A Two-hander is a play, film or television programme in which only two characters appear. While they can sometimes be in the form of conflict, they can also be in a position of harmony and the script explores the nuances of the relationship between the two.
Two-hander episodes have become a tradition in EastEnders over the years, featuring more episodes with this kind of regime than any other drama series. It all started in October 1986, when Episode 174 featured the characters Den and Angie Watts and Den and Angie only excluding the non-speaking Window Cleaner. The turbulence and drama that came with the episode set off for a legacy of a two-hander, three-hander, four-hander and even single-hander episodes in the future! All in all EastEnders has featured twenty-one two-hander episodes, six three-hander episodes and ten four-hander episodes.Practically, these episodes were originally created for speedy filming purposes, as while the two actors were filming the two-hander, the remaining cast could be filming another episode.
However, the most significant episode created under this regime has to be the 2008 single episode titled Pretty Baby which featured no other character than Dorothy Branning. The plotline for the episode was straightforward but beautifully written by Tony Jordan and performed by June Brown. The episode saw Dot recording a cassette tape of her memories for her husband Jim and attracted 8.7 million viewers. June was also nominated for the Best TV Actress award for her portrayal of Dot in this episode.
Other popular drama series' such as Coronation Street and Emmerdale have not been so eager to follow this dramatic style with only two episodes to date in both drama series' that have broadcasted this kind of regime.
Den and Angie (16 October 1986)
The first two-hander features Den Watts and Angie Watts and is structured like a tennis match, with a non-speaking window cleaner forever strolling innocently into the action. The episode is written by Jane Hollowood and directed by Antonia Bird. This episode was watched by 14.0 million viewers in its original broadcast. Writers chose to give Den and Angie a two-hander episode due to their popularity.
Den and Angie's marriage has broken down, and before the episode, Den finally decides to end the marriage and leave Angie for his mistress, Jan Hammond. The episode begins with Den trying to talk to Angie to tell her that he wants to leave her and get a divorce. Angie stalls but Den persists and explains to her that he wants a clean break from her, their pub, The Queen Victoria, Albert Square and Walford. Den tells Angie that he shall get another pub through a deal with James Wilmott-Brown and Jan would be doing the books. Angie is shocked and feels defeated, but she then reveals that she is terminally ill with only six months to live. Den does not believe her, but Angie explains her story to Den; Angie's hysterical performance eventually convinces him. Den crumbles and promises to stay with her, adding that he will kill Angie if she is lying. Consumed by guilt, Den asks Angie for her forgiveness. As Den leaves Angie alone and takes their dog Roly for a walk, she gives a deranged smile, revealing that she has been lying to Den.
Dot and Ethel (2 July 1987)
The second two-hander features old friends Dot Cotton and Ethel Skinner, who are babysitting Vicki Fowler one rainy afternoon. This episode centres around nostalgia and growing old and was scripted to show the sadness behind the often comical characters of Dot and Ethel. The episode was written by Charlie Humphreys and directed by Mike Gibbon, a future producer of the show.
While baby Vicki sleeps, Dot and Ethel reminisce about their lives during World War II and share secrets from their girlhoods. During the war Ethel was 17 and remained in London where she witnessed the death of her family, who were killed by a German doodlebug. Dot was evacuated to Wales when she was three years old and stayed with a couple she called Auntie Gwen and Uncle Will, who wanted to adopt her. Dot later confessed that she had an abortion soon after she married Charlie Cotton because he told her he would leave her if she kept the baby. This caused a furious Dr. Harold Legg to punch Charlie on the nose in The Queen Victoria public house. Towards the end of the episode Dot goes out to the shop for a loaf bread and some fig rolls. When she returns Ethel is asleep and Dot thinks she has died and begins weeping and reciting the Lord's Prayer. When Ethel rouses, Dot panics and Ethel has to slap her out of it. Ethel then tearfully reminisces about her dead husband William and the past. As the episode ends, Dot and Ethel tend to Vicki while singing.
Sharon and Michelle (4 April 1989)
The third two-hander featured the best friends Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean) and Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully). In the aftermath of Sharon's adoptive father, Den Watts' (Leslie Grantham) death, the two friends started an evening at home with a bottle of wine and their memories. This episode was written by Tony McHale and directed by Mike Gibbon.
After Den's supposed murder, Sharon - his adoptive daughter - began to speculate about the identity of the mysterious woman who had been seen with him prior to his death. When Sharon told Michelle that she felt that she and her daughter Vicki Fowler (Samantha Leigh Martin) were now her family, Michelle blurted out a secret that she'd been keeping for over three years - that Den was Vicki's father and she was the mystery woman who was seen with Den before his death. Michelle thought Sharon would be comforted to know that she was, in a sense, Vicki's sister, and that a part of Den lived on in Vicki. However, Sharon took the news very badly, feeling hurt, angry and deceived. After slapping Michelle and having an emotional showdown, Sharon left their flat wishing that Michelle had never told her.
Grant and Phil (15 November 1994)
See also: Sharongate
This episode featured the Mitchell brothers, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp). Following Grant's discovery that Phil had slept with his wife, Sharon Mitchell (Letitia Dean), Grant had beaten Phil so badly that he was hospitalised with a dangerous blood clot to the brain. Phil was rushed into surgery, and the clot was removed. As Grant sat with his brother, the two made a pact and promised that they would never let a woman come between them again.
As Phil awoke from his surgery he found his brother sleeping next to him, holding his hand. Grant awoke and instantly got defensive claiming that he was only there because their friend Nigel Bates (Paul Bradley) had persuaded him. As the two started talking Grant started to reminisce about the past when a girl he was dating came onto Phil and he told him. He asked him if that's what it was like with Sharon. Did she come onto him? And why didn't he tell him? Phil told him it wasn't like that, but Grant kept on calling Sharon a slut and blaming her for the whole affair. He was angry with himself for marrying a slapper. Phil tried to tell him that Sharon was not a slut, but his protests fell on deaf ears. Grant proceeded to ask Phil how easy Sharon was to pull. He wouldn't answer, but Grant persisted saying that he never used to be so bashful. After continual pestering Phil began to get agitated and told Grant that Sharon was easy and he didn't even have to get out of first gear.
