Saturday, September 24, 2005

Just testing something

Just testing something to see if it works.  If it does, it’ll save me so much time in writing.  It probably won’t, though.  So, let’s see.

The End of Innocence

That’s the great thing about this place…nothing ever happens.

I’ve stared at a blank computer screen for about the last ten minutes wondering how I should start this off. I like the above quote so much that it needs to be up there, though I’m not sure how to connect it with anything.

So I’ll just leave it there and move on. Just know that I like it.

Anyway, welcome back to another week of teen angst, parental melodrama, quick quips, and the most heartwarming family moments this side of Danny Tanner and the bunch.

And that’s all complimentary, I’m serious. It sounds pretty silly looking at that, you know? How can something successfully combine those elements into an hour of good television?

Well, The O.C. did it with “The End of Innocence.”

That’s not to say that the episode was perfect because it wasn’t. There are several flaws, including one glaring problem, that we’ll get to eventually. But overall, it was good.

Maybe it wasn’t good in the traditional sense. There were no big moments from Ryan where he knocks someone out, and there were no moments where Seth hit a real zinger of a one-liner. But there was gut-level writing, writing that hit on every emotion and that tugged on the heart strings. There were winning storylines, one that was bright and airy, another that was passionate. And it had an ending that we’ll likely all remember for a long time. I know that it’s already on my list of favorite scenes ever.

Sandy and Kirsten…

This story almost frustrated me. I had a feeling I was going to hate it. When Kirsten bought the bottle of vodka and Sandy was trying to find her, I had a sudden flashback to season two. I knew that they’d already had an episode where Kirsten gets drunk and Sandy has to find her and I figured they might do it again because let’s face it – this show is in love with itself. If any show is going to recycle a plotline and think it’s a good idea, it’s this one. Unfortunately, fans don’t always respond with a positive attitude.

And so the story took a turn. A simple one, to be sure, but a good one. Kirsten overcame her demons at least once and that’s an important character moment. She’s bogged down by emotion and there doesn’t seem to be a better time to drink. But she didn’t. And that was great to see. The writers could have easily had a relapse, forced her back into rehab, and forced her to become more dependent on Charlotte and more obsessed. The latter half of that idea sounds interesting – a twist where one of the main characters becomes the psycho as opposed to a recurring star – but the first half would have been painful.

It was also good that they brought some closure to the story between Kirsten and Caleb. It was always such a volatile relationship and to say that it ended badly is an understatement. I actually had my doubts about the letter – I figured it wasn’t too far out of character for Caleb to have been a dick even after Kirsten exposed him – but I’m glad it turned out to be the logical choice. A part of me wanted to hear Alan Dale narrate the letter because I just wanted his touch somewhere on the season. That probably would have turned out badly, though, so maybe it’s okay. Plus, I can’t imagine that these writers could have written a letter like that. It’s like the time the writers on 90210 wrote a prayer for the homeless guy who spent Thanksgiving with Walshes to say. It was brutally bad because the writers just didn’t know how to do that kind of thing. So yeah, wonderfully done.

That still leaves us with questions about Charlotte, though. What is her obsession with Kirsten? Is it simply an obsession or is there a deeper connection? She’s obviously had some type of contact with the outside world since she was able to rent that apartment. She’s an enigma and I’m kind of torn on the story. I want it resolved quickly just so I can know, but at the same time, if it’s resolved too soon, I’m going to feel screwed and I’m going to feel that the writers just got lazy and didn’t feel like elaborating more on who Charlotte actually is. I suppose, if they really wanted to shock us, we could find out that Oliver had a sex change and is now a 40-year old woman.

It could happen.

As for Sandy, I love him more now than I have in a long time. He’s got a lot to deal with. He’s running the Newport Group, he’s trying to be a parent, he’s trying to get his marriage to work. It’s a lot for someone, but he’s handled it well. He’s provided the moral center once again and that’s what has made him such an endearing character. His scenes with Ryan were excellent. He’s not terribly authoritative, but he attempts to assert himself. Still, though, he’s not irrational. He understands his kids and that’s more than most parents can say and it’s one reason this show is so successful – the parents and kids are on the same level.

