Is anyone else struggling to recognise Robert Preston at the moment? And I’m not making reference to the change in actor. When Robert arrived back in Weatherfield, he seemed like a dull but decent sort. He was good for Amy and too good for Tracy. Indeed, it was his moral compass that saw him struggle with Tracy’s decision to hide her part in the fire from everyone, and make Carla believe she had killed two people in the process, and it was her lack of sympathy for Simon that saw him end their relationship.
Yet now this compass appears to be facing due south, and he seems every bit the suitable candidate for Tracy Barlow. Surly, angry, manipulative and remorseless, he has slept with his boss’s fiancée without giving it a second thought, subsequently threatened her, and is menacingly dishing out insults and ultimatums. Motiveless personality transplants are bad enough, even if a considerable amount of time has passed since the character’s last appearance, but in this case, Robert has altered significantly since his arrival back in Weatherfield just six months ago, and I’m finding it difficult to accept the change.
After Nick’s gets a great review, Robert declares himself the driving force, and expresses a desire to invest. After Nick confirms he has no interest in having a partner, Robert turns on him and the extent of his arrogance and menace becomes clear. Despite this, Leanne lends her support to the idea.
While Nick had every right to turn down Robert’s request, it was wrong of him to dispatch the rather splendid Oscar Fyffe, a faux rival restaurateur interested in headhunting him for his new restaurant, without letting Robert know about it. Robert is furious to learn this from Zeedan, and takes Nick on in front of the entire restaurant, including a rather nervous Carla.
Leanne referees a show down between the pair in the kitchen after which Nick’s resolve melts quicker than Tyrone’s arctic roll. This makes the stand off in the first episode essentially unnecessary as he gives away 20% of his business in the blink of an eye, despite Robert's chronic attitude, and we all of a sudden find everyone toasting and laughing about it.
The disappearance of Robert's conscience is confirmed when Carla appeals to him to consider how unfair all this is on Nick and he coldly replies “That’s your department”.
I didn't like how appallingly Zeedan was treated in these episodes. He’s shouted at by Robert and rightly complains to management. The response from Leanne? “This is all your fault motormouth, so shut it”. Charming. Then it all wraps itself up with Zeedan perfecting a butterfly chicken and being praised for it, and we have yet another ‘happy ending’. I don’t know why anyone would work in the Bistro, never mind eat there. Could you enjoy a top dollar meal with all that going on? I think not.
Robert doesn’t look overly impressed to learn that Oscar Fyffe was a friend of Tracy’s (really?) and pulls back from her attempted kiss before giving in to the second. Todd’s remark, “This sign stunt is gaga”, is pertinent for more reasons than one, but Tracy persists with the naming of her new florist, and is clearly a woman on a mission.
Love is in the air elsewhere as Anna and Kevin continue their seduction, and she ships Faye off to Tim and Sally’s for the evening so he can come around for a cosy night in. Her excuse of having ‘admin’ to do was as weak as her knees, and Sally saw right through it. Faye missing her DVD was the perfect excuse for Sally to pop around for a nosy at Anna’s efforts to get a new man “between [her] unwashed sheets”. I enjoyed this scene in which Kevin reluctantly hid in the bedroom while Sally talked sexting and swiping, and it proved the highlight of the episode as many similar sitcom-style segments have done in the past. Kevin tells Anna after they've gone that despite getting away with it this time, he reckons they should go public and she agrees.
Elsewhere, Fiz tells Tyrone he can come home and that, while she’s angry, they all deserve more than to be at each other’s throats at such a time. She also plans to go back to work.
Unable to take the recent news that Jamie is out on bail and working in a bar in town, Andy suggests he and Luke pay the premises a visit. Once his crime is exposed to the manager by the pair, she immediately sacks both Jamie and the colleague who vouched for him. There was something a tad over the top and exaggerated about this scene, and it wasn’t just some of the performances.
Steph is upset at the messages she continues to receive online, and the news that Jamie is out, but feels a lot better after counselling from Leanne. Luke and Andy are happy to find her upbeat and agree not to tell her what they’ve done. Meanwhile, Jamie and Wes spy on them walking down the cobbles from a parked car and I'm left wondering how long they were sitting there, and why.
Cathy encourages Roy to get in touch with his mother, and he learns she’s broken both wrists in a line-dancing related fall. With nobody else to look after her, Roy acts out of what he describes as duty rather than loyalty, and Cathy waves him off to Hastings with pride and a little sadness.
I will miss Roy myself, and while I certainly look forward to his return, I very much welcome the reason for his departure which you can read all about here.
By Emma Hynes