- Mark tells Gary to prepare himself for a return to jail, since he's breached his intervention order
- Ben expresses concern to Karl after Alison suggests his mother could be violent towards him
- Alison tells Ben it's not as black and white as to report Cooper's mum for assault
- Mark asks Steph to move in with him permanently, but Steph admits to Sonya that she's not ready
- Snake- catcher Ari spies on Steph from the bushes on Ramsay Street
- At confession, Jack realises that his assumption Paige was Ari's target was mistaken
- Ari follows Steph through the row of trees by the nursery
The Row of Trees™
We pick up where we left off. Steph continues to walk through the trees, oblivious that Ari is following her ominously, his hood up. Steph freaks out when she bumps into someone, but it's only Jack. He offers to walk her to the bank where she's headed, claiming he's going in the same direction. Ari looms from behind a tree, watching them – looking Evil™.
Here be titles.
Jack comes in and speaks to Mark, asking if the police are still looking into the snake incidents on Ramsay Street. Mark claims they already have their man, Clive West – and that although he's out on bail, he will be in hospital for a few weeks.
JACK: Are you sure it's really him?
MARK: Is there something you need to tell me?
JACK: No, I just think the police should keep an open mind. Sometimes what seems obvious isn't always what's true.
MARK: Right. I'm not sure whether that's a riddle or an insult – so unless you have something useful to say, do you mind not telling me how to do my job?
Mark excuses himself – he's going to see the Bombers destroy the Blues, which is presumably some kind of sporting reference. Jack asks if Steph's going with him – Mark confirms she is.
JACK: Keep an eye on her. Look after her.
MARK: I always do.
Mark leaves, and Jack looks worried, reaching for his mobile phone.
Gary comes in with pigeon supplies. Xanthe has been busy decking out a cage for one of the pigeons, but she's clearly very close to tears at the prospect of Gary going to jail again. Sheila comes in, and asks Gary if he's heard from the parole board, but he says they're still to let him know their decision.
They discuss the secret camera footage from the hotel room and how odd it is, but Gary says the main thing is that it proves Xanthe was telling the truth about Cooper.
GARY: Stay strong, okay?
Gary opines that whoever sent the footage must really care about the family. There's a knock at the door, and Gary's horrified to open it and find Cooper standing there. Xanthe rushes into the living room, and tells Gary to leave them to talk. Gary is reluctant, but says he'll be in the kitchen.
Cooper explains that the police haven't charged him with anything yet; instead, they've sent him to talk to Xanthe to see if they can sort it out.
XANTHE: You lied. And you swore to everyone that I lied. So, no – we can't work this out.
COOPER: I still want to apologise. I pushed you to do something you didn't want to do, and I was out of line. I mean it – I really am sorry.
XANTHE: If you're really sorry, you'll tell me who hit you. It wasn't Dad, and it wasn't Ben. Hmm?
But Cooper doesn't reply, and leaves. Sheila, who's been listening, comes in and tells Xanthe she's proud of how she handled it. Xanthe's scared of Gary going back to jail, but Sheila tells her not to give up hope; Gary's working hard to turn his life around, and that has to count for something.
SHEILA: He will get another chance. Believe me.
But in the laundry room, Gary doesn't look so sure.
Karl catches up with Maureen Knights outside the hospital, and asks after Cooper - explaining he's heard he was questioned by the police.
MAUREEN: Apparently we'll get no privacy.
KARL: No more than Xanthe Canning got.
Maureen says that what Cooper did was totally unacceptable, but that it's in the police's hands now – and she's just hoping that Xanthe won't press charges. Karl remarks that teenage boys can be a handful, and mentions that he's reviewed Cooper's medical file.
KARL: This is not the first time he's been treated with concussion.
MAUREEN: He fell off his bike. That was years ago.
KARL: And the year after that, he had to have stitches for a split lip. He dislocated his shoulder when he was ten…
MAUREEN: Cooper's an athlete. He gets into scrapes.
KARL: Is that all it is?
MAUREEN: Excuse me?
KARL: Well, I'm just wondering – how are things at home? Could he be clashing with a family member? His father, perhaps?
MAUREEN: Cooper barely sees his father.
KARL: Could he be clashing with another family member?
MAUREEN: Are you accusing me of something?
KARL: I have to ask.
MAUREEN: Cooper's virtually a grown man. Do you really think that I could hurt him?
KARL: I just want to help.
MAUREEN: My son is in no danger from me.
KARL: The evidence is in his file.
MAUREEN: Thank you, Karl, for your concern.
She walks off.
Steph and Sonya are staging a performance for Mark, to try and make it look as if the Rebecchis are all desperate for Steph and Charlie to come back and live at No 30. Sonya outright suggests that Steph should move back in.
STEPH: Well, how can I say no to that, hey? I probably just should go back and start packing now.
