Credit: Richard Cartwright/ABC

First of all, can we discuss Karen Darling's (Natalie Zea) dress at Nick's birthday party? Yeah, I know Simon Elder was all like "my new fuel can solve the energy crisis," but the greater scientific achievement was how that hella deep neckline plunge did not result in a wardrobe malfunction. No wonder all time and sound and breathing seemed to stop when she and Nick (Peter Krause) swept past each other with that meaningful glance. Sure, he'd seen her in her birthday suit (that + grappa = very thoughtful gift) earlier in the day in his office, yet somehow that the sight of her in that dress was significantly more scandalous.

Yet as much as I love love love Karen Darling — I can almost hear her responding with a curt "Wow. Thank you. I think you're really neat, too." — does anyone else find it totally obscene that she and her father have devised a corporate espionage scheme against Mr. Elder that involves her having sex with the guy? (Perhaps she's Tripp's favorite because, like him, she'll do anything to help the family business.) That final confrontation between Karen and Simon — the one where he kept referencing her "Daddy" — made me shudder a little, although I appreciate the fact that the writers remain staunchly ambiguous as to whether Karen's feelings for Simon are, in fact, real (see: returned vial of fuel) or if her character is a terrific actress with ice running through her veins (see: stolen crystal swan). And I was glad to see that crystal swan incident meant Simon doesn't quite have the emotional and intellectual advantage he thinks he does. Team Karen!

Yes, my "Team Karen!" t-shirt even applies when it comes to thedarlingest Darling trying to wreck Nick's marriage. Yet while I growtired of hearing Lisa grumble about the tug-of-war for Nick's soul, Idon't think she deserved such an outpouring of indignation after hecaught her smooching Jeremy on the sidewalk (although seeing him punchJeremy's lights out in front of Tripp, then shrug it off like he'd justdropped a legal brief on the floor, was hilarious). I mean, how manytimes does a woman need to be stood up by her husband before she getssloppy drunk and does something rash? You could argue that the "willNick choose his own family or the Darling family?" conundrum is thevery heart of Dirty Sexy Money, but it bores me to tears when Nick andLisa debate it in the confines of their cozy (but decidedlyunglamorous) abode.

Oh, speaking of sloppy drunk wives…goodbye Ellen (Bellamy Young). I hada sneaking suspicion the wronged political wife was on her way out(permanently) when she began the season turned up to 10 on theplastered/angry-o-meter. Where else could she go but down? Down to thebathroom floor, apparently, exiting the series not with a bang, but atile-enhanced thud. How harsh was that scene with Clark opening thetrunk, revealing the tip of Ellen's stocking-clad foot? Well, about asharsh as Tripp's comparison of his daughter-in-law's death to the lives lost whilebuilding the Brooklyn Bridge. I just hope the body count for Patrick'sSenatorial aspirations doesn't also include the fabulous Carmelita(Candis Cayne); the show needs her (and her husky voice) back — stat!

With so much drama packed into just an hour, you knew some characterswere going to have to be shunted aside, and in this case, Letitia,Jeremy, and Lucy Liu's mystery lady (not to mention Nick and Lisa'sperpetually absent daughter Kiki) paid the price. Still, Letitia'sfinal act arrest means Jill Clayburgh will hopefully (finally) havesomething interesting to do (aside from clutching a rocks glass) nextweek, Brian's response to Tripp's request that he have a sit-downchat with his frequently intoxicated sister-in-law ("Why? You need meto get her recipe for Long Island Iced Tea?") was my fave zinger of theepisode, and Liu's limousine sex scene was, um, pretty racy for ABC, no?

What did you think of the season premiere? Is it time for theshow to wrap the mystery of Dutch's murder and move onto anotherscandal? Do you think Karen is really falling for Simon? And will (orshould) Nick and Lisa's marriage survive?

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Dirty Sexy Money
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