Gaby returns to her hometown to confront old demons, and Bree finally breaks up with Keith

By Christian Blauvelt
February 21, 2011 at 07:34 AM EST
Ron Tom/ABC
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“Leaving is never easy. But the time comes when we must move on.”

The moral of last night’s episode may sum up the feelings of a lot of Desperate Housewives fans. (Honestly, how long before “pamper the doll” becomes the next dismissive catchphrase alongside “jump the shark” and “nuke the fridge”?) But “Farewell Letter” turned out to be a surprisingly funny, poignant episode. Maybe it’s because each of our characters—Susan excluded, as always—took time to become their own shrinks and deal with their ongoing issues. The unexamined life isn’t worth living, right? Well, the TV character who leads an unexamined life rarely makes for great TV. In fact, “Farewell Letter” was such a step in the right direction, it may have gone halfway to putting this rocky season back on track.

Let’s start with Susan and work our way up. Can you remember the last time Susan didn’t have a storyline that was the worst of the night? Anyone? Believe me, I like Teri Hatcher, but damn if DH’s writers haven’t run out of ideas for her. In “Farewell Letter” Susan realized the secret benefits of dialysis. Yes, they are manifold! Like, cops won’t give you a ticket when they pull you over. You get to cut in line at the supermarket, even if your Tom and Jerry-obsessed son almost sabotages it. You even get moved to the top of the wait-list for the swanky new restaurant in town.

Okay, well that last one almost happened. Susan spilled the beans to Renee about the special treatment she had been receiving. Of course, this would be the thing to impress Wisteria Lane’s criminally underused new housewife. (Yes, I know Renee isn’t married, but if you live on Wisteria Lane, you’re a housewife.) “Using your disease to manipulate and deceive people? I’ve never felt closer to you,” she concluded. She suggested that she and Susan hit up the new restaurant in town, Girard’s, and see if they could get seated more quickly. But never underestimate the wrath of people ahead of you on the wait-list. One particularly hostile would-be patron wasn’t having it, citing his diabetes and his wife’s arthritis as reasons why they should keep their place. Using appropriate hand gestures to illustrate her point, Susan ranked, from bottom to top, the importance of arthritis, diabetes, and dialysis. “So unless somebody here has Ebola, we get the next table.” On that last one, Susan jumped the gun. Surely, Desperate Housewives won’t go all Hot Zone on us until next year, when Ebola is the new midseason crisis in Fairview? Surely, Level 4 biohazard containment suits will be the only way to one-up the Wisteria Lane Riot. Well, when Susan’s sympathy-grab didn’t work, she played up her celebrity connections. “She used to be married to a Yankee,” she noted about Renee. Could the writers disrespect Vanessa Williams any more? (Go Rays!)

NEXT: Bree says goodbye to Keith, while Zach says hello to his father.Thankfully, Bree’s story in “Farewell Letter” injected some much needed emotional heft. Keith wasn’t quite as mad at her as one would think over her keeping the secret of his son from him. Sure, he was upset that her indecision meant he’d lost a week to be with Charlie, but I think on some level he understood why she did what she did. Amazingly, that did not turn out to be the potential relationship-killer that it was when Mike called it quits with Susan (temporarily) after she didn’t tell him where Zach was staying in season 2. Bree could see how quickly Keith had bonded with his son, though. He said that three days ago he didn’t know Charlie existed, and now he couldn’t imagine a life without him.

Remember, Keith always did want kids. Now he has one…but he lives with his mom in Florida. So Keith suggested that he and Bree move to the Sunshine State. As he put it, they could “pick oranges, swim with dolphins, all the other things you do in Florida.” Yes, as a native Floridian, I can attest that that pretty much sums up a typical day’s itinerary. Bree knew she couldn’t leave her home of so many years. So she decided, in one of the more touching moments we’ve seen her have on Desperate Housewives in some time, to let Keith go. She admitted that his love for his son was more important than his love for her. It was an amazingly magnanimous gesture, a moment that makes us appreciate how far Bree has emotionally matured since she was the prudish, basket-carrying, Martha Stewart-wannabe of the series’ early days.

Speaking of father-son relationship dramas, we had the matter-antimatter collision of Paul Young and Zach. The former millionaire was driven to rehab by his two dads. When he denied his drug abuse, Paul tactfully responded, “Tell that to the puke on my shoes.” When he finally got cleaned up, Zach confessed to Paul why he shot him. Pretty simple really. Kid just wanted Daddy dead. (No, Mr. Young, I expect you to die!) Zach blamed Paul for his drug-addled hell and for Mary Alice’s suicide, concluding, “Nobody could ever love you.”

NEXT: Lynette’s twins leave their house…and move in across the street with Mrs. McCluskey.Meanwhile, Paul decided to rebuff Beth once and for all. Sick and tired of Felicia Tillman’s machinations, he told Beth that she’d betrayed him, gave her back her revolver, and kicked her out of the house. Sadly, Beth really does seem to love him. But that hardly mattered to Paul. He spat right back to her what Zach had said to him, “Nobody could ever love me,” and slammed the door in her face.