They then began to talk about their relationship, how people used to hate them because they were so close and could do anything together and this was always Sharon's problem. After they reminisced about their many conquests with women Grant returned to the topic of Sharon. He was planning to crush her "like a table tennis ball" and make her pay for what she'd done. Phil warned him not to do anything stupid, which angered Grant and he accused him of sticking up for Sharon, but Phil assured him he was merely concerned for his welfare. He persuaded Grant that if the two of them didn't stick together, Grant would end up back in prison. He promised Grant that he'd do anything for him and as Grant began to weep Phil promised that from now on, it will be just the two of them.
Pat and Peggy (27 October 1998)
This episode featured Pat Evans (Pam St Clement) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor). Peggy was on the warpath after being told about a fabricated affair between her fiancé Frank (Mike Reid) and his ex-wife Pat. However, Pat had other concerns. Her husband, Roy Evans (Tony Caunter), had driven off like a suicidal maniac nearly hitting her in the process. As Frank sped off after Roy, Pat and Peggy waited it out in the Evans household and made their feelings to each other clear.
Pat was in shock about Roy nearly hitting her, but convinced herself that he merely didn't see her. Peggy was not so sure and commented that running her down was cheaper than divorce, and suggested that Roy had also found out about her affair. Pat insisted that nothing happened between her and Frank, but Peggy took a lot of convincing, and they both traded insults at each other. Pat told Peggy that Frank talked about her a lot, but Peggy couldn't accept this and when Pat left the room for a bath, Peggy began to sob. Pat eventually joined her and Peggy accused her of still loving Frank. Pat didn't quite deny it, but said she has moved on and knows when to give up on something. Peggy was convinced that Frank had feelings for Pat too.
After opening a bottle of wine Pat began to feel sorry for herself, saying that she was cursed and turned rich, happy men into disasters - Roy was broke and impotent, whereas Frank who has spent a couple of years away from her, was back to his old virile self. Peggy was amazed to discover that Roy was impotent and Pat was quick to point out that sex wasn't important and she was happy to have finally found a man who wanted her to settle down.
After the police arrived to inform Pat that their search for Roy had been fruitless, Peggy pestered them for some information, which made her suspect that Roy had come to harm. Now feeling more sympathetic Peggy went to converse with Pat, but the atmosphere soon became frosty once again when each began to recount their wonderful times with Frank. Pat stuck the knife in further by saying that she could have slept with Frank if she'd wanted to the night before, he still fancied her and the least encouragement would have sufficed. The bitching continued with Pat branding Peggy "mutton dressed as lamb" and Peggy blaming Pat's appearance for Roy's impotence. Their rowing finally descended into violence as both ladies threw wine glasses at each other and then a fight started when Peggy grabbed the edge of the kitchen table and threw it over to clear the way to attack Pat. The episode ended with Pat slapping Peggy, saying "YOU BITCH!" and Peggy slapping Pat right back, exclaiming "YOU COW!", right before the doorbell rang.
Roy and Frank (29 October 1998)
Occurring simultaneously to the Pat Evans (Pam St Clement) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor) two-hander described above, this episode featured Roy Evans (Tony Caunter) and Frank Butcher (Mike Reid). After Roy sped off nearly hitting Pat with his car, Frank followed him and forced him to rethink a drastic decision.
Frank followed Roy's car as he sped off extremely erratically. Eventually, Roy turned into a multi-storey car park, drove to the top and crashed the car into some rubble. He then made his way to the roof, and stood on the edge contemplating suicide. Frank followed and tried to persuade him to get down, saying he should think about his family, who will blame themselves and about Pat who thinks that he tried to kill her earlier. Roy claimed that he didn't see her, but added that it was all hopeless and he had lost everything, so there was no point living. Frank pointed out that he had a family who loved him and money was not important. Frank eventually persuaded him to come down to talk, promising that if he felt the same afterwards, he would bring him back and not stop him from taking his own life. Roy agreed and the two of them went to a strip club and ordered a couple of brandies. Roy continued to explain the reason for his depression. He had been conned in a car deal and was facing bankruptcy. Frank told Roy that they had more in common than he might think, as he once tried to commit suicide too, was left bankrupt and he made the mistake of not going back to Pat then, but for Roy it wasn't too late.
Roy felt that Pat was still in love with Frank, and then accidentally let slip about his impotency, which only humiliated him further. Frank was understanding and promised he wouldn't tell anyone, and he in turn shared a story with Roy, relaying that he had fathered a child with some young girl he met when he had his breakdown, and no one else knew. Roy was comforted to know that Frank had skeletons in his closet too, and eventually agreed to go home. Frank drove them back, they rang the bell at the Evanses just as Peggy and Pat's fight was in full flow. Pat was thrilled to see Roy, and Peggy a little less thrilled to see Frank, so he asked her if they were still engaged. She responded "Just".
Matthew and Steve (3 February 2000)
This episode featured Steve Owen (Martin Kemp) and Matthew Rose (Joe Absolom). Steve had let Matthew serve time in prison for Saskia Duncan's (Deborah Sheridan-Taylor) murder. Upon his release Matthew came to Walford looking for revenge. 19.8 million viewers watched this episode.
When Matthew turned up at e20 nightclub Steve was shocked by the visible transformation and could see that Matthew was seeking revenge. Matthew produced a video - he had rigged Steve's flat with booby traps and Steve knew it was only a matter of time before his sister Jackie Owen (Race Davies) arrived home to trigger them. Matthew demanded £10,000. Steve tried to gain the upper hand by pulling his gun from the safe, but Matthew was one step ahead and had already removed the bullets. As they struggled Matthew grabbed a bottle and knocked Steve unconscious. He then tied and bound him to the chair.
When Steve came to he tried to use a piece of smashed bottle to free himself, and managed to grab hold of the gun Matthew was waving in his face. He demanded that Matthew remove the booby traps from his flat. However Matthew stopped Steve in his tracks by revealing that he had killed Saskia's sister, Claudia (Romla Walker), and framed him for the deed, just as he had done to him. Steve buckled and fell to the floor, unable to take in what was happening. He began to beg and cry, whilst Matthew splattered petrol around the room and then pulled a zippo lighter from his pocket. As he lit the lighter and dropped it to the floor Steve was gripped with fear. However he soon realised that there was no fire or smoke. Matthew had used water instead of petrol and had invented the whole scenario to belittle him and watch him beg for mercy.
