Renee and Bree prowl for men—and target the same one—while Gaby poignantly grapples with her family quandary

By Tanner Stransky
October 11, 2010 at 06:09 AM EDT
Ron Tom/ABC
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We’re just three episodes into the current season of Desperate Housewives, but it’s already apparent that adding the luminous Vanessa Williams to the cast was the smartest move producers have made in many a season. Last night, she was the highlight of the show—her scenes with Marcia Cross were priceless for the sound bites alone. “Hey there, I’m ready to party!” Cross’ Bree said in her spritely fashion when Williams’ Renee arrived for a night of “stud hunting” at the club. Renee’s retort to her fellow divorcee-to-be was short, to-the-point, and frankly, harkened back to Williams’ four seasons as Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty: “Are you?” she asked, with just the perfect level of snideness. “Because you look like you’re ready to tour the Reagan Library!” Ouch!

Renee followed that up minutes later with another zinger, as she dug through Bree’s closet for an appropriate going-out ensemble: “I’ve never seen so many sweater sets—are you sure this is a closet and not a portal to the 1950s?” Even without the trademark Williams smirk, tell me: How could that line not make you smile?

Besides being entertaining on its own merits, the Renee-Bree pairing was welcome because it removed the newest Housewife from the Tom-Lynette equation. Last week, I asked that Renee get some time with the rest of the Wisteria Lane ladies and—voila!—there we go. (An EW.com TV Recap is clearly a powerful thing!) At the risk of sounding ageist, though, I do have one complaint about Bree and Renee’s “stud hunting”: Would these sophisticated ladies of a certain age really search for love — or even companionship — at a packed dance club with pulsing music and crowds of twentysomethings? The details seemed a little incongruous. Next time, how about an upscale martini bar? Then again, maybe the writers were conscious of the imbalance, too, because they managed to reference it — while seamlessly cross-promoting ABC programming! — with another great zinger from Renee: “Clearly everyone hooked up early so they could be home in time for Nightline.”

The best parts of the Bree-Renee pairing, however, may still be yet to come, considering that Renee took Bree’s love interest Keith (the delightful, ab-tastic Brian Austin Green) home from the club. “Do you think I should play the I-hate-going-into-a-dark-house-alone card? Or the more blatant I’m-not-wearing-underwear? Because I’m not,” Renee asked a flabbergasted and clearly jealous Bree, who, in an attempt to snag Keith herself, had just emerged from the ladies room in a revamped, boobalicious version of her black dress. Just after Renee got home with her catch, though, Bree smashed her own sprinkler system (a delightful bit of desperation) and called Keith for emergency repairs. In Renee’s mind, that move by Bree was an act of treason—and more than enough reason to start a war with her neighbor. “Nobody steals a man out of my bed,” she threatened Bree. “But you know what? I’ve been looking for a new hobby, and taking you down is as good as any.” Game on!

I will posture, however, that if this showdown continues like it’s started—simply as a battle of words—it won’t be enough. Whether or not Brian Austin Green’s Keith is worth it, I’d love to see Renee and Bree really go at each other. Remember in the old days when houses on Wisteria Lane used to get burnt to the ground in the name of romantic rivalry? Or when people used to get hit by cars? Let’s take this to that level—or at least to a catfight that could give Krystle-vs.-Alexis on Dynasty a run for its money. Or maybe a gossip campaign could ensue between the two, dividing the street? Pick your sides, ladies! I need the stakes here to be ratcheted up a bit, but for now, I’m pleased with what’s happening.

NEXT: One of the more profound story arcs in Desperate Housewives history.

Enough with frivolity for the moment, though—let’s talk about Wisteria Lane’s most moving storyline of the evening, which was undeniably Gaby’s torment over not knowing her biological daughter. It was downright painful to watch Gaby as she dizzily scanned a department store, seeing several young girls who could easily be her spawn. “I can’t spend the rest of my life wondering if every little girl I see is my daughter,” she later told her neighbor Bob, while enlisting him to help her solve the mystery by tracking down the Texas clan that gave birth to Juanita. Although most of us (hopefully!) haven’t been faced with a hospital baby-swap crisis, Gaby’s confusion and torment seemed to make sense. Of course she loves Juanita more than anything, but how haunting to have unknowingly given up her biological child, with absolutely no idea of the conditions that child is living in so many years later. Carlos’ point of view made sense, too, though, especially the anger he expressed after he found out what Gaby had set into motion. “What if they want Juanita back?!” he yelled at her. “They can take her back. They can do that now!” And then he added, with steely force: “If this ends badly, I will never forgive you. I mean it, Gabrielle—we’re done!”

