OK, since I know a lot of viewers watching the show at present have a problem with willful short-term memory loss, thus allowing a lazy writing room to do what the hell it wants with plots, scripts and characters because - hey ... the public will buy it, those dumb shits. They love us. They put 11 million bums on seats at Christmas to watch us so ... let's retcon a bit of what happened on Christmas Day.
Well, let's remind ourselves of something which happened on Christmas Day which was a major part of the non-event that was tonight's episode.
Ladies, gentlemen, shippers-gonna-ship, and Luddites, I give you ...
The Death of Derek
Hold that scene in your mind. Those of you with one braincell, try not to think of anything else for a few moments.
Whew! I'm trying, trying, trying to say something good about tonight's episode, but the truth is, there's precious little to praise. I'd never heard of the writer before, but it's obvious that she either wanted to push the fact that each witness to Derek's death was either lying or so away with the fairies (at least three of them were) that it was positively mind-boggling; the witness who told the closest approximation to the truth, then, wasn't entirely truthful about her relationship with Derek.
I appreciate and can see that Numptie Newman is doing or attempting to do what she said she would ... it's just that she's not doing it very well.
The Brannings' Amorality
That was present in abundance tonight, and for once, Joey came across as a sympathetic figure. I'm not changing my mind about him, mind you. I still think he's played by an atrociously bad actor, and the character, himself, carries no depth; but at least I got something tonight, which I had suspected long before - and it wasn't conveyed by David's Witts's acting (particularly not with yet another butt-clenchingly embarrassing crying scene at the end), but the plotline, itself.
That revelation is this: The absolute only person whom Joey really loves and cares about is Alice. (Or in Joey-ese "Aaaa-aaaasss"). Alice was the sum total of Joey's being tonight. When Max awakened him, his first thought wasn't about his day in court (which seemed to last all day from 9:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night), it was about seeing his sister - seeing how she was coping, wanting her presence in court with him. When he returned, again, all he could think about was seeing Alice. Not even Lauren the GurnGirl the cousin who fucked him once and fell in love, not even she, mattered. He couldn't even return her hug. He didn't want or seek her selfish affection.
Joey was taking the rap for her, and the Brannings - Max, Tanya and Lauren - had come to accept this as a matter of course, as natural as the air that they breathed. The meme was to protect Lauren at all costs. She had a criminal record and a drunk driving charge like that could land her inside, which is where she should be already, having tried to murder her old man four years ago. But Joey was taking a risk. He got a 12-month suspended sentence and lost his licence for a year, but he didn't know what his fate would be. He could have received a custodial sentence; in fact, if he misbehaves in the next year, he could still be remanded. One wonders what the Brannings would have thought had he been sent down. It would have been an easy way out of a difficult situation for Max and Tanya, in keeping him away from Lauren, and she would probably have hissy fitted and drunk herself into oblivion. On the other hand, just the other day, she was musing about not being able to "dump" Joey because he was taking the blame for her.
However, Max is more than grateful. He thanks Joey for acquiring a criminal record for his daughter's benefit. As for the object of Joey's affection, once again, this leniency signalled to her that "fings were back to normal" (and sooner than the few weeks in which she imagined), so she and Joey could just bugger off to the Vic and drink.
Joey wanted to connect with Alice. Lauren was so up her own arsehole that Max had to remind her, when Joey left her behind, that he was still grieving for his dad. Lauren is still so self-centred and obtuse that she cannot allow herself to believe that she isn't the most important thing in Joey's life, that she is as important to him as she is to herself.
I hated when she barged into the old Slater house when Max was there waiting for Joey. She was bloody rude to Alice and has been since Derek's death. Of all his relatives, Carol apart, Alice loved Derek unconditionally, and Lauren has totally ignored saying anything to her during the period after Derek's death, speaking only to Joey and in a hectoring, demanding tone. Today, she only accosted her in the Vic because she was after news of Joey's sentencing, and only as an afterthought, asked Alice to stay for a drink.
