories to the group. They’re so spooky that they even make Edgar Allen Poe’s hair stand on end. (Too bad we spent so long on the zombie dance montage because we don’t get to hear any of the stories in their entirety.)
Very Special Halloween Lesson: Property destruction is the only way to stave off the zombie apocalypse? Don’t worry, Salem actually lists a couple of his own very special lessons during the credits, so I’ve got some better options to share with you than that one:
“Try as you may, you cannot run away from Halloween.”
“You never really know what lurks beneath your neighborhood sewer grate.”
Sabrina is very upset with Salem because he ruined her favorite Christmas sweater. (Um, she’s a WITCH why can’t she just zap it back to perfection?) When Salem won’t say he’s sorry, the family leaves him alone to reflect on his actions (which no cat has ever done ever.)
While Salem is in timeout, Sabrina goes to a pizza place to meet Harvey. Harvey gives Sabrina a silver choker for Christmas. Sabrina gives Harvey a scarf, but she notices that Salem has ripped up the wrapping and she gets mad again. Just as they are about to kiss under the mistletoe, Salem causes a ruckus. He’s snuck into the pizza place and is chasing a mouse. They get tossed out of the pizza place when Sabrina is accused of brining a cat into the building.
In the alley out back, Sabrina and Salem argue and he refuses to come home with her. Salem’s plan is to sulk for a while and make everyone worry about him before he makes his way home. But as he heads back to the house, a kid hits him with his bike. He’s worried about Salem, so he takes him home.
OMG THE GUY PLAYING THE KID’S DAD IS THE GUY WHO PLAYED THE DAD IN CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL. IT’S A WEIRD CLARISSA/SABRINA REUNION!!!
Salem manages to call Sabrina while the kid is away for a moment. He comes back into the room while Sabrina is on the phone and tells her that the cat his now DUN DUN DUN!
So they can’t use magic to find him because you have to wait 24 hours to file a missing witches report. This means they have to search for him “the mortal way.” But apparently the mortal way involves zapping Coolio out of an advertisement in the alleyway, so he can tell them what he saw.
Most importantly, poster-Coolio saw that the kid’s bike had a vanity plate that said “Rex,” so we at least know the youth’s name. Coolio points them in the right direction and they start going door to door. (There’s a lot of going door to door for pets in this year’s very special holiday season posts.)
Sabrina eventually find the right house, but Rex won’t give Salem back. So Sabrina disguises herself as Santa and gives the kid a spatula and a Neil Diamond box set, to which he replies, “Didn’t you get my fax?”
1996 A YEAR WHEN CHILDREN FAXED THEIR LETTERS TO THE NORTH POLE!
She tells him he’ll get more presents in the morning, but she’s really there–I mean SANTA is really there–to take the cat back because there was a mixup and he got the wrong cat. When he still refuses to return Salem, Sabrina grabs the cat and runs. So then the kid screams and cries, “SANTA STOLE MY CAT!” repeatedly until his mother comes running into the room.
His mother (who never knew about the cat, only his father knew) tells him that he must have had a bad dream because he doesn’t have a cat. So the little boy says, “I saw him. He was real. He game me this spatula.” His mother looks bewildered and this poor kid is probably going to need years of therapy…though he did steal a cat so maybe he needed years of therapy anyway and hopefully this will speed along that process.
Very Special Holiday Lesson: As Salem says, “There are worse places to be during the holidays than with your family.”
Sabrina has no plans for Halloween. Her friends all think it’s lame and her aunts will be in the other realm at a new galaxy opening, a very exclusive event. So she’s decided to have a house party at their empty house and encourage all of her college friends to attend.
Since when do you have to get college kids excited about Halloween? But fine. And if anything says, “cool party” it’s got to be Sabrina’s little bo-peep costume couples costume with her cat, Salem, dressed as a lamb. But the party does seem to be a little cool when the lights flicker and monsters that Sabrina has hired from the other realm show up. Everyone thinks they’re just really great scary haunted house actors, but of course, they are legit ghouls.
Meanwhile, Sabrina’s aunts are feeling self-conscious at the galaxy opening, realizing they look like Romy & Michele at a black tie event. They also learn that the new galaxy is a landfill and no one wanted to attend the party, so they extended the guest list at the last moment. As our current president would say, “Sad.”
