Monday, 31 October 2016

State of the Street - October 2016

It's been a very emotional month with a lot of storylines coming to a head and a few starting off.

We've been watching David shut down and totally not cope with Kylie's death for several months. We found out that the person that killed her is a minor, just 15.  David knew that it probably meant that even if he got done for murder, he'd likely get a shorter sentence than if he was tried as an adult. Clayton tried to work a plea bargain to manslaughter which is little more than a slap on the wrist which further angered David to the point of a red haze. To be fair, if you saw the episode in question, Clayton never intended to kill Kylie. He was trying to rob the kebab shop so he had a knife but Kylie jumped in to defend Gemma who'd been pushed down and was unconscious. Clayton lashed out and stabbed her. I'm surprised he didn't try to claim self defense. It would seem they might have a good case for manslaughter.

None of that is going to sit well with David who planned to kill Clayton with a car full of flammable petrol, killing himself in the process. Clearly, he's temporarily insane. He loves his kids and his family and as crazy as David ever got in the past, he's never gone this far. He came within seconds of killing Macca in the hospital which really did shock me, and then there's this murder-suicide act of desperation.  It was real nail biting stuff. Gail finding out what her son was about to do and desperately locking him in the Bistro basement which didn't work. Nothing she said could get through that haze of rage, not even reminding him of the families of the other people that would be killed in such an explosion whose lives he would ruin. None of it made any difference until he got free from the cellar, got in the car and sped off only to be confronted with his little daughter who had run out on the street to look for her daddy. As far as that goes, luck was on his side and Lily was unharmed as was Gary who tried to save her. Both were trapped under the flipped car but it had landed wedged up by another vehicle rather than landing square on top of them.

But all the petrol he had in the car that he wanted to set on fire leaked all over the street and the people that were trying to move the car and one spark set it all off in a spectacular fireball. Some of the flames raced down the cobbles and, Anna, standing near a puddle of petrol that she'd just fallin into, soaking her trousers in it, found her legs aflame. Now David really does see what the impact was to his actions. Reality check is a tough thing and he's got to live with that one.

In the end, Clayton did get convicted of murder.  Maybe David can find a way to move on with his life without Kylie.  I think all this probably has snapped him out of that fore-mentioned haze of rage only to be replaced by a mire of guilt due to Anna's injuries and his daughter's near miss. How he'll rebuild his own life and whether he'll avoid being charged for this remains to be seen. It was all good but it would be nice if ITV would back off a bit from pyrotechnics over and over.

Oh and by the way, remember that David has epilepsy which, we have been told in the past, can be brought to the fore front by stress. Considering the state he's been in this past couple of months, he should have been writhing in seizures non stop but nooooo, it's been conveniently forgotten like so many other inconvenient plot points.

Steve really did think he could get away with having two women on the same street pregnant with his children. It didn't matter that his mother and Nick, Leanne's partner, both know the truth as long as his wife, Michelle doesn't know about Leanne. Michelle decided that Leanne is her new best friend since they're both pregnant. Awkward! You can practically see Steve shudder and get twitchy every time he catches them having girly chats. You can also see how uncomfortable Leanne is with the chats as well but that didn't last very long since Leanne put Tracy in the picture about the genetic condition behind Steve and Michelle's back.

I would have said that Nick was the wild card, considering his brain injury repercussions. This would be another good time to wheel that topic out of the closet and conveniently into the storyline as they do when they want to use it, packing it firmly away in the cupboard when it's not an issue, just like other plot points like David's epilepsy. The fact that Nick had coerced Leanne into having an abortion when they were first married in the late 90s has never been brought up. How I wish that would have been used against him at some point.

Anyway, it turns out that all of this might come out a different way. Turns out Jim McDonald has been diagnosed with a genetic disorder that may affect Steve or his children. Is that how this will be revealed? It's obviously going to be rare enough that if Leanne's child has the gene marker it will be noted. Still, Michelle is terrified Steve and/or the baby will have the genetic disorder and is not coping at all, even considering abortion if it turns out Steve does have the gene. I can understand it's a scary prospect but she's acting as though the baby will instantly be born ill when the chances are, even if the baby has the gene, he/she might not be symptomatic for decades. It's only just come up with Jim now and he's around 60.

