Sunday, November 23, 2014

CarterTown:- Bully Pulpit and Daddy Issues - Review:- 21.11.2014

Kellie Bright owned this episode, but on the downside ... it was predictable, and totally the sort of episode that can be attributed to Dominic Treadwell-Collins. 

There are seven shades of grey and seven shades of sensationalism. This is the subtler form

CarterTown: A Little Twitch. Well, well, hell's bells. So all isn't what it seems with Lee ... oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive ... As Nancy aptly surmised, Lee snowed Linda with a tale about his "red mist" of a temper being acquired in the military with all his combat experience ... yadda yadda. (Wherever did that "red mist" myth come to describe any troubled veteran of a military venture? I'm sure Grant used to use the same term).

But Nancy knows Lee's temper goes way back ... way back to childhood, when he left a scar on Nancy's arm in a fit of pique. And then, it's all forgotten, and they traipse off merrily to Johnny's Student Union, where Lee will treat them all to drinks.

CarterTown: Daddy's Home. The best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray. Andrew "Buster" Briggs is who we thought he was and more, and Mick and Dean are full brothers. However, once again, the Carter backstory is all over the place. Buster/Andy was reminiscing about Carly's christening, and remembered that Tina was very young then ... duhhhhh. No. Perhaps he meant, or perhaps Daisy Coulam meant Jimbo, who would only be four years younger than Mick.

Dean is 26, and Carly is three years older, which means Dean was born in 1988 and Carly in 1985. If she were christened before she was a year old, then Mick would have been nine, and the really young, bike-obsessed Tina would have been eleven. (And what an awful cliché in that dialogue):-

Buster: Are you two togevvah? I've known all along. Even when you was very young, at Carly's christening. All you was interested in was mah bike.

Yep, that's a sure-fire way to identify your daughter as a lesbian, by her interest in motorbikes. Shirley rides one. What does that make her? And Ronnie? And Lisa Shaw? They all, at one time, had an interest in motorbikes, but no, Buster/Andy, who rapidly lost his charm tonight, knew instantly that Tina, at aged eleven, was a lesbian.

Almost immediately from the beginning, it was established that Buster was Dean's father.

Buster to Shirley: Is it true?
Shirley: He's twenty-six. Do the maths.

Dean is shocked for all of five minutes, and demands to know from Shirley how she could do this to Kevin, who - at this point - is still "Dad." Shirley's explanation is shallow, crass and stupid.

Once you fall for someone, that's it.

No, Shirley, that's not it. You married Kevin. You had a child with him. He knew this man, who was present at your daughter's christening - your daughter who was fathered by someone other than your husband, but whom he loved as his own.

Since Buster's spent a lifetime in and out of prison, it goes without saying that, Shirley's explanation to Phil about "Andy" going away meant that Buster had gone inside, which is why she probably couldn't go bin Kevin and go with him when he left her up the duff with Dean. So all this shit about Shirley loving Kevin, all that wail of woe at his death about her loving Kevin first and loving him best (well, better than Denise in her view) was a tissue of lies, or - more succinctly -shit.

Just like, after the inadequate, shoulder-shrugging explanation to Dean about why she cheated on Kevin - and just why did she cheat on Kevin with whoever Carly's father was? Did she fall for him as well? - Buster shows up, they go to the cafe, and one of the worst scenes in EastEnders' history occurs. 

I know Dean craves love from Shirley, but Dean loved and adored Kevin. I expected much more from him, something like him telling Buster/Andy to get stuffed, that Dean Wicks was his father and would always ever be. Instead, we got all this faux similarity bullshit - Buster's a smoker trying to quit, Dean's a smoker trying to quit; Buster's been inside and is currently serving a sentence for money-laundering; Dean's been inside, and served time for ... what?

Assault? Did he say a-fecking-ssault? Was he lying or did Coulam conveniently forget that Dean went to prison for perverting the course of justice. And how ironic to know that Dean, a rapist, is the son of a serial criminal - at best, a petty thief; and someone whose fecklessness makes Tina look like the only adult in the room, which in this surreal episode of Happy Families, Tina turned out to be just that.

Buster's on 24-hour release from prison, but - hey! It's not every day you become a dad, especially if some poor bloke you knew as a friend has raised your rapist son - so let's squelch prison - after all, there are too many prisoners in prison for them to ever miss Buster, and let's go off fishing at Camber Sands. All this done with Shirley sitting by his side and smiling dreamily at him, plus the ubiquitous encounter with Phil, whom Shirley couldn't even face.

Classy, Shirley, wishing she'd shot Phil dead. Phil needs to see how lucky he was choosing Sharon over Shirley, and face-to-face with Buster, I can understand why Shirley encouraged Phil to break the law and play the gangsta when they were together - fencing stolen goods, turning a blind eye to drugs being pushed at the R and R. Shirley was turning Phil's physical resemblance to Buster into reality. Now she has Buster back, she thinks she has the real deal. Oh, and the other surreal thing about this whole escapade was that Dean was ready to drop his business and his relationship with Stacey just to go off wandering around with a wanted felon and Shirley - "I'll call you when I'm settled" Carter.

