In a standout episode of ''Desperate Housewives,'' Bree accepts George's marriage proposal out of politeness
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
Credit: Marcia Cross: RON TOM/ABC

”Desperate Housewives”: Bree is engaged

If you’ll pardon a line that would make even Mary Alice wince, there’s nothing like a little Cherry flavoring to wash away a bitter taste. And nowhere is that more true than on Desperate Housewives, where, after the six generally disappointing installments that launched the sophomore season, series creator Marc Cherry returned to writing duties this week and made Wisteria Lane a far sweeter spot to visit. The zingy one-liners sounded, well, zingier. Characters started acting in character. And that electric current of nasty menace that ran through season 1 — from Mary Alice’s suicide to pretty much everything that came out of Mrs. Tilman’s mouth — finally switched back on, with two concentrated shocks of violence.

By using the word ”shock,” of course, I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t see Dr. Goldfine’s untimely demise coming from miles down the bike path. It’s just that the sight of George, in his nifty little bike helmet, lunging at Bree’s therapist, smashing his head into a concrete wall, and then hurling him over the side of a bridge to an almost certain death, was so unexpectedly brutal, and yet so amusingly absurd, I found myself gasping and guffawing all at once. Even weirder, for the first time in a long time, I found myself not cursing the creepy pharmacist’s presence on the show. Maybe that’s because George the deranged suitor is an easier pill to swallow than George the viable romantic prospect (gah!).

Or maybe I’m just delighted that I’ve received some acknowledgment that the Bree I know and adore is still lurking somewhere beneath the surface of the redheaded woman who went to bed with George last week. Certainly, Bree’s mid-therapy realization that she’s drawn to George because he fills a void left by her husband’s sudden death, and that she agreed to marry him (with a pained ”okay!”) out of a sense of politeness, was a return to the character at her pragmatic best. Noting that ”true love is great, but at this point in my life, I think I’d rather just go to the opera,” Bree once again sounded like the woman who was capable of finishing her silver polishing before she allowed herself a single tear over news of her husband’s death.

Now if only Cherry and his writing staff would allow the Widow Van De Kamp to let loose a couple of her trademark WASPy stingers, this character would completely have her groove back. I mean, sure, Bree’s primary concern is decorum, but did you really buy it when she allowed George’s mother (Linda Dano) to discuss the freshness of her future daughter-in-law’s reproductive organs in front of a group of strangers? Without one little tight-lipped smile served with an acid-coated retort? (Oh, and while we’re discussing George’s mom, is her gal pal merely a friend, or is she a friend friend? I’m putting my money on the latter scenario.)

Interestingly, while poor Dr. Goldfine suffered a far worse fate, Gabrielle’s end-of-episode encounter with Caleb (or should we call him Neighbor in Soft Focus and Heavy Shadow, the better to hide a soon-to-be-replaced Page Kennedy) packed the far greater emotional wallop, zigzagging from frightening to comical to sickening to, ultimately, heartbreaking. The second she left Bree’s and headed back to her own place alone, I dreaded that Gabrielle would be the one bumping into the local basement detainee, yet watching her make a penguin-like escape from the bedroom in that constrictive blue Dolce & Gabbana was yet another of many opportunities for Eva Longoria to show off her skill at physical comedy.

What happened from the top of the stairs downward, however, worked a whole different set of Longoria’s acting muscles, and who knew they were so developed? Up until this episode, Gabrielle’s pregnancy has been treated as such an afterthought — in terms of her wardrobe, her plotlines, even her basic dialogue — that it’s been hard to take seriously. But the way Longoria played Gabrielle’s simple request for Bree to come shopping for maternity clothes, and then her wounded look in the back of the ambulance, provided a world of clues that perhaps Mrs. Solis’ capacity to love a baby has swelled more rapidly than her dress size.

Considering the gravity of the episode, I think we can all give thanks for the IV drip of pure comic raucousness supplied by Lynette and Tom as they clung determinedly to the hope that their twins could continue playdates with the children of the neighborhood’s amateur hard-core pornographers. Watching Felicity Huffman craft the perfect startled response to Norma’s ”peekaboo,” not to mention her effortless chemistry with on-screen hubby Doug Savant, you kinda see how her upset win at the Emmys was about as surprising as Leonard’s invite to make Tom and Lynette the stars of his next movie.

On the other hand, Teri Hatcher and Richard Burgi don’t have me quite as convinced that Susan and Karl would actually fall back into bed, especially not when wardrobe has swathed poor Susan in Joseph’s Technicolor dreamcoat. Still, any gimmick that keeps the writers from penning another Susan-Mike breakup-reconciliation scene before May sweeps is okay by me, although, for my money, I’d prefer to see Susan spending her free time with her bitter rival, Edie. After all, it’s been a while since those two crazy gals took a shot at the mechanical bull, hasn’t it, Mr. Cherry?

What do you think? Is Bree back in top form? Did you believe Susan and Karl’s one-night stand? And what’s going to happen to Gabrielle’s pregnancy?

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