Back at the ghoul-party, the party planner has apparently sent so many ghouls that the party is now over-run with ghouls. Meanwhile, word has gotten out that this party is happening, and all of her aunt’s belongings are getting decimated.
Okay, so. Hm. This is the problem I’ve always had with a sitcom about magic, especially one that doesn’t even have pressure from an over-bearing husband to deter its lead from using it (I’m looking at you, Bewitched). Why don’t her aunts just fix their ridiculous costumes by conjuring up some better costumes? Why doesn’t Sabrina just magically repair all of the damage to her aunt’s house?
But none of it matters because soon, Sabrina’s aunts are leaving their lame galaxy party to attend a much cooler party, which they quickly learn is Sabrina’s party at their home. They’re not terribly excited about it.
However, Sabrina’s peeved aunts are the least of her worries. When it’s time to return all of the ghouls, she realizes that Frankenstein is missing. Apparently, he’s gone home with one of her friends–eek–and they are quite smitten. Sabrina drags him back to her house but he resists going back to the other realm due to marital problems with The Bride of Frankenstein. So Sabrina and her aunts travel back with him to help them communicate, using a little magic. SO WHY COULDN’T SHE USE MAGIC TO FIX THE WATER STAIN ON THE PIANO BEFORE THEY GOT HOME?!?
Okay, fine. At least we get this cute little scene.
Very Special Halloween Lesson: If you have magic powers, use them to make sure you’re dressed appropriately for a black tie event. Don’t squander them by becoming armchair analysts for the Frankensteins.
It is too cold in New England for Sabrina and she desperately hopes for a trip to a warmer climate. Instead of using magic to zap herself to the equator, she calls into a radio contest and has her Aunt Zelda answer a “science question.” I’m assuming they do use magic at some point though because Sabrina hangs up the phone before telling the DJ what her aunt’s name is.
Meanwhile, Salem has ordered himself “The 12 Days of Christmas” from the other realm’s 89-cent store. The gifts are kinda jacked up though. Here they are in order of their appearance on the show:
Danny “Partridge” in a pear tree.
*Two dead turtles with wings stapled onto their shells. (ick.)
*Three French Women sitting under those globe hair dryer things (They’re the “hens,” apparently. I also just learned that a Bachelorette party is also called a “Hen Party.”)
*4 – 8. Who knows. They’re not featured.
*9 very large, uncoordinated ladies dancing on the second floor of the house
*11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming, indoors, all at the same time
They’re also going to bring Harvey on the trip! But unfortunately, a large snowstorm has other ideas. I guess they could just magically zap themselves down to Jamaica, but that wouldn’t really work with Harvey…
So Sabrina tries a spell to change the weather. Unfortunately, she ends up changing herself into a snowman instead. And then she starts melting…and melting…and by the time her aunts come home, she’s nothing but a snowman’s head.
As it turns out, the only way to turn Sabrina back into a human is for her to plead her case directly to Mother Nature (depicted as a high-power CEO). So her aunts put her in a pail and take her over to corporate headquarters. Too bad Sabrina didn’t just check the weather because it turns out that the snow was going to stop that night anyway.
Luckily, Mother Nature is feeling charitable, so she turns her back into a human and determines her punishment to be as follows: Sabrina must spend time with Willard Kraft and fill him with Christmas cheer. Mother Nature gives her a little Christmas tree lapel pin and tells her that Mr. Kraft will be “sufficiently cheered” when the star at the top of the tree lights up.
So Sabrina takes Mr. Kraft back in time through the grandfather clock aunt her aunts’ store. She hopes to show him a good Christmas memory, so he will feel a little holiday cheer. Kind of Ghost of Christmas Past-y. It turns out that Mr. Kraft doesn’t really have any happy Christmas memories, but he DOES actually feel cheered up by their tour of the past. He decides all he needs to do is lower his expectations for Christmas and then he will never be disappointed. Aw, bummer.
So Sabrina decides to invite Mr. Kraft to Jamaica instead of Harvey. Sadly, Hilda ruins everything by casting the same spell that Sabrina did earlier (except this time to make the snow come back). She’d rather be a snowman than go to Jamaica with Mr. Kraft. But Mr. Kraft is okay with not going to Jamaica. He’s just happy to not be alone on Christmas.
