Michael Fenton Stevens (Paul Morgan)
Have you noticed how many Archers stories are featuring phone calls nowadays? We have had the long-running Paul and Lilian saga, which is still on-going, but perhaps it moved up a gear last week when Lilian decided to meet Paul for coffee, or whatever (talking on the phone, of course) – we await developments with interest.
We also had Nic ringing Emma and offering to help by having George for an extra day a week, Fallon ringing Rhys to offer him a job at Jaxx's and Tom proving that he doesn't understand what "I'm too busy to talk to you Tom" means, whether he's talking to Brenda on her mobile or the AmSide landline. But more of these later - whatever did the scriptwriters do before mobiles?
I am convinced that the scriptwriters have got it in for me personally, producing storylines that make me alternately weep and bang my head against a brick wall. Consider the evidence: James and Leonie split up (cue fireworks and popping of champagne corks), then the writers cruelly brought him back to Ambridge and – almost unbelievably – the story showed him in an even more irritating light than before, which is no mean feat, believe me. Could it get worse? You bet, and this week it did just that, when there was a knock on the door of the Dower House and there stood Leonie, asking after James.
The reconciliation between the pair was truly nauseating to listen to – she referred to him as "you poor lamb" and he called her "my silly sausage." Matt spoke for all of us when he told Leonie "You're welcome to take him away with you." No such luck! And even worse, Leonie announced that she would get compassionate leave from work and stay in Ambridge. Truly our cup runneth over and things took an even more sick-making turn when Lilian surprised Leonie giving James a bath. Please, please scriptwriters – return the pair to London asap. Better still, I hear that there are still attractive opportunities available in Australia. Or Neptune.
Poor Emma and Ed are getting dragged deeper into the mire, although they now have a new, old car. Ed assured Emma that it will be all right when he gets himself an additional job, thus conveniently ignoring the fact that a) in the current economic climate, there are no jobs and b) there are only 24 hours in a day. The only good point of this storyline is that Nic tears Will off a strip, pointing out reasonably enough that Ed wouldn't deliberately take George for a ride in a death trap and that Ed and Emma are struggling because they are poor. Will is all for grinding Ed's face into the dust, while he pockets the bonus from Brian for organising a good shoot, but Nic manages to smooth the situation over and even Ed comes to appreciate that letting Will have George for an extra day would help their budget.
Have you noticed that Kirsty's part seems to have expanded recently? Not only is she going out with Iftikar, but she let slip to Fallon that she (Kirsty) might have mentioned to Don and Jim, when they were choosing the replacement for Kenton, that the staff were really hacked off when Naomi was temporarily in charge and to promote her would be a mistake. Naomi's non-speaking part ends when she walks out on the job, to Fallon's and Kirsty's delight.
But this leaves them a person short. Who to approach? Millions of listeners shout "Rhys!" and Fallon rings him. At last, it seems that she and he might be getting it together, but no, as he tells her that he's happy at The Bull and doesn't want to move. Kirsty teases her, saying that she secretly wanted Rhys to come to Jaxx's for reasons other than filling a staff shortage. Fallon protests, but her denials ring hollow.
The Christmas extravaganza stumbles forward – every time Lynda is on the verge of despair, bloody Robert comes up with an idea to save the situation. The latest is to have a Lord of Misrule to compere the show and link the various strands – who else but Kenton?
A confusing storyline is that of the changing relationship between Kathy and son Jamie. Jamie went for an interview with Isaac, who offered him a job with his tree surgery operation. It's the first time Jamie has shown any enthusiasm for anything (apart from burning down bird hides) and he tells his Mum that he could even have his own business in a few years.
I mentally prepared myself for Kathy's "you mustn't throw your life away – go back to college and spend three years doing something you don't like to prepare yourself for adult life" speech and – it didn't happen! Not only did Kathy agree that he could leave college, but she said that she would give him the money he spent on the chainsaw course recently and, furthermore, she would pay for his driving lessons. There was I, expecting a marathon of whining, sighing and cajoling and they were throwing their arms round each other and saying nice things. This about turn in character portrayal is unnerving – what are we to expect next? Brian to become a monk? Tony to buy a round? I don't think I could stand it if, say, Jazzer went to university to read philosophy.