I'll call you when I'm settled? Shirley, you're with a man who's on the run from the police. You'll never settle, and - as Mick said - you'll do time for aiding and abetting a felon. One can live in hope. I must admit, however, Mick's shopping Buster was a turn-up for the book, and we were all supposed to gasp with surprise when the police addressed him as Andrew Briggs, but did we? 

DTC is so predictable in certain things, that people anticipate his so-called surprise revelations weeks before they transpire. Most people knew Karl Howman could only be one of two characters when it was announced that his character would have a link to the Square and upset a family dynamic. There was a longshot that he could be Terry Cant, Sonia's father, but the longer TPTB insultedteased our intelligence by not releasing his name, we knew he was Andy, Mick's father. Even "Buster Briggs" didn't fool anyone, and most people sussed that he would turn out to be Dean's father too, just to make the rape reveal more complicated (and sensationalist).

We got the usual "oh-I'm-leaving" spiel from Shirley, and Stan repeating for emphasis the fact that he was dying ...

If I wasn't already dying, I'd starve to death in this house.

It's hungry work, dying ...

What will you lot be like when I'm on me deathbed.

It's like the audience has to be spoonfed over and over at five-minute intervals the fact that Stan is dying. Is there really a tranche of viewer with such a short attention span as to need constant reinforcement like that? I have known dying people, but I've never known a dying person to go on and on and on and on about dying in such an egocentric way, which clearly caused distress to Tina. And all the while, Shirley is intent only on running away from facing her father's death because she's found "the love of her life."

Shirley lied to Phil. If Buster/Andy is the love of her life, then she loved Andy, used Kevin and obsessed over Phil and tried to make him Andy. In the end, however, with Phil, it didn't work, because Phil isn't entirely without morals, and returned to Sharon, who is the love of his life. Buster/Andy is a man totally without morals or even loyalty. He says he has no more children, but as he's dishonest, we know that at the drop of a hat, some kid will appear on the horizon, as and when. 

Dippy Dean may like his new Daddy as it will bring Mummy-Wums back into his sphere, but Mick certainly doesn't like him at all, and I don't think the firstborn Buster/Andy sussed he had in the duff-duff tonight is going to bond so quickly to Daddy Dearest.

I was totally Team Mick in that instance.

I don't think this guy loves Shirley. He loves the convenience of Shirley, which means he'll love her and get turfed out by the Mitchells or bin her when it's convenient for him, if he doesn't go back to prison first. This will all end in tears.

The irony of Mick grassing Buster, whilst Linda was encouraging Shirley to leave and take Dean didn't go amiss. Shirley got the chance to say some vile things to Linda, only to be hugged by her for moving the rapist from within her sphere. My guess is that Andy returns at Christmas to reveal his identity to Mick, but when will it be known that Dean is Linda's rapist? And will the doe-eyed, fragrant Shirley believe him?

CarterTown: L. Arguably the best part about tonight's episodes were the scenes between Danny Dyer and Kellie Bright. Secrets and lies, the whole thing. Is this something new?

Let me tell you a story. Years ago, when I were a young lass in America, there was (and still is) a daytime soap called Days of Our Lives. Before it got weird, it had this storyline way back in the late 1960s. See if it sounds familiar.

Bill and Mickey Horton were brothers, except this is America, and Bill is a doctor and Mickey is a lawyer. Bill loves pretty Laura, who's also a doctor, but she's in love with and marries Bill's brother Mickey. Mickey gets mumps, which can render a man sterile in some cases. But right after he's recovered, Bill can't help himself and rapes Laura. She gets pregnant, and decides to raise the child as Mickey's.

So ... you see, this storyline is as old as Croesus.

Mick's total and utter disbelief that Linda would not only abort a baby, his baby, but lie about the pregnancy and do that in secret cut him to the core. I can understand where he was coming from, and I can understand, in normal circumstances, why doing that, on Linda's part, would be wrong; but I also understand that Linda hasn't yet told Mick about her rape and the fact that she's unsure of the paternity of this child. I can understand why she's scared, but Mick played the bully to the worst degree - shunning her and psychologically shaming her, making her feel even worse than she felt already about what she'd decided. Trust me, NO woman wants to have an abortion, whatever the reason.

I could understand Mick's shock at Linda's lies and secrets, but really, this is the man who was lying and keeping secrets from her when he was coverinf for Ian a few months back. One is as bad as the other. Avoiding eye contact with her, pulling away from her touch, making her generally feel that she is the guilty party in all of this (without knowing what had happened) was bad enough, but screaming at her, just inches from her face was the worst part of bullying.

Mick even had the insouciance to ask Linda, after she'd decided to have the baby, thinking that Dean would be leaving the area, if she had thought he was bullying her into this? Well, yes, Mick, I think she did. Linda was distraught at Mick's discovery of her abortion. When Dean expressed doubts about leaving his business to go off on the run from the police with Shirley and his new dad, Linda picked up the ball and ran with it.

The kids can look after the salon. Or I can.

WTF? Who writes this stuff? I know Linda's desperate, but what about ~ Can't Stacey look after the salon? Or Lola?~

Seriously, Linda can just about fix her own hair with 1970s curlers, Johnny's at uni, Lee would scare he clientele off, and Nancy doesn't give a monkey's how she looks, so that's a business lost right there. But maybe the writer was having an off moment.

