With the help of some blackmail from creepy Paul Young, Susan's so-so storyline finally begins to heat up

By Tanner Stransky
October 25, 2010 at 05:40 AM EDT
Danny Feld/ABC
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What does Paul Young have up his sleeve? That question finally became a little intriguing during last night’s episode of Desperate Housewives, which saw Wisteria Lane’s resident creep move toward buying his second home on the street. If you’ll remember, Paul recently bought the house he used to share with his dead wife (and the show’s narrator) Mary Alice. And he also made an unsuccessful play to buy Mrs. McCluskey’s abode. (Something tells me that offer will circle back around rather soon.) And now, Paul has his sights set on Susan and Mike’s place. Just how fun can Wisteria Lane be if a weirdo like Paul owns all the real estate?

At the top of the episode, you could see Paul’s nefarious plan for buying Susan and Mike’s house coming from a million miles away. When Mike flat-out rejected his casual, “above market” offer — despite the fact that Susan and Mike are already renting to Paul while they live in a less-than-lavish apartment across town — Paul vowed that there were other ways to make it happen. And that’s when you knew what he was going to do—blackmail Susan via her shady internet dabblings. (Indeed, Paul was the culprit who’d found Susan’s crumpled billboard advertisement last week.) So even though I knew that Susan’s “special client” was going to be Paul, I was still shocked to see his face pop up on her computer screen. “I think you know my name,” Paul freakily said, as is face pulled into view. Ick!

But back to the question at hand: What could Paul possibly want with several houses on Wisteria Lane? Does he want to burn them down? Use them as leverage? Move in a bunch of ex(onerated)-convicts like himself? Find a way to drive down property values and land the Wisteria ladies in the poor house? The whole thing seems like a rather weird scheme to me, but Mary Alice’s cryptic/illuminating voiceover promised a more personal method of attack: “He had a plan that would set neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend, and it was a plan that was going to succeed.” Okay then, I’m excited to see what’s next here. But it had best be good.

There is one other nice reverberation to Paul’s increasingly interesting storyline: It’s making Susan’s hum-drum one more interesting. Clearly, Susan needs all the financial help she can get now, after blowing that $9,000 last week to clean up the billboard mess. As the show’s title so aptly suggests, she’s a desperate woman—desperate enough, it seems, to negotiate with Paul about the house. “Susan, it seems like a lot of things are for sale—your body, your honor, your reputation,” Paul told Susan via their internet chat. “The house would seem to be the smallest of those things.” And having something more at stake than her position as Scantily-Clad Feather Duster of the Month means Susan now a purpose beyond slipping on a negligee and mugging for the camera. Watching her pour her heart out to Lynette, and later recoil in terror while grappling with Paul, made Susan’s scenes worthy of our attention. And even if we’re not 100 percent sure this will be a foolproof story arc, it beats half-naked floor-scrubbing, right?

NEXT: Bree’s hilarious fear of cucumbers and Lynette’s toxic encounter with her mother-in-law.

Also being worn down on Wisteria Lane? Bree. Well, in a sexual way, at least, as her budding romance with Keith kicked off in the most pleasurable away—with lots of passionate lovemaking! So much, in fact, that Bree could barely walk at one moment during the episode. The whole storyline saw Marcia Cross serve up some of her most gut-busting acting so far this season. I loved when she limped out to her sitting room and offered her houseguests crudités—carrots, celery, and cucumbers—that hadn’t even been chopped because she was too tired. “Please get that away from me!” she yelped, as Lynette casually picked up a cucumber. Get it? If not, I simply can’t explain. Not on a family Web site, anyway.

A bit later, too, I was dying as she went to answer the door, again limping. “I better figure out a way to slow him down,” Bree announced of Keith and his sex drive, “before this John Wayne walk becomes permanent.” The pair did eventually work it out, of course: Keith had just been so aggressively virile because he thought that was the only thing he could do to keep the museum-and-play-loving Bree interested in him. Sort of sweet—and sort of totally hot, too. I doubt this relationship has much long-term potential, but it’s amusing for the time being. And I’m happy to report that Brian Austin Green’s fabulous abs made a reappearance this week and are still piquing my interest, as well.

