Wilbur Weston has been, the past couple months of Karen Moy and June Brigman’s Mary Worth, a Nice Guy. That is, he’s been one of those guys so sure that he’s lovable he’s failing to give the target of his affection reasons to put up with him. Not since the faltering days of For Better Or For Worse, when Granthony whined to Liz “I have no hoooooome”, has a character been quite this punchable. I mean besides Funky Winkerbean’s Les Moore, who’s in a class by himself because everybody you might put him with punches him and leaves.
But supporting him this way has been Mary Worth herself, who keeps telling Estelle, and the reader, that Wilbur has his flaws but has a good heart. Which, fine, but you can say that about almost everyone. Most of us know not to crash someone else’s date with passive-aggressive karaoke fighting.
That I write of “passive-aggressive karaoke fighting” lets you know this has been a glorious couple months for Mary Worth. Soap operas do well when they have emotions out of all proportion and leading to bad decisions with huge consequences. So this has been, culminating with a drunken Wilbur falling off the side of a cruise ship and washing up on an unknown shore.
So this should get you up to speed for mid-January 2022 in Mary Worth. If you’re reading this after about April 2022, a more recent plot recap should be at this link. Now let’s see why everybody wants Wilbur Weston to die already.
24 October 2021 – 16 January 2022.
After a humiliating date in which he called Carol “Estelle”, Wilbur agreed he’s nowhere near over his ex. He brings Estelle some take-out, confirming that she’s had enough of this. She appreciates the gesture of food, though, and the chance to meet his dog Pierre. Wilbur adopted the dog figuring it’d be a good way to meet women, without ever considering whether he knew a thing about dogs. Pierre likes her, and her cat Libby, more than he likes Wilbur.
Mary Worth tries consoling Wilbur by going with him to a karaoke bar. There, he sees Estelle and her date (her cat’s veterinarian). He can’t see a good reason not to sing a heartbreak song about how could she leave him alone. Wilbur’s day job, by the way, is syndicated newspaper advice columnist. It’s an irony not touched at all in the text. Estelle takes up the battle, singing Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. He responds in kind. It makes a night so exquisite in its awkwardness the audience discovers four new dimensions of spacetime just to have places to look away to. Her date chews his own head off to escape.
The next day Wilbur apologizes to Estelle. And admits how he has no hoooooome and his dog doesn’t like him, so, would he want to take Pierre? She does. He goes off, feeling miserable, and buys some fish that he names Willa and Stellah. And — look, everybody has a right to mope and to self-pity and to putter around telling themselves how the world’s picking on them. That’s fine. But it’s hard for the reader not to notice that Wilbur fought pretty hard to get himself into this fix.
Mary Worth, meanwhile, visits Estelle to sing Wilbur’s praises. Estelle concedes that Wilbur has considerable good sides. We the readers haven’t seen much of this. But there is evidence of it. He likes doing interesting things. He’s able to keep a writing job in this economy. He’s got a writing job where they pay for him to travel around the world. When we see him on a successful date, it’s always, like, him and his partner singing. That is, doing something together without fear of embarrassment and without either person having to be center stage. This might not convince you. But every text asks you to accept there’s more stuff going on than it can show. And this does give a prima facie case for Wilbur as someone you might enjoy hanging out with.
Thing is, Wilbur provoked their breakup because he couldn’t stand the cat meowing along while he sang. And ignored Estelle’s pleas by locking the cat out of the room. He wouldn’t accept that they won’t sing a recording-studio-quality rendition of “Thank You For Being A Friend”. He adopted a dog figuring hey, dogs are chick magnets. And when he did attract a woman, he talked to her about Estelle until she fled. And then picked a passive-aggressive karaoke fight. At least he wasn’t embarrassingly drunk this time, but, he’s done that to Estelle in the past.
This invites the question: does Mary Worth know how bad Wilbur can be? Mary Worth giving advice that turns bad seems to have great story potential. But she was at the karaoke fight. She has to know if he’s a work in progress, the progress is going like the Second Avenue Subway did. We don’t see that she does know.
Estelle meets up with Wilbur while walking her pets. They agree they miss each other, and Wilbur promises to try harder to get along with Libby. And to make it up to her. They get together and Wilbur brings a chew toy for Pierre, and is actually nice to Libby. So it may have been a lot of needless pain getting here, but he is at least being a better person.
Wilbur suggests they take a three-day cruise together, and Estelle is up for it. They leave their cat and dog with Mary Worth. (Mary Worth will do anything except marry Dr Jeff to help people take CRUISE SHIPS into their lives.) And we see today-the-18th that she’s also feeding Wilbur’s fish. I know just enough about fish to know a tank as small as he has is going to need regular water checking and changing, though I grant that’s hard to make visual.
Mary Worth takes the week before Christmas to congratulate herself for shoving these two together. She has a good time walking Pierre and Libby. In what we readers now realize was irony, she almost wishes Estelle and Wilbur would extend their cruise.
On the cruise, Wilbur asks Estelle to marry him. He can’t see any reason for them to wait. She can’t see any reason for them not to wait. Wilbur storms off to get drunk. In that state, he falls off the ship, and King Features Syndicate opens an RIP Wilbur Weston store. (You can buy posters, even framed posters, of most any comic strip they run, not just plot-bearing strips. The “Where There’s A Wilbur” T-shirts and mugs are novel, though.)
Estelle notices he’s missing, and coaxes the ship’s crew to search for him. They find the security camera footage of his fall overseas, and go to search. But it’s a large ocean, and Wilbur has … already washed ashore on some island, somewhere. Strange development that keeps him from being dead.
Dubiously Sourced Mary Worth Sunday Panel Quotes!
- “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” — Groucho Marx, 24 October 2021.
- “The past is never the past. It is always present.” — Bruce Springsteen, 31 October 2021.
- “Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always.” — Hippocrates, 7 November 2021.
- “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.” — Eckhart Tolle, 14 November 2021.
- “More people should apologize, and more people should accept apologies when sincerely made.” — Greg Lemond, 21 November 2021.
- “Before you quit, try again. Before you leave, get back in.” — Michael Bassey Johnson, 28 November 2021.
- “We’re all a little weird and life is a little weird.” — Robert Fulgham, 5 December 2021.
- “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett, 12 December 2021.
- “Live a life of gratitude, giving thanks in all circumstances.” — Dr Mary C Neal, 19 December 2021.
- “Music is very spiritual. It has the power to bring people together.” — Edgar Winter, 26 December 2021.
- “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘it will be happier’.” — Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1 January 2022. Special non-Sunday bonus quote!
- “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” — John Barrymore, 2 January 2022.
- “Everything is a reaction.” — Robyn Hitchcock, 9 January 2022.
- “The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.” — Vladimir Nabokov, 16 January 2022.
In his weekday continuity The Phantom faces the harrowing forecast that if he frees Savarna Devi — to whom he owes his wife’s life — from death row he will cause the destruction of everything his family stands for. In Tony DePaul and Jeff Weigel’s The Phantom Sunday continuity, things are a bit less dire. The Phantom’s making sure two Mori teenagers have a pleasant time in town. I hope to recap that side of The Phantom here, in a week.