Sunday, 30 August 2009

Episode Review: Out of Africa

Written by Joe Turner and Mark Wadlow, Directed by Duncan Foster

This took place during the week of November 13 to 23, 2008, just after John Stape was arrested for kidnapping Rosie. This is a DVD "spinoff" from the regular Coronation Street storyline.

In a regular Coronation Street episode, we are told that Les and Cilla are in South Africa and have sent Kirk, Ches and Fiz tickets to go visit. Kirk and Chesney go off but Fiz doesn't. After the whole "John Stape kidnaps Rosie Webster" thing blows up in her face, she, too, goes to get away for awhile. Knowing Cilla, you just know there has to be a scam involved and so there is! These are their adventures, Out of Africa.

We start off in Rainy Weatherfield. Chesney is excitedly running around doing his last paper round and telling everyone about his holiday. He tells Rosie that he's going with a responsible adult. Kirk. Um...

Fiz comes out to see them off and we discover that not only is Ches bringing chocolate Garibaldis for his mum but Kirk has a rucksack stuffed full of crisps because they're never any good when you're away, are they! Fiz is worried Chesney will like it so much he won't come back but is reassured. She waves them off and we are transported to a spectacular African sunset and then the credits roll over scenes of the Big Five animals, the fields and mountains and a plan landing.

Kirk and Chesney come out of the airport and a shriek is heard... "CHESNEEEEEEEEE!!!". Yep, it's Gobzilla. Ches runs to hug his mum and then asks where Les is. Cilla turns round and we see, silhouetted in the sun, a tall figure, complete with spear and feathery bits on his arms and legs. He's also the wrong colour, and not gingery in the least. Cilla has hooked up with a South African man who dons the warrior outfit for tourists and who seems besotted with her, her New Les, she calls him. He might not look anything like the old one, but he's carrying a bottle of beer so there's some similarity. And he's crazy about Cilla, so he's probably a bit thick, too! Chesney is clearly disappointed but Cilla brushes it off. She's got new and it involves riches and families! Off they go in a little red convertible that has seen better days, with Les and Cilla signs on the windscreen.

The car breaks down and while "Les" is trying to get it going, Chesney questions his mother as to why they're really there. She avoids the answer, preferring to big up South Africa as being miles better than England. But she snipes at "Les" saying that when they win the competition, they need to buy a new car. Competition? "Les" gets out and leaves her to explain.

We hear how she came to be in SA instead of Vegas. She was a cocktail waitress with a Evil Poison Witch drink named after her and was offered a job by a client so she grabbed at the opportunity. She met Les the first night on the job and the rest is romantic history. She later spied a poster for a competition for the Sunshine Family with a prize of half a million dollars and her eyes lit up. She entered the competition and to give herself an edge, said she had two disabled sons, one having the mental age of an 8 year old. She apologized to Kirk and suggested he just "be himself". Okay! Kirk chirps.

Chesney is horrified but Kirk is up for it. He doesn't mind being Chesney's "brother". He doesn't think anyone will believe it but Cilla reveals they've made it to the finals, which includes a 7 day holiday, all expenses paid, in a posh resort in Sun City. The car is fixed and they drive off, just as Chesney asks what's supposed to be wrong with him as the second disabled son?

We next see the little "family" coming around a bend, Cilla pushing Chesney in a wheelchair!!! Chesney refuses but he doesn't get up and they come into view of the resort. Wow, it's all pillars and domes, fountains and marble and carving. Very swish! They've registered and have got their key to a luxury suite! They rush off and the competition desk woman answers the phone as a man enters the lobby. He's dressed in a casual suit jacket, open neck shirt and glasses. He's middle aged and smiling and saying hello to everyone as he approaches the desk. He's called Alfie Vlok and is the Emcee for the competition. He's apparently a daytime chat host, used to recognition and adulation but the check in clerk has no idea who he is which disconcerts him a bit. Even more upsetting is the fact that he does not in fact have a suite to which he feels entitled, but only a standard room. Oh dear. He demands to speak to a manager and when he does, it's clear the manager doesn't recognize the name either. Further frustration and it's going to become a theme! Seems our Alfie may just be a bit of a has been, a legend in his own mind!

