I get it that this is a throwback ("Throwback Thursday", get it?) to the heyday of two-headers and to the last two-hander between REAL Michelle and Sharon, when the episode ended with Michelle telling Sharon that Vicki was her sister.
But this two-header was between Sharon and someone called Michelle who was not even remotely like her.
Good acting - Letitia Dean was brilliant. I learned today (Sunday 15.01) from listening to Elaine Page that Jenna Russell is another one in a long line of musical comedy actors to do a stint on EastEnders - John Partridge, Declan Bennett and Maria Friedman being the others, including the first musical comedy actor to appear on the show (Nigel Harman) - and that Russell is actually the 2007 recipient of the Olivier Award. Impressive, but she just isn't doing it as Michelle Fowler.
The acting was good, but there were so many holes in this storyline, probably due to laziness on the part of Carey Andrews in not researching things thoroughly, and some of the statements made by Sharon and Michelle in the piece were absolutely laughable.
Listen, I'm a purist who's watched the show from Day One. I'm entitled to my opinion, and being American - and part of this storyline takes place, not only in America, but in my old stomping ground (the South) - I know when I'm being sold a pup.
Realism, my arse, Mr O'Connor, and if I thought Dominic Treadwell-Collins was bad in totally re-writing various established characters' back stories (Sharon's, Phil's and Kat's, specifically), Sean O'Connor has just pulled the prize for the absolute worst thing to do to an iconic, seminal and original EastEnders' character ...
You make them a sex offender. Worse, you make them a sex offender, and you make her best friend, the mother of an impressionable yet precocious young man, forgive her for it, even make a joke about it.
That pithy attempt at a joke was in far worse taste than the jokes Phil and Ian cracked as they skipped away from Paul Coker's corpse.
A parent would be totally disgusted at what Michelle had done. You wouldn't joke about such a thing.
Here are the hilarities I found in this episode, things that made me choke on the popcorn I'm eating:-
1. Sharon:- When you're on that plane tomorrow, I'm coming with you.
2. Sharon:- I've got skills. I can get a job.
3. Sharon:- You and Tim should know some good high schools in the area for Denny.
Let me stop being gob-smacked first.
Sharon lived in the US for many years. I can only assume that she got a Green Card because Angie made her a partner and co-owner in the bar she owned in South Miami, which is the only way Angie got a Green Card, herself. The US is way past "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", especially now that it's about to become TrumpLand INC and especially in Florida where the felon Rick Scott holds sway.
The US wants to give Green Cards to doctors, physicists, scientists, mathematicians, IT experts and entrepreneurs ... or anyone who buys a US business and employs US citizens. As a business owner, Sharon got a Green Card, which Michelle would also have.
Green Card holders cannot stay out of the US for longer than six months, or you lose your residency status. John Yorke and Louise Berridge never let a little thing like the law, however, bother them, because not only was Mark Fowler hoping to emigrate to the US (he couldn't then, being HIV positive), but Sharon came and went and spent more than six months here all the time during her last stint.
On the other hand, was she thinking she could return based on her anchor baby? That's right. Dennis Rickman Jr is a US citizen, having been born there. Of course, he's entitled to a British passport, because his parents were British, but by virtue of the good old 14th Amendment to our Constitution (which is probably about to be shredded sometime in the ensuing year now that we're all virtually Russian citizens), Dennis is American by birth, and as such, he can get his old ma residence status, especially as he's a minor.
But I don't think Sharon's clever enough to think of that - or rather, I don't think Carey Andrews is clever enough to think of that.
Secondly, Sharon's claim about having skills and getting a job. As what? She can pull a pint, but, even with an anchor baby, she's got to have someone guarantee her employment, and whoever employs her has got to prove to Immigration and Naturalization (the US version of UK Border Control) that there isn't a US citizen in the area or, indeed, in the land who is capable of having any of Sharon's "skills." And we all know that there are umpteen college students and then some who are more than capable of serving drinks in a bar.
The last time I looked, Sharon wasn't a neurophysicist, so that remark went out he window too.
As for her third remark, Denny wouldn't be starting high school. At best, he'd be entering middle school, but that's debatable. School districts discriminate between middle school and high school. Some districts equate middle school from years 7 to 9 (12 to 14 years old), others from years 6 to 8 (11 to 13 years old). Denny wouldn't start high school until he was at least 14 years old.
Besides, what happened to this super-dooper British school to which Michelle sent her twatty totty son? Surely, Sharon would want to send Denny there?
I'm saying that, for all the years Sharon spent there - and she never ever spent anytime with Michelle, apart from visits - she would have known how the school administrations were set up, at least from Michelle.
