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While ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” is known for its over-the-top storylines and tawdry sexual affairs, it is an emotional–not literal–affair that has been at the front and center of the show’s final episodes.
Lynette and Tom, the somewhat “normal” couple of Wisteria Lane, have had a tough year–what with Tom’s daughter by an old flame coming to live with them and opening a new business together. The stress and demands of their lives finally took their toll on Lynette in recent weeks as she turned to support from someone other than her husband. The fallout of the affair was played out thoughtfully and realistically on last night’s episode.

The emotional affair had been simmering as Lynette has worked long hours alone with the hunky cook, Rick, who she recently hired (okay, that part of the story is not so realistic) while Tom has been at home recovering from an injury. When a store robbery occurs at the restaurant one night (when Rick and Lynette are there by themselves), the police look at the surveillance tape later, and it is then that Tom discovers the obvious emotional attachment Lynette feels for the cook.

Tom confronts Rick, even though Lynette has already fired him so she would no longer be tempted, and the estrangment between the couple continues. Despite Tom’s pleadings to go into counseling, Lynette chooses to try to ignore their marital woes.

However, as often happens in real life, bad news brings a reality check to the couple as Lynette receives bad news that she might have cancer. In the final moments of the show, Tom and Lynette reach for each other’s hands as the doctor explains his findings, signaling an unspoken understanding that the dedication they have to their family and the sacrifices they have made for each other matter far more than a momentary fantasy left unfulfilled.

Amidst a lot of greed, lust, and material excess, such a representation of the more complex nature of keeping a marriage together was a refreshing twist and redeemed a usually tacky show.

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