Julie and Jimmy…

I figured the money was going to Sandy. That would have been an interesting twist. I didn’t expect that Caleb was actually broke, but it works well for Newport Beach, a place where no one is what they seem. It seems a little strange that no one would have known about Caleb’s money problems, but that’s okay.

It’s really interesting that the fact that Caleb was broke led to Jimmy’s exit considering he had to leave because he was broke. But the fact is that he never learned his lesson. He has no self control and he’s suffering. When Marissa told him not to come back, I cringed a little bit because the idea of never seeing Jimmy again is pretty disheartening, but it’s something that I have to agree with. No person should have to watch their father fail constantly when it’s something that could so easily be fixed. No one should have to lose a parent because the parent is too dumb to make adult choices.

This leads me to the glaring problem of the episode: why’d Jimmy leave so soon? This was the most abrupt exit on the show. Most other exits built for a while, even if it was subtle. There was ample time for preparation. Even Lindsay was already considering moving before she left. But Jimmy, in a matter of two minutes, decided he’d leave. The writers forsook the opportunity to deal with Jimmy as a character and I think that’s a horrible mistake. I think the story had at least one more episode in it. Julie could have dealt with Jimmy face-to-face. Have her be an ultimate bitch to him before breaking down. Jimmy would have had to deal with seeing Julie’s reaction and then, when he left, he would have seemed like a real heel. Unfortunately, they chose to send him packing quickly. It was never even really explained what he did wrong. There was just a lot of untapped potential. Josh said that people complain because stories are too short, so when they make them long, they complain. You know, there is a happy medium. Three episodes is too short, especially for a character’s exit. Had this drawn out for twenty episodes it would have been too long. Alas, Jimmy Cooper we hardly knew ye.

It’s really hard to feel sorry for Julie. She deserves every bad thing that happens to her because she’s always out to screw someone over. But you know what? I feel bad for her. She’s never gotten a real good break in life. Everything she’s ever had, she’s lost. In many respects, what she’s lost has been her own fault, so there’s an interesting connection to Jimmy. Still, she loves Jimmy and I don’t doubt that. The look on her face when Marissa arrived at the reception was heartbreaking. She wasn’t getting the storybook ending that she wanted. I believe she was ready to start over as a semi-new person with Jimmy. Now she’s going to have to start over as a new person without him. It’ll be interesting to see. Jimmy said, and I believe him, that he still loves Julie so I can only hope he sails back in some day, maybe in the final season, and they can finally make it work. Maybe if two people make enough mistakes, they can help each other attempt to be perfect. It’s possible.

Seth and Summer…

These two are so good right now that it’s scary. Fans are responding positively and there isn’t even a third person to create a triangle? Look, Josh, people don’t need triangles!

There isn’t a lot I can say about these two that you haven’t read everywhere else. Just watching them is fun. Their story is flat-out fun. It’s not heavy-handed, it’s not dramatic, it’s just exciting. I read a few complaints that Taylor is too much, that Autumn overacts when she does the character, but I just don’t think those people get the story.

She’s supposed to overact. As I noted last week, Taylor is a caricature. She’s an exaggerated version of elite society, just like Luke was when the show premiered. And she’s excelling at that because I love to hate her already. She’s a bitch, a cold, conniving bitch. She’s a terrible person. But I can’t get enough of her. Her comment to Seth about everyone still hating him was an absolutely perfect line that really sounded like something you would have heard in August 2003. It was incredibly scathing and personal, but true.

Adam Brody seems to be regaining a little more zest, so I’m thinking it was the scripts early on that were causing him to go through the motions. He’s slightly more involved and it was a great character moment when he took the fall for Summer. Our little Seth is growing up into quite the chivalrous man, wouldn’t you say? Chivalry may not be dead, after all.

Speaking of Adam’s acting, was that not a great moment when Kirsten walked in and Seth stood there and smiled? He looked as if he just needed a moment to soak everything in. His mom was back and it just seemed to thrill him. He played the scene remarkably well and it was just a terrific thing to see. Maybe now that Kirsten’s back, Seth will return to fine form, too. Just terrific stuff that paralleled how hurt Seth looked when he realized his mom needed to go away. Terrific symmetry.

