Huge Home and Away spoilers follow from Australian-pace episodes, which some UK readers may prefer to avoid.
To bring a soap whodunit storyline with a difference on Australian screens this month, Hats off to Home and Away.
Forget the normal mysteries of murder or sudden knocks to the head that our beloved shows enjoy so much the big mystery this time was the identity of “Witness X” following Colby Thorne’s unexpected deception.
The longest-running storyline of the Summer Bay soap has seen Colby get away with murder for almost two years after he shot his manipulative stepfather Ross Nixon fatally at the beginning of 2019.
Even after Ross’s body was discovered and ruthless investigator Angelo Rosetta got on the investigation before Witness X jumped in, that is, slippery Colby kept trying to escape justice.
The latest plot twist started earlier this month on Aussie screens when a mystery witness confronted Angelo, who offered to help him develop his case against Colby.
Angelo took the assertion of this person before long and continued with preparations to charge Colby, now feeling that he had ample evidence for a good trial.
The changes on the screen coincided with the Australian broadcaster Channel 7 of Home and Away ramping up it’s marketing for the program, as ads started to air that teased viewers about Witness X‘s identity. The Aussie trailers are not exactly notorious for being understated, but the OTT commercials definitely contributed to the enthusiasm.
Although the guilt of Colby in the Ross case was still the worst-kept secret of Summer Bay, there were lots of suspects in the frame: Dean, Bella, Nikau, Willow, Mackenzie, Ziggy, and characters like Chelsea were also missing. (A curveball should never be counted out.)
Home and Away put us out of our misery at the end of last week by actually unmasking Willow as Witness X. A jaw-dropping scene saw Willow head off for a discreet after-dark meeting with Angelo after Colby confided in Willow about the mess he’d made for himself.
Willow was seen carrying a wire and turning over to Angelo a transcript of Colby’s conversation, believing it would be appropriate to sentence her close friend to a long jail term.
For soap whodunits, the on-screen revelation presented a rarity, finding the perfect balance of shock factor and genuinely making sense as a plot.
Although it was a disappointment to see Willow betray someone she had once regarded as a close family member, in previous weeks there had been tell-tale signs that she had been slowly losing Colby’s patience and the repercussions of his actions.
Willow unexpectedly defended Dean’s right to weigh it and do what was best for him, rather than for Colby, since Dean had been given a contract by Angelo a few weeks ago. She had even rebuked Colby, for his smug stance towards the murder investigation, for being untouchable.
As Willow’s video was played in court and she pleaded against Colby, telling a version of events that covered Dean and Bella, the drama escalated more in this week’s scenes.
Colby changed his plea to guilty, recognizing the game was over, and was sentenced to 25 years in jail.
With Bella and Dean both outraged by the actions of Willow, she explained that deep down she was behaving out of loyalty. She intervened by putting an end to his plans once and for all, realizing that Colby was spiraling out of control and was likely to drag them all down with him.
She decided to run from Summer Bay to avoid the sun, as Willow knew that she was unlikely to be forgiven anytime soon.
While some fans have asked if this is a permanent break, in recent weeks, Sarah Roberts, who plays Willow, has been seen filming on location a number of times. We don’t have to think about not seeing Willow again with Home and Away usually shooting scenes from four to six months in advance.
If it is speculated that Colby might quit the show in the near future, it would be interesting to see how the betrayal of Willow affects the dynamics in the long term among the rest of the Mangrove River gang.
The unwritten law of the Dean/Colby/Willow/Bella dynamic has always been integrity above all costs, so it will be fascinating to discuss whether Willow can ever restore her broken friendships or whether she will go in a whole different direction as a character once she is back in the Bay.
The shaking up of the present dynamic of friendship, whatever the way it goes, is a welcome move that potentially offers lots of fresh plot possibilities when we step into 2021.
Instead of only playing a part in the dramas of her peers, we are really keen to see more of Willow in her own right, so if this paves the way for that, it can only be a positive thing.
In the coming weeks, Home and Away will air its season finale episode in Australia, but the writers are probably finishing the year on a high. The unmasking of Willow as Witness X was arguably the biggest shock of the Bay of 2020 and has again created a sensation around the show.
In fairness, for a little longer, we might have gladly watched the immediate consequences play out. Our only real concern despite so much build-up is that the trial itself felt hurried, with Willow testifying and Colby being returned to prison in the course of just two episodes.
It’s also a disappointment that UK audiences will have to wait too long to see these scenes play out early next year on Channel 5 because they’re unlikely to witness the same surprise element as Aussie viewers did. We wouldn’t be shocked to see demands growing for same-day airings if the Summer Bay drama remains this strong.