Other risible moments:-
4. Michelle's grammar.
5. Michelle gave private English tuition.
6. The aftermaths of Michelle's crime.
Throughout all of this, Michelle's grammar was atrocious. I was raised rurally, and there are members of my family whose grammar leaves much to be desired; but in the US, good grammar is a sign of good education, and it's something by which you are judged, especially if you are an educational professional.
I totally get it that people of various regions the world over often have a dialectical version of their own language and speak that within the confines of their demographic; but this isn't even Cockney dialect or East End parlance, it's just fucking bad grammar.
To hear her say that she gave private tuition in English is a joke, considering the amout of times she used the word "ain't" in conversation tonight ot "me and him" - and I still remember her letter on the eve of Sharon's wedding to Phil ...
Me and Ian ain't coming on account of Ian's health.
Seriously, this is a high school English teacher? I'm beginning to think that this was the real reason Michelle was dismissed from her job, and not just the fact that she'd been banging a student.
As far as that little episode is concerned, know this: In Florida AOC is 18 - no ifs, ands or buts. Anyone above the age of 23 having sex with anyone between the ages of 15 and 17, and anyone above the age of 18 having sex with a 14 year-old, is guilty of statutory rape.
And that's Michelle.
This is a crime. A sexual crime of rape. Worse, she was in a position of trust with a duty of care (a schoolteacher) and she had sex with one of her students - an affair that lasted over a year and began when he was sixteen. Michelle said the school found out and sacked her on the spot, even citing that she'd broken the law. Bullshit! They'd have done more than sack her, they would have immediately phoned the police and had her arrested. Schools act in loco parentis, meaning that they are the virtual parent when a child is in their charge. Michelle stressed that the school found out, only when the boy's mother found out about their plans to elope.
Where were they going? To another state? AOCs vary from state to state, but most of the Southern states have an age limit of 18, but even if they travelled North where AOCs are 16, then the fact that she's transporting a minor over a state line for the purposes of having sex makes it a Federal offence, and that is even worse.
This is a crime which is non-negotiable, and if the school simply sacked Michelle and left it at that, the parents could have sued not only Michelle, but the State of Florida and have taken away the livelihood and the employment prospects of everyone connected with that school district. Mud sticks.
That was totally unreal.
The two-header achieved nothing in the way of revealing the characters of Michelle and Sharon. The episode began where Tuesday's episode left off, with Sharon inadvertantly finding out that Phil had impregnated Denise. For me, the highlight of the episode was a subtle incident - when Sharon emerged from the toilet, with a bewildered Honey in pursuit, the first person to see her was Shirley. In a split second, faster than the speed of light, we see that Shirley suddenly realises that Sharon was in the loo at the same time as she and Denise. Instead of facing Sharon, from the look on Sharon's face, Shirley thought it best to duck back into the bowels of the Vic. For a moment, I thought she would smack the shit out of Denise at that moment. (She really should have); but she restrained herself.
Sharon's first and righteous reaction is anger at Phil and his betrayal. She wants to leave him, and I was cheering her on at this point, even though the insipid Michelle was telling her again and again that she really loved Phil. (And where did the two of them get off having this showdown in the Beales' house? I totally get it that this was the old Fowler house, but Sharon and Michelle were liberally helping themselves to Ian's booze).
I loved Sharon's initial reaction to Michelle, after telling her that Phil had taken this one a step too far. Michelle said she'd stay with Phil and hear him out.
This is not my mother you're looking at.
Great line, and great that Angie is yet again being referred to as Sharon's mother.
This was a perfect opportunity for Sharon to break off from Phil and their toxic relationship, and she was right in knowing about Denise's son would gut Denny - this harkens back to Phil's "blood Mitchell" remark when he was making his will, and it harkens back to that moment Denise's eyes took the shape of pound signs when she heard Ben confirm this. As soon as Phil learns about this child, any relationship he's cultivated with Dennis is forgotten.
But running away to America (an impossibility) wasn't the answer. She should stay and fight her ground, shame Denise for her stupidity and assume the moral high ground. And who is Michelle to encourage her to stay? Was it because Sharon was angling to come to America, and Michelle was reluctant to tell her that Sharon wouldn't have a place to stay because she, Michelle, didn't?
Real Michelle would have encouraged her to leave Phil, not to take any shit such as this, and she'd hold Sharon's corner in shaming Denise. But then the next moment, Sharon does her maths and comes up with the pithiest and weakest excuse to stay with Phil - that Phil slept with Denise in April, when he and Sharon were separated.
