Virgin River Holiday Episodes: The Story Behind Mel’s New Hair and Her Mystery Father

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Courtesy of Netflix

Virgin River’s holiday episodes were the equivalent of a cozy blanket in front of a fireplace with spiced eggnog—a perfect combination of sugar and spice. (Warning now: Spoilers ahead!)

Charmaine finally gave birth to her twins, but not before Mel found out that Cal was the unlikely father. (Charmaine swore Mel to keep it a secret from Jack for now; can’t wait to see how he reacts to that one). Meanwhile, Kaia is the new Virgin River fire chief, thereby complicating things even more in her relationship with Preacher now that Wes’s body has been identified.

In other developments, Cameron’s ex-fiancé, Michelle, showed up wanting to get back together. Cameron tells new lady love Muriel that he has no interest in revisiting that relationship, but Muriel isn’t so sure she believes him. TBC in season six….

Meanwhile, Lizzie is pregnant with a baby girl, and everyone seems to be delighted, including Lizzie’s mom, who comes around after a heart-to-heart with her daughter.

On the marriage front, Doc asks Hope to marry him again (of course she said yes), and Mel asks Doc to walk her down the aisle whenever she marries Jack (of course he said yes).

Speaking of Jack, he gets Mel a puppy named Pony for Christmas. (That’s not at all confusing, but also, yay!).

Then, in the last few minutes, we find out that Lark is out to get Brady and is in cahoots with Jimmy. “Brady doesn't suspect a thing,” she tells him. (And I tell Lark, shame on you for being so awful.)

But most importantly, we find out that Mel’s biological father is a man named Everett Reid, who lives in a remote cabin on the outskirts of Virgin River. When she shows up at his door, he originally wants nothing to do with her, but by the end of the two episodes, he’s come around, literally and figuratively. He also has some news for his daughter, which makes you wonder, what is his real motive?

With that said, we got on a Zoom with executive producer and showrunner Patrick Sean Smith, who was “chugging along on season six” from the writers room, to answer all our questions and preview what’'s to come. Grab your coffee or cocoa (or spiced eggnog) and settle in!

Tom Butler as Sam, Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan, Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe, Ezra Wilson as Theo in episode 512.
Tom Butler as Sam, Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan, Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe, Ezra Wilson as Theo in episode 512.
Courtesy of Netflix

Glamour: Let’s start with Mel’s strawberry blonde hair color and cut, which is gorgeous, but markedly different from the rest of season five. Did Alex Breckenridge want to change it up since Mel had been through so much this season?

Patrick Sean Smith: Yeah. We knew we were going to have the time jump between part one and part two, so Alex reached out to ask if she could get bangs. And I was like, “Let me talk to Netflix.” And then I talked to everybody and came back to her and I was like, “Okay, you’re clear for takeoff for bangs.” And she was like, “Great. And I have some notes on 5.10.” And I was like, “I just got you bangs and you’re giving me notes?” [Laughs.] I think she was excited for a change. She’d been wanting one for a while, and I think the hair color came out of just wanting to mix things up. Alex is also super thoughtful about her appearance in terms of how it relates to her character. So I believe she was also wanting to find a little bit of lightness and levity and joy after such an emotional experience. It was all coming from a place of character and where Mel was this holiday season.

And now Alex is back to blonde, but she also debuted a shoulder-length bob a few months ago. Are you going to write that into season six?

I have been doing a lot more research about extensions and wigs and hair than I ever imagined in my career, but I’m going to be well-versed and she’s going to look awesome as we work together to get that look for season six.

With that hard-hitting question out of the way, let’s talk about Mel’s father, Everett. What was behind the decision to have her father be someone we hadn’t met before?

When we came up with the idea, we had talked about all of the different possibilities of who it could be. And Doc was the obvious choice, but Doc has played so well in her life as a surrogate father that it would feel, I think, pointless to then just attach it to biology. So we decided it was more interesting to create a new character that could establish new dynamics for season six for all of our characters and everybody in the cast. Then it was just like, Who is this guy? What can we imagine? And especially with Virgin River being so remote, it was somebody who had shut themselves off, who had suffered heartbreak that Mel could relate to that we get into in season six. And it felt like a fresh way to bring in a new character that had an automatic close bond with Mel.

John Allen Nelson as Everett Reid in episode 512
John Allen Nelson as Everett Reid in episode 512
Courtesy of Netflix

How hard was it to cast the actor who would play her dad? What were you looking for?

Yeah, it was hard. Our guest cast is primarily Canada-based, so we saw a lot of local talent and just nobody that really felt like Alex’s dad. So when John [Allen Nelson, who plays Everett Reid] came up, he just felt right. He had a similar look, but also just a little bit of bravado to him, a little bit of mystery to him. And I remembered him from 24, so I was excited about his acting skills and what he had done before. At that time, he was only in two scenes out of one episode, but we knew that we wanted to explore his character more in season six. So it was hard, but he just felt right and I’m really proud of the result. I think he did a fantastic job, and I know Alex enjoyed working with him.

At the end of the holiday episodes, he arrives at Mel’s door to say that he has something important to tell her. Should we assume that it’s something having to do with his health?

I mean, we intentionally made the joke about the kidney when he’s talking to her, but what we’ll learn will create some issues for Mel in having the relationship that she wants with her dad, within the town and its population.

How much will this storyline fact into next season?

It will be part of Mel’s storyline for the season, but I think it will find its way into other characters’ lives as well.

Even though Doc is not Mel’s biological father, the scene where he agrees to walk her down the aisle is so sweet and moving. I know time moves slow in Virgin River, but might we get a Jack and Mel wedding in season six?

I am not at liberty to say.

Should we be hopeful?

