Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-vahkkah

Well, I might have promised last week that I wouldn’t be late, and if that’s the case, I apologize. But I did get to watch the episode Thursday night thanks to a little something called the Chrismukkah Miracle.

See, I’m from South Carolina, and we were one of the unfortunate states hit by a rough ice storm last week. Tons of people without power, but luckily, from what I can gather, only a few deaths. Anyway, my house was without power starting Thursday morning. That had me worried, though I figured that things would be up and running by that night. By mid-afternoon, I was worried. Not so much about my religion final the next morning, though I probably should been, but about the fact that I might miss the episode. So I started to panic. My grandmother was without cable, too, so no luck there. I could have gone on campus and watched it, but things were messed up there, too.

Then, I realized someone I’d forgotten. My aunt had power. And cable. Yes, the perfect combination. So my brother, sister, and I packed up and headed across town to my aunt’s house to watch this episode of The O.C.. Granted, it wasn’t the same as watching it at home – would you believe that one reason I’m living at home in college is so that I can watch television the way that I’m accustomed to – but it was still fully working. No meteorology interruptions, no fuzzy reception, nothing. It was perfect.

That, my friends, is a Chrismukkah miracle.

Now that my power is up and running (and has been for a few days, actually, but I just haven’t felt like sitting down and writing), let’s discuss the episode.

Okay, so it wasn’t perfect. Johnny and Marissa are still brutal to watch, there wasn’t enough mention of Chrismukkah, and FOX ruined the ending as usual.

But you know what? I freaking loved it. I absolutely adored it in almost every conceivable way. I felt downright giddy after watching it. It was just a terrific holiday episode and even though it wasn’t the best episode of the season, it’s clearly my favorite.

FOX showed too much of the ending, but they spun the commercial well enough that I didn’t predict that Johnny was going to attempt to rob a store. We got real Summer angst as Josh developed her character. We saw a cool flashback ala many famous Friends episodes. We saw Julie’s thong. It’s just, I don’t know, I just absolutely loved it.

It’s difficult to break down the storylines this week in terms of characters because there was a lot of overlap, a few things ignored for a week, a few things brought up, so let’s see what we can make of it.

The love triangle which dare not speak its name…

I’m going to go ahead and try to knock this out early. I’ll try to do it quickly.

Look, this is a stupid storyline. The entire notion of Johnny coming into the storyline was ridiculous. The writers could have thought of a thousand different ways to create tension between Ryan and Marissa without actually bringing in this moronic character. The spin of having Johnny not want to be in love with Marissa was kind of nice, but overall, it was nonsensical since it all came out in the most clichéd of clichés: a drug-induced declaration.

And honestly, how many times can Ryan see something that he mistakes for something else? Haven’t they already done that storyline this season? Ryan walks up, sees Johnny acting wooden to the wooden skeleton, storms off, and then accepts an apology after moping for a little bit. C’mon, it’s stupid. The fact that Marissa continues to put herself in these situations – no one is stupid enough not to realize that they are doing it – shows that she doesn’t value this relationship at all. The fact that the writers continue to put this show at the forefront shows that they really value this relationship. So putting all their energy into characters that are written to not get along in some odd attempt to make fans want them together, it just doesn’t add up. This isn’t the will they/won’t they that made Ross and Rachel, Dawson/Pacey and Joey, or even Nathan and Haley such endearing couples. This is just like, “What the hell? How stupid are they?”

But again, I don’t blame Ryan for anything. Despite the fact that no rational human would act like him and accept Marissa’s consistent idiocy, she somehow has managed to convince him that he can’t do any better. He’s pretty insecure as it is, and I honestly see Marissa playing on that. I just don’t any kind of connection that would bring Ryan back so often.

It was nice to see that they didn’t play up the suicide angle with Johnny – don’t worry, I’m still president of the Johnny Should Kill Himself club (a club with at least four members), but it seemed so obvious by the previews – but man, what exactly did he expect to accomplish by robbing a store? I know that gas stations make good money, but did he really think there’d be enough in the register to pay for a surgery? What kind of surgery would that pay for? A kitchen knife and a shot of whiskey to numb the pain?

The biggest flaw about this storyline was the way it ended so quickly. Johnny’s about to rob the store and then we have this exchange:

Ryan: Don’t do it.
Johnny: I have to!
Ryan: Um, don’t.
Johnny: Oh, okay.

At least, though, Ryan has a promising career as a counselor if the architecture doesn’t work out. He’s talked Oliver out of suicide and Johnny out of robbery. What’s next? Seth out of comics? Perish the thought!

Summer…

Ah, Rachel Bilson, the goddess of this show. She’s the queen of Newport and tonight was her crowning ceremony. I absolutely adored her.

This was such a beautiful episode for her because the writers finally fleshed her out. As I’ve stated before, she’s always seemed one of the most complex characters on the show, but she’s always been stiffed in terms of character development. It’s almost as if we could feel that the writers wanted to do more but didn’t know how to. So I’m glad to see her get her own story, and I’m glad that we got to find out about her mother.

