Amidst the drama that is Dingle Court week on Emmerdale, as Lydia (Karen Blick) attempts to find out who killed Craig (Ben Addis), viewers have learnt of a devastating diagnosis for long-term resident Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell).
As we’ve seen various members of the Dingle clan interrogated on their movements on the afternoon of Craig’s demise, flashbacks have revealed that whilst they may be innocent of murder, they’re all hiding their own unrelated secrets.
Tonight’s episode saw Mandy (Lisa Riley) take the hot seat, as we saw a flashback reveal her afternoon in the salon battling with the till she’d bought off Eric.
When Eric just happened to walk in as she struggled to open it to cash up, she quickly demanded that he get to work on fixing it and repaying the money that she gave him.
As an increasingly stressed Eric attempted to get into the till, before then realising he’d forgotten his wallet, Mandy thought the rogue was up to his usual tricks, before Eric suddenly broke down into tears.
Mandy immediately sat a distraught Eric down as she apologised and offered to make a brew.
In the present, Mandy simply told her family that Eric had hung around wittering on, but the reality was far different.
As Mandy lightened the mood with Eric momentarily by mentioning his good friend Faith (Sally Dexter), she wondered whether Eric was struggling with the recent one-year anniversary of her death. When Eric joked that Faith would call him a daft goat for panicking about his troubles, Mandy worried that something was wrong with his partner Brenda (Lesley Dunlop).
Eric finally admitted that it was himself that was unwell though. During a recent check up, he’d mentioned some numbness he’d been feeling in his hands, as well as his becoming unsteady on his feet. Further tests have revealed that he has Parkinson’s disease.
“When Eric Pollard is diagnosed with Parkinson’s he’s naturally very scared and unsure of what the condition means for his future,” Emmerdale producer Laura Shaw explains. “The unique position of a show like Emmerdale means we can tell this story really authentically over a long period of time and we can really shine a light on what a diagnosis like this means and follow Pollard on his journey of learning to live with it.”
“Working closely with Parkinson’s UK, who have been guiding us through every step of the way, we hope seeing Pollard’s story helps to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and show the day to day reality of those living with it, as well as the impact it can have on friends, family and the local community.”
I feel really privileged to be given this storyline,” added Chris Chittell, who as Emmerdale‘s longest serving cast member has portrayed Eric for 37 years. “Parkinson’s is indiscriminate, deceptive and wickedly unkind targeting so many. I want to do this storyline justice for the most courageous of people who are having to bear the brunt of this condition.”
Eric swore Mandy to secrecy, as he revealed that not even Brenda knows. Not wishing to burden Brenda with the knowledge that “her life will end” when she ends up having to care for him, Eric is determined to go it alone.
As a tearful Mandy asked Eric if he was scared, he replied “Mandy, I’m terrified… this is it, a slow decline. I have dodged all the bullets, but this one’s finally got me.”
“But as my Valerie said,” he continued. “I’m gonna do this my way. This is our secret.”
Though Mandy tried to convince Eric to at least tell his son David (Matthew Wolfenden), Eric made her promise that it would stay only between them. Mandy crossed her heart, and vowed on Dingle honour that she would respect his wishes.
Back in The Woolpack, Mandy was questioned as to why she was suddenly getting so emotional, but she explained this away as being hurt that her family would question whether she was capable of committing murder. Excusing herself to go to the bathroom, Mandy broke down in tears as she feared for her old friend.
“Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, but is still misunderstood by many,” chief executive of Parkinson’s UK Caroline Rassell says. “A diagnosis can be a blow, forcing people to confront a future different from the one they had imagined. We hope that Eric’s storyline will increase awareness and understanding of a condition that around 153,000 people in the UK live with, and encourage discussions about the impact it has on those living with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.”
“It’s a privilege to be assisting the Emmerdale team in portraying Eric’s journey,” Caroline added. “Parkinson’s UK is here to support anyone affected by the condition through our helpline, local groups and website.”
Parkinson’s affects around 153,000 people in the UK and every hour two more people are diagnosed. For more information and support visit www.parkinsons.org.uk or call Parkinson’s UK’s free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 0303.
The second half of the episode shifted the focus to Marlon, who revealed that his afternoon at the hospital had brought around some good news, as he was discharged by his stroke consultant Ms Reyburn (Emilia Williams). The family were delighted, however Marlon was holding back a shock discovery that is going to come as a life changing revelation to wife Rhona (Zoe Henry).
Leaving the hospital, Marlon came across Rhona’s ex-husband Gus Malcolm (Alan McKenna), along with his wife Lucy (Charlotte Asprey), who is now heavily pregnant!
Gus and Lucy were last seen in April, when they visited the village in the hope of convincing Rhona to allow them to use one her frozen embryos, created during her marriage to Gus. Although Rhona had believed the embryos had been destroyed, Gus had forged Rhona’s signature to keep them frozen.
Although Rhona had considered granting permission, given Lucy’s struggles to conceive following cancer treatment, she ultimately decided against it.
Whilst Gus and Lucy tried to make out that they’d managed to conceive naturally, Marlon wasn’t buying it. Gus eventually admitted that he’d stolen Rhona’s passport (which went missing during his last visit) in order to fake Rhona’s consent.
Lucy desperately tried to convince Marlon that she should be seen as the baby’s mother. “I’ve given it life, me,” she exclaimed. “It’s my child, I’m the one that lies there, feeling it kick, it’s part of me!”
“It’s part of Rhona,” Marlon replied, knowing that the biology speaks for itself. That child’s legal mother is Rhona.
As Gus told Marlon that Rhona cannot know about this, Lucy spelt out the consequences. “What good comes from telling her?” she asked. “Rhona goes to the police, Gus goes to prison… I’m on my own, the baby suffers… how many lives are wrecked? The truth causes agony for everyone.”
Marlon returned home determined to tell Rhona the truth, only to find that she’d had a particularly difficult day at work. As she talked about how strung out she’d been lately, Marlon wasn’t able to bring himself to drop that particular bombshell…
“This one won’t quite be the happy news of Billy and Dawn, and it’s going to be a huge shock,” Laura told EverySoap and other media whilst teasing the storyline at a press event last month. “It’s going to literally turn their lives upside down and result in a big fracture in what was once a very solid marriage.”
Back in the present, Lydia was becoming more panicked, and knew that someone in the room had more to tell.
“I do” a guilty Sam revealed…
Emmerdale continues this special week with an hour long episode tomorrow night, at 7:30pm on ITV1.