Money issues prevail on Wisteria Lane, as Susan and Mike scrounge for cash to get M.J. into private school, Tom is forced to sell his flashy car, Gaby and Carlos are flush again, and Bree's career windfall might end up costing her a friend

By Tanner Stransky
February 09, 2009 at 06:12 PM EST
Ron Tom/ABC
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Just when I thought the fictional world of Fairview was immune to all the things that affect us in the real world, Desperate Housewives serves up an episode that’s oddly of-the moment. Yes, TV Watchers, I speak of the worldwide recession we’re all currently enduring. Money troubles have finally made their way to Wisteria Lane!

Last night, we saw financial woes — and, conversely, for the Solis clan and Bree, great financial windfalls — affect the ladies of the Lane. More than anything, I can appreciate that the writers decided to work up a series of plotlines that feel very here and now. The biggest one involved the still-reeling Lynette and Tom, who faced a cash shortage in the wake of Porter’s arrest and subsequent acquittal.

The show opened with Lynette doing the thing we never thought Tom would allow: She sold off his hot rod car, which he affectionately referred to as ”Foxy.” (Really, what is a midlife crisis without a sexy red car? Guess we’ll find out now that Tom no longer has one.) Turns out that the failing economy — and Fairview residents’ unwillingness to patronize Scavo’s Pizzeria after the unsavory Preston fracas — had turned the Scavo’s family business into quite the drain. In this case, I understand people being scared away by the scandal, but really, wouldn’t a pizza shop probably see an uptick in sales during a time when people want to save money? There certainly aren’t any pies with truffle oil and carmelized onions in simple pizza joints (ie., they’re not breaking the patron’s pocketbooks), so I’d guess business at the rather-cheap pizzeria would be booming. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand.

Lynette was stressing out as usual, and her worry only became even more amplified when Bree — fresh off the success of her best-selling cookbook — rolled up in her brand-new Lexus. (Apparently, Lexus now makes cars that feature a refrigerator in the backseat and a self-parking mechanism! What will they think of next?) Lynette’s disdain for Bree’s extravagance quickly became apparent, which inspired Bree to hand Lynette a check for a cool $20K. (Which one of you has friends like that? I’m taking friendship applications for anyone willing to fork over that kind of cash!) After some back and forth, Lynette decided the cash should not be just a gift or a straight-up loan, but rather an investment in the pizza shop. But, as we all know, money and friendship doesn’t mix. Before the end of the episode, the cash came between the once-extremely-tight pair. Oh, and Bree’s ever-expanding ego also got in the way. At Bree’s book launch party at Scavo’s, Lynette used ”commercial Parmesan,” prompting Bree to go into diva mode and claim that what she was using was ”like the dust they sweep off the floor of a place that makes real cheese.” Hilarious, yes. But probably not the most sensitive comment to make to a woman who’s worried about paying for her next tank of gas.

NEXT: Susan learns the value of Mike’s money

In a signature Bree move, the feisty redhead threw out the pizzas and remade them without Parmesan, prompting an epic battle between her and Lynette in the alleyway behind the restaurant. About Bree’s ostentatious nature with her money, Lynette screamed, ”You shouldn’t be lording it over everybody just because you caught a couple of breaks!” And after Bree claimed that she’d worked hard for her success, Lynette added: ”I worked my ass off, too, but I just wasn’t as lucky as you.” Point for Lynette with that comment! I couldn’t get behind Bree in this situation at all — in fact, her actions were tactless, as usual. Nobody would resent her success if she weren’t so ostentatious about it.

Susan was also suffering from a lack of cash. When she turned up at Oak Ridge private school to try and enroll her tiny son M.J., he was fidgeting and being slightly unruly. My first thought: This is going to be one of those story lines where she fights to get him into the prep school, touting his good behavior, and then it would devolve into a series of gags with M.J. at the center of all the trouble. But no! It turned to be all about how Susan — and then, Mike, too — didn’t have enough money to send the little guy to the school. Because — what do you know? — it seem the children’s book business isn’t doing so well, either. Not that Susan ever seems to be working anyway. Mike works all the time, although plumbing must just not be that lucrative.

