Huge Home and Away spoilers follow from Australian-pace episodes, which some UK readers may prefer to avoid.
Hats off to Home and Away for delivering a soap whodunit storyline with a difference on Australian screens this month.
Forget the usual murder mysteries or unexplained blows to the head that our favourite shows love so much – this time, the big question was the identity of “Witness X” after a surprise betrayal for Colby Thorne.
The Summer Bay soap’s longest-running storyline has seen Colby get away with murder for nearly two years, after he fatally shot his abusive stepfather Ross Nixon at the start of 2019.
The new plot twist began on Aussie screens earlier this month, as Angelo was approached by a mystery witness who wanted to help him build his case against Colby.
Before long, Angelo took this person’s statement and proceeded with plans to charge Colby, now believing that he had enough evidence for a successful prosecution.
The on-screen developments coincided with Home and Away‘s Australian broadcaster Channel 7 ramping up its promotion for the show, as trailers began running which teased fans over the identity of Witness X. The Aussie trailers aren’t exactly known for being understated, but the OTT adverts certainly added to the excitement.
Since Colby’s guilt in the Ross case was already Summer Bay’s worst-kept secret, there were plenty of suspects in the frame: Dean, Bella, Nikau, Willow, Mackenzie, Ziggy and even absent characters like Chelsea. (You can never rule out a curveball.)
At the end of last week, Home and Away put us out of our misery by finally unmasking Willow as Witness X. After Colby confided in Willow about the mess that he’d created for himself, a jaw-dropping scene saw Willow head off for a secret after-dark meeting with Angelo.
Willow was seen wearing a wire and handing over a recording of Colby’s conversation to Angelo, knowing it’d be enough to condemn her close friend to a long stretch in prison.
The on-screen reveal delivered a rarity for soap whodunnits, striking the right balance between shock value and actually making sense as a storyline.
While it was a surprise to see Willow betray someone she’d always treated like a close family member, there had been tell-tale clues in previous weeks that she’d been steadily losing patience with Colby and the consequences of his actions.
When Dean had been offered a deal by Angelo a few weeks earlier, Willow surprisingly defended Dean’s right to consider it and do what was best for him, rather than for Colby. She’d also rebuked Colby for acting untouchable with his smug attitude towards the murder case.
In this week’s scenes, the drama intensified further as Willow’s recording was played in court and she testified against Colby, telling a version of events that protected Dean and Bella.
Realising the game was up, Colby changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
With Bella and Dean both outraged by Willow’s actions, she explained that she was acting out of loyalty deep down. Seeing that Colby was spiralling out of control and was likely to take them all down with him, she intervened by putting an end to his scheming once and for all.
As Willow recognised that she was unlikely to be forgiven anytime soon, she chose to flee from Summer Bay to escape the heat.
Although some fans have wondered whether this is a permanent exit, Sarah Roberts – who plays Willow – has been pictured filming on location a number of times in recent weeks. With Home and Away typically filming scenes around four to six months in advance, we don’t have to worry about not seeing Willow again.
While rumour has it that Colby may be leaving the show in the near future, it’ll be fascinating to see how Willow’s betrayal affects the dynamics between the rest of the Mangrove River crew in the long-term.
Loyalty at all costs has always been the unwritten rule of the Dean/Colby/Willow/Bella dynamic, so it’ll be interesting to explore whether Willow can ever repair her fractured friendships or whether she’ll go in a wholly new direction as a character once she’s back in the Bay.
Whichever way it goes, the shaking up of the existing friendship dynamic is a welcome change which hopefully provides plenty of new storyline opportunities as we head into 2021.
We’re also keen to see more of Willow in her own right, rather than just playing a role in her friends’ dramas, so if this paves the way for that, it can only be a good thing.
Home and Away will air its season finale episode in Australia in the coming weeks, but the writers are certainly ending the year on a high. Willow’s unmasking as Witness X was arguably the Bay’s biggest shock of 2020 and has created a buzz around the show again.
In truth, we could have happily seen the immediate repercussions play out for a little longer. After so much build-up, our only real complaint is that the trial itself seemed rushed, with Willow testifying and Colby being sent to jail in the space of just two episodes.
It’s also a shame that UK fans will have to wait so long to see these scenes play out on Channel 5 early next year, as it’s unlikely they’ll experience the same surprise factor that Aussie viewers did. If the Summer Bay drama stays this good, we wouldn’t be surprised to see calls grow for same-day airings.
Home and Away airs weekdays at 1.15pm and 6pm on Channel 5 (UK) and Mondays to Thursdays at 7pm on Channel 7 (Australia).
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