Ryan and Marissa…

I don’t know when I decided to start having sympathy Marissa Cooper, but I’m scared. I’m scared because I’m actually starting to care about the character. I just don’t know how it happened.

Actually, I do. She seems to finally be growing. She seems more in touch with reality. She seems to understand the people around her better and that’s the only way a person can really grow. I don’t think you can better yourself unless you allow yourself to care about others and she’s doing that. Last time Jimmy left, she moped, but this time, she accepted it and accepted his failures and allowed him to leave but with an assertive stance. She recognized that she can’t allow herself to feel bad for someone who’s going to let her down and that she has to learn independence. She stepped up and broke the news to her mom and did so in a sympathetic way. She seemed far less concerned with herself, but rather, she was concerned with her mother’s well being and that’s not the Marissa we used to know. Growth is an amazing thing and Mischa has actually embraced the role in a way she never has before. She’s actually exuding emotion.

I’m not terribly keen on the sex scene because I felt the intercut with the other stuff – though it was supposed to provide a contrast – was distracting and it caused problems with lighting and tonal shifts. I understand what they were going for, but it just didn’t quite work for me. It was, however, a very fun moment when Marissa ran out and then peeked her head back in. I also like that the sex didn’t feel too overblown. No elaborate speeches, no corny morning-after moments, just a simple discussion and a nice shot of them holding each other in the morning.

That, of course, means the relationship is doomed, but I’m not going to predict anything yet. Let’s all just remember what a monumental moment it is that I finally enjoyed Ryan and Marissa and that I’m all for keeping them together.

Okay, I lied, I’m going to make the prediction that Ryan and Marissa will allow the school issue to come between them; Marissa will embrace her new role at her new school and will find that she doesn’t belong with Ryan until she gets in trouble, Ryan rescues her, she returns to Harbor, and they get together in time for graduation. That sounds about right, actually. I really should get a job on that show.

Other Stuff…

Stephanie Savage wrote this episode and I’m always thrilled to see her name attached. She wrote “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” and “The Mallpisode” – the first is one of my favorites ever and the second was a very strong episode after the turnaround last season. She needs to get her hands on more scripts because I feel that, next to Josh, she would know the characters best.

Julie Cooper-Nichol-Cooper would have been a fantastic name. I’m sorry we won’t get to see it used.

The make-up guys really freaked me out with the way they fixed up a battered Jimmy. Seriously, I cringed when I saw him.

I hope this isn’t the last time we hear “kiddo”.

Wasn’t it great to see a Cohen kitchen scene to end the episode? Those were the moments that defined the first season and moments that I think most people really love.

I love that Ryan ran to Kirsten when she came in. He’s really opened up with his emotions and I love how he’s embraced Sandy and Kirsten as parents this season. They’re far more than mentors.

Anyone watch the premiere of Joey the other night? It was basically the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Get TiVo and record it! It’s great.

What about Reunion? Any fans out there? The show’s second episode was far, far better than it’s first. The writing was so much better with far less exposition and more dialogue. I’m intrigued.

Please don’t send me any spoilers (yeah, I realize that’s an open invitation to get spoilers) but I’ve had people ask me how I feel about them and I hate them.

And that about does it for me this week.

Life’s been going on at a fast pace recently and so if these reviews start getting later and later, never fear – as long as this show remains even somewhat good, then I’ll be around. I enjoy writing about it way too much.

Thanks for reading and, as usual, feel free to head over to theocweekly.blogspot.com and leave a comment or e-mail me with any questions, comments, or death threats.

And hey, I had someone ask if I’d review the second season DVD set. Of course I will, but I have no money. So, you know, if someone wants to send me some money via Paypal, then my account is timmonsba@wofford.edu. Just saying. Worth a shot, you know?

I’ll see you all next week.

-Drew

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Shape of Things to Come

Thanks FOX.

Thanks for all that you do.

Thanks for your commercials that always get me excited for the next week.

Thanks for the time you told me about Ryan and Marissa’s first kiss, for the time you showed Caleb’s first heart attack, and for the time Marissa and Alex kissed.

Thanks for telling me ahead of time that Ryan and Marissa might get expelled, thanks for telling me that Kirsten wasn’t coming home, thanks for showing me that Jimmy was going to propose, thanks for showing me clips of Ryan and Marissa on the Ferris wheel – just thanks.

