The Felicia Tillman/Paul Young showdown comes to an epically anti-climactic end while Tom and Lynette meet their marital Waterloo.

By Christian Blauvelt
May 16, 2011 at 10:00 AM EDT
Ron Tom/ABC
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Okay, who already thinks Desperate Housewives’ season eight is going to be so much better than anything we’ve seen in season seven? I realize that the unsatisfying trajectory of this year’s mystery doesn’t really bode well for the future success of Marc Cherry & Co.’s long-form storytelling, but the fact that all the Housewives are going to be involved as partners in crime in next year’s caper instantly makes it more compelling than anything this show has given us in years. Finally, DH is getting back to basics, crafting a mystery that utilizes the entire ensemble rather than splitting the cast into a web of barely-connected, tangential story-threads.

Until the instantly infamous “progressive” dinner party late in the finale, the latter, fragmented approach unfortunately defined most of last night’s drama.

Bree wanted to take her relationship with Det. Chuck to the next level. But he proved to be mystifyingly sex averse. Chuck claimed that he wanted to hold off until his divorce was final, lest his cheating wife find legal ammo to stack the settlement in her favor. Lee, however, suggested another possibility. Drawing upon his singular “homographic memory” he said he’d seen the cop at aFairviewgay bar, and suggested that Chuck was only using Bree as a beard to enhance his macho cred among the Force. It didn’t help matters when Chuck introduced Bree to his colleagues with “See, I didn’t make her up!”

Lee also suggested that Chuck was in love with his Fairview PD partner, with whom he’d recently severed ties after nine years of serving together. Oh, and they had just severed ties after a camping trip. “Oh, God, it’s me and Tom Mankiewicz all over again,” Lee realized. (Could he be referring to the Tom Mankiewicz who wrote Diamonds Are Forever, easily the most homophobic James Bond movie ever? If he’d only seen its portrayal of Mr. Wynt and Mr. Kidd, he’d have known he was really barking up the wrong tree.)

Bree took Chuck to a gay bar to elicit a reaction. He admitted that he’d only been working undercover there, that his partner had been shtupping his wife, and that he was ready to get to second base. Later, Bree decided to scout his soon-to-be ex-wife’s S&M-inspired boutique, to get a sense of the competition. Not only did Doreen get wind of Bree’s intent to steal Chuck away for herself—thus giving the not-quite-ex a reason to hold out for a better settlement—she ended up with a skull purse.

NEXT: Tom and Lynette call it quits.

But as one relationship begins, another draws to a close. Yes, Lynette and Tom seem at last to have arrived at that unfortunate final stop on the soap-opera trolley line: Splitsville. It’s hard for me to describe the depth of sadness that I actually feel about not only these two characters we’ve followed for years but what their separation means for televisual marriage in general. Sure, we all know divorce rates keep going up and up. So that’s why it was so refreshing to see a union depicted that could weather job loss, cancer, failed pizzeria entrepreneurship, aborted Chinese-language studies, reversal of typical gender roles, a bastard daughter, a nubile nanny, a hateful in-law played by Larry Hagman, the Weekend at Bernie’s-style death and delayed burial of a hateful in-law played by Larry Hagman, and five precocious children with names beginning with the letter P. In short, after all that, if they couldn’t make it, no one could.

A last ditch attempt at retreating to a B&B to revive their former spark degenerated into an Edward Albee-style vicious circle of card playing and candle dipping. They even threatened to draw a young, openhearted couple to their emotionally frustrated web. I half expected Lynette to jump on Tom’s back in bed and start singing “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Virginia Woolf, Virginia Woolf.”

By the time they returned to Casa Scavo, Tom had decided he wasn’t going to unpack. And when the night of Susan’s “Welcome back!” dinner party rolled around, it seemed like he was going to move out for good. Instead, he showed up, mandarin oranges in hand, to help Lynette with the salad she was making for the dinner. Never has “Set the forks out” carried such a loaded charge.

What Lynette realized was that, when she thought Tom had left, she was actually relieved. She had come to embrace the end of their marriage. But I’m sorry, I just don’t feel that this is an organic development at this stage in the series. Maybe if they’d separated back in seasons three or four, it would have made sense, but, after all they’ve been through, to just let their marriage succumb to, I don’t know, apathy is pretty sad. Could it just be that DH’s writers had no ideas left to explore with these characters more original than, “Let’s see how they’ll handle divorce”? Every other Housewife on this show has gone through a divorce. There are other ways to show marital strife than trotting out the d-word yet again.

