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Comment > Love Thy Neighbour: Bailey Turner by Carol Ann Wood

Considering he’s only been in Ramsay Street for just over two years, Bailey Turner, played by Calen Mackenzie, has had some pretty interesting story lines. From almost the minute he arrived with parents Lauren and Matt, and sister Amber, we had a sense that being a geeky and studious schoolboy was not the sum total of his personality. We learned quite soon that he had been sucked into older brother Mason’s criminal activities and, when you’re the son of a policeman, that’s inevitably going to cause problems!

With his floppy fringe, Bailey sometimes reminded me of a young Brian Cox, astronomer and former pop star. Which is interesting, given the teen’s interest in the stars. Physically, we’ve seen Bailey grow from a lad with a voice in that awkward stage between having just broken but not quite of adult depth, to a more mature-sounding young man. But, emotionally, he’s had a lot to deal with. From failed romances to covering up yet more of Mason’s criminal involvement, witnessing the emotional conflicts of his parents, the discovery that he was not baby number three for his mother, but in fact, the fourth child, to a very dangerous liaison with Gem, a young, attractive teacher at his school.

Wow, pretty heavy, then! It’s not the first time Neighbours has tackled the illicit love storyline between pupil and teacher. Libby Kennedy and later, Kate Ramsay, both had dalliances of some sort with a schoolboy. I imagine that this scenario is one that the writers will have thought carefully about in each instance, given the time of day the show is aired in Australia, and the limits on what they’re allowed to do with the narrative. Bailey’s crush on Gem was hard for any fans of his to watch, because we knew, of course, what Bailey had not realised: Gem was manipulative and, as it turned out, mentally unstable, and was using Bailey, first persuading him to cover up her rigging of the school captaincy votes, and taking advantage of his IT skills so she could ruin cousin Georgia’s engagement party. Gem also convinced Bailey that she had withdrawn his application for the trip to China because she couldn’t bear to be apart from him, and poor Bailey fell for it. Oh, Bailes!

From my perspective, Bailey’s apparent awkwardness around girls was always rather endearing. Maybe I likened him to his father. Matt revealed his own moments of awkwardness, such as the time he had to arrest his wife and stepdaughter for their topless protest outside Lassiter's. It is therefore easy to imagine Matt having been awkward around girls at Bailey’s age, too. Hence, I might have surmised that Bailey was a ‘chip off the old block’ in that respect. Whilst Bailey undoubtedly had a cute look which would appeal to girls, his friend, and sometimes ‘frenemy’, Callum, always had the greater gift of the gab. Callum styled himself as the funny one of the duo. First, there was the Josie triangle, with Bailey losing out to Callum for her affections, and then Rani Kapoor. Although Rani started seeing Callum, ultimately, it was Bailey who won her heart, at least for a while. But not without much drama, like the time Bailey nearly died as the result of a fight between him and Callum when he fell into the pool! You felt for Callum when Rani decided she wanted Bailey, of course, but on another level, you wanted Bailey to win out, for once. That, too, was short-lived when Rani and her father left for India after the death of Rani’s mother. Bailey had lost again.

I think Bailey always felt overshadowed by his older siblings, and different from his peers, because of his love of school subjects and hobbies they considered geeky. It was nice that, when Paige had been accepted into the family – albeit grudgingly at first by some members – Bailey seemed to have found an ally in his new half-sibling. They bonded because they found they had quite a bit in common, not something which was immediately apparent. Paige being the eldest, and Bailey the youngest, meant that they had more of an opportunity to become close without the rivalry and jostling for position that often occurs in families where several children are close together in age. And of course, he hadn’t grown up with Paige. Paige was starting to persuade Bailey to be comfortable with himself and his interests. She was an outsider too, and it’s a shame we won’t see more of the pair having frank conversations.

Initially, when Alice appeared on the scene, I wasn’t entirely sure about Bailey’s relationship with her. I would have preferred him to grow more assertive. Alice seemed so confident and even a little mean, and for a while he seemed to be under her control. Again I found myself feeling embarrassed on his behalf when she conned him into having a special photo shoot done to boost his Space Camp application. Maybe, though, this showed us that she wasn’t as confident as she would have us believe, and that she genuinely saw Bailey as strong competition for the place. As Alice revealed her more vulnerable, softer side, I did grow to like her, and although I didn’t want to see Bailey leave at that point, I was disappointed that Alice was successful in getting accepted for Space Camp. I would like to have seen if their relationship could develop. Additionally, I loved the character of Alice’s grandma, whom I thought might have made an interesting regular cast member. I could see her and Sheila in scenes together, for example. As I write, we have seen Alice back for a visit, and she and Bailey briefly reunited, but sadly, it was messy, in light of Bailey being in a state of shock and grief after Matt’s death.

