After the boys destroy the Christmas tree ornaments (and because the boys wreck the house every Christmas), Lois issues an ultimatum: either the boys behave or Christmas is cancelled! It works and Lois is proud that they rose to the challenge, but the boys realize that she could keep using this threat for every holiday--how can they stop her?
Meanwhile, Francis spends a torturous Christmas with Grandma Ida in Whitehorse and eventually finds a closet full of gifts she bought for, then withheld from (because of small infractions, ex: not calling) the family over the years.
It's another Wilkerson Christmas and the boys helps Hal with the positioning of the tree. During that time, Lois is on the phone arguing with Francis who has called home. She tells him that he has to visit Grandma Ida for Christmas because it's her first Christmas alone since Grandpa Victor died. Francis refuses to visit her in Whitehorse because she hates him and is still traumatized from his last stay with her. He asks Lois to pay for the bus fare to let him come home for Christmas. She refuses, reminding him that he's lives the closest to Ida in Alaska and thinks they need to have a proper Christmas together. Francis doesn't listen and accuses her for punishing him just because he was unhappy at Marlin Academy and wanted to make something of himself by going to work in Alaska. He then demands that she pays for the bus ticket to let him come back home in California for Christmas. Francis even asks Lois why she doesn't invite Ida to any of their family's Christmas gatherings and accusing her of being selfish in not inviting her own mother to the house.
Lois, however, doesn't let up, admitting that she's still furious with him for dropping out of school against her wishes in emancipating himself and going to work in Alaska. She also mentions that even thought Ida's allowed to visit, Christmas is the only holiday that she draws the line on for that. This is because the moment her mother arrives, she would start causing problems and ruin their Christmas spirit with her usual complaining over how they live their lives. Francis sarcastically suggests that he can invite Ida over by paying for the bus fare and they could surprise the family with their arrival in California. More furious by his defiance, Lois orders him not to get rebellious on her. She tells Francis to go to Whitehorse, buy Ida a present and have a proper Christmas with her.
After ending her call with him, Lois catches Malcolm and Reese misbehaving by trapping Dewey's head in a Christmas stocking. She is angry again at this and has to use scissors to cut the stocking open to get his head out. Lois screams at Malcolm and Reese for their misbehavior. She mentions that every time that Christmas and the holidays comes around, the boys misbehave with their pranks to wreck the house which ends up stemming back into childhood. Three Wilkerson family flashbacks are shown proving Lois' statement:
- The first one shows Hal enter the house dressed as Santa Claus, but he is bombarded with silly string by his then-younger boys who then trip him with string and run away, with Dewey returning to kick Hal, leading to Lois to yell at them.
- The second shows the living room covered with fake snow and the boys making a mess while horsing around.
- The final flashback shows the Christmas tree on fire, apparently as a result of another one of Malcolm, Reese and Dewey's pranks. Hal and Lois are seen running around, with him trying to get her to drop and roll. However, Lois ignores him and demands that whomever is responsible for the mishap to come out and face the consequences of their actions.
In the present day, she orders the boys to behave themselves if they want to avoid being grounded and having their Christmas cancelled.
In Whitehorse, Francis arrives and is forced to spend a torturous Christmas with Ida, resulting in the usual insults. He gives Ida a musical Christmas Card which she's offended by when she hears the card's song Jingle Bells, thinking it's a song the villagers sing whenever warriors ride into the village and throw the babies in the fire.
