On ''Desperate Housewives,'' although the late Mary Alice says there is nothing to fear but fear itself, her friends — and her stone-faced widower — are all running scared

By Mickey O'Connor
Updated October 16, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Desperate Housewives: Bob D'Amico

Desperate Housewives

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”Desperate Housewives”: Dinner-party anxiety

Our dearly departed narrator, Mary Alice, reports from beyond the grave that, in death, she has left all her fears behind. That nicely underscores the insecurities that make each of our Wisteria Lane ladies so imperfectly lovable. When they convene for the perfect symbol of suburban gentility — a dinner party — the hors d’oeuvres hit the fan and the fears fly.

Bree is afraid that her marriage appears to be falling apart. She doesn’t want the kids to know that husband Rex is sleeping on the couch. She doesn’t want anyone to know that she and Rex are in marriage counseling, instead telling their friends that they’re taking tennis lessons. But the beaten-down Rex immediately lets their doubles team down by admitting the truth at the party. Bree’s tart return volley — ”Rex cries after he ejaculates” — and Rex’s prompt decamping for a motel, indicate that they’re in for a long grudge match.

Gabrielle is afraid she’ll get caught with the teenaged gardener. When Ashley, a morose home-schooled neighbor kid, spies Gabi and John Deerest sucking face, a grudge match of a different sort ensues. Ashley doesn’t buy Gabi’s hilarious explanation of the many reasons for which people kiss (”it’s like a high five on the lips”), so Gabi tries to silence the creepy brat with gifts, leading to the obligatory scene in which Gabi does something inappropriate in stilettos, namely trying to teach Ashley to ride her new bicycle built for bribing.

Lynette is afraid that her husband doesn’t appreciate her. While Lynette and husband Tom, a.k.a. He Who Will Always Be Melrose Matt, seem suitable partners (she reminisces that they were once ”perp-walked down Main Street” after a very wild ride with Mr. Toad in Disneyland), Lynette wonders aloud if they are really happy. In response, Hubby not only rises to the challenge of babysitting their cookie-fueled monsters, he also attempts to reignite the amor with an impromptu margarita fiesta. True, he looks ridiculous in the sombrero (and not at all ”sexy ridiculous”), but give the guy an A for effort.

Susan is afraid of moving on. Her angry exchange with her ex-husband, Carl, leads Susan to check herself, concluding that what she really wants is an apology for his leaving her. While Carl isn’t forthcoming — ”the heart wants what it wants” is the best he can muster — Susan gets her ”I’m sorry,” albeit from Carl’s bubble-headed girlfriend. She also finally shows her naked body to mysterious, hunky plumber Mike, although it was after losing her towel and locking herself out of the house, with nothing but a well-placed topiary to preserve her modesty. His response is promising — ”by the way, wow!” — and he even agrees to attend the Dinner Party from Hell, so maybe his secret is that he’s really just a good guy.

Ironically, no one seems particularly afraid of Mary Alice’s increasingly menacing husband, Paul, and (unmedicated?) son, Zach, who finds the gun that killed his mother and uses it as one hell of an icebreaker to broach the subject of grieving with his stone-faced dad. Did you catch that mention of ”human remains” on TV that Paul was quick to click off? Our not-so-merry widower is running scared — HOUSE FOR SALE! SLIGHTLY DAMAGED POOL! — and something tells me that his fear is of getting caught . . . but for what? Maybe the answer lies in Mary Alice’s audiotape, which Bree stumbles upon in Dr. Goldfine’s office and spirits away for future — and no doubt juicy — review.

What do you think? What do you fear lies in store for our beloved Housewives? Can the show keep the plots twisting?

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Desperate Housewives

Eva Longoria Parker, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, and Felicity Huffman star in the soap set on the dangerous Wisteria Lane

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