Mark's oblivious to the fact that Steph's the one who wants to move back, and explains to Sonya that he's asked Steph and Charlie to move in with him.
STEPH: We're still thinking about it!
MARK: Yeah, but you and Charlie are happy – right?
Steph doesn't answer! Mark tells the pair of them to hurry up and get ready to watch the footie, while he goes to finish his shift. Once he's gone, Steph and Sonya lament that their plan to move Steph back to No 30 didn't work. Steph realises she only has one option left – to be honest with Mark and tell him she's not ready to move in permanently.
STEPH: That's gonna be a fun conversation.
Steph heads home, downcast. She doesn't notice Ari, who's been sitting nearby, listening to her conversation. He gets up and follows her out…
Jack is talking to Father Peter McKinnon, explaining that someone has admitted in confession that he's thinking of targeting another person. Father McKinnon says Jack must encourage the penitent to seek help.
JACK: What if he doesn't come back to confession? He's at breaking point. What if he acts on his urges, and he…
FATHER McKINNON: Please, please. Don't say anymore. The seal of the confessional is sacrosanct. You must take this obligation seriously.
JACK: I haven't seen him. I wouldn't be able to identify him.
FATHER McKINNON: Makes no difference. Without the penitent's permission, you can't discuss what you've heard with anyone.
JACK: What about the police, though? Isn't there something that –
FATHER McKINNON: No. Doing so would incur automatic excommunication. You know that.
Jack is fiddling with his beads, looking very conflicted.
Nearby, Tyler and Ben are talking about Cooper. Ben says that if Cooper doesn't come clean that his mum is hitting him, Gary will go to jail. Tyler talks about his own experiences with his dad, saying it took a long time before he was prepared to admit to his brothers that he had been beaten. Cooper might find it even harder.
TYLER: My dad thought he was teaching me right from wrong. So she's probably doing the same thing.
BEN: Does that mean she can keep getting away with it?
TYLER: You can't force someone to speak up.
BEN: We can try. For Cooper's sake, if not Xanthe's. You get that, right?
Mark comes in, to find Toadie scouring the house to find the car keys, so they can all drive to the game together. Mark speaks into his police radio!
MARK: BKC 200, we need an approximate location on Toadfish's keys.
MARK: Have you tried the fridge?
TOADIE: Strangely enough, it hasn't occurred to me to look there yet.
Mark explains that this is where Aaron sometimes accidentally puts his keys.
TOADIE: Cover me. I'm going in.
They mime an armed stakeout as Toadie raids the fridge.
TOADIE: There is some of Stephanie's old yoghurt growing its own ecosystem.
Mark admits he hadn't realised how much the Rebecchis missed Steph. Toadie lets slip that Steph's more excited about her moving back to No 30 than they are.
TOADIE: It does sound like your brothers have finally broken her!
MARK: … What did she say exactly?
MARK: About living with me and my brothers?
Toadie looks sheepish as he realises he's said too much.
Mark comes in while Steph is getting ready for the footie.
MARK: Toadie said that you don't want to live with me anymore?
Steph sits Mark down. She says she's thankful for how welcoming the Brennans have all been, but that Charlie needs a settled routine, and she's not sure it's a good fit for him their being here. Pushed further, she admits she's feeling overwhelmed by how fast things are moving, and that her conversation with Sonya in front of Mark earlier was an attempt to let him down gently.
MARK: We've spoken about this! About having a family and building a future…
STEPH: Yeah, and I still want that.
MARK: Well maybe you don't want it enough!
STEPH: I love you, right? I'm just – it's not like there's a set of rules that we have to live by. It's not like we have to live together to be a family. Maybe that's just not what works for us. Come on – we can make the rules as we go, that's all I'm saying.
Mark cuts the conversation dead, saying Toadie and Sonya are waiting for them. Steph wants to talk further, but he says they don't have time if they want to get to the footie. Steph says she might give the footie a miss, so Mark decides to do the same – and heads back to the station to do some work. Neither of them see a hooded Ari watching through the window…
Cooper is doing angry sit- ups on the gym equipment, clearly overexerting himself, when Ben and Tyler show up.
BEN: I spoke to Alison. She said there might be some problems with your mum?
Cooper just ignores him and keeps exercising.
BEN: If she's wrong, just tell us. You don't have to take it, Cooper.
COOPER: Alison's lying.
BEN: You don't deserve to be hurt like this. No- one does.
TYLER: This stuff can happen to anyone. The bullying, the assault. I know this, because it happened to me with my dad.
COOPER: So, you're a loser, who cares?
TYLER: I'm the one who got through it, okay? But it only changed when I spoke up. That's when I took back the power. You know, people can help. Not just you, but your mum too.
During the conversation it becomes clear that Maureen has called Cooper following Karl's intervention earlier. Cooper tells them both to back off, but Ben perseveres. He puts a hand on Cooper's shoulder, but Cooper grabs him by the collar.