With Dean gone, Linda had the moment and the weapons she needed to get Mick back onside. She wants to have the baby. With Dean away, she can play her favourite game of make-believe once again and pretend that the baby is definitely Mick's. If she never sees Dean again, she can almost be sure of it. But when Dean shops Buster, and it's obvious now that Shirley and Son are staying, she's now caught in a trap. Even if the rape is revealed, it's Linda's word against Dean's.

I used to think this baby might just be Mick's. Now I'm not so sure. And since Stacey is going to know about the rape, and next year is going to be Stacey Year, after the Anniversary and all ... I see a stick in the mud of Walford.

CarterTown:- Here, There and Everywhere - Review:- 20.11.2014

This could apply to Buster and Shirley ... but then it might also apply to the Carters.

I gave this episode a 7, for the little things, which managed to get squidgeoned into all things Carter. The only storyline in which this family isn't invested, thus far, is the Cotton storyline, but even so, Shirley played Rottweiler at Dot's door when word was first received that Nick had "died," and she was present when Shirley contacted Yvonne, so even there, there has been Carter involvement.

Tonight there was a hint that the Carters may be involved in the Lucy puzzle (or else they may be a red herring) and we got a hint of something we all knew - that Johnny is going to depart. 

We got a hint of something else, also - arguably the worst-kept secret in soap history; but then, the Carters are so heavily touted that all their secrets and surprises become positively mundane, guessable and eminently predictable when revealed in whatever manner - in short, pedestrian.

The easiest way for me to précis this episode is to divide it up by Carters - and their knew satellite. A major family having its very own satellites. Whoda thunk that? Hasn't that happened before? (Pssst! BranningVille).

CarterTown I: Stan and the Court Jester. The always watchable Timothy West achieves the unthinkable - Stan's serious illness does what things like this sometimes do: it's forced that deplorable childwoman Tina the Court Jester to grow up. Yes, that's right, Tina. Life isn't all about you, your fecklessness, your dishonesty and your utter immaturity. You're now facing something most people do have to face - the death of your elderly parent.

I know Tina's been the closest to Stan and the only one of his progeny who hasn't turned against him. She may not love her daughter, but she does love her dad. She does what every one of us has done when faced with a parent diagnosed with terminal cancer - you try to keep them with you that much longer. If that means snatching away their cigarettes, you do. Stop them from eating greasy food, do that too. And force an appointment with their oncologist, so you can hear the actual prognosis and the heartbreaking confirmation from the patient, your parent, that they want no further treatment, that they've accepted their fate and are ready to meet their end.

Even then, you can't accept the inevitable, and so you clutch at straws, offering any and all answers to treatment. Tina and Tosh have serious relationship issues, and if anything good came from this episode tonight, it has to be that for probably the first time, I came close to liking Tina - because her situation with Stan resonated with my own experience with my mother back in the 1980s. Tina was so desperate to buy more time with Stan that she was offering any kind of financial help - money from Mick (without asking Mick) and, more importantly, the money she and Tosh had saved for the baby. For once, Tosh was shown to be self-serving and selfish, and, for me, this may have been a minor moment, but it was a defining moment in the Tosh-Tina dynamic.

Tosh has a bad relationship with her parents, yet she appears to have inherited the more controlling, uptight aspects her mother exhibited; and she's jealous that Tina has a positive relationship with her relatives. Neither woman should be a parent, but at least Tina recognises that she was never cut out to be a parent. 

Tina is selfless enough to offer their savings in a last-ditch attempt to buy her more time with her dying father, but Tosh is so wrapped up in her obsession to have a baby. Were this Tosh's mother or father, she'd probably withold any sort of financial help for medical treatment even if more time meant some sort of emotional rapprochement with her parents. Tosh wants what she wants. For Tosh.

Not CarterTown: Cora and the Air Pollutant. The beautiful - yes, beautiful - Ann Mitchell continues to prove that less is more. Minimal scenes, minimal dialogue, but she stands head and shoulders above anyone else in the cast in conveying emotion through her facial expressions and eyes. She isn't being cruel to Stan, she's simply holding herself away from the situation, guarding her emotions with that hardcore shield that's as fragile as eggshells, holding at bay the memory of losing the man she loved to the same disease which is killing Stan.

The only downside to this beautiful performance is the presence of Dexter stinking up the screen. Johnny leaves, and we are left with this offensive racial stereotype. Whoever wrote this scrote should offer the sincerest apology publically to the Afro-Caribbean community for lumbering their representation with Dexter.

Worst line of the night:- 

I'm 'ere to spend some time wiv mah best girl.

Ugh! Puh-LEEEEZE! Viewers, check your shoes - no, check your legs up to your knees, please, just to be sure they're not covered in bullshit.

CarterTown: Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye. Sweet Johnny is ... well, sweet, coming around to check on a battered Ben. (Ian could introduce a new sausage under that name at the chippie. Then Ben, like Johnny, would be a sausage too).

Ben's passed muster with Phil, by telling Phil that he'd got into a fight with Lee Carter, but had given as good as he got. (Liar, liar, pants on fire). Still, it got him kudos from Phil, but Johnny's there to check on Ben and to reassure him that - hey, it's ok to come out. Little does Sweet Johnny know that Ben's already come out; now he's trying to go back inside the closet. Whilst coming out to Mick might have been the best thing Johnny's ever done, coming out again to Phil might not be as nice; besides, Ben's got a girlfriend now, Abi, and he's taking her up West to see nothing less thanWicked.