There are a lot of unknowns of course but you do cope with help. Leanne is looking at the same prospect, at least for her child. She already has a boyfriend with brain damage so that box is kind of ticked. She never considered terminating that we are told though did ask Nick about it after she talked to Michelle. She was only concerned whether Nick would bail if the baby was potentially ill, though, she was still not considering an abortion. She can't tell Michelle how she feels because the secret of the baby's parentage isn't out.

Caz is turning into a real piece of work, isn't she? At first, after her breakup with Kate, she latched onto Maria so she could have a place to stay with the idea of possibly winning Kate back. Soon enough, though, she developed an infatuation with Maria and now it seems to be out and out obsession. Maria's going to have great difficulty exorcising Caz from her life, and who knows, it could even get dangerous. Maria was out of town, pretending to be a real wife to Pablo, yet another plot point that seemed to have been packed away until it was needed.

I know, from my own recent experience bringing my husband to Canada, that these sorts of applications are processed on a first come first served basis and the wait times can be quite long so it didn't surprise me it took this long for someone to be asking questions of Pablo and Maria. It might look a bit odd that the two of them live in separate cities, mind you, which is a fact very easily discovered by the government tax people if they bothered to look.

Anyway. Caz took advantage of Kirk who was minding Liam to stick around Maria's flat until Audrey kicked her out and she stole a new credit card of Maria's and has been using it. Maria knew the card was being sent to her so I'm sure once she starts getting bills there will be questions asked there. It looks like Caz is going to up her campaign against Maria. Caz is putting in award worthy performances, now, making everyone think Maria is starting to go loopy again. Why? Why would she take against Maria in such an outlandish manner when she barely blinked when Kate, who was going to marry her, dumped her.  That part of the story is a bit if a mystery to me but I'll suspend disbelief over that. It's a standard soap plot, I suppose.

The other side of the storyline, that one night stand Maria had with Aidan, has progressed to something that looks like it's developing into another infatuation and a love triangle. Aidan is a ladies' man. He resisted that commitment of moving in with Eva until he didn't have a choice, liking her enough that he didn't want to break up with her either. But the one time with Maria was clearly an indicator of his continuing nature that avoids true commitment.

Maria is lonely and vulnerable and I can see her developing a crush on him even though she also thinks he's a bit of a dog for apparently using her (because it takes two, you know. That using was mutual if you ask me). I really don't see Aidan developing a mutual infatuation but it could happen, if only to pry him away from Eva. Even if Maria does win him in the end, she should be wary. If they run with you, honey, they'll run on you. Maybe he'll be the one that saves Maria from something Caz does to her. He is basically a good guy. I do like this storyline because the character of Caz is interesting and crazy always works with me on the show!

Peter Barlow's back! I'm very glad. I have always enjoyed Chris Gascoyne's Peter, with all his faults and drama. Peter's hovering very close to bottom. Is he drinking again? Doesn't seem like it. But when he and his father start digging up the same old arguments, Ken suffered a stroke. Now Tracy blames him and he blames himself but Ken doesn't want Peter to leave.  It will be interesting to see how they handle Ken's recovery. So far the actor is actually doing a very good job portraying Ken's confusion and parallysis. There can't be a miracle cure. Or, since it's a soap, maybe there can be since it's not unknown for people to make a rapid recovery from a stroke. People can get better quite quickly sometimes and Ken was in very good health prior to the incident. He could be walking and talking by Christmas.  So will Peter and Leanne go another round again? I think there will always be something between them and since this is a soap, it's not out of the realms of possibility that they'll be drawn together again.

Phelan is continuing to work on this scam project with Eileen scurrying around enthusiastically underfoot, putting unintended roadblocks in his way. She did get a bit suspicious when she thought he'd sold the same flat to two different people but he managed to explain it away and distracted her with the prospect of a nice holiday when the flats are built. So that means never, right? I expect that if the actor is remaining on the show, then when it all goes pear shaped, Vinny will probably cheat Phelan as much as the other investors and Phelan will be able to pretend to be as much of a victim as the other potential flat-buyers. Todd will be the only one that knows the real story. For now. I'm still waiting for it to be Todd in the end that brings Phelan down because something or someone will have to in the end.

