As Dev prepares for his trip to India, the only woman that wants him to stay more than Julie, Mary and Sophie is me, as the prospect of this trio bickering their way through the next four weeks is too much to bear. Even writing this has me reaching for the smelling salts and industrial quantities of camomile tea, but here goes.
Julie tells Sophie she’ll be keeping an eye on the shop and commences by micromanaging her farewells and eliminating chit chat, telling her with the aid of an illustration in her jotter, “You are the face of Alahan’s. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression.” Despite many of us feeling bereft at the thought that we will now never see Julie behind the shop counter on foot of the wonderful Katy Cavanagh's departure, it appears that this would have been portrayed as a disaster. Why, I don’t know, as while she does take to everything with immense enthusiasm, her desire to reduce the shop to a chatter vacuum of fake civilities seems wholly out of character for the Julie we know and love. While Sophie may have valid points about her ability to manage the shop alone, she is rude, shouty and confrontational, and it doesn’t end there.
Julie is tackled by the increasingly deplorable Mary with regard to the “nutritional wasteland” that comprises the children’s lunchboxes. Julie reckons Mary is too much stick and not enough carrot while Mary retorts that Julie is too much cake and not enough carrot. “I know she means well” Julie tells a sneering Sophie, “but she’s a devil with her interfering.” The irony is not lost on her, or us, but the circumstances surrounding it deny the remark of its potential humour.
As Sophie and Mary later attack Dev over Julie in what is a disrespectful, aggressive and ugly scene, we learn from Mary that Julie’s hamster Paul fell foul of the dust buster after she left the cage open. Again, does this sound like Julie?
It’s important to note that all of this is occurring on the night of Dev’s departure and I’m left wondering how on earth it hasn’t been ironed out before now. Julie has spotted room for improvement in the shop and insists on going over the books there and then rather than waiting til he leaves. His attempts at talking to her fail as she declares she’s finding her new found responsibilities exhilarating. This even leads to her seeking out Sophie in the Rovers and ordering her to start work at 6.30am to iron out a few discrepancies.
Eventually the three women convene in Dev’s for a shouting match, demanding he sort out what, it must be acknowledged, is largely of his own making. Sophie and Mary are happy to retain their areas of competence based on a Venn Diagram in which Julie barely features. Mary’s cutting remark, that Julie’s expertise is in looking cheery in a cardigan and sewing undergarments, is, pardon the pun, below the belt, and her snide remark, “No staying power that one” makes me wish Dev would send her packing on the spot. As they continue to thrash it out, he finally reaches breaking point and reminds them that the children have had enough disruption in their lives, and what they need is love. They apologise, but I'm not hopeful that they'll put their differences aside.
Linda thinks it’s time to forgive and move on, but Owen doesn’t agree. She cites her affair as the biggest mistake of her life and accuses Owen of depriving the girls of their mother to punish her after she begged him to take her back to no avail. The way Owen sees it, he was protecting the girls, and says if she has an ounce of decency she’ll walk away and never come back. Izzy and Katie continue to clash over their mother’s return, and Anna is concerned at how raw Owen’s reaction is considering Linda cheated on him years ago.
Meanwhile Craig consults ‘Dr. Google’ to find a solution to Faye’s inexplicable weight gain and, suggesting she might be pregnant, distracts Sophie in the shop so she can rob a test. Stealing aside, he’s a great friend who is there for her no matter what. “This can’t be happening” she cries as it turns out positive. She struggles to pretend nothing’s wrong as Owen, Anna and Tim attend her school art exhibition and it pains her to hear Anna tell her that if she works hard, who knows what she might achieve. Unable to bear her probing and fussing, Faye goes to stay with Tim who’s oblivious as she sits on the sofa in tears with Craig, convinced that because she’s adopted, nobody will want her now. The accomplished Ellie Leach is turning in some great performances with this storyline.
The scenes I enjoyed the most in these episodes were small but significant. There was some lovely dialogue between Steve and Sophie about the awkwardness people feel around him. Emily sympathising with Michelle and talking of her own breakdown was a moving and very well executed scene, and Sean and Billy’s kiss in the Bistro made me smile, as did Steve's reaction on realising that his surprise of a home cooked romantic meal for Michelle is inedible and they settle on the chippy. Tim was, as ever, a continued ray of sunshine.
By Emma Hynes
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