Oh, well, that's all right then. Well, no, it isn't. They were still legally married. Just because you're separated from your wife or husband doesn't automatically give you the right to sleep around. And that morning after the night before, Sharon showed up to take Phil to his hospital appointment, and found him drunk and Denise slinking out the door.
It's still cheating, and I'm disappointed that Sharon saw fit to excuse this and to stay with Phil, even more, to stay quiet about what she knows. For some reason, as she told Michelle, it keeps her in control. How? If Denise keeps the child, then can Sharon impart to her that she knows the truth, and hope that the most irrelevant character still stinking up Walford slopes off? That would make Sharon the bitch and Denise the victim, and Denise just loves playing the victim in this.
If Sharon's truth to power means we get rid of Bumfaced Denise and the atrocious Libby, I'm all for it. But I doubt that will happen at all.
Now onto Michelle's sordid little secret. When, exactly, did Michelle become so shallow? She also said that Tim was much older than she - how much older? As Sharon indicated, they were at an age where an older man was actually a geriatric. Den would be in his seventies. Does Michelle seriously think that his libido would be at an all-time high even then? Also, a remark was made by Sharon about Michelle's conduct twenty years ago, and Michelle inferred that this was about her affair with Den, remarking that Den didn't cheat on Sharon. I wonder if Sharon's twenty-year remark had to do with Michelle's betrayal, again, of Sharon by sleeping with Grant.
If Tim is, indeed, that much older than Michelle, then sexual libido does decrease in people after a certain age. And when people have been married a long time, love evolves from a great passion into a comfortable, trusting companionship. The fact that Tim wasn't cheating says a lot, although Michelle remarked that he was "cheating with his mind". What the hell was that? Did she catch him watching porn, having telephone sex, reading Playboy?
As someone remarked, Michelle was a user of men. Every subsequent relationship she had, after the one-off with Den, was measured by him. She carried a schoolgirl crush on this man, who used her and only kept her on hand for access to his natural child, a child he eventually refuted in favour of the child he considered his true daughter, Sharon. Den's significant other throughout the time he shared in Walford with Michelle at hand, was his mistress, Jan.
She cut a swathe through a bevy of men, and when she bored of them, she moved on - Lofty, Clyde Tavernier, the student Jack, the horny lecturer. She had a penchant for older men, and it's always said that this had an Oedipal ring about it. Michelle's father was a nice, albeit ineffectual man, and I actually took the remark Michelle made about Lofty as likening Lofty to Tim and not the boy with whom Michelle "fell in love."
In that respect, she was "typical Michelle" - dumping Tim, or rather, as she said, "giving up" and seeking solace elsewhere. This was a student, a minor in her charge, and somewhere along the way, a line was crossed. It doesn't matter who made the first move, she sought to continue the relationship, which developed into some fatal fantasy of such proportions that they were going to run off and start a life together, significantly at Christmas of this year, and the mother in question found the boy's suitcase, coincidentally, on what would have been the last day of term before the Christmas break-up.
I agree with Sharon ... this is menopausal behaviour, and I think that Michelle is probably in denial about the fact that she is, indeed, menopausal, with hormones all over the place and, thus, not thinking straight.
Well, she's blotted her copybook now, and in the age of globalisation, any job in education she'd seek in Walford, the employer by means of e-mail could get the low-down on her last job and why she was dismissed.
I resent the fact that we are meant to feel sorry for this character, who's suddenly gone from a strong, often obnoxious and unlikable, character - very much like Stacey in having a high moral calibre for everyone else but herself, to a weak, whining, selfish, pathetic woman who, unwittingly, turned herself into a sexual predator and who has, quite possibly, ruined a young man, psychologically, for life.
She did make a comment, which I found offensive, in justifying her actions. She stated that if she'd been a man, half the blokes in the pub would have been shaking her hand and patting her on the back for scoring with a 17 year-old girl. Er, sorry, but no, they wouldn't. Lucy Beale was an adult when she and the single Max Branning slept together, and he was regarded as a lech. Mick Carter can't abide the sight of Jay Brown, who didn't sleep with an underaged girl, but texted her. Jay is 21, and he's still treated like a pariah.
Any father of a daughter, who hears of a middle-aged male English teacher having sex with one of his 17 year-old students doesn't view him as a hero, but as a perv and a lech. Carey Andrews dropped a clanger there.
And Sharon, mother of a young son, inviting Michelle to stay with her and treating the whole episode as a joke, was wrong, wrong, wrong as well.
EastEnders epic fail on this one.