I mean, if you didn’t tell me these things, there might be suspense in the episodes. I might actually feel my heart pounding in my chest as I wait to see what’s happening. I might actually be able to get emotionally involved.

Seriously, when an episode hinges on whether or not Marissa will come to the carnival and the network has already hammered home the Ferris wheel scene, then I don’t see how I can even remotely remained interested.

I’m just shocked they didn’t show Ryan punching the Dean.

Alas, though, we’re back for another week of ranting and raving about this lovely little show.

It wasn’t a good episode. Let’s get that out of the way early. It had a really strong last five minutes, but almost everything leading to that moment was meandering. I’m not saying that there weren’t good moments throughout, because there were. But I’ve started to worry about this show in one respect…

The episodes are too serialized.

Let’s take a moment and discuss television writing – a generalized discussion. In sitcoms, the writers sit in a room and they come up with episodes. They hammer out jokes and individual story ideas. In dramas, they come up with story arcs. The writers look at the characters and decide where they want that character to end up at the season’s end. Then they decide how to get there.

And that’s fine. But remember when the episodes themselves had storylines that, while furthering the characters, also wrapped up nicely within the hour? The best example is the episode where Luke’s dad comes out. That story is self-sufficient. Sure, you need to know why it’s important for Ryan to help Luke, but you don’t need to see that episode for something twenty episodes later to make sense. It helps, but the fact that Luke has a gay dad really doesn’t do much to make the season any better. The story makes the episode better.

And the series is going the opposite now. I feel like whatever story is in the episode is merely there to push the season along. I don’t want to wait nearly thirty episodes to be satisfied. I want immediate satisfaction for an episode and then a larger satisfaction in the end.

Maybe that’s just me, though.

Sandy and Kirsten…

I’ve seen a lot of criticism for this Kirsten/Charlotte story and I’m not sure if I can agree with it. I don’t really know what to think. I do know that when Oliver was around, fans were clued into what was going on and we all waited for the inevitable blow-out (don’t be fooled, though, by fans of the show who show utter disdain for all things Trask because a lot of fans were pretty into the show at that point – post-Oliver brought changed things). But no one’s clued in now. Everyone’s asking what’s going to happen. And I have to admit that I’m still intrigued. Jeri Ryan’s excellent performance really sealed it for me last night. The way she was able to take the crying face and turn it into such a sinister one is amazing. Still, the story is extremely heavy-handed. Is that really what the show wants? I don’t know. Want to know what I think will happen? Turn over to 90210 reruns on SOAPNet at 5:00. Kelly just left rehab and is living with someone she met.

As far as Sanford goes, there’s not much to say. He’s fighting for Ryan and he’s fighting for what’s best for Ryan. His role is limited at best, but Peter Gallagher just owns the screen every time he’s on it. Last year’s Sandy, a horrible mistake, is gone and the right Sandy is back. It’ll be interesting to watch him play Montague as the Ryan and Marissa story descends into Shakespeare territory.

Jimmy and Julie…

I’ll say until I die that I love Jimmy Cooper in the most homosexual way that heterosexuality allows (see if that hurts your head). But damn, he’s dumb.

I don’t think he even realizes what he’s doing. He’s the person who was handed everything, but when it was his turn to hand, he didn’t know how to do it. His intentions were probably always fairly good. We don’t know what’s happened this time (we only have fragments and I’ll assume that we’ll learn more), but we know that last time, he did it for his family. There’s something honorable in doing anything necessary for your family, even if the act itself isn’t honorable. I’d imagine that this time, he’s in trouble for having fun. He ran through the millions he got from Caleb as he tried to enjoy life.

So the question becomes: is Jimmy just trying to screw his family over?

It’s hard to say. As I mentioned, we only have a fragment of what’s going on. But remember that he did say he’d fallen back in love with Julie before he left. Unless his money problems had already begun and he somehow caused Caleb’s death, I say that he did once care for Julie and that he does now, too.

Tate Donovan’s playing the role very well. His facial expressions make him hard to read. What is he worried about? Himself? His family? What? It’s really intriguing stuff. I hate to see Jimmy turn “bad” but at least it’s got a precedent. I have a feeling this is going to really pick up over the next few weeks before we probably so goodbye to Tate once again.