You might say this is Ben's Defying Gravity moment ...

But what goes up, must come down.

At the end of all of this, meeting up with Lee at the Minute Mart, Johnny receives a text from Luca, and I imagine this will be the beginning of the end in Walford for Sweet Johnny. For the moment, at least.

CarterTown: Linda, Lee and Little Secrets. The entire aura of this episode was bathed in what was an awkward cross between a warm familial comedy-drama crossed with a poor attempt at gritty kitchen sink drama. Linda's told a little porky to absent Mick about where she'll be all day - up West getting his Christmas present (and there's irony in this, dontcha know?). We all know where Linda's bound - the the termination clinic, but not after she finds out from Nancy about Lee's horrific fight with Ben Mitchell. Nancy tells her that Lee frightened her - as if anything can frighten Nancy. Apparently, Lee got a funny look im his little porcine eyes and almost swung for Nancy. 

The park scene between Nancy and Lee was quite effective, if only that it set up the definite possibility that Lee - were he so inclined - could definitely be Lucy's killer, especially the way he related the story about his time boxing in the army when he used the occasion to react overtly to a squaddie who'd been bantering adversely with him. It took four people to get him to stop punching out the other guy.

(Question: Please answer this - Is Lee still an active soldier? He intimated in an earlier episode that he was, and that the army was behind sending him on this skills course for plumbing. If that's so, why isn't he assigned to barracks? There are certainly barracks in London. Lee was a mines specialist - the Royal Artillery has a barracks in Romford, not a million miles away. The Signals Corp is in Bexleyheath. Apart from attending his course, which he rarely seems to do, he would have barracks duties as well.)

Linda thinks he gets his temper from his father, but Lee isn't sure. I'd say Linda's almost right on that one - considering the force with which Shirley's tried to kill various people, including Mick, Lee may have inherited some strain of mental illness from his grandmother/aunt. There was one eye-popping moment when Linda suggested Lee get counselling, something that simply isn't done in Walford, but as quickly as that moment came, it went. After all, Lee has Linda, Mick and Whitney, the girlfriend he never sees, to support him.

Because of all of this, Linda misses her termination appointment and is interrupted back at home by Mick, trying to re-schedule. There follows the ubiquitous "horny Mick" scene, thinking at first that Linda's cryptic phonecall had something to do with his Christmas surprise (ever the eternal child, as in all things Carter). Then there followed something which struck home with me about an item in the news just yesterday - 

First, Mick not-so-subtly suggests that Linda give him a foretaste of his Christmas surprise, in the form of a bit of Afternoon Delight - in other words, nookie. Is there no time when Mick doesn't think of nookie? He wants it morning, noon and night - hence, why Linda is in doubt about the paternity of the child in question. As she left the room to see about Stan's (bun in the) oven chips, Mick sneaks a look at her phone, and that was the moment that reminded me of the current news item - the travel ban to Britain of the misogynist Julien Blanc. Mick certainly isn't a misogynist, but he does have a passive-aggressive streak, and one of Blanc's suggestions about how a man should "control" a woman is to make sure he surreptitiously checks her phone for last calls received or made and texts. Of course, in this instance Dean is trying to find out whom Linda rang about his Christmas surprise and finds it's a clinic.

Well, now ... there are a couple of Christmas surprises with which Linda could lumber Mick - she could tell him she was raped, or she can tell him that she's pregnant ... or she can tell him that she's pregnant, that she was raped and that she was getting an abortion because she didn't know whose baby she was carrying, his or the rapist's. One wonders what gift she'll give.

CarterTown: Shirl on a Motorcycle.

They say the translation of this French title wasn't Girl on a Motorcycle, but rather, Naked under Leather. Now just picture Shirl and Buster/Andy.

This was another contrivance ... Mick and Dean hijacking the crusty old caravan thinking Shirley was inside, only to find they'd ferried an angry Buster/Andy back to Walford.

This set the scene for one of the worst-kept secrets and identities ever to be kept on the programme, it set the stage for Shirley's dramatic return to Walford, and it set the scene for Shirley to confront a sick and tired Stan. Of course, in the last, Linda Henry pulled a blinder, but I have no sympathy for Shirley. The dialogue with Stan was predictable. 

Stan:- You're here then.
Shirley:- Just a flying visit. How long ya got?
Stan:- Well ... let's just make it a good Christmas. Won't you stay?
Shirley (wiping a tear):- I c-a-a-n't.

When we all know that she can and she will. She's the designated central character. If there were any doubt about that, it was reinforced by that ueber-dramatic entrance - the asexual figure in black riding the motorbike - is there nothing Shirley cannot do? Midwife a dog, after Googling the procedure, get the man she shot and his wife to lie through their teeth for her, ride a motorbike ... and how many times did we have to hear Mick say to Buster/Andy that ~ we all want Shirl here, we need her ~. Really, Mick?

One wonders at whom this storyline in particular was aimed. As the clues about Lucy's murderer have been few and oblique, Buster/Andy may as well have entered the Vic with a yellow Post-It on his bald head proclaiming I Am the Daddy of Mick and Dean (and Maybe Carly), it was that obvious.

