Even in Melrose Place’s heyday starring deranged Kimberly, I don’t recall an underwater catfight that resulted in murder. So congratulations, Melrose Place 2.0, you have set a new benchmark with this episode.

I had hoped our patience with so-so plotlines like Anton V and his boring denim line would pay off – and Melrose writers gave us a early Christmas present with this episode cramming in everything but the kitchen sink. Let’s see, “San Vicente” gave us murder, sex, drugs, theft, broken hearts, kidnapping, a Hollywood deal, a relapsed alcoholic, police deception, adultery, Katie Cassidy in black lace underwear – and a partridge in a pear tree. Whew.

In flashback, we found out what Amanda was hoping to find in Sydney’s safe. Amanda confronted Sydney in a church – possibly just to set up her insult: “Atoning for your laundry list of sins? You’re going to be here a long time.” (Meanwhile, that micro-mini of Amanda’s seemed like it was destined to burst into flames in any house of worship.) It turns out these two Melrose veterans had been working together on an art-heist ring (move over, David) and Amanda accused Sydney of stealing a $19 million painting. To add to the drama, it seems like each of them had been having special “reunions” with Michael in the not-too-distant past — we knew Sydney was in on the father-son act, so now how long before Amanda makes a move on David?

But back to father and son, and enter evil stepmother! From the comments in past recaps, I know I’m not the only one who found Michael’s wife Vanessa to be increasingly shady. So it turns out she did kill Sydney after learning of her affair with Michael; it didn’t help that Syd also called out Vanessa for sleeping with David before she married Michael – and she insinuated that Noah could be David’s son. Do family trees get any worse?

Michael doesn’t know that potential paternity tidbit, and he’s the one that called (from prison) to tell David that Vanessa killed Sydney and David needed to go save Noah. Instead of saving Noah, David was called again to save Lauren and left Violet to babysit the little lad. (It’s not the murder scenes that will give me nightmares, it’s the thought that somebody entrusted a child to Violet.)

Lauren was in the hospital after her client Rick drugged her with a new club drug called “Nexus.” (TV industry, did you learn nothing from that ridiculous Brandon Walsh U4EA episode? Fake drugs look stupid, as do drugged-up blurry point-of-view shots before a character passes out.) Anyway, David came to the rescue but now he’ll find out about Lauren’s secret sideline.

When Vanessa came looking for Noah and found him with Violet, it was Ashlee Simpson’s BIG ACTING MOMENT: “Sydney Andrews was my mother. She was the only person who ever loved me and you took her away.” I guess they don’t give Emmys for “almost rising to the challenge” but Ashlee didn’t ruin the scene as much as I feared. And with no time for small talk, Vanessa pulled out a gun and threatened Violet, they tumbled into the pool, at which point Violet killed her. Deliciously, Amanda came home in the midst of the action and provided a fake story to the cops, which should leave Violet in her eternal debt. When does the blackmail start?

With all that mayhem, thank goodness (unintentional) comedic relief came from that insane portrait of Auggie that Violet painted then burned in a firepit. I was kind of hoping that Ashlee and Colin would be saying their goodbyes before we head into the holiday break, but no such luck tonight.

Of course, I saved the best for last – after Riley had cold feet and postponed their wedding, Jonah got revved up and dumped her. Perhaps he was high off that big Hollywood deal Ella has in the works for him. So he left sad Riley and their sad yellow station wagon and went straight to Ella (cue my heart leaping). We’ve been seeing some build-up to this all season, and I feared when it happened it wouldn’t seem natural But these two have real chemistry. Ella makes Jonah seem sexier and more rebellious; Jonah makes Ella seem almost sweet and lovestruck – this vixen is just a girl excited to finally get her guy! I look forward to seeing how they keep up the sparks for longer than one night.

Line of the night: Sydney to Amanda, in church: “Don’t you ever get tired of falsely accusing people? Even the lord rested on the seventh day.”

So, Melrose Place watchers, there is a lot of excitement to discuss – sound off in the comments below. Was it too much action for one episode or did you like that we got Sydney’s murder solved and Vanessa out of the picture in one quick move? Who else loves Ella and Jonah getting together?

Photo Credit: Michael Desmond/The CW

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