Lolly apologises for getting Bree into trouble and Lou accepts it. She grimaces when he squeezes her shoulder.
Steph and Max wish they could go back to the way they were.
Pepper discovers Lolly's bruise and asks who hurt her.
Pepper assures Lolly that she can tell her - no one is allowed to do this. They can report them. Lolly shakes her head vigorously and tells her it was nothing. As she tries to flee Pepper grabs onto her arm and tells her not to do this. Susan appears with Rachel and Ringo in tow and asks what's going on.
LOLLY: Miss Steiger's hurting me!
Lolly accuses Pepper of hitting her. Susan tells Ringo and Rachel to go to class and asks an incredulous Pepper to wait in her office. Once they've gone Susan gently asks Lolly what happened.
Steph and Summer are in the kitchen with Janae and Boyd. Boyd wants to know how Shelley Bay was and is eager to find out what the resort was like. Steph tells him that they were having such a great time with Lyn and Valda that they didn't quite make it to the resort. Boyd reminds her that the resort was their Valentine's present and Steph apologises - one thing led to another and Charlie and Ozzy were so cute playing together that they couldn't tear themselves away.
Janae says that it looks like Steph's taking her for some pampering then! Steph agrees; she and Max would feel much better if Janae and Boyd took the present.
Boyd is surprised but Steph is certain - it's such a beautiful present and it shouldn't go to waste.
MAX: It's over, Karl. Whatever me and Steph had...it's over.
Karl is so sorry to hear that. He knows what Max is going through.
MAX: Oh, I'm fine. Just worried about the kids.
Summer pesters Boyd to get going; they're going to see a film and it starts in twenty minutes! Although Boyd knows nothing about the movie Summer hurries him along with the promise of spending some quality time with her, his little sis.
Janae looks to Steph, mulling over her words.
JANAE: So...when are you gonna tell them that you and Max are over?
MAX: They're my kids.
KARL: Yeah. Well, even though they're grown up like mine were, they still crave security.
He looks to Max, who doesn't say anything.
KARL: Mate, all you can do is let them know that you're still their father and be around for them.
Max takes this all in, staring intensely ahead.
MAX: I've taken a job on the Gippsland rigs.
Karl gives a slightly disapproving 'uh'.
MAX: I know (pause) I know but I can't stand to be around Steph at the moment.
Having seen what he's just walked into Toadie scarpers back to his bedroom, muttering something about paperwork.
Max looks pained.
Susan and Lolly go over what happened. Lolly has already told Susan that she was kept behind and then Pepper started shouting at her. Susan wonders if Lolly knows what brought it on. Lolly isn't sure - maybe Pepper hates her for dobbing her into Lou. Susan asks what happened then as all she saw was Pepper holding her arm. Lolly thinks Susan doesn't believe her but Susan says she's only trying to find out what happened. This is a very serious allegation, which can't be taken lightly. Lolly wants to leave but they have to wait for Lou. After that Susan will draft a report that will be sent to the education department. Lolly is alarmed - why do they have to know? Can't she just be sent to another class? Susan tells her that if Pepper hurt her they have to ensure it never happens again. Lolly heaves a sigh.
Boyd and Summer return to find Janae in the process of leaving to help out at the Scarlet Bar. Boyd wants to go too but Janae says it's okay before hurrying out.
Summer and Boyd go into the kitchen. Steph and Max stand up as they come in. Boyd asks what's going on.
STEPH: Eh...we've got something we need to tell you guys.
Boyd and Summer are curious (and maybe slightly concerned).
MAX: Look, there's no easy way to...
He stops and looks at his kids.
MAX: Steph and I have decided to part ways.
Boyd can't believe it.
BOYD: What - just like that?
Summer starts to cry and Steph rushes over to comfort her.
MAX: It wasn't an easy decision for either of us, Boyd. We still care about each other, it's just...things are different now.
