Des is playing with Jamie on the lounge room floor and putting decorations on the Christmas tree, while Melanie decides what to have for dinner. Des suggests that they order in a pizza, but Melanie chastises that they can't eat pizza *every* night! There's suddenly a knock at the front door and Des goes and answers it to find Paul on the step. He tells Des that he's a bit restless and thought Des might like to go somewhere. Melanie chips in that that's great: a boys' night out - they might even meet a couple of nice girls! Des, however, tells Paul that he likes to be at home at night, so Jamie knows he's around. Paul suggests:
PAUL: How about we do something *here*, then?
DES: Like what?
PAUL: Um... game of poker? Come on, we haven't played that in ages. I bet dad'd be in it.
DES: Great! - but we'd need a fourth...
Melanie calls across that *she* could play. Des, however, explains warily that they were thinking of this as a blokes-only night. He adds that he's not being chauvinist, but poker is a bloke's game. Melanie asks 'innocently':
MELANIE: Why's *that*?
DES: Why? Um... it's...
PAUL: A tradition?
DES: A tradition, yeah!
PAUL (to Melanie): Think of it like this: four blokes playing hard... the room full of smoke... the air full of tension...
MELANIE (grins): None of you guys smoke!
Melanie adds that they can't give her one good reason why a girl shouldn't play poker! Paul tells her:
PAUL: It's normally because they're not much good at it.
MELANIE: That's absolute rubbish! My *grandmother* taught me how to play - she was fantastic at it!
Paul persists that sometimes guys just feel like being in the company of other guys; it's just the way they are. Melanie nods:
MELANIE: Yeah. I know. Sexist! But, if you don't want me to, you don't want me to, and that's all there is to it.
Des sighs that it's not that they don't *want* her to. Melanie insists that it's fine - really! Des and Paul stand there looking guilty, though!
Jim comes in through the front door and asks Helen if Beverly has gone to the lecture already. Helen nods that she went a few minutes ago. She's looking through a small book and she sighs heavily. Jim asks if something's wrong and Helen tells him that one of the Home James drivers is ill: he rang to see if she could fill in for him tonight. Jim tells her that *he'll* be all right with Rhys. Helen, however, exclaims:
HELEN: There is no *way* I'm going to drive - not after that accident the other day.
JIM: Oh don't be silly - you can't give up driving because of one little slip-up.
HELEN (snaps): Jim, will you let me deal with this in my own way? I'll find another driver.
Jim stands there looking worried.
Harold comes in through the front door. Bronwyn is sitting at the kitchen table, doing her nails, and she tells him that Madge rang while he was out, and she has to take on an extra shift at the Waterhole. Harold remarks that he doesn't suppose she was too pleased. Bronwyn replies:
BRONWYN: No - especially as she was supposed to be going out with Gloria tonight. Madge was hoping she might be able to talk her into giving evidence against Rob's mate in court - in spite of the threats...
HAROLD (nods): Yes, I know she feels that Gloria was beginning to waver a little.
BRONWYN: Mmm. Madge wondered whether *you'd* like to take over for her.
HAROLD: Take over?
BRONWYN: With Gloria tonight.
HAROLD: Where were they going?
BRONWYN: I think it was Gloria's choice.
HAROLD (warily): Oh dear. I don't think I'd feel too comfortable about going to some place of *her* choice. Probably some awful movie or some noisy bar.
BRONWYN: Madge was really hoping you'd do it. She felt she could have definitely talked Gloria into giving evidence.
HAROLD (muses): Oh well - I *am* a friend. I don't suppose I can shirk, I suppose.
With that, Bronwyn finishes doing her nails and she stands up. There's a knock at the door and Harold comments that that will be Gloria. He then tells Bronwyn that he'd feel a lot more comfortable if *she* came with them tonight. He adds that he *would* appreciate it - especially after the visit they had from the Health Department today... Bronwyn sighs reluctantly:
BRONWYN: All right. So long as you promise never to mention possums or Health Inspectors ever again.
With that, Harold goes to the door and opens it. It is indeed Gloria on the step, and as she steps inside she says she thought she'd get over early and give Madge plenty of warning so that she doesn't get dressed up. Harold says hopefully:
HAROLD: Oh, you can't go, then?
GLORIA: Oh, yeah, I can go, but there's no need to get dressed up.
Harold tells Gloria about the change of plan and how Madge asked him to take her place. Gloria smiles:
GLORIA: That's okey-doke - as long as I've got a nice strong partner!
HAROLD (blankly): Pardon?
GLORIA: Oh yeah - we're going ten-pin bowling!
HAROLD (his face dropping): Ah...
