- Elly tells Claudia she's accepted a plea bargain and will plead guilty to avoid jail
- But Elly insists she's not guilty - she's only making the plea for Aster's sake
- On the phone, Claudia says that Elly's an unfit mum; she'll do whatever it takes
- Aaron finds that a stash of tablet devices has been delivered to The Shed
- Paul admits to Aaron that the tablets are stolen; they need to get rid of them
- David tells Harlow Paul will never change; she decides to lower her expectations
- Later, Harlow's furious when she overhears David confronting Paul about the tablets
Paul is hanging out alone, looking pensive, when Terese comes in. She tells him to sit down, but Paul's too worried about Harlow to comply.
PAUL: You saw the look on her face when she left. How am I supposed to claw my way back from that?
TERESE: Well, you can start by not blaming everybody else.
PAUL: I'm not blaming everyone else. I'm blaming Aaron.
TERESE: Aaron did the right thing, and you know it. I mean, you could've been upfront with those goods. But as usual, your instinct was to cover it up.
Paul says he only did that so as not to make himself look even guiltier to Harlow; Terese retorts that this hasn't worked out well!
PAUL: My family's been against me before. It'll pass.
TERESE: I don't think it's going to be quite that straightforward this time.
Paul says he has to go to the police station and asks Terese if she's coming, but she says not.
TERESE: You can deal with this yourself.
David, Aaron and Pierce come in, whingeing to Chloe and randomly-present Kyle about Paul and the stolen goods. Pierce explains to an oblivious Kyle that the guy who robbed the Kennedys' was also Jane Harris's catfish.
KYLE: Jane Harris's what-now?
David exposits further about Mannix's exploits, and how he was stealing to pay back Paul for refunding Jane's money - leading to the stolen tablets turning up at The Shed, and Aaron missing his meeting with the fostering agency. Chloe seems pleased to learn that he and David are considering fostering.
DAVID: I spent the whole visit trying to explain where my husband was.
AARON: Yeah. We might've blown it before we even started.
Pierce and Chloe are more upbeat, though, saying that as it wasn't an official session, they will have a second chance to impress.
CHLOE: Foster care is an awesome idea for you two. Don't give up on that!
Toadie and Elly are having a meeting about her plea hearing, while Claudia lingers in the background with Aster, earwigging. Elly's worried her character statements are all from friends and family, so not impartial. But Toadie assures her the prosecution knows her actions weren't malicious, so are happy to go with a non-custodial sentence.
TOADIE: Our character references just back that up for the judge.
He explains that he'll need to speak to Chloe about changing hers, as all the others were written after the change of plea, whereas Chloe's was before.
ELLY: If the judge decides he doesn't like what he sees or hears, by this time tomorrow I could be in prison.
TOADIE: ... Elly, I don't like to make promises, but I am extremely confident that that won't be the case.
ELLY: But how can you be so sure?
TOADIE: Because nobody wants to see you go to jail, on either side.
We cut to Claudia, who doesn't look so convinced of this!
TOADIE: I've never seen a prison sentence under these circumstances, ever.
CLAUDIA: Sounds like you picked the right man for the job.
TOADIE: Oh, no, it's got nothing to do with me. I just wish all cases were this easy.
Claudia looks scheming...
Paul has come out of the police station and runs into Terese. He explains he's told Sky (or 'Detective Mangel' as he insists on calling her) the full story about Mannix. The police are confiscating the money he's paid to Paul so far and have given Paul a warning about withholding information.
TERESE: What, and that's it?
PAUL: Don't look so disappointed! Everything's out in the open - I'm in the clear, so we can all move on now.
TERESE: Do you have any idea how lucky you are?
Paul goes back to blaming Aaron for the situation, but Terese says Paul started it all by reimbursing Jane for the money Mannix stole. Paul defends his decision to do that, but Terese keeps telling him off. He concedes he needs to make some apologies to the family for his actions, but after that, he says, everything will be fine.