We’ve always heard about the “step-monster” so it was nice to hear a little bit more. It’s sad to know that she’s leaving, even sadder to know that Summer’s mom just up-and-left. The scene where she was speaking with her dad was extremely poignant, as they have an excellent little chemistry going. The way that he seemed to put his work in front of Summer showed that he used it as a mask for reality. He seems incredibly vulnerable. Maybe it’s the milkshakes he’s been drinking since his first appearance in the first season (c’mon, like I wasn’t going to make a cheap weight joke).

Anyway, I thought it was very cool to know that Summer had originally planned to go to Seth’s bar mitzvah, even if she would have rather been at Luke’s party. I had this image of this adorable pre-teen Summer reluctantly walking to up young Seth, begrudgingly saying hey, and then Seth passing out. You have to wonder, what if she had come? She wasn’t the only kid to RSVP, but no one else showed up, but apparently she would have. It’s these small moments that really deepen the connection between Seth and Summer, make me love them more, and make me hate Ryan and Marissa more for their shallow connection.

So Summer didn’t save Chrismukkah this year, big deal. The extreme vulnerability, the character depth, and the connection between her and her father are more than enough reasons for me to give her a huge thumbs up.

Julie…

If they aren’t going to give Julie something meaningful to do, then this was almost as good. Watching her slowly deteriorate into pure white trash is beautiful. The fact that she’s immersed herself in this lifestyle is pretty funny. I highly doubt that just because you live in a trailer you have to start dipping and watching NASCAR, but I suppose it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Now, as for the possible relationship between her and Neil Roberts, I’m all for it. I don’t see it happening as rumblings have a long-term love interest for Julie coming on to the show, but everything is subject to change. There is a definite chemistry between the actors, and there is a definite connection between the two. They’re both incredibly lonely, both trying to rebuild their lives. There is a wonderful opportunity to make these two a serious item. Can the writers do it? I don’t know, but I’d sure love to see it happen. If they actually got married, that’s too much because I can’t handle any more connections between characters. Marissa and Summer as sisters is only cool in a metaphorical sense.

Alas, at least we had the shot of the thong. That’s great enough for me.

Bar Mitzvahs and all that fun stuff…

It’s a good thing that Josh anticipated the backlash that this storyline would get by writing in Sandy’s reaction to the idea of a Bar Mitz-vahkkah. That took care of the political side of it, and that’s probably a good idea because, in a lot of ways, it was a pretty offensive storyline. I know the idea of doing it for charity made it a little better, but still, this is a sacred tradition from what I can gather. I always hated that I wasn’t Jewish because I wanted to have one. It seemed like such a cool thing. But I guess saying that doesn’t make me any better.

I digress, though. This storyline had loads of potential but only achieved some of it. The worst part of the story was that it wasn’t Ryan-centered as it should have been. It was focused on Johnny. This should have been about Ryan becoming a part of the family –when I heard this story was coming up, I imagined some grand declaration between the family and Ryan – but it was about Johnny’s surgery. And that’s stupid. The fans prefer to see storylines focused on the main characters. If the stories are focused on recurring characters, Josh could at least put the focus on good characters. That’s why people loved Luke’s story about his dad. Sure Luke wasn’t one of the fab four, but he was someone that we had an interest in. I know very few people who care about Johnny. Maybe if the episodes weren’t filmed so far ahead of time, the writers could respond better. I’m still in awe that the writers felt he was a good idea. I can’t stop harping on that. Whatever, though.

It was terrific to see young Seth. Talk about a touching moment. How incredibly sad it was. Both Peter Gallagher and Kelly Rowan played the scene so well, and the child had such a terrific vulnerability. He seemed so sad. Most importantly, he seemed like a real kid. Well, a real kid Seth, at least. Still young but smart enough to be aware at what was going on. Kudos to the little kid and to the writers for being able to develop such a poignant scene. And how wonderful was it to see Adam Brody’s reactions? His gasps and the terrified look on his face made me feel as if he were actually watching himself. Home movies are embarrassing enough without being reminded what a loser you were. And, maybe, in Seth’s case, what a loser you still kind of are (yeah, he’s got a hot girlfriend, so he’s better than most people, but I don’t think anyone’s going to mistake him for Harbor’s elite).

The ending scene could have been too much, but the fact that Seth commented on how lame the group dancing was made it a perfect moment. It was self-referential, much like many of the great moments in the show are. It made the moment incredibly fun. Okay, Johnny shouldn’t have been included in the dance (or the episode for that matter), but I can forgive it because it was a pretty sweet moment. Julie telling Ryan she came in peace and Neil Roberts and Seth having a moment were the highlights for me. And the song, I just have to say that I love the song. Is it really a bar mitzvah song? I suppose it makes sense. I also think there was something cool in the fact that Seth wanted to dance in the circle and then realized it was lame. It was as if he finally realized that he’d done okay for himself. He’d struggled socially, but it’s not like he missed out on anything. Maybe mainstream isn’t always the way to go.