Meanwhile, our little family has arrived at the suite, "Les" pushing the luggage trolley (if it's that posh, why isn't a bellman doing that?). The suite most certainly meets all expectations. it even satisfies Cilla's greedy little mind. It's enormous! Chesney is moaning and griping, arguing with Cilla about the whole scam. Cilla, of course, has little patience for his objections.

Later at night, Les, Cilla and Kirk are all asleep but Chesney is awake and worrying, disappointed and upset about it all. He gets up for a drink, musing at the situation his mother has him in. He sits at the computer and emails Fiz and pours his disappointment out.

The next morning, Cilla wheels Ches down to the hotel breakfast room. It looks like Ches is still going along with the scheme but he's grizzling the whole way through it, pushing his food away. He and Cilla have a tour through the resort, we see her on one of those Segway thingys, sliding down a water park ride, floating in the pool. Chesney is covered from hat to shoes so he won't get sunburned and complaining about the sun. Cilla tries to get him on side, but Chesney has more than enough ammunition. Les and Kirk are now with them and Les's ears perk at a couple of interesting points that Chesney has mentioned, including not seeing his mother more than once in the past year and having been taken into care. Cilla tries to gloss that over and finally allows Chesney to go to his room.

On the other side of the pool, Alfie is conferring with his camera man, Rick, who tells him he must participate in some interviews and footage of all the finalist families. Alfie tries to pull rank but is reminded that his agent has said Alfie would do anything for a large vodka. Alfie, shuffles his newspaper and agrees to do the extra work, for a larger room. Rick agrees to this. They walk off, Rick bringing up some of Alfie's less than shiny history including the tabloid free for all which, it seems, Alfie actually authored, for cash of course. The Battersbys are the first up. Alfie sighs and asks "How big's your room?"

Fiz has obviously received Chesney's email and has called Cilla to find out what's going on. Cilla is hollering over the phone. She is his mum and she knows best and she hangs up on Fiz, turning her temper on Chesney for spilling the beans. They argue at high volume which can be heard out in the hallway where Alfie and his partner are bickering, on their way to the suite. He does make Cilla feel a modicum of guilt for missing his life but she insists, she can't change who she is. Outside the door, Alfie is pumping himself up into performance mode. Chesney ends his argument telling his mother he hates her and he wants to go home. With one last scream, she goes to open the door and the performance beings, not just on Alfie's part.

Cilla, naturally, doesn't know who he is and he's further sent into a jealous tizzy over the size of the suite. Cilla spots the empty wheelchair down a hallway. He is at least appeased that "Les" recognizes him though only from a tv commercial he's seen. Cilla stalls for time and then brightly calls for "Chessssss". Chesney, always unable to say no to his mother in spite of everything, wheels himself into the room with a shy smile on his face. He says what he is supposed to for the camera but when they leave, he gets up and tells her what he wants in return. She's to come back to England with him after. He wants his real family back again. She hugs him and looks him in the eye and sentimentally agrees.

Later she's down by the pool for the first bits of filming for the competition. Alfie takes the stage. They may have had 50,000 entries for the Sunshine Family but the audience sitting in front of him doesn't look to number more than about 100 who applaud, but not overly convincingly. The three families are introduced, the Battersbys being first up, alphabetically. ("Les"'s name, by the way, seems to be Lesedi from which she gets Les). We discover that Cilla's said that Ches lost the use of his legs in a freak earthquake back home and she crawled through the rubble to save him. She puts on a tragic face. Kirk, as the mentally challenged son, plays his part guilessly, waving hello to the crowd, having obviously sucked in some helium from the balloon he's clutching. Les admits his initial attraction to Cilla was her firm backside!