Ricky and Phil (20 April 2000)
This episode featured Ricky Butcher (Sid Owen) and his long-time employer Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden). After losing his wife Bianca Jackson (Patsy Palmer), son Liam (Jack & Tom Godolphin), and finally his mind Ricky said an emotional farewell to Albert Square, and Phil tried to talk him out of leaving.
Ricky had sped out of Walford in his car and been involved in an accident. Phil went after him and passed the police retrieving the wreck of Ricky's car. They told him to go to the police station. Phil arrived and Ricky appeared - he had been caught over the limit doing 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) when he crashed.
Ricky was furious with Phil for allowing him to work on dodgy motors at The Arches, and was even more annoyed when he discovered that the car he had totalled was stolen. Ricky threatened to go back to the station to tell the police everything. Phil forced him to get into the car, but whilst he was being driven away he told Phil that he was not going home, and started fighting with Phil in order to get him to stop. The car swerved dangerously and Phil was forced to stop at the next service station.
Phil tried to explain the situation with the car-scam, saying that he only got involved to bail Roy Evans (Tony Caunter) out and it was just a favour. Ricky was furious that he could have been jailed for helping Phil. Ricky felt that there was nothing to go back to Walford for. He had lost his wife and son and was devastated that Bianca was seeing another man. Ricky was also hurt because he had trusted Phil - he was the only thing that held him together over the last few weeks, but now he could no longer trust him. As he went to leave Phil chased him and tried to stop him leaving. However Ricky refused to let Phil push him around and informed Phil that he had purposefully driven his car into the back of the truck. Phil tried to reason that he had also lost his family. He had managed to turn his life around and Ricky could do the same. Phil tried to make Ricky think of the ramifications of his departure - Pat would dump Roy, Frank would go mad and run away again, and Phil would be dumped in it with the police. Ricky didn't care and as he began to walk off Phil shouted after him that everyone needs him to stay, and he was Ricky's friend and was there for him when he found out his unborn baby, who was named Natasha, had spina bifida. The memory stirred up buried emotions in Ricky, and as he burst into tears Phil embraced him.
As dawn began to break Phil tried to coerce Ricky home by offering him partnership in The Arches. He promised to take the rap for the dodgy motor that Ricky was driving and to sort out his nemesis Dan Sullivan (Craig Fairbrass) for him. Phil apologised for all the things he'd done to Ricky in the past, but wanted the chance to make it up to him, and turn things around. Ricky begrudgingly accepted, but when Phil left briefly to make a quick phone call Ricky decided that he couldn't return to Walford. While Phil's back was turned he asked a lorry driver for a lift and departed.
Kat and Zoe (2 October 2001)
This episode features Kat Slater (Jessie Wallace) and her daughter Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan), who up until this moment has lived her life thinking that Kat is her sister. In the previous episode, Zoe announces that she is leaving Walford to live with her uncle, Harry Slater (Michael Elphick), in Spain, but Kat is adamant that she will not. A screaming row in the street ensues and Zoe shouts "You can't tell me what to do, you ain't my mother!", to which Kat's desperate reply is, "Yes I am!". 16.9 million viewers tuned in for this episode.
This episode began with Zoe still reeling from Kat's outburst. Back at the Slaters', Zoe demanded to know what Kat meant. Kat tried to take back what she had said, but after continuous pestering, she finally relented and admitted that what she said was the truth. This devastated Zoe, and while she locked herself in her room distraught, Kat sat outside and began to explain the reason for the deception. She had fallen pregnant when she was 13, and her parents, disappointed and ashamed, forced her to hand Zoe over to them at birth. They proceeded to bring her up as their own child. Kat relayed her heartache at having to watch her own child being brought up by her parents, and the anxiety she felt at having to pretend that she was her sister for her whole life. The lies and deception were too much for Zoe, and when she discovered that Kat had wanted to abort her, the two lashed out at each other in fury.
The news made Zoe all the more determined to live with her uncle Harry in Spain, and upon hearing this Kat dropped her second bombshell - she couldn't go and live with Harry because he was her father. Kat's uncle had sexually abused her as a child, leaving her pregnant with Zoe. This meant that Zoe's father was simultaneously her great uncle.
Sonia and Dot (9 May 2002)
This episode featured Sonia Jackson (Natalie Cassidy) and her step-grandmother Dot Branning (June Brown). Sonia had kidnapped the daughter she had given up for adoption and was keeping her hidden away at the Brannings'. Dot tried to reason with Sonia and shared a secret of her own.
With Rebecca Miller asleep upstairs, Sonia ransacked the house for money in order to make her getaway. Dot frantically knocked at the door, shouting that Rebecca's adoptive parents, Neil Miller (Robin Sneller) and Sue Miller (Victoria Willing), were going to call the police unless Sonia let her in. Sonia tried to deny Rebecca was there, but Dot knew otherwise and made it clear that she was there to retrieve the baby for the Millers. Sonia became distressed by this, arguing that as she was Rebecca's mother she can look after her. The Millers had given Dot a deadline, she had 15 minutes to persuade Sonia to surrender Rebecca or they would involve the police.
Sonia tried to explain herself. The Millers had planned to take Rebecca away without granting her a last visit. She was also upset at how much her baby had changed since she was born and she had decided that she wanted her back. Dot argued that she couldn't change her mind now that Rebecca had been adopted and she no longer had any rights as her mother. When Dot instructed Sonia to take Rebecca outside, she threatened to abscond with the baby. She begged Dot to stall the police so she could escape via the back door and was furious when Dot refused. Dot proceeded to point out that Sonia had missed out on 18 months of Rebecca's life and that she hardly knew her daughter now. Despite her pleas, Dot refused to help Sonia - and threatened to call the police herself if the kidnapping continued.