Other minor storylines include "Come here, go away" in the first seeds of a romance between Sarah and Gary. I think they make a good couple so I hope they can manage it for awhile but at the end of the month, she's after him to keep it a secret. Relationships never work out when they're being kept a secret.  Sharif's long time affair with family friend Sonia is now known to Alya who has blackmailed him for money to invest in her bespoke lingerie business in partnership with Underworld and the affair is about to come out any day now. Mary's working in the florist shop with Tracy, an odd couple if ever there was one but strangely, it works. Sophie's off to Miami for a few months due to the actress doing a play. Nice for some! Audrey seems to be getting closer to Freddie who is still struggling with his feelings vs his grief. I suppose when you're that age, the odds of finding a fella who's a widower has increased dramatically.

Beth only had to do community service with a fine for breaking the law regarding her bigamy. Seems like an easy get out of jail free card though someone has to spend the money on a divorce and since her husband is in the nick, it'll be her and Kirk paying for it, I suppose. It's nice that she managed to reconcile with him. The way to Kirk's heart is through his stomach (pizza) but also with puppies and that did the trick. He's the pickle to her cheese sandwich of life. Awwww.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Monday, 24 October 2016

You can't please everyone

Last week, Coronation Street yet again pulled out all the stops for a big, fiery stunt along with high drama and emotion. They've been doing this regularly, often a couple of times a year, for most of the last decade. For the 40th anniversary in 2000, Corrie featured a protest to save the cobbles. Literally. The actual cobblestones themselves. For the 50th anniversary, they brought the tram down off the viaduct after an explosion, sideswiping the Kabin and chasing poor Molly right through the corner shop. People died. Secrets were exposed. It was all very frought with edge of your seat stuff. What a difference a decade makes.

It's all about ratings these days, more than it used to be. There's more competition for viewers and all the main networks try to pull out all the stops to lure new punters. They figure exciting stunts will have people tuning in, and for the regulars, they add extra drama to bring an ongoing storyline or two along to a head. If you're a regular viewer, you will enjoy the twists, turns, closure and perhaps opening to new storylines.

If you aren't a fan of a particular soap, you are not very likely to tune in to watch the spectacle like the Powers That Be are hoping. Why would you, if you have absolutely no idea who the characters are and what the storylines have been?  I have rarely ever watched a soap that I don't follow just because they're having a "Big Week" though I do admit to having done so now and then. I did watch the Eastenders live episode for their anniversary a couple of years ago but I used to watch EE in phases in the past so I knew who a few of the longer standing characters were. I watched Emmerdale pull off a wedding disaster involving a helicopter as well but the storylines and character dynamics went right over my head. I didn't start watching either one regularly aftwards. I've tried watching Emmerdale in the past and couldn't get into it. To each his or her own.

Every time Coronation Street pulls off a week of major stunts and drama, the comments pour in. People love it. People hate it. People like some aspects but not others. Par for the course. Some viewers seem to be so critical of what they watch that you wonder why they do. Yet, I do understand. I've been watching Corrie for the better part of 30 years and that's a lot of time invested. It's as much of a habit as it is love for the show but for me, there is a lot of love there and I lean to the forgiving side.

There have been storylines I found boring or ludicrous, or just plain unrealistic. I can be a gold medal nit picker and whinge at the inconsistencies that jump out at me. I *am* willing to suspend disbelief and forgive little glitches and minor "offenses" but only up to a point. I don't want my intelligence insulted. Otherwise, I can enjoy the majority of material that I watch. Coronation Street still does it better than anyone else, in my opinion.

A quick review: This most recent ratings grabber on The Street revolved around the culmination of the storyline that began nearly 2 years ago when Kylie went looking for her son Max's biological father to trace where her son might have inherited ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). That brought Callum Logan into the Platt-iverse, leading to Kylie's addiction and subsequent absence while the actor was on maternity leave. We suffered through Callum bullying David and the Platts which worked on my last nerve but when Kylie returned, fighting fit, the drama jumped up a notch and about this time last year, Kylie killed Callum defending her sister-in-law Sarah from certain injury and possible death at Callum's hands. The body was buried under the annex, Sarah became emotionally unstable while Kylie and David struggled to keep things together.