Next up is the Jones family, with 11 little boys all under the age of about 13 it looks like. Cilla makes disparaging remarks under her breath, scolded by Les who seems a pretty good sort, really. I wonder if, seeing the "real" Cilla, he's becoming disillusioned. Third up is a family that's walked 1000 miles over a desert for charity (oh dear, quite a lot to live up to, then!) and they are the Teal family, Ed, Pam and Ellie, a lovely mother, fit father and teenage daughter who instantly catches Chesney's eye! Cilla quickly realizes where the competition lies, especially when the dad tells of the daughter, a violin virtuoso who apparently had her instrument in the Namibian desert on trek and who kept the family's morale up by playing "When the going gets tough" on it to spur them on to finish. Too good to be true? They also have an advantage of being South African but do I spy a crack in the veneer? The mom doesn't seem too happy.

There is a reception by one of the pools for the families. The daughter of the Teal family is making friends with Chesney. Alfie asks after the Battersby sister, Sister Fiona, who works in an orphanage teaching the children to sing. Where is she? Alfie says it would help them if Fiona was there. There's some tough competition. We see Ed and Pam Teal saying Grace while Ellie is stealing a taste of the cake. Cilla rushes her family away from temptation and makes them have an early night where Kirk teases Chesney about Ellie but is warned off fraternizing by Cilla. She figures there's something fishy about the Teals, and probably they're just as manufactured as the Battersbys! Les says that if they don't win it's all down to Cilla for making up another child but he's surprised to find out there is another one, Fiz really is her daughter. Les is annoyed and decides to go to a real bar where he can have a real drink which perks up Kirk they all tag along.


Kirk is delighted to find out the barmaid's name really is Betty. Les and Cilla have a quiet moment. He doesn't understand why she chases around the world looking for a fast buck when she's got a lovely family and everything she could want. She sighs and wonders if it's time she got real. I'll drink to that, Les toasts. Cilla walks away as Kirk and Chesney approach. Les says he thinks Cilla is wondering about her life but Cilla comes marching back. She's a Battersby and they don't just roll over. It's time to bring out the secret weapon!! She calls Fiz with "terrible news". What is it? We don't know yet.

Kirk and Cilla walk across the courtyard wondering what on earth they will do for an upcoming talent competition just as Alfie is filming the Jones children. But, shock and surprised, the Jones family has been disqualified for cheating. The children have actually been borrowed from an under-9 football club! Cilla expresses outrage at the idea of cheating and the contest is now down to the two remaining families.

The next day, Chesney goes off with Ellie to an animal park while the rest hang out by the pool. She wheels him through the park and he wonders why. She's offended that he thinks she's only spending time with him for how it looks when really, she's just getting away from all the pressure. Chesney apologizes. She mentions how difficult it all is and starts to say something that her dad is always on at her about but stops short and doesn't finish what she was going to say. When they get back, they say a shy good bye and then Cilla wheels him off to find out if he's got any gossip that will help their chances. As if he would! But she encourages him to spy on the family for them.

Later, by the pool, a familiar face! It's Fiz! She's horrified to see Ches in a wheelchair but relieved it's not for real. Then alternately horrified again when, up in the suite, she's told the whole story of the competition. She's furious that Cilla told her that Chesney had an accident and has spent all her savings on a ticket (Wait, what happened to the ticket Cilla sent her last week? Not changeable maybe?) Chesney, now buying into the scheme because he thinks he'll get his mom and family back, tells the same to Fiz though Cilla's face seems to tell another story. They all plead and she can't resist Chesney so agrees to do the minimum required.

Oh. And there is one other thing.

We see Fiz come round the corner in a full head to toe nun's habit and feeling like a pillock.

She's also pegged for the talent competition, singing Ave Maria. Not bad but not her strong suit. Ellie plays the violin and, naturally, is the real talent star. Les throws circus knives at Cilla and misses, thankfully and Kirk ineptly kicks around a football. Yep. Talent seems in short supply in that camp. Later, Ches refuses to spy. She wheels him to the Teal suite and hands him a video camera to use just in case. Ellie answers the door and has clearly been crying. She feels she's let herself down. Chesney reassures her, saying she's beautiful, clever and talented. She jumps up as she hears her parents return and wheels Ches out to the balcony because her parents wouldn't approve of the "enemy" being there.

