Biker Girl’s Back

I’m fine now, I’m fine, yes, I’m perfectly well,
I’m back in the street and I’m sure you can tell
I’ve got a reaction from all those around.
They talk, and I’m keeping my ear to the ground.
Well Karl’s face went ashen when he saw me back
With my shiny new bike and my leathers of black.
And Paul was quite freaked and it’s no easy feat
To freak out the sneakiest man in the street.
I went to see Toadie, at least he seemed happy,
But Sonya looked wary and at first pretty snappy.
Who else can I freak by just being about?
They’re fretting and fussing at Steph getting out!
I’m fine now, I’m fine, all I want is a chance,
I promise I won’t get embroiled in romance.
I won’t snatch a baby, I won’t run folk over.
I’m real me again, and my old life is over.
I’m fine now, I’m fine, so don’t get in a tizz,
I’ll e-mail dear Libby and ask how she is,
I’ll bake cakes with Susan, I’ll babysit Nell,
No more misdemeanours and playing merry hell.
I’ll even do housework and go to play Bingo,
I’m sorry, real sorry what happened to Ringo.
Look, trust me, I’m fine now,
I’ve really calmed down.
The reformed Steph Scully, the quiet girl in town!

© Carol Ann Wood
October 2015


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Love Thy Neighbour: Never Sully A Scully!

When biker girl Steph Scully (played by the immensely talented Carla Bonner) came roaring back into Erinsborough in her leather jacket, I knew I wouldn’t be alone in being pleased to see her again. Over the years, Steph has been involved in almost every scenario imaginable, and so you could guess that this latest return wouldn’t disappoint on the drama front. Steph has some making up to do with the people of Ramsay Street, not least because on her last visit, she neglected to take her bi-polar medication, had a psychotic episode and turned into Erinsborough’s version of The Child Catcher. Since then, she has been in a psychiatric hospital, but now that she is on the way to being completely discharged, and is eager to prove that she is well again. Besides mending fences with her old friends, her dream is to reconcile with her two sons, Adam and Charlie, with whom she is currently allowed no contact.

Viewers knew that not everyone in Erinsborough would be willing to give Ms Scully another chance, and that there would be a fair amount of scepticism about her declaration of full health. And whilst Steph knew not to expect a welcome posse, she didn’t exactly make things easy for herself. Keen to reintegrate into the community, she persuaded Fitzgerald Motors’ chief mechanic, Tyler Brennan, to employ her. Unaware that Lucas Fitzgerald had bought back ownership of the garage, Steph hadn’t quite foreseen the situation which she’d be getting into. Despite realising the need to keep a low profile, she didn’t follow this through. Instead, she elected to sit and enjoy a burger, not very far from her old haunts, with Amy Robinson, who was unaware of Steph’s identity. Being in such close proximity to her old home, it was highly likely that she would be recognised by someone she knew. It was a clever touch from the writers to incorporate a remark by Josh Willis (Carla’s son, Harley Bonner) that Steph’s face ‘looked familiar’ when he saw her lunching with Amy; you could tell that Carla and Harley were trying to refrain from laughing. I wondered how many shoots that scene took. It provided a comedic moment for those already ‘in the know’ about the real-life familial connection. In true Neighbours fashion, though, Steph was only ‘outed’ when she ducked out of Karl Kennedy’s view by dashing into the garage; upon which he decided he needed to pop in for something.

Steph’s presence will have a profound effect on quite a few residents of Ramsay Street. Not least, Toadie Rebecchi. One of the most powerful story lines involving Steph was a sham marriage to Toadie to cover up the fact she was pregnant to Dan Fitzgerald. Dan was married to Steph’s best friend Libby Kennedy, albeit Dan and Libby were estranged at the time. Complicated, much? ’Marrying’ Toadie enabled people to assume Toadie was the baby’s father. Steph would later claim that their deception was to spare Libby’s feelings, although Libby certainly didn’t see it that way when she found out! Whilst some viewers wondered if Toadie would actually have gone through with such a sham, we acknowledged that he was placed in a compromising position. Both he and Steph had been emotionally close to Libby, who had been unable to have a child with Dan. And Stephanie Scully can be persuasive. The fallout from the whole sorry scenario left a cauldron of bad feelings and recriminations which have not been entirely resolved. There was also some ill feeling from Steph about the fact that Toadie represented her in court after she had accidentally run over and killed Ringo Brown on her bike. Toadie had failed to prevent her receiving a jail term. Because of her mental illness last time round, much was left unsaid. If Steph and Toadie are to repair their friendship entirely, there needs to be some honest talking from both parties.