The body resurfaced after a carefully constructed car crash stunt and the family managed to weather the suspicions of the police, misdirecting them elsewhere (Tony Stewart) thanks to Todd Grimshaw. Finally, David and Kylie decided to make a fresh start in sunny Barbados but tragically, Kylie was stabbed to death while trying to defend her old mate, Gemma.

David has been plotting revenge on the murderer, a 15 year old lad from Kylie's rough old neighbourhood. He's been obsessed and single minded, with his grief and rage tormenting him. He was going to kill the murderer and himself by blowing them both up. Nothing anyone said to him could connect, not even his mother pointing out that he would kill other people as well and ruin their families' lives like his had been ruined. That didn't seem to have any impact on David, either. But on the day of the trial, things went wrong. He got nowhere near the murderer but nearly killed his own daughter and a neighbour trying to pull her from the path of his car which had flipped over and was bouncing down the road. Another neighbour now has devastating burns on her legs and the reality has finally hit David like a ton of bricks. He's got to find a way to rebuild his life and atone for what his grief and rage drove him to.

Some people thought that the horrific scenes of Anna caught on fire were far too much for early evening viewing. They were more interested in the quieter alternate storyline of Ken Barlow having a stroke after a row with newly returned son Peter. There are always detractors no matter what the story is. I found both main stories to be very well done and the whole week kept me on the edge of my seat. While the Barlow storyline came out of nowhere, David has been breaking apart more and more each week and it's been heartbreaking to watch him. I will look forward to seeing both storylines proceed and can't wait to see where both Ken and David end up.

I have found some of these stunts that end in huge balls of flame to be a bit tedious at times. Not again! you may hear me and a lot of fans cry out. I think that they lose their impact if they're done so often like they have been. It really begins to stretch credibility and even though I did enjoy this week enormously, I hope they back off a little and give us the drama without the fireworks for a change. The tram crash was pretty spectacular but while the special effects were dazzling and the drama was well acted, many of the accidents and fires since then were starting to become kind of run of the mill.

This week's car crash and explosion were done well, technically, and yes, I really was on the edge of my seat but I'd like to see more story, less pyrotechnics, please, in the future.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

David Platt is breaking my heart

Say what you will about David Platt, from cheeky lad to tearaway troubled teen to family man and back to psycho Dave, he's never boring. I've been amazed to see how he's evolved and pulled himself through his troubled years to become a husband and father. He's even managed to have decent relationships with his brother and sister and his mother when you never thought you'd see the day. The only one of his relatives he seemed to pay any notice of was his grandmother Audrey and even then, it was (pardon the expression) hit and miss.

Now, after the death of his beloved Kylie, he can't cope. He's so filled with anger that he's retreating into himself and pushing everyone away including his children who need him so much. He nearly killed the brother of the young man that killed Kylie and would have if he'd not been interrupted by a nurse. That shocked me, that David could have gone to those lengths, because I don't want his character to leave the show and murderers always have to pay one way or another. Kylie is a case in point, even if she only killed Callum to save Sarah.
This storyline has also brought the rest of the Platts in to try to help David. Even Sarah, David's former nemesis, has shown that down deep, she does love her brother. The scenes between Nick and David have been wonderful. I never thought I'd see those two develop a real brotherly relationship and even his spiky relationship with his mother has softened. It's shown that David does love his mother even though they've had a very rocky relationship, but even his mother hasn't been able to help in spite of knowing what he feels like, she having a spouse murdered, too. 

As I write this, we're about to head into a week where all will be revealed. It appears David is going to try to kill Clayton and expects he will die as well. The video he recorded was one of the best scenes ever on Corrie, loaded with despair and sadness and resignation from a character that spent most of his life as a cocky, cheeky git. He feels his life is over and even the prospect of being there for his children isn't enough to pull him back from the edge.

I have no idea what's going to happen. I'm pretty sure Jack P. Shepherd isn't leaving the show so somehow David will be prevented from executing his plan, no pun intended. Apparently, Gail and Nick are going to take action to keep David safe. Locking him in the basement of the Bistro could work but David is slippery and he'll probably find a way out. Short of parading his children in front of his car or a traffic jam keeping him from his goal, how's this going to come out?

