“He sees you when you’re sleeping.
He knows when you’re awake.
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good, for goodness sake.”
Haven’t you ever wondered exactly HOW Santa Claus knows all this?
The answer is simple.
No, not mental telepathy.
E.S.P., the Elf Surveillance Patrol.
The E.S.P. is a top-secret organization of specially trained elves who watch unnoticed over all the kids of the world and issue their reports to the Big Man up north, letting him know precisely who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.
Silently, invisibly, the E.S.P. agents infiltrate home from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas Eve, gathering intelligence and filing their recommendations of just the right gifts for every boy and every girl.
The guiding principles of the E.S.P. are
“Never ever interfere with the lives of the people you’re watching,” and
“Never ever let your presence be known.”
This is the story of a rookie agent named Jolly…
…and how he blew his cover but saved a family.
TWO SILHOUETTED FIGURES, one scrawny, the other mountainous, lurk in the shadows of a snowy alley at night. We see them from the point-of-view of a SPY, tailing them from a discreet distance. A CLICK and FREEZE-FRAME as our unseen spy snaps an image of the scene.
Squeaky wheels on asphalt. Getting closer. Closer.
The two predators LEAP from the shadows…
…startling a MEEK LITTLE BOY wheeling a red Radio Flyer wagon down the alley, his name “TYRONE” lettered neatly on its side.
Another CLICK and FREEZE-FRAME as we clearly see that the assailants are TWO 12-YEAR-OLD BULLIES. They demand the wagon from Tyrone, who squeaks a pitiful refusal. But with one sinister glance from the skinny bully and a single menacing step forward by the enormous one, Tyrone flees for his life. The bullies cackle and drag the wagon to their ramshackle home.
The mysterious individual who has been observing this scene unrolls a parchment scroll with a checklist for his observations. At the bottom of the form are two final options:
With conviction, the spy’s hand checks “Naughty”. The scroll is placed into a cylindrical copper canister, and a pneumatic tube WHOOSHES the canister away. MUSIC kicks in: “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town”, played in a drivin’, twangin’ style recalling classic spy-movie themes.
The canister reaches its destination, where the scroll is removed and carried up a ladder in a HUGE FILING ROOM, STAFFED BY THRONGS OF ELVES. Welcome to the North Pole.
We move to SANTA’S WORKSHOP, where everything looks bright and shiny, but nothing looks modern. THOUSANDS OF ELVES toil at Victorian-era steam-driven assembly lines, building dolls and teddy bears, model trains and Tinkertoys. The workers sing “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” in unison – a joyful sound, but the lyrics are precise and the tempo is rigid, militaristic.
Except for one elf.
While his colleagues are singing with the strict cadence of a troop of Marines, this one exuberant little fella is SCATTING, improvising jazzy “scootily-bop-diddly-wops” in place of the proper words.
His name is JOLLY, and the name fits.
But, as Jolly pounds together a rocking horse, he accidentally drives a peg through the cuff of his shirt sleeve and is dragged onto a conveyor belt, whisked toward the ominous open maw at the end of the line. Jolly asks meekly for help, but the other elves figure Jolly is just clowning around as usual. Jolly disappears into the innards of the machinery, taken on a fantastic ride down chutes and through gears, jerked about by automated arms, until he is finally LAUNCHED like a cannonball into the Finished Toy Bin – with Raggedy-Ann-red yarn knotted into his hair, a bright red ball planted on his nose and a bushy hobby-horse tail stapled to his butt.
Jolly beams like a kid who just got off a wild roller coaster and wants to ride it again. But his grin fades when he sees his stern SUPERVISOR glaring down at him.
Jolly sits in a chair outside SANTA’S OFFICE, twitching like a kid summoned to see the principal. Inside, SANTA listens as the Supervisor rattles off a list of infractions Jolly has committed over the years. The Supervisor suggests that Jolly be reassigned to shovel patrol, the lowliest chore at the North Pole. (Hey, someone’s got to follow all those reindeer around.) But Santa has never seen an elf with more enthusiasm or a bigger heart than Jolly. He has a different idea.
The grumbling Supervisor leads Jolly down a passageway, refusing to answer Jolly’s flurry of questions. When they reach a Christmas tree, the Supervisor instructs Jolly to stand on the tree skirt, then twists an ornament which opens a trap door under Jolly’s feet. Jolly zips downward on a spiraling slide, eventually dumped into a eerie darkened room. Jolly looks spooked.
A voice from the ceiling echoes through the cold, empty room, asking: “Are you Jolly?”
Jolly replies, nervously: “Not at the moment.”
Doors open to reveal the vast filing facility we saw earlier. A grandmotherly elf named FLOSSY greets Jolly, who has never seen this place before. Flossy asks Jolly, “Have you ever wondered how Santa knows which children have been naughty and which have been nice?” Jolly figured Santa “just knew”, but Flossy chuckles, saying “Santa’s not a mind reader. No, Santa knows because of E.S.P.” Jolly is puzzled: “I thought you said he WASN’T a mind reader.”
Flossy explains that E.S.P. stands for the Elf Surveillance Patrol. As she leads Jolly through the labyrinthine complex, she tells him that the E.S.P. dispatches elves all around the world to observe children’s behavior and report back. Most kids are only watched during “the busy season” – Thanksgiving through Christmas — but some special cases demand year-round surveillance. Jolly wonders about the ethics of spying on little kids, but Flossy says it’s necessary. “Every letter Santa gets says, ‘I’ve been good all year.’ We need hard evidence!”
Jolly is taken to an orientation class led by a by-the-book elf named SNITCH (or, as he prefers to be called, “MR. SNITCH”). Snitch speaks in a weary drone which suggests that he’s been giving this same speech for eons. Jolly is so curious and excited that he keeps raising his hand, interrupting with one question after another. This grates on Snitch’s nerves, but Jolly’s enthusiasm brings a smile to the elf sitting beside Jolly. Her badge reads “HOLLY”.
Snitch tells the trainees the two most important rules of the E.S.P.: “Never ever interfere with the lives of the people you’re watching, and never ever let your presence be known.”
Jolly’s hand shoots upward. “How can we watch the kids without being noticed?”
Snitch grumbles, as Jolly’s question threw off the rhythm of his big reveal. He pulls out a bright red ribbon with a small glass sphere hanging from the center. This is the JINGLE BALL.