Paul is standing with Jim by the front door, smiling that the *knew* he'd be in it. Helen joins them and sighs that she hasn't been able to get a fill-in driver anywhere. Jim tells her that she doesn't *need* someone to fill in for her: she still has her uniform hanging up in her wardrobe. Helen retorts that the uniform isn't the point - and anyway, if Jim's going out, she'll have to look after Rhys. Paul, however, tells her that there's no reason why Jim can't bring Rhys with him: after all, he'll have four babysitters to look after him. Jim says to Helen:
JIM: There you go - and the best thing in the world for you would be to get behind the wheel again.
HELEN (tersely): My driving days are *over*. I am too *old* to drive.
PAUL (sighs): Oh gran, you are not *still* on about that, are you? If that's the case, then I've got to agree with dad: this is the perfect opportunity for you to get behind the wheel and get a bit of that confidence back.
HELEN: And what if I fail? What if I go through another 'Give Way' sign, or a set of red lights? I could end up smashing the car or *worse*.
JIM: We can't *all* think like that when we go for a drive. You're no more likely to have an accident than anyone else. Anyway, you've got a very *good* driving record.
HELEN (mutedly): Well, perhaps I've *lost* that ability...
PAUL (shrugs pointedly): Oh, OK, if you're so ready to throw in the towel, maybe you *are* right: maybe you *are* too old.
JIM (chastises): Paul...
PAUL: No, dad, gran has never been a quitter *before*. Maybe we should just face the fact: maybe she *is* past it.
HELEN (snaps): Paul, if you think you have goaded me into driving...
PAUL (smiles): Yes?
HELEN: ...you have succeeded! All right, I'll give it a go - but if I don't feel more confident at the end of the evening then that's the end of it: I will not allow myself to be pressured again.
JIM: Fair enough!
PAUL: You'll be fine!
Sometime later, Paul, Jim and Des are setting up for the card game. Melanie suggests that they should keep Rhys there with them, but Jim insists that he'll be fine in the bedroom. Melanie takes the baby off to put him down just as the 'phone rings. Paul goes to get it. While everyone else is busy, Jim takes the opportunity to tell Des that he wants to ask him a favour:
JIM: I haven't got an apprentice at the workshop yet, so things are a bit quiet at the moment; and Paul's got plans to expand it and everything, but 'til it does, well, things are going to be a tight, as Bev's not working either. I've put together a six-month financial plan and wondered if you'd mind going over it for me and check that it makes sense.
Des tells him happily that he'll give him a hand. Jim adds that Christmas will knock a bit of a hole in his savings too. Paul hangs up the 'phone and says that was Bazza calling: he can't make it - his wife has got other plans for him! Des asks in exasperation what they're going to do *now*. Melanie emerges from the bedroom area and says:
MELANIE: *I'll* fill in.
DES (frowns): You said you were going out.
MELANIE: Well... I didn't really have anywhere to go. I just thought I'd get out of the house for a while. But if you don't want me to play, that's fine - um... I'll still go somewhere.
Jim sighs at Des:
JIM: Let her play.
PAUL: Yeah... can't be any harm in it.
Des smiles at Melanie and tells her to pull up a chair!
Helen is standing by the Home James limousine, wearing her uniform. A man emerges from the Lassiter's Hotel and Helen asks him if he's Mr. Matheson. He nods. He then says he doesn't think he's had a female chauffeur before, and he asks Helen if she minds if he rides up front. As Helen opens the door for him, she says:
HELEN: Women drivers don't make you nervous, do they?
MR. MATHESON: On the contrary: statistics prove they have an *excellent* driving record.
As Helen goes and climbs into the car on the driver's side, Mr. Matheson asks her if she knows where he's going. Helen nods that it's a very nice restaurant. Mr. Matheson comments:
MR. MATHESON: Not that I expect I'll enjoy the food.
MR. MATHESON: Well, it's a business dinner with my sons. Every year at about this time they try to encourage me to retire.
He pauses before sighing:
MR. MATHESON: Oh well, the sooner I get there, the sooner I'll have it over with.
Helen starts the car.
The poker game is in full swing. Jim is dealing. Melanie looks at her cards carefully and sighs heavily. Paul looks at her and says:
PAUL: Melanie, haven't you ever heard of a poker face?
MELANIE: A what-a?!
Des explains that it's when you don't let on what sort of hand you've got, so you can bluff the other players. Melanie nods that she sees what he means, and she grins broadly! Des puts down a bet. Paul and Melanie both raise him. Paul calls for a look. Jim reveals his cards and says he's got three ladies. Des throws down *his* cards and says he's got nothing. Melanie asks in surprise:
MELANIE: Well, why did you keep betting?