TERESE: Yeah, well, don't count on it. Because this whole 'do what you want because your family will forgive you' approach is flawed.
PAUL: It's worked for me in the past. Don't see why it won't work again.
Terese looks annoyed as Paul smugly walks off.
Elly turns up with Aster and Toadie in tow. She asks Chloe and Pierce if they could look after Aster - Claudia was meant to mind her while Elly and Toadie were discussing the case, but has had to leave unexpectedly. Chloe and Pierce are keen. Toadie also talks to Chloe about her character statement for Elly.
TOADIE: It's all good stuff, except what you've written defends Elly's innocence.
CHLOE: Because she is innocent.
TOADIE: We all know that. But Elly has changed her plea, so we need it to sound as if you are accepting that she's guilty.
Chloe agrees, but looks uncomfortable.
ELLY: Are you okay with that? I know you think what I'm doing is wrong...
CHLOE: No, umm, that's fine. If that's the legal lowdown, I will toe whatever line I have to.
Elly and Toadie head back to No 28, but Chloe looks worried.
Weiler & Perkins Lawyers
Claudia is having an evil villains' meeting with Sam Fitzgerald at her law offices.
CLAUDIA: I was more convinced that Elly would go to jail when she was pleading innocent.
SAM: Look, a guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter's not a good look for a single mother.
CLAUDIA: If she doesn't go to jail, then we don't have grounds for a custody hearing.
SAM: That's not entirely true.
CLAUDIA: It would certainly make it difficult to achieve!
SAM: Yeah, it's not ideal. Look, let's just focus on the plans we have in motion at the moment, okay? How are things in the Kennedy household?
CLAUDIA: Well, I think that bartender might be right. There's some tension between Susan and Karl.
SAM: Do you get the sense it's serious?
CLAUDIA: Well, I think they're putting on a brave front. But I've seen some private moments, and no, it's not good.
SAM: How about the woman at the school stirring up all the parents?
CLAUDIA: Yeah, that was a great idea, thank you. It put some pressure on Susan, and she's not calling Karl in to help.
SAM: Good. Well, that's where we keep chipping away. Look, if we can just get Elly's family out of the picture, it gives you a better shot.
CLAUDIA: Again, only if she goes to jail. Now, Toadie's convinced that those testimonials will win over the judge.
SAM: It's hard to say without seeing them, though.
CLAUDIA: I can't do maybes. 'Maybe' won't protect Aster. And that's all I want.
Aaron is collecting the washing from the line in the garden, while David talks to Harlow on the phone. After he's finished, he tells Aaron that Harlow is feeling better about things.
DAVID: I think I jumped the gun, advising her to accept Dad for who he is. I'm definitely rethinking it.
Paul appears from behind the house, waving his hands in the air jokily to suggest surrender.
PAUL: Hope you're not talking about me! You can lower your weapons - I come in peace.
But David is not impressed to see Paul joking about it. Paul reveals the police have let him off with a warning.
AARON: Wow, great - that's good for you, Paul (!)
PAUL: No, it's good for all of us. Hey, anyway - I know that I have some apologies to make. Guys, I'm really sorry that I messed up your chances for your foster care appointment.
However, he reveals he's spoken to Leila, the agency worker who David met, and has talked her into giving them a second meeting at their offices. Paul assumes David and Aaron will be pleased, but...
DAVID: You're sticking your nose in even more!
PAUL: I'm trying to help.
DAVID: We don't want your help. We don't need it!
PAUL: Oh, David, I realise I messed up, but...
DAVID: Messed up? You dragged my husband into something that could've put everything we've ever wanted at risk!
Paul asks how he can fix it. David says he can start by minding his own business, and leaving them alone! Reluctantly, Paul walks off. Aaron tries to comfort David, but David's upset and walks away.
Toadie and Elly are continuing their meeting. Elly's emotional at reading the reference that Xanthe Canning has written for her; she's amazed she could even think of doing it having just lost Gary. Claudia turns up again, claiming she's been dealing with a 'work crisis'. Elly explains Aster is now with Chloe and Pierce.