Everything came to a head when Susan realized that Mike had just bought Katherine a new string of pearls, after he had just claimed he didn’t have the money to help M.J. go to the private school. Now, I’ve seen Susan do a lot of crazy things in nearly five seasons of Desperate, but the stunt she pulled — breaking into Katherine’s house to steal said string of pearls — is one of her more ridiculous moves. She even admitted it herself after Katherine caught her red handed and Susan explained that she had planned to sell the pearls for tuition money: ”Now that I’m saying it out loud, I hear how stupid that sounds.”

Come to find out, after Mike arrived on the scene, the pearls were fakes and not worth much. That’s what you get, Susan, you crazy kook. The best part of this whole transaction was when Mike told her that, basically, she could shove it because he had been doing all he could to make money. Where’s her contribution? Which is a good point: Susan should figure out a way to make some more money. In the end, she took a job as the assistant to an art teacher at M.J.’s new school so she could reap a 50 percent discount on the tuition. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing Susan making a mess with finger paints and paper maché in the next few episodes.

NEXT: The new old Gaby

Continuing the money theme, Gaby and Carlos also enjoyed an influx of cash because of the big guy’s bonus at work. Which meant — what we’ve all been waiting for! — the return of the old, glamorous Gaby. (Seriously, it did excite me to see her in that pink dress again.) But, as has become the case with Carlos and Gaby story lines recently, it was about more than just that. It had some heart: Gaby realized that she didn’t want to totally be the old Gaby again because that’d mean that she was somewhat soulless and cruel. How did she fix that? With a hug to her seamstress! No, seriously, after her portly seamstress helped restore the dress she got engaged in and uttered the words, ”You’re back, Mrs. Solis, exactly like you were before,” Gaby realized what a monster she’d been in her past life. Even Edie commented on it after the diva Gaby left the rest of her boot camp group high and dry: ”You wanted the old Gaby back? Well congratulations, you got her: A self-centered, obnoxious jerk. Personally, I liked poor, paunchy Gaby better. At least she had some humility.” Point for Edie in this showdown!

As usual, the Gaby served up some great sound bites last night. After Carlos said that he’d closed the deal at work and scored a bonus, Gaby quipped: ”Why didn’t you tell me this when you were begging for sex this morning? You would have closed that deal, too.” Hehe. And when she was talking about getting back to her old weight: ”I’m one good colonic from being the old me.” Double hehe. (And Carlos added a nice zinger to that comment, too, referring to their upcoming anniversary dinner: ”I’ll call the restaurant — they can write that on the cake.”) And then, Gaby also took the opportunity to take a cheap shot at her overweight seamstress, Jean, when she said she’d given in to the weight distribution that comes with having children: ”Jean, you didn’t just give into it,” Gaby said, ”you slapped a piece of cheese on it.” Ouch! Evil, but I couldn’t help but smiling at that one.

The final piece of last night’s puzzle was, of course, Dave Williams. No, he wasn’t strapped for cash in this new economy. But news got back to Tom that it was Dave who’d led the police to arrest Porter. Let the fighting begin! I was so happy to see Tom confront him and try his best to take him down. But, alas, Dave seems to have weird superhuman strength to go with his general superhuman weirdness because he quickly restrained Tom in what looked like a professional wrestling move. Even stranger on the Dave Williams front was his end-of-episode conversation with Edie. She wanted to ask him one question about his first wife: What was the biggest difference between being married to her and being married to his late wife? Rather than just say Edie was better and skirt the question (clearly what he should have done), Dave went into a controlled rant about how his marriage to Edie was more real because his old life was like a fairytale. ”Love is just temporary,” he said. ”The way the fairytale ends is just death.” Um, psycho doesn’t even begin to describe Dave Williams! Clearly.

What’d you think of last night’s Desperate Housewives, TV Watchers? Impressed? Surprised by its nod to the difficult economic times we live in? Most importantly, how much do you think Sprint, Lexus, and all those other companies whose logos were flashed on screen paid to be included in last night’s episode?

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