Ron Tom/ABC

When the often-unseen handyman Eli Scruggs dies, the ladies each remember how he helped them come together and made their lives better

January 18, 2009 at 05:57 PM EST

Desperate Housewives is having a banner year. Not every episode has been stellar, mind you. But on the whole, I’ve been pleased with the season. Dave Williams has been a welcome addition, despite the fact that his story line is inching along slower than Bree ages. (She looks great, but thanks, Botox!) I loved the Anne Schilling cougar story line — I mean, who doesn’t love a good coog? And besides the repetitive nature of their Lucy-and-Desi story lines, I’ve liked Gaby and Carlos more than ever before.

But last night’s episode — the stalwart series’ landmark 100th hour! — takes the cake as one of my favorite installments of the season. It served up everything that makes a great hour of Desperate: secrets revealed, loads of flashbacks, and yes, even a few tears. (I’m sappier than a maple tree, what can I say?) True, none of the current story lines were spun forward (I’m looking at you, Dave Williams!), but it was a good night. Renews my already tip-top faith in this show! And, always always, I love a good origin story, and that’s exactly what this was.

First off, with this episode, I found myself saying: Who the heck is Eli Scruggs and why should we viewers care about him? Since when would any of the Lane’s ladies care about the handyman who keeled over on Susan Mayer’s roof? (I generally enjoy Beau Bridges, but haven’t ever found myself wondering what Wistera Lane’s handyman is up to.) Oh, but I should have realized I was falling into the trap that the Desperate producers had so deftly set up: By the end of the hour — through six rather encompassing, genius flashbacks from our core ladies (sorry, Katherine, that doesn’t include you!) — I grew to totally love this guy we’d never heard of before.

You see, what none of us realized is that Eli was the unsung hero of Wistera Lane all along. It all started with Gaby, who found herself lost in the memory of when she first moved to Fairview and subsequently joined the weekly poker club that Lynette, Bree, Susan, and Mary Alice had going. (BTW, I know we hear Brenda Strong nearly every week in her voiceovers, but it was so nice to see her on screen again! That lady can act.) Eli was at the Solis house fixing something in the kitchen just as Gaby was complaining to Carlos about living in the suburbs and having no friends. And what do you know? Even after Gaby insulted him (”You hear that Carlos? You’ve brought me to a place where people are named Eli Scruggs!”), good-guy Eli offered to set her up with the ruling clique of housewives and their weekly poker game.

Wouldn’t you know, though, Gaby made a bad first impression? Not our Gaby! She’d never do that! Ha, that’s exactly what you’d guess she’d do. She showed up in a glittery gold mini-dress and talked about how glamorous her old life was compared to the shell of an existence she now did not enjoy in Fairview. Choice quote from the uber-bitchy Gaby: ”Goodbye doing vodka shots with Kate Moss, and hello to sipping international coffee with you girls.” Now that’s Gaby! After that performance, the prim-perfect ladies effectively shut her out of future poker engagements. A little groveling, though — and a basket of muffins, which we all know is Bree’s signature — brought Gaby back into the fold. It goes without saying that Gaby had to be quite the heinous ex-model when she first showed up on Wisteria Lane, so this reveal about how she weaseled her way into the street’s power clique thanks to Eli’s generosity was truly revealing and juicy.

NEXT: Eli gets Bree cooking

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Eva Longoria Parker, Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, and Felicity Huffman star in the soap set on the dangerous Wisteria Lane
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