If Mick is thick as pigshit about the identity of this Phil clone (not only does he look like Phil, he sounds like him - easy to see why Shirley converted herself into Phil's doormat), Dean has his number right away. 

Alarm Bell One: Buster/Andy (and right away, Nancy surmises that Buster is a dog's name) says he's a friend of Shirley's. Dean rightly replies that Shirley has no mates.

Alarm Bell Two: Dean asks Buster/Andy how long he's known Shirley, and Buster disarmingly replies that he's known her for about 40 years, meaning since she was twelve. (No reaction from Mick, but plenty of suspicion from Dean).

Alarm Bell Three: Dean asks Buster/Andy if he knew Dean's father, Kevin Wicks. Buster/Andy does and says Kevin was a good man. (Well, he would say that about a man whom he'd compromised).

Alarm Bell Four: Dean asks Buster/Andy when the last time he saw Kevin, and Buster/Andy walks away. Dean persists and Buster/Andy admits it was at Carly's christening. (What? Could Buster/Andy be Carly's father as well?)

Alarm Bell Five: Stan, Tina and Babe arrive and see Buster/Andy, all of whom recognise him. There's then Stan's reaction to him and Buster/Andy's cryptic protest that he and Shirley were just kids. 

Alarm Bell Six: Shirley's admonition to Nancy to keep Mick and Dean away from Buster/Andy.

Alarm Bell Seven: Shirley shits herself when she finds out Dean's been talking to Buster/Andy.

The duff-duff sees Dean accusing Shirley of refusing to introduce him to his father. OK, Buster could be Andy, but I thought Shirley told Phil that Andy had "gone away," although we know that Shirley is more than economical with the truth. It could be, and it probably is, that Buster is Andy and he's the father of Mick and also Dean and maybe Carly, that he and Shirley maintained a Frank-and-Pat situation, meeting and coupling from time to time. Maybe, like Frank, Buster, who may be Andy, was married and couldn't run away with Shirl - because I think if Buster, who may be Andy, were free, Shirl wouldn't have hesitated to dump Kevin and run away with him.

Or maybe Buster isn't Andy, but Buster and the father of Dean and not Mick.

He's one of the above, and all the secrets in all the world couldn't have pointed more firmly to the man who looks and sounds like Phil and who had a connection in the Square being none other than the first and most important Carter satellite to arrive on the scene. We all guessed who he was. The question now is, how many people will he bring with him as a new branch of the Carter associates? Because I'm certain Buster or Andy or whoever he is, has children. Someplace. Somewhere.

This mystery is at the other end of the Lucy scale.

CarterTown - TrailerHood:- Review:- 18.11.2014

This has to be The Shirley Episode, but before any of the shippers start the fusillades hurling my way, read what I have to say about her and about the episode.

I like the Carters. I appreciate they are DTC's creation, and that, as the Vic family, they will get their fair share of attention, but ... please! We would all do well to remember what happens when there is excessive over-use of one family to the detriment of others. We even had two remnants of the last dominating family skulking about in the episode tonight - plus, their most repulsive satellite. It's all too easy for familiarity to breed contempt, and whilst many are full of praise and can't get enough of the Carters this year, I wonder if we'll be so kind if we get a year of saturation for the majority of 2015? 

The family is having everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them during Christmas and New Year; there's every possibility that Lee may even be Lucy's killer, and then there's the birth of Linda's baby and its paternity being discovered in the spring. What else is on tap? Or more succinctly, what else might there be on tap to the detriment of other characters?

Like the England-Scotland game, being broadcast this evening on two television channels, this was an episode of two halves - one was meant to re-introduce DTC's nominated muse and arguably the most marmite character ever to be foisted upon a viewing public, the other was a mishmash of subtle suspect introduction, mixed with what very well may be the beginning of a leaving line for one of the first, if not the first Carter to leave. As well as giving NuNuBen a shirtless scene.

EastEnders is a soap filled with imagery centering on the shirtless male.

The Carters' Toby Keith Moment.

The object of tonight's quest was to find Shirley and bring her home. Before we got more of the measure of Shirley, after nigh-on a year of DTC's trying to make her a sympathetic character, we got the measure of Babe - or at least, Stan did. But then, Stan has always known what Babe was like. 

Tell me, is Walford known as Psychopath City? Because that's exactly what Babe is. The damned place is rife with them at the moment. Babe's obsession is family - Stan's family, and her aim is controlling various elements of it to the extent that they see her as the ultimate care-giver. Because of Babe, primarily because of her trash-talking Stan, most of his children have spent the better part of their lives believing him to be one shade short of the devil. 

Stan, himself, admits he's not been a good father or even a good man. As he remarked to Cora tonight, he's smoked and drunk enough for two lives, and he's had his share of women. Mick now realises and rues the years he's spent hating Stan, and for what? As long as Stan was demonised and Shirley was with Kevin, Babe had the responsibility of raising Mick and the Court Jester, having them look to her as their source of love and comfort.