We'll know by the end of the week. Top stuff, Coronation Street, keep it coming!

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Good Night, Jean and Thank you

 By now, you probably know that Jean Alexander has died. Jean played the legendary Coronation Street character, Hilda Ogden who was arguably the most famous character of all time. She may even edge out Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples as the first one you mention when you think of classic Coronation Street. Jean passed away yesterday in hospital at the age of 90 and the tributes are pouring in.

I like the one in the Manchester Evening News the best, so far. Jean had a long career, starting out on stage with minor tv roles before Corrie but Coronation Street made her a household name. She played Hilda for 23 years. She went on to play Auntie Wainwright on Last of the Summer Wine for 22 years but Auntie W. never hit the same highs as Hilda.

Originally, Hilda was meant to be a stereotype, an abused wife who was a shrill nag. But Jean brought something special to the role and Hilda was quickly fleshed out. She was still a shrill nag and a gossip but she was a downtrodden woman, always trying to make something better out of her lot in life. She was sympathetic most of the time as we watched her put up with a feckless husband and thankless children, battling with the neighbours who looked down on her as common when, in reality, they weren't all that much better themselves, most of them.

Hilda would find pleasure in small things like her "murial". She trilled a song when she was industriously cleaning or just having a good day. She knew who she was and wasn't afraid to stand up for herself though it didn't often do her good. Hilda provided some of the most famous scenes and lines in Coronation Street including proclaiming to her husband Stan, that the taste of her lipstick was that of "Woman, Stanley, woman!".

Who can forget her scraps with Elsie Tanner or the many times she brought Stan's tea into the Rovers since he was too interested in drinking to come home? She was convinced that she could tell someone's fortune through tea leaves. She worked all the hours she could to make ends meet since Stan was workshy more than he earned. Yet she worried when he was ill and she loved to look after her lodgers, first Eddie Yeats and in later years, Kevin Webster and his new wife Sally after they wed. When Stan died, Hilda's quiet grief had most of the viewers in tears along with her.

Jean Alexander was instrumental in creating and shaping Hilda. She was a consumate actress. She kept her private life private and never married. She was more concerned with establishing her career and felt that she would not be able to give enough attention to either a relationship or her career if she did marry and have a family of her own. She mentioned that several times in her autobiography which I read some years ago. It's called The Other Side of the Street: The Autobiography of Jean Alexander and while it's not available on Amazon, you might find it on eBay, or in a second hand bookstore or at the library.

Jean was a nice looking woman, too, but was made very dowdy for the role. There are a few photos on the news site above that were quite surprising. One showed her as she was in the early 60s and you might think, Oh she was older when she played Hilda but when she started on Corrie, she was only a couple of years older than in that photo.

There was a good documentary about Jean as Hilda some years ago. I have it in two parts on my YouTube site, Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I've only "known" Hilda from seeing older video of the show or reading books about Coronation Street's history. I didn't start watching until after Hilda left so she was not part of my Corrie viewing but I can appreciate her pathos and strength and that's all down to Jean Alexander. Maybe my own words don't have the same impact or eloquence as they would if I had grown up watching her on Corrie, but she was one of the stars of the show. Corrie went on without her but I do think there was a little something missing after Hilda moved away, leaving her good friends with a song. "Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye".

Goodbye, Jean. Rest well.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Friday, 7 October 2016

Who's Conning' Who?

Vinny came to Phelan with a scam, pretend to sell luxury flats to naive punters, run off with the deposit money and they're quids in. Phelan snapped his hand off at the chance. But things are not going according to plan. Todd has been keeping a close eye on Phelan, not trusting him an inch and is now on the sales team. He's supposed to be on board and willing to go along with the scam but I'm not buying it. I think Todd is planning to find a way to bring Phelan down from the inside and thus remove him from his mother's and brother's lives. Todd isn't exactly twirling his moustache and looking shifty but he has been caught looking thoughtful after various encounters.

Eileen has gotten involved on behalf of Jason, eager to be part of the exciting project that she believes is real but she's been inadvertently putting expensive roadblocks in the way and Vinny's not happy about it, not one little bit. Phelan has impressed on Todd that you do not want to piss Vinny off, he's connected to some dangerous people. I think Phelan discovered just how real Vinny's connections might be and it has given him pause for thought.

