You know, I don't think the weakness lies with the writer. I think it lies with the readers. At first I read this panel and thought, "This is good writing, but not GREAT writing." But then, I pictured a superb actor like Sir Ian McKellen or Sir Alec Guinness, or Catherine Zeta Jones (because I am always picturing Catherine Zeta Jones), and the writing became genius.
So if you ever think you are reading less than GREAT writing in Mary Worth, stop and ask yourself for just a moment... "Who is really at fault here?"