Ellie's father lays straight into her for missing two notes in her performance. The parents argue, with the mother defending her chick. Outside, Chesney actually does pick up the camera and films through the window blinds. There's some good stuff recorded, too. Daddy has had plastic surgery, he drinks from a bottle of booze and he makes his daughter play the violin for him.

Fiz and Cilla are arguing. Cilla wants her to come on a safari tour with them but she out and out refuses. She stalks out, still in costume. Chesney says there was no gossip to report. Alfie arrives for another visit and has brought the passes for the safari. Fiz makes Fiona's excuses but Fiona happens to be in a casino. Yes, in the nun's habit, which concerts the croupier at the table but pleases on of the other customers who wants to touch her for good luck. When he won't back off, Fiz decks him one. A security chap comes over and ushers the idiot off, apologizing. He does say he had been asked to suggest she leave as a nun puts the punters off but he defended her. It's a free world. But Fiz decides she probably shouldn't be there and gathers up her chips and leaves.

Now we're in the Land Rover, on the way to the safari park. Chesney is being interviewed by Alfie, and unheard by Cilla, he's confessed that Cilla's dream is to swim with crocodiles!! This could be interesting!

Back at the resort, Fiz has thrown off her habit and is wearing a nice black and white dress, with sunglasses and a head scarf for a disguise. It doesn't fool the casino security bloke, who we later discover is called Alex. She confesses she's not a nun and has got roped into her mother's lies. He's not interested in spilling the beans but he is interested in spending time with her and showing her around.

Back at the park, Chesney is watching with satisfaction as his mother sits on the edge of a pool, scared to jump in where the crocodiles roam. One comes swimming towards her (not moving it's arms and legs at all. Clearly fake!) Alfie hollers down that Chesney confessed her dream and they made it happen. Don't be angry!. No. Really. Don't because it makes the croc hungry! *snork* Later, the Teals, the camera man, Kirk and Alfie are laughing around a bonfire as Les pulls leeches the size of dill pickles off Cilla's back.

And the end of the day, under a full moon, Fiz and Alex are sipping champagne. Fiz wishes life could be simple. Alex tells her his sob story. He came to South Africa to get married but discovered his fiancee had been having an affair. He's been here ever since, but isn't attached. He reckons Fiz is lucky nothing like that has ever happened to her. Funny you should say that, she grimaces!

In a tent, Cilla is itching from the leeches and a bit nervous at the various animal sounds coming from outside. In another tent, Kirk is chattering to Chesney about animals. They hear the roar of a lion outside and are alarmed.

Fiz and Alex are getting even cozier. The flirting is heavy and Fiz, though she's not that sort of girl really, does want things to go further. He asks where her room is and when he's told where, says he can do even better. He takes her to what must be the Shangri-La suite, or the penthouse at the very least. Amazing! They kiss under the candelabra.

Dawn has broken over the safari camp. Les helps Kirk set his video cam on the right setting. He realizes Kirk really is as thick as two planks and reminds him not to forget to call him Dad. And if it helps, he likens the situation to Star Wars where Luke discovers Darth Vader is his real father. Oooh, Kirk likes that and decides Ches can be R2D2 and Cilla can be Chewbacca! Les scolds him for disrespecting his "mother". Chewbacca sees Ellie and Chesney chatting. Ellie says she wants the Battersbys to win so her family will ease up. Cilla approaches and steals Chesney away and reminds him they're in it to win it.

Elsewhere, Alfie is ascertaining whether anyone else has an en suite tent. Rick scoffs but the driver says he's got a bidet. Alfie goes off in a huff. All he's got is a hole in the ground.

The morning after in the VIP suite, Fiz seems happy. She wakes up Alex who then answers the phone and leaps out of bed. Seems there are guests downstairs waiting for the room. He lets in the cleaning staff and kisses her goodbye. Typical.

On safari, the Teals are lucky to seen all kinds of great views with animals but the Battersby luck holds and all they get are empty fields and waterholes.

Fiz spends more time in the casino. She chats to the croupier about calling security, that would be Alex. Alex comes by just then and they flirt. He arranges to meet her in an hour.