Then there’s Toadie’s wife, Sonya. Viewers could expect her be mistrustful of Steph. Sonya had already been romantically involved with Toadie when he and Steph executed their fake marriage. Sonya had been keen to reignite their relationship when she discovered he was about to ‘marry’ Steph. She is understandably concerned that Toadie will once more become emotionally embroiled in his old friend’s life. Steph, Sonya points out, has always been Toadie’s Achilles Heel and whenever he tries to help her out, it spells trouble. Although, Sonya  – and Lucas Fitzgerald for that matter – would do well to remember their own demons and the second chances that their respective spouses have afforded them. I am glad that Toadie pointed this out to both Sonya and Lucas. Given Sonya’s propensity towards helping virtual strangers, let alone friends in need, she should maybe keep some of her concerns to herself for the time being. Her list of Achilles Heels is considerably longer than Toadie’s!

Lucas Fitzgerald and his wife, Vanessa, are arguably the ones who have most cause to doubt Steph. It was their baby, Paddy, she snatched during her psychotic episode, believing him to be her own son Adam, who was by then was in the care of his father, Dan. Also, let’s not forget that Steph has some romantic history with Lucas, too. Lucas and Vanessa have since put the past behind them, moved to the country, produced two more children and built up successful businesses. Buying back Fitzgerald Motors as a second garage is testimony to their upturn in fortunes. Steph being on the scene is a painful reminder of the grief that she caused them. That Lucas reluctantly agreed, under Vanessa’s strict terms and conditions, to give Steph a chance at the garage, shows admirable forgiveness. But Vanessa still has to be convinced about Steph’s mental state. She has insisted that Lucas and Steph have no face-to-face contact, although viewers won’t be surprised if that promise is broken, either deliberately or by circumstance. And if so, both Lucas and Steph will incur Vanessa’s wrath, for she isn’t someone to be disobeyed!

Paul Robinson’s expression was priceless when he first came face to face with Steph this time around, akin to having seeing a ghost. He has since been vociferous in his distaste at her presence. There are manifold reasons for this displeasure: Steph was once Paul’s stepdaughter during his short, acrimonious marriage to her mum Lyn – a liaison riddled with deception and fraudulent activity. He was very close to Ringo Brown’s wife, Donna, who was like a daughter to him, and Paul has never forgiven Steph for Ringo’s death. He is fiercely protective of grandson Jimmy, to whom Steph is taking a maternal shine, because he’s the same age as her estranged son Charlie. She has also struck up a close friendship with Amy, bonding over the fact they’re both single mothers of sons, and because they both work in male-dominated professions. We could be sure that as soon as Steph made herself at home in the street, Paul would be quick to blame her for kidnapping, starting fires, and anything else to tar her character and reputation.

Karl and Susan Kennedy have reasons not to be overjoyed at seeing Steph again. In their opinion, Steph betrayed Libby by sleeping with Dan. It did much damage to Susan’s friendship with Steph’s mum, Lyn Scully, and Susan in particular found it hard to forgive Steph for causing daughter Libby such pain. The betrayal even sparked a temporary rift between the Kennedys and Toadie, for his part in the whole saga. However, despite their reservations, Steph managed to convince Karl and Susan on her previous visit that she was completely recovered. But that was before Karl discovered that Steph wasn’t taking her medication. Whether Karl and Susan can trust Steph, this time around, remains to be seen. And will they feel duty bound to let Libby know Steph’s whereabouts? Libby has enough on her plate, now that she’s embarking on a second teaching stint in China and she’s dealing with teenage son Ben’s involvement in the Erinsborough school fire. She may be less than happy to think of Steph getting her feet under the tables of Ramsay Street.

