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

Desperate Housewives
Credit: Ron Tom/ABC

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

Next up was Bree. First off: Rex alert! His always-smarmy ass was back, as Bree’s remembrance of Eli took her all the way back to a time when Lynette was pregnant with Penny. During an alfresco dinner party, Bree and Rex got into a little spat about Bree possibly getting a job so she could pay for a new stove. (Hello again, origins story!) So that’s when she decided she’d write a cookbook to make some money. Lookee there! That cookbook idea had been percolating for years! Anyway, Rex made it clear that he didn’t want her writing it and she trashed it. But who was listening in again? Handyman Eli! Unbeknownst to Bree, he snatched her working cookbook out of the trash and returned it to her — with some inspirational messages, of course — right after Rex’s death. Poof! Bree owes her domestic goddess success to the man who inspired her to do it: Eli!

What really struck me about Bree’s flashback was how different she was back when Rex was around. I mean, not just the big curl ‘do (which Marcia Cross pulls off j’adorably), but she just seemed so much more submissive back then, didn’t she? Today, you’d never find Bree allowing her husband — or any man, for that matter — squash her like Rex was able to. Maybe Rex’s death in general was good for Bree’s overall spirit? She’s clearly an unstoppable force now. It’s just strange because I don’t remember Bree being that submissive during the first and second seasons. Oh well, just a little observation.

As for Edie’s flashback about Eli, one thing: BARF! She screwed the guy? We always knew the boobalicious lady was quite the slut, but really? No offense to Eli — he’s totally a great guy — but I don’t quite believe for one minute that Edie would have slept with him. Even sluts have their standards. He had to be like 20 years older than her! But on to other revelations from the remembrance: Edie was married to a very hot gay guy named Umberto? What?! Love that fact. She clearly must have married him for his looks because, despite his lack of performance in bed, that guy was smokin’! With this little tidbit, it’s clear that Marc Cherry and his writers have really ratcheted up the gay factor on Desperate this season. Lurve it. Oh, and one more thing about this story line: Loved when the lingerie-wearing Edie asked Eli’s opinion: ”And the boobs? Perky and firm?” And he responded: ”You named them?” Ha! I live for those little moments.

Lynette’s memory of what Eli did for her, natch, had to do with her sometimes-haphazard mothering. The harried blonde remembered a time when she had left her newborn Penny in the car on a hot summer day, and it was Eli who came to the rescue. My question: How is it possible that this guy was in all the right places at all the right times? Lucky, lucky. Guess that’s just the power of television — everything always works out just as perfectly as you want. Or just as horribly as you want.

NEXT: The root of it all: Mary Alice

In Susan’s case, she remembered Eli as a cheerleader to her always-tragic love life. Of course! He’d been there for her notable breakups of late: Karl, Mike, and then even Jackson. Because, in each case, Susan had had Eli either change the locks (Karl and Mike) on her house or bring a new set of keys for her new man (Jackson). When she was raging about Karl, Eli was confirming whether she was okay or not, and got this hilarious response from Susan: ”Oh well, on one hand, I got dumped for a pair of headlights named Brandi. On the other, I reported Karl’s credit cards stolen and I cut the pockets out of all his pants. So, a little from column A, a little from column B.” Hehe.

Finally, I’m back to Mary Alice. My heart broke a lot watching this all go down. From the way it was told, it seems like Eli was the last person to see Mary Alice before she killed herself. And he felt awful that he wasn’t able to do anything to save her — a reaction that any normal person would have. So that’s when he decided to not just fix people’s houses — but help them fix their lives, too. Thus all the niceties with the other ladies of the lane.

I don’t quite understand the logic behind using Eli Scruggs to celebrate Desperate‘s 100th episode. Was it just a way for producers to do a bunch of flashbacks? There was something rather simple and random about it that was nice, though. The suburbs are so all about appearance and upkeep. So how fitting was it that their 100th episode was built around a guy who so helped them all achieve their perfect domestic dreams? And despite the tragedy of Eli never being able to enjoy his retirement and take that trip to Hawaii, his dying on top of Susan Mayer’s roof was oddly symphonic. All together, it was a poppin’ episode.

Do you agree, TV Watchers? Did you love the episode as much as I did? Does any show do flashbacks (and flashforwards!) better than Desperate? And here’s an important query that just popped into my head: Does anyone on Wisteria Lane do their own handy-work? Have they ever heard of Home Depot?

Desperate Housewives (TV Show)

  • TV Show
  • ABC