BOYD: You haven't even tried! You can't just throw this all away - it's not fair!
MAX: We did try, Boyd - we tried really hard.
SUMMMER: I knew it!
Max tells them that Steph will stay here while he finds a place in Sale; he's taken a job on a rig in the Bass Strait on a week-on, week-off basis.
SUMMER: How can you go so far away from us?
Max reminds her that he'll be closer to her school there and it won't be too far for Charlie and Boyd either.
STEPH: We still love you guys *so* much. We want you to understand that.
Boyd says he's going to be late for work and leaves. Summer goes after him (even though Max tries to pull her back); she doesn't want to lose him as well.
Max hugs and kisses her, explaining that Boyd isn't angry at her and she's not losing anyone. It's just going to take some time.
Steph watches them, arms folded.
Pepper assures Susan that she didn't hurt Lolly. She knows that holding Lolly's arm was wrong but she was about to run off. She tells Susan about the bruise; Lolly was about to open up to her about it. Susan admits Lolly didn't tell her. Pepper says that the minute she mentioned taking action about it Lolly tried to flee; that has to mean something. Her disruptive behaviour might be a sign that she's being abused. Susan thinks Pepper might be right but she can't ignore the allegations; a complaint has been made and a process must be followed. She has to suspend her.
Later on, after the commercials, Lou is telling Susan that he wants Pepper sacked. Lolly is barely composed as Lou demands Pepper's dismissal. Susan promises appropriate action *if* Pepper is guilty. Taking offence, Lou angrily asks Susan if she thinks Lolly is lying. Lolly wants to leave and Harold obliges.
Susan tells Lou that Pepper and Lolly's versions of events have been faxed to the department and the investigation has been prioritised. She gently brings up Pepper's suspicions about the bruise on Lolly's shoulder and possible bullying. Lou doesn't know anything about that and he can hardly tell if she's behaving unusually as he's just getting to know her again.
Susan encourages him to convince her to open up but Lou thinks Pepper was probably the culprit. Susan has no reason to doubt Pepper. Lou thinks Pepper's just trying to throw the heat off herself and Susan's helping her!
Janae tells Chris that she knows Boyd will take Max and Steph's split badly; he'll blame himself. Chris says he's lucky he has Janae to lean on - she's a strong and loving person who Boyd's very lucky to have.
Meanwhile Pepper is getting legal advice from Toadie but can't concentrate due to her mother being in the same place. Toadie looks over to Chris and tells Pepper she should tell her mother about it. Pepper wonders why she should when Chris didn't open up to her. Chris doesn't need a daughter and Pepper doesn't need a mother. It doesn't matter how bad things get...
Chris walks over and pulls Pepper into a hug. Pepper hugs her back and tells her she's in trouble.
Lou thinks Susan is covering up the allegation as she doesn't want the school looking bad. Lolly would have told him about bullying. Harold asks whether she would, knowing he would react so angrily. Maybe it was easier for her to blame Pepper. Lolly comes in and Harold leaves.
Lolly asks if he's angry. Lou is only angry with himself because he only sees what he wants to see. He'll do all he can to help her but she must do the same. Lolly shows him the bruise when prompted but won't answer who did it. She will shake and nod to Lou's questions, though; it wasn't Pepper or a kid at school and she's not being bullied. Lolly says it isn't what everyone thinks - she tripped on some stairs and forgot all about it. She wishes Lou would drop it and that she'd never dobbed Miss Steiger in. Lou hugs her.
He says they'll have to tell John and Sandy but Lolly doesn't want that - they'll make her go back and she's happy here. Lou promises her that no one will make her go where she doesn't want to.
LOLLY: So it's just between the two of us?
LOU: You betcha. Don't you worry about a thing.
