In its annual tradition of blowing something up, Neighbours based a whole week around the destruction of their cursed hotel. Ethan Sills sat through five nights of deaths, shock returns and a whole lot of dust.
For a show that is predominantly about middle-class white people arguing and sleeping with each other, Neighbours loves a good explosion. Whether it needs to celebrate an anniversary, boost the ratings or axe some characters (sometimes all three), the writers behind Australia’s most famous street are always willing to blow something up. It may not be very realistic – I’m sure there are streets in war zones that have seen less destruction than Ramsay Street – but it often makes for entertaining television.
Barely six months after their last big disaster, the high school fire – so recent they haven’t rebuilt the sets yet – Neighbours is at it again, this time dedicating an entire week to destroying Lassiter’s hotel. Every day we were promised access into a different room and set of characters. So how did the high concept fare?
Kyle is reuniting with his estranged wife Georgia at the hotel. Now that she’s taken time to travel the world and straighten her hair, she wants him back.
After a lot of soul-searching and tears, the two share a kiss – only for Kyle’s girlfriend Amy to walk in because, duh, it’s Neighbours. Kyle chases after her into the lift, which promptly breaks down between floors because, duh, Neighbours.
Elsewhere in the hotel, preparations are underway for the Citizen of the Year event. This should have been a warning from the beginning: there’s never an event in Erinsborough that doesn’t end in death, fire or an exposed affair.
Paul’s on the warpath after the event was moved from his motel, and has hired someone to ruin the event. The building hasn’t even blown up yet and already you know Paul’s going to get blamed for this whether he did it or not.
Through a series of montages, half the cast makes their way to the hotel. Karl goes to meet a mysterious guest; Josh hangs around arguing with Daniel for no reason; Toadie is called into the hotel; Paige bumps into a lost Home and Away cast member – most characters in some way end up there, just waiting to be blown up.
Similar to how Shortland Street foreshadowed their helicopter crash by spending weeks mentioning their new helipad, the staff at Lassiter’s have been plagued by a series of problems with the boiler room that only appeared a month ago. It could have left the door open for a harmless accident, but in between the shots of bickering neighbours, an unseen figure appears and does some off-screen hammering.
That hammering has its desired effect, and the episode ends as the building finally explodes in a ball of… dust? Really? You’d think after all the build up to this they could have dished out for some pyrotechnics. But this hazy mix of Hunger Games-level shaky cam and giant animated dust clouds is all we get.
In a Neighbours first, we get an hour of post-explosion action, though things are still kept pretty vague. Emergency services somehow arrive in the amount of time it takes Steph to walk several metres from the neighbouring bar. I guess if you lived in Erinsborough you’d always be on high alert for the next explosion.
Dr Karl jumps straight into action in the decimated hotel lobby. He discovers former romantic rivals Josh and Daniel are trapped underneath a metal column. For poorly explained reasons, only one of them can live. Daniel has a leg wound that will cause him to bleed out, but if they move the column to free him it will somehow cause Josh to die instead.
As he spent all of last week talking about the future, soap law dictates Josh has to die. They gloss over the why: Karl makes zero effort to move him from underneath the giant piece of metal crushing him to death. Josh’s final scene saying goodbye to his baby daughter on the phone packs a lot of emotion, but the sheer absence of logic around his demise sours the whole endeavour.
Despite the damage to the hotel, only Josh has died so far, which should prove that living on Ramsay Street marks you out for early death.
The drama picks up today, focussing on the missing Willis patriarch, Doug. He’s been holed up in the hotel with a mysterious man who, in classic Neighbours clunky exposition, reveals himself as Brad’s long lost son Ned, back in town for a surprise reunion.
When Brad finds Doug, he refuses to believe Ned is there, thinking his father is having another Alzhemiers spell. Then, from across the Lassiter’s green, father and son spy each other and reunite, at which point Doug promptly has a heart attack.
Attempts to revive him prove fruitless, and Doug dies, leaving father and son to bond over his passing. It would have been an emotional scene, but they had to ruin it by having Ghost Doug creepily appear behind the grieving pair.
Does everyone turn into a ghost when they die on Neighbours? Will Doug continue to appear in the future, wandering around the lake and ordering ghost-chips from Harold’s?
Yesterday we learnt Karl’s mystery guest in the hotel was his 90s mistress Sarah Beaumont. Susan delivers some grade-A sass to Sarah, warning her to stay away from her husband. Sarah proceeds to wander around Ramsay Street, smirking at the houses.
You know she’s up to something – no one ever smirks on Neighbours without an ulterior motive.
It wouldn’t be a Neighbours disaster without the show’s veteran lawyer Toadie being involved. After facing off with a bouncy castle and then being trapped in the school fire, Toadie faces his third accident in under a year.
Buried under rubble, Toadie tries to free himself as a concrete column slides ominously towards him. Will he be rescued in time? They leave us waiting until Friday for the answer, but after all these disasters, you can’t help think it’s about time one of them finished him off.
We find Brad still sitting on the lawn mourning the loss of his ghost father. The show employs a fast-forward montage to stress how long Brad has sat there, which proves distracting since they clearly recycled the same extras throughout.
Now that the pesky problem of death is out of the way, the focus has turned to the cause of the explosion. Paul is trying to cover his tracks and work out if he is indirectly responsible, likely worried since everything is normally his fault. He deletes security footage from Terese’s linking him to the explosion. The man is basically begging to be arrested.
The show’s only minority character, Nate, randomly returns with the search and rescue people, who all waste time lowering Toadie a radio instead of securing the giant death pylon waiting to crush him.
Toadie uses what could be his final words to tell Steph to destroy a folder in the bottom of his desk. I’m already far more interested in the contents of this folder than anything else the explosion has produced.
The episode also saw the departure of Kyle, after eight years on the show. But as he heads off to Germany, let us mourn Bossy. That kelpie had more personality than half the people she shared her house with, and now she has to go to the other side of the world on a whim. We’ll miss you, Bossy. And Kyle too, I suppose.
All signs are pointing to Paul as the culprit, and he’s doing nothing to change that. He remarks to Steph about not letting the police come into the motel, leading her to crack open his briefcase and discover he’s literally walking around with boiler room blueprints. Come on Paul, you’ve been doing this for 31 years now. Major rookie error.
That’s how the week of the dusty hotel came to an end. It was nice that Neighbours spent a bit more time on this disaster, given they are normally cramped into one or two episodes, but the execution left a lot to be desired.
Given that each episode was meant to be based around one room, those storylines were the least interesting parts of the week, nor were they the bottleneck-style episodes they were marketed as. The scenes based around the explosion and its effect was Neighbours at its dramatic, if illogical best, but you can’t help wishing they’d committed to their concept just a bit more.
I guess there’s always next time – they haven’t blown the hospital up yet, have they?
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.