The initially mysterious Belinda, who turned up and started ‘warning’ residents about Steph still being fragile, gave viewers cause to wonder not only who she was, but if she was trustworthy. Steph was eventually forced to confide in Toadie about the fact that Belinda was an ex-girlfriend and also her former psychiatric nurse. The dialogue between Toadie and Steph was perfectly executed; awkward silences, and a mixture of coyness and curiosity on Toadie’s part. The writers can be proud of the way they dealt with the topic of bisexuality. Steph explained to Toadie that she had simply fallen in love with a person. Toadie was concerned that Belinda had manipulated Steph, but Steph was quick to insist that it was she who encouraged the relationship. However, Belinda having been Steph’s psych nurse complicates the issue. She’s not happy about Steph being in Erinsborough and yet now seems keen to hang around herself, even being interviewed for a job at the hospital. This doesn’t bode well for Steph and there is bound to be more drama to come.

Despite having stuck resolutely to her mission to prove that she can be trusted, events beyond Steph’s control have constantly put her in the spotlight. She must have known that when Jimmy went missing, she would be a prime suspect. But in helping with the search, her mistake was not telling Kyle that she guessed where Jimmy was, instead rushing off without explanation. It was fortunate that Jimmy backed up her story, and also fortunate that Amy has chosen to judge Steph for herself and not on her father’s bias. It was a good move by Steph to organise a wheelchair basketball game to help Toadie come to terms with his recent disability, and opinions of her started to thaw slightly. Despite Sonya still being wary of her, Steph spoke a truth in saying that whether Sonya likes it or not, they both care about Toadie and they’ll always have that in common.

But, unfortunately for Steph, the Erinsborough school fire put her credibility at risk once more. The fire was deemed to be suspicious, before Ben Kirk and Piper Willis confessed to their part in it. We saw Steph come along to the protest-against-closure sleep-in, having been given a pass from the hospital for the occasion. We saw Toadie turn her away after being approached by Belinda, claiming that Step wasn’t well enough to be in Erinsborough. And when Sonya was having trouble pulling Toadie from the burning building, who should be passing by but Steph. Then we learnt that a petrol can found at the scene of the fire came from Fitzgerald Motors. Paul, of course, was more than happy to suggest that Steph had been involved, leading her to being formally questioned. Thankfully her mobile phone records proved her innocence, when she remembered that she had left her mum Lyn a voice-mail message from where she was walking, well away from the fire at the time it was started.

We could predict that being absolved of starting a fire wouldn’t be the end of Steph’s problems, however. She started hearing ‘Greensleeves’ being played at the garage, a previous trigger of her psychosis. Or did she? She wondered if someone was trying to set her up, but didn’t have any concrete proof. Together with hearing Greensleeves, a phone call she assumed to be from son Charlie, and a customer complaint about her doing unnecessary work on their car, almost served to convince Steph that she really was relapsing. It was painful to watch her struggle to work out what was real and what wasn’t, and laudably scripted and acted. Viewers started to wonder who would have most wanted to play this cruel trick. The obvious suspect was Belinda. Did she really love Steph or was she a manipulator who was scared of being struck off the nursing register if her affair with Steph was revealed? it was even hinted at that Vanessa might have been the perpetrator, although most viewers found it hard to believe that she would be so vindictive. She did, though, deal Steph another blow when she told her that she had been sacked from the garage.

Cue Paul Robinson suddenly being uncharacteristically nice to Steph, offering her a job as a bar tender at Lassiter’s. Alarm Bells were ringing louder than the Erinsborough High School alarm. Paul isn’t nice to anyone he despises, unless he is up to something. And poor Aaron Brennan, currently employed as Paul’s bodyguard, got caught up in the deception. He struggled with his conscience and his loyalty – after all, he didn’t know Steph previously but had heard worrying things about her – but, after suspecting that Paul had been switching Steph’s medication, he sent a text on Toadie’s phone to warn her. Unfortunately by then, Paul was driving Steph to Bendigo to see her old doctor, she having had a Paul-induced psychotic episode whilst on bar duty. It was obviously his intention that she would be sectioned again and never return to Erinsborough. However, Steph received the text message she assumed was from Toadie, questioned Paul, and as seems to happen frequently in Neighbours, his car was run off the road and they crashed.