MAC, a nerdy elf in a lab coat, steps forward, asking for a volunteer to demonstrate the Jingle Ball. Naturally, Jolly’s hand is the first one raised, but Snitch calls upon Holly instead. Mac drapes the ribbon around Holly’s neck, with the glass ball hanging in front. When Mac SNAPS together the two golden fasteners at the ends of the ribbon, the sphere emits a green glow. White particles WHIZ inside of the ball like flakes in a snow globe.
Snitch asks Holly to point the ball toward the class and snap a picture. She aims toward Jolly and presses a small button on the ribbon until she hears a click. Now captured inside the crystal sphere, visible through the spinning snowflakes, is a 3D hologram of Jolly with a silly expression. Mac places the ball into a contraption which projects the 3D image of Jolly above the class for all the recruits to see. The class oohs and aahs. Jolly looks sheepishly at his giant goofy face.
Next, Snitch instructs Holly to close her eyes and imagine she’s flying. As Holly does so, the flakes in the Jingle Ball race faster and she rises over the room. The rookies are wowed, but Jolly’s hand shoots up again. “Isn’t a flying elf even MORE noticeable than a walking elf?” Again, Snitch is peeved that Jolly has interrupted his flow. Snitch asks Holly to concentrate and imagine that she’s invisible. She clamps her eyes shut, focusing intently…and she gradually fades away, with the Jingle Ball itself the last thing to disappear from view. The trainees burst into applause.
The new agents are issued their own Jingle Balls and their official E.S.P. uniforms, complete with a set of green-tinted aviator goggles with a mic attached. Jolly is paired with Holly for training. Jolly is too excited to get the Jingle Ball to work, so Holly takes Jolly’s hands and calmly tells him to relax and let the magic take over. He does and they begin to float together. Amazed, Jolly looks down and loses his concentration, but Holly’s ball kicks into overdrive and keeps them aloft.
Next she tells Jolly to make himself invisible. He screws up his face with determination and soon both he and Holly disappear. From the empty space, we hear a thump and an annoyed voice saying, “Watch where you’re going!” Jolly apologizes, saying, “Sorry, I didn’t see you. Or me. Or anybody!” Holly tells Jolly to lower his goggles, and we watch from his point-of-view as the green goggles slide into place, revealing all the flying invisible elves, surrounded by a glowing green force field. (For the audience’s convenience, we will be able to see Jolly and any other “invisible” elves surrounded by this glowing force field, even when others in the scene cannot see them.)
Jolly is soon doing loop-the-loops around the more serious agents, not noticing that his Jingle Ball has turned from green to flashing red or that the snowflakes within the globe have begun to spiral more slowly. Losing altitude, Jolly flaps his arms desperately, but he plummets, hitting every branch of giant Christmas tree on his way down. Snitch stands over Jolly and directs everyone’s attention to the fading red glow which indicates that the magic in the ball is running low. A Jingle Ball can only hold enough magic for one day, so every night they will need to go to their local E.S.P. headquarters to file their reports and get their Jingle Balls recharged. Sprawled on the floor and dizzy, Jolly asks Snitch why he couldn’t have mentioned all of that BEFORE. Snitch tells him, “The most important lessons are usually learned the hard way.”
Snitch confronts Flossy with his misgivings about Jolly’s potential as an E.S.P. agent, but Flossy says, “You know as well as anyone that it’s impossible to know how good an agent is until they’ve been in the field.” Besides, Jolly has been assigned upon Santa’s direct orders. She tells Snitch that she’ll give Jolly an easy assignment to break him in, “a family that’s always on the nice list.”
Once training is complete, Jolly and the other agents enter a massive hangar where thousands of extra-large sleighs, each towed by eight moose, are being loaded. Jolly finds his designated sleigh and is delighted to see Holly seated beside him. Jolly says, “Looks like it’s gonna be a Holly/Jolly Christmas!” Jolly launches into a perfect impression of Snitch, not just in voice but in mannerisms, which the other elves laugh at…then stop abruptly. When Jolly finally notices their silence, he turns to find Snitch behind him, unamused. Holly whispers to Jolly that he should be respectful toward Snitch, who’s a senior agent always assigned to watch the naughtiest kids.
The sleighs lift off, each surrounded by the magical green glow that makes it invisible. Santa’s enormous facilities are also enveloped by the glow. This explains why no one ever sees the Workshop when they fly over the North Pole, in case you were wondering.
At midnight, Jolly’s sleigh lands in the empty parking lot of a shopping mall somewhere in America. Flossy leads the agents to the mall’s Santa’s Village, complete with a throne where the mall Santa will hear kids’ requests. All requests must be cross-referenced with the kids’ letters to Santa and any comments the elves overhear during their surveillance. At the end of the season, each agent will be asked to recommend a gift for each child to whom they’ve been assigned, based on their observations, although the final decision always rests with Santa himself.
A secret passage leads to the local E.S.P. HQ under Santa’s Village, where the agents will recharge their Jingle Balls every night, file their reports and sleep. Flossy informs Jolly that he will be watching “Fisher, Lucy” and “Fisher, Michael”. Holly is assigned a boy named Tyrone Greene who lives across the street from the Fishers. And Snitch will monitor Newt and Ronnie Zavelow. Senior agents groan when they hear the names. The Zavelows are notorious neighborhood bullies who Snitch keeps under scrutiny year-round.
Before dawn, the sleighs whisk their way invisibly through town, dropping off the agents. As Jolly starts to walk up the Fishers’ unshoveled sidewalk, Holly speaks into the mic attached to her goggles, whispering, “Footprints!” Jolly hears her voice in his headset and looks back to see Holly floating above the snow on Tyrone’s lawn. Jolly flies to the porch and sneaks inside when the Fishers’ bedraggled father, RAY, opens the front door to pick up the newspaper.
The house is semi-furnished, with cardboard moving boxes stacked everywhere. As Ray sleepily fixes breakfast, Jolly finally sees the kids he’ll be following. LUCY, 8, is angelic and innocent but extremely shy. Her 11-year-old brother, MIKEY, is sullen and monosyllabic. Ray, though young, seems worn out by life. Jolly floats around the house, wondering where the mother might be.
