Monday, November 1, 2010

Desperate Housewives a Halloween Episode "Invites and Admissions"

It was yet another tragic night for Susan Delfino—and no, not only because of the peculiar Halloween costume she was wearing. Since we're on that note, however, let's momentarily delay digging into her deeper issues and discuss Susan’s unfortunate get-up: What, exactly, was she supposed to be? Raggedy Ann gone pink? A rouged-up Little Bo Peep? A barmaid from a bizarre, Germanic version of Candyland? What??!? Or perhaps it's more like whatever. Either way, Susan had bigger troubles than trying to put together a coherent Halloween costume.

Those troubles are mainly courtesy of the ever-sadistic and mysterious Paul Young, who last week threatened to blackmail Susan by spilling the beans about her soft-core porn job if she didn’t sell him her house on Wisteria Lane. Susan decided to detonate Paul Young's leverage by simply telling Mike the truth about the website, and surprisingly, he wasn’t that mad at her. Mike’s reactions instead centered around how he hadn’t personally done enough to support the family and how much he wanted to bash in Paul Young’s face. (I’m just realizing… Paul Young is totally one of those characters who requires the use of a last name, no? Let's test this theory for the rest of the recap!)

Instead of letting Mike loose on Paul Young, Susan decided to take matters into her own hands (because she’s typically so good at being calm and collected, you know!) and confront her tormentor directly with—what else, when you're a Wisteria Lane veteran?—a basket of muffins. But Susan's motive for the visit wasn't really about showing off her aptitude in the kitchen: She wanted to figure out a way to get Paul Young out of the house he was renting from her. So Susan found a thumbtack he’d put in the wall and claimed that their lease agreement had been violated.

Her tactic led to this funny exchange: “This is you…” she said, gingerly placing one of her raisin muffins on the countertop. “This is you,” she continued, after she smashed it dramatically with a hammer, “if you tell anyone and Mike finds out.” Before she left—her planned eviction executed—she pointedly added: “Oh, and enjoy those raisin muffins. At least I hope they’re all raisins—my apartment has rats.” (Side note: Between this scene and later in the episode -- when Susan crazily attacked Paul Young with a club she stole from MJ -- I have to admit I was enjoying the hate-hate chemistry between Teri Hatcher and Mark Moses. Anybody else with me?)

In the end, though, Susan's confession to Mike wasn't the "checkmate" move she was hoping it would be: Paul Young blabbed the news about Susan's website shenanigans to parents at Oakridge School -- where she apparently still works as an art teacher; not that we've seen much of the gig in season 7 -- and Susan got the boot. That loss of income led directly to Mike finally deciding to take the oft-discussed job in Alaska. Here's the weird part, though: Despite the tension Susan's freelance work and subsequent firing caused, you'd have thought she and Mike would be devastated at the prospect of a three-month separation. But I couldn’t have felt less emotion between the pair as they said goodbye before Mike's trip to the north. Hell, Paul Young and his weirdo bride Beth almost had more touching moments tonight than Mike and Susan did.

Speaking of Paul Young andBeth, the pair continued their odd, passion-less dance they call marriage for most of last night’s episode. They even saw a therapist at one point to figure out why Beth din't want to consummate their relationship. Turns out she’s a virgin. Which leads me to: What is this woman’s dealio? As much as I initially thought Beth might be an innocent bystander in this whole strange Paul Young thing, it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that she may have something more sinister up her sleeve.

What pointed toward possible plotting from Beth was cryptic phone conversation with her mama. “I’m trying to make it work,” she whispered urgently. “I know I made a commitment, but I am so unhappy.” Was Beth referring to the commitment she made to be Paul Young's wife? Or some other commitment to a larger plan that involves bringing Paul Young down? We'll have to wait and see. But that phone call seemed deliberately vague, a hint that the writers may have something interesting in store. Beth did eventually show her “commitment” by threatening Susan with a gun after she attacked Paul Young on Halloween night, and then giving her man a big smooch on the lips. There’s first base for you, Paul Young! Whether the rest of the evening turned out to be trick or treat was left to the imagination. But truly, Beth should be scared if her murderous hubby doesn’t slide into home soon, because his “I want you gone” line to her earlier in the episode sounded a lot more like a threat than a gentle want for her to leave his house.

