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Soap Opera Digest, October 13, 2009

"Today we put James in the ground - and then we dance on his grave," proclaimed Paul of his oft-presumed pop, who was finally (we think) done in by Audrey.  That sentiment set the stage for a snappily scripted, heavy on the humor memorial service that celebrated Stenbeck's sixth trip to the great beyond.

Audrey - donning a large, theatrical black hat and sexy dress - played James's "widow" to the hilt.  "It's just so sad.  You know, I just got my Jimmy back, just to lose him again," she lamented to Henry and Vienna.  "Oh, don't waste your crocodile tears on us, please.  You didn't lose him.  You dispatched him, and [tried] to pin it on me," an exasperated Henry shot back.  Audrey sobered up immediately, nothing, "Yeah, that was a mistake."  Meanwhile, at Fariwinds, Barbara, who was determined to prove that Audrey killed James, was furious that Paul had the body embalmed and that he would now be cheated out of his father's fortune.  But Emily and Paul simply drank their champagne, already toasting to James's demise.  "It's all over but the shoveling, Mother," Paul noted.  Barbara, however, was not going to go down without a fight, vowing to make Audrey pay - literally.

The motley crew of "mourners" gathered at the funeral home, and each was there to make sure James was really, most sincerely dead.  Audrey pinched him, Barbara poked a pin in his heart and Emily held a mirror to his nose.  "Yeah, he's definitely not breathing," Em declared.  Paul shrugged, "Let's put the old guy in the ground."

Lynn Herring's comedic timing was perfect as Audrey feigned anguish.  "Oh, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!" she cried, throwing herself onto the coffin.  Colleen Zenk Pinter, at her best when Barbara is at her worst, gave a perfectly exaggerated eyeroll and clenched her teeth in response, ready to pounce.  After Babs yanked her nemesis away from James's cold body, Audrey crowed about her and James's sex life.  When a horrified Henry tried to stop his mother from elaborating ("Are we to be spared nothing?"), Audrey just laughed at him.  "Oh, Henry.  Stop being so fussy.  I have seen your costume collection," she snarked.  "Right, 'Sister Vienna?'"  She tried to engage Emily and Babs in a lusty exchange about James that neither was interested in joining.

Then all hell broke loose, with Babs and Audrey clawing and scratching at each other.  "Bring it, bitch!" Barbara sneered.  When Henry tried to break up the duo, an amused Paul stopped him.  "Bro, relax, pop loved a good catfight," he smirked as the brawling moms fell onto the corpse.  After the, er, funeral, Paul reminisced about all the awful things James had done to him - and he did to James.  "You shot your father?" asked a perturbed Vienna.  "In my family, it's like bonding," Paul replied.

When they all gathered for the reading of the will, Babs was again outraged that Henry would inherit all the Stenbeck dough and lased out at Paul for not fighting for it.  "What did Henry ever do for James except, perhaps, kill him?" she asked.  "Public service if you ask me," Paul quipped.

With well-writted one-lines, outstanding deliveries from a comically gifted cast and a knowing wink to James's multiple demises, ATWT cleverly crafted an unforgettable funeral that still made us cry - from laughing so hard.

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