EastEnders‘ Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden) was left for dead after receiving a savage beating from Stuart Highway (Ricky Champ) on Friday 5th July, with the motive behind the attack being to force Mr Mitchell to stay away from secret lover Callum Highway (Tony Clay) and not jeopardise his engagement to Whitney Dean (Shona McGarty).
Stuart was stunned to see his little brother in an intimate clinch with Ben the previous day that ended with a tender kiss on the cheek and confronted Callum over what he witnessed.
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Ashamed, guilty Halfway eventually admitted he had slept with Ben and as Stuart struggled to process his brother’s bombshell he realised how ashamed he is of questioning his sexuality, clearly a consequence of being brought up by bullying, homophobic dad Jonno who viewers met earlier this week.
Emotional Callum insisted he loved Whitney and wanted to commit to their future, so Stu secretly took it upon himself to shut Ben down and arranged to meet him at the Arches as revellers partied at Walford’s first Pride event outside newly-opened gay bar The Prince Albert.
Fronting up to scary Stuart when he demanded he stay away from his bruv, Ben stood firm and boasted he wasn’t scared or ashamed of who he was – implying Callum was fooling himself by hiding in the closet.
Intercut with the backdrop of the Pride party’s spirit of inclusivity and acceptance spreading among the crowd outside, Ben refused to back down and in a disturbing sequence allowed Stuart to beat him up, ending the episode motionless, battered and bruised on the floor…
Stuart agreeing to keep Callum’s sexuality secret and making an enemy of the mini-Mitchell to protect him adds another complex layer to one of EastEnders’ most compelling storylines in months. As the show builds towards Callum and Whitney’s wedding day – where it’s rumoured Whit’s stepmum Bianca Jackson makes her long-awaited return – what other twists, turns and time bombs are in store for #Ballum?
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