Random Thoughts…

So it’s time for Kaitlin to make her return? And she’s going to flirt with Johnny? Raise your hand if that makes you want to come back and watch the episode. Okay, I’m all for Kaitlin’s return – not only did her appearance give me a “oh, sweet statutory!” moment, but it also gave us the bad girl that the show has needed – but not if it’s just going to give us more Johnny. But you can read more about that in my next editorial, due next week only at www.editorialnewport.com.

So how about the “what the hell” moment when Caleb’s voice came on screen, and it clearly wasn’t Caleb? That just floored me. Nice try, though. Definitely got my attention. “Shalom!” I’ve been walking around saying it in that faux-Caleb voice all week. Wasn’t the Nana’s voice the real Nan? If not, they did a much better job with her than with Caleb. I guess there’s always the chance it actually was Alan Dale, but it sure didn’t sound like him.

Seriously, how much money did Johnny think he’d get from a cash register? I guess with gas prices where they are – does oil rise on television, too? – there could be a nice amount in there waiting to be taken.

Another episode without Taylor? How is it that the writers miss the mark so badly? Johnny gets entire episodes devoted to him and his boo-boo, but Taylor, the one that almost everyone loves, is written off for two episodes. She’s going to have a bigger part coming up, I know, but still, there’s no way that she should have been treated so badly. I have a feeling that some how they’ll bastardize her. We’ll discuss that more in the next editorial at www.editorialnewport.com.

Has anyone celebrated that this year’s Chrismukkah celebrates the two year anniversary of meeting Oliver? It really doesn’t seem that long since we had to sit through Marissa’s first episode of acting completely retarded. Yeah, actually, she was pretty decent until then.

In the middle of writing this review, it was announced that the show is moving to 9:00 on Thursdays. I’ll discuss that move later, but know that it has both positive and negative consequences.

So now FOX has pulled Reunion for good, probably to keep another station from picking it up. It’s sad when such an amazing show goes away without an ending. I swear, FOX does some awesome things sometimes, but I don’t exactly think this is one of them. The show was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The writers polished their scripts, and the story got more complicated and exciting every week. Shocking twists constantly.

So yeah, that’s going to do it for me this week. This review ran longer than normal, so I guess it’s okay that I kept you waiting. It was actually nice that I had several people e-mail me asking where it was. God knows that I love attention.

And since I’ve plugged it enough, next week is a mid-season (well, kind of mid-season) review that we’ll be up exclusively at www.editorialnewport.com. I love all the sites that I post at, my own blog excluded, but Editorial Newport has really established itself as one of the strongest, most innovative sites out there, so I want anyone and everyone to visit, even if it’s just to read what I write. Hopefully you’ll run across some other things that you like. That said, people who read at OC Trailers and The O.C. Community should continue to support both of those excellent sites as well.

I hope everyone has a very merry Chrismukkah. Let me know if you have any great holiday experiences. And let me know what you thought of both the episode and the review.

Have a great one.

- Drew
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Disconnect

Mediocrity here we come, right back where we started from (well, assuming “where we started from” was season two)…mediocrity…here we come!

Okay, so that rhythm doesn’t actually work, but the lyrics are apropos. Actually, those might be the finest lyrics in the history of music because of how true to life they are.

So ignoring the fact that I love my lyrics, let’s admit to ourselves that this week’s show was extremely mediocre, the storylines that seemed fresh are meandering, and that Chrismukkah better deliver the goods or else this show is doomed to spiral even further down in the ratings.

Yes, after two strong weeks for our beloved show, we’re back to the depths of melodramatic hell. It’s too bad, actually, because things were going great. The term I stole from TV Guide about last week’s episode was “credible angst,” and I found that to be such a refreshing change from what we generally have. It stretched the writers, the characters, and captured the viewers. It worked very well.

This week didn’t have “credible angst” and, as an episode, really couldn’t even be considered “credible.” Instead, it was a boring, uninspired episode with uninspired comedy, uninspired performances, and uninspired direction.

Okay, so not everything was that bad – I actually liked it on first viewing – but still, it wasn’t what The O.C. needs as the ratings begin to decline. As usual, the episode suffered mainly thanks to the misadventures of one of the whacky teenagers, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’d imagine that this review will actually be somewhat shorter this time, not because I’m pressed for time but because I’m pressed for things to say. So, we’ll see how that goes.

Sandy…

You know, I forgave the writers for taking Sandy away from law, and I forgave them rather quickly because the idea that Sandy would run the Newport Group was kind of cool. At least we could see him attempt to handle the monotony of every day life while trying to pry the gripping hands of the Newport Group off his neck. There was a lot they could have immediately done.

Instead, we get Matt. Okay, I can take that. It’s nice to give