EastEnders spoilers: Shirley returns, Phil apologises to Jay, Alfie's suspicions grow

Preview and pics of next week's drama in Walford

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EastEnders spoilers: Shirley returns, Phil apologises to Jay, Alfie's suspicions grow
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What’s this – Phil Mitchell actually admitting he's wrong? Unthinkable! But yes, after son Ben receives a four-year prison sentence for his part in the death of Heather, Phil and Jay have a heart-to-heart in the Arches where Phil owns up to his failings as a parent: 

“I failed with one kid big time,” he acknowledges, before apologising to Jay (who has received community service) and admitting that he should have sought help for Ben a long time ago. 

Phil then tells Jay that he should move on as he worries he will ruin Jay’s life just like he did Ben’s. Having overheard the conversation, Sharon later tells Phil that, although he made mistakes with Ben, this should make him even more determined to get things right with Lexi. 

However, this renewed sense of purpose is halted by the reappearance of Shirley!

Yes, Phil’s nemesis has returned and, as soon as she hears about his plans to have residency of Lexi, she grows obsessed with painting him in the worst possible light: 

“There are things you don’t know about Phil,” she warns Sharon. “Have you ever seen him on crack? Oh, didn’t he tell you?”

Phil, aware that both his ex and Jack are making threats from the sidelines, buckles under the pressure of another meeting with the social services assessment team and makes a momentous announcement: 

“Me and Sharon, we’ve decided to call off the engagement,” he says. Afterwards, Phil explains to Sharon that someone would have grassed them up eventually, but later finds Jack and warns him that, if Lexi ends up in care, then he is holding him fully responsible. 

The next day, following a further onslaught of vitriol from Shirley, Sharon points out that just because Shirley’s life is miserable, it doesn’t mean that Lola’s will be.

Bianca, meanwhile, starts working for tips at Booty, but soon finds herself frustrated by the fact that Lola is getting more customers than she is. She also puts her foot in it with Denise when it looks as though she’s about to offer up a meagre tip of loose change when in actual fact she is searching in her purse for a note. 

Determined though to pay for the family Christmas tree, Bianca refuses to take handouts from Derek or let Liam work for extra shifts at McKlunkys. But she is overwhelmed when she later arrives home to find the family has made a cardboard tree for the living room. “Are they Pat’s earrings?” she laughs, pointing at some improvised decorations.

Denise also has financial concerns, although hers are down to the fact that sales at the Minute Mart are at a low. After thinking of a way to get business booming, she starts setting up a Caribbean fruit and veg stand outside the shop. Ian, who sees Denise’s plan as a threat to the Beale family’s market-stall, lays down the gauntlet: 

“You’ve got yourself a fruit and veg war!” he warns.

Following his return from Germany, Alfie is again becoming suspicious of what Kat has been up to. After learning that Jean has been using a scented candle to get Tommy off to sleep, Alfie is intrigued. Kat tells him that she bought them from the Minute Mart, but when Alfie asks Denise about buying some more, he is perturbed when she tells him that they’ve never sold scented candles. 

There’s further confusion when Alfie discovers the remnants of the pawn slip stub for Kat’s mother’s engagement ring, but Kat tells him that she threw the slip away as she can’t afford to buy the ring back. 

Unable to shake the feeling that Kat is still having an affair, his angst intensifies when he overhears her on the phone telling someone that she loves and misses them. 

After it’s revealed that it’s an unwell Charlie on the line, Kat decides to pay her dad a visit. Alfie is thrown when Michael collects her and Tommy, insisting he is going that way on business. The biggest shock comes right at the end of the day, though, when Alfie discovers Kat’s mum’s engagement ring in her drawer.

Finally, Joey tries to make amends at the Brannings’ by apologising for the recent car crash. But he gets short shrift from Max: “We’re gonna have a nice, normal, loving family Christmas. And I’m really sorry, but you’re not a part of it.” 

At the R&R later, Lauren tries to talk to Joey but is hurt when he flirts with Lucy, telling her that he made a mistake in dumping her. Still smitten, Lucy agrees for Joey to come back to hers where things start to heat up between the pair of them. But the evening goes awry when Joey tells her to stop – he’s in love with someone else.