"The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened" is the 100th episode of Desperate Housewives.
When neighborhood handyman Eli Scruggs (guest star Beau Bridges), passes away, the residents of Wisteria Lane come to realize just how much he affected their lives. Gabrielle recalls how Eli helped her make new friends when she moved in, Lynette remembers how he came to her aide when she was overwhelmed and neglected Penny, Susan reflects on how he was always there for her as a shoulder to cry on each time a man walked out of her life, Edie looks back on their special friendship, and Bree thinks fondly of how a small gesture he once made helped get her to where she is today.
Eli Scruggs, the neighborhood handyman is found dead on Susan's roof. Following his death the four girls sit around a table trying to decide how they will commemorate Eli's death.
At her home later that night, Susan opens a bottle of wine and looks at Eli's toolbox still on her kitchen table. She recalls how Eli changed the locks for her when Karl left her for Brandi and Mike left her after the car accident. Distraught at losing Mike, Eli comforts Susan by saying although he has little experience of love he is inspired by how Susan always manages to pick herself up again and move on after each failure with a man. Susan then recalls the day that Eli died, before he began working on her roof. Eli shows up with a spare set of keys he had cut for Jackson. Susan reveals that she has just broken up with Jackson but is remarkable calm about the situation. Eli then tells her that this is his last day as a handy man before he retires, so Susan's roof will be his last job. Susan rushes to the store to buy a bottle of wine so that she and Eli can toast to his retirement. When Susan returns, Eli has died. It is this wine that Susan is drinking and raises a glass in memory of Eli, the same wine she had bought in celebration of Eli's retirement.
In the present day Lynette's daughter Penny shows up at Gabrielle's house, asking for her mother. Lynette recalls how when she was pregnant with Penny she planned on going back to work as soon as Penny is born. She finally realizes she is putting too much importance on getting her career back on track when she is distracted on the phone and leaves Penny in a hot car outside. Eli retrieves Penny and Lynette is moved to tears, disgusted with herself for putting work above caring for her daughter. When we return to the present day again, Susan has appeared asking Lynette if she's coming back to the kitchen, but Lynette replies 'no' and goes off to help Penny once more.
As the women continue discussing, they attempt to try and decide on a possible food for the wake. Grabbing Bree's cookbook from under a table she hands it to Bree. It is at this point Bree remembers Eli.
Bree's recollection of Eli begins with a dinner her and Rex are having with Lynette and Tom. As Lynette and Tom begin to argue about who should be working or not, Rex points out that Bree should get a job as well. Later that night during the flashback we see Rex come in on Bree in the kitchen, while she is putting together several recipe cards and writing in a book. Asking what she is doing, Bree responds to Rex that she is taking his advice and writing a cook book. Rex tells her he wasn't serious, and as a result Bree stops and leaves the cookbook. Eli's next visit into Bree's life is shortly after Rex's funeral. Eli then presents her with the cookbook telling her he had it and made several recipes including Bree's Cajun Lasagna. When we return to the present, Bree says she knows just what to cook for the funeral.
As they begin talking Gabrielle begins thinking about the first day she met Eli. Gaby and Carlos were arguing since Carlos was always working, and as a result Gaby was always alone. Eli suggests he can put in a word with the other ladies of Wisteria Lane and Gaby can host one of the weekly poker games. Upon the ladies' arrival, Gaby attempts to make an 'entrance' in a couture dress, and while playing poker, she insults the other girls calling their lives on Wisteria 'boring'. Later, Eli visits Gaby and when asking what the girls thought, Eli grudgingly says that the girls were greatly insulted by Gaby's words, and Eli tells her she should stop acting that she's the center of the world. Gaby then returns to the ladies and admits that her life isn't that great, and she would really like to have friends again. Bree accepts the apology for the girls, saying "Now that's an apology." Gabrielle then returns to the present time and offers to pay for the entire wreath of flowers that the girls wish to buy for Eli.
In the present day news reaches Dave and Edie that Eli has died. Edie is extremely upset and recalls the time that when she was having marital problems with her ex-husband Umberto Rothwell. Feeling insecure about her appearance Eli reassures Edie and makes her feel better. After Umberto reveals he is gay and leaves Edie, Eli is there and a man-hungry and drunk Edie cheers herself up by sleeping with him.
At Eli's funeral Mary Alice herself recalls how she changed Eli's life. She remembers how one morning before he had any steady work, he approached her and introduced himself. Initially commenting that she doesn't have any work for him Mary Alice changes her mind when she notices Eli is wearing worn shoes and had obviously fallen on hard times. She asks him if he will fix a vase she broke for her. Eli appreciates her sympathy and initially declines but Mary Alice is insistent. A few years later now that Eli has found steady work thanks to Mary Alice recommending him to the women of the neighbourhood, Eli walks in on Mary Alice reading a note. Mary Alice tries to be upbeat despite the fact that something is obviously troubling her, and offers Eli the vase that he fixed for her a few years ago. Eli gratefully accepts and leaves, worried about Mary Alice's fragile state but thinking it best to leave her alone. It is then revealed that the note Mary Alice was reading is the one she was blackmailed with and that day is the one that she killed herself. An ambulance arrives and the neighbourhood shows up in force to find out what happened to Mary Alice complete with Martha Huber the blackmailer gossiping with other women about Mary Alice's suicide. Eli watches from afar and regrets having done nothing to stop Mary Alice's suicide. From that day forward he makes a vow to not only fix people's belongings but their lives as much as he can as well. At his funeral the women gather around Eli's coffin and Bree fixes Eli's flower arrangement before the coffin is lowered, remarking that after all the fixing Eli did for them, she wanted to fix something for him. It is as they leave Mary Alice remarks, "And somewhere, reserved for only the best of us all, Eli Scruggs smiled and said 'Thank-you.'"
