The Gilligan's Island Christmas episode featured a flashback and a fresh face
"Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk" features a cameo from the original Professor!
Early into the original run of Gilligan's Island, the castaways celebrated their first and only island Christmas. "Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk" features plenty of festive fun, as well as some interesting trivia tidbits that are sure to boost its rewatch value for years to come.
The group decorates a bamboo tree with their handmade holiday accouterments. Naturally, Gilligan's Christmas wish is to be rescued from the island. While they ring in the holiday, Gilligan and company overhear a radio transmission that tells them rescue is on the way. Unfortunately for them, in the meantime, all they can do is wait.
While they hold out hope for redemption, the gang looks back on their first memories together on the island. As they pack up their belongings and get ready to leave, they reminisce about the shipwreck. So, while "Birds Gotta Fly, Fish Gotta Talk" is primarily a Christmas episode, it also serves as the series' first flashback episode, recycling footage from a then-unaired pilot.
Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the gang's memories sure look different from their reality. One huge difference is the inclusion of John Gabriel, who is seen briefly in their shared flashback. If he doesn't look familiar, that's because he was replaced in the show by Russell Johnson.
So, while the episode doesn't feature the group getting rescued, it does feature the original Professor, then cast as a younger high school teacher. The part was later recast when the producers decided that Gabriel was too young to possess the traits they'd written for The Professor.
Back in their current timeline, Gilligan and crew discover that the rescue transmission was meant for a different bunch of castaways, extending their "three-hour tour" even longer. Obviously, this bums them all out. Dejected, they join around a table and reflect on how much they would've liked to share the holiday with their family.
Then, a Christmas miracle: It's Santa Claus! Of course, they're too old to really believe in St. Nick, and the crew thinks it's The Skipper in disguise. Santa tells them all to take some joy in the fact that they have each other, reminding them of all they still have to be thankful for.
Just then, Skipper exits the jungle and rejoins the bunch.
But that means... No, it couldn't have been. Could it? The sound of sleigh bells rings out across the island as they all watch Santa leave.