Claudia notices Elly has been crying, and asks her what's wrong. Elly explains she's tearing up from reading the character references.
CLAUDIA: Not what you hoped for?
ELLY: The opposite, actually - they're really beautiful.
CLAUDIA: May I?
ELLY: ... Yep, sure.
She reluctantly passes the statements to Claudia, who affects delight as she reads Xanthe's. She then starts rifling through to read the others, and Elly takes the documents away again.
ELLY: *Everyone* has been really kind.
Toadie tells Claudia that he and Elly still have a lot to get through; she takes the hint, and leaves.
David and Aaron are still in the garden when Terese shows up. She's come of her own accord, and apologises for what Paul did - conceding that the way he behaves is unacceptable.
David and Aaron complain that Paul didn't even think to check with them before he scheduled the second meeting with the foster agency - it clashes with Elly's hearing, and in any case they don't want to accept it because they don't want Paul to think he's made everything right.
DAVID: We're actually thinking of dropping the whole foster carer thing.
TERESE: Oh no, not because of Paul?!
DAVID: We'll be looking after kids in crisis. We won't have time to deal with the drama he brings.
AARON: Yeah, or the danger.
TERESE: ... Look, you both have wanted a family, in whatever form it comes, since before you were married. And the fact that you've chosen foster care is perfect. There are so many kids out there that need people like the two of you. You know, it would be a real shame if you decided not to do it. Look, I know it's a difficult decision, and it's yours, but please, please don't make it about Paul.
Chloe is rewriting her statement for Elly, while Pierce fusses over baby Aster on the couch.
PIERCE: It makes me think about what I missed with Hendrix and Alana at this age.
CHLOE: Well, you're getting a second chance with Hendrix now. And you're doing really well.
PIERCE: Hey, look, I know we put it on the back burner after we mentioned it, but... I'd like to buy the house from Mark.
PIERCE: Yeah. Well, me moving onto this street was to give Hendrix stability. And living here - it just feels right. Feels like family.
Chloe seems pleased at this idea, and they agree to buy the house. However, Chloe's worried about her statement.
CHLOE: I can't get my head around why Elly would plead guilty if she's innocent. How can she be okay with that?
PIERCE: Well, you know, it's hard to put yourself in her position.
CHLOE: Something's not sitting right - like, maybe Elly's lying about what happened. Could she actually be guilty?
But unseen by Pierce and Chloe, Elly has turned up to collect Aster, and overhears this. Visibly upset, she walks in, and takes Aster - before walking out again, without a word. Chloe goes after her.
Chloe follows Elly down the drive.
CHLOE: I'm so sorry. I know how that sounded.
ELLY: What, awful? Like something you wouldn't hear from a friend?
CHLOE: I'm just trying to get my head around what you're actually doing.
ELLY: I thought you knew me well enough to trust that, if I did something like that, I would tell you!
CHLOE: And I wouldn't blame you! You know, after the things Finn did, and the thought of losing your baby -
ELLY: I didn't do it, Chloe! And I know how it looks.
CHLOE: But then, if you plead guilty, you're stuck with it for life!
ELLY: Don't you think I know that?! I have agonised over making this choice!
CHLOE: Then how is it not killing you that the people you love are putting it in writing?
ELLY: You have no idea what I feel right now - because it's not happening to you, it's happening to me. Keep your statement - I don't want it.
Chloe protests, but Elly is already walking away.
Weiler & Perkins Lawyers
Claudia is back for a second visit to Sam Fitzgerald. Claudia says she's just read Elly's character references, and they're convincing.
CLAUDIA: It appears she's loved and admired by most people.
SAM: It still doesn't outweigh the fact that she murdered your son.
CLAUDIA: Yes, but she's not standing trial for murder! I mean, with those testimonials, she won't be going to jail. Look, I'm not interested in chipping away at the family. I need Elly in jail, so that I can get custody of Aster.