Sonia became inconsolable. Dot tried to reassure her that everything would be alright, she just needed some inner strength. Sonia became angry with Dot for living her life by the Bible and Dot was mortified when she threw the holy book across the room. Sonia wondered why Dot was so willing to help her criminal son Nick Cotton (John Altman), but wouldn't help her. Dot explained that she helped Nick because she had something to make up for. She had an abortion when she was 21 years old. Her husband Charlie Cotton (Christopher Hancock) had forced her to terminate the pregnancy against her wishes. Dot described how guilty she felt after the abortion. She thought she had put it all behind her until the christening gown was found buried in the garden of Mark Fowler's (Todd Carty) house. She wished she had kept the baby, now she's left feeling cold and empty. Sonia wondered whether she should have been a single mum like her own mother Carol Jackson (Lindsey Coulson). She relayed that Carol was furious about the adoption, but Dot reassured her that Rebecca would have a good life with the Millers.
Just as the Millers decided to call the police, Rebecca began to cry. When Sonia was unable to console her she finally realised that it was time to give her up. Tearfully, she passed Rebecca over to her relieved parents.
Phil and Sharon (5 September 2002)
This episode featured the ex-lovers Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) and Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean). Sharon and Phil had a heart to heart about their troubled pasts. They laid ghosts to rest and agreed to move on with their lives.
Sharon and Phil were simultaneously having problems in their relationships. Sharon had fallen out with Tom Banks (Colm Ó Maonlaí), due to malicious stirring from his ex-wife Sadie, and Phil had given Lisa Fowler (Lucy Benjamin) an ultimatum - she was to leave her husband Mark Fowler (Todd Carty) before the day was over. As Phil waited for Lisa to arrive in the middle of the night, he heard a knock at the door of The Queen Victoria public house. He opened the door expecting to find Lisa, but found Sharon instead.
Sharon declared that she and Tom were over. Phil accused her of being stroppy and spoilt and she retaliated by accusing him of using Lisa so he could get his hands on their daughter, Louise Mitchell (Rachel Cox). The ex-lovers began drinking and flirting and talked about their past relationship. As they talked Phil relaxed and opened up about his father. Phil relayed how he idolised his father but that all changed when he saw how badly he treated his mother. He admitted that his deepest wish was to be a good father and expressed his sorrow that his two children were living with other men. Phil began to shake with emotion as he recalled the beatings he received from his father, whilst his brother Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp) could do no wrong. After one horrific Christmas, Phil vowed to run away and he still carried the note he was going to leave his parents. He never did run away, but the violence continued until he was big enough to fight back. Sharon had also had issues with her parents. She loved them both, but was caught in the middle of their volatile marriage. After they rowed, they used to compete with each other for her affections.
Sharon then realised that they both had to stop living in the past. She decided to sell her share in The Queen Vic as it reminded her of her parents and Grant. Phil agreed to buy her out. Sharon then urged Phil to put his troubled relationship with his father behind him. Their heart to heart helped her to realise that she wanted to make a go of things with Tom. As Sharon left, Phil took the note that he wrote when he was a boy out of his pocket. He set it on fire to signify that it was time for him to move on too.
Little Mo and Trevor (31 October 2002)
This episode featured Little Mo Morgan (Kacey Ainsworth) and her abusive husband Trevor Morgan (Alex Ferns). It was the night of Little Mo and Billy Mitchell's (Perry Fenwick) engagement party. Trevor snatched Little Mo from the party at Angie's Den and imprisoned her in the Slater house. To make matters worse, Trevor's baby son Sean was his other hostage.
Trevor had imprisoned Little Mo in the Slater house. He called her stupid for believing he'd ever grant her a divorce. Ominously, he reminded her of their marriage vows - including "till death us do part". Trevor began to weep as he admitted he was totally obsessed with Little Mo. He was furious that she had been unfaithful to him with Billy and reminded her that she will always be his. Little Mo was disgusted and wondered how Trevor had ended up in such a pitiful state. The early years of their marriage had been happy - so why did Trevor start beating her? He explained that he couldn't stand sharing her and resented the time she spent caring for her sick mother, Viv (Debi Gibson). He never liked Viv, and was glad when she died. Trevor raged that it wasn't enough for him to be part of her family, he wanted to be all of it.
Trevor then turned violent, pushed Little Mo against the wall and reminded her that he'd kill her if she ever slept with another man. Terrified, Little Mo tried to escape but found that all the doors were locked. She ran upstairs in a panic, but Trevor followed and threw her to the ground saying that she will never hurt him again. Half-crazed with anger, Trevor barked questions at Little Mo, forcing her to admit that it was morally wrong for her, as his wife, to sleep with another man. He claimed that Billy couldn't possibly love her like he did. His questions took on an intimate nature and as he made a move towards Little Mo she recoiled in fear, but Trevor then declared there was no time for that, he had other plans for her. After calmly leaving the room, Little Mo followed to find Trevor pouring petrol on the stairs and suddenly she heard baby Sean crying upstairs. Out of desperation, Little Mo claimed that she still loved Trevor and she had never wanted a divorce. Thinking fast, she blamed Billy for turning her against him. She tore off her engagement ring and threw it away. Trevor slumped to the ground, eager to believe that she still loved him. Little Mo beckoned to him and they embraced. As she cradled him in her arms he sobbed that he never meant to hurt her.
Little Mo suggested they go away together, but that she first needed to return Sean to his mother. When Trevor tried to get romantic, Little Mo shrieked and shook him off. Realising that he was being fooled, Trevor turned violent and Little Mo froze with fear, but seeing Billy's ring on the carpet gave her courage. She stared at Trevor and proclaimed that she wasn't frightened of him anymore. She told him that she could see him for what he was - a coward and a bully. Shocked at her defiance, Trevor whispered that she should be scared, but Little Mo was defiant and told him that he didn't have the guts to go through with his threat. She lit a match forcing an alarmed Trevor to grab it from her. In his haste the match fell to the floor and flames began to fill the room, Trevor was killed though Little Mo and the baby survived.
Lisa and Phil (27 March 2003)
This episode featured Lisa Fowler (Lucy Benjamin) and her ex-boyfriend Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) in flashbacks to October 2002 while Phil recounts the events to Kate Morton (Jill Halfpenny). After Lisa abducted Phil's daughter and fled to Portugal, Phil tracked her down and was adamant that he was returning to Walford with his daughter.
