(Series 5, ep 6) The registry office at Pontyberry would have been all abuzz this week with births, (almost) marriages and deaths front and centre – and not just in the ceremonial sense. A hero was born, a political career obliterated and the direction of two of the show’s central relationships looked more likely to be heading to trouble than to the altar.
Now that all is out in the open with Rob’s illness, Stella and Michael were finally back on track but Luke was still reeling from his parents’ choice to keep him in the dark. Nadine is also reeling, but with herself after Conchita’s tryst with Ivan. Chickening out of getting advice from Bobby (who regrets nothing but his acid house phase) she is left with nobody but baby Genevieve to talk to. Her predicament isn’t helped by receiving a sweet letter from Karl who has sent them a mini oil rig snowscene and a hard hat to show his love (there aren’t many things in the oil rig gift shop apart from smaller oil rigs). I have to admit, I’ll be heartbroken if this comes between Karl and Nadine, but I have faith that they wouldn’t break up the show’s long standing pairing. Ivan is coping with his guilt in a different way. Finally having had enough with Matuscia Brenda, who is more concerned at using the urn polish for her mayoral chain than fulfilling her duties as his receptionist, he fires her.
Meanwhile, in the Choudhary household, Jag is enjoying his new found relationship with Carol. Unfortunately for him, Mother Nina has big ears and, as Ivan would say, grabbed the stick by the incorrect end. Assuming it is Daniel’s mum back in Mumbai that her son is smitten with she indulges her fantasy of an imminent wedding and before you can say “both of the fire” the venue scouting begins. With Mayor Aunty Brenda’s sudden abundance of free time she is on hand to push the delights of Pontyberry Town Hall (having played host to royalty, industry and many well-known snooker players) and Nina has found her place as long as it is kept a surprise. Despite mayors being like priests when it comes to confidentiality, it takes all of two seconds for the mayor to blow the secret and congratulate Jag and Carol on their impending nuptials. Nina may believe a wedding will be the best thing to happen since her husband died but the happy couple are content with just wading through the confusion and a formal introduction of Carol into the family via a home cooked meal instead.
It’s just as well that the wedding is off the cards for now, seeing as the Town Hall schedule is full to the brim with events such as Sing-A-Long-A-Mayor Aunty Brenda and Mayor Aunty Brenda in Conversation. One event she didn’t plan, however, is an opportunity she very nearly threw out onto the street. Estranged husband Clem, who had been given his ultimatum to get out before day’s end, was spending his last few hours in Pontyberry reminiscing weddings gone by with his niece Stella, but before we even establish who Cynthia (the one with the face) is they are interrupted by a trouble-bound Banjo who escaping directly into the path of an oncoming van. Little Alan and Ben, who is now shamelessly trying to impress his best friend’s girlfriend Cerys, had the terrier all Go-Pro’d up for their quest to make a viral video. Propelling himself off a car bonnet and catapulting two bottles of whisky in the air, Clem heroically scoops Banjo up before the liquor can even hit the floor, the second bottle landing neatly into the grateful mutt’s jaws in a double-team acrobatic effort. Having caught it all, Ben’s video goes viral (even compelling Cheryl to resort to raucous laugher) and Aunty Brenda jumps at the opportunity to use her status as a hero’s wife to get a feature in the paper. At first reluctant to agree that giving up a promising career in the funeral business to serve the people was worth a two-page spread, the journalist soon changes his mind after taking one flick through a photo album Clem offered for accompanying picture choices. Just after explaining that being mayor is not always a bed of Rosé (for example, often missing Countdown) Mayor Aunty Brenda experiences what true political hardship is and the front page exposé of her lighting up a spliff sends everything “Up in Smoke”. As George the Butcher takes great pleasure in stripping her of her title pending enquiry, poor Aunty Brenda is left babbling into the face of her demise in both the Shlosh Emporium and as friend of the people.
Political sideshow, viral videos and wedding planning aside, the main story in the week’s episode brought now heavily pregnant Beyonce back and trying to trick Michael and Stella into funding an expensive baby shower. After sugar daddy refuses and Stella doesn’t fall for the “well Dad said I could” tactic, Beyonce settles on the Frisky as the setting for the Evans family debauchery (she should really have tried the town hall, it’s second only to the palace of Versailles). During the bawdy festivities, Beyonce feels a twinge and in the spirit of most of her pregnancy, the only person she can really count on to be there for her is the barmaid she set out to deliberately annoy. Brash and ballsy as Stella can be, she is nothing if not reliable and even with good faith that the drama queen was only suffering Braxton Hicks she dutifully takes her to the hospital to be sure. Promising to inform Michael if anything happens, the check up at the hospital gives Beyonce the all clear and as always she flips things round to try and make Stella feel like an idiot. Stella implements whatever technique that prevents her from beating Beyonce over the head with a stirrup but unlike 99% of what she comes out with, Beyonce’s fear mongering over why Rob may not be answering Stella’s calls on the drive home is just enough to prompt a detour to his cottage and check he isn’t collapsed on the floor, grasping for the phone and croaking her name. As it turns out, the hospital trip wasn’t the only false alarm and Rob’s unreachability was due to him making up with Luke in the back garden. Reassured that there is no impending doom for her ex, Stella returns to find her car upholstery has not been so lucky. Beyonce’s waters have broken and baby Jackson is on his way!
With her B+ in her maternity module and three labours under her belt, Stella once again steps up to Beyonce’s aid, even knowing how to keep useless Rob occupied. Soon enough baby Jackson comes flying into Stella’s arms and even more importantly, Beyonce finally has the good grace to thank the woman that almost single handedly supported her in spite of every wind up, insult and demand. As much as I imagine it will disappear next week, there was something refreshing about seeing some genuine gratitude for once and maybe the impact of that is what made the wait worth it. With Stella’s work done, Beyonce zips off in the ambulance and Stella and Rob reflect on happy memories of new arrivals – like that time Emma gave birth to Ambra and Stella’s boyfriend Sean punched Rob in the face because he kissed…wait, surely that can’t be the right memory for how chilled you are about all this? Alas, it seems to be, and once again the 16 year old Stella and Rob resurface losing all common sense and sense of responsibility. Before history fully repeats itself, Stella runs off babbling about the weather and Rob pretends nothing happened ordering her not to get all weird or anything (Rob always seems to take longer to return to adulthood…). Sorry Rob, but if the look of fear and guilt in Stella’s eyes watching her boyfriend cuddle his new son is anything to go by then going all weird is exactly where she’s headed. Mind you, it could be because her husband just agreed to call his son Jackson Jackson.
Finally, it looks like a familiar face in Paula will be back next week, but for the reason I hoped would never happen. Daddy’s days of body surfing in New Zealand are over and Pontyberry will soon be giving the legend the send off he deserves.