As far as Julie, there’s not much to say. I’m not sure how bad I feel for her. If Jimmy is screwing her over, then that’s terrible. At the same time, she has it coming to her. She’s a bitch, albeit one that I love. She does horrible things to people and she does them for the most selfish reasons. There aren’t enough bad things in the world to happen to her, but still, she’s almost got a heart. And she does love Jimmy. I’ll give her that. So it should be interesting to see where this goes and how Julie reacts.

Seth and Summer…

In season one, I would have said, without any hesitancy, that Adam Brody was Emmy material. Even after the first episode, he showed charisma that hadn’t been seen on a teen soap, well, ever. Now, though, I figure he should get a Razzy, the award given to the worst performances. Could he be any more uninspired? He was slightly better this week, but still, he just went through the motions. He says the words and while they’re funny on their own, they lack the tone that Brody had in the first season. There’s no real timing. It’s sad.

But it could be the material. He’s getting nothing to work with. Adam and Rachel have good chemistry, but I want to see Seth and Summer have chemistry and that’s not going to work unless they’re given primo material to play off of.

Not to say that I didn’t like watching Seth play Summer’s lackey. That’s where I think he should be. It’s where I think he could shine because it puts him in that position of being socially awkward and removed. But the writers have to do something – I don’t know what – to liven up the character. Seize this opportunity.

And, really, this Summer/Taylor story is just already unbelievable. This is the kind of thing that hooked me on the show: over-the-top portrayals of elite members of society. She’s an exaggeration, of course, but she’s fun. And Summer’s finally getting her own story. She’s always kind of ridden the coattails of everyone else, but now she has her chance to shine. And I have a feeling Rachel Bilson’s going to take this role and run with it.

I think the most important thing is that Seth and Summer seem happy. For the first time since in a long time, they seem happy together. Sandy and Kirsten are the rock of the show, the moral foundation, but Seth and Summer are the heart of the show. Go back to the first season and skip through every scene about those two. I almost guarantee you’ll be turned off to the show.

Ryan and Marissa…

They’re growing on me. I don’t know if it’s something welcomed like the goatee that every teenage boy tries to grow or if it’s something that I need an ointment to get rid of, but they’re growing on me.

They’re really not good for each other. They cause each other to do stupid things. They cause each other to make mistakes. But like I said about Jimmy, there’s something noble in the things they do. Shooting someone is generally a horrible thing, but when you do it to save your boyfriend/girlfriend’s life, it’s pretty cool, no?

I think it’s important that they addressed the Trey issue early. Granted, it’s been three months in “real” time, but still, it’s better to do it now than wait another three months. The emotional ramifications cannot be erased, but they are out there. They know how each other feel and that’s important. Things would have gotten bad.

As for Ryan punching the Dean at the end, it’s a mixed bag. Certainly he knew that bringing Marissa would cause an uproar (kudos to uber-bitch Taylor for being an uber-bitch) but he did it anyway. It’s not on school grounds, I know, but if you’ve ever dealt with an aggressive, authoritative school figure, you’ll know that technicalities mean nothing to them. It’s true.

Still, he shouldn’t have put his hands on Marissa and Ryan did what he knows how to do: fight. And that’s pretty cool, in my book. Chivalry isn’t dead, I suppose. I wonder if any girls would think I was chivalrous if I went back to my high school and punched my principal. It’s possible.

I think the most telling scene in the entire show came when Ryan took Marissa and put his arm around her and walked off. There was a shadow that cast over them as if to separate them from the rest of the society. It’s an “us against the world” stance and really, I like that. That’s what the show was founded on – the idea that these four main characters were outcasts in their own way. Somehow it became that they were outcasts who happened to be popular despite the fact that everyone hated them for being outcasts. Yeah, try to think about that one after you think about my Jimmy comment.

It’ll be interesting to see how the school changes affect the two of them. I’m sure they’ll both be back and soon. I don’t see Ryan leaving. I see Sandy fighting his ass off so that Ryan can stay and that will be awesome. Marissa’s gone but she’ll be back in time for graduation, I’m sure. Maybe even before. It’s just the nature of the genre. Convenience plays a bigger role than you or I could imagine.