In an oddity for Desperate Housewives, Lynette had the most yawn-inducing storyline of the night. Last week, she’d told Tom she needed a nanny to help with the new baby, and Tom brought in his overbearing mother, Allison. As per usual, Lynette proved only one woman in the Scavo residence can wear the Woman of the House crown: Lynette immediately locked horns with the seemingly sweet (and totally dotty) old lady, as she waited hand and foot on Tom and her three sons. “In this house,” Lynette told Allison sharply, “the women don’t wait on the men—the men get off their asses and help themselves!” But Wisteria Lane’s resident overworked mother took it one step too far after Allison told her that she’d always waited hand and foot on her husband. “Yeah, and how did that work out for you?” Lynette jabbed. “He had an affair and left.” Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Natch, the pair eventually made up, with Allison explaining her dote-on-everyone motive: “It just felt so nice to feel useful again.” So she’ll be sticking around for the time being, but there’s something else brewing here—and unfortunately, it looks like Alzheimer’s or dementia because the end of the episode found Allison asking her granddaughter Penny, “I’m so sorry—what’s your name again? And do you live here?” At this point the memory loss seems harmless, but with Allison taking care of the new baby while Lynette goes back to work, this obviously could have huge repercussions. Despite the sadness of what could be coming for the Scavos, what’s the bonus of having Allison around for longer? Lois Smith, the actress who plays her. She’s a gem—scary and sweet, and convincing as the day is long. She seems suited for a Stephen King movie. You get this feeling that, as lovely and motherly as she is, you wouldn’t want to cross her. But that’s basically the description for nearly any female casting call on Desperate Housewives, right?

NEXT: Renee: “I haven’t touched a carb since 1985, but thank you.”

The final storyline of last night was the battle between Renee and Gaby. Last week, after Renee finished her feud with Bree, I had called on the show to pair the newest Housewife with some of the other ladies on the show—who would she go after next? This week it was Gaby’s turn. The two battled it out, each revealing sensitive secrets (which had spilled during a champagne-fueled evening) about each other in moments of desperation. Renee revealed that Gaby had a nose job; Gaby revealed that Renee had slept with her husband’s divorce lawyer (while the latter woman was trying to reconcile with her hubby). The whole tussle culminated in a knockdown, drag-out fight (complete with hair-pulling, punch-throwing, and glamorously tousled hair).

While I always enjoy a good TV cat fight, the one disappointing part of the Gaby-Renee smackdown was that it ended exactly as the battle between Renee and Bree did—with Renee and Gaby happily becoming brand-new BFFs, practically skipping down Wisteria Lane together, hand in hand. “You’re a real friend,” Renee said to Gaby, “and I’ll take that over a sapphire ring any day.” Renee said nearly those exact same words to Bree while making up after fighting over Keith. Can’t a quarrel between a pair of Wisteria Lane divas last longer than one or two episodes anymore? I want a vendetta, a long-simmer mess. Alas, the Gaby-Renee pairing offered hilarious interactions between two of my favorite actresses on the show. I especially loved this particularly narcissistic conversation during their champagne-filled evening:

Renee: “I feel like you get me, Gaby. And you know why? Because we’re both extremely beautiful.”

Gaby: “God bless you for having the courage to say that.”

Renee: “Only someone who looks like us can understand what a burden it can be.”

Gaby: “Actually, it’s pretty awesome!”

I mean, who really has conversations like that? Genius! I also couldn’t get over this line from Renee, as she accepted apology chocolates from Gaby: “I haven’t touched a carb since 1985, but thank you.” No one—and I really mean no other diva on this planet—can deliver a bitchy line quite like that. Wisteria Lane is a better place because of Vanessa Williams.

On a final note, the one odd part of the Renee-Gaby storyline was the fact that much of it played out at that weird cabaret club featuring the never-heard-of-her-before Fairview resident Emma Graham. I suppose the storytelling device worked — using the fight at the club to open the episode, then go back a week, and finally circle back around to the club at the end — but, really, why? We didn’t even get to know Emma Graham—and it ended up all just feeling so random. Was anyone else left wondering if Marc Cherry & Co. were under some kind of unexplained pressure to feature singer-songwriter Dana Glover, who played Emma Graham? Or if maybe he owed her a massive favor? I will say that she had a lovely voice and a nice stage presence while singing, but bringing her to the forefront of the episode was beyond bizarre.

Overall, despite some criticisms above, last night’s hour on Wisteria Lane was pleasurable: one improved storyline from Susan, lots of intrigue from Paul’s burgeoning real estate transactions, sexy stuff for Bree, an annoying mother-in-law for Lynette, and a bar brawl between the delightful Gaby and Renee? It was a good Sunday night in Fairview.

Do you agree? Do you feel like Susan’s until-now ho-hum storyline is becoming sexier? What the hell do you think Paul is up to with his house-buying spree? And where did he get that money? And who is Renee going to pick on next? Sound off in the comments!

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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