Hope is a good thing. We all need more hope in life, but I think moving forward we’re looking more at…the wedding is something down the road for Mel and Jack as well as their journey through parenthood. And then also, Mel just having this opportunity to have a living parent back in her life.

Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan, Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe in episode 511
Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan, Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe in episode 511
Courtesy of Netflix

Speaking of parenthood, now Mel and Jack are parents to a puppy. The dog will be in every episode going forward, right?

Pony is not going to go the way of Tucker. Pony will live and be a character in the series just as all of our other characters. And it was daunting at first, and they say [be careful working with] kids and animals, but it was funny because we had a great puppy who we cast, and then when we were expecting to come back [before the strike], the puppy would’ve aged the same amount of the time that we were planning to jump, but then we didn’t anticipate the downtime with the strike. So I’m worried that the puppy has aged out of the role and we might have to recast. I’m hoping that’s not the case, and maybe we can deage them with CGI or it’s just a dog and it doesn’t matter. We’ll see.

You just mentioned a time jump. Obviously, season five leaves off with Everett outside of Mel and Jack’s cabin, so are we going to see what happens immediately thereafter, or no?

I do anticipate a time jump. I can’t say how much of one, but I do anticipate one from Christmas time.

In these holiday episodes, Connie is absent because she’s taking care of her cousin. Was Nicola Cavendish, who plays Connie, not available for these two episodes?

Yeah, she was unavailable. The last two episodes we started to run into COVID issues and there were a lot of last minute rewrites. I think Mike had to go to work because [the actor] Marco [Grazzini] got COVID and we were so close to the finish line for the season that it was just white-knuckling it to get to the end and get everybody healthy. Nicola was fine and she was just unavailable to be there, so we’re excited to bring her more into Lizzie’s pregnancy storyline in season six.

In other family matters, it was so interesting to see the dynamic between Jack’s parents, as well as Javi. Will we see more of them? And what about Jack’s sisters that we haven’t met yet?

It was always our ambition to flesh everything out, just to make it feel more real. Because for a while early on in the series, Jack mentioned that he had a bunch of nieces and nephews, but then it felt like Brie was his only sibling. I have several scenes that are my favorite in these two episodes, but one of my favorite ones was the scene with Jack and Brie where you just saw them setting the table and being siblings with each other. I’d love exploring that more, [especially] what happened as they were growing up, what their dynamic was with their parents and what their dynamic was with their siblings. Whether we see it on its feet, it’s always going to be an extension of that core sibling relationship in the series.

Let’s talk about Muriel and Cameron. I personally love them together, but she’s hesitant to go all in knowing she can’t give him a traditional family. What can you preview for them?

Yeah. We always saw it as a May-December relationship, and then of course with the holidays, December came and I think it’s going to be a real struggle for them given Cameron came to Virgin River saying he wanted a family, and that was his main goal. So the question is, Is he willing to give all of that up after just a very quick relationship with somebody as amazing as Muriel? And that’s why it worked as such a great cliffhanger to see what happens with this couple next season.

Mark Ghanime as Dr. Cameron Hayek, Teryl Rothery as Muriel, Trevor Lerner as Bert, Ava Anton as Hazel, Kai Bradbury as Denny in episode 511.
Mark Ghanime as Dr. Cameron Hayek, Teryl Rothery as Muriel, Trevor Lerner as Bert, Ava Anton as Hazel, Kai Bradbury as Denny in episode 511.
Courtesy of Netflix

Another cliffhanger that caught me off guard was Jimmy and Lark’s phone call, and their plan to bring Brady down.

Yeah, Brady has some unfortunate luck sometimes. And Jimmy is somebody who he’s been at odds with for most of the series. Jimmy has found a way to threaten Brady from inside the walls of a penitentiary. So it will all come out over season six, and we’ll definitely understand what Lark’s up to and what effect that will have on that relationship.

Do you have an idea of when season six might start filming?

I don’t know. We don’t have an exact date yet, but I know that everybody is working towards trying to get us us back in front of the cameras as quickly as possible. But as to when that is next year, I don’t know yet.

Do you think we're going to have to wait until 2025 to get new episodes?

I’m going to do my darnedest to make sure that doesn’t happen.

You mentioned earlier that some of your favorite scenes are in these holiday episodes. What are they?

It is more Martin [Henderson, who plays Jack]’s story to tell, but there’s a scene in the first episode of part two where he’s talking with Mel and they’re googling information about her dad. And Martin ate peppermint bark [in the scene]. I was watching the dailies and he just kept eating it. And I was like, “Is he spitting this out?” I texted him and wrote, “Are you okay?” And he felt so sick, but he fully committed, so when you watch the episodes, he’s just chowing down on this peppermint bark and was going nonstop. Every time I watch that scene, it just makes me laugh to remember his commitment to the show to make it feel as holiday delicious as possible.

The other scene I really loved [was] Alex’s emotion and reaction to her dad. That was just beautiful. To see that happiness and optimism for Mel and that relationship, I think was really lovely. And I love the musical number. That was something I was excited to do—to bring the whole town together for a holiday event. I could keep going, but those were the ones that come to mind.

I assume that all these holiday decorations are in storage close by because you’ll do it again for season six, right?

We’ll see. Never say never. We left very little on the holiday football field after these two episodes. So if there’s more to mine then for sure. But I’d also be open to doing other holiday-themed episodes down the road too.

My parents—who are major Virgin River fans as well—and I offer to come and bring Hanukkah cheer as well next season.

We had so many conversations about where do we have that? Who in our cast and how can we play that out? The two episodes are just jam-packed. So I think a Hanukkah special, A Very Virgin River Hanukkah special sounds perfect.

Jessica Radloff is the Glamour senior West Coast editor and author of the NYT best-selling book The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series.

Originally Appeared on Glamour