Working on a benefit party with Katherine, Bree doses her rival with bad dip; plus, Orson bares his guilt over Mike, and Lynette's near affair comes back to haunt her

I realize that Desperate Housewives was new last week, but for me, it was a fake-out. The series really returned tonight. As much as I like Desperate Housewives, I think an episode of The Desperate Husbands of Housewives might be even better. I’ll admit, I’ve been worried that Lynette’s cured cancer was supposed to be a quick fix for the problems in her marriage. I wondered how Orson could possibly live with himself, let alone live in Susan’s house, knowing he not only tried to kill Mike but also is partly to blame for Mike’s drug addiction. Based on his behavior last week, I wondered if Mike thought rehab was just one big laugh riot. Last night I got some answers and, what’s more, a showdown between the queens of Wisteria Lane.

It was reigning champion Bree versus fresh-faced newcomer Katherine. Who won? I’d call it a draw. I’m still trying to correctly pronounce ”lisianthus.” It just kind of sounds like I’m spitting.

The game was on when Katherine offered to help Bree plan the annual Founders’ Ball, which is kind of like casually mentioning to Martha Stewart that her centerpiece floral arrangements need work. Never have the words ”I would love to help” sounded so sinister. Katherine ignored the warnings from the fellow housewives. Doesn’t she remember the Pie Incident? Tornadoes, cancer — these were minor blips compared with the catastrophic Pie Incident. Bree certainly didn’t do a very good job of concealing her horror. She stood up, flipped over the table, broke a bottle of wine, and, holding jagged glass to Katherine’s throat, screamed, ”There’s only room for one redhead micromanager on Wisteria Lane, so back off, b—-!” Well, that’s what she wanted to do. Her eyes narrowed and her jaw was so tightly clenched I actually grimaced. But instead, Bree begrudgingly held Katherine’s hand and accepted the offer. But you just don’t offer to help someone like Bree. It’s exactly like offering to help my mother prepare for a dinner party. I’ll put the crackers and cheese out for the guests, and 15 seconds later I’ll catch my mom transferring the assortment to a different plate and rearranging the crackers so that the display of trans fats is more aesthetically pleasing. When people are self-proclaimed planners, with an anal attention to every last ridiculous detail, you’d best plan to stay out of their way. Or warpath. But Katherine wouldn’t back down, and it resulted in some of the most entertaining scenes I’ve seen on Housewives this season. When Katherine and Bree met to show off their scrapbook collections and trade backhanded compliments, I wondered if Katherine’s smug look and singsongy voice might make Bree literally burst into flames. Bree muttered that Katherine was only interested in stealing the spotlight, which didn’t turn out to be true. But Dana Delaney and Marcia Cross totally stole the show. ”There is no better friend than Bree Hodge,” Katherine said, handing a sheepish Bree the award, while trying not to vomit the bad dip all over the stage. I thought their scene together at the end of the episode was particularly poignant. Katherine was right: She and Bree are one and the same. They’ve both had rocky relationships with their husbands, their children have accused them of being manipulative, and they are constantly struggling to maintain a facade of perfection. More than that, they know the difference between the dessert fork and the salad fork. They should start an overachievers support group together. There would be the issue of who would run the meetings. I bet Katherine would tell Bree, ”I’ll handle it!” then boink her lightly on the nose. To answer Katherine’s question, I think the hilarious boinking incident was definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On to the heels breaking Gaby’s feet. Gaby is selfish, money-hungry, and vain. She’s quick-tempered and greedy, petulant and impatient, manipulative and vain. But it just so happens that she’s in love with a man who is blind and, maybe even worse, broke. So while Gaby hits new moral lows every week, she does have one redeeming quality that makes her antics less offensive: her devotion to her husband. (You thought I was gonna say her naturally flawless skin, didn’t you?) Of course, that doesn’t mean Gaby wouldn’t scoop carrots out of Carlos’ soup with her hands. (She’s not still feeding him leftovers of dirty-dishwater stew, right?) She’ll still mock the poor for not having the common sense to demand a valet service to make parking more convenient. If you asked Gaby, she’d tell you that the poor don’t need money, just a little ingenuity and a chauffeur. She’ll still use Carlos to get a handicap tag and drag him to manicure appointments to score primo parking spots. She’ll tell guys in wheelchairs they should consider themselves lucky for getting to roll around all day. To Gaby, being paralyzed isn’t a burden; it’s just one long free ride. I was half expecting her to tell the handicapped man she assaulted, ”Try walking a mile in my shoes.” In other words, Gabrielle Solis isn’t high on anyone’s list for a Founders’ Ball award. If there’s an award for impeccable fashion sense, Gaby’s your girl, but Mother Teresa she isn’t. I laughed when Gaby finally said out loud, ”Well it’s official. I’m going to hell.” And yeah, she probably is, and yeah, I’d like to hang out with her there. But you had to give her credit for trying to adjust to her new lifestyle. I mean, I never thought I’d see Gaby loading economy-size toilet paper from the Price Warehouse into the back of her chic convertible. It was hard to even picture her racing home to make sure everything was in order so her husband wouldn’t have to fumble around in search of toothpaste. But seeing her fix Carlos’ cuff links proved that Gaby can be selfless every once in a while, when she’s not having smack fights with the wheelchair bound.