As Ray fixes Thanksgiving dinner, Jolly follows the kids outside. Lucy drops into the fresh snow to make a snow angel. She tells Mikey to join her, but he’d rather be decapitated than do something so babyish. TYRONE, 7, their incurably dorky neighbor crosses the street, with Holly hovering invisibly above him. Lucy asks Tyrone to make a snow angel. He eases cautiously into the snow, eyes glazed, afraid to lower his arms. Mikey says Tyrone looks like a snow zombie.
A frightening, wheezing BARK announces the arrival of the ZAVELOW TWINS, both 12. NEWT, an intimidating lump of a kid, drags a sled on which rides his scrawny brother RONNIE. Their nasty underfed dog, COCKROACH, trots behind, tethered to the sled with a rope. These are the kids we saw stealing Tyrone’s wagon at the start of the movie. Snitch floats above them invisibly.
Mikey can’t believe Ronnie and Newt are twins. Tyrone shares the neighborhood folklore that they were originally triplets, but Newt ate the third one. When Ray calls outside for Mikey to shovel the sidewalk, Newt chortles, a surprisingly low and menacing laugh for a 12-year-old, and mocks the babyish name “Mikey”. Mikey mutters, “At least I’m not named ‘Newt’.” Newt hears this and stomps menacingly toward Mikey, dragging Ronnie and Cockroach up the sidewalk.
Cockroach senses Jolly’s presence and lunges toward Jolly, but the rope stops him an inch from Jolly’s face. Jolly realizes that he’s flying backwards and sees that Snitch has grabbed him by the collar to fly him out of Cockroach’s reach. Jolly is about to thank him, but Snitch slaps a gloved hand over his mouth to keep them from being detected.
A snowball zips past Jolly and Snitch and slams into Newt’s head. Newt rotates on his axis to see Lucy packing another snowball and yelling, “Leave my big brother alone.” Newt looks ready to pummel Mikey when Ray leans outside again and tells Mikey to “stop playing with your friends and get shoveling”. The Zavelows back off, promising to get Mikey when his dad and his baby sister aren’t around to protect him. Mikey thanks Lucy for her help. When Lucy sweetly says, “You’re welcome,” Mikey informs her it was sarcasm. “What’s sarcasm?”, she asks.
Mikey mumbles, “Everything I say.”
Later, Mikey is in his bedroom, door closed, cranking loud, aggressive music. Jolly watches Lucy as she lies on the living room floor, drawing with crayons. Lucy sets her drawings as placemats at the four chairs of the table. When Ray brings the burnt turkey, lumpy gravy and other damaged goods to the table, he sees that Lucy has set four place settings. Jolly hops onto the fourth chair, then notices the word “MOMMY” on the fourth placemat. Seeing the placemat, Ray forces as close to a smile as we’ve seen from him, but Mikey tells Lucy that what she did is “stupid”. Ray insists that Mikey apologize to Lucy, which he does…sarcastically. Jolly slips down from the chair, steps back, aims his Jingle Ball and snaps a hologram of the family as they eat.
Late that night, Jolly sees his Jingle Ball blinking red and hears through his earpiece that the sleigh is waiting to take him back to HQ, but Ray is still awake. Jolly finally slips out to the sleigh, where Snitch informs him that, if this happens again, he’ll have to find his own way back to HQ. At HQ, Jolly hands in his Jingle Ball for recharging and asks Flossy what happened to the Fishers’ mother. Flossy says she’ll get the records sent over from their old neighborhood.
The next morning, crowds stampede into the mall, with invisible agents hovering over each family, executing complex flight maneuvers to avoid hitting each other. Among the shoppers are Lucy (giddy), Mikey (miserable) and Ray (half-asleep). Ray asks Mikey to wait with his sister in the line to meet Santa. Mikey grumbles as they join the end of the approximately seven-mile-long line, then sees the Zavelow twins rumbling toward them. Mikey tries to haul Lucy away, but she doesn’t want to lose her place in line. Jolly flies over and stretches an invisible leg in Ronnie’s path, tripping the squirt. Newt can’t stop his momentum and tumbles on top of Ronnie.
Jolly is delighted, but Snitch yanks him by the ear and takes him under Santa’s Village to Flossy’s office. Jolly feebly claims that tripping Ronnie was an accident, but Snitch says he has hundreds of agents who witnessed the incident. Flossy is kind but stern, reminding Jolly only to observe and never to interfere. She points to their motto on the wall: “We report, Santa decides.”
Leaving Flossy’s office, Jolly is beckoned by an elf eavesdropping on the wishes being given to the mall Santa. He tells Jolly that the Fisher kids are up next. Jolly uses a periscope which is disguised inside the candy-cane-striped “North Pole” of Santa’s Village. He watches Mikey nudge Lucy toward Santa, but she’s paralyzed with fear. Santa turns cheerily to Mikey, asking what HE wants for Christmas. Mikey replies, “Nothing from you, you big fake.” Gasps ripple through HQ. Lucy starts to cry, climbs down from Santa’s lap and runs away, eventually finding Ray in the crowd. Ray asks what’s wrong and Mikey arrives to say she “freaked out”. Ray sighs.
Back underground, Jolly receives the Fishers’ file from last year. Holly assists Jolly, loading last year’s holograms of the family into Jolly’s Jingle Ball. The orb glows golden and, through the whizzing snowflakes, Jolly sees a hologram of Lucy and Mikey last Christmas, looking happier than we’ve ever seen them. Jolly CLICKS the button on his ribbon and the image changes to Lucy and Mikey’s MOM, smiling brightly. Another CLICK: Mom hugging the kids. CLICK: Mom and the kids decorating the house. CLICK: Mom kissing Ray. As Jolly delights in the pictures, Holly flips through the accompanying documents and becomes somber. She gently tells Jolly that their mom started feeling sick last Christmas season and now, “She’s…gone.” Jolly asks where she went and when she’s coming back. Holly says, “You really have been at the North Pole a long time,” and prepares to explain a few hard truths about life.
Holly and Jolly accompany their assigned families home from the mall. At bedtime, Jolly watches as Lucy asks Ray when they’re going to put up the Christmas decorations. Ray says soon and kisses Lucy good night. Curious, Jolly follows Ray to his bedroom, where Ray searches the boxes stacked around the room until he finds one marked Christmas decorations. He opens it and, among the lights and tinsel garlands, finds an ornament containing a photo of the whole family, including Mom. Ray stuffs the decorations back in the box. He’s just not ready yet.