Back out at a rest stop, the Teals are talking excitedly about their morning. All the others saw was one dusty chicken. The Battersbys take off to see if they can find some lions that were spotted. Kirk is determined. When they're out of range, Chesney gets out of the chair and walks. Back at the camp, Alfie brags he's got a tent upgrade. Oh dear, he's just discovered that the Battersbys have gone off into the bush on their own. One of the guides says he reckons that they've got an hour before something happens to them. Oh great! That's all they need! Alfie is beside himself. Make sure they've signed their waivers! He is NOT going to be sued for the accidental death of game show contestants AGAIN! (Really, Alfie has been one of the stars of this!!)

Out in the bush, the Battersbys have found the pride of lions and are watching from a safe distance, filming and enjoying themselves.

Alex brings Fiz back to his flat/suite. Fiz asks Alex if last night was just a one off, ships passing in the night. Be honest. He admits to being smitten. Fiz smiles and says if her mother hadn't been a money grabbing scheming cow, she'd never have met him! Kissing again, we know how that's going to end.

It's night now, and still the Battersbys haven't returned to the camp. Alfie is advised that a search party at night is too dangerous. He's more upset at the effect a dead family would have on his comeback! The leader of the Teal family is smug, hopeful that the competition has been eaten by lions. The women of the family are more upset. Out in the dark bush, the Battersbys are still alive and lost. They're still pushing Chesney around in the chair, which seems daft but he's not long getting out when they hear the snarl of a lion nearby.

Alex and Fiz are cuddling on the sofa. She laughs because she's doing the same thing half way around the world as she does at home, sitting on the sofa, having a lager and cheese sarnie in front of the telly. He asks her to stay. Really stay. Forever. They could have a good life there. She's a bit reluctant, though highly flattered. She can't though, what about Chesney? Although..... if Cilla *were* to keep her promise and return to look after Chesney, if they win the contest....

Our hapless contestants are still banging around in the dark. THey are stopped in their tracks by the hiss of a snake. Les thinks they'll be safe if it can't see the white of their eyes. All don their sunglasses. Les really isn't much help after all. He admits he's never been in the bush and only knows about snakes from books. Cilla urges him to tap into his native heritage and get them out of there!!! No idea! Kirk reckons he's got a good sense of direction (yeah, right). He takes off in a direction. Everyone decides to follow him for lack of any other plan.

Fiz reckons her "family" don't have a chance and suggests Alex comes to England. He says he can't apply for a passport, he'll get arrested. Turns out he deserted the army when he came to Africa and stayed. She thinks she'll just have to stay and hope for the best, then.

The Battersbys realize they can smell something. It's the camp! Cilla stops them and orders Les to carry Chesney out and she puts on a brave face for the cameras. At the camp, Alfie is on the booze. The family firms their story up. Les saved them, right? They arrive at safety, nearly. Alfie grabs the gun from the guide and shoots into the bush for the camera's effect. He doesn't hit anything and the Battersbys come into the light. They are hollered at for leaving without a guide but it's all ok. Les is applauded as the hero and they all make nice for the cameras. The Teals gnash their teeth. Ellie is pleased to see Chesney. Cilla gets Alfie to one side and he admits that it's anyone's game for the winner. In the tent, Kirk is looking at the footage and stumbles on the stuff Chesney has recorded when the Teals were arguing. Chesney says he doesn't want to show the recording because it would get Ellie in trouble. Kirk doesn't know what to do though he could ask Les or Fiz. Chesney looks confused and worried. He's good at that.

In the morning, Fiz is back in her nun's gear and singing joyfully as she irons. The rest return. Cilla is stunned at Fiz's about face, enthusiastic about their chances of winning including a mother-praising poem she's written. Who are you and what have you done with Fiz? Later, Cilla thinks Fiz is up to summat. Fiz is now nowhere to be found. Chesney is excited that they could win. They could even buy their house! Cilla is still unsure as to their real chances, though. That gives Chesney pause for thought and he retrieves the camera. Should he? Yes he does. He shows the incriminating footage to his mother who crows in triumph.

Fiz had gone to find Alex who seems to be wrestling with a mate or something. She tells him she thinks they have a good chance of winning.