Also, Salem complains to the 89-cent store and they send him a baker’s dozen of donuts as restitution. So…looks like I’ll be celebrating the 13 Days of Christmas next year.
Very Special Lesson: No one should be alone on Christmas, but if you really want to be alone on Christmas then you should be a snowman.
As you may know, Sabrina’s cat Salem once erased the great holiday, Bobunk. But I say this year, we bring it back. TV Tropes tells me that Bobunk falls on the third Saturday of November and involves the following items:
-Food with Liquor in it
-Food shaped like cats
Basically, it sounds like the best day ever. So grab your favorite cat, and let’s celebrate!
Cue: Creepy pipe organ music and a red-eyed bat flying at the camera.
Salem sits at a cob-webbed covered desk and reads to us from a giant book. This episode, he says, “may not be suitable for some parents.” Ooooh
In the witching world, Halloween is kind of like Christmas, which is why Sabrina’s family member sends her a doll as a gift. It’s weird because she’s too old for a doll but even weirder because the doll is creepy AF.
Sabrina finds the doll on the staircase “staring” at her. Thinking that Salem is pulling a prank, she tosses the doll up the stairs. OMG Sabrina, NO! You will anger her! But when she and her friends are watching a movie, she sees the doll again. This time it turns its head at her and BLINKS its eyes. AGHHHHHHH
This may be the most frightening thing I have ever written about on this blog.
When Sabrina tries to open the door for some trick-or-treaters, she finds that she is not only unable to open it, but also that it is electrified! This must be the doll’s doing. As if it couldn’t get any worse the doll says, “I’m a Molly Dolly and I’m gonna get youuuu.”
Wtf. How is this a show aimed at children?? Thank God, I missed this episode back in 1998. I’m starting to think that Salem’s message at the beginning of the episode wasn’t about parents at all. Why didn’t he say “this show is not for children or anyone who can’t handle scary movies on any level whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, Sabrina’s aunts are at a Halloween party. Unfortunately, that party has turned out to be an insane asylum that they can never leave, Hotel California style. So basically, Sabrina and her friends are about to get murdered by a doll and no one can save them.
Sabrina attempts to warn her friends about the evil doll, but they think she is playing a prank. I guess they’d think it was part of the prank if she tried to tell them she was a witch too.
Back at the insane asylum, an evil doctor chases Sabrina’s aunts with a giant needle. Ick. When a real Frankenstein’s Monster and a Mummy pop out of a closet (these are also Harvey and his friend’s costumes by the way), her friends say this prank has gone TOO far. But they’re obviously scared enough to run around the house while the monsters chase them.
Things reach a fever pitch when Sabrina engages in fisticuffs with the doll, and her aunts are the subjects of a scary experiment to switch their brains with those of some chickens. Sabrina subdues the doll and rushes to the party to find her aunts…who unfortunately are now chickens.
Luckily, the party isn’t really an insane asylum. It’s a theme party. So at the end of the night, everything will go back to normal. Also, that evil creepy doll is just the other realm’s idea of a good time. Sabrina and her aunts return home and put everything right. They laugh everything off as an elaborate practical joke. Omg how does Sabrina even have any friends?? She needs to put some kind of memory loss spell on all of them STAT.
Very Special Halloween Lesson: NO more dolls. Ever.
It’s the final countdown: Sabrina vs. Growing Pains. Let’s start with a recap of each:
Growing Pains: Mike sells Jason and Maggie a bad tour package. Maggie gets appendicitis and can’t do anything the whole trip, but Jason has a chef (from the restaurant where he proposed) cater a special dinner in her hospital room. Mike traipses about Barcelona with a girl that he does not get along with and then they fall in love.
Sabrina Goes to Rome: Sabrina heads to Rome to solve the mystery of her ancestor’s locket. She learns that this woman was a witch who was betrayed by her mortal boyfriend (who blabbed to everyone that she was a witch) and ended up powerless and banished because of it. While in Rome, Sabrina meets a cute boy who discovers she is a witch and wants to sell a story about her to a tabloid. Sabrina manages to solve the mystery and also not be betrayed by the cute boy because the power of love and stuff.