As Jolly prepares to leave, he notices a light in Lucy’s room. She’s out of bed and sitting at her desk. Curious, he floats in, not noticing that his Jingle Ball is shifting from green to red. He floats over Lucy’s shoulder as she writes a letter to Santa. She starts by apologizing for not talking to him at the mall, but she gets shy around people. She then writes that she doesn’t want any toys or dolls this year. All she wants is to have her mom back. A tear falls from Jolly’s eye…and PLOPS onto Lucy’s paper. Lucy stares at the splotch on the paper confused, touching her face to make sure it wasn’t her teardrop. She looks at the ceiling but there doesn’t seem to be a leak. She hears a sad sniffle behind her and turns quickly to see where the noise is coming from. Startled, Jolly flies backwards into the mobile over Lucy’s bed, sending it spinning. Jolly lands on a dresser covered with dolls, knocking several to the floor. Lucy screams and runs to get Ray.
Outside in the waiting sleigh, Holly and Snitch hear the scream. Snitch is ready to go inside and find out what’s up, but Holly stops him and calls to Jolly on her mic. Jolly whispers into his mic that it’s fine and he’ll be out in a minute. But as he inches toward the open bedroom door, he sees his Jingle Ball blinking red and realizes he’s becoming visible. Ever seen an elf sweat?
Lucy drags Ray down the hall, insisting there’s a ghost. Mikey pokes his head out, hears Lucy has seen a ghost, rolls his eyes and slams his door. Entering Lucy’s room, Ray says he doesn’t see a ghost, but Lucy says the ghost is invisible. Ray waves his arms, pretending to reach for the invisible ghost, then notices the dolls that have fallen to the floor. He leans to check under the bed, where he sees a couple dolls lying – one of which we can see is actually Jolly, hands clasped around the Jingle Ball so its red glow wouldn’t be seen by Ray.
Lucy asks if she can come sleep with her dad, but Ray says she’s a big girl now. He declares the room ghost-free and tucks her back in bed, leaving the door open a crack. Eager to make his break, Jolly shakes the Jingle Ball, stirring up just enough magic to make him briefly invisible again. He creeps toward the door, but his footsteps squeak. Spooked but curious, Lucy calls meekly, “Is that you, Mom?” Jolly whispers, “No, go to sleep.” Lucy flips on a light and sees Jolly standing on the floor, fully visible, frozen midstep and cringing at his mistake.
Outside, Snitch is tired of waiting and signals the sleigh to leave without Jolly. They zoom off…
…as Lucy screams with delight. Jolly leaps across the room and slaps his hands over Lucy’s mouth. When she settles down, Jolly slowly removes his hands…and Lucy whispers a torrent of questions, even more inquisitive than Jolly at his E.S.P. orientation. Ray rushes in, responding to the scream, and Lucy tells him excitedly that she found a real live elf and points to Jolly, who now lies motionless on the floor. Ray picks up Jolly, who dangles limply like a rag doll. As Ray flops him around, it takes all the concentration Jolly can muster to keep his eyes staring straight ahead and to keep from giggling. Ray tosses Jolly onto the dresser and says he knew letting Lucy eat a leftover turkey sandwich before bed was a bad idea. He asks if Lucy wants to come to his bedroom, but no way is she going to leave now when she’s got a real live elf in her room.
After Ray leaves, Lucy grabs Jolly, who keeps up his rag doll act. She talks to him, shakes him, yells “Boo!”, but Jolly maintains his stone face. Then Lucy decides to tickle him and he bursts into uncontrollable laughter. His cover blown, he begs Lucy to go to sleep. “I’m not here. This never happened.” Jolly picks up a yoyo and swings it before her eyes (“You are getting sleeeeeepy”), but she grabs him and snuggles into bed with Jolly wrapped firmly in her arms.
At dawn, Jolly finally extricates himself from her grip and sneaks out of the room, only to see Ray shuffling down the hall to the bathroom. Jolly flops lifelessly to the floor as Ray steps on him. Jolly grits his teeth to keep from screaming. Ray notices Jolly, wonders how he got into the hall, and tosses him atop a pile of shipping boxes. Jolly tries to continue his escape, but topples the tower of boxes and is trapped underneath. Ray exits the bathroom and shakes his head, leaving the boxes in a heap. Jolly eventually wriggles free and sneaks toward the front door, only to be spotted by Ray again going for his newspaper. Ray is puzzled to see the elf doll yet again.
Lucy wakes up and realizes that Jolly isn’t in her arms. Maybe it WAS a dream. Grumpy, she heads to breakfast…and discovers that Ray has tossed Jolly onto the fourth chair at the table. Lucy is about to scream when Jolly waves his hands nervously and puts a shushing finger to his lips. Lucy, delighted to have found him, plays along. Ray has to go into work, so he asks Mikey to watch Lucy. Mikey gripes, saying he has hockey practice, and Lucy insists that she’s old enough to stay home alone. “I’m eight years old! I don’t need someone watching me every second I’m awake!” (Which, of course, is Jolly’s job.) Ray isn’t so sure, but reluctantly agrees.
Once Lucy has him alone, Jolly finally breaks under her barrage of questions, telling her he’s here to find out what Santa should give her and Mikey. When she asks if Jolly can help get her mom back, Jolly levels with her that some things not even Santa can do. He explains how the Jingle Ball allows him to fly and can turn him — and anything he touches – invisible, and tells her he needs to get back to the mall to get his Jingle Ball recharged. Lucy vows to help him. When Ray and Mikey return, she tells them she needs to go back to the mall to tell Santa what she wants.
Mikey complains that they’ll go all that way and she’ll just freeze up again, but Ray gives in.
Lucy stuffs her “doll” Jolly into a backpack and they drive to the mall. Ray has the radio on a classic rock station and sings along to Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”. Ray is hardly a rebel these days and looks pretty silly singing these lyrics so boisterously. Mikey looks mortified. In the back seat, Jolly lip-synchs, imitating Ray’s moves, to Lucy’s giggling delight. Ray asks her what’s so funny.
In the line for Santa, Lucy sets down her backpack and Jolly crawls out. He sneaks his way to the entrance to headquarters unnoticed – except by Lucy, who he gives a thumbs-up before entering HQ. He finds Flossy waiting, demanding to know where he’s been. More disappointed than angry, she tells him this is his second strike. One more infraction and it’s shovel patrol.
