A 57-foot, multi-ton Christmas tree in the Windy City? You’re just asking for trouble! And despite this being a holiday episode, “We wanted the alarm bells to go off,” says Chicago Fire executive producer Derek Haas. So it’s Firehouse 51 to the rescue when the massive white spruce in Millennium Park—Chicago’s equivalent of New York City’s Rockefeller Center attraction—crashes down on a group of tree-gazers.
“You see those giant trees and think, ‘Oh, if that wasn’t secured perfectly, that could really do some damage!’” Haas notes of his inspiration. (To create the effect, the production team combined trees with previously cut branches to drape over the “trapped” actors. “Movie magic!”) Kelly Severide and Joe Cruz (Taylor Kinney and Joe Minoso, above, from left) are among the responders who arrive to help multiple victims, including Santa Claus…or at least a white-bearded look-alike (Mark W. Gray) at the park with his wife (Darcy Shean). “Mouch” McHolland (Christian Stolte), being close to their age, gets very involved.
There’s action of a different kind at Chicago’s other big holiday attraction, the annual Winterfest. “The Brew Crew—as we call our trio of young firefighters/paramedics Gallo (Alberto Rosende), Ritter (Daniel Kyri), and Violet (Hanako Greensmith),” Haas explains, “are previewing their new beer at the big outdoor drinking and eating festival.” Complications ensue when Carla (Nicola Besa), Gallo’s ex who works for the Fair Moon Brewery, shows up. Though both Gallo and Violet had never revealed their mutual attraction, “these unrequited feeling happen to bubble up right at Winterfest,” Haas reveals. “It’s a perfect storm of Violet, Gallo and Carla, and Ritter, who has to hide his eyes from the debacle that’s unfolding in front of him.”
On the professional front, paramedic Sylvie Brett (Kara Killmer) is hoping for a Christmas present of sorts. Alas, it’s not her love, former 51 Capt. Matt Casey (the departed Jesse Spencer), but Brett’s other passion, her new paramedic program to help cut 911 calls to the CFD, has finished its temporary rollout. Now she’s got to pitch the idea to the board that will either fully fund it or let it die. As for Spencer: “We miss his presence,” assures the EP,” not only onscreen, but on set. He made every day fun. It’s a big hole and I think you miss that on the show.”
Meanwhile, to make spirits bright: Two returns: First Ritter’s adorable Dalmatian Tuesday is back at the house—after a long COVID protocol absence. And Stella Kidd (Miranda Rae Mayo) shows up after months away expanding her Girls on Fire program. But is there room for her to get her first commission as lieutenant on Truck 81 now that new guy Jason Pelham (Brett Dalton) is acting in that role? “Boden is torn because [Pelham’s] a guy who has a lot of merit and was unfairly passed over for promotion (at other firehouses),” Haas explains. “Then you’ve got Stella, who’s been waiting for the spot to open up. So, sure that’s conflict.”
And how has her lengthy absence affected her relationship with worried fiancé Kelly? “He checked out on her in the past. And this is the first time she’s really checked out on him. Sometimes you don’t think rationally when those things happen: ‘What did I do wrong? What’s happening here?’” Haas previews. “We didn’t want to brush over that. But you can feel good [about their future]. Maybe we’ll have some wedding bells before the season’s end!”
That’s good news on several fronts. Because as long as Casey survives, he would never miss being Severide’s best man at his wedding to Stella. “I’ll have to go and handcuff Jesse Spencer to a fire truck and get him to the set before the season is over,” Haas insists. “For sure.”
As for the injured “Santa,” we’ll wager he’ll live to see many more trees—from a safe distance. Ho ho ho!
Chicago Fire, Wednesday, December 8, 9/8c, NBC