And now for the breakdown:
Overall Plot: I’m struggling here. On the one hand, Sabrina had a much more fun plot. But I still think the “time travel to solve the mystery” thing is a massive plot hole. Couldn’t they have at least had her figure out some kind of spell in order to be able to travel back in time? But on the other hand Growing Pains is so rom-com derivative (even for Growing Pains) and I’m not sure I can keep awarding points to Maggie’s appendectomy. This is really a coin toss for me. But I guess I’ll give it to Growing Pains for their lack of plot holes.
Vacation Attire: Sabrina again.
Music: Growing Pains really nailed the vacation music category in their Hawaiian episode, but this one just does not deliver. Sabrina has top 40 hits, so I’m guessing they had a much bigger budget. But she still gets the point.
Integration of European Setting: While in my experience, it’s totally implausible to go to Rome and not be catcalled by at least 25 individual males ages 14-58, Sabrina Goes to Rome could otherwise serve as a travel guide to the Eternal City (hm…now there’s a thought…)
Growing Pains: Overall Plot = 2 points
Sabrina: Music + Vacation Attire + Integration of European Setting = 3 points
Sabrina Goes to Rome is the Very Special European Vacation Champion!
This is a toughie. Both of these episodes have intrigue, stylish mid/late 90’s clothing, and great comedic timing. But only one can advance to the Very Special European Vacation Finals.
But first, a brief recap of Family Matters: Steve and the Winslows go to Paris via the Urk-Pad. Stefon becomes a super model. Steve is kidnapped by his pen pal at gun point because she wants to steal the Urk-Pad. A chase ensues and Steve falls off the eiffel tower only to be rescued by Carl who has turned on the Urk-Pad at the base of the tower, just in time.
Sabrina starts with Madonna’s “Sky Fits Heaven” so I’d say this is a lock on the music category. Sabrina is headed to Rome to release “the power trapped within” a locket she’s received from her father. All she knows is that “the secret lies in Rome.” Oooooh so mysterious! Sabrina ends up with a roommate in Rome. But she turns out to be a witch too. Only she’s not a very good witch, so that’s kind of the comedic relief here.
Anyway, this locket belonged to Sabrina’s sister, Sophia. She fell in love with a mortal who betrayed her, so she was stripped of her powers and banished like some Shakespearean character. Some American dudes who want to hit on Sabrina figure out she’s a witch and decide to sell a story about her to a tabloid. So Sabrina thinks her biggest challenge is balancing her new romance with solving this mystery, but really this dude is trying to ruin her life and she has no idea what danger she’s in. Sabrina takes an extended break from mystery-solving to go designer shopping.
Jennifer Page’s “Crush” is in this as well during a montage! So 1998! Finally, Sabrina decides to just go back in time and ask her Aunt Sophia to open the locket. (Omg, seriously. All this and that’s her freaking solution??) While back in time, Sabrina realizes that it wasn’t Sophia’s boyfriend who betrayed her but rather some lame courtier. Sabrina isn’t supposed to interfere because maybe she’ll mess up history and never be born. But when she figures all of this out, she can’t help but tell Sophia. So then Sophia puts her power (or herself?) in the locket and disappears. Sabrina and Sophia’s boyfriend run away from the evil courtier but leave the locket behind. Then Sabrina gets into a massive sword fight. Okay, so yeah Sophia is stuck in the locket.
And back in modern times, the guy who is trying to sell Sabrina for a story starts to have real feelings for her. Meanwhile, the worst witch has accidentally turned one of their warlock friends into a pigeon. When she finally finds him and turns him back into a human, he tells her that Sabrina’s crush is trying to destroy her. (Turns out pigeons have ears.) It’s too late to stop Sabrina though. She’s at the Trevi fountain making her crush’s dreams come true. She just transported him to see his family in a small Italian village. So the cat’s out of the bag about her being a witch and all. But this dude is so moved by the power of love that he’s not going to break her trust. His friend, however, has managed to capture them appearing and reappearing on tape by the Trevi fountain, so she’s screwed either way. Her friends want her to turn this dude into stone for 400 years. If she does this within twelve hours of him betraying her then she can keep her powers. But Sabrina won’t do it because maybe he won’t betray her. Ugh. So Sabrina goes to the museum to say goodbye to her aunt’s portrait. She’s all like I will always choose love over magic. Bleh. The dude she did NOT turn into stone shows up and shows her that he has destroyed the video evidence of her witch-ness. And this frees Sophia from the locket! OMG this was an epic!