Jolly mans the periscope as Lucy climbs onto Santa’s lap. She’s not scared like yesterday, but really the only thing she wanted was to have her mom back. She freezes up, unable to think of a second choice. When the people in line start to grumble, Ray grabs Lucy and apologizes. Mikey says, “I told you so”, and sees that Lucy left her backpack behind. He picks it up, wondering why his weird little sister would lug an empty backpack all the way to the mall.
In bed that night, Lucy whispers for Jolly but gets no answer. Disappointed, she falls asleep. And we see Jolly floating over her, invisible, back in surveillance mode, Jingle Ball fully charged.
School resumes. The hallways are full of kids, invisible elves tailing them everywhere. Jolly and Holly follow Lucy and Tyrone to their desks. MS. SIMMS, Lucy’s young and enthusiastic teacher, calls upon Lucy for show and tell. Lucy looks petrified as Ms. Simms asks her to tell something interesting that happened over Thanksgiving. She hesitates before saying she found an elf in her room. Her classmates (except Tyrone) laugh. The elves in the room turn to Jolly, who shrugs and waves a finger in a circular motion by his temple, indicating that Lucy is crazy.
Humiliated by the laughter of the class, Lucy runs into the hall. Ms. Simms tells the class to be quiet and exits the room, with Jolly on her tail. Ms. Simms can’t find Lucy, until she hears sobbing from inside a locker. Ms. Simms speaks through the locker door. “Lucy, are you in there?” Lucy softly answers, “No.” Ms. Simms asks if she can open the door, but Lucy says she wants to stay inside: “Nobody likes me.” Ms. Simms says, “That’s not true. I like you. Tyrone likes you.” Lucy says, “Those don’t count. You’re a teacher and Tyrone’s a dork.” Ms. Simms chuckles slightly – because Tyrone IS a dork – and tells Lucy she can stay in the locker for two more minutes, but then she has to come back to class. Lucy sniffles an “Okay”.
Ms. Simms leaves. Jolly makes sure no other elves are around, then whispers through the locker door. Lucy’s spirit lifts and she asks Jolly to come into class so she can show everyone she was telling the truth. He says he can’t, and she can’t go around telling people about him. “You don’t want me getting in trouble with Santa, do you?” She agrees and flings open the door, which sends Jolly skittering down the hallway. He loses his concentration and becomes visible. Lucy rushes, apologizing. She picks him up and Jolly turns invisible again before they return to class.
Jolly slips to another room to check on Mikey, who is bored and withdrawn and faces constant taunting from the Zavelow twins, who seem impervious to Mikey’s weapon of choice, sarcasm. Snitch watches dispassionately as they torment Mikey – and keeps a suspicious eye on Jolly too.
After school, Ms. Simms asks if Lucy will try out for the Holiday Pageant she’s directing. Lucy hems and haws, but when Ms. Simms’ back is turned, Jolly uses his mimicry skills to say, “I’ll do it” in a perfect imitation of Lucy’s voice. Lucy auditions to play an elf. She doesn’t like the stilted, rhyming lines, telling Ms. Simms that’s not how elves really talk. Lucy is meek but gets the part.
Time passes. The Zavelow twins’ threats escalate toward Mikey. Ray struggles to balance his work responsibilities with his family. And Lucy rehearses for the Christmas pageant. Ray rushes away from the office one night to pick up Lucy from rehearsal. Jolly sees Ray and Ms. Simms back to back and gets an idea. After making sure no elves are around to see, Jolly hip-checks Ray, knocking him into Ms. Simms. Ray apologizes and they engage in some awkward banter – enough to suggest a spark between them, if Ray were ready to think about a new relationship.
At HQ, Flossy commends Jolly on the improved quality of his behavior and his reports, but asks why there’s so much on Lucy but so little on Mikey. Jolly says he can’t ever get into Mikey’s room. Besides, Mikey doesn’t believe in Santa. Flossy says, “It doesn’t matter if he believes in Santa. Santa believes in him.” Jolly promises to spend more time following Mikey. After numerous thwarted attempts, Jolly finally tricks Mikey by yelling, in a spot-on Ray impersonation, “You open this door right now, young man!” When Mikey opens the door to discover an empty hallway, Jolly slips inside. After Mikey shuts the door, Jolly sees him slip a beaten-up acoustic guitar from under his bed – a tag on the guitar case indicates that it used to be Ray’s. Mikey plays along softly with the loud music on his stereo. Jolly watches, impressed by Mikey’s skill.
Jolly is following Mikey outdoors when they are both caught in a volley of snowballs from the Zavelow twins. Mikey has finally had enough and charges the twins. The three boys tumble into a snowbank, creating a blizzard of flying snow and flailing limbs. Kids (and elves) from the neighborhood gather to watch. Jolly hangs back, not wanting to interfere, when he discovers the twin’s mangy dog Cockroach sniffing at him. Jolly backs away gingerly, whispering, “Nice doggie. Nice little doggie. Nice…mean…little doggie.” Cockroach lunges toward Jolly’s invisible presence and catches Jolly’s Jingle Ball in his teeth. Jolly tries to get away, his face turning purple as the ribbon tightens around his neck. In desperation, Jolly reaches to the back of his neck and unlatches the ribbon. Cockroach falls backwards, the ball and ribbon dangling from his mouth, the light from the Jingle Ball fading now that the ribbon isn’t latched together. The dog stares quizzically at Jolly, who is now visible. Fortunately, all the elves are focused on the fight, so his sudden visibility hasn’t been spotted. Jolly walks gently toward Cockroach, hoping to retrieve the Jingle Ball, but the dog races away. Ray steps outside to stop the fight, and Jolly runs for cover.
As the kids and their elves scatter, we pass a creche with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the four wise men… Wait. Four?? Yes, Jolly is frozen in place, hoping none of the other elves will notice. Jolly notices Holly through the window of Tyrone’s house and gets an idea. As Tyrone’s mom reads an absurdly intellectual bedtime story, Holly notices the strange flashing of the Christmas lights across the street. It finally hits her: they’re blinking an S.O.S.
