EastEnders' big Christmas Day episode is a staple part of BBC1's festive evening schedule and has become as much of a British tradition as the Queen's speech.
Ever since Den Watts served duplicitous wife Angie divorce papers out the back by the stairs in 1986 to a record breaking audience of around 30 million viewers, the expectation for high drama and shock twists on 25th December has made it the most important edition of the soap around which the whole year is planned.
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2019 is no exception, with Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden) finally set to discover wife Sharon Mitchell (Letitia Dean) is pregnant by future son-in-law Keanu Taylor (Danny Walters), who has also fathered a child with Phil's daughter Louise Mitchell (Tilly Keeper). Fans have waited patiently for the big reveal, and even though the finer details of how events play out are shrouded in secrecy until the big day, allow RadioTimes.com to present a preview of what we know so far about one of the soap highlights of the year…
Phil actually finds out the truth on Christmas Eve
Setting the scene for the big showdown, Christmas Eve's doof-doof sees Phil uncovering the real identity of Sharon's baby daddy. Having figured out ex Lisa Fowler was telling the truth about Sharon's infidelity, but getting the wrong end of the stick and blaming Jack Branning, Mr Mitchell at last works it out but decides to bide his time until the following day. Obviously he knows that's when more people will be sat in front of the telly. "The way truth comes out to Phil is very subtle," hints Walters, "so pay attention and you'll find out!"
Louise is also suspicious
On their quest for the truth, Phil and son Ben Mitchell quiz Lou about what Sharon was up to while her hubby was away on business earlier in the year, reminding the new mum of her previous accusations that her stepmum and Keanu had something to hide. "It sparks Louise remembering her underlying suspicions from the last year," confides Keeper. "But Louise doesn't want to play on it too much because she wants to concentrate on having the best Christmas with baby Peggy. She quizzes Keanu and Sharon separately, but as it goes along Louise is trying to deny the truth even to herself. Her reaction when she does find out is not what anyone will expect." Lou's also on the way out, as Keeper is leaving, so she'll have nothing to lose.
Sharon's cooking Christmas dinner when it all kicks off
"Sharon is slaving away getting everything ready for Christmas dinner and has no idea Phil knows," reveals Dean. "She took a risk telling Lisa everything but thought it was the only way to shut her up. Now she thinks she's got everything under control - then, from nowhere, Phil confronts her. He explodes and all hell breaks loose at No.55, and Sharon finds herself with nowhere to hide." In typical soap fashion, it's safe to assume a beautiful, lavishly-prepared full turkey dinner with all the trimmings will go uneaten, and probably end up trickling down the wall after Phil throws it in a fit of rage while wearing a paper hat from a cracker.
Phil's revenge is terrifying
Obviously he's not taking this lying down, but other than that bit in the trailer where he chucks a chair we don't know exactly what Phil has in mind to get his own back on his cheating missus, and avenge Lou by teaching her naughty boyfriend a lesson. Dean advises fans to expect the unexpected: "I don't want to spoil anything," smirks the Square legend, "but there are some twists and turns that Sharon definitely didn't see coming… and neither did I!" Walters warns things don't end well for his alter ego: "Keanu is teetering on the edge of danger once Phil finds out, definitely. He knows what Phil is capable of…" The official BBC synopsis for Boxing Day's episode ambiguously reads: "After the events of Christmas Day, Sharon and Keanu's worlds have been shattered - but how far has Phil gone?"
Sharon will fight back
Dean suggests Sharon won't just roll over, so expect Den's princess to go from pouting to shouting as she tries to protect herself from her husband's temper. "Steve and I have some very dramatic scenes, they are so tense. This is EastEnders at Christmas so it's very dramatic - Phil is at his angriest and we see the fighter in Sharon. There's nothing she won't do to protect herself, her baby and even Keanu. In a way she is relived she doesn't have to lie and watch her back any more, but the fear of what's next for her may be even bigger." It's hard to know who Phil will be most furious with between Sharon and Keanu, but they should both be scared. We certainly are.
Keanu is finished
Whatever happens, Walters is bowing out of the soap over the Christmas period so there's every chance Keanu could be a casualty of Phil's fury. To preserve secrecy, pre-publicity from the BBC gives no mention of the muscly mechanic beyond Christmas Day. Apart from the accidental death of that homeless kid in the car lot he torched as an insurance job for Frank Butcher 25 years ago (played by pre-Hollyoaks Nick Pickard, fact fans), Phil has never actually killed anyone. Could he make an exception for Keanu? "Sharon is scared for Keanu," admits Dean. "Phil treated him like a son, he's the last person he would suspect and will want revenge to prove he's not to be messed with. Keanu will get the brunt of his wrath."
Sharon's future hangs in the balance
As Dean points out, Sharon and Phil have had numerous ups and downs, but this could be the biggest setback yet in their roller coaster relationship. "Phil is the love of her life but it's been tumultuous, they've had lots of infidelities and setbacks. She's been there for him through thick and they and they always end up together. As for Louise, she is like a daughter to Sharon and them both having babies with the same man is a nightmare. Whether or not they can rebuild their relationship I'm not sure, we'll have to wait and see."
It's not just the Mitchells in the spotlight
Sheanu exploding and the fallout thereof is the main course and the thing we'll all be talking about as soon Mrs Brown's Boys starts, but there's lots going on elsewhere: Christmas Day is also big for guilt-ridden Martin Fowler who is about to flee following a horrifying incident a few days earlier, Dot Branning discovers someone's been trying to steal Dr Legg's inheritance cash, while Linda Carter vanishes after a booze bender causing Mick Carter to collapse with a panic attack. More lighthearted plots include the Slaters being turfed out by new landlords the Panesars, and surprises in store for Patrick, Denise and Sheree.
When is it on?
Oh yes, the all-important time slot. EastEnders is on for a whole hour on Christmas Day at 9.30pm on BBC1, sandwiched between the much-anticipated Gavin and Stacey comeback which runs from 8.30pm, and before this year's Mrs Brown's Boys special starting at 10.30pm. You can read the full guide to when EastEnders is on throughout the Christmas period here.
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