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Comment > Sweet Escape (and Happy Returns) by Si Hunt

Warning! This article contains spoilers!

Things come round in cycles. After a recent period when Neighbours was all about introducing interesting new families (and the Kapoors), the current vogue is for bringing back old faces from the past. Brad! Lauren! Lucy! Jack Bloody Lassiter! It seems anything goes these days, and it can be only a matter of time before Bouncer the dog rocks up in Ramsay Street again after a prolonged spell in the Bungle Bungles.

This week the show's producers announced the return of two not-so-old faces. Yes, Zeke Kinski and Sophie Ramsay are back! Stop coughing uncomfortably at the back. These are odd choices for sure, if only because it seems only five minutes since Sophie packed up her goth make-up and annoying twangy guitar and headed off to that famous Neighbours safe haven of recent years "to See Harry". Zeke too, is hardly the Henry Ramsay of exciting choices to bring back, and when they finally get round to resurrecting the Neighbours Iconic Episodes DVD range, the episode where he falls out of a raft and loses his memory will probably be jostling for inclusion with The Second Return of Lolly and that time Sonya lost her shih tzu.

But not to be unkind. Many of us DO have some fond memories of Zeke, if not the irritating stream of girlfriends he was lumbered with (remember Sunny Lee?) and with the recent second wind of PirateNet he can hop straight back on the Erinsborough High decks. Most importantly, the return of Zeke (along with Mel Bell's recent visits as Lucy) is a strike for realism in Neighbours. It's getting to the point now where it's been so long since any of Karl and Susan's army of biological and fostered children have come to visit that Susan must be seriously questioning the quality of her cooking. Even marital strife, death and MS can't prompt Billy Kennedy to jump in his car and make the trip down to see them, although the success of brother Malís last house call (when he dropped in and cheated on his wife) might explain why. Let's not forget that Karl and Susan were a huge part in Zeke and Rachel Kinski's lives. When their father (I forget his name, but he was probably in Prisoner) died, that reliable mothering instinct in Susan kicked in and she felt compelled to bring them both up. They were guided through flood, fire and Rachel's ropey singing career. It's inconceivable that neither of them would EVER visit. So when Zeke appears with a big rucksack and new hair, those of us for whom the residents of Ramsay Street live an actual, real existence in our heads can smile and be glad it makes slightly more sense than it did before.

But the Street's ever-growing list of former residents still poses a problem, as many of them NEVER return, even if they can be occasionally be persauded to record a cameo on anniversaries. It becomes more of a problem, as mentioned before, when the people they held dear DO stick around. Billy and Anne arenít the only ones being rude to relatives; why does Tad never come and visit Toadie? And now the Willises are back as a permanent fixture, it's getting to be a bit of a mystery why Doug and Pam are never invited for Sunday dinner - especially now Terese has been freed up from her bustling career pouting at Paul and "meeting targets" at Lassiter's and should in theory have her Sundays free to peel some spuds and stuff a goose. Ah, did someone mention Paul? Now there we have the biggest problem of all.

Paul, that ageless, one-legged enigma sits at the very heart of Neighbours. He is the lynchpin, the focal point of the show, the very heart of Ramsay Street, albeit a black and twisted one (that's life, folks. Many of us like to attribute the Fall of Paul to a deep rooted bitterness that he wasn't around for the final years of Granny Helen's long life. But I digress). And he's had more wives and children than you or I have watched Neighbours episodes. You could probably understand the wives thing; none of them left him on particularly good grounds, though there must SURELY be storyline potential in Gail, Rebecca and Christina all teaming up and returning to teach him one final lesson. But the kids are another matter - is Melbourne THAT far from New York? When's Elle coming back? I seem to remember that despite a deep rift, Andrew ended up giving his old man a hug before he left, so you'd think he'd fly by too. And didn't one of the other triplets survive (the one that didn't try and kill him, obviously)?

When you consider that Paul barely even mentions his brother Scott, all kinds of other issues arise and we wind up contemplating why we have never become reacquainted with Scott, Charlene, Henry or either of Scott and Lenny's kids. This culminated this week in a glorious scene where Paul invited all these people to his 50th birthday party (looks good on it, doesn't he?). We haven't reached the denouement to this little escapade yet, but I suspect the twist is that not a single one of them manages to make it. Maybe this will be what finally makes Paul realise what a rotter he is? Perhaps he'll have to settle for looking strangely at Darius Perkins and wondering why he seems so familiar.

Maybe the real reason for the problem is the bright idea someone had a few years ago of retrospectively orchestrating an affair between Anne Robinson and Max Ramsay (they really were sniffing something potent in the script office that month werenít they), introducing Kate Ramsay and her siblings Sophie and Harry and turning the Ramsay/Robinson history into a knot that Houdini would struggle to untie. If there WAS ever a big family reunion on Ramsay Street, I'm not sure even those that turned up would be able to work exactly who they were related to.

That all said, there's nothing to stop the odd mention of faces gone by, and happily they do turn up sometimes, often bringing with them welcome news of those that never visit. Paul McClain, the famous footie player, anyone? I expect Zeke to inform us that Rachel is far too busy having number 1 hits in Europe to be with him, and Sophie to impart the news that Harry is now the most famous basketball player Australia has ever produced. Just as long as she leaves her guitar behind...

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