Now, let’s break it down.
Vacation Attire: Stefon is looking fine in some 90’s couture suits. But Carl is hurting the Family Matters camp with all of his 90’s tourist dad outfits. And Steve matches his suspenders to his beret, so I really want to give him points for that. But honestly, I cannot give this point to Family Matters because Laura wears one too many ugly-ass floral print shirts for my liking. Plus Sabrina goes shopping at Armani AND travels back in time to the 18th century. So there’s that.
Music: Madonna AND Jennifer Page, be still my 90’s heart! Sabrina takes this point as well.
Integration of European Setting: Sabrina actually filmed on location and she’s literally all over the city of Rome solving this mystery and dating this cute guy, so point to Sabrina on this one.
Overall Plot: This is a particularly hard one. I absolutely love that Steve accidentally gets involved with some gangsters. But the Laura/Stefon romance has always been boring to me. Then there’s Sabrina’s cool locket-solving thing. But honestly she spent some much time figuring out that locket only to decide to just travel back in time and ask the original owner how to open it…so really we could have skipped the entire movie if she’d done that in the first five minutes. That is some poor writing I just can’t get behind, so points to Family Matters on this one.
Family Matters: Overall Plot = 2 points
Sabrina: Music + Vacation Attire + Integration of European Setting = 3 points
Next Week on The Very Special Blog: The Final: Growing Pains vs. Sabrina Goes to Rome
First, a quick recap of Growing Pains: Mike sells Jason and Maggie a bad tour package. Maggie gets appendicitis and can’t do anything the whole trip, but Jason has a chef (from the restaurant where he proposed) cater a special dinner in her hospital room. Mike traipses about Barcelona with a girl that he does not get along with and then they fall in love.
Now on to Taxi: Elaine has four weeks away from her kids for the summer, so she convinces Alex to go to Europe with her. On the plane, Alex offends everyone while Elaine makes friends with a cute guitarist. Life in first class was nice in the 70’s because everyone finds it very endearing when Elaine and the cute guy start singing Billy Joel’s “Vienna.” It’s loud and not exactly in tune. Thankfully, after the commercial break, we even get to hear the original version. Point to Taxi on this one. In Europe, Elaine continues to have a lovely time whereas Alex is lonely and miserable. The most exciting thing that happens to Alex is halfway through the episode. He’s playing a game of darts and accidentally hitting a fellow patron instead of the dart board. Did I mention he’s having a terrible trip? Alex gets increasingly depressed but won’t ask Elaine for help. He does finally get a date with a model, but she ditches him as soon as she finds out he’s a taxi driver. One night, Elaine finds a post card that Alex plans to mail to her address in New York. It says, “Dear Elaine, the time we spent writing post cards together was the best part of my trip.” Alex and Elaine decide to sleep together and the episode ends.
Integration of European Setting: This goes to Growing Pains for at least appearing to shoot on location. But the scenic countryside could be Napa for all I know. Taxi very clearly used sound stages and establishing shots.
Vacation Attire: Taxi. No contest. Alex was sad but he always had on a nice suite and Elaine was disco ready at every turn.
Music: Billy Joel wins this point for Taxi.
Overall Plot: Here’s where things get tricky. Taxi is leaps and bounds better than Growing Pains, but this was a weak episode overall. Alex and Elaine aren’t as great without their ensemble cast. And while this was certainly a very realistic depiction of loneliness, Alex and Elaine barely share a scene for the entire episode. Over at Growing Pains, the make romance plot is pretty dumb and un-inspiring but the Maggie/Jason appendicitis plot seems very legit and also a realistic depiction of travel gone-wrong. Plus the episode was just a bit more entertaining overall. I’m giving this point to Growing Pains.
Growing Pains: Integration of European Setting + Overall Plot = 3 point
Taxi: Music + Vacation Attire = 2 points
Next Week on The Very Special Blog: Family Matters vs. Sabrina Goes to Rome