Pepper thinks Steiger will freak when she tells him. Chris reminds her that she has his unconditional support but Pepper is afraid he'll try and prove he's not soft on his own daughter. Chris assures her that she and Steiger love her and know she wouldn't do this. Pepper tells her to stop - she's treated her so badly. Chris wishes she'd told her about Carol from the start. Pep thinks it's her fault; she was so confused and hurt. They're both keen to put it behind them: they need each other.
Now Pepper just has to figure out how to help Lolly... Chris would rather she stay out of it but Pepper is adamant that it's her duty as a teacher to help her.
Boyd is furiously cleaning everything in the building (just like his Nana Scully in a crisis) and Janae tries to get him to stop. She suggests a walk but then Max appears and Boyd runs off to clean the office. Max follows.
MAX: Listen, Boyd, Steph and I tried, alright? We really tried and, if there was another choice, we'd have taken it.
Boyd asks if they've tried counselling; they haven't, so that means they've just given up.
MAX: Mate, with everything that's happened in the past six months, things aren't the same between us anymore. During that time...something broke. It just broke, mate, and we can't fix it.
BOYD shaking his head: I shoulda done a better job of keeping Toadie away while you were gone...
MAX: Oh no, mate - look, this is not your fault. It's not your fault - it's nobody's fault.
BOYD: Your marriage was...everything. I mean you guys were closer than anyone else I know. What hope does that give the rest of us?
MAX: I don't know. Maybe the best you can do is try to learn from my mistakes, eh? Don't take anything for granted and remember what's really important in life. This doesn't have to come between us, y'know?
BOYD, sullen: It won't.
MAX: You gonna come and visit me in Sale?
Boyd gives a slight nod although he's still scowling.
MAX: Look, mate, I'm still your father. Whatever it is you want, whenever, you just gotta ask, okay?
Boyd gives a firmer nod and Max pulls him into a tight hug.
Summer is trying to play with a disinterested Charlie when Steph comes in. She asks her step-mother if she'll still be able to come and see him.
STEPH: Of course you will - he's your brother.
Summer reminds her that he's her half-brother.
SUMMER: And you're not really my mum...but you are...
She sighs; now she and Max aren't together anymore she doesn't know where she fits in.
Steph sits down with her.
STEPH: You're my daughter, right? Your Charlie's sister. Nothing changes that, Sum, nothing. Right?
SUMMER: D'ya still love me?
STEPH: Oh, how can you even ask me that?
She hugs her.
SUMMER: It's just that you don't love Dad anymore.
STEPH: No, no, no - I do love your dad. It's just not - It's just not the same anymore. But, anyway, that's completely different to the way a parent loves their child; that love never dies, it never fades or anything - it only ever gets stronger.
Steph loves Summer so much and wants her never to doubt it. Summer loves Steph too. They hug again.
KARL: So these days I don't so much take pulses as grow them.
Zeke, Ringo, Rachel and Bree are stupefied with boredom and Bree decides they now have enough for their interview. Karl, clutching a sack of potatoes, wonders if they'll be taking the whole doctor-turned-eco-warrior angle but Bree was thinking more about examining how his lifestyle change has affected those around him. She tells him they'll take a raincheck on the photoshoot.
Once Karl's gone they all vote to bump the interview and replace it the Miss Steiger exposé (which they don't get to vote on despite Ringo's requests).
Bree thinks they should do something about idiots who send anonymous Valentine's cards, like person who sent one to Rachel. Zeke reads out the message in Rachel's card;
When I'm around you all words that I want to say just stop;
But I want you to know that I think you're real hot;
I wish I could tell you how I feel;
I guess I'm too scared to open up and be real.
Ringo looks very uncomfortable as Rachel snatches the card back; she thinks it's sweet. Zeke reminds her that the guy will never know what she thinks as he's gutless. He and Bree think he's so embarrassing. Rachel asks Ringo to have a crack as he always does. Ringo's not surprised the guy can't tell her how he feels to her face; she'd probably bite his head off!