BEN: You gonna hit me? Stop trying to work out and talk to us.
TYLER: He can't stop. Because stopping means going home. And you'll do anything to avoid that, right? And you heard it in her voice. You know what's waiting for you.
COOPER: She sounded so disappointed.
TYLER: Parents are meant to make us feel safe. When they don't, it feels like nothing is. But you're not alone. You just need to be brave. And tell the truth, okay?
Cooper nods. Tyler gives him a hug.
Tyler and Ben have accompanied Cooper to talk to Susan about what happened at the hotel. He admits he went too far, and called Xanthe a liar so everyone wouldn't think he was a loser.
SUSAN: The next time someone, anyone, says no…
COOPER: I'll hear it. I'll back off.
Cooper says that his mum lost it when she heard what Xanthe had accused him of.
SUSAN: Did she hit you?
COOPER: No, she shoved me and I fell back and hit my head on the letterbox.
SUSAN: Has this happened before?
SUSAN: It's okay.
COOPER: Once or twice. She doesn't mean it. She gets upset.
TYLER: That's no excuse.
Susan suggests that Cooper might want to talk to his dad about it. But Cooper says his dad won't believe him, and his mum would ‘just freak'.
SUSAN: You love your parents, Cooper. It's hard to speak up, but you have a voice. You have a right to be heard. And yes, your mum will not take this well. But maybe… Maybe this is a chance for her to change? It's your choice, it's your decision to make. But I promise, you won't do it on your own.
Karl leads Maureen out to a waiting police car, saying the cops need to talk to her! She tells the silent cops that whatever Karl's told them, none of it is true. But Karl says he didn't call the police – Cooper did.
KARL: The Department of Human Services has been notified.
MAUREEN: I was just looking out for my boy. I wanted him to have some discipline.
KARL: It took a lot of courage for Cooper to come forward.
MAUREEN: I never meant for him to get hurt. I just get angry. You're a parent – you know the pressure.
KARL: There's no excuse. None.
Karl watches sadly as the police take Maureen away.
Mark, Gary, Susan, Sheila and Xanthe are having an all's- well- that- ends- well in the kitchen. Mark's spoken to the parole board, and since Gary's been cleared of hitting Cooper, he won't be going back to jail. Xanthe hugs Gary delightedly. Susan explains she'll organise some counselling for Cooper at school. Mark says that Cooper will be charged with assault if Xanthe proceeds with her complaint.
MARK: He did the wrong thing.
XANTHE: Yeah, he did. What if he went to counselling? Not just about his mum, but about what he did to me?
GARY: Are you sure? Cos if you want to take it –
XANTHE: We all know what Cooper did was wrong. But I've decided that I want to give him the chance to turn his life around. I want to drop the complaint.
Mark says that in that case, Cooper will be given a caution, and sent on a programme for assault offenders. Xanthe thanks Susan for getting Cooper to speak up, but Susan says it was all Ben's doing, remarking on how keen he was to help her and Gary.
Mark and Susan leave, and Sheila suggests Xanthe go and have a chat with Ben, as he's obviously been worried about her. But Xanthe just wants to hang out with Sheila and Gary for now – when Ben wants to catch up, he'll call her.
Steph is on the phone to Sonya, reporting that Mark has gone to ‘blow off some steam' following their chat. Steph admits she should have been upfront with Mark in the first place, and that she still wants to move back into No 30.
Jack finds Mark hanging out at the bar, and is worried as he was supposed to be taking Steph to the footie. Jack asks after Steph and Charlie; Mark says Charlie's at Jimmy's, and Steph's at home.
But Jack just runs out of the pub!
Steph's still on the phone to Sonya. She says she'll start moving her things in once they get back from the footie. She doesn't see that Ari is now inside the house, and watching her from the doorway.
STEPH: I'm so glad that all that creepy Clive stuff's finished… Yeah, I know, it's sad, isn't it? … It's sad that someone's life can be so empty that they've got to fixate on others…
Ari stands behind her...
Shortly afterwards, Steph finishes her call, and Ari goes to hide in one of the bedrooms. Steph hears a noise.
Jack knocks vigorously at the door, and she lets him in.
JACK: You're okay.
STEPH: Why wouldn't I be? What's going on?
JACK: I can't really say. But you shouldn't be alone right now.
JACK: Look, I can't say. But just trust me that you could be in danger right now.
Ari suddenly dashes out of the bedroom, and Jack chases him.
STEPH: What the hell?!
JACK: Oi, come here!
- Jack tells Steph that there's no easy explanation for this
- Mark demands that Jack tell him who the intruder was
- Jack looking conflicted in the church
- Paige demands to know if Jack was spending time with her because he thought she was the target
- Gary has a printed list of guests at Lassiter's, and asks Paul what he's going to do with it
- Terese tells Madison that Paul could get his wish and Terese could lose everything