The series' annual Disaster Episode brings a riot to Wisteria Lane -- and at least one big shocker

By Tanner Stransky
December 13, 2010 at 06:18 AM EST
Craig Sjodin/ABC
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Desperate Housewives just loves a Disaster Episode, doesn’t it? See: Last December’s plane crash, November 2008’s club fire, December 2007’s tornado, and so on. Actually, the Desperate Housewives Disaster Episode has become an annual event for the series, akin to, say, The Simpsons’ famous Treehouse of Horror specials or the annual Thanksgiving half-hours Friends used to put together every year. And truly, the variety of an annual event episode says a lot about a series. Yellow animated characters have spooky times and terminally ’90s New Yorkers have turkey and wine, while Wisteria Lane’s suburban residents get real big tragedies. Go figure!

As you might have guessed from that intro, last night was Desperate Housewives’ annual terror-on-Wisteria Lane episode, which was aptly titled “Down the Block There’s a Riot.” If you haven’t watched yet and don’t want rather shocking things ruined for you, please read no further. We’re delving into spoilers here, fans! Really, quite a lot that’s rather important did happen in the packed-to-the-gills hour, which saw the street spiral into a riot at the hands of Paul Young. In fact, it was the kind of fast-paced, slightly unpredictable hour that used to be central to Desperate Housewives, but now seems to only happen once in a while. Anyway, I’m basically saying: It was a good hour of television! Yay!

The riotous Disaster on Wisteria Lane was, of course, the crux of the episode — we’ll get to it, friends! — but it’s the set-up to the all-storylines-converging riot that we should go over first. Here’s a little primer of where all of our main characters were leading up to the night’s big event:

  • Gaby had just written a letter (that she never intended to send) to her recently departed biological daughter Grace, at the suggestion of Lynette (“You’re the only woman I know who lost a child,” Gaby told Lynette). The daughter Gaby raised, Juanita, found it, confronted Gaby about it, shoved her hard (“You’re not my mommy!” she screamed), and ran out into the street…right into the riot, of course.
  • Lynette was leading the charge against Paul Young by soliciting help from the nearby, and apparently rather violent, Hydrangea Circle Homeowners’ Association — and by confirming with everyone on the Lane that they wouldn’t sell their houses to Paul. If you’ll remember from last week, if all residents held out, they could — as the Wisteria Lane Homeowners’ Association — vote to keep Paul from opening his halfway house on the street. Also spiraling around in Lynette’s orbit was Susan, who confronted Tom about the steamy, romantic weekend with Renee she learned about last week. Tom then confronted Renee about her revelation, and Susan suggested that Renee move off the Lane.
  • Bree had just ended things with her boy-toy Keith, after he said he wanted more of a commitment from her — he kept flashing that engagement ring! — than just moving in together. Plus: Keith’s dad Richard sort of assaulted Bree while trying to comfort her about the Keith break-up. We all saw that one coming!
  • Susan was dealing with the Renee-Tom situation above and had just had a video chat with away-in-Alaska hubby Mike, telling him how much he missed her.
  • Bob and Lee had just sold their house to Paul Young, making them the culprits that gave Paul Young the power to open up his halfway house on the Lane. To be fair, they were tricked into selling when that ever-sneaky Paul Young told them that Mitzi Kinsky (who seemed like she might sell in last week’s episode) had already done so and they better, too, if they didn’t want their home’s value to bottom out. The gay duo, however, quickly learned they’d been duped: “Please!” Mitzi explained them when they figured out they’d been tricked. “I’m not going to screw over my neighbors.” Bob and Lee, however, were happy to screw over their neighbors, which ultimately triggered the night’s messy riot.
  • NEXT: Wistera Lane’s picket literal and figurative picket fences come crashing down!

    When the riot began, Wisteria Lane’s picket fences — figuratively and literally — came crashing down. No, really, there was a moment where the swelling crowds in the street stampeded over one of the picket fences on the Lane. I thought it was a nice, symbolic touch to go with the mayhem that was happening on the usually calm street.