Cilla leaves a note under Alfie's door and Fiz sneaks back but is caught by Cilla who confronts her. Fiz doesn't give the game away though reckons for once, she and Cilla both want the same thing. She goes inside and Alfie comes to see Cilla. He's received the evidence and slyly tells her it's in the bag! She slaps that Cilla greedy grin on her face, that one we know so well! She hurries inside and spreads the good news. Kirk asks if there's a fix but she says no, the best family won. Chesney hugs her and Kirk says good night to his "mum" and "dad".

In her bedroom, Fiz is all dreamy and smiley. There's a knock on her window and it's Alex. He's sneaked in for a kiss! She's delighted! He pulls off his coat and they fall onto the bed.

Les and Cilla are cuddling, too and Chesney overhears her admit she's not going to go back to England after all. No surprise there but he's feeling betrayed. Tears roll down his face.

The next morning, everyone is anxious except Cilla who's lounging in a big bubble bath with a glass of champagne. Kirk is ironing and Fiz is running around with a face mask on while Les is polishing up a snazzy new blue wheelie. But where's Chesney?

The contest final begins. Alfie does his patter on stage and introduces the Battersbys where a dejected looking Chesney is there, Fiz is in full habit and Les is wearing his tribal gear. Cilla is in loud red, white and blue in the British flag and Kirk just looks like he always does. Alfie asks Chesney what his favourite thing was and Chesney just gripes about the heat and being stuck in the chair so Cilla interrupts and says he liked the lions best. Cilla puts on her good mother-happy families act for the camera while Chesney just shakes his head and sighs. Ed Teal puts on his OTT act for the camera, too. Ellie tells that she's learned a lot about families, trust, honesty and love but she's talking about Chesney, isn't she?

Time for the judging. Who will win! Unanimous decision give the win to the Battersbys!!!! Wahey! The Teals look stunned amid all the cheering audience. Cilla is triumphant. But when Chesney is asked how he feels, he lets every cat out of the bag. He's disgusted and ashamed!!! He reveals that he can walk and tells the truth about his "family" and he tells how his mum never wanted or cared for him. She's the biggest liar of all. Cilla is ready to run for it before it gets nasty. Security arrives and the Battersbys are stripped of their title. Ed Teal tries to wrestle the oversize cheque away from Cilla who then announces that he's a drunk and a bully. But it turns out the judges have decided to abandon the competition. To Ed's objections, Alfie warns him not to go there. They have footage and it's ugly! Security removes both families from the stage.

The next time we see Cilla, she's dragging her suitcase and half the torn cheque on the road, hitching for a ride. Who should stop for her but Alfie. He offers her a ride.

Back at the resort, Ches, Kirk and Fiz are downcast. Chesney runs over to see Ellie who is resentful. She says her parents are divorcing. She accuses him of lying to her. She really liked him and trusted him and says he's just like his mother, a liar. Ouch! Kirk hugs Chesney. Fiz sees Alex approaching and knows they can't be together. She has to go back to look after Chesney and he can't come back with her. No regrets, they promise. She makes him go back to work because she doesn't' want him to see her cry. They kiss goodbye.

Les comes to say good bye and thank them for allowing him to be their father for a week. Chesney tells him that his mother doesn't deserve him. He agrees. He says he doesn't know where Cilla is and doesn't care. Chesney still cares, he hopes she's ok.

Behind them as they leave we see a video screen with what is probably a glimpse into the future. It shows Alfie coming onto a television set, glad to be back! His special guest is someone that's writing a book with Hollywood knocking on her door. She's bold and brash and the world's worst mother, meet Cilla Battersby!! (She always lands on her feet). The telly switches off and we are at an end to the adventure!

Back on Coronation Street, Fiz and Chesney vow never to say what really happened on the holiday.

3 comments:

John said...

Hi Tvor!

Thanks for this update. Do you mind if I post a link to this on the Corrie Canuck blog? We're at the point in storylines now where this is happening so I thought it might help our readers if they want to know what all this South Africa business is about.

Tvor said...

Absolutely! Go right ahead!

John said...

Thanks! I just didn't want to step on any toes.

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