Season 7

Episode 712: “An Angel On My Tree”

Episode 712: “An Angel On My Tree”
Original Air Date:December 17, 2000
Written by::Brian Bird
Directed by:Larry Peerce
Produced by:

Martha Williamson
Jon Andersen
R.J. Visciglia, Jr.

Guest Cast:


Cody Benson Christopher Marquette
Kathy Benson Kathleen Wilhoite
Joe Benson Richard Lineback
Travis Benson Jonathan Osser
Cassie Benson Jessica Sara

Tess hires Kathy Benson, a mother of three whose husband is in prison, to wrap gifts for the Christmas rush. Meanwhile, Andrew is conducting an anger management course at the prison where Kathy’s husband is serving a five year sentence for manslaughter. Andrew asks the prisoners to submit their applications for Project Angel Tree, a nationwide program which enables them to submit their children’s names to receive Christmas gifts from good Samaritans. While Kathy’s at work, Monica baby-sits the Benson children (Travis, Cassie and Cody) and discovers that Cody has Tourette’s Syndrome, a chemical brain disorder which causes him to involuntarily twitch, emitting hiccup like sounds.

In a newscast, we see footage of the attack on the 17-year-old boy (Matt McHale) one year ago which landed Joe in prison for manslaughter. When Kathy gets home, Monica discusses the effect of the attack on Cody’s relationship with his father, who have not spoken since last Christmas. Kathy brings Travis and Cassie to visit their father while Cody remains home with Monica. Joe decides to participate in Project Angel Tree, but fails to submit a gift request for Cody. Two weeks later, Kathy is at work when Sally McHale shows up and lashes out at her for her son’s death. Cody witnesses the interchange, triggering an episode, and comes to his mother’s defense, saying he’s to blame. Tess pulls Mrs. McHale aside and gets her to see how her anger isn’t helping matters and that forgiveness could go a long way toward beginning the healing process for both families.

Meanwhile, Monica talks with Cody about why he feels responsible for Matt’s death. In flashback, we return to the night when Joe took his son to the drug store to replace a broken Christmas ornament. A fairly innocent exchange between Matt and Cody turns ugly as Cody’s Tourette’s flares up and Matt calls him a retard, shoving him to the ground. Joe snaps and punches Matt, whose head cracks against the counter, killing him. Joe lashes out at Cody, etching the blame in his memory. At the prison, Andrew gets Joe to take a hard look at how his relationship with his father affected his relationship with Cody and to take responsibility for his actions. Joe eventually realizes the harm of his actions, as well as his words, and wonders if it’s too late to salvage his relationship with Cody.

Back at the Benson’s house, Sally McHale makes a surprise visit with Angel Tree gifts, having chosen Travis and Cassie’s names from the tree, and takes that first step toward healing. Cody is about to leave the room when Tess stops him to show him that his father didn’t forget him. Cody reads a letter in which his father apologizes for what he said to him the night of the attack. Joe accepts full responsibility and tells his son how he’s learning how to control his anger and asks for his forgiveness. Monica and Kathy escort Cody to the prison to be reunited with his father.


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