After fleeing from Phil, Lisa was trapped at the edge of a cliff grasping their daughter, Louise Mitchell (Rachel Cox). Phil implored her to move away from the cliff edge, but Lisa was terrified and yelled at Phil to get away from her. Phil stepped back and urged Lisa to consider Louise's safety and slowly, Lisa moved away from the edge.
Lisa saw a man walking his dog and shouted in vain for help. Her yelling made Louise cry and Lisa tried to calm her with a lullaby. Phil was biding his time and refused to leave without Louise. Lisa finally began to calm down so Phil led to her to an abandoned cottage so they could talk. As they settled inside Phil remarked how beautiful his daughter was, and paid the same compliment to Lisa. He told Lisa that he missed them both so much. Lisa was suspicious, but after continual pressure she allowed Phil to hold Louise.
Phil tried to persuade Lisa that children need their fathers', and whilst Lisa admitted that she missed her own father she insisted that neither of them were going back with Phil. Phil tried to keep her talking, he questioned her about her father. Lisa confessed that she had a recurring dream involving her dad. As she recalled the dream, she becomes highly distraught and informed him that it involved coffins and babies. Phil found this disturbing and did his best to convince Lisa that she wasn't well. He offered to arrange the professional help that she obviously needed, but Lisa accused Phil of trying to trap her into returning to England. Phil immediately got defensive, he continued his mind games and managed to make Lisa consider that a life in Portugal, with an unskilled, jobless mother was not appropriate for their daughter. Phil fired question after question at Lisa, and the continual probing began to baffle Lisa. As he saw it, she had no money and no plans. It was not enough to merely love her daughter if she couldn't provide for her. He told her that babies need stability and their first year was hugely important. Lisa had moved from man to man, and from one place to another in that time. Distressed, Lisa put her hands over her ears, whilst Phil continued to rant that she was not fit to look after a dog, let alone a baby. He declared that Lisa was mentally unstable and Louise was not safe with her. Phil urged Lisa to do what was best for Louise.
Exhausted by Phil's personal attacks, Lisa fell quiet. Phil then stated calmly that if she tried to stop him taking Louise, he'd have her committed. Lisa protested that the only mad thing she had ever done was get involved with him, but Phil proceeded to plants doubts in her mind. He reminded her that she shot him and left him for dead and asked if that was how a sane person behaved. Lisa was visibly distressed and shaking. Sensing that the moment was right, Phil ordered her to fetch Louise and hand her over to him. Bewildered, Lisa obeyed him. He then announced that it was best if Lisa didn't ever try to return to Walford. He was prepared to reveal all about the shooting if she did.
Lisa staggered outside in confusion and grief. Phil ignored her howls of anguish and walked away with Louise whilst Lisa stared over the edge of the cliff.
Den and Sharon (30 September 2003)
This episode reunited Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) with his adoptive daughter Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), after she'd spent 14 years thinking that he was dead. Sharon had the shock of her life when her father emerged from the shadows and muttered "Hello, Princess!". Sharon couldn't believe that her father was still alive. Den did his best to explain where he'd been, but Sharon was torn between delight and anger.
Sharon touched Den, dumbstruck to see her dad after all these years, but before she had a chance to take it in she began to feel nauseous and ran to the toilet to be violently sick. Upon her return, Den proceeded to try to explain himself. Sharon stared in disbelief and wanted to know how he could let her think that he was dead all this time. As emotions began to run high, Sharon revealed that she'd never stopped grieving for him. Den explained that he couldn't take the risk in contacting her, or they would have both been in danger. Den only felt safe to return to Walford after hearing that Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett) - a gangster associated with his attempted murder - had died. He apologised to Sharon for never having the guts to get in touch. Sharon sobbed as she recalled the last conversation she ever had with him. She washed her hands of him, and the next thing she knew he was dead. She'd regretted her harsh words ever since, she thought he'd died thinking that she hated him. Sharon confessed that she'd made a mess of her life. Things would have been easier if he'd been around. Just his voice on the end of the phone would have helped. Den had tears in his eyes as he hugged Sharon.
As the two began to bond, Den brought the conversation round to his first wife and Sharon's adoptive mother, Angie Watts (Anita Dobson) and offended Sharon by referring to her as a "barmy old lush". Sharon announced that Angie had died. Den didn't even know. Furious, Sharon then decided it was too late for Den to make amends, and yelled at him to leave her alone. Den did as she wanted and wandered though the Square, before breaking into The Queen Vic, the pub he used to own. Den surveyed the pub and Sharon followed him inside. They drank a toast to Angie and Sharon revealed how she nursed her mum during the painful final days of her fatal illness. Den reflected that he had some good times in the pub, but Sharon could not remember many good times – she just recalled her parents' furious rows. She mentioned how she once ran it with Grant Mitchell (Ross Kemp), whom Den had never even heard of. Sharon then remembered that she had an axe to grind with her father, for getting her best friend Michelle Fowler (Susan Tully) pregnant when she was only 16. Den tried to explain what happened between him and Michelle, but Sharon was furious with him for cheating on her mother and blamed him for sending her to an early grave.
Sharon decided that she was not going to allow Den to ruin her life again. Den tried to calm her, but she insisted that she, Vicki Fowler (Scarlett Johnson) and Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman) didn't need him. Den assumed that Dennis was Sharon's boyfriend and told her he wasn't important. Then Sharon revealed that he wasn't her boyfriend, Dennis was his son.
Den and Dennis (1 April 2004)
This episode featured Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) and Dennis Rickman (Nigel Harman). Father and son went head to head in The Queen Vic. Both were desperate to win the battle. It ended with violence, and one being the definite loser.
Den had just discovered that his adoptive daughter, Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), was sleeping with his son, Dennis. He was not happy. In The Queen Vic, Den took Dennis aside for a chat. Dennis sat down with trepidation but was amazed that Den was so calm. He explained that he and Sharon were in love, but Den had doubts. With Dennis showing no signs of budging, Den reluctantly decided to that Dennis had to be forced away from Sharon rather than persuaded. When Dennis referred to their bonding chat last Christmas and that he was glad that Den now knew about him and Sharon, Den mocked him cruelly, claiming that their prior bonding was all an act. He was only pretending when he acted fatherly towards him and didn't care about him in the slightest. Dennis was hurt and taken aback and as Den belittled him further, remembering the way Dennis melted when he called him "son", Dennis became enraged. Den continued his diatribe on Dennis, threatening to inform Sharon that he had killed Jack Dalton (Hywel Bennett), but it wasn't enough to scare Dennis off.