Lynette was also trying to kick out certain family members from her abode. Her twins had finally out-stayed their respective welcomes. It all started when Preston or Porter (I can’t tell which) woke her up in the middle of the night asking about where they store the eggs. Um, in the refrigerator? Then they required her assistance to whip up some Denver omelets to pay tribute to the hometown of a new female friend they picked up at a kegger. “Really? I’m getting more of a Vegas vibe,” Lynette jabbed upon seeing the party-girl—and a friend—in her house at an ungodly hour. Well, the next morning, she decided her sons needed to leave the family nest, or they’d never learn how to fly. She demanded that they find their own place and…(gasp)…get jobs to pay for it.

To the classified pages! But little did Lynette know that Mrs. McCluskey had started taking in lodgers and had two vacancies! When Preston and Porter had loaded up the car and were set to leave, Lynette took a farewell picture. But when she saw they were just driving across the street, she made a passive-aggressive point of “deleting a memory.” Surprisingly, the boys got along well with Karen and Roy. She didn’t even care about the skanky Rocky Mountain-born girls they brought to the house. After all, McCluskey’s motto was “I don’t care what gets Roy’s fire going, as long as I’m the one who puts it out.”

NEXT: Mrs. McCluskey and Roy do have their limits. Plus, Gaby finds she’s a celebrity in her hometown.Well, Lynette wasn’t going to have this. So she brought over a little housewarming gift: A keg of beer. The boys couldn’t possibly drink all of that themselves, so they had to invite a few friends over for a Casa McCluskey social. And by “a few friends” I mean all of Fairview’s 18-to-25-year-olds. The toilet paper-covered lawn said it all. Preston and Porter were kicked out on their rears, but not before one asked, “Can we get our security deposit back?” The boys saved a few harsh words for Lynette, claiming that she’d micro-managed their lives to the point that they now didn’t know how to do anything for themselves. Lynette agreed that she hadn’t really prepared them to live independently, but insisted that having them move out on their own would solve the problem. The moral here? Make your son an omelet and feed him for a day. Teach him how to make an omelet and feed him for a lifetime. That’s from the Book of Marc.

Finally, Desperate Housewives did the impossible last night. They made us sympathize with Gaby. Carlos insisted that she take her shrink’s advice and visit her hometown of Las Colinas, Texas. Once there, she would read a letter over her stepfather’s grave, the man who had molested her when she was a child. It would at last be a way for her to let go of her past and heal. Gaby was resistant at first: “He’s dead. Can’t I just confront him from the comfort of my own home with a glass of wine and a Ouija board?” But, of course, she relented.

Las Colinas has seen better days, it seems. Apparently, their cab driver from the airport needed more specific instructions when Gaby said to “turn left at the burnt-out car.” But in one critical way, the town had significantly improved, at least for Mrs. Solis. Turns out she’s a major star there. After all, as the school principal put it, she’s the only person from Las Colinas to become famous “for anything besides getting stuck in a well.” Her local greasy-spoon diner had walls adorned with her magazine spreads, not to mention autograph-hungry patrons who thought Carlos was her chauffer. Before long, Gaby was doing radio ads and giving nuggets of wisdom to schoolgirls like “I’d say avoid math and science. They cause serious frown lines…Young girls today need to know the dangers of long division.”

NEXT: Marc Cherry once again indulges his love of evil nuns.Honestly, I was happy to see Gaby celebrated as a glamour queen again. Remember when Marc Cherry and Co. deliberately attempted to frump her up a couple seasons ago? Admittedly, since there’s no way Eva Longoria could ever look like a harried hausfrau, the idea just involved lighter makeup. But let me say this. When Gaby is allowed to be the cover-girl again, the economy must be getting better.

Anyway, Gaby was doing everything except what she had come there to do: heal. When that came, it wasn’t because of a graveside rant, it was when she spotted an old teacher from Catholic school, Sister Marta. Marc Cherry loves his evil nuns, and Marta was no exception. Apparently, Gaby had initially confided in the Sister about her stepfather’s abuse twenty years ago. But her teacher called her a liar and said she should be ashamed. Twenty years later, she felt the same: “You had a big imagination, most likely from all those trashy books and magazines you used to bring into class.” Gaby fired back that she was just a child at the time and Sister Marta had not only allowed her abuse to continue, but made her feel ashamed about it, a shame that she would still carry with her decades later. It was a powerful moment. One that actually made us realize that many of her self-indulgent excesses and bitchy quips mask an inner pain that she’s never been able to resolve.

To me, “Farewell Letter” was a winner. What’d you think? Has Gaby returned to your good graces? Do you have a whole new level of respect for Bree after she selflessly broke off her relationship with Keith? Will Susan ever have a decent storyline again? And is there any chance that the housewife who commits suicide in next week’s episode won’t be Beth?

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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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