It’s rock-their-world time for the leading ladies of “Mistresses” Monday night when a pregnant Savi (Alyssa Milano) has to decide whether or not to reveal to her husband that she cheated on him with a co-worker and her baby might not be his; Josslyn (Jes Macallan) begins a sexual relationship with her new bestie Alex (Shannyn Sossamon) — and only one of the women is gay; and the unholy alliance of Karen (Yunjin Kim) and Elizabeth Grey (Penelope Ann Miller) begins as they try to hide their secret from the police.
“This is a very important episode because it’s the Rubicon for each of them. There’s no turning back in each of their storylines,” executive producer KJ Steinberg says at an informal gathering of reporters, following a recent screening of tonight’s episode of the ABC series.
For viewers who are looking for summer shows with a touch of the juicy, soapy storylines of “Desperate Housewives,” “Sex and the City” or “Scandal,” “Mistresses” just might fit the bill. It steams up the screen with lots of sex, two who’s-the-daddy stories, and a therapist who is an accomplice to a suicide. That said, Steinberg and executive producer Rina Mimoun would rather see the series compared to “Parenthood.” They believe it covers the same type of storylines — they just do it hotter!
“Our ultimate goal is to leave people in an argument every week, kind of like the simmering fury of: ‘Why would she tell him?,’” Steinberg continues. “We’re trying to tap into people’s secret desires. I am not saying their desires are admirable, but the human appetite for passion, love, sensuality and sexuality is something that in a monogamous society is an ongoing struggle.”
Up to now, Savi has kept the fact that she is pregnant a secret from both of the baby’s potential fathers — her husband Harry (Brett Tucker) and her co-worker Dom (Jason George) — as well as her sister. Only her three friends know it.
But a health crisis sends her to the doctor’s office, where she learns that her secret is making her so unhealthy, she may have to confess all to save her baby, even if doing so could end her marriage.
Part of what we are exploring is how one mistake begets another mistake begets another mistake,” Steinberg says. “You can’t say, ‘It was just one night.’ It breeds lies and the deterioration of a relationship.”
But it isn’t just Harry who will be hurt by the confession. Savi’s sister Joss considers her to be her best friend, but Savi hasn’t trusted her with this secret. And when Joss finds out that she was the only one of the women excluded from the baby bombshell, it will drive her deeper into her relationship with Alex.
“Secrecy and betrayal not only hurts a sexual relationship, it hurts the intimacy between friends,” Steinberg adds. “When you start having and telling secrets, you sometimes isolate and make the wrong decisions.”
Then there is Karen who has lied to the police and a special insurance investigator about whether or not she thought that her former patient/lover, who was dying from cancer, Tom Grey (John Schneider), was capable of committing suicide when she knows very well that she wrote the prescription for the morphine that ended his life.
“Karen is so messed up, but the best thing is that for Yunjin [the only cast member who watched the U.K. version], she is not messed up enough,” says Mimoun. “She came to us in the middle of the season and said, ‘I don’t understand: I thought I’m f***ing Sam? This has to get serious!’ She was snapping at me, saying, ‘I want to go crazy! I want to be messed up!’”
When it came time to write the storyline in which Joss gets involved in a sexual relationship with another woman, Mimoun and Steinberg put serious thought into it, not wanting to offend the LGBT community.
“I beg you to keep watching,” Mimoun says. “It is such an important relationship on the show, so we spent the most time in the writers room making sure it was nuanced. We weren’t saying, ‘Bi, straight, gay, who cares?’ The culmination of their storyline is the most old-school heartbreaking of them all, because it is the most real.”
Obviously, “Mistresses” is not averse to controversy. The Joss/Alex sex-in-the-shower scene is only one port in the storm. Another is a joke in Monday night’s episode about the pope, which the producers admit they were surprised that ABC agreed to let them keep.
“Those Million Moms do not like us,” Mimoun says. “This is just going to add more fuel to their fire — and when they write about it, prove that they’re watching!”
“Mistresses” airs Monday nights at 10/9c on ABC.