Den continued to goad him, asking how long it would be before he turned his attentions to his biological sister, Vicki Fowler (Scarlett Johnson), and Dennis was sickened by the remark. Den argued that Dennis couldn't tell the difference between female relatives and lovers. He taunted Dennis about his background, telling him that years of misery and abuse had turned him into the man that he was. Dennis managed to remain calm and was sure that Den was closer to losing his temper than he was. Dennis said he realised that they would always be at loggerheads with each other. He had let Den triumph before, because he thought he wanted a father, but even though Den had put up a good fight, he wasn't going to let him win this time. Den became enraged and asserted that his and Sharon's affair was over. He ordered Dennis to leave, but Dennis replied repeatedly that he loved Sharon. Calmly, he prepared to head home to her. Seeing that he was losing the fight Den turned angry and hurled Dennis through the doors of The Queen Vic. Father and son stood head to head, while Dennis bragged about Sharon leaving with him. Cockily, he shoved his father aside. Furious, Den spat out that some twisted pervert must have got to Dennis in the past, and caused him to think that a relationship with his own sister was acceptable. He described the abuse Dennis must have suffered in care and waved goodbye to the son he never wanted. Dennis finally snapped and lunged at him out of control, but was restrained. Eventually he broke free and lashed out, accidentally punching Sharon, who had just arrived, in the process. A victorious Den then took Sharon home.
Kat and Alfie (25 May 2004)
This episode featured Kat Moon (Jessie Wallace) and Alfie Moon (Shane Richie). Alfie had been given a video of Andy Hunter (Michael Higgs) sleeping with his wife, Kat. Alfie owed Andy money and when he couldn't pay he Andy threatened his safety. Kat slept with Andy as a trade for her husband's life, but Alfie could not accept her excuses.
The episode began with a jovial Kat returning home, but her mood soon changed after she saw that Andy had filmed their sordid liaison and maliciously given it to Alfie to watch. Alfie was in pieces and couldn't bear to look at his wife. As Kat pleaded with Alfie to listen to her explanation, he refused, so Kat screamed that she did it all for him. Alfie was disgusted and called her a cheap little slapper. Hurt, Kat slapped Alfie and he slapped her right back, leaving Kat stunned that he could do such a thing.
As it all sunk in Alfie broke down in tears, whilst Kat desperately tried to protest that Andy tricked her. Alfie could only laugh at her feeble excuse. She told him that she did it to protect him and because she loved him, but Alfie felt hurt and betrayed. He suggested that she go back to Andy, as he didn't want her anywhere near him. Through his tears and anguish Alfie revealed the guilt he'd always carried about his parents' death in a car crash and how he blamed himself for not fixing something his dad asked him to. Now he can't live with the thought that his negligence ruined things again. He told Kat that their marriage was over and Kat had no choice but to pack her bags. As she was about to go Alfie questioned her more about her motives and Kat tried to make him realise that Andy's behaviour was all about revenge and that they can get past this and stay together. As Alfie continued to reject her, Kat turned on him and brought up her past sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle Harry Slater (Michael Elphick) and likened it to her affair with Andy. Sobbing, she made one last attempt to change his mind and asked him to give her a cuddle. However, Alfie's pride wouldn't let him take her back and he showed her the door.
As Kat left The Queen Vic in tears she heard the door open and saw Alfie there. She held out her hand and he took it. They agreed that it would be tough, but decided to try to find a way to work things out.
Den and Dot (26 August 2004)
This episode featured long-time neighbours, Den Watts (Leslie Grantham) and Dot Branning (June Brown). Den's wife had left him following his affair, and his relationship with his son was in tatters after he propositioned his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Dot was arguing with her husband, Jim Branning (John Bardon) and was very reluctant to tell him about her secret cancer illness. Den and Dot forced each other to examine their relationships with others.
Late one evening Den spotted some youths vandalising the launderette. After seeing off the thugs, Dot emerged from the back room and Den could see that she had been crying.
Dot began to engage Den in conversation about his wife Chrissie Watts (Tracy-Ann Oberman) and how he felt now that she had left him. Den's response was blasé, which angered Dot and she accused him of putting up a front. Dot chastised Den for his demeanour and pointed out that he couldn't face up to his own guilt. She told him that he treated his friends and family appallingly and when he had heard enough and turned to leave, he found that Dot had locked him in and refused to give him the keys. As Den was forced to continue the conversation Dot pestered him more about Chrissie and threatened to haunt him if he didn't plead Chrissie for forgiveness.
Eventually, Dot informed Den that she was dying and he was shocked to hear that she had kidney cancer. However Dot became cagey when Den quizzed her about her illness. He wanted her to have the best care possible and even offered to pay for it, but Dot rejected his help - she had chosen not to have her cancer treated. She wanted to face death with dignity and begged Den to keep her secret quiet as even her husband, Jim, didn't know she was suffering. Den wasn't convinced by Dot's motives for keeping her illness from Jim, but she believed that she was acting in his best interests. Den insisted that Dot's deceit would destroy her marriage and told her to open up to Jim. Den then slyly told her that if she didn't come clean with Jim, she couldn't take the moral high ground next time he messed up. They both decided that they needed to sort their marriages out.
When Jim arrived to collect Dot, Den explained that she was sorting him out and squeezed Dot's hand tenderly before leaving. At home Den apologised to his son and heeding Dot's advice, he bit the bullet and called Chrissie. Meanwhile, Dot took Den's advice and decided that it was time to come clean to Jim.