The sad reality of the Solis’ crisis is that there’s simply no right or wrong answer to it—and a divorce at the end of whatever happens isn’t out of the stratosphere. This conundrum might just be one of the most profound storylines in Desperate Housewives history—there are real stakes here, not the least of which is the potential loss of Madison De La Garza’s priceless brattiness.

Across town, the stakes are silly—but high, as well—for Susan, who’s still secretly making extra cash by faux cleaning her apartment in a negligee while being filmed for a softcore porn website. What’s not high for her any longer, however, is her level of guilt, which seems to have plummeted to zero. Seriously, Susan’s having fun with this ridiculous situation! Especially after she discovered a little trick where she can rip off one layer of her sheer clothing by sucking it off her body with a vacuum cleaner. The stunt won her a bonus from Madame Maxine and the ire of fellow webcamstress Stacy, who initiated a catfight with Susan that fried the website’s router. (As if that’s possible. Wait, none of this really is.)

Mike is still in the dark about Susan’s deception, and the real mess of this situation will only be realized when he finds out. It goes without saying that Mr. Delfino doesn’t seem like the type of guy who’d readily share his wife with anyone, even if it’s harmlessly via webcam. In terms of the storyline, I’ve moved past my hatred of this implausible scenario to the point where I just want it to be over more than anything else. It can be compelling to see desperation manifest itself into man-eating catfights or the hiring of an attorney to track down your long-lost biological daughter. But bad housework-infused porn desperation by Teri Hatcher? We deserve better. She deserves better. Heck, the vacuum cleaner deserves better.

NEXT: Hey, Tom, are you cooking lasagna out behind the garage?

Lynette and Tom’s storyline didn’t pack much punch, either—instead, it packed a bunch of weed! (And the munchies.) Yup, Tom got prescribed medicinal marijuana to battle his postpartum depression. But Lynette really wasn’t into the idea of him being high around the kids, so she switched the weed with something directly off the spice rack. Tom, previously uninitiated to ganja, thought he was high until Carlos told him what he’d really been smoking. “Trust me, Cheech, this is oregano,” Carlos declared. “The only thing getting baked with that herb is lasagna.” Lynette felt vindicated by her switch, nothing that Tom didn’t need weed to solve his problem. “You thought you were getting stoned on a pizza topping,” she said. “It’s a little funny.” While a bit humorous—and maybe a tad topical, especially considering Fairview is in California, where medicinal marijuana is legal—I kept wondering how this storyline contributed to the overall development of this season of Desperate. Did it? I don’t really think so, unless there’s something more—and there certainly could be—to the continued, slow-simmering battle between Lynette and Tom.

Finally, we circle around to Paul and Beth, whose storyline actually managed to bring all the ladies together for one of their famous poker games. (These scenes are my favorite—when all the ladies share one room.) Bree, Susan, Gaby, Lynette, and Renee invited Beth to play with them solely to pump her for information. “Keep pouring the chardonnay,” Susan said midway through the card game, “she’s cracking like an egg!” But all we really got was a rehash of what we already knew—Beth seems to genuinely (and inexplicably)—love Paul. “In my heart, I always knew he was innocent,” she told the ladies, “and I was right.”

Later, after getting the scoop from Mrs. McCluskey, Beth figured out why the neighborhood is still leery of her husband—because they think he killed Felicia’s sister, Martha. But that revelation didn’t seem to faze her at all. “I feel in love with you before all that,” she told Paul, “so I’m always going to be on your side—remember that.” Rhetorical question of the evening: Is she deluded?

What’d you think of the episode, Housewives watchers? Are you loving the continued references to Susan’s awful jewelry line? (I am.) How long can Susan’s tragic storyline continue? Are you prepared for what’s to come if Gaby meets her biological daughter? And: When are Bob and Lee going to reconcile already?! Sound off in the comments below.

TV ADDICTS, STOP WHERE YOU ARE! Embedded below, listen to the second edition of EW.com’s TV Insiders podcast. Dalton Ross, Michael Slezak, Michael Ausiello, Tim Stack (EW’s resident Gleek), and yours truly break down the week in television—specifically Glee, Dancing With the Stars, and Survivor—and present it to you in an easily digestible audio format. Or click here to download TV Insiders to your MP3 player!

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