NEXT: The top-chef competition resumes

For Lynette and Tom, things were finally starting to fall into place. Tom’s back had healed, Lynette’s cancer was cured, and the pizzeria seemed to be booming. They’ve survived cancer and a natural catastrophe, so even though they eventually have to put five kids through college, it looked like smooth sailing for the golden couple. Except for one thing I’ve been waiting all season for the writers to address: Lynette’s almost-but-not-quite infidelity. The Rick Thing. I thought it was awfully bold of Rick to waltz into Tom’s restaurant with wine, but his announcement that he had opened a restaurant just down the street was an example of cocky defiance that would shock even the likes of Gaby. He wants to steal Tom’s wife and Tom’s customers — while I don’t condone violence, I probably would have forgiven Tom if he had thrown a brick at Rick’s face. Tom can be rash, he’ll stop at nothing to keep his family together, and he is an amazing liar, but is he capable of arson? He looked both Lynette and the police officers dead in the eye and lied about vandalizing Rick’s restaurant, so convincingly that it was almost creepy. Lynette accused Tom of overreacting, and sure, tearing down Rick’s restaurant probably isn’t the most rational reaction, but can you blame him? It’s hard enough to forget the past when it’s not two blocks away serving tastier pasta dishes and pining for your wife. While we were lead to believe that Tom threw Rick a little ”welcome to the neighborhood” bonfire, I wasn’t as convinced as Lynette that Tom was guilty. Of course, that raised the question of whodunit, and I had a few suspects. Three suspects, actually. All minors. An illegitimate child and a set of hyperactive twins. We all saw them listen to their parents arguing. It’s just a theory. Susan’s the neighborhood arsonist, so who knows? But if Rick’s gets rebuilt, I thought maybe he should change the name of the joint. Maybe something subtle, something like An Affair to Remember.

Susan’s also the neighborhood nudist, at least based on her season 1 streaker status. But last night she was showed up by Orson, whose bouts of indecent sleepwalking confirmed that he is a sick man. I’m normally not a fan of flashbacks, but I was happy to see that Orson’s murder attempt had not been conveniently forgotten. (And, if we’re sharing secrets, I also didn’t mind watching Mike get run over again.) For weeks I’ve been wondering how Orson could possibly be living in the house of a man he tried to kill. But guilt can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. One minute you’re sleeping soundly, the next you’re leaving butt-cheek prints on the kitchen furniture. I thought Susan’s reaction to Orson the exhibitionist was pretty funny: He’s naked! In the kitchen! Where she eats! Gross! It was even funnier when Orson and Bree thought Susan was just having some dumb Ally McBeal-esque fantasy. (Which Orson thought was ”perfectly understandable,” you know, because he’s so handsome and dashing, whether he’s nude or in argyle sweaters.) It was ironic that Orson unwittingly revealed his secret to Julie, who had just been criticizing Dylan for obsessing over secrets and being such a buzzkill. Looks like Julie and Dylan will both be doing some Nancy Drew-style sleuthing in the near future. And as for the mysterious man circling Dylan’s face in the newspaper, well, Dylan might have cried murder too soon. Maybe she’ll get to meet her father after all.

So, who do you suspect burned down Rick’s restaurant? Does Rick still have a chance with Lynette? Who’s the mysterious man targeting Dylan? And how long will Bree and Katherine remain friends?

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