Other Thoughts…

I really like the stripped down version of “California” that played at the end, though I’m still wondering why they chose to use it. I’m hoping it’s a signal that the show is returning back to what it once was. I could be wrong.

Jeri Ryan is hot. Just plain hot.

Was anyone else really shocked at how dull Charlotte’s cottage looked despite Kirsten’s praises?

What does Sandy tell the boys about Kirsten?

And aren’t you glad that Ryan is referred to as a son now?

I really like the new title credits. The new font is a nice change.

The title of this episode is entirely too long and not catchy. Thumbs down, writers.

No one’s contacted me about writing for the show or doing DVD commentary for the season three set. I’m waiting.

It’s a good thing they uttered the word “college” though it’d be nice if they would go ahead and tell us what the name of the fictional college they’re going to create is.

Soup in a shot glass? That sounds pretty freaking stupid, actually. Not cute at all. Summer loses major social chair points for that brilliant idea.

What good is FOX News is FOX is going to pre-empt its network shows? Seriously, if you care enough about politics, you’ll have extended cable and you’ll pick up FOX News. I need my Reunion fix.

And that’s all I’ve this time around. It’s 1:37 A.M. on Saturday as I write this. It’s been a long week and I’ve got a big weekend ahead so I had to churn this out fairly quickly. I apologize if there are any mistakes, any stupid, incoherent points, or anything that might make you think I’m worth reading. I hate when I make excuses for sorry reviews, but I do it often. Maybe next week will be better. Actually, I know it will. I’ll have a little more time and time is every man’s friend.

I’ll be back next week with more fun comments on the show, but until then, hop over to theocweekly.blogspot.com and leave some comments for me or email me.

Enjoy the week ahead.

-Drew
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

Saturday, September 10, 2005

"The Aftermath"

I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then

says to myself:

"All right, then, I'll GO to hell"--and tore it up.

- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Well, what do you know? That was good.

Really good.

Even great at points.

Not perfect. No, there were things didn’t work. Half of it was horribly uneven. Lines fell flat. Performances were unconvincing at times. The twists were fun, but we probably should have seen them coming.

But it was really good all-in-all.

And that brings us here.

Welcome everyone to another season of in-depth reviews. It’ll be our first full season together and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts. Chaucer couldn’t write this any better.

So it’s season three. And as I stated in my season three preview, it’s a pivotal season. The real fans are here. Josh knows what works and what doesn’t. Next season is college. He has to be careful or he’ll break his fragile fans. We suffered through a lot last year to get to this point.

Sandy and Kirsten…

It felt nice to watch them. Simply nice. Things aren’t perfect and likely won’t be ever again because there’s a point where you can’t go back. But seeing them walk hand-in-hand at the rehab facility acting in love for the first time since season one was something special.

But that can’t last.

Kirsten’s not ready to come home and I can’t blame her. The house and the town are just memories of her father. And, as she said, he was the reason she began to drink. Certainly he wasn’t the only reason but he definitely influenced it. The house also brings her back to responsibility for others, something she probably feels she’s failed at. She watched her kids run away, she’s watched her family stage an intervention, and she can’t have that right now. I’m sure she wants it, don’t get me wrong, but in order to deal with the baggage that comes with being a parent, you have to be able to deal with yourself.

But Sandy’s keeping a secret. A fairly big one. I understand that you can’t tell someone in rehab that there’s trouble at home because that makes the process harder, but secret keeping is one thing that pushed Kirsten over the edge. Whether it was Caleb’s lies, Seth secretly sailing off, Rebecca living in Sandy’s office, or the fling with Carter, you can’t deny that lying influenced Kirsten’s fallout.

Even with the trouble at home, though, I think Sandy finally came around for good with this episode. For a majority of the second season, it wasn’t the Sandy that we knew. He was putting his family in jeopardy, something we wouldn’t have expected. By the end of the season, he’d come around and the way he was there for Kirsten was wonderful. Seriously, try watching “The O.Sea” and listen to “Fix You” in the background as Kirsten walks off after finding out that Caleb’s dead. It’s a haunting scene and it makes you realize that Sandy will be there for her. And he did take care of it.