I think Phelan is happy to rip off his neighbours and any other person quick to fall for the ruse but while he's a bully, and he's manipulative and he likes to threaten people, I don't think he's got the stomach for *real* violence unless he was defending himself.

Think back. Gary beat the living crap out of him. Did he jump Gary and catch him unawares, with revenge in kind? No he did not. He got back at Gary by using his mother, blackmailing her into sleeping with him so he'd let Gary off the hook. He used the people he knew he could rather than go physically up against a younger man who already proved he could fight back hard. He also hesitated when Kevin gave him a blunt warning not to mess with Anna when he tried to intimidate her and I think he knows Kevin isn't afraid of a fight, either. Again, he tried to blackmail Anna to back away from slagging him off to everyone or he'd tell Kevin about their previous encounter. Bully tactics, right?

He's sly and so is Todd though Todd may be in a bit over his head. Phelan is clearly a master at the manipulation trade. He's got no scruples, even willing to go so far as to pull Alex into his scam though he did seem to be slightly reluctant until Alex insisted.

So how is this all going to end? As far as I know, Connor McIntyre is staying on the show so when this scam all blows up, and it will because that's how things work on a soap, I figure Vinny will be the one taking the fall. I have a feeling that Vinny will double cross Phelan and disappear with the money, leaving him behind to take the heat.  Maybe Phelan will turn Vinny in to save his own skin and will pretend that he knew nothing about it being a scam or that Vinny had a hold on him somehow and forced him into it. He could say that he invested a bit of cash, too, and lost it. Maybe he'll cut a deal with Todd to go along with it since Todd was in on the scam and is as guilty of suckering folk as Phelan.

The part that I found hard to get was the money they're spending just to fool people. They have glossy brochures and a model flat they're building to show people, in a building that... who owns? They have a temporary project office set up outside that old building, too. That's a lot of money spent to rake some deposits in though I suppose it's still going to net them quite a lot, depending on how many they're pretending to sell and if they're reselling the same flats to people.

I'm very interested in this storyline and am enjoying watching it unfold. Pat Phelan is one of the best villains Corrie's ever had and seems to be multi-faceted. He's not really very sympathetic and you don't believe a word he says even if he's telling Eileen he loves her. He's very good at saying what someone wants to hear at the right time. He's expert at timing what he tells to whom, whether it be a "confession" or admission or just bullshit to smooth things over. I love to hate him and that's a testament not just to the writers but to McIntyre himself who can convey 1000 words and the image of the wheels furiously turning in his head with one glance while his back is turned to his prey.

I like that they've paired him with Eileen who is always falling for the wrong fella, this being one of the worst. Yes, she's being played for a massive fool and she's going to pay for it. It was even better having Todd involved in the storyline Fantastic!

I can't wait to see what happens next.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

Saturday, 1 October 2016

State of the Street - September 2016

No words can properly express my growing hatred for Nick Tilsley. I despise him. He's controlling, manipulative, selfish, spiteful. Leanne came clean and told him that Steve was the father of her baby. Nick managed to accept the baby as his own when it was an unknown father but having the daddy right across the road was too much for him and he felt like a fool, broadcasting his possession of the parentage in the pub in front of everyone including Steve.  I'll give him that one. I'm nothing if not fair about these things.

But hijacking Steve, insisting Steve should leave town as a condition where Nick himself would continue to claim the baby, and then later pretend to text Michelle the truth just to be spiteful. He never told Steve the text was not the end of his marriage and Steve had to suffer, sweat and dread the whole trip back to Weatherfield only to find out that the contents of the text was innocuous. That was a very dirty trick and totally uncalled for.  It's not as if Steve did anything to Nick personally for Nick to need revenge. Nick called Steve all kinds of horrible names for cheating on Michelle. I so wished Steve had known about Nick shagging his brother's wife in a similar sort of drunken one night stand and his subsequent blackmailing of David into getting a DNA test.

To top it all off, Nick magnanimously decided to continue on and in order to get his head around it all, booked a holiday for he and Leanne without telling her and then proceeding to pack for her as well. Leanne didn't see this as a romantic surprise, nor was it intended to be but swooned just the same when Nick allowed that a holiday and some space would help him find a way to accept the situation and forgive her. She sighed. "I don't deserve you" No, no you don't, you deserve MUCH better.