In the hallway Susan finds Karl on his hands and knees capturing some runaway potatoes. She tells him she's having an awful day and Karl informs her about his B.U.N.S. interview - just check out his potato crop! Susan tells him she'll see him late.
Susan tells the B.U.N.S. crew that the launch of the blogzine has been postponed as Miss Steiger is unavailable. Ringo saves the day by suggesting they finish the blogzine out of school while leaving Susan with the final say on content. Susan thinks it could work and Ringo and Rachel smile.
Pepper can't think of any students that would bully Lolly and no teachers fit. Harold and Lou wouldn't hit her either. Chris wonders about other adults that Pepper doesn't know about. Pepper is so glad to have her mother back in her life and asks her to bring Carol round for dinner. She could maybe invite Steiger and Janelle too! Chris puts her off the idea and Pepper counts off all her guests on her fingers, realising she's the only one without a date. Maybe Carol could bring her brother or a son - but would they be gay? Chris tells her to calm down but Pepper wants to put in lots off effort (to distract her if nothing else) - then Carol might not have any hard feelings. Chris says she'll be back at work before she knows it and she can redecorate the office at the garage until then. Pepper thinks she can hide there. Chris says she has no reason to hide - she's innocent! Pep thinks she won't be having any friends over to the house until she manages to prove it.
They hear voices behind the front door and Pepper goes to find Zeke and Ringo on the doorstep, pledging their support.
PEPPER: I love you guys!
She hugs them.
Karl is cleaning the floor and being really serious about it - all the chairs are sitting upturned on the table and everything. Harold has never seen the place so spotless! Karl remarks that he's been a bit slack with his housekeeping lately. Harold spots the sack of potatoes and picks some to take home with him. Karl notices Harold grimacing as he stands - he's not surprised his back has flared up after his run-in with those thugs. Harold makes a quick exit.
KARL: Hello darling.
SUSAN: Oh don't talk to me - I'm in a filthy mood!
Karl sits her down - he knows what happened at the school and apologises for not stopping to listen. Susan wonders what the smell is (the Shepherd pie he's cooking) and she notices he's cleaned - why?
KARL: Well, I've expected you and the kids to accommodate a lot of changes in my life and I haven't really considered what a sacrifice that was.
Susan is saying how it hasn't been *that* bad when Springsteen starts up.
SUSAN: Strike that.
Karl gives her a shoulder rub.
KARL: Tonight you are going to be pampered.
SUSAN: Yeah - what about tomorrow night?
KARL: More pampering.
SUSAN: What about the night after that?
KARL: Still more pampering.
SUSAN: Ah, well, I'm warming to this new you.
Karl becomes serious (just as Toadie walks into the room, unseen behind them). There's something Karl has to tell her before they dissect her hellish day; Steph and Max have split.
Susan thinks it's terrible and asks Toadie if he's seen Steph. Toadie says it's none of his business. Karl tells Toadie that Abby called and Toad asks what she wanted. Karl presumed another date. Susan asks if the date went well and Toadie gives an unconvincing 'yeah'.
The Hoylands are enjoying some R and R. Boyd and Summer toss a football between them as Max sits with Charlie, Steph and Janae on the rug. Summer and Boyd want to get Charlie started on working on his ball handling skills; Boyd reckons he'll be the best player the G has ever seen. Boyd kicks the ball (in a rubbish fashion) and Max ribs him for kicking like a girl! Janae takes Charlie and, along with Summer, sets out to show them how it's done.
The camera pans back as we see Steph and Max watching them all play in front of them.
MAX: We did pretty good, didn't we?
STEPH: They're beautiful kids.
MAX: D'ya reckon we can take credit for Janae?
STEPH: Well, she is a Hoyland.
MAX: We'll take fifty percent then, huh?
STEPH: At least.
Steph nods to herself, thinking.
STEPH: Yep. We've been blessed.
Max gives her a small smile in return, nodding.
They turn and watch their kids playing happily together.