Lauren is this year's Whitney - a lazy, entitled, pejorative, self-obsessed, selfish and puerile young woman with no redeeming qualities, and played by a lazy and mediocre actress. Since Numptie Newman was quick to confirm that TPTB now mould the character to fit the actor, one shudders at what the personality of the actress portraying Lauren must be. Not pretty, really.
Joey must be pathetically stupid if he cannot see what an albatross getting involved with someone like Lauren would entail - cousin or no cousin. But then, TPTB want to promote this couple as the sexy thing (incest promoted by the BBC in the wake of Savile bears questioning Newman's taste), so he'll probably carry on tagging after her.
The thing that perplexed me about Joey tonight - apart from not understanding him - was his facts relating to Derek's death. Not only did he tell Alice that he stood there and watched his father die, but he also told her that Derek died begging for help.
Now ... the clip above shows Derek's death, at the exact moment he died. He was ranting at Max and Jack ... and then he keeled over, choking. He said nothing. So either the writer totally got this wrong, or Joey is torturing himself by remembering something that really didn't happen. Either scenario is plausible, but I'm going with the fact that the writer got carried away with the sensationalism of the moment, and Numptie Newman signed off on it.
Observations: Joey, a mouth-breather, sleeps with his mouth shut. That must take some concentration.
Alice in WalfordLand - with the Joke(r), the Max Hatter and the Red Queen
Alice is on a mission, especially after thinking that Joey was there all alone with Derek when he died. Wait a moment ... is she stupid? He died outside Max's house, when the house inside was full of Brannings and their satellites. Cora the Bora was there (but she was lit), Sharon, Kirsty, and a gaggle of Brannings including Alice. Unless she was away with the fairies, she would have noticed Derek's outburst in the lounge and Max, Jack and Joey bustle him out the door, with Kat following.
OK, let's assume that Aaa-aasss is stupid and naive. But once she learns that not only Joey, but also Derek's two brothers and Kat witnessed Derek's death, she was like a dog with a bone, ferreting out the truth. In the end, she got 98% of it.
The Max Hatter dismissed her briefly with the fact that everyone thought Derek was playing a joke and that Derek was dead the moment he hit the ground, if not before - which is basically true, but Max was pretty callous in his delivery. Like the real Mad Hatter, he was late, he was late, for a very important date - making sure Alice's brother properly took the blame for his daughter's crime.
The Joke(r) cried crocodile tears and blamed himself for doing nothing to save his brother. Jack was typical in his assessment. Poor, pitiful Jack the victim. His big bubba died and he could do nothing to help him. Waah-waah-waah.
It was The Red Queen, who told Alice the closest approximation to the truth - that they thought Derek was joking, that Joey was the only one who tried to get to Derek to help him, but was stopped ... by Kat. Kudos to her for admitting that, but this crap about them all thinking this was a joke on Derek's part was pants. They. Watched. Him. Die. And they stopped Joey from helping him - not that he could have, because Derek died instantly.
However, Kat was tactless in telling Alice how much she hated Derek - when in only October and shortly before that, she was falling in love with Shaggerman, caressing his hand, and gagging for it. Yet there she was telling Alice that Derek had taken everything she had and ripped it apart. Sorry, love, that's not entirely true. You are as much to blame as Derek was in that affair. Because you showed willing at the beginning and throughout. The only time you stopped was not because you chose to do so, but because Alfie caught her in the act - and even then, she wasn't honest. She stopped seeing Derek because she was afraid Alfie would find out that Shaggerman was local, someone he knew and right under his nose. Derek didn't rip apart everything Kat had, Kat allowed him to do so. Bitch.
Scrubbers - Kat Does Penance through Good Works
The rehabilitation and redemption of Kat comes complete with scrubbing her face clean of the garish make-up that she wore, scraping her hair back into a modest and dowdy ponytail, and covering herself modestly the way she should have been dressing as a wife and mother all along. The mothers at the Walford Play Group must have been knocked for six when they saw the newly chastised Mrs Moon bringing Tommy along. But they all must have known what happened - as evidenced by Zainab's gossiping to Denise.
