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It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Photo: South Pacific Pictures/Tina Tiller)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Photo: South Pacific Pictures/Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureDecember 21, 2021

The Shortland Street cliffhanger: guess who’s back, back again

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Photo: South Pacific Pictures/Tina Tiller)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year (Photo: South Pacific Pictures/Tina Tiller)

Tara Ward gets hypnotised by all the big drama in 2021’s tense cliffhanger episode, including the return of iconic villain Carla. 

Two weeks ago, a gas explosion ripped through Shortland Street hospital in a moment worthy of an end-of-year cliffhanger. Could it get any tenser than Desi being trapped in the staff “poo loo”? Of course it could. This year’s Christmas cliffhanger proved that gas explosion was merely the first wave of festive drama, with Shortland Street’s final episode of 2021 giving us an emotional wedding, a terrifying stabbing, a kidnapping, a weird dance, the surprise return of an iconic villain, and one bloated Santa. Ding-dong merrily on high, Shorty.

OMG we missed you Carla (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

Like all good cliffhangers, Shortland Street pulled on our weary heartstrings with some classic soap moves. Tess and Tom got hitched in a hurry so Tess’s terminally ill mother could attend the wedding, and in a delicious shock, classic baddie Carla returned to Ferndale. We last saw that “sexy homicidal maniac” in May when she kidnapped Nicole’s son Pele, a child who’s seen more drama in his few years than Chris Warner’s “please tell me that is not your penis” iPad could dream of.

Of course, Carla was only pretending to be in a coma, and soon she was back to her old tricks and smothering a prison guard with a pillow. Chris refused to transfer her to another hospital, possibly because he was too distracted by his good hair day and his new girlfriend. What happened to Claire McLeod? Must we mourn her passing all over again? This was not the cliffhanger we were expecting, Dr Love.

Leanne loved Claire McLeod too (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

Carla had her grubby fingers in a lot of emotional pies, and the nurses lined up to tell their former psychiatrist how she’d ruined their lives. Nicole told Carla she was nothing, Vincent blamed her for the fact he dresses up as a clown, and Damo was so stressed at Carla’s return that he bloated up and couldn’t fit his Santa suit. Carla was definitely on Damo’s naughty list, but before he had a chance to put coal in her stocking, she hypnotised him with her fingers.

Ho ho oh no (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

That’s right, her fingers. You may well scoff, but Carla was always powerful. Remember in the 1990s when she defrauded ACC? Wicked to the core. Now Damo was Bad Santa, a hairy, hypnotised husk left to wander the hospital in a daze. “Who emptied your sack?” poo loo lover Desi asked. Who, indeed.

While Carla’s hypnofingers began their reign of terror, the rest of Shortland Street celebrated. Tess’s mum Megan reckoned her daughter’s socially distanced wedding was the best day of her life, which is something you never say in Ferndale if you want to make it past midnight. The bride glowed, the groom made a fine speech, and bridesmaid Dawn was off her chops. She’d organised the entire wedding, while Tom’s hapless best man did nothing but say “oi, oi, oi” and get Dawn high, which seems like a fair divide of responsibilities.

Party’s over, kids (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

Good times never last long in Ferndale, especially when you’re dancing like you’re in an episode of Bridgerton. As a slippery Carla escaped her handcuffs, Tess’s abusive stepfather Richard arrived at the wedding reception with a knife. He’d been served a protection order to stay away from Megan, and didn’t take it well. Richard ruined everything by stabbing both the bride and the bride’s mother, and suddenly Tess was on the floor, bleeding.

There were doctors everywhere, but what use were they? They couldn’t even tell Carla was faking a coma. While Tess bled all over her fancy dress, Carla unleashed hell at the hospital by strangling Clown Nurse Vincent and kidnapping Nicole and locking her in Chris Warner’s office. Chris’s swivel chair has seen some action, but not like this.

Hands up if you love Christmas (Photo: South Pacific Pictures)

Nicole’s wife Maeve had spent the episode naively saying “babe, it’ll be OK”, as if she’d never spent Christmas at Shortland Street before, but now was her chance to be a hero. Sadly, she made a rookie mistake and dropped the syringe of Something Fatal that she’d prepared earlier. Oh, Maeve. Surely she knew how powerful Carla’s fingers were? Carla grabbed the both the syringe and Maeve, and the last thing Maeve will ever see is that sad gold tinsel on Chris Warner’s credenza.

The 2021 Shortland Street cliffhanger delivered like a bloated Santa on Christmas Eve, giving us an explosive episode of tension and excitement, and enough stress to make viewers turn into their own distended Saint Nicks. After that stabbing scene, let’s trap ourselves in our own poo loo and rewatch the wedding dance, when nobody is bleeding and everyone is spinning in circles like happy platelets on a centrifuge. What dance will they do next? Will Chris Warner’s hair look this good in 2022? After the year we’ve all had, maybe that’s the only cliffhanger we need right now.

The Shortland Street cliffhanger is available on TVNZ OnDemand.

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