TODAY's Takeaway: Gumbel and Pauley return, skier recounts avalanche ordeal

Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley join Matt on his birthday, and Edwin LaMair shares details of his ski rescue.

1. Edwin LeMair, 22, has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. For starters: a younger brother who saved his life.

The two were skiing in Vail over the weekend when an avalanche hit, burying Edwin up to his head.

“I was really worried I was going to be buried completely,’’ he said on TODAY. “I’m extremely thankful that everything turned out the way it did and that I didn’t sustain any worse injuries or die.”

2. As passengers and crew of a stranded Russian ship continued Monday to wait for rescue off the coast of Antarctica, the research team’s leader told TODAY they had “a roller coaster of a day.”

“We were hoping we’d be on the way out, but unfortunately the latest effort by the Australian icebreaker Aurora didn’t manage to get through to us,” Chris Turney told guest anchor Jane Pauley via Skype. “We're keeping up hope.”

3. Thanks to donations from strangers, a Texas girl who became morbidly obese due to a rare disorder triggered by brain surgery could get a potentially life-saving operation.

“She feels like people aren’t looking at her anymore, and people are rooting for her,” the girl’s mother, Jenny Shapiro, told TODAY.

4. Matt celebrated a wonderful 56th birthday morning in the company of friends (and TODAY alumni) Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, who returned to the show as guest co-anchors. Check out their birthday surprise for Matt below:

And that’s TODAY’s Takeaway!