Sylvie abandoned her family, but what do we know about that? We have had it, less than subtly, implied that Sylvie's pent up at Babe's flat; she's the shadowy figure who gets "confused" in the evenings, and with whom Babe shares the odd drink. She's like a cross between Baby Jane and Miss Faversham and Mr Rochester's mad wife in the attic (and I don't mean the other Shirley's last cat). But maybe Babe manipulated Sylvie away from the family - didn't Stan remark once that Sylvie always came and went? And finally, there was Shirley's pathetic remark to Babe about not being able to take care of Jimbo because Babe - Babe wasn't there to pick up the pieces.

Stan gave us the measure of Babe tonight, describing her as purely rotten on the inside, a peripheral old auntie determined not to be sidelined in the general scheme of familial ephemera, but right at its heart and centre, calling the shots, dispensing comfort, wielding justice, the matriarch who shouldn't be - which is exactly why she sent Shirley off, fleeing on a lie.

And how clever Dominic Treadwell-Collins is trying to be - when faced with evil Aunt Babe and SuperShirl returning for Stan's last blessing, when Shirley's been deemed the lifeblood of the Carter family ... (Come back, Shirl. Dean needs ya. We all need ya.) ... then the EP has designated not only the Carters as the first family of Walford, by dint of owning the Vic, he's indicated that we should accept Shirley as the Walford matriarch - and not only that. 

Time was, the central male figure at the heart of EastEnders, was the flawed Alpha Male - usually the landlord of the Vic. Den Watts, the dodgy wannabe hard man, who looked out for his community; Frank Butcher, who spread himself too thin financially across the community and then abandoned his family; Eddie Royle, the loner ex-cop, who didn't fit in; the Mitchell brothers, with their history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence; Alfie Moon, during his first stint, compassionate and yet edgy.

In these times of economic hardship for many, DTC has given us the ultimate BOGOF (buy-one-get-one-free) or even Two for the Price of One, because it was evident from this episode that Shirley is supposed to be the matriarch as well as the flawed Alpha she-male.

You knew Dean would go - as sure as eggs are eggs. Dean loves his mother, and to give her credit, Linda Henry played a blinder. She is a good actress, who can turn on the tear; but I can't invest any sympathy in Shirley, because all this pathos is based on a well of self-pity.

I understand that the caravan - hang on, that was a car caravan, not even a proper anchored caravan (commonly known as a motor home, where I come, or rather, a trailer - as in trailer park) - has traumatic, yet poignant memories for Shirley, and I'm certain Mick found it just a tad suspicious, Shirley's relation of how he was born in the caravan and how she happened to be there too, especially with that cry ~They wouldn't even let me hold you~ of just who gave birth to him. I felt immensely sorry for Dean, yet again. The most Shirley could say to him was that she couldn't take him with her when she left, and even when Mick told her Phil was fine, and that both he and Sharon had covered for her story, she still offered no comfort for Dean, not even any hope.

I'm surprised a caravan that age is even together in one piece. I thought it was Babe's caravan, but during the course of the episode Babe described it as her(meaning Shirley's) caravan. According to Dean, it was the Carter family's caravan. Who cares? It's still a miracle it's in one piece. Of course, Shirley's upset that Stan is ill, but I would imagine that the reason she's clinging to not coming home is that yet another secret has emerged from the woodwork, to compliment the secret about her being Mick's mother. 

She's shacked up with Buster Briggs, AKA Andy, who - more than likely - fathered Dean as well as Mick, and probably Carly too. How to write Kevin neatly out of the equation, with even a parting shot of him as a reminiscence of Mick's when Shirley was still with Kevin and she, their three children, Kevin and assorted Carters had a day out at the beach when Dean was still a baby. Why else would she describe Dean and Mick to the - as yet - unidentified person as "just friends who won't be coming back?"

Do TPTB think we are really that thick that they not only have to spoonfeed us, but have to lay it on with a trowel?

Classy shot, with sound effects, of Mick pissing. That goes one better than Heather letting a fart on Christmas Day 2007.

Speaking of Heather ...

Rambo and Not-So-Gentle Ben. I'm pretty sure the latest edition of the Walford BratPack was meant (1) to establish Lee, possibly, as a suspect in Lucy's killing or (2) to begin the end of Johnny's life on the Square (that's not saying that he's going to die, it's saying that he's going to leave), or maybe both, but it stank, from beginning to end.

First of all, I've never seen Lee socialise with any of the people invited to his birthday do; secondly, the Carter siblings' grief over Stan's announcement wasn't believeable at all, and I'm not sure that's down to bad acting or the fact that, less than a year ago, two out of three of them had very little to do with the old man or anything of which to approve. If Danny-Boy Hatchard, who's totally disappointed me as an actor since his return, were a stronger actor, I could believe Lee's emotions. After all, he made contact with his grandfather, and during his first stint, at Easter, Stan understood more about him than his parents did; but absolutely everything about this vignette was weak and contrived. It may well have been a high school play.

Thirdly, doesn't Lee have any Army mates? Please, don't say his mates are far away, because Lee is still on active duty. As such, he should be assigned to a barracks. Plenty of them in and about the London area, and he could see his family on a regular basis. As active army, besides his trades' course, he'd have duties to perform in and around the barracks. After all, as an active soldier, the armyis his daytime job, not the Vic. Yet all we've seen him do is help out in the Vic and attend the odd plumbing course. I thought this was the British Army, not the Ava Army.