She peeks through Tyrone’s telescope and spots Jolly on the neighbor’s lawn, jostling the extension cord with his foot to send out his distress signal. Holly slips away and flies over to Jolly, who explains how he lost his Jingle Ball. Jolly is resigned to shovel patrol, but Holly says they’ll figure out something. She borrows one of Tyrone’s winter scarves to cover up the lack of a Jingle Ball on Jolly’s neck and holds his hand as they board the sleigh that night, concentrating to keep both of them invisible, a taxing chore which drains the energy from her ball. Seeing them, Snitch haughtily tells Jolly, “I trust you’ll be putting that Fisher boy on the ‘Naughty’ list after tonight,” but Jolly says Mikey was only defending himself. The way Jolly sees it, if Snitch just sits by silently and watches as the Zavelows beat up kids, Snitch is just as bad as they are.
Inside the Zavelow house, Cockroach starts to choke and hacks up the Jingle Ball. Both Newt and Ronnie spot it on the floor and leap from their bunk beds, each seeing it as a potential Christmas gift for their mother — after they wash off the dog spit, of course. They’re not TOTAL Neanderthals. Ronnie emerges victorious and hangs the ball from the bedpost of his upper bunk.
At the Fisher house, Mikey locks himself in his room, humiliated by his fight with the Zavelows, and Ray is at the end of his rope, uncharacteristically snapping at Lucy. She runs to her room, sobbing. She calls out for Jolly, waiting for a reply that never comes.
Back at HQ, Holly takes Jolly to Mac, the gizmologist, and asks, hypothetically, whether an elf could get a replacement Jingle Ball if, let’s say, one broke or got stolen. Mac laughs at the silly premise. No Jingle Ball has EVER broken, and no elf would EVER be inept enough to allow theirs to be stolen. Disappointed, Jolly and Holly try to figure out a plan to get Jolly’s ball back, but they’re all too risky and Jolly doesn’t want to put Holly’s career in danger for helping him.
In the morning, Holly holds Jolly’s hand and escorts him to the Fishers’ door to keep him invisible. Snitch keeps watch on them, suspicious that something is up. Jolly makes his way to Lucy’s room undetected. He slumps in a pile with Holly’s dolls, trying to figure out how to get out of this mess. When Lucy wakes up, she’s so delighted to see Jolly, she bolts from bed and grabs him. He’s so dejected, he doesn’t even put up a fight. When she asks what’s wrong, he tells her how Cockroach stole his magical necklace that allows him to fly and turn invisible. Lucy vows to help.
Ray hears loud, deep retching sounds from inside the bathroom, knocks on the door and asks, “Mikey, are you okay?”…and is surprised when Mikey steps out of his bedroom, asking what’s up. Inside the bathroom, Jolly is making the grotesque sound effects…and Lucy can barely stop giggling. She has an electric blanket resting on her forehead, which she tucks away when she composes herself, flushes the empty toilet and unlocks the door. Jolly hides behind the shower curtain as Ray feels Lucy’s hot forehead. Mikey’s sure she’s faking it, and she doesn’t seem all that sick to Ray. Lucy insists she’ll be fine staying home by herself in bed. Against his better judgment and needing to get to work, Ray agrees, telling her to call him if she needs anything. He says he’ll call the school and report Lucy sick, but he gets so rushed that he forgets to call. At school, when Lucy doesn’t respond at roll call, Ms. Simms goes into the hallway to check Lucy’s locker, but she’s not hiding in there. And Holly wonders where Jolly and Lucy could be.
Home alone, Jolly helps Lucy make Christmas cookies, then digs out the Christmas decorations and they dance around, decorating the house. When they’re finished, Lucy looks disappointed. “The decorations looked better at our old house. Everything was better back at our old house.”
Lucy carries a plate of cookies down the block to the Zavelow house, as Jolly watches anxiously from Lucy’s bedroom window. The Zavelows’ mother, BABS, a vision in curlers, a housecoat and fuzzy slippers, opens the door suspiciously, keeping the manically yipping Cockroach inside. Lucy says she just wanted to bring cookies to her new neighbors. Babs is leery of genuine courtesy, but accepts the plate of cookies. She’s closing the door when Lucy asks if she can please use the bathroom. She does such a convincing “I gotta pee RIGHT NOW!” dance that Babs reluctantly lets her inside. Lucy walks past the grimy bathroom, glad she doesn’t actually need to use it, and locates Newt and Ronnie’s room, which is even filthier than the bathroom. She looks around until she finally spots the Jingle Ball on Ronnie’s upper-bunk bedpost.
Jolly worries that they took too long making cookies and decorating. Soon the Zavelows and Snitch will be home and Lucy will be discovered. Jolly jumps from Lucy’s window, hiding behind trees, snowmen and mailbox posts to avoid being noticed as he runs to the Zavelow house.
Lucy climbs the rickety ladder to the upper bunk and nabs the necklace. Mission accomplished! But as she climbs down, she discovers Cockroach below her, growling menacingly.
Jolly lurks outside nervously when an invisible hand lands heavily on his shoulder and Snitch says, “You’re coming with me.” Snitch’s touch turns Jolly invisible and they fly back to HQ.
As Newt and Ronnie enter their house, Lucy hears them and gets an idea. A GREAT idea! She puts the necklace around her neck and snaps together the fasteners as Jolly had shown her. The Jingle Ball whirs into action. She concentrates hard and watches in amazement as her hand turns invisible. She focuses hard, vanishing just as Newt and Ronnie barrel into the room. Cockroach barks angrily at the top bunk, and Ronnie notices that the necklace is gone from his bedpost. He accuses Newt of stealing it and boys start to pummel each other. Anything in this room that wasn’t already broken will be soon.
Lucy sees her chance to escape, but Cockroach is still growling at the bottom of the ladder, so she decides to try flying the way Jolly described. After a couple failed attempts, she shuts her eyes and concentrates…and bumps her head on the ceiling. She’s floating! She escapes the room and makes her way outside where she spins out of control and lands in the show. Giddy, she starts to make a snow angel. An older couple passes, and the husband is amazed to see a snow angel making itself. His wife says she shouldn’t be letting him make his egg nog himself.
Lucy sees the open window to her bedroom and floats over to give Jolly the good news, but he’s not in her room. She sees Jolly’s tiny footprints in the snow below her window and follows them to the Zavelow house…where they stop (because Snitch flew Jolly away). Lucy flies around the neighborhood, looking desperately for Jolly. Some of the other invisible elves do notice her, but she’s small enough and far away enough that they assume she’s an elf too.