Max and Stacey (26 March 2010)
Following Stacey Branning's (Lacey Turner) confession to her father-in-law Max Branning (Jake Wood) that she murdered Archie Mitchell (Larry Lamb) (see Who Killed Archie?), the two characters featured in a two-hander episode on 26 March 2010. The killer was kept a secret from all the cast until 30 minutes before a live episode was broadcast on 19 February 2010, meaning that the script for the two-hander episode, written by Simon Ashdown, could not be released until after the broadcast, though later episodes had already been completed. The cast had been told there was a special episode coming up, but that it would actually feature three characters, one being Archie's murderer. Wood described Ashdown's script as "amazing", saying that Ashdown knows the characters inside out, and hoped he could do the script justice. Wood and Turner were given three days to rehearse. One 19-minute scene took up 26 pages in the script, and was filmed in two takes. The entire episode was filmed in three night shoots and one studio shoot. It was originally scheduled to be filmed over three days, but a fourth day was added for on-location filming. Some night-time location filming was done on 9 March 2010.
The episode follows on from the previous episode where Max discovers where his daughter-in-law Stacey is staying after the death of her husband, Bradley (Charlie Clements), and her confession to the murder of Archie. Max goes up to her flat and enters, pressing her for details of Archie's murder, the night of Bradley's death and what she had done in her absence. Stacey reveals that after she fled the morgue, she contemplated suicide but could not bring herself to do it for the sake of her unborn child; she then went to her mother's old flat which was deserted and did not move for three days; eventually leaving to buy food and drink. Max tells her that he wants to hand her in to the police. Max then chases Stacey outside, where she trips and he catches her. He then drags Stacey to a car, which he breaks into and bundles her into. He then hot-wires the car and drives to a police station. After telling Stacey that she must confess to her mother and the Mitchells first, he drives her back to Walford where he eventually changes his mind after expressing that Bradley would want her to be happy. The episode ends with them both entering their respective houses and the camera panning up over Walford, rising so high that it morphs into the EastEnders credits.
Sharon and Michelle (12 January 2017)
This episode features Michelle Fowler (Jenna Russell) revealing to her best friend Sharon Mitchell (Letitia Dean) her reasons for returning to the United Kingdom after 20 years. Although their scenes are interspersed with scenes of Dot Branning (June Brown) at home waiting for her cat, and the episode credits 20 characters, it was officially considered a two-hander by BBC Store and was included in their "EastEnders: Two's Company" collection of two-hander episodes.
Phil and Jay (21 August 2017)
During this episode, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) explains to Jay Brown (Jamie Borthwick) why he has given him the car lot, which is worth £300,000 rather than giving it to his son Ben Mitchell (Harry Reid), who received the lesser valued Arches. Phil tells Jay that Jase Dyer (Stephen Lord) was not his biological father as he didn't know Jay's mother until two months after his birth. Phil tells Jay that a tramp living rough around Albert Square, named Alan Hall, was his birth father and that in an insurance scam back in 1994 he and Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) committed arson to the car lot and that they weren't aware Alan was sleeping in one of the cars within. Phil attempts to persuade Jay that there would be no point in going to prison because he is still paying for the crime in the form of guilt. At the end of the episode Jay is seen sat at "Jase's bench" while Phil is seen making a phone call to an unknown person, he tells them that he's "done it" and "fed him [Jay] a pack of lies and that it's now their turn to keep to the deal".
Linda and Stuart (13 December 2018)
A two-hander between Linda Carter (Kellie Bright) and Stuart Highway (Ricky Champ). Linda's husband, Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) is in prison because Stuart claims Mick shot him but Linda believes that Stuart is lying. In this episode, Linda seduces Stuart and during their passion, she says Mick used to have an unpredictable energy like Stuart does now, and would have believed he shot someone back then but not now in an attempt to gain a confession. Stuart becomes suspicious and while Linda is out of the room, he finds a recording device hidden behind the bed, which he reveals to Linda. She calls him stupid, saying he thought she liked him but she was repulsed. In the bar, he rants about how Mick has everything and he never cared when Stuart went to prison for something Mick did when they were teenagers. Linda says Stuart made his own decisions and now wants someone to blame because he has nobody in his life. He attempts to rape her but she smashes a bottle on his head, saying he would never have the nerve to pull the trigger but Mick would, to which Stuart says Mick did not shoot him and he leaves. Linda then takes a second recording device she had hidden in her hair and transfers Stuart's confession to her laptop.
Three and four-hander episodes
EastEnders is also notable for featuring three and four-hander episodes. Within three-hander episodes three characters usually interact separately with each other in differing scenes, whilst four-handers often include two sets of characters stories which occur simultaneously, although they are not directly connected to each other there is usually a linking theme.
- Kathy Beale, Pete Beale and James Willmott-Brown (13 February 1992) - Kathy finally laid to rest the ghost of her rape and convinced Pete that their marriage was truly over.
- Sharon Watts, Grant Mitchell and Phil Mitchell (3 September 1992) - After Phil had slept with his brother's wife, Sharon, the protagonists had to deal with the aftermath and the possibility that Grant would discover what had happened. Phil made it clear that he was willing to tell Grant, but when the moment came Sharon decided to choose Grant rather than Phil.
- Martin Fowler, Sonia Fowler and Sarah Cairns (22 October 2004) - Whilst Sarah, Martin's stalker, held his wife Sonia against her will at the Fowlers, Martin was facing a race against time in order to rescue his marriage. Sarah tried to poison Sonia against Martin. When this didn't work she turned violent and stabbed Martin with a pen knife, Sonia lashed out and hit Sarah with a fruit bowl.
- Alfie Moon, Kat Moon and Little Mo Mitchell (16 September 2005) - Alfie had been seeing both his wife, Kat, and her sister Little Mo at the same time. Alfie urged Kat to give their relationship another go. However, Kat realised that true love meant making sacrifices and she couldn't hurt her sister by being with him.
- Dot Branning, Ronnie Mitchell and Bianca Jackson (18 August 2009) - Dot, Ronnie and Bianca are locked in The Queen Victoria and Ronnie and Bianca fight over their children. Dot reveals that she doesn't want to retire and Bianca and Ronnie bond over their past. The episode, written by Wendy Granditer, is the show's first all-female three-hander. Executive producer Diederick Santer described the episode as "exciting and unique", and said, "We realised that three of our most loved female characters had big turning points this week — Ronnie trying to make the right decision about her relationship with Joel, Dot facing a tough choice about Jim and Bianca finally allowing herself to recognise her true feelings for Ricky. We decided to give those characters [...] some space to thrash out their dilemmas in the form of a (nearly) three-handed episode. Usually when we do a two-hander, we're playing out a story for two characters who are very close, but in this case, unusually, we're featuring characters who don't usually relate to one another. But that is what makes this episode all the more exciting and unique."
