On an action-packed but often predictable ''Desperate Housewives,'' the ladies either lie or are lied to but manage to take control of their situations

By Mickey O'Connor
Updated December 18, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Marcia Cross
Credit: Desperate Housewives: Bob D'Amico

Desperate Housewives

”Desperate Housewives”: Violations of trust

There’s little trust among the increasingly treacherous denizens of Desperate Housewives‘ Wisteria Lane. The weary Lynette can’t trust her hard-fought-for nanny. Julie can’t trust her mom, Susan. Gabrielle doesn’t trust the legal system. And Bree doesn’t trust her husband.

But is any of this new information? We all saw it coming. I waited until the end of the episode to see if Western Union got a writing credit for all the telegraphing packed into the hour. I mean, come on — who didn’t know that Susan’s randy pretryst candle-lighting was in vain or that Gabrielle would ultimately look out for No. 1 (passport? what passport?) or that Lynette’s nanny cam would backfire or that the all-knowing Bree would somehow find out that Rex is Maisy’s special client and turn up at the Soccer Mom Madam’s front door? (Marcia Cross is becoming a one-woman cottage industry of the front-door frozen-smile reveal. Nobody conveys simultaneous genial warmth and suppressed homicidal rage better. Shudder.)

Still, spontaneity and surprise pop up occasionally. For one, Gabrielle sheds her stilettos and breaks out the running shoes for her weekly frantic track-covering errand — in this case, an impromptu move of all ”her” possessions into Bree’s garage to keep them from the feds. (Pointing to one painting, the ex-model says, ”I sat on a rock for eight hours in a bikini for that.”)

But, as usual, it’s Bree’s desperation that stands out. When Lynette asks Bree, who’s ironing Rex’s shirts, whether she and Rex are on again or off again, Bree responds that the situation is ”fluid.” I wondered if the show’s writers have as dirty a mind as I do when they then cut to an offscreen Rex approaching the moment of, as the French say, petite mort, which sends the frequently ailing Rex back into the hospital. Well, at least he didn’t cry.

Mrs. Van de Kamp’s position strengthens substantially in a whispery bedside confrontation that starts with her as dutiful wife (”I was so scared you were going to die”) and ends with her throwing down the gauntlet for what is sure to be entertaining divorce proceedings. ”I’m going to take away your money, your family, and your dignity,” she says through tight lips. ”I’m so glad you didn’t die before I got a chance to tell you that.” It was easily Marcia Cross’ scariest moment since she whipped off that wig on Melrose Place.

By the way, Nicolette Sheridan took a giant step toward earning her Golden Globe nomination in one single exchange with Lynette: ”Your own personal nanny? Well, smell you.” Nice.

And how spine-chilling was it when a shaky-handed Paul kept offering Creepy Zach more mashed potatoes? Expect to see a lot of left-over spuds on tables across America this Christmas dinner.

Speaking of Creepy Zach, given his saying things like ”Please don’t be mad at me” as he accidentally Peeping Toms Susan’s latest doomed booty call, plus the postmortem narration and the signature plinkety-plink of the series’ soundtrack, Desperate Housewives may be cribbing a little too heavily from American Beauty. One thing’s for sure: There’s so much beauty on Wisteria Lane.

What do you think? Is Desperate Housewives continuing to surprise you? Or does it all seem familiar? And does that matter?

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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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