This was the satisfying point at which we saw Paul get his comeuppance. The old Steph Scully that we knew and loved had returned; eliciting a confession out of Paul whilst pretending not to have already called an ambulance, recording the whole conversation and later giving him no option but to agree to her terms: Steph won’t report Paul if he continues to employ her and give her glowing references in future. The hospital scene in which she lay down her terms was one which I particularly enjoyed. It’s not a good thing that Paul has got away with this hateful crime, but it’s one-nil to Steph, and you can imagine that mum Lyn will revel in hearing all about it. Furthermore, it will be fun to see Paul squirm every time Steph goes near him.

I had not fully appreciated until Steph’s return how much I’d missed this emotionally complex and vibrant character from one of the street’s most infamous families. So far, it’s been a delight to have her back, and I hope that it’s a permanent move. Carla Bonner knows Steph inside out, she’s played her through the heartache of being jilted at the alter after her sister ran off with her fiancé. She’s been involved in accidents, a shooting, a sham marriage, jail, survived breast cancer (twice), been estranged from her children, and most recently battled a serious mental health condition. There isn’t much that the seemingly indomitable Steph hasn’t had to face. And whilst her fans might want Steph to find total health and happiness, we know that whatever life throws at her from now onwards, she’ll come shining through. The way that she has outwitted Paul is testament to her resilience and strength. Because apparently, even he has had to learn a hard lesson: Never sully a Scully!

© Carol Ann Wood
April 2016


Index of Posts:


Links:
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Follow Carol Ann Wood on Twitter
Carol’s football-related blog: Levelling the Playing-Field
NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Perfect Blend
Neighbours


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Love Thy Neighbour: Naomi Canning

We had gleaned a little about Naomi Canning before the talented Morgana O’Reilly brought her character to life in Ramsay Street: She was estranged from her mother Sheila, due to Sheila’s disapproval of Naomi’s affair with a married man, Charles Tranner, (Naomi’s then-boss). But, knowing Sheila as we did, there was a good chance there was another side to the story, and so it proved. Naomi and Sheila are alike in more ways than they might care to admit. They’re both strong-willed, and resist being told what to do. We were informed that Sheila had ‘shopped’ her daughter to Charles’s wife Polly, and that this was what led to the mother and daughter’s estrangement. And, of course, neither stubborn woman would back down and reconcile their differences, for five years.

It was immediately apparent why Morgana was chosen to play Sheila’s daughter. What perfect casting: as Naomi’s vibrant personality played out, we could see why the pair would clash. Sheila had regrets about her relationship with Naomi; she was fond of giving advice to anyone else in a similar situation, telling them to mend their family feuds before it was too late. She commented to Ramsay Street residents that Naomi, a surprise late addition to her and Frank’s family, had been spoilt by her father, who had adored her. Sheila also admitted that she had blamed Frank’s fatal heart attack on the fact that he was so upset at Naomi’s affair. This immediately placed the viewer in a position of empathy towards Naomi, even if they disapproved of her actions. After all, it’s a pretty harsh burden of guilt to place on your daughter. At that point, I desperately wanted Naomi and Sheila to work through their differences, and to recognise that this was not a black and white situation. For the most part, they did, eventually. I was glad to see Sheila conceding that the cause of Frank’s heart attack was more the fact of his poor diet, than Naomi’s dalliances.

Naomi is one who makes an immediate impression on others. She breezed into Ramsay Street, and heads turned in her wake. She’s saucy, a bit of a vixen, and although she has acted inappropriately on many occasions during her residency, one cannot help being amused, and sometimes even impressed, by her audacity and her determined nature. We soon saw that she had a taste for the finer things in life, and that her former lover had supplied some of those finer things, including a painting worth a lot of money. Her designer handbags and shoes have taken on a life of their own, each more glitzy than the last and, knowing Naomi, more expensive. I can only assume that some of the scenes involving grassed areas are filmed on astroturf, given the height of some of Naomi’s vertiginous heels and the fact they don’t appear to sink from view whenever she struts across a lawn!