The only thing more extreme Numptie Newman should have done in an obvious ploy to make us feel sorry for poor pitiful Kat is to make her walk through the Square repeatedly with the scarlet letter "A" emblazoned on her surgically-enhanced bosom.
(Hester Prynne had a baby that didn't belong to her husband either).
So Kat does penance by looking for a job by which she can support herself and her son, mindless of the fact that Alfie will probably be more than generous in providing for Tommy, both emotionally and financially. And why is Kat giving Alice money for the bills? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Number 23 is the Slater household. Derek was sub-letting the property from Big Mo for - as I recall - £900 per month. Aaa-aass, who'll probably lose her job at the Employment Agency soon (if she hasn't already), Joey on minimum wage at the R and R bar and Kat, unemployed, couldn't match that amount between them - and she will certainly be on minimum wage as a cleaner.
So we have the poor, misunderstood, victimised Kat, and Bianca - who's still poor and whose Ugg boots have had the soles ripped off them (so she's barefoot, literally ... cue Bianca's music):-
Interesting that Bianca quit the Salon, complaining of slave wages - which is true. Tanya was breaking the law, allowing Bianca to work only for tips. She was entitled to minimum wage, which is why I say that Bianca is the Billy Mitchell of the Branning family. That is as much as Tanya, who spent time in prison, herself, was willing to do for Bianca - yet another example of the blatant amorality of that family. Tanya looks down her nose in a permanent sneer at Carol, Bianca and their brood, when she's no better - if not, worse - herself.
Still, Bianca plays the "family" card with Sharon or tries to do so, which reminded me of the sickening fact that Simon Ashdown, Numptie Newman and their merry men and gals have tried and are trying their damnedest to make Sharon a Branning satellite.
The bonding scene of Bianca and Kat cleaning the loos, with Bianca wittering on about Derek and how close he and Kat must have been. Actually, I liked the fact that Bianca was making her squirm, saying how she thought Kat and Alfie would be together forever (don't worry, they will be). I was hoping Bianca would bring up that remark she made at the last meeting of the book club, when the women were telling what man who wasn't their husband/partner in the Square that they fancied. Remember, Bianca said she fancied Alfie, above all, because he was kind. Still, their badinage provided the line of the night.
Bianca: Uncle Derek, 'e always liked ter spoil a person. Izzat what got you onter 'im? Did 'e spoil yer?
Kat: Yeah ... Derek was always one fer spoilin' fings.
Kat the victim, yet again, refusing to take responsibility for something in which she willingly participated. It wasn't just Derek who spoiled your marriage, Kat; it was you. And no matter how much your newly-discovered heart bleeds for Bianca's bare feet to the point that you're willing to share your lowly job, you won't be redeemed until you apologise to Alfie - not for getting caught, but for doing the shit that you did, for accepting that it was your fault and yours alone and asking his forgiveness. You haven't done that yet. In fact, the only person to whom you've admitted your responsibility in the Shaggerman affair is Joey, and he ain't your husband.
The Branning Bantam Rooster
Well, we had the gawping tadpole, and tonight we got introduced, surreptitiously, to the newest Branning satellite - Dexter, Ava's son.
Speaking bluntly, he looks and acts like a little cock. Sorry, about the language, but that couldn't be more true if he had the word PENIS tattooed on his forehead. I know all the tweenies and the shippers on DS and the fanbois on the Kindergarten will be "loving Dexter", but he's just another callous youth who has the markings of an arch manipulator. Yet another cheeky, chirpy chappy. He's supposed to be twenty, but he looks more like sixteen.
Tell you what, though ... minus the goattee, he's the spit of Ray Dixon. Maybe Ray had a little extracurricular activity going on with Ms Hartman when he was a schoolboy and she was his teacher. Who knows?
Abi was just stupid. She proved she was her mother's daughter tonight. She knew damned well she didn't have a tenner on her, when Dexter gave her the money, so just like Mommy Dearest, she's anyone's who'll hand her a note. And another one gagging after a cousin. This kid reminds me of the Ferreira hanger-on, whose name I've forgotten, who snogged Kareena for a year before admitting that he was her brother. He comes to Walford, obviously seeking his family - and how the hell did he get those pictures of Abi and Lauren, because I don't remember Tanya or Cora the Bora giving Ava any family photos - and stalking and hitting on (as in coming onto) a girl he knows is his cousin.