Bailey’s emotional turmoil after losing his father was beautifully acted by Calen. It must have been emotionally exhausting to do those scenes: Tearful, angry, drunk, and physically violent. He couldn’t shake off the feeling that he had been to blame for his dad’s downhill slide before he was knocked down and killed. After all, it was Bailey who befriended a Russian girl online, who turned out to be a fraudster. It was Bailey who had used Paige’s laptop without permission, leading to the sibling’s bank accounts details being accessed and the money from the house sale to their parents being stolen. And Bailey’s guilt deepened further when Matt took the second job to help meet the mortgage repayments. Bailey saw his father start drinking, unaware that he had also accepted a backhander from Dodgy Dimato and was struggling to come to terms with his actions. We had previously witnessed Bailey develop a drink problem himself. Initially because he was trying to deal with the bullying inflicted by Jayden Warley, son of the bossy, often bitchy, Sue Parker, and then, out of guilt for the problems he had caused his family. Now his dad was drinking too, and things were definitely not rosy between his parents. For a sensitive sixteen-year-old like Bailey, that’s a lot of issues to deal with. All the guilt and self-hatred Bailey was feeling came tumbling out after Matt died, and spiralled out of control. Should Lauren have delayed the decision to tell her children about the real reason their dad had been granted six months long-service leave? Was that what tipped Bailey totally over the edge? Lauren was still in shock when she made the decision, so with hindsight, she might wish she had kept quiet, at least for a while longer, and maybe Bailey would have been strong enough to deal with it.

As with any young character, there are times when some viewers might have wished that Bailey would grow up/get over it/stop acting like a spoilt brat. Well yes, he did act like a spoilt brat at times. But this rings true for those of us who have brought up teenagers – it’s how teenagers often behave! Let’s face it, it’s darn hard being young sometimes, and as I said, Bailey had quite a lot to cope with! With regards Bailey’s less traumatic scenes, I think one of my favourites was when he set off the fire alarm to spare his dad’s blushes after he’d agreed to pose nude for Lauren’s art class. And of course, to spare his own blushes. I enjoyed this not just because I was a huge fan of Matt, but because it exemplified that feeling of having to deal with ‘embarrassing dad syndrome’. You’re sixteen and your dad is about to do what in front of the neighbours? I can’t even begin to imagine what my own children would have said if my husband had been about to bare all to the people of our street!

I wouldn’t say I have ‘enjoyed’ the angry and grieving Bailey of late, because it really has been painful to watch, although it was probably believable that he should react this way, given his involvement in the loss of the money that led to his dad’s downfall. We need to remember, too, that Matt had covered for Bailey back in Mount Isa on discovery of the Turner brothers’ involvement in a robbery. That has to be a big risk for a police officer to take, and Bailey would have reflected on his dad’s loyalty, making him feel even more remorseful about his own online carelessness. Apart from ringing true, this story has shown another side to Bailey’s character and one which many fans of the show in my Facebook chat group have said that they appreciated in recent weeks.The saddest scene of all was when he spoke at his dad’s funeral. We knew that he was scared of public speaking, so the script writers were spot on when they showed Bailey plucking up the courage to say a few heartbreaking words. Little wonder, then, that he has since been devastated by the knowledge that his dad wasn’t as honest and straightforward as everyone believed. I am only glad that Bailey hasn’t discovered Matt’s liaison with Sharon Canning. He has been emotionally pummelled enough without learning about that.

So, Bailey has gone off to stay with his grandmother, Kathy. The same grandmother who gave away her daughter’s first baby without her knowledge, but who presumably feels a huge burden of guilt herself for the emotional turmoil that the discovery has caused her family. Maybe she feels that she owes it to Lauren to nurture Bailey and prevent him from further criminal activities. After all, he’s already stolen a car, impersonated a police officer and is on the path to alcohol addiction, so it’s probably is for the best that he left Erinsborough. Lauren is struggling to hold everything together, what with Amber’s pregnancy coming so soon after the wedding that never was, and Matt’s death. She currently seems to be at her wits' end and doesn’t know how to deal with Bailey. It’s a shame, I feel, that Bailey recently chose to lash out at his half-sister, accusing Paige of using Matt’s death to get closer to Lauren. But you can see that Paige understands his reasoning and doesn’t hold a grudge towards him. At least they parted on better terms.

So we wave farewell to yet another Turner/Carpenter family member. Just Lauren, Amber and Paige left now, as we know that Tom Oliver, who plays Lou, is cutting back on his role and won’t be making as many regular appearances. (Before anyone jumps to correct me, I do know that Paige’s adopted surname is Smith, but it wouldn’t have been advisable for her to change her surname to that of her mother!) I am sad about losing Bailey. I liked the Turner family as a unit, albeit a messy, blended, sometimes dysfunctional unit. I know that not everyone was as fond of them, but I enjoyed both the emotionally-charged stories they generated, and the every-day, familial dynamics, trials and tribulations. I want to believe that Bailey will flourish, eventually, and be able to come to terms with everything that has happened. I want him to gain self-confidence so that he isn’t as easily-led. Essentially he’s a ‘nice lad’ but one who needs to find his own place in the world.

Thank you, Calen, for your acting and the way that you’ve played Bailey’s character. I’m sure everyone who has enjoyed your presence on Neighbours will join me in wishing you well for the future. You clearly have a promising acting career ahead of you. But should you ever feel like popping back, don’t hesitate to make it known to the producers!

This article originally appeared on Carol's blog, Levelling The Playing Field