    So how’d all the mayhem begin? The riot launched just as Paul Young was about to be honored during a press conference by Mayor Franklin of Fairview for his good Samaritan work — how ironic, right? — for opening a halfway house on Wisteria Lane for ex-convicts. “I must say, I don’t know how you got your neighbors to agree to a halfway house on their street,” Mayor Franklin told Paul Young just before the pandemonium broke out. “But they must think a lot of you.” Clearly Mayor Franklin wasn’t privy to the battle on the street. Paul was quick to correct him: “Honestly,” he said, “this is all happening because of what I think of them.” A cloaked, but perfect, retort.

    It wasn’t long before Wisteria Lane was in complete chaos, mostly because the Paul Young detractors of the Wisteria Lane Homeowners’ Association had, on Lynette’s decision, teamed up with the uber-violent Hydrangea Homeowners’ Association. They brought bats! They were on the prowl and ready to take Paul Young — and any ex-convicts they could find — down! As you might imagine, the chaos on the street put nearly every one of our characters in danger.

    So here’s where everyone ended up: Bob and Lee tried to flee the Lane but couldn’t because of the swarming crowds and the fact that they discovered a crying Juanita in their backseat. Gaby and Carlos, of course, were on the hunt for her, and eventually found her just before things got bad for the little girl, as the car’s back window was shattered. Renee battled with Susan, who got whisked away in the crowd and was basically left for dead on the street. One of the violent rioters mistook the always wife-beater-wearing Keith — who was getting physical with his father after finding out how he’d made a move on the gun-wielding Bree — for an out-of-control ex-convict and began ganging up on him. Lynette found herself helping Bob and Lee — she poignantly screamed “Stop it! He’s my neighbor!” during the madness. We caught a glimpse of Mrs. McCluskey down on the sidewalk, bleeding but seemingly alright. Various people from the Homeowners’ Associations were demolishing Paul Young’s halfway house.

    Got all that? Truly, the only of those characters who seemed to be in any sort of uncertain danger is Susan. At the end of the episode, it wasn’t clear whether she was okay, but c’mon, she’s Teri Hatcher — girl isn’t going to be killed off the show. And if she was, we’d already certainly know about it. Unless somehow it’s the best-kept secret in Hollywood. I don’t know about you, but I loved how all the storylines came together and got all tangled in this one event. Sure, the episode is a ridiculously big attention-grabbing blow-out, but it’s kind of fun to see all the paths cross into one big, flaming mess like this riot.

    NEXT: The biggest shocker of the night! Someone is assassinated!

    The biggest shocker of the night, however, was still to come — after the riot. At first, Paul seemed to escape the madness. Just before he went into his own house, Lynette confronted him and said it was all his fault. “Hey, those are your friends out there Lynette,” he shot back. “The solid citizens of Fairview. Tell me again why you think they’re better than a bunch of ex-cons.” Paul has such a cool head, right?

    Cut to early the next morning and a shot of a smirking Paul Young walking down Wisteria Lane just before sunrise. Cue Mary Alice’s voiceover: “You could no longer hear the screams of frightened bystanders or the angry chants of protesters or the cries of help from the injured,” she said. “There were just the footsteps of the man who had finally punished those who had betrayed him. The silence was broken by something that the neighbors would later say sounded like a gunshot. But Paul knew it was the sound of revenge.” And then the bombshell! Cut to a shot of Paul Young lying in the middle of the street, blood staining his shirt. Someone shot him! Honestly, I didn’t really see that one coming. It’s unclear whether he’s dead — or who did it. But I love it. These Disasters are always rather good about taking out awful antagonists, so my money is on Paul having bit the big one. But we’ll find out when Desperate returns in January.

    For now, some questions: Does this mean the rest of the season is going to turn into Desperate Housewives: Whodunit? We saw multiple characters with guns — Bree and Lee, to mention two — so who shot him? What happens to the (rather destructed) halfway house if Paul is indeed dead? Will Beth just disappear now that Paul might be out of the picture? Is Susan going to have any long-term damage? What are your predictions for the second half of Desperate Housewives’ current season? Let me know in the comments, readers. See you in January!

    Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

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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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