DES (exasperatedly): That's what the game of poker's *about*!
Paul tells Jim that he beat *him*: he's got two pair. Melanie says:
MELANIE: *I've* got two pairs too.
JIM: Oh well, chuck 'em in.
MELANIE: Don't you want to see what I've got?
JIM: Well, it doesn't really matter, darling, because two pairs never beats three of a kind.
MELANIE: But I've got two aces.
JIM: Melanie, even if you've got two aces, it doesn't—
MELANIE: And I've got two *more* aces! I think it's my money!
As Melanie starts scooping the pile of coins in the centre of the table towards her, Jim looks at Des, who muses:
DES: Beginner's luck!
JIM (warily): I'm not so sure...
Home James limousine
As Helen drives along, Mr. Matheson is telling her that all his boys can talk about are microchips and technology; he can't seem to get it through their heads that there's *more* to publishing. He adds that he hopes Helen doesn't mind him rabbiting on, but since Valerie died a couple of years ago, he doesn't seem to have had anyone to talk to - and ever since he broke his hip, his boys seem to think his brain's become as soft as his bones: it makes a man feel so damned *useless*. Helen tells him:
HELEN: Don't let them do *that* to you - you obviously have a lot to contribute.
MR. MATHESON: Thanks for the vote of confidence, but—
HELEN: Oh, I'm no stranger to business: I own *this* car and several others. I also help my grandson: he runs the complex where you're staying.
MR. MATHESON (raising his eyebrows): A lady of considerable experience.
HELEN: Yes... Something that doesn't count for much in today's youth culture.
MR. MATHESON: 'If it's not new, throw it out', eh?
HELEN: Yes - but tossing out the knowledge that people like you and I have developed over the years is sheer criminal waste.
With that, Helen pulls up the car outside a restaurant and apologises for keeping Mr. Matheson from his meeting. Mr. Matheson, however, smiles:
MR. MATHESON: Not at all. Thank you for the conversation - *and* for the ride: I can't think when I've had a smoother one.
With that, he climbs out of the car, leaving Helen smiling in relief.
Harold rolls a bowling ball down the lane and manages to hit a number of pins. Gloria then sends *her* ball down and manages a strike! She leaps up in the air joyfully and beams:
GLORIA: I'm getting really good at this!
Harold muses that he's not sure it's doing his *back* any good! Bronwyn, who's sitting watching, stands up and says she's going to get a drink. Gloria tells her that she'll keep score while she's gone - not that Harold will hit anything! Harold sighs that he can't get the hang of it. He picks up a ball and stands at the end of the lane, where he wiggles his backside before he takes his run-up! Gloria giggles:
GLORIA: You got a real sexy little wiggle to your behind!
Harold turns to look at her and mutters that he wishes she wouldn't say things—. He breaks off, though, as he spots the Reverend Richards and Cass Boyle approaching them. The Reverend smiles at Harold that they just noticed him there, and he asks if Madge isn't with him tonight. Harold explains that unfortunately she had to work, and he introduces Gloria as a *friend* of Madge's. Gloria says to Reverend Richards:
GLORIA: Hello, Reverend. I've seen you around! It always surprises me that such a cute young man should be a Minister!
REVEREND RICHARDS: Well, *somebody* has to do it!
Harold tells the Reverend and Cass that they're here with Bronwyn. He invites them to join him and Gloria, but they decline, saying they've got their own lane booked. They walk off, leaving Harold to mutter at Gloria:
HAROLD: I'm *sure* he heard what you said.
GLORIA: About what?
HAROLD: About me having a sexy little—; you *know* what you said.
GLORIA: He knows I was only joking!
HAROLD: Well, I most certainly hope so.
From a lane a few yards away, the Reverend Richards and Cass look at each other in bemusement.
The poker game is still going on. Melanie has a sizeable pile of coins in front of her! Des throws down his cards and says he's out. Melanie raises the stakes and Jim says *he's* out. Paul ups the ante further. Melanie throws in more money and says she'll raise him again and double it. Paul gives up and throws down his cards. Melanie smiles and pulls a pile of coins towards her delightedly. Jim asks her what she had. Melanie tells him:
MELANIE: Oh, nothing much - but you didn't pay; you don't have to look.
DES: Oh, it's only a friendly game!
Paul picks up Melanie's cards and exclaims in disbelief that she hasn't got a *thing*!
MELANIE: Poker face, huh?!
Rhys starts grizzling suddenly, and Jim comments that he's a bit restless tonight; they'd better make a move. Paul tells him to stay and win back some of his losses. Des, however, suggests that they call it quits. Melanie groans in disappointment, but Des tells her:
DES: It's all right for *you* - you won the *lot*! Your grandmother must have been some cardsharp!