- Mick Carter, Linda Carter and Whitney Carter (8 August 2017) - Mick reveals to his wife Linda that he has fallen in love with somebody else. Linda correctly guesses that he means their daughter-in-law, Whitney. She is disgusted with Mick, and pins Whitney up against the wall when confronting her. Linda forces Whitney to leave the family home, and Mick and Linda desperately try and find a way through the situation. Mick then interrogates Linda about why she stayed away from Walford for so long, leading to an almighty argument. After Mick leaves the pub, Whitney tells him that he should not have told Linda about the kiss and that he has lost everything.
- Michelle Fowler and Grant Mitchell - Cindy Beale and David Wicks (3 October 1995) - After Michelle mistakenly thought Grant had discovered that her brother was suffering with HIV, she went to confront him in The Vic and only rose his suspicions further. Realising her mistake Michelle was forced to admit she was in the wrong. Grant took great pleasure in this and proceeded to remind her of her intrusion into his marriage with Sharon. As the two continued to bicker about Grant's treatment of Sharon they began drinking and managed to find some common ground in their past behaviour. The drink took hold and they finished the night in bed. Meanwhile, Cindy and David had met up away from Walford to conduct their affair, but the night was ruined when a familiar face spotted them and Cindy feared that her husband may be informed about her misconduct. Not wanting to return home David broke into a barge on a canal and after satisfying their carnal needs the two began to talk extensively about their lives and the future of their relationship. Cindy wanted to be with David permanently, but as ever David was blasé about committing.
- Grant Mitchell and Phil Mitchell - Bianca Butcher and Natalie Price (4 June 1999) - As Bianca and Natalie waited in the hospital to see if Ricky would recover from his accident, old wounds were opened. Bianca couldn't forgive Natalie for sleeping with Ricky years earlier, whilst Natalie couldn't forgive Bianca for bullying her. As the former friends conversed they finally decided to forgive each other and became friends once again. Meanwhile, Grant was released from prison after attacking a social services representative. Grant accidentally took Phil to a gay bar to drown his sorrows. Backin Walford they climbed onto a railway bridge and made a pact to reunite as an unstoppable force and sort out their enemies in Walford.
- Steve Owen and Barbara Owen - Barry Evans and Natalie Evans (24 July 2001) - Steve visited his ill mother and dug up the painful truth about their past. Steve suffered physical abuse from his mother and had the scars to prove it. Barbara showed little remorse and could only talk about her desire to die. As she began to suffer from heart pains, she requested a kiss from her son. Eventually she forced him to give her a long incestuous kiss on the lips, but this disgusted Steve. He called her a sick woman and left. Meanwhile, Barry pleaded with Natalie not to go through with her decision to abort their baby, but she had made up her mind. Her mother never really loved her and she felt she couldn't love her baby either.
- Kat Slater and Alfie Moon - Mark Fowler and Sharon Watts (31 January 2003) - Sharon talked Mark out of committing suicide when he was told that his HIV medication was failing. She told him that the news was the end of his fear and convinced him to embrace his final days. Meanwhile, Alfie tried to convince Kat to take a pregnancy test. She feared that the baby might be Anthony Trueman's. After much pressure from Alfie she finally took the test and discovered she was pregnant.
- Kat Moon and Zoe Slater - Den Watts and Dennis Rickman (3 August 2004) - A night in the cells brings Kat and Zoe closer together. Meanwhile, Den tries to lead Dennis astray.
- Den Watts and Chrissie Watts - Dot Branning and Jim Branning (30 August 2004)- This episode takes place immediately after the two-hander between Den and Dot. Den tried one last time to get Chrissie to forgive him following his affair with Kate Mitchell but she refused and he packed his bags and took off in a taxi for the airport. (Due to Leslie Grantham's suspension from the show) Meanwhile, Dot finally told Jim that she had cancer.
- Kat Moon and Alfie Moon - Little Mo Mitchell and Billy Mitchell (30 May 2005)- This Episode takes place in the immediate aftermath of Kat's return. Alfie and Kat rake over the past and (Unaware of his affair with Little Mo) vows to make a go of things with him. Billy tells Little Mo that he's not prepared to cover for her affair with Alfie.
- Ian Beale and Steven Beale - Jane Beale and Lucy Beale (12 October 2007) - Steven lures Lucy to a block of flats where he has kidnapped Ian. They tell Lucy to wait in the kitchen while they to talk about Cindy. Lucy escaped and gets her stepmother Jane. Steven points a gun at Ian, telling him not to phone the police, but then he points the gun at his own head. Jane and Lucy and Ian all try to stop him. All viewers hear is a gunshot, followed by the drums. It was later revealed that Jane was shot.
- Whitney Dean and Rob Grayson - Janine Malloy and Lauren Branning (17 March 2011) - As part of Whitney's sexual exploitation storyline, this episode broadcast before the 10-minute conclusion episode during Comic Relief 2011. During the episode, Janine and Lauren learn that Whitney is being exploited as prostitute and try to save her from Rob. They are unsuccessful and Whitney is driven away.
- Linda Carter and Mick Carter - Dean Wicks and Shirley Carter (20 January 2015) - Linda goes to the police about Dean raping her. Mick accompanies her to the police station. Shirley tries and gets Dean's side of the story where she believes him to be still innocent as he is playing the victim card. The episode ends with Linda being happy that she went through with making a statement.
Main article: Pretty Baby....
EastEnders had its first (and only to date) single-hander episode which featured only one character; Dot Branning in the entire episode. The episode saw Dot recording a cassette tape of memories for her husband Jim and was written by Tony Jordan. The episode was shown on 31 January 2008, and was watched by 8.7 million viewers. Instead of the usual theme music, the credits had the song "Pretty Baby" playing over them, as it was referenced in the episode. The episode was also titled "Pretty Baby...."
In March 2009, actress June Brown was nominated for the Best TV Actress award at the British Academy Television Awards for her portrayal of Dot in this episode.