Meanwhile at the house, Reese and Malcolm are writing a "gift" for Dewey. Malcolm protests when Reese puts only his name on it when it was supposed to be to Dewey from both of them. They fight and Reese pushes him to a box of ornaments. Malcolm throws an ornament at him, which shatters against the wall on impact. Reese is at first angered by this, but quickly becomes impressed as the boys then suddenly get an idea. Later on, Lois comes home and catches the boys misbehaving once again, this time by having an ornament fight in the family room. Finally fed up with their misbehavior, she takes matters in her own hands by turning off the Christmas lights on the tree and quickly packs the presents, treats and decorations. Malcolm protests against what Lois is doing and confronts her. She points out that the boys misbehaving is the cause of every failed celebration of the holidays for the family. Therefore, Lois is putting a stop to it by holding Christmas hostage by locking everything up in the garage. She tells Malcolm, Reese and Dewey her ultimatum: the only way she will reinstate Christmas is that they behave until Christmas morning. If the boys manage to behave until then, the holiday will be reinstated on; should any of them fail and misbehave even just once though, she will return everything to the store and Christmas be canceled for the family. Reese protests that she wouldn't dare doing it and calls her bluff. He is quickly proven wrong, however, when moments later, she burns his Christmas stocking in the fireplace and forces Malcolm and Dewey to watch him cry over it, much to their horror and Lois' sadistic joy.
After coming home from work, Hal confronts Lois for holding Christmas hostage. She defends herself and tells him that the boys drove her to it because they have misbehaved and ruined the holiday for the family every single year, also pointing out they had tried every other way to get them to behave up to this point (including Hal's bribery) and all have failed. This time, Lois has a foolproof plan to get the boys to behave. She mentions to Hal as parents they need to stand their ground and let them know who's in charge, playing the "unity card" to ensure Hal's cooperation. He still protests against it, as it means that should the boys misbehave, he'll miss out on Christmas too, but ultimately gives in. The next day at breakfast, the boys behave themselves until the last waffle is left. Trying so hard to not fight over it, Hal quickly diffuses the situation by eating the waffle himself. When Lois looks up, he "thanks" the boys for giving him the last waffle as to not arouse her suspicion.
In Whitehorse, Francis is trying to decorate the tree, but Ida tells him that he doing it wrong by putting a star there. She tells him to get the angel that been in her family for years. As he tries to get the angel, Francis takes notice of a man similar to himself at 17(except the man has bushy eyebrows). Ida tells him that it's his grandfather, Victor, in his youth. In her drunken state, Ida tells Francis that she sees similarities between him and Victor because they have to fight to prove themselves to their own families. She mentions that they to act independent and get their own way. Ida explains that Victor left home when he was young and got a job at a local farm. She reveals that he never complained about the work no matter how hard and durable it was. Ida also mentions that despite not liking Francis herself, she respects him because he reminds her of Victor in his youth. She later sleeps and her cigarette falls into her nightgown. Francis is disgusted and takes the cigarette out, but has to use her alcohol to clean his hand out.
At the house, the boys are congratulating themselves because they've behaved themselves. However, they soon realize that Lois could use the same tactic again for other holidays and even their birthdays. Annoyed over her ruining the holidays for the boys, Malcolm decide that she needs to be taught a lesson and that the boys must stand their ground and take back Christmas. They retaliate by breaking into the garage to take their holidays back.
Meanwhile, Lois is feeling remorse for the way she behaved. Hal tells her that the boys did a great job behaving themselves. However, Lois isn't convinced and even Francis calls home to tell her how much of a bad mother she is for leaving Ida alone for Christmas. She agrees that she's a terrible mother because she wishes she can take back the moment where she took the presents and the holidays hostage.
In the garage, the boys are happily opening presents. They have vandalized the inside of the garage by spray painting a caricature of Lois killing Santa by slicing his neck with a knife and saying "Die Fat-man!". That is until remorse sets in for them. Reese, Malcolm and Dewey realized that Lois got them what they wanted for Christmas and the only thing she wanted was for them to behave and have a nice holiday for a change. Realizing they ruined their own Christmas, they tried to put everything right by crudely re-wrapping their gifts and accepting that she will punish them by cancelling Christmas permanently.
In Whitehorse, Francis is helping clean up Ida's place when he discovers a hidden stash of Christmas presents in a closet under the stairs. Ida reveals she bought the gifts for thr family years ago, these include: a bread maker for Lois, a new camera for Hal (which Ida bought before he refused to drive her to the liquor store) and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Donatello action figure Francis wanted when he was 6 years old. And he offended her by calling her "poopy" and hanging up the phone. Realizing how insane she is, Francis calls her out and she appears to realize she needs to let go of her anger, but it is revealed to be sarcasm.
