Happy birthday to my sister-in-law! Wait, what? She’s not even a Heartie! But it really is her birthday too, so happy birthday, Shannon! Love you! And now…Happy Birthday Martin Cummins! It’s your special day, and I’ve got something special to celebrate it!

To quote the musical Les Miserables: “I am agog! I am aghast! Is Martin in love at last?” Wait, what? Okay, the last part is an add-in, but I still AM aghast! I didn’t think this was possible! I found a film…that’s Christmas-themed…with Martin in it…where he plays a GOOD guy…where that good guy is the love interest!!! Did we even think this was an option in this universe? 😀 Well it’s undeniable if you were watching Countdown to Christmas four years ago, less than a year after the WCTH series premiere. The film is called The Christmas Shepherd, and the character at the heart of the plot is Buddy, a German shepherd. Get it? Well, it’s very heartwarming, and we get a very rare opportunity to see Mr. Cummins in a new light.

One great thing about this movie is it starts out with good news. So many times, even in Hallmark movies, we get an early start on the bad news to jumpstart the plot; not a bad thing, but a breath of fresh air can be nice. Teri Polo plays Sally, a children’s book author and illustrator, and the film starts with her getting a book deal that will feature Buddy. We soon discover the shadow cast on the scene: Sally is a widow. No, she’s not a war widow; although I almost think that would have been easier because she would have been better prepared. Her husband survived 3 tours in Afghanistan “without getting a scratch”, then died of a heart attack while he was jogging. Tragic, isn’t it? Her son is a military man, away on a tour of his own. (If you’re one of the #POstables, then you’d recognize him as Danny, the young painter from the TV series. (But guess what! His name is Jack! A military and Hallmark man with the “J” name. We’ve never heard that before!) Sally has her sister to lean on, and they’re very close, but Buddy is her main support system. He’s a connection to her husband; he found Buddy and brought him home. Then a severe thunderstorm hits, scares the dog, and he runs off through a whole in the weather-torn fence.

Enter Martin as Mark Green: also a military man (the reserves), owner of a coffee shop where business is slow, father of one 13-year-old girl, and a widower of 2 years; not to mention a smoothie maker extraordinaire! The process includes a “smoothie dance” during the concoction of each beverage. His sister Greta, (who PLAYED Greta in WCTH Season 5,) owns a mobile animal adoption agency, and she happens upon the shelter that has Buddy. Her classic line is when Buddy and Mark spark a connection, so he asks Greta to bring Buddy along. She says there is “no room at the inn! There is no room in that van!” Cut to a shot of her getting in the driver seat, Mark smiling from the passenger side, Buddy panting in the middle. 😀

This is where I have a little trouble. When Buddy is found, he’s wearing a beautiful collar with his name on it. Granted, there’s no tag with Sally address, but the dog obviously belongs to someone. When Sally finally tracks him down via Greta, she regretfully tells her Buddy has been adopted. And Mark is really hesitant to let Sally even drive over to SEE Buddy. That doesn’t seem right to me; after all, Buddy is HER dog. But regardless, he does bring them together. They kind of share him: Sally receives companionship and inspiration for her story, and Mark and his daughter, Emma receive his soothing comfort. Buddy even attracts a bunch of shopping mall Santas into the coffee shop, then more and more people follow.

Pretty soon, they stop using Buddy as an excuse to see each other; Emma picks up on that really quickly! When Mark mentions to her that Sally is dropping by, she remarks, “Dad, you just saw her yesterday. Why is she coming over?” Sneaky little devil!

When they finally go on an official date, it’s full of fun banter. They’re outside, so there’s Christmas atmosphere everywhere. They pick up coffee, and Mark says, “This coffee’s good for a kiosk. You can taste the smokiness.” When he’s met with a blank look from Sally, she admits to not being a coffee connoisseur, and they share a laugh. When they’re both stammering, (which Martin does REALLY well in this movie) with awkwardness, they both agree dating should be banned, and laugh again. But the best part is when Sally points out ice skating, and Martin insists, “You wouldn’t catch me dead out there. Not this guy.” Her eyes go sly, and she practically croons, “Really?” Cut to her holding him up as they’re wobbling all over the rink. Next time Sally sees Mark, he’s limping terribly from using muscles he didn’t know he had. When she inquires, he playfully groans, “You did this to me. You’re a terrible person!”

Best part of his character: Mark doesn’t let Sally slip away. True to many of Teri Polo’s characters I’ve seen, (on Hallmark at least,) she gets scared, and tries to back away. He asks her to stay in their guest room so they can talk things out, and she won’t get caught in the snowstorm. She leaves. 🙁 Luckily her car has other ideas, and breaks down. She’s closer to Mark than home, so she has no choice but to call him for help. He comes immediately, without hesitation, and insists on taking her “home”. That’s when we get the kiss in the swirling snow, which is a pretty sweet sight. It just threw me for a loop seeing “Henry Gowen” kissing a woman. He managed to look sweet most of the time, but I will admit to my husband walking in and announcing, “Yeah, he still looks evil.” And his “Gowen voice” made a few appearances. But he did great. And I know plenty of Martin fans who would swoon at the sight of him kissing someone. Right, ladies? 😉

Well, once again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTIN! I hope you had a great day because even though I’m not a Gowen fan, I’m still a Cummins fan. 🙂 Take care everyone! We’ll see you back here on Friday for the Gowen edition of #FlashbackFriday. This is Hooked Heartie, signing off! May your heart let your hope blossom!

Photo: Crown Media
Edit: Mary Schmidt


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