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‘Housewives’ gets back to sudsy business

One central mystery, characters whose lives are soap operas —‘Desperate Housewives’ looks to put the dull second season behind. By Andy Dehnart
/ Source: contributor

In the first episode of the third season of “Desperate Housewives,” we rejoined life in Fairview “six months later,” as on-screen text explained.

Thus began a parade of characters repeatedly mentioning the amount of time that has passed since the events of the season finale. Susan tells a doctor, “I know it’s been six months,” referring to the length of time Mike has been in a coma. Orson, the man who put Mike into the coma, says to Bree, “We’ve only known each other six months, but I’ve loved you every minute of it.” Later, Lynette asks Tom, “Why else do you think I’m willing to put up with all this for six months?” referring to the presence in their lives of his “love child” and that girl’s mother.

One line of dialogue like that might make sense. But how often do people refer to such an exact period of time? Clearly, those sentences were not directed at other characters, but at the audience, reminding viewers that the dreary and off-kilter sophomore season is in the past.

But at the same time, those statements kept reminding us that those events weren’t really that far away. In fact, there was barely any indication that time had passed other than these constant declarations about those six months, as most of the housewives are stuck in their second-season ruts.

Bree is dating another (possible) psychopathic killer doctor.

Gabrielle is still shrieking at Carlos and Xiao-Mei, even though he has moved out of their house and Xiao-Mei is carrying her baby. Lynette and Tom are still suffering through their lives because of a child, although now it’s both Kayla and her childlike mother, Nora.

And Susan is still a ridiculous twit, pouring a strawberry smoothie all over the comatose wife of her new would-be boyfriend and frantically covering it up by lying—rather than, you know, just admitting she’d accidentally spilled her drink like any rational human being would do.

Back to sudsy businessAs familiar as those moments may have been, these static characters and familiar moments may be the real appeal of “Desperate Housewives. After all, it shares more with daytime soap operas than it does with true character-driven dramas such as “Grey’s Anatomy.”

And “Desperate Housewives” does appear to be on a new path, establishing storylines that will tie together and keep Bree, Susan, Lynette, and Gabrielle connected with one another, rather than in their own worlds like last season.

Most of that will at first involve Bree’s new love interest. A flashback began the episode, showing a scene from the former life of her new boyfriend Orson Hodge. His former wife packs up, planning to leave him while he’s away, but he returns home and discovers her with her suitcase. Alma was never seen alive again.

While we saw Orson meticulously cleaning his house, there was no concrete evidence that he murdered her.

While that murder (maybe) seemed somewhat familiar, that is because it’s almost a direct rip-off of season one’s central mystery, which is welcome, considering last year’s desperate tangents.

The episode truly stopped treading second-season water, however, when Orson’s former neighbor showed up at Bree and Orson’s engagement party. Carolyn Bigsby announced to everyone that Orson had actually killed his first wife. That was an important moment because it happened so soon. Unlike last season, the audience wasn’t kept ahead of the entire cast for weeks; instead, it only took them a few commercial breaks to catch up.

With that revelation, Bree’s friends are now invested in her relationship. There’s also Mike Delfino and Orson’s mysterious connection from the past, one that’s so damning it led Orson to run Mike over. If Mike awakes from his coma, his connection to Orson will ensure Susan is involved in her friend’s life, although that involvement will likely involve her unnecessarily complicating everything, assuming she’s not busy setting fire to other houses on Wisteria Lane.

As the episode concluded, a buried body was being uncovered by rain, and whoever that body turns out to be — Orson’s wife? the person responsible for wasting Alfre Woodard’s guest-starring role last season with that ridiculous storyline? — the eventual discovery will undoubtedly affect at least a few characters.

Some storylines go unmentionedTom and Lynette are the most isolated from these new events, as they are busy contending with Nora and Kayla. Tom eventually stood up to his former lover, but for the most part, he and his wife seemed to buy Nora’s irrational argument that “if I’m not your family, then she’s not your family.” Although Tom eventually stood up to Nora, they seem willing to let Nora use their daughter as a pawn to inject herself into Tom’s life. That will get old fast, especially since Nora is more annoying and immature than Preston, Porter, Parker and Penny combined.

There are also lingering stories that did not resurface after those six months. Bree never mentioned the son she abandoned, nor was there word about her daughter, whose duplicitous boyfriend was killed by police. There was also no sign of Paul Young, who’s in jail, nor his newly wealthy son Zach, who bumped off his biological grandfather to inherit the family fortune. Edie returned, finally, but only in the context of trying to excise the past, as she worked to sell the Young’s home.

After Xiao-Mei ran away, thanks to Gabrielle’s threats to have her deported, Carlos and his wife began to argue. “Here we go,”

he said, sighing exasperatedly. Like the frequent announcements that this episode began six months later, Carlos, too, seemed to be talking to the audience. In that moment, with Gabrielle shrieking at him yet again, he clearly was looking to the past; this fight was all too familiar, like many other parts of this episode.

However, at another point, Bree, who’s reluctant to have sex with Orson until after they marry, changes her mind after becoming turned on by the way he’s washing the dishes. As the show’s lighthearted music bops in the background, Orson attempts to pleasure her orally. “Excuse me! ... I don’t do that. I’m a Republican,” she says.

While the water in the sink overflows as an amusing but obvious metaphor, Bree sits up and shrieks, “Oh! Oh no, I have to go!”

Moments later, Bree is talking to her doctor, saying, “I think I may have had a small stroke.” Instead, the doctor tells her, “I think you may have had an orgasm.”

With more moments like this unexpected surprise, and fewer moments such as Carlos and Gabrielle’s fight, “Desperate Housewives” may be on track to finally pleasuring its audience in new, albeit familiar ways.