Bethany's victimization at the manicured hands of Lauren continued all through summer and into the beginning of school and Bethany is showing decided signs of brainwashing. She's getting addicted to the gym in response to Lauren's taunts of her being fat which, of course, she is not. But if someone continues to berate you, and eroding your self esteem, after awhile  you might start believing it. It's classic and it's what bullying husbands do to control and abuse their wives and children.  Bethany finally hit back, literally but it's jumped back to bite her.

Gary intervened with the school who gave lip service to their strict no-bullying policy and he finally insisted that Bethany tell her mother who was anxious and feisty, determined to fight for her chick. Only Sarah doesn't think before she speaks and the school meeting ended up in chaos. Both girls got suspended but it turned out that some other girls came forward and the school realized Bethany was the victim. They've expelled Lauren altogether while showing her father is just as much of a bully.

What annoyed me and which was probably quite realistic, is that Lauren's mother backed up Lauren's claim that all the bullying came from Bethany even though Gary was witness to one incident where Lauren goaded Bethany into striking her. The thing is, when this storyline first popped up, Lauren's mother seemed not to be very surprised that her daughter was accused of bullying but now she's defending her child as a victim, too. Is that continuity fail or is that just the actions of a thick headed obstinate cow? Probably the latter. Everyone wants to believe their own child even if they know down deep the truth of it. I refer you to Callum's mother, Marian, for further evidence of this.

There are two good things about the end of this storyline. One was psycho David threatening Lauren in the salon (Yay!) and the other is the possibility of Sarah and Gary getting together. I quite like that idea. They are about the same age and it's about time Sarah found a decent bloke.

Caz seems to have got over Kate and she's turning her focus on Maria. Maria knows that Caz lied for a long time about her injury but since Maria is not too bright, she believed Caz's tearful admission of just wanting Kate to love her or some nonsense like that. Caz has taken full advantage and is manipulating Maria with a set up robbery and with silent phone calls to scare her just enough to want Caz to stick around for security. It's pretty clear that Caz is developing feelings for Maria though those feelings are probably leaning more towards obsession than true, genuine love or even a crush. Even Kirk figured out that Caz fancied Maria before Maria did.

Now, at the end of the month, it looks like Maria is trying to put Caz off. She isn't going to stand for her under the same roof if she knows Caz is infatuated. Awkward! But Caz, as we know, is not going to take rejection lying down and she's got her hands on Maria's new credit card while Maria is in London helping that gay husband, the one we thought everyone forgot about and who is pretty much just a convenient plot device.

Who's going to be Maria's saviour this time? Will it be Luke or someone new? I'm not sure I care, only in that Maria always seems to be the author of her own troubles. I like the actor and she's good when she's given something to do which isn't too often so she's under appreciated. I also like the actor playing Caz. If I like the actors in a storyline, often I won't mind it even if it's a bit silly.

Craig had a rough month, too. Poor lad found his biological father who turned out to be a wrong'un. No surprise there. But he also found out his mother and father were still married. Oops! I find it hard to believe that absolutely nobody in Beth's family knew about that wedding or non-divorce and let her go through with a new marriage. I know that you have to show proof of a divorce to get a new marriage license so she obviously lied there, said she wasn't married before. Bigamy is a crime but Beth only ended up getting a small fine and community service. She'll still have to shell out for a divorce, though, if she has any chance at all to get Kirk back. Understandably, Kirk is devastated. That's a pretty big secret to have kept from him. I think he'll take her back eventually but she's going to have an uphill climb to win his trust back again.

There's a major retcon afoot, though and I hate when they do that. We've been introduced to Sonia, an old and trusted friend of the Nazirs who turns out to be a long time mistress of Sharif who still loves his wife and has no intention of leaving her for Sonia. That's certainly taken him down in my estimation of him. Alya has found out, kind of, though Sharif has lied and said it was a one off years ago. She believes him and has used the information to blackmail him out of cash to invest in reviving her offshoot project of bespoke high end undergarments at the factory while Sonia is pushing Sharif to leave his wife, or at least buy her one of the new flats. Looks like Sharif is going to lose that money and his wife because this affair will come to light sooner or later. They always do. I expect he'll be kicked to the curb and leave the show most likely. I do hope Yasmeen stays, though, I really like her.