Whilst I have described Naomi as a vixen, nevertheless, it is apparent that she is vulnerable beneath the sassy, confident exterior. She desperately wants to be loved by someone loyal and steady, but she recognises that sooner or later, she is likely to mess it up. That’s why, for the most part, she takes risks and seeks out fun. She hits on men who are either unavailable, or with whom she’s incompatible, at every opportunity. She fell heavily for Toadie, which concerned and shocked Sheila. Sheila feared Naomi was going to repeat her past mistakes, but thankfully, Toadie was horrified when Naomi threw herself at him. He had genuinely bonded with her, over their shared love of wrestling, and he admired her competency as his PA, but would not dream of being unfaithful to Sonya. Viewers were generally unsympathetic towards Naomi’s brazen pursuit of Toadie, and angry with her when she pretended to have a stalker in order to gain his attention. But even then, it was obvious that ‘Nomes’ wasn’t all bad; rather, she was covering up her feelings of loneliness, desperately wishing that she could have the sort of love that others around her seemed to enjoy.

Naomi’s saucy ways have given the writers much opportunity for comedic scenarios. My own favourite was the elevator moment. Yes, that moment, when the minx took advantage of her then-secret lover Josh’s company, pressing the emergency alarm button to stop the elevator so the pair could have a passionate encounter. Sheila’s innocent concern for her opportunistic daughter after rescue was hilarious: Seeing Naomi out of breath and red in the face, she believed the ‘poor love’ had experienced some sort of claustrophobic panic attack. Oh Sheila, we thought you knew your daughter better than that! Then there was the hot tub moment with Josh’s head pushed under the water to hide his presence, and most recently, the mother and daughter face-pack scene. Naomi cringed at Sheila’s mention of the love life she’d enjoyed with Russell Brennan. Call me prudish, but I think Naomi is right: no matter how close a mother and daughter are, there should still be boundaries and that was definitely a ‘too much information’ moment. It made for amusing viewing!

Naomi always thought that brother Gary was their mother’s favourite, and it bothered her greatly. She felt that she had been judged harshly by Sheila for every mistake she’d ever made, whilst Gary’s misdemeanours were ignored or excused. Moreover, Naomi knew something which Sheila didn’t: Gary had been involved in the infamous Frankston robbery, and had shot through. His years of exile from Frankston – and from his family – were to protect himself. Thus, Naomi saw justification in allowing the truth to emerge after Gary turned up at the family’s new base in Erinsborough, despite knowing it would hurt Sheila. Happily, there was eventually a truce of sorts between mother, son and daughter, albeit an uneasy one. Sheila had to admit to herself that Gary was a lawbreaker. Gary had to make a big decision, and confessed to being Paul’s latest ‘heavy’ who had beaten up Ezra Hanley. With Gary facing jail, Sheila, recovering from her heart attack, reassessed her opinion of her daughter. This ultimately led to a warmer, more honest relationship between them. There would always be fireworks, but maybe now they’d be the everyday disagreements about the mundane, rather than huge emotional explosions.

Many viewers commented that they liked Naomi and cop Mark Brennan together, but others felt him a little too serious natured for her. I tended to fall into the latter category. Whilst Naomi enjoyed her fling with Mark, you couldn’t help think that it was more about physical attraction on her part, rather than a shared philosophy of life. Sooner or later, Naomi would get bored. Additionally, there was the fact that Sheila wholeheartedly approved of Mark, actively encouraging the pairing. You can imagine Naomi thinking to herself, hang on, this is someone my mother likes. Do I really want to be with someone my mother likes? It’s just not in Naomi’s nature to conform that much! Hence, she started questioning why she was with Mark, and explored her feelings towards the much more complex and roguish Paul Robinson.