Now the problem at home focused on the kids, but Sandy was still there. Remember when Sandy tried to punish Seth and Ryan for sneaking out with Alex and Lindsay? That wasn’t Sandy at all. The way he handled this shooting was. He was at the hospital, he was willing to fight for Ryan, and though he questioned Ryan, it was only out of concern. He never yelled (that we saw), he never shunned Ryan, and he never stopped fighting. The only moment where he lost his cool was when he was talking to Jimmy and that was because he wanted to protect his family.

I think the most telling moment for Sandy came when Ryan hugged him after Trey rode off. That is now my favorite scene of all time. These two are beyond surrogate father/surrogate son. They are father/son. They love each other. And that’s what we love so much about Sandy. He cares.

Jimmy and Julie…

Anyone who’s read my reviews for any length of time knows that I love Jimmy Cooper. I would watch a spin-off of Jimmy sitting in his boat while he sports a beard and drinks a beer. Much like Sandy, you never doubted that he cared about his family. He stayed with Julie just for his children. He stole from his clients because he had to support his family. It’s not an act I’ll condone, but at had a good intention. He was the hero who rescued Hailey. He did everything.

And that’s why I didn’t bat an eye when he came back to see Julie and Marissa following Caleb’s death. It was the typical Jimmy thing to do. He came back, he consoled his family, and he offered to help them rebuild. It seemed like the trip to Hawaii had cleared his mind.

So why didn’t it seem weird when Sandy mentioned how strange it was that Jimmy showed up after Caleb died? He couldn’t possibly be coming back to take Julie’s inheritance could he? He wouldn’t. He shouldn’t. But Sandy’s wise. He sees everything. And the previews back up that theory.

But if Jimmy’s changed, Julie sure hasn’t. She seemed to show real remorse after Caleb’s death last year. Watching her try to save him in the water and her morose look in the finale, you could feel that something was changing and really, it wouldn’t be for the better. With Caleb gone and Julie going soft, the edge would be gone.

She’s not soft.

She’s just as menacing as ever. Her speech to the lawyer, about how she’s a grieving widow, was a thing of beauty. She doesn’t regret lying, she doesn’t regret gold digging, she doesn’t regret being a bitch. And that’s great.

Her paying off Trey to take the fall was reminiscent of paying off DJ to stop seeing Marissa. But it worked so much better here because this wasn’t just asking two people not to see each other. This was asking someone to send his brother to jail and she just didn’t care. Here’s where we really see the difference between parenting. Remember how we talked about the fact that Sandy would do anything for his family? How he only questioned Ryan, but never antagonized him? And how he would stand behind Ryan no matter what? Julie wasn’t behind Marissa. She was behind herself. She knew that Marissa’s problems would cast a bad light on her and that the Cooper-Nichols would suddenly carry a horrible reputation. Julie can’t have that.

But self-fulfilling or not, she’s a wonderful character and as she struggles to make it on her own this year, I think we’re going to be in for a lot of great things.

Seth and Summer…

There’s just not much to say and I’m not going to pretend like there is. They seemed happy. They looked fairly cute. They supported their friends. That’s about it.

I need to note, though, that Adam Brody absolutely just phoned-in this performance. He had no enthusiasm, his delivery was incredibly flat, and he was absolutely expendable. I blame the script for most of it. There was no depth to the character in this episode. Okay, this show isn’t known for having extremely strong character development, I’ll give you that, but at least these characters always feel like they belong in the episode and they have a purpose. This was about jokes. Everything Seth said, with the exception of maybe two lines, was a joke and while they were worthy of a chuckle, they weren’t great. They were jokes for the sake of jokes. I suppose I’ll take jokes for the sake of jokes over whatever the hell Seth was last year, but we’re still waiting on Seth to return to normal. Josh, you hear me?

Summer taking charge was nice and it appears she’ll have a bigger role this season and I’m looking forward to it. And Rachel Bilson as a candy striper? Yes! Oh, and props to Ben for a fun (though not great), mockery of Summer. He tried and it was pretty damn funny.