Therefore, being assigned to a barracks, Lee would most certainly have army mates; and even if these were a way aways, soldiers are a band of brothers, and at least one of them would attempt to visit for a birthday drink. Hell, even Gary Windass in Corrie has army buddies. But, no ... we've got Lee the Ava soldier with no mates at all, and his brother Johnny, the Ava uni student with no mates at all from uni. And there they all were, tonight, partying with none other than Ava's son, Dex-TAAAA (still there and still hated by the viewers), who works at the Ava Arches and isn't particularly liked by Lee and who proves that Nancy's taste is in her mouth (bad pun intended).

Lee hates Dexter. I've never seen him interact with Fatboy or Tamwar or even Lauren at her silliest; and then there was Abi and NuNuBen crashing the party - Abi, another person who's never said a word to Lee Carter, or even Nancy, bringing NuNuBen. Lee objects strongly to Ben's presence because, Lee says, Ben's a murderer who killed Auntie Shirl's best mate. (Once again, this time last year, he barely remembered Auntie Shirl, who's really his nan, and he never knew the best mate whom Auntie Shirl, on occasion, treated like shit).

Is it I or methinks Lee doth protest too much at Ben's inclusion? As well, there were too many (again) contrived remarks by someone about Ben being there because Johnny fancied him. And equally surreal was Lauren, at her utter silliest tonight, attempting to give Abi relationship advice. Really? Lauren, who's slept with her first cousin and who'd broken up a marriage before she was twenty? Lauren reckons it's best Abi not get involved with Ben. Well, that's sound advice, but I'd forgive Abi not following it, considering Lauren's track record.

Is Ben in denial or is he trying to play up Abi in order to make Johnny more interested? Or is he trying to brush off his former gay identity, a la Syed, in order to convince himself that he's heterosexual? Either way, Abi will get hurt in a far more awful way than she did with Jay dumping her - and Jay didn't even dump her for Lola, that was a figment of Abi's imagination. The context of those scenes, where Ben set Johnny up, confronted Lee and was leaving, was to establish Lee as a loose cannon - so loose that not only did he beat the living shit out of Ben, he would have killed him, had Nancy not intervened; and he was ready to knock her for six as well, until he realised who she was.

Could it be that Lee, inadvertantly, lost his temper about something and lashed out at Lucy? Now Nancy knows how volatile he is. Funny, but my abiding memory of the scene immediately after Ben's beating was Dexter standing there with a mouth doing a wordless impersonation of the Dartford Tunnel opening. Be thankful for small mercies - at least he was rendered speechless.

Team Cora. The briefest of scenes with Stan, but Ann Mitchell was the real star of the evening. I love the way Cora guards her grief about her husband. That's her territory, around which she's built a wall and no one, not even Stan, will pass the parameter. The strength of her line - Don't you DARE speak of my husband! He's ten times the man you'll ever be - laid bare how raw her grief still was and how Stan's illness brings this all back to her yet again. Those whom Cora has loved are either afflicted by pain (Patrick) or dying (Stan), and this only enhances her loneliness.

I know this was Shirley's episode, but far more sympathetic was Ann Mitchell's Cora in a simple three-minute exchange with Timothy West.

Carter on Down to CarterTown - Review:- 17.11.2014

I have a confession to make. My mother's maiden name was Carter, and when I was born, she christened me with that as a middle name, so the depiction of this lot pains me a great deal.

The Carter-centric episodes, especially the ones where there's a special meal or a bit of a do (in tonight's case, both) are becoming just short of predictable and tedious. It's just another version of the Mitchell's food-throwing bunfest, prevalent in the 1990s and usually ending with Peggy pitching the feast up against a wall or, more recently, the infamous Branning meals - of which we usually got one weekly - where something almost always went wrong.

The Carters are no different, but I can't decide if we've been overdosed on traumatic bunfests in the recent past or overdosed on incessant episode featuring the family flavour of the month to such a point that we are de-sensitised - well, at least some of the viewers are.

Tonight's episode was no different.

The Carters are the new Brannings.

Let's Keep It in the Family. Stan is dying, and nobody knows it but Babe, who is the last person you want to know a secret like that. Of course, it's also Lee's birthday. He's 22, which means he must be 11 months older than Nancy, who was 21 last month, herself, which means as teenagers, Mick and Linda must have been at it like rabbits, which also means, since the PR blurbs introduced the Carter kids as being 23 (Lee), 21 (Nancy) and 19 (Johnnie), the ages have been surreptitiously changed by TPTB, who probably thought that it looked a bit better for a couple of teenagers to start sprogging at 15 and 16, rather than 14 and 15. How's that for a run-on sentence?

Besides, it would accommodate another retconned story we heard recently about a Shirley and Kevin in their late twenties getting a teenaged Mick drunk on cider in the park, when as per DTC's last stint, he established that Shirley had left Kevin long before her late twenties.

So Babe knows Stan's secret and what does she do? Well, first of all she nags the living hell out of him to tell "the family." They have a right to know. Well, yes, they do, but that's Stan's call, you old trout, and he's being wise in choosing not to reveal his illness on his grandson's birthday. That's called being thoughtful, something Babe has never been in her life.