MELANIE: Yeah, she was! Cleaned out the whole town!
Des and Jim look at each other!
Gloria lets out a round of applause as Cass bowls a ball down the alley. The Reverend Richards joins Harold in the chairs nearby and hands him a drink in a Styrofoam cup. He then says:
REVEREND RICHARDS: Harold, you once mentioned to me about a married friend of yours who was having a problem because of his interest in another woman.
HAROLD (frowns): Ah...
REVEREND RICHARDS: Just wondering how that eventually worked out.
Harold, looking shocked, blusters:
HAROLD: You don't think—. No, I can assure you, the other woman was not Gloria. No, no, no, that lady went away. The whole matter was resolved without any impropriety happening at all.
REVEREND RICHARDS: Oh, I see. But now Gloria's come into the picture...
HAROLD: Yes. [Quickly] No! No, no, you see Gloria is *Madge's* friend. Mine too, of course. As a matter of fact, she and Madge were supposed to be going out tonight, but of course Madge had to work late, so *I'm* taking her out, *and* Bronwyn too; sort of a fill-in, as it were. I've been trying to talk her into something - not that I've had much luck.
He adds quickly by way of clarification:
HAROLD: About another matter altogether: about her giving evidence in court. I don't think Gloria would appreciate me discussing it—
The Reverend Richards nods in understanding. Harold then smiles:
HAROLD: So you see, Reverend, perfectly innocent evening; nothing for you to worry about at all!
REVEREND RICHARDS: I'm sure it is! It's just that you seemed to get so flustered about it, otherwise I never would've given it another thought.
The Reverend adds that he thinks of Harold as a pillar of the church *and* of the community. Harold thanks him, looking relieved. Gloria joins the two men at that moment and tells them that it's time to show her and Cass how much better the *stronger* sex is! Harold and the Reverend stand up and head across to the lane. Cass walks over to the seats and Bronwyn joins her and asks how things are. Cass tells her:
CASS: Really good! The people at the church have been terrific: they've set up this roster so they can spend some time with my father and give me a chance to get out a bit more.
BRONWYN: Yeah? Great! Been going out with Reverend Richards a bit, have you...?!
CASS: Craig? Yeah, he's really nice!
BRONWYN: Anything serious in the wind...?
CASS (smiles): Not really. We're good friends, and I like him a lot, but we're just likely to *stay* that way. I'm meeting a lot of new people, and maybe one day the right one will come along.
BRONWYN: Yeah, I know what you mean.
CASS: You must find it really hard being separated from Henry...
BRONWYN: Oh, I do. It'll be even worse over Christmas - but we write a lot, and he rings fairly often.
The Reverend Richards lets out a cheer suddenly, as Harold manages a strike! Harold stands there looking delighted with himself!
Home James limousine
Helen is sitting outside the restaurant, waiting for Mr. Matheson, when he appears at her open window suddenly and hands her a single red rose, smiling:
MR. MATHESON: For *you* - with my grateful thanks.
HELEN: Thank you! But *why*?
MR. MATHESON: For reminding me that I'm not ready for the scrapheap yet - and for making those sons of mine *accept* the fact.
Helen smells the rose and then turns and places it on the back seat. As Mr. Matheson walks round and climbs in the passenger side of the car, Helen comments:
HELEN: So - you're *not* retiring?
MR. MATHESON: I most certainly am not! Mind you, I've delegated some of the day-to-day responsibility, but I've convinced them that there's an enormous British language market out there in Asia, and I'm going to investigate it!
HELEN: Well, congratulations!
MR. MATHESON: I couldn't have done it without *you*.
HELEN: Oh, I don't know about *that*.
MR. MATHESON: I'd begun to think that old was useless. You made me see it's not true. You're a very wise woman...?
HELEN: Helen. Helen Daniels.
Helen shakes Mr. Matheson's hand and he says:
MR. MATHESON: Helen. Again - my grateful thanks. And now - back to Lassiter's.
HELEN: Your wish is my command!
MR. MATHESON: Oh ho! Well! In that case, I command you to a celebration drink - and I won't take 'no' for an answer. Those boys of mine think I'm an old fool, but I'm not senile enough not to let someone as smart - not to say as attractive - as you are get away!
Helen smiles as she starts the car.
Gloria arrives back at No. 22. She heads inside and switches on the lights - to find the place has been trashed. She looks around in horror and spots a piece of cardboard on the upturned couch. Someone has painted on the card the message 'LAST WARNING!'. She stares at it fearfully.