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Comment > A Gem In The Rough by Si Hunt

Lately life on Ramsay Street has become a little more interesting for me as a viewer. Of course, we all have plotlines and characters we love more than others at any one time (Sheila is rocking my world at the moment) but I was beginning to feel that Neighbours was lacking a bit of bite. Then, a few weeks ago, Kyle Canning bumped into a girl outside Charlie's. A rather odd looking girl. "Isn't she...well... strange?!" we chorused. And you know, we didn't like her one bit.

She was very disconcerting looking for a start, with strange staring eyes. We're always wary of people with strange staring eyes. But then something happened and by the end of the weird "You thought I was single when I wasn't" misunderstanding between the newcomer, Kyle and flappy Georgia (she wouldn't let this one go, like the odd drama with the bloody painting of Brad, we couldn't work out why everyone was making such a fuss) we were completely hooked on Gemma "Gemfish" Reeves.

It must have been when she began her campaign of what can only be described as random mayhem. Amid being caught rifling through the files in Susan's office at the school (an offence punishable by execution in Erinsborough since mediaeval times) Gem somehow managed to wangle a job at the school. Her references didn't check out, and her interview was totes awkward, but hey. This is the school that put car mechanics on the syllabus solely as a reason to employ gambler and convicted criminal Lucas Fitzgerald, so they clearly aren’t that fussy. But lessons with Gem were clearly going to be fun. Well, for half the class anyway.

As she sat on her desk with her feet up showing the class music videos (oh we'd have killed for a teacher like this) she also tore into poor Imogen Willis for... well, for no reason at all actually, apart from the heinous crime of being a girl. Hmmm, what WAS she up to? Meanwhile at home, Little Miss set about stopping Georgia from moving in with dim but loveable boyfriend Kyle Canning, a character whose sole purpose is to be bemused while various of Ramsay Street's women run rings around him. Poor Kyle. Georgia, you see, had hatched a plan to move her and her perpetually confused bloke into the empty Ramsay house. This titanic icon of a Ramsay Street Property once housed Maria, Max, Shaaaane and Danny Ramsay and all his socks, yet Georgia reckoned it would be perfect for just her and Kyle. Well, juggling a career as a nurse AND an international singing star, the money must be rolling in. It was at this point that another 'strand' of possible motivation for Gem crept in, and that was an obsession to keep Georgia for herself. Perhaps she has one of those weird slightly-too-close-for-comfort attachments to her cousin going on. Is that what it is?

Ah, but Gem's efforts to sabotage first the house-move (still the Ramsay Property stands empty! It demands to be filled!) and then Georgia and Kyle's engagement was just the start of the fun. Far more deliciously creepy is her encouragement of gonky genius schoolboy Bailey Turner. For reasons TO BE DETERMINED, Gem took as much of an instant liking to the lego-haired pop dolly as she took against troubled Imogen. In fact, soon she had labelled him a "special friend", was bumping up his assignment grades and was holding hands with him in the park. This kind of edgy storyline is the sort that keeps my interest peaked, and with hindsight it's a shame that nosey Imogen rumbled them before there'd been so much as an illicit peck on Bailey's flushed little cheek. But why is Gem doing it? Bailey has nothing she wants. She seems more keen on keeping her cousin under her thumb than getting a man. And he brings her no kind of power or advantage. What's it all about?

You'll have noticed that the one big mystery around Gem is what's driving her. The laws of narrative tend to dictate that when a character rolls into the Street who is clearly a bit of a wrong 'un we should at least be able to discern what they want after a few episodes. For example, when the last bit of bad news, Dieter Brummer from Home & Away, moved in next door to Toadie and Sonya, we didn't mind when he wielded his shot gun because his raison d'etre was clear - he was after winning the favour of estranged son Callum via the devious means of taking him on lots of camping trips. But Gem has no such clear motive. Sure, there's some sort of back story about losing a fiancée and falling into a coma after a quad biking accident, but that was years ago, and it's even been pointed out on screen that this is a flimsy excuse for her campaign of terror on Ramsay Street. None of this explains why she hates Imogen or why she's toying with the affections of the streets’ schoolboys. Or why she gives the boys better grades than the girls, or why she won't let her favourite cousin get close to anyone else. None of it makes sense damnit!

And that's why Gem is so great. Perhaps she has no motivation! Perhaps she's just a maniac because she is! Wouldn't that be wonderful? As much as we love Neighbours' twisting storylines, there's often a certain inevitability to how they will play out. As soon as avuncular old benefactor Jack Lassiter wandered into the abandoned PirateNet Studios you could join the dots and predict that he'd leave the place to the school and, probably, it would be a good place for shallow swimmer Josh and his girlfriend to smooch, for Susan to hold the School Dance and for secrets to be unwittingly revealed over the Erinsborough High airwaves. But nothing about Gem's storylines tell us where they are headed so that with each new twist, such as her rooting through Susan's files again to expose Imogen's eating disorder (when WILL that woman lock her office door?!), we are left intrigued and desperate to know what happens next.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps in the weeks ahead Gem's long-forgotten fiancé will arrive in Erinsbough to win back her heart, bear an uncannily facial resemblance to Bailey and announce that Gem had six siblings who were all brothers and all rotten as hell to her. But I hope not. Because the best dramatic storylines are those that look to lead you down a predictable path, then throw an amazing curveball at you to leave you gasping - and Gem's arsenal of plans is bursting with such surprises. Perhaps next week she will betray Bailey for no reason at all? Or decide to hook up with Kyle? You wouldn't put anything past this bizarre girl, and that's why we love her.