This week, Kat Chapman (Pia Miller) finally uncovers the identity of Summer Bay’s serial arsonist, but will she get to them before it’s too late?
Viewers were dealt a shocking twist in the closing moments of the 2016 season finale when Summer Bay favourite John Palmer (Shane Withington) was revealed as the arsonist—just as he ignited a huge bushfire which not only endangered the nearby Summer Grooves festival-goers, but had devastating consequences for Billie Ashford (Tessa de Josselin) and also left his wife Marilyn (Emily Symons) with serious burns.
In the last few weeks, whilst trying to help Marilyn come to terms with her injuries, it’s become obvious that John has so far had no memory of starting the fire.
Things haven’t been right with John since he fell and hit his head last year—which resulted in a bleed on the brain. Whilst assured by the doctors that it was nothing serious, in the months since we’ve seen John suffer dizziness, physical and mental blackouts, and display some very out of character behaviour.
This week, John is about to strike again after dousing the outside of the bait shop in petrol. Whilst Alf, who is returning from a fishing trip, calls out and stops him just in the nick of time, he is unable to identify John when he runs off into the darkness.
The next day, John’s aggressive mood swings have become a concern for both Marilyn and Alf (Ray Meagher), who agree that he isn’t acting himself. John is also starting to worry about his recent issues.
“John knows something is wrong with him, because he’s getting angry all the time and forgetting things” Shane told TV WEEK. “But he’s a bit scared to look into it – he hopes it will all just go away.”
“He’s having strange outbursts and weird turns” added Emily. “Marilyn’s a bit concerned about him. She thinks perhaps something else has happened as a result of his original injury that she doesn’t know about.”
Meanwhile, Kat has been under pressure to find the culprit, and the attempted fire at the bait shop finally provides Kat with the evidence she needs—a lighter with fingerprints.
But just as Kat identifies her man, John takes a sudden turn for the worse and collapses at home in front of a shocked Marilyn. When Kat arrives, John is being hauled into an ambulance.
As John and Marilyn are informed of some devastating news at the hospital, Kat is torn when she realises she’s going to have to deliver the couple another blow.
Speaking of how the storyline will progress, Shane stated “It goes a long way – further than people will think. Fans are in for a hell of a ride. This is the biggest, hardest storyline I’ve ever done on the show – it’s a whopper”
Meanwhile, Summer Bay comes together to bid farewell to Billie at a ceremony on the beach. VJ (Matt Little) delivers a moving eulogy, and Ash (George Mason) sings one of her favourite songs, before the two of them scatter Billie’s ashes into the ocean—but who’s the mysterious stranger watching from nearby….?
If the loss of Billie wasn’t enough in the MacGuire/Patterson household, Leah (Ada Nicodemou) & Zac‘s (Charlie Clausen) marriage looks set to reach a crisis point, when Zac finally gives in to temptation.
Zac & Leah’s marriage was already having serious issues before the arrival of Sam Webster (Cheree Cassidy), and Zac’s secret meetings with her last year led to suspicions that he may be having an affair.
Of course it was all innocent at the time—Zac was writing a novel and Sam was an editor hoping to get it published—but Sam’s focus soon turned to Zac himself and it wasn’t long before she was dropping her robe in her motel room and offering Zac an indecent proposal. Zac resisted temptation though and Sam made a quick exit from Summer Bay.
“Zac is attracted to Sam,” Charlie Clausen told TV WEEK. “But he’s also a committed family man and would do anything for Leah.”
In recent weeks however, Sam has returned and made it clear that she’s only after one thing—Zac.
With Leah continually pushing Zac away during the turmoil of baby Luc’s paternity reveal and Billie’s subsequent death, Zac has not had much opportunity to be upfront to Leah his rejection of Sam’s advances.
Leah knows that Sam is back with an agenda, but hasn’t been interested in hearing Zac’s side of the story—every conversation ends up in a fight.
“Zac and Leah are under a lot of pressure with family issues and work.” Charlie continued. “They never seem to have time for themselves. It’s always about someone or something else.”
Whilst Zac reiterated to Sam that nothing would ever happen between them, when she later offered an arm of friendship after Billie’s death, Zac started to warm to the idea and said he may give her a call.
This week Zac once again tries to connect with Leah following Billie’s funeral, but it only ends in another blazing row and Zac storms off.
A fed up Zac then ends up outside Sam’s motel room, and the inevitable happens. Will Zac be able to come back from the ultimate betrayal?
For other storylines and a full rundown of what’s to come over the next few weeks, visit our Upcoming UK Episodes page.