Lynette's story arc was just as weighty as Susan's, but played out in the most peculiar way. The short of it was that Tom’s mother Allison, who had been staying with the Scavos to help them with their new baby whatchamacallher, began descending into dementia—a plot thread that culminated with Allison getting lost in the midst of Wisteria Lane's Halloween festivities. Now look, I don't want to diminish the positive aspects of the Housewives' writing staff tackling a terrible and sadly common problem—my own family grappled with my grandmother's dementia a while back, so I certainly can feel the Scavos' pain—but I've got to ask: Does Allison’s dementia have any larger effect on what’s happening on Wisteria Lane? Where is it all leading? I kept waiting for Grandma Scavo's illness to have consequences that didn’t feel so confined specifically to Tom and Lynette, but if that’s not what’s going to eventually happen, then why go to the trouble of even opening this can of worms? Just to show the always-vulnerable state of the Scavo family?

The rest of the ladies on Wisteria Lane were dealing with much smaller potatoes than Susan, Paul Young, and Lynette. Gaby continued her insanely rude fawning over her biological daughter Grace, while the daughter she raised, Juanita, watched angrily from the sidelines. I’ve said it many times before, but Madison de la Garza—who plays Juanita—is one of the standout actresses on this show. How good was she while demanding to be a princess like Grace? Or after she snipped away Grace’s hair to remove the stuck tiara? Or when she told off her mother at the end of the episode? That grin alone should win her an award of some kind.

As usual, Gaby’s storyline contained many of the best zingers of the evening. “You’re either going as a dog or a little Mexican girl,” Gaby told Juanita, after she complained that she wanted to have a princess costume like Grace's. “And in this neighborhood, we both know which one’s getting more candy!” And Gaby nailed it again after she called Juanita a dog and proceeded to fill up her candy bucket to satiate the child. “Don’t worry,” she told Allison. “It’s cheaper than therapy.”

Bree,meanwhile, discovered things about her new boyfriend Keith. First, that he has a young, female roommate. Second, that Keith has a history of violence—he’s been arrested for assault in the past, “defending” the women he’s dated. Natch, the problem reared its ugly head when a guy got aggressive with Bree at the party and, in turn, Keith got aggressive with him. But it all served as a bridge for both Keith and Bree to reveal more about themselves. “Do you wanna talk about my perfect lawn?” Bree asked Keith, after he said she should break up with him for his anger issues. “Nine years ago, my son found me face down drunk on it. It’s true! He had to turn the sprinklers on to wake me up. Did you not know you’re dating the biggest lush in Fairview?” Everything is on the table between these two now.

Finally, we get to Renee, who truly had very little to do last night besides throw the Halloween party where Bree and Keith’s situation went down; dress in the same sexy Marilyn Monroe costume as Lee (winner: Renee, duh!); and offer up one of the funniest moments of the night. I loved it when, after she waltzed into Lynette’s house to tell everyone about her Halloween party, Allison Scavo picked up the invite and exclaimed, “Oh, a party!” Fully channeling Ugly Betty's Wilhelmina Slater, Renee shut it down in a minute: “No,” she intoned in that way that only Vanessa Williams can. That kind of brilliance shouldn't be wasted, but then again, I suppose Vanessa can’t rule Wisteria Lane every single week, as much as I might like her to.

What were your thoughts on the episode? Any definitive theories on what Susan's costume was supposed to be? Who did Marilyn Monroe better: Renee or Lee? Do you see something else in the Allison Scavo-getting-dementia storyline that I don’t? And how long before Grace and Juanita figure out the truth about their biological mothers?

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