Phelan's scam with his mate Vinny is making it's way down the twisted paths. They've managed to woo Sally into backing them for planning permission and Phelan's managed to fob off Eileen's interest with a pretend fancy job title, with the added bonus of causing so much tension between mother and son that he's succeeded in driving Todd out the door. Unexpected bonus, there. Vinny is turning out to be quite the hard man, though, and I wonder if Phelan has jumped into something that's going to be a bit over his head in the end.

Throwing Todd into the mix is genius. I don't for a minute believe that Todd has reverted to type and is taking pleasure in ripping off his neighbours. I think he's trying to bring Phelan down from the inside but I don't think he'll manage it before all of Jason's money is gone. Unless we find out we're losing the character of Phelan, I expect Vinny will end up being the fall guy, someone that will take the blame for ruining Phelan and Jason both. Or, at least, someone that Phelan can successfully blame for it, clearing his own name and character so that he can stick around and cause more chaos in the future. I'm really enjoying his character, in a love-to-hate way. The actor is amazing and the character is so slimy and slick and he's always thinking, always working an angle. He's great!

By the end of the month, Sarah has conveniently come into money and has signed a contract for a flat, too and Todd is in a tail spin. But Phelan, the genius manipulator, sorted that out. Todd insisted that he and Phelan pay Sarah back out of their share but then Phelan pledged some of Todd's profit to one of Billy's charities. That keeps Todd on board rather than being a loose cannon and had the result of getting Billy and Todd back together.

Why? Because Todd got caught trying to push Billy into a break up with the church by calling the Bishop and pretending to be a parishioner complaining about Todd living in the vicarage. Billy is already very cautious when it comes to the church and his own lifestyle and relationships in general, as a result. This time, I really do believe that Todd does genuinely love Billy so I'm glad they're back together but how is Todd going to juggle what he's doing with Phelan with his promise to be a better man with Billy? By lying and pretending he didn't know it was all a scam? Probably and if Vinny ends up taking the ultimate fall, he might get away with it.

One thing that did come out of this is that we finally, *finally* discovered what happened to Todd in London that made him so cynical and amoral. He fell in love with a married man, a man with a wife and kids who finally left his family for Todd. But he was diagnosed HIV positive and ended up going back to his wife, leaving Todd heartbroken and unable to truly trust again. I'm glad they finally came up with something believable.

David is drowing in his own rage and anger in the wake of Kylie's murder. He's stalking Macca online and he is keeping his children at arms' length at a time when they need him the most. Gail is worried and well she should be. Now we know that Clayton has cut a deal and will be charged with manslaughter which will bring him far less time inside. Turns out, he's only 15 and I would imagine that time will be in a youth facility. The jury could still convict him of murder apparently but even if that doesn't happen, he will probably get convicted on the lesser charge. How any jury could believe that someone stabbed in the heart was an accidental death, I don't know but these things happen all the time. Deals, I mean.

Audrey and Freddie are circling around each other. Freddie is still grieving and feeling guilty about being attracted to Audrey so he's running hot and cold. Audrey has had the bad luck to be drawn to another new widower but I'd rather it be Freddie and Ken. That seems to have been dropped cold. I wonder if fan reaction had anything to do with it? I like Freddie and I think he's a far better match for Audrey than Ken was.

Cathy and Roy are lurching along. Their crisis of the month was her finding out that her late husband, the one that had the affair with her sister, also fathered Alex. What did Cathy do? Take it out on Alex and Roy. She really was awful to them. I think Roy realized what she was doing but he couldn't do anything to help and she held that against him, too. Called him all sorts. Yet, he still thinks he'll marry her and wants to do it in December. Tyrone didn't believe that Roy truly loved Cathy but apparently he does. She isn't Hayley but nobody could be and Roy is taking Cathy for her own individual qualities. I think it's tough sometimes, though, you can't help compare, can you?

Those are the major focusses of the month, with a number of smaller things that aren't all that important at this point. Not yet, anyway.

Tvor (Twitter @tvordlj)

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