SAM: ... Look, there is something I heard that you might be able to use. But I have to warn you, it's risky.
CLAUDIA: I don't care about the risk. Will it get me what I want?
SAM: If you can make it work, yes.
CLAUDIA: What do I have to do?
Paul is talking to Terese; he's been stung by David's words to him earlier, and feels awful for potentially ruining their foster plans, as well as for letting down Harlow. Paul admits he couldn't face up to the fact that he'd disappointed them all, so convinced himself they'd get over it.
PAUL: You were right - about everything. Now I really need a way to fix this, don't I?
Terese promises she'll try to help, but thinks it will probably get worse before it gets better.
David and Aaron have joined Pierce and Chloe for dinner. Chloe's feeling guilty about Elly, both for giving her Finn's video diaries and for what she said about the guilty plea. Pierce says Elly's just stressed; they can work it all out after the hearing.
CHLOE: Well, as much as I stuffed things up, at least I'm not related to Paul!
But Aaron announces that he and David have decided they won't be letting Paul stop them from running their life how they want. As such, they've decided to go ahead with the rearranged foster meeting, but are clear they don't owe Paul anything for securing it. However, they're still concerned that Paul owns half of The Shed.
Chloe announces her and Pierce's news - that they're buying No 24 from Mark. David and Aaron congratulate them.
PIERCE: Since we're officially laying down roots here, I'd be happy to buy Paul out, if you wanted a new business partner.
AARON: ... Well, no, I can't ask you to do that.
PIERCE: No, you're not asking; I'm offering. And besides, we're family. And that's what family do.
David and Aaron are both keen to accept, and Aaron and Pierce shake on it. They all raise their glasses for a toast, but...
CHLOE: The only catch is, how do you get Paul to sell to you?
The next morning, Elly is dressed for her court hearing, and joins Toadie in the living room. She admits she didn't sleep much, but Toadie reassures her that they've got this. Chloe turns up, so Toadie waits outside. She's brought her adjusted statement in an envelope, and gives it to Elly.
CHLOE: I rewrote it anyway. Use it or not - up to you.
CHLOE: I hurt you yesterday. And I know I can't take back the things I said. But I also know that you're not guilty, and I hate myself for thinking even for a second that you might be. I'm so sorry that I let you down. But I will be there in court with you today, because I want to show you that I support your decision.
ELLY: You're right. You did really hurt me. But thank you for the apology. I appreciate it.
Chloe nods and leaves. Elly opens the envelope, and begins to read Chloe's new statement.
CHLOE (voiceover): Elly's everything anyone could ask of a friend. And I am lucky enough to count her as the best friend I've ever had. Finn Kelly harassed Elly for years; she was left with no option but to do whatever it took to protect herself and her baby. I've never met a more devoted mother, sister, friend. And the strength she had to stand up for herself and her family only shows that she's an asset to the community, not a danger.
Elly is in tears by the time she's finished reading. Toadie comes back in, and asks if she's okay.
ELLY: Yeah, I am now.
She takes a deep breath...
Weiler & Perkins Lawyers
Claudia has rejoined Sam for another meeting.
CLAUDIA: It took a few phone calls, but it's sorted.
SAM: No questions asked?
CLAUDIA: Oh, plenty of questions asked. But it was easy in the end. Are you sure this won't backfire?
SAM: Oh, I'm positive.
CLAUDIA: I don't know what to say. Thank you so much.
SAM: Oh, you're very welcome. Your granddaughter deserves a lot more than anything the Kennedys have to offer. Good luck in court.
CLAUDIA: Thanks. But I don't think I'll need it.
Coming up on Neighbours
- Sky tells Toadie there's something about Claudia that doesn't ring true
- 'Eleanor Leanna Rose Conway,' says the judge, 'do you plead guilty?'
- Elly and the assembled RSRs in the courtroom looking worried