Picks and Pans Review: Desperate Housewives

updated 11/13/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

ABC (Sundays, 9 p.m. ET)

After a second season thrown off course with outlandish detours—particularly that blonde nun who looked like Renée Zellweger and knew how to wrestle—the third season has recaptured much of the ABC hit's original comic-melodramatic zest. And below the surface there's still the resonance of some darker emotion: The plumbing of Wisteria Lane seems to drain into one big cesspool of discontent. A few major developments are driving along the plot—Mike Delfino (James Denton) has partial amnesia and is connected to yet another buried girl—but by now we know the characters' psychologies, and the main draw is retracing the patterns that steer them into trouble. Gabrielle and Carlos (Eva Longoria and Ricardo Antonio Chavira) alternately love and hate each other to pieces. Lynette and Tom (Felicity Huffman and Doug Savant) gingerly negotiate a domestic setup in which she remains the alpha. The Nov. 5 episode, though, gives everything a bracingly violent shake. It's also a reminder never to give a desperate housewife a gun.

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