Ryan and Marissa…

I bet you were wondering why I have that quote at the top, weren’t you? If you’ve never read the book, let me explain a bit…

Huck is on the run with an escaped slave named Jim. This being the pre-Civil War south, society has instilled in Huck the idea that Jim doesn’t deserve freedom, that he’s somehow less than human. There’s a scene where Huck decides to turn Jim in and he sits and he prays about it. He knows that a good Christian would never help a slave escape. But the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that he can’t turn Jim in and he decides to sacrifice his afterlife so that Jim can be free. It’s a beautiful moment in literature and one of the most important.

So how does that relate to this story?

I’ve never been a fan of this relationship. Search through my old reviews at Editorial Newport if you don’t believe me. It’s true. I’ve always felt it was horribly forced. But even worse than that, I’ve always felt that Ryan’s sacrificed too much. He always rushes to her defense, he protects her, he tries to save her, and she continually gets herself into situations where she has to be saved. She brings far more on herself than she needs to so that she can play the damsel in distress. I think the worst instance came last season when she got Lindsay drunk, Ryan got mad, and was then forced to apologize. Just terrible. Marissa deserved to be yelled at, but somehow, she became the victim.

That’s probably why I liked Ryan and Theresa so much. People say she was a terrible person, but why? Ryan’s old enough to make his own choices. She never forced Ryan to leave Newport; she asked. Ryan was the one who was determined to leave. And then she made a huge sacrifice so that Ryan would be happy. Marissa had never done anything like that.

Until this episode.

Yes, she was going to be okay. She likely wasn’t going to jail. But there was still a chance. As long as she let Ryan go to jail, something he would have done for her, she had her freedom. Going to see Trey was scary enough for her. It’s been shown he’s unstable and while there’s not much he would have done in a hospital bed, he wasn’t safe to be around. But Marissa took the chance. She put herself in front of Ryan for once. He didn’t have to ask. She did it because she cared.

And that led us to the moment on the lighthouse. There wasn’t that moment that we would have predicted where they break up. They shared the most tender moment the two of them have ever had. It was the first time their relationship ever felt real. It was quiet, soft, and excellent.

And speaking of quiet, soft, and excellent moments, the show has never “gotten” a moment like they did at the bus station. There’s just never been a single scene that was quite as powerful and as real as that one was. There were no words, just a few looks. And in that moment, Ben and Logan said a lot. They completely disregarded themselves and became these characters, they became brothers. And, of course, that led to the moment that is forever etched as the best: the Ryan and Sandy hug. It was thinly veiled symbolism as Ryan says goodbye to another member of his former family and once again embraces his new one.

Random Thoughts…

Where are we going with this Charlotte story? Is it going to be Oliver or Alex? Let’s hope it’s a little more Oliver, but without the obvious psychotic overtones that the rest of the characters remain oblivious too. I’m not sure I can take another lesbian story.

Speaking of Charlotte, has there ever been a better MILF combo than Jeri Ryan and Kelly Rowan?

Anyone else dig the darker colors? I felt it made things feel far more ominous. Really excellent.

Who knew that Ryan had a sense of humor and actually did voices?

A lot of people complained that the episode wrapped things up too quickly and that’s probably true, but FOX needed to premiere the very good Reunion and couldn’t allot two hours, I guess. It definitely didn’t need a second week, so I’m happy.

Logan Marshall-Green was possibly the best guest star the show ever had. He definitely brought the show back around to greatness and did so with ease. He identified with the Trey character in a way that we couldn’t have expected and I hope to see him return sometime. I think the most important thing was Trey’s vulnerability. He made a lot of mistakes, sure, but it was because he didn’t know any better. It was a horribly tragic story in that sense. He was scared he couldn’t change and that made it even more impossible to do so.

Wrap Up…

And thus we come to our first conclusion of the season. Definitely a strong way to start the season, far better than last year’s “The Distance.” Wasn’t perfect, but it had to do a lot in a short time and knowing that, we couldn’t ask for much more.

I’ve got a big weekend next week, but I’ll still try to get the review out Friday or Saturday.

Make sure to head over to theocweekly.blogspot.com and drop comments to me or email me with your questions, comments, or death threats at dukedevils9192@gmail.com. I’ll look forward to it.

Just like I look forward to the next 23 episodes.

Welcome back to the O.C.!