Naomi’s involvement with Paul was played out wonderfully. She certainly doesn’t let an age gap get in the way of a potential relationship, and veers from one age extreme to the other. Paul is old enough to be her father, and in choosing to date him, we see the longing she has for that clichéd father-figure, the feeling of security she gets from someone looking after her and providing her with a luxurious lifestyle. Well, to an extent. Because, despite this yearning, Naomi is also fiercely independent. She is a career woman who likes to make her own decisions and won’t let a man tell her what to do. Paul seemed to have learnt from past mistakes, treating Naomi with a fair amount of respect and actually listening to her views. The way that she supported him during the time he believed he had leukaemia seemed to have softened his heart, and it was very touching to watch. We thought, and hoped, that Paul had finally realised what was most important in life. He even forgave Naomi for going against his wishes and contacting his estranged daughter Amy, bringing her back into his life. In fact, he would come to thank her for giving him another chance at a relationship with Amy, and with his grandson, Jimmy.

However, once Paul had learnt that he hadn’t ever been suffering from leukaemia, regained control of Lassiter’s, and was firmly back in the rôle of the powerful businessman, we could predict that his old ways would resurface. Naomi had made a difference to him, but perhaps not to the extent needed to solidify their relationship. She initially accepted Paul’s proposal of marriage, but we could see that she was wavering. After all, they hadn’t been a couple for very long, and does has five failed marriages behind him. You could therefore understand her hesitancy! Paul’s ego was resurgent, when he ‘advised’ Naomi that, as the fiancée of someone as important as the mayor, she needed to reassess her wardrobe. He then unveiled his plans for a more philanthropic approach to her business, and spoke enthusiastically about PR shoots to ‘promote’ their engagement. Despite Naomi having had to apply damage limitation to Canning Enterprises after Toadie’s bouncy castle accident, there was no chance that she was going to comply with Paul’s demands.

Naomi’s rebellious streak came flooding out, culminating in the drunken night spent with Josh. Whilst many of us felt that she was perfectly justified in telling Paul where to get off, she might have been best advised not to rebel to that extent! It’s a pity, because I enjoyed seeing Paul and Naomi together; they were a fascinating combination of two very strong characters. I think the viewers can believe Paul really did love Naomi, and that she would have been good for him. However, his ruthless, often heartless approach towards others proved to be intolerable for her. We knew that Paul was acting shiftily once he discovered Naomi’s unfaithfulness, and you could guess he had a trick up his sleeve. Old, revengeful Paul had resurfaced writ large. Naomi discovered missing CCTV footage amongst Paul’s belongings, showing someone planting drugs in Josh’s sports bag. Once it was evident that Paul had been involved, we knew it would spell the end of Naomi and Paul’s relationship.

Many viewers besides me will be sorry to see Naomi depart Ramsay Street. She has been offered a ‘dream job’ in America and I can’t help but think the lifestyle will suit her character perfectly. As with many departees, everything happened in one episode, from Naomi telling Sheila she had applied for the new post, to being interviewed, to leaving Erinsborough the next day. I am a bit disappointed there was no farewell party, but at least we still got a send-off to remember. I nearly spat my coffee out from laughing, when Sheila flashed her ‘puppies’ (as Naomi referred to them) at Naomi, exemplifying my earlier point about the two being more alike than they might admit. And only Neighbours could pull of Sheila’s speech about Great Grandfather Canning having being a convict, then working hard for the good of future generations with ‘I Vow To Thee My Country’ playing in the background!

Morgana, I hope that you enjoy being a new mother, which is, after all, the most important job in the world, and so for that reason, we can understand your decision to leave Naomi behind. You’re an extremely talented actor and I’m certain that you’ll be in demand whenever, and in whatever genre, you decide to resume your career. But don’t forget Ramsay Street: if you ever have a yearning for vertiginous heels, sassy outfits and designer handbags, the viewers would be more than happy to see Naomi Canning back in town any time.

Good luck, and thank you for Naughty Nomes! It’s been a blast!

© Carol Ann Wood
October 2015


Index of Posts:


Links:
About the author
Contact the author
Follow Carol Ann Wood on Twitter
Carol’s football-related blog: Levelling the Playing-Field
NOT Just Saying: Carol’s comments on feminism, fashion, food and folly
Perfect Blend
Neighbours


Please note that any advertisements which appear below these posts are not indicative of any endorsement by the author. They are placed there by a WordPress algorithm.