NEXT: Susan’s cooking skills finally become criminal, and Paul Young faces lethal injection.

Now onto the Tale of Susan and the Poisoned Cookies (Or how she learned to stop worrying and trust Paul Young). After Paul fingered Mrs. Delfino for her deadly desserts, she had some ‘splainin’ to do. She suggested that Felicia Tillman, with whom she’d been baking, had been the one with lethal intent. Still, it didn’t look good for Susan. I mean, she lost a kidney because of a riot started by Paul. And she lost her job at the school because he exposed her porn career…and she served the cookies in question to her judgmental former colleagues at that very school.

Mike had proof, though, that Felicia had offered him $10,000 to kill Paul. Susan was let off the hook, and out of guilt for all he had wrought Paul gave her back her house. However, Felicia was not to be denied. She strapped Paul down and threatened to give him her very own lethal injection, until Susan showed up to be his unexpected rescuer. He decided that, if he really wanted to turn a new leaf, he would have to own up to his greatest crime: killing Felicia’s sister, Martha Huber, with a blender. But, you know, Mark Moses always looked good in orange.

Felicia, meanwhile, fled town with her daughter’s ashes in tow, only to drive head-first into a truck when she spilled her daughter all over the passenger’s seat. Wow. Is that a way to bring a seven-year mega-arc to a close or what?

Fans of the TV show Frasier may notice a few touches here that hearken back to Kelsey Grammer’s late, great sitcom: a boyfriend who may or may not be gay, an exile from a beautiful home to a crummy apartment (a la Niles Crane’s unforgettable stay in “The Shangri-La”), an unfortunate mishap with an urn. And, above all, a disaster-struck dinner party. To commemorate her return to Wisteria Lane (and the end of hypothetical spin-off series Susan’s Apartment), Susan’s friends threw her a progressive dinner party. After all, she was returning from a land where German techno music replaced the sound of children’s laughter. And like the series-best Frasier episode “Taps at the Montana,” not all the party guests would have a pulse. Did I mention that Frasier alums Joe Keenan and Bob Daily wrote both halves of this finale?

NEXT: Death and the dinner party.

Gaby’s abusive stepfather, Alejandro, returned to stalk her. For fans of Ugly Betty, seeing Tony Plana, so warm and fatherly as Betty Suarez’ beloved Papi, play a sex offender has been a shock. First, he just skulked around town, flitting in and out of Gaby’s daily routine like Michael Myers hiding behind a hedge. Mrs. Solis knew someone was following her, so she hit up the owner of Fairview’s largest private arsenal, Bree, for some heat. Instead, Bree sent her to a class at the gun range, and when she finally confronted Alejandro in a Millers’ Crossing-style clearing, she was ready. Like Gabriel Byrne’s Tom Reagan in the Coen brothers’ classic, she made her opponent get on his knees and await swift judgment. But also like Tom she couldn’t pull the trigger.

It could have been so easy too. Everybody already thought he was dead. Instead, he returned to haunt her once again. This time right before her leg of the progressive fete. And Carlos was ready, bopping him over the head with a handy candle-holder. So ready, that he actually killed him outright. Lynette, Bree, and Susan immediately rushed in…and agreed to cover up Alejandro’s death. Carlos did kill an unarmed man and with his rap sheet of corporate crimes and gay bashing, would likely face a stiff sentence. So the housewives placed the corpse inside a man-sized chest and continued with the dinner party like nothing happened. You know you’re a friend when you’re willing to wipe blood off a candle-holder in front of your badge-wearing boyfriend. With a smile, no less!

All of our housewives are now guilty of being accessories after the fact, which should make for a particularly juicy “mystery” next season. Will the cover-up tighten their bonds of sorority? Or strain them to the breaking point? Can Susan ever be trusted to carry a secret? And can this mystery please, please, please be resolved more satisfyingly than all that Paul-Beth-Felicia nonsense? Sound off below on your thoughts about this season and your hopes for the next. And please don’t pick the Wisteria.

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