At HQ, Jolly stands forlorn in front of Flossy, as Snitch reads a list of Jolly’s infractions. Jolly complains that Snitch has been out to get him since day one, but Flossy says another agent will back up Snitch’s charges. She calls in…Holly! Turns out her primary assignment has been to watch Jolly, not to tail Tyrone (who, let’s face it, couldn’t get on the “naughty” list if he tried to rob a liquor store with an Uzi). All business, Holly places her Jingle Ball into a projection device which offers a 3D slide show of Jolly’s many screw-ups. Flossy has Jolly taken to a holding cell.
Lucy is still flying around, invisible, looking for Jolly, but realizes she doesn’t know where she is. Night is falling and she can’t make out any familiar landmarks. She knows she’s going to be in big trouble with Ray. But then she recognizes where she is and starts flying excitedly.
Ray gets home, notices that the Christmas decorations have been hung, and asks Mikey how Lucy is doing. Mikey shrugs. Ray enters Lucy’s room and finds it empty with the window open. He goes into full parental panic, searching the house frantically. He spots a flyer for the school pageant, on which Ms. Simms had written her phone number. Ray calls as dress rehearsal is ending. Ms. Simms hasn’t seen Lucy all day and offers to come over to help with the search.
Ray yells for Mikey to help him, but Mikey lies on the sofa, his usual lethargic self. Ray shakes Mikey. “Your sister is missing!” Mikey realizes his dad is serious. He leaps to his feet and starts searching the neighborhood, checking first at Tyrone’s house, where Holly has returned to duty and is startled to hear that Lucy is missing. Mikey passes the Zavelow house and notices a Lucy-sized snow angel on their lawn. Thinking the twins might have something to do with this, Mikey musters the courage to knock on the door. Babs answers and is immediately defensive, claiming not to have seen Lucy, even as she eats one of Lucy’s cookies. Hearing Mikey’s voice, Ronnie and Newt thunder in from their room. Mikey asks what they’ve done to his sister and, for once, they are genuinely innocent of something. They shock Mikey by pulling on their coats and joining the search. Snitch hovers over them, stunned by the twins’ sincere willingness to help.
At HQ, Jolly is locked in a cell – albeit one with red-and-white-striped bars, like candy canes. He can’t resist licking them, but discovers they’re just painted metal. His cellmate plays a mournful “Blue Christmas” on harmonica. (Jolly asks the cellmate what he’s in here for. The cellmate replies, “The acoustics.”) Then Jolly notices a hole being burnt into the ceiling above him. He looks through the hole and sees Holly with Mac. Holly tells Jolly that Lucy is missing, so they’re springing him to help find her. Holly apologizes for spying on him, but she was just doing her job. She takes off her Jingle Ball and snaps it around Jolly’s neck, then gives him a kiss on the cheek. Jolly’s face turns bright red as the green glow surrounds him. Looks very Christmasy!
Jolly zooms back to the Fishers’ house, just as Ms. Simms arrives. Jolly follows her inside the house, searching every hiding place he can think of. Exhausted, he plops himself onto one of the many packing boxes…and an idea strikes him. He whispers into his headphone, asking for directions to a specific address he reads from the box, then whizzes out the window. When he reaches his destination, a big darkened house, Jolly lands on the porch and hears sobbing. He discovers Lucy, huddled against the cold, clicking through last year’s holograms of the family that are stored in Jolly’s Jingle Ball. She stares longingly at the close-up of her smiling mother.
When Jolly turns visible, Lucy tells him she got lost and couldn’t figure out how to get back to the new house, “so I came home,” to the house they used to live in. Jolly says that a house is just a building; it’s people who make it a home. Lucy’s afraid her dad will be mad at her, but Jolly assures her everyone is worried sick about her. Jolly takes her hand and flies her home.
Lucy refuses to turn visible at first, as she and Jolly float into the kitchen, observing Ray as he confides to Ms. Simms that he feels he hasn’t been a good father lately and berates himself for letting Lucy stay home. As Lucy chokes up, she and Jolly hear more sobbing and float to Mikey’s room, where the door isn’t slammed shut for once. Mikey sits at his desk, writing something. Lucy and Jolly hover over him to read it. It’s a letter to Santa: “This is really stupid, because I don’t believe in you, but I know Lucy does, so I figured I’d write this stupid letter, even though, as I said, it’s really stupid. I know I haven’t been a great brother, but if you can somehow bring Lucy back…” Mikey sobs, not knowing how to finish that sentence. Jolly silently unlatches the Jingle Ball from around Lucy’s neck, turning her immediately visible. When Mikey sees her, his instinct is to yell at her for coming into his room, but instead he shouts, “Dad! I found Lucy!” Ray bounds into the room and wraps Lucy and Mikey in a huge bear hug. Behind them, Ms. Simms starts to cry. Jolly pats her shoulder to comfort her. She looks over but sees no one there.
Jolly returns to HQ to face the consequences and is thrown back in the cell, where Holly and Mac are now locked up as well. In the morning, Flossy arrives, saying she got all the reports on yesterday’s incidents and it seems all of Lucy’s neighbors were extra good last night, even the Zavelow twins, who received their first-ever “Nice” rating from Snitch. She says they’re all free to return to work. Jolly is surprised, but Flossy assures Jolly he’s not the first E.S.P. agent who let his presence be known. “Even old Snitchy has been known to interfere a time or two.” Jolly’s jaw drops, but Flossy tells him, “When he started out, he was as green as you. If we never made mistakes, we couldn’t learn from them. Besides, it’s nice to remind people once in a while that there’s magic in the world.” She sends Jolly off with a warning: “Be good, for goodness’ sake.”
The day of the Christmas pageant, Ms. Simms can’t find Lucy. She spots Mikey and says she’s pretty sure she knows where to find her this time. Sure enough, Lucy has shut herself in her locker, overcome with stage fright. Jolly watches as Mikey taps on her locker and tells her to come out. Lucy says she’s scared, to which Mikey says, “We were all scared yesterday, so now you know how it feels.” When he says it’s silly for her to have stage fright, she asks why he’s so afraid to let anyone hear him play the guitar. Mikey is surprised she knows about that, and Jolly’s expression tells us that he may have ratted out Mikey to Lucy. Mikey leads Lucy backstage, to Ms. Simms’ great relief. As Lucy gets into costume, Mikey approaches Ms. Simms with an idea.
