Kyra Sedgwick, Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin

In our season-long examination of love, The Closer would be remiss if it didn't pause to consider the fuzziest of all human passions: a fondness for our own golden past.

Hardly anything tickles warm, childhood memories like the holidays. Gifts, decorations, friendly gatherings, family feasting and favorite songs blend to paint a glowing patina over our best memories. Unfortunately, the American brand of nostalgia borders on amnesia, and holding on to our youthful attachments oftentimes requires overlooking a host of problematic truths, or so our intrepid civilian tech, Buzz Watson, discovers when dragging his younger sister, Casey, on their annual trip to a local Christmas fair.

The North Pole Village — filled with evergreen trees and shiny ornaments — children in line to see Santa and strolling reindeer — is a little like a Rorschach test to this pair of battling siblings. To Buzz, it's like a present waiting to be opened on the morning of December 25th; to his little sister, Casey, it's a tacky con game with fake snow designed to coax parents out of hard-earned cash while they perpetuate childish myths about St. Nick.

They're both wrong. The North Pole Village very quickly becomes a crime scene featuring (among other things) a fatally flawed zip line, drug dealing elves and some extremely poor excuses for Santa Claus, one of whom is played with effortless charm by Fred Willard, famous for his star turns in movies like Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. In "You Have the Right to Remain Jolly," Mr. Willard helps The Closer celebrate its 100th episode. We thought about marking this event by doing something dark and mysterious, but surveying the rest of our December episodes, and considering the pessimistic mood of the country, we felt like an attempt to cheer people up wouldn't be entirely amiss. And, besides killing off Santa Claus, I can personally attest to the fact that the men of Major Crimes certainly felt more optimistic after meeting Buzz's sister, the gorgeous and amiable Christine Wood (with whom I share a birthday). Casey's physical charms prove such a distraction that both Buzz and Chief Johnson are a little on the warpath in this episode, which also features the return of Mark Pellegrino as Brenda's determined attorney, Gavin Q. Baker.

I don't want to give up everything in Santa's sleigh. But if you're one of those people who loves a good elf fight, and wonders now and then why The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy isn't used to score more television shows, tonight's episode is just for you. Be sure to stay around for the weather report at the end. And special thanks to this week's guest stars for playing out our little holiday extravaganza with the good spirits of Christmases past.

Until next week...

James Duff