Ava, so far, I like, although I have my reservations based on what TPTB have done in recent years to well-spoken, well-educated professionals in positions of trust and the fact that I don't think she has a proper character arc formed; but this kid, on first impression, can go take a running jump.
Single Lady, He's Not Gonna Put a Ring on It
For Kim ...
Diane Parish deserves better. I suspect this is the beginning of the beginning of the romcom storyline which will see her romantically linked, eventually, with Ian Beale. I also suggest, from his last scene tonight, that this is Chucky Venn's leaving line, or the beginning of it.
I know nothing's been said about Venn departing, but TPTB never do now - they tell us of A-List characters leaving when they're in their last week or so of filming, and the B-Listers get told that they're going after they've finished on set.
One year ago, we met Ray, a beauty of a man, a nice guy, genuine, caring for his kids, wanting to do well, likeable. Tonight, he turned into a coward and a putz. I used to think that Kim wasn't good enough for him, but tonight, he's worse than she is.
Yes, she's conceited, vain, and to a great degree, as simple-minded as Bianca. (I would imagine that Denise and Patrick run the B and B, between them). She's lazy and immature. It amazed me how Denise had to pander to her inflated ego - telling her how smart she was, how sexy, what an entrepreneur she was, just to bolster her ego after Ray gave her what essentially was a guilt present - a token to assauge the guilt he felt for having come onto and kissed Denise.
Patrick and Denise reminded me of Pat and Ricky from a year ago, when Ricky confessed his fling with Mandy to Pat. Pat counselled him to keep quiet about it, that it would only serve to cause more trouble than it was worth. This is so similar. Patrick was right. What happened between Ray and Denise was spurred on, on her part, by too much wine; but I'm not so sure now about him.
If Denise had proven willing to come back for more, he'd be pushing all the buttons and Kim would be left by the wayside. During Max's stag night, he was continuously bitching about how Kim was pressuring him for an engagement ring. And rather than feel the wrath of Kim tonight, after misunderstanding what she meant (pushing yet again for that ring), he showed his cowardly streak and pushed Denise under the bus.
Tameka Empson isn't funny in the role of resident comedian in which TPTB have placed her, but she's no dramatic icon either. The final scene where she smacked Denise and told her she was dead to her, was, frankly, embarrassing.
Kim, you are no Beyonce', and Ray certainly isn't Jay-Z.
The Masoods' Death Knell
This whole plotline concerning Ayesha is utterly pointless, because we know the ultimate outcome, so it's as if we're all in a deathwatch over the character of Zainab Masood. Yes, I know she's not going to die, but her character is toast.
Ayesha is just another bimbo. She, Poppy and Alice should set up a Female Village Idiots' Co-Operative, patrons: Little Mo Slater and Honey Mitchell. Honorary Male Member (pun intended): Billy Mitchell.
She is yet another actor who is impossible to understand. It's not her Geordie accent, it's the fact that her voice is so soft. I know she's supposed to be shy, but this is ridiculous. Also, Masood saying he'd watched Zainab cook a bit and learned that way.
Bullshit - Masood cooked for years for the family owing to Zainab's having been in the fire in Pakistan. She couldn't enter any kitchen without having a panic attack. Maybe he didn't want to tell Ayesha that story, but then again, you can't be sure with this crop of writers.
Also, notice how EastEnders is doing its stock trick of making a character totally unlikeable and unpalatable prior to their leaving? Over in BranningVille, they've upped the ante in Tanya's hypocrisy and shallowness, and now they're making Zainab the Resident Gossip, Snob and even more judgemental than she normally is.
A better episode than some of last week's, but still not there yet by a long shot.
(I assume that this episode marked the beginning of Shane Richie's, Adam Woodyatt's, Gillian Wright's and Steve McFadden's panto leaves).