As the pageant is about to begin, Lucy peeks into the audience. Jolly floats over her and can see the auditorium is packed with families and proud invisible elves floating above them. Lucy is sad that Ray couldn’t get away from work, only to hear a familiar voice behind her saying, “Ho, ho, ho! If it isn’t my favorite elf!” Lucy and Jolly turn to see Ray dressed as Santa Claus. Ms. Simms asked him to step in at the last minute. “I just hope I remember my line.” Lucy says he’ll be fine.
Ms. Simms steps through the curtain and announces an additional act that’s not listed in the program. “Please enjoy the guitar stylings of Michael Fisher.” The curtain opens and Mikey sits on a stool, covered in flop sweat, as he starts to play “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. It sounds great! When he leaves the stage to a thunderous ovation, Mikey passes Lucy in the wings and tells her, “See? No big deal?” Ray is blown away, having no idea Mikey could play guitar. He hugs Mikey, who suddenly realizes who’s inside the Santa costume. “Dad? Jeez, you look like a goof.” Ray just laughs. The return of Mikey’s attitude makes life seem normal again.
When it’s Lucy’s turn onstage, she freezes up. Jolly shouts her first line, a perfect Lucy impression. Then he whispers in her ear, “You can do it. I believe in you,” and flies back to the wings. Holly stares at him, amused by his inability to stop interfering. All innocence, Jolly simply says, “What?” Lucy finishes flawlessly and, when she returns to the wings, Tyrone asks how she said her first line without moving her lips. She tells him she’s studying ventriloquism. Tyrone is thrilled. “Me too! Maybe we can study together!”
Before he goes onstage, Ray asks if Ms. Simms has any plans for Christmas day. She says she’s new in the area and doesn’t really know anyone. Ray says he has that same problem. He invites her to join them, then realizes he doesn’t know her first name. She tells him it’s Joy.
Ray lumbers onstage, looking for a moment like he has forgotten his line. He winks at Lucy, then yells, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Just then, Ray’s feet rise off the floor and he floats toward the ceiling. The crowd gasps, then cheers delightedly. And WE finally set Jolly and Holly, invisible, tugging with all their might to haul Ray into the air. Jolly gives a conspiratorial nod to Holly and they focus their energies extra hard, turning Ray invisible. The curtain closes, and Jolly and Holly lower Ray to the stage with a thud. Ms. Simms rushes over to Ray. They ask each other simultaneously, “How did you do that?” Lucy grins widely. Only she knows.
As they’re leaving, Ray calls out to newly crowned Guitar God Mikey, who is surrounded by cute girls vying for his attention. He tells Ray he’ll come home in a bit. “And can you call me Michael from now on?” Ray smiles broadly, pats Michael on the shoulder and returns him to his fans.
Jolly hovers outside the Fisher house that night as they put up their Christmas tree and finally unload their lives from the packing boxes. Jolly snaps one last holographic image of the family and hears Snitch beside him: “That’s your problem, kid. You got too involved. C’mon, Jolly. It’s Christmastime.” They board the sleigh to the North Pole where Holly is saving him a seat. Jolly realizes he never found out what Lucy wanted. Holly knows Jolly will think of the perfect gift.
Christmas day at the North Pole, and the E.S.P. elves are celebrating another successful year. On the karaoke stage, Jolly sings his own lyrics to “Rebel Yell”: “In the midnight hour, he goes ho, ho, ho/With a rebel elf, he goes ho, ho, ho…” The festivities come to a halt as a murmur ripples through the crowd: Agent 000 is here. Agent 000, it turns out, is Santa, exhausted but happy after a long night of delivering presents. Jolly asks Holly if Santa isn’t blowing his cover every time he yells, “Oh oh oh, Merry Christmas!” Santa calls out Jolly’s name. Jolly is afraid to step forward, fearing they’ll hand him a shovel, but Santa wants to commend him. Because Jolly proved himself to have such a kind and pure heart, he’s being moved to Santa’s elite corps who help make the final decisions on what gifts to give each child. Santa says he was particularly impressed by Jolly’s suggestion for Lucy. Jolly is embarrassed…and relieved.
Christmas morning at the Fisher house. The doorbell rings and Ms. Simms (I mean, Joy) arrives. Ray tells Mikey (ahem…Michael!) to check for a package behind the tree. Mikey pulls out a suspiciously guitar-shaped package. It’s a new acoustic guitar. Michael is overwhelmed with real emotion. He hugs Ray, who deadpans, “It’s not from me. Must be from Santa.” Sarcasm.
Lucy finds a lumpy package, also marked “from Santa”, which turns out to be…a life-size doll of Jolly! Lucy is ecstatic, but Ray looks confused. “I thought you already had one of those.” Lucy shakes the Jingle Ball around the doll’s neck, but is disappointed that it’s not a working Jingle Ball, just a transparent marble with white specks inside. But as she looks closer, she sees that inside the globe is a hologram of Lucy’s mother’s face, eternally smiling. Lucy hugs the doll lovingly and sets it in a position of honor, watching the family as they continue unwrapping gifts.
Snowflakes fill our screen, along with a caption, “Many Years Later”. A WOMAN in her 30s tells a story to several KIDS huddled around her. Her story is about the elves who watch over the children of the world, reporting back to Santa whether they’ve been good or bad. “You usually don’t know where they are because they’re invisible, but every once in a while, they let us see them, just to remind us that there’s magic in the world.” Her eyes drift upward, and the kids follow her glance. To their delight, an elf is watching them. It’s Lucy’s Jolly doll, still in mint condition.
A MAN a few years older than the woman ducks into the room, saying, “Lucy, Dad just called. They’ll be here in a few minutes.” The woman says, “Thanks, Michael,” and tells the kids it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner. In the hallway, the woman puts her arm around the shoulder of her husband…Tyrone. He’s still kind of a dork, but now he’s a tall dork, and handsome.
Everyone leaves the room except one little girl who lags behind, staring at the Jolly doll. Suddenly the doll lifts an arm and waves at her. The girl’s eyes grow wide with astonishment. She runs out of the room, excitedly informing the other kids that the elf just waved at her! Naturally, none of the other kids believe her.
But we can see the real Jolly seated beside his stuffed doppelganger, holding the doll’s arm in his hand and waving it. Holly is seated next to him, shaking her head with devoted amusement.
Jolly turns to her innocently and says, “What?”