NEW YORK – "Desperate Housewives" (search) featured a desperate widow Sunday night.
Bree (Marcia Cross (search)) was coping with the sudden death of husband Rex as the reality of his passing set in.
But her usual ice-queen demeanor was put to the ultimate test with the arrival of her mother-in-law, Phyllis, a chronic buttinsky who clashed with Bree on every detail of the funeral arrangements — even pushing Bree to swap Rex's necktie as he lay in his coffin during the service.
"You look magnificent," Bree said, once she had removed Phyllis' garish orange choice from the body.
Brand-new housewife Betty ( Alfre Woodard) and her teenage son Matthew got off to a properly mysterious start when Matthew sympathetically told Bree's daughter that he, too, had lost a father.
"Pretending your father's dead?" Betty asked Matthew after the girl had gone.
"I just thought that could help our cover story," he explained. "You know — win 'em over."
"In the future," she said, "leave the cleverness to me."
Lynette ( Felicity Huffman), as expected, set out to resume her corporate career after years at home, leaving her husband to play Mr. Mom to their four kids. And as expected, he fell short in his new role, forcing her to take the baby to her job interview. She got the job anyway.
Gabrielle ( Eva Longoria) was expecting a child — maybe her husband's, maybe the lawn boy's — as her husband Carlos sat in jail. But when Carlos demanded she take a paternity test, she apparently faked the results.
Those were among the developments when ABC's "Desperate Housewives" returned for its new season, four long months after last year's finale drew some 30 million viewers (the biggest audience for a freshman series finale since "ER" a decade ago).
The most urgent piece of unfinished business was the ambush faced by Mike — the hunky plumber who dates Susan ( Teri Hatcher) — at the hands of unhinged teenager Zach, who was holding Susan at gunpoint while holed up in Mike's house. But as he pointed the gun at Mike, Susan knocked him down, and he ran out the door. Problem solved.
Later, Mike told Susan that he suspects Zach is the son he never knew he had. Upset by the news, Susan replied that she and her daughter couldn't move in with Mike after all.
The biggest question left over from last season — exactly why Rex died so unexpectedly — was left unaddressed. For this, viewers will have to stay tuned.
And they'll have to keep watching to make sense of the opener's final scene. In what appeared to be a nightly ritual for Matthew, he had prepared a dinner tray for someone.
"I'll get the tray," said Betty to her son. "You take the gun."
Down in the basement, they leave the silver tray and the meal (complete with bud vase), and make their departure. A hand — someone held captive? — is seen reaching for the glass as they close the basement door.
Could there be any doubt: "Desperate Housewives" is back!