"The Best Thing That Ever Could Have Happened" was written by series creator Marc Cherry and executive producer Bob Daily and directed by Larry Shaw. Beau Bridges guest stars as Eli Scruggs. Several previous characters reappear in this episode: Martha Huber, Yao Lin and Rex Van de Kamp and so Christine Estabrook, Lucille Soong and Steven Culp came back to the show to film their scenes. When it came to casting Wisteria Lane's resident handyman, Eli Scruggs, Cherry was looking for someone who was sweet and kind and whose persona would generate warmth, and eventually decided upon Beau Bridges.
The idea of the episode came from Cherry himself; his personal trainer and good friend, Doug, passed away while living with Cherry. The idea of having a kindhearted handyman help the housewives through their personal struggles had circulated around the writer's room for a while and there had been previous attempts to adapt this story into an episode. But when it came to production of the show's 100th episode, the story was employed here. The episode was written in 4 hours. When writing Eli's death, Cherry didn't want the scene to be too tragic, as viewers needed to realize that his death is the catalyst for the entire episode, and so last minute added the nail dropping from the roof into Eli's toolbox, making his death more darkly comedic and fun.
The creators of the series ran into difficulty when they had to make all the housewives several years younger for the flashbacks. For instance, Brenda Strong and Eva Longoria both had to have extra highlights to match their characters' hairstyle in the first season - Marcia Cross' hair was too long, and so she had to wear a wig for the flashback sequences in this episode.
The episode was watched by 13.08 million viewers on its original air date on ABC. It received positive reviews from television critics and fans, and is often considered one of the best episodes of the fifth season.
- For this 100th episode, Christine Estabrook and Lucille Soong reprise their respective roles as Martha Huber and Yao Lin for the first time since the first season. Despite being rumored to appear, Paul & Zach Young did not appear, neither did Ida Greenberg or John Rowland.
- Eli recommended Karen a handyman named Toby who is about 30 years old; in episode "Liaisons", a handyman named Toby (Michael Guarnera) also appears to fix Gabrielle's closet.
- Mary Alice Young is seen in this episode for the first and only time in the fifth season. This is her 7th appearance on the show since the first season, having appeared in three episodes during the second season, one during the third and two during the fourth season. This is the 99th episode narrated by Mary Alice, due to Bree's deceased husband Rex Van de Kamp (Steven Culp), who also makes an appearance in this episode, narrating the third season episode, "My Husband, The Pig."
- Although credited, Andrew Van de Kamp, Porter Scavo, Preston Scavo and Parker Scavo do not appear in this episode.
- Out of the main cast Katherine Mayfair, Mike Delfino and Orson Hodge appear briefly at Eli's funeral but have no speaking lines in this episode.
- This isn't Marcia Cross' hundredth episode with Desperate Housewives due to her maternity leave during Season 3. She doesn't make her hundredth appearance as Bree until "Rose's Turn", seven episodes later.
- The title of this episode is taken from the song 'Now You Know' from Stephen Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along.
- In the flashback scene when Gaby is talking during poker, she makes a future reference to Mary Alice's Death by playfully tapping with her arm, while saying " I've only lived here a month and want to put a gun in my head".
Bloopers and continuity errors
Although care was taken to redress sets and change costumes for the flashback sequences there are several errors:
- Although most of Mary Alice's house was re-painted to its original color the side nearest Bree's house remains green from its new look in season five.
- Susan gets Eli to change the locks after Karl leaves her, but in episode Everybody Says Don't he lets himself in and tells Julie that he still has his key.
- Eli is shown to be the last person talking to Mary Alice, who has the blackmail note in front of her and shoots herself after he leaves. However in the Season 3 episode 'Bang', Lynette has nightmares as she saw Mary Alice getting the note from the post and going into her house, and shooting herself. Although this may not seem a proper goof as it was a dream, Mary Alice herself says that it was the last time they met and that she shot herself "moments later".
- Though not updated until Season 5, some of Lynette's walls are painted blue in flashbacks prior to the show's present time.
- When Gabrielle shows up at Lynette's front door it shows Bree's garage which has been altered after season 5 to accommodate the chef's kitchen and also Lynette has a picket fence in the flashback even though it was only installed several years into the show.
- In the pilot, Mike's front door was wooden with 3 small windows, but in the flashbacks it is the same as present day.
- Lynettes interior was painted pink and the layout was completely different in the pilot but in the flashbacks it is again the same as present day.
- Lynette has a treehouse in her garden in the flashback where she forgets Penny even though it wasn't added until much later.
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