On ''Desperate Housewives,'' a loss of electricity leads to a steamy elevator hookup for Gaby, a moment of truth for Susan, and a juicy plot twist for Mrs. McClusky

By Karen Leigh
Updated April 23, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Desperate Housewives: Ron Tom

”Desperate Housewives”: A new engagement!

Apparently I’m writing for the wrong publication, because anyone and everyone who matters on Wisteria Lane is reading The Fairview Herald. In episodes past, the previously unheralded (ha) community paper was an occasional Housewives guest star. But tonight it became public enemy number one, derailing a mayoral campaign by publishing shots of Gaby and Lang hooking up in an elevator during a blackout and throwing another wrench into the tense Scavo marriage with an article about the menu triumph of chef (and Lynette crush object) Rick.

The way I see it, McClusky’s getting her own major story line is tantamount to the seeing an episode of The West Wing focused on Mrs. Landingham, or Star Wars: Episode VII — Lando Calrissian. In other words, I don’t understand why DH‘s fabulous tabloid-staple actresses are relegated to somewhat simple romantic plots, while their curmudgeonly neighbor gets the juiciest arc. This exacerbates my biggest frustration with this show — too many characters. It’s something that’s been discussed by Greg Kirschling over at the Grey’s Anatomy Watch, and it certainly applies to DH. During season 1, we got great material from the Zach-Dana, Paul-Huber, and Mike-jail sagas, yet the emphasis was always on how these secondary characters’ actions affected the lives of the four main players — Bree, Susan, Gaby, and Lynette. I can’t see how McClusky’s frozen hubby and stairwell trauma is going to affect anyone other than Lynette — and only because she’s out a babysitter. Meanwhile, the pizza-place chef is cute but too bland to register as anything more intriguing than ”random plot-filler guy.” Even Tom, season 1’s mysterious yuppie, has evolved into a leading man, with his thrown-out back and illegitimate kid. Memo to Marc Cherry: Get rid of Ian, relegate the elderly codgers to their original guest-star status, stop treating Edie and Carlos like the resident power couple, and get the spotlight back on our four girls before this show completely loses its focus.

With that said, the three housewives not on bed rest (Edie was in the sack for so much of this episode that I won’t even include her) underwent some major character development tonight. The simple act of letting down her hair meant that Lynette was, finally, open to the possibility of cheating on her whining brat of a husband and forgetting her equally obnoxious kids for a moment. Gabrielle rose above Lang’s increasing creepiness (he would give up his career for Miss Marquez and already wants to marry her? Can you say ”stalker”?) to admit that her divorce from Carlos ”kicked her ass” — a genuine departure from the hard-nosed bitch of gardener-affairs past. But then she made carb-heavy waffles, rejected a marriage proposal from a wealthy man, and actually giggled. Giggled! I understand that the show’s writers want to transition Gaby from hell on wheels to soft, gentle soul. But the warp speed at which this evolution is happening — and the total romantic mismatch with Lang — just renders her cheesy and one-dimensional. Remember the Gaby who made out with her handyman at Lang’s speech? That wasn’t too long ago, Cherry. You could still catch her!

This episode absolutely rocked in one respect: the return of Susan Mayer. Our fave skinny ditz got a clue, got a backbone, and dumped both beaux. The endearing thing about Susan was always her ability to be a total klutz, as well as a working professional, a mother, and the glue that kept her circle of friends together. But lately, she’s just been a ditz whose entire life (um, Julie? We worry, kid, so please leave a note next time you go AWOL) centers on filling time between sweeps months, what with this whole Ian-Mike debate. Tonight, a fairy godmother in the form of Roz from Frasier compared Ian and Mike to two different wedding cakes, and the inadvertent analogy made Susan realize — at long last — that she had to choose. She also learned of the boys’ poker bet and grew the world’s biggest spine, kicking them both out. The image of a ringless Susan standing in her kitchen was a welcome return to the strong, independent single mom of seasons past.

Like Mike, Tom was also jealous of another man — the formerly drug-addicted sous chef — and turned so green that he refused to change the pizzeria’s menu, despite the promise of thousands in added revenue. The Scavos’ lengthy screaming match over this issue is symbolic of everything that’s wrong with their relationship. In the past, they were a bickering but ultimately loving high-powered partnership. But now the ”partner” aspect is gone, and they’re just two former corporate types angrily squabbling over petty garbage (orange shirts? ”Why don’t you just rename the restaurant Lynette and Rick”?) and making me wonder why on earth they’re still together. Simply because I rarely feel any passion or togetherness from the Scavos, I’m going to cheat on my favorite couple and start rooting for the new chef.

Meanwhile, Edie and Carlos went at it in beds all across town, which officially means I’ll cover my bed with some kind of superglued tarp the next time I host an open house. It was kinda wrong of them to have sex in a young boy’s race-car bed, but the way things have been going lately between Edie and her beer-pouring son, I was just glad the mattress wasn’t Travers’. Edie too has fallen victim to Gaby’s ”bad girl gone good” curse. I know the writers are just trying to switch it up and keep things fresh, but with Edie dormant, so much spice just fizzles. The press conference, with Gaby accepting Lang’s proposal and the horrible Disney Channel Original Movie payoff (”So it’s a love story!”), was cringe-inducing and a wasted opportunity for Gaby to be a world-class bitch in public.

In the end, the episode’s plot was moved along most not by the characters — as it should have been — but by a Fairview power outage. And even though she didn’t say it, Susan was probably thinking what I was thinking — that while Ian just sat at the kitchen table like a lump and watched her play with fire, Mike would have ravished her. At least she had Peri Gilpin to teach her one of the finer lessons in life: Men and cake (my two favorite things) are equally delicious.

So, Wisteria Lane, what did you think? While Edie hid, did we witness the most awkward moment ever between Mike and a half-naked Carlos? Would Mike and the wedding planner (”You had me at ‘guy’ ”) have made a cute couple? And is Gaby really the future Mrs. Lang?