I found the happy-clappy Carter scenes a bit hard to take and couldn't figure out what the great amusement was being shared by Stan and Nancy when she was trying to hang that banner.

Of course, this segment was totally carried by Timothy West and Ann Mitchell, as per usual. One thing I've noticed is that, as time has gone on, West has become increasingly more posh in his delivery, but then why should he care about authenticity if it means good drama? 

The whole gist of CarterVille today was Stan's tragic secret, which hung about the piece like the elephant in the room, and I'm not referring to Babe. It was Babe, however, who chose her moment to suit her own means. Of course, she had to blurt it out at the most inopportune time, during Lee's birthday lunch, after Stan's speech telling everyone how much he loved them (this was a maudlin piece of dialogue for whom West did it justice). How NOT to have a happy birthday, thanks to Babe. Has this woman got no common sense, or is she just another in a series of psychopaths walking the streets of Walford? Still, anyone with any modicum of common sense would realise that, yes, Stan has to tell his family the truth about his illness, but maybe not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Just not today.

Well, maybe not tomorrow either, since Linda's arranged for an abortion about which she's told no one. She's done what the most amateur of liars does - cross lies and gets caught. Linda is desperate to tell someone what's happened and what she's contemplating. One of the two highlights of this storyline tonight was the scene between Sharon and Linda, when Linda is so desperate to confide in Sharon but cannot make herself say the words. She's told Mick that she's shopping with Sharon the next day, she's told Sharon she's taking Mick up West on the same day, and Sharon, inadvertantly, reveals her lie. Then, she covers the whole thing with Mick by saying she's going Christmas shopping on her own. By that time, Mick is so stymied by Babe's revelation about Stan that all he wants is a cuddle.

Throughout the entire Carter conflab, we have there own Banquo's Ghost putting a damper on the situation, and even more of one after the revelation, and that's Dean, forced to sit at the table with Linda. Yet there was another ghost stinking up the place from beginning to end.


We just couldn't do without the ubiquitous Shirley reference.

Be nice if Shirl were here for Lee's birthday. As if Shirley ever remembered Lee's birthday. In fact, until the end of last year, in ShirleyVille, Lee didn't exist.

Wonder where Shirl is. Shirl should be here. No, she shouldn't. A lot of viewers don't miss her.

Here we are, all at the table. Isn't this nice. Well, Shirl's not here.

Then, after the big ka-boom, we have that scene between Dean and Mick, where Dean whines about not wanting to lose Stan -and I'm still trying to get my head around how Dean knew Stan at all - and Mick whining about the same - and this is the same Mick, these were the same people sat at that table who, until recently, treated Stan like a piece of shit, left him deserted in a wheelchair in the cold on a street late at night a long way from his home, simply because Shirley had infected Mick with her toxicity towards Stan. That says it all. Mick is too influenced by Shirley. Oh, well, boys and their mums.

But Stan's revelation must make Mick feel like a prime piece of cheese. His reaction?

We gotta find Shirl. Shirl should know about this.

Because this is really what Timothy West's leaving line is all about - the re-introduction of Shirley. 

The scene in the launderette with the Cokers and Cora was poignant, with Cora watching the Cokers make a dance out of folding their sheets and smiling to herself, then her opening up to Pam about losing her husband long ago and learning to live on her own. Cora was uncertain about pursuing Stan, and Pam gave her hope, hence her trip to the Vic to see him.

The fact that she heard the truth about Stan's terminal cancer from Tina's and Tosh's big gobs brings it back to the viewer that Cora doesn't deal very well with terminal cancer or any serious illness. It brings back the trauma of losing her husband. Without even uttering a word, Ann Mitchell gave a masterclass in the subtlety of tragic acting. One of the good things DTC has done is bring Cora to a good place. At the risk of annoying a certain duck, I love this character, the most sympathetic character of the piece.

Stupid remark of the night goes to Tosh:-

He doesn't look ill.

Not a good night for this ready-made, instant, processed family, with all their tragedies, like rotton eggs, being dumped in one basket only to be cracked open to a big stink on Christmas Day - the return of Sylvie, Stan's death, the revelation that Mick is Shirley's son, Linda's pregnancy and the fact that Dean raped her. What else can happen? Can Lee be Lucy's killer?

Let's Keep It Between Ourselves (Literally). As much as I'm liking Stacey this time around, I keep being reminded of the fact that she really isn't the best judge of character at the best of times. She's vulnerable, on her own, at a low point, and she's "saved" by sleeping with Dean, for comfort. However, Dean isn't Deano anymore. He's made inroads with Lily, who wants to know if Dean is now Stacey's boyfriend, and even though she doesn't want to enter into anything serious with Dean, she's drawn to doing just that. She's jealous of the attention he's giving clients, and when he indicates he'd be willing to change if it meant a future for him, with Stacey and Lily, she holds him to it by doing the most romantic thing a gal could do - buys her smoking boyfriend a nicotine patch.

The most intriguing part about this ongoing saga isn't the irony of Stacey getting romantically involved with a rapist, after being a victim of rape, herself; it's the fact that the viewers are being presented with a rapist who, on one level, can be understood as almost a sympathetic victim, suffering from rejection issues, himself.

Some parts of this episodes were interesting, some were contrived.