Michelle and Steve’s relationship has been stretched to its limit since the death of their baby Ruairi. And next week on Coronation Street, Michelle turns to alcohol to numb the pain but it’s Robert, not Steve, who provides a shoulder to cry on.
A lunch date at the Bistro for Michelle and Steve will turn sour after she hits the bottle hard. Kym Marsh, who plays Michelle, explains how her character is coping: “She’s really struggling. She’s a strong woman and she is trying to keep going but this loss is so huge and she can’t really come to terms with it. She is in a very dark place. It’s probably too soon to go for a meal at the Bistro. On top of everything she is going through the addition of alcohol is catastrophic.”
Steve confides in Robert that he doesn’t know how to cope and isn’t sure whether they’re going to get through this or not. Marsh adds: “Steve is struggling to know how to deal with her and help her. They are finding it very hard to communicate with each other. They’re both dealing with it very differently and there was the incident with him removing all the stuff from the nursery which really upset her. He just doesn’t really know how to cope with her grief.”
The other diners are mortified when Michelle makes a loud, drunken toast to her dead baby. Upset, she then storms out of the bistro. Later on, Steve will be seen telling mum Liz that he’s concerned about her and doesn’t know where she is.
A search party consisting of Steve, Tim, Robert, Johnny and Kate set off to look for Michelle. But it’s Robert who’s left shocked hen he finds her and sees the state she’s in.
Marsh details what happens next: “She doesn’t know where she is heading. She just walks and walks and ends up alone on a bridge. Robert is genuinely concerned for her safety and what she is planning to do when he finds her. She is freezing cold and in a very bad way.”
Michelle, who is now at her lowest ebb, looks deep into Robert’s eyes before leaning in for a kiss. He knows she’s in a vulnerable state but will Robert give in to his desires and kiss her back? Marsh doesn’t imbue the kiss with any real significance, saying: “It is one of those moments in time. It’s really just the situation and the grief that makes her respond in that way, which is difficult for Robert because of the way he feels about her.”
Robert rings Steve to let him know that she’s safe. Meanwhile, Michelle says that instead of going straight home she wants to visit her baby at the Chapel of Rest. On the way there she pours her heart out to Robert, telling him about how broken she feels by grief and how Steve doesn’t seem to understand. He lets her unburden herself and offers a sympathetic ear.
Marsh offers an insight into why her character seems more able to open up to Robert than her own husband: “I think it’s easier because he’s not going through the same grief. It can be very difficult to deal with your own grief and someone else’s. Robert is removed from the situation yet he cares about her and there’s just something about how he deals with her that helps her open up. He’d amazing with her and gives her the space she needs. When she says she wants Steve with her he totally understands.”
Later, Steve enters the chapel and finds Michelle asleep inside with Robert watching over her. He looks at the body of his baby in the coffin just as Michelle wakes up, now relieved to see her husband is there. Robert promises Michelle he’ll keep their kiss to himself and leaves them alone.
Michelle then kisses Ruairi goodbye before telling Steve she’d like the funeral to be a private affair with just the two of them present. In heartbreaking scenes to be broadcast Wednesday 25 January, Billy conducts the service and the pair cling to each other in their grief.
“It was very moving and emotional to film” says Marsh. “It’s just the two of them – that’s how they want it – and it’s actually quite beautiful. It’s a real turning point for them. They needed this moment to help them move forward.”
But the following day, Beth makes an insensitive comment about how they could always try for another baby. They are both hurt and angry, and Steve loses his temper. He later apologises to Michelle for getting so heated and suggests they go and stay with her parents in Ireland for a while. Robert watches on with sadness as they head off together on their break.
Of all the trials and tribulations they’ve been through as a couple, this is surely the biggest. Marsh thinks they can survive it but, like the viewers, has some reservations about the future: “I do think they could get through this situation but of course there is the huge ticking time bomb of Leanne’s baby which now, after the loss of Ruairi, takes on an even bigger significance. Whether or not they can get over that once it comes out is debateable. The betrayal is so huge.”
Michelle’s close relationship with Robert and the small matter of his unrequited love for her may yet come to the forefront when Steve’s big baby secret comes out. Does Marsh think that her character might turn to Robert in the future? “Viewers do seem to like them together but everyone loves Steve and Michelle and seem really worried they are going to split up. There is some time to go yet. In the meantime she will be working on her relationship with Steve and trying to put how Robert feels about her out of her mind.”
With such a big secret hanging in the air we’re pretty certain this storyline hasn’t run its course yet. So will Steve and Michelle come back from their break in Ireland stronger than ever or will the cracks start to show?
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.
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