Hal and Lois are discussing about moving the tree and gifts back in the house so they and the boys can have a proper Christmas. They go inside while the boys are trying to re-wrap the presents. Instead of busting them, Lois takes the denial route and thanks Hal for waking up the boys to help them move the gifts and tree back inside the house. The family has a proper Christmas.
On Christmas Day, Francis leaves a musical Christmas card to torture Ida, possibly as revenge for the torture he had to endure with her. She swears a personal vendetta on him for continuously torturing her and manages to find one card. Ida manages to rip it up, proving that it is not a musical card, and that he actually played the song in her house. She is further paranoid by this more.
- Jane Kaczmerek as Lois
- Bryan Cranston as Hal
- Christopher Kennedy Masterson as Francis
- Justin Berfield as Reese
- Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey
- Frankie Muniz as Malcolm
- Matthew Dunn as young Dewey
- This is one of the few times Lois took back her punishment.
- The episode establishes that Malcolm, Reese and Dewey weren't able to have a proper Christmas due to past misbehavior that lead Lois to punishing them.
- As children, Malcolm, Reese and Dewey assaulted Hal(dressed up as Santa Claus) by making him trip on the unlit Christmas lights and stole the presents. Dewey added insult to injury by kicking Hal in the stomach before joining his brothers.
- Malcolm, Reese and Dewey makes a mess in the living room by messing around with the fake snow machine.
- Malcolm, Reese and Dewey setting fire on the Christmas tree by overloading the electrical plug-in outlets. This causes Lois to yell out for the guilty party to take responsibility for that misbehavior, while Hal was trying to get her out of the house and call the fire department.
- Malcolm and Reese tormenting Dewey by tying up a Christmas stocking on his head and poking him with fire pokers, leading to Lois to scream at them
- Malcolm, Reese and Dewey breaking Christmas Ornaments that lead to Lois finally losing it and punishing the boys by cancelling Christmas.
- This episode establishes why Ida hates Francis the most after one Christmas call ended with him calling her poopy and hanging up on her.
- Despite her hatred of Francis, a drunken Ida admits that she respects him because he reminds her of Victor in his youth.
- Before Radu Gogorsky was revealed as Lois's birth father in Victor's Other Family, Francis noticed that he resembled Victor in his youth minus the bushy eyebrows.
- The song that plays during the boys ornament fight was "The bells are ringing" by They Might Be Giants. However, it was one of the few songs that was used in a Christmas context since the song technically had nothing to do with Christmas.
- Cody Estes and Dillon John return as Young Malcolm and Reese. They first played the younger versions back in Flashback
- This is the first time that Matthew Dunn appeared as a younger version of Dewey.
- Lois:[in the last flashback] Who did this? Who did this?
- Hal: Drop and roll honey.
- Lois: Who did this?!!
- Hal: For God sake, honey. Just drop and roll.
- Lois: I have had it!
- [Dumps out the contents in the paper bag and turns off the lights to the Christmas tree. She is stuffing all the presents in the bag.]
- Malcolm: Mom, what are you doing?
- Lois: I am taking everything, every decoration, every present, every tree and I'm locking it in the garage. Every single Christmas, you scream, burn, break or destroy and I'm putting a stop to it.
- Dewey: She's stealing Christmas.
- Malcolm: Mom, you can't do this.
- Reese: Yeah, this'll be the last year Dewey believes in Santa.
- Dewey: WHAT?!
- Lois: If you boys behave until Christmas morning, there will be a Christmas morning. Otherwise these are going back to the store and Christmas will be cancelled!
- Reese: [to Lois] You wouldn't cancel Christmas! You're bluffing.
- [Scene cut to reveal Reese crying over his burning stocking]
- [On the phone with Francis]
- Lois: Just spend a couple of days with Grandma. You can leave right after Christmas.
- Francis: I am not visiting that woman. She's evil and she hates me.
- Lois: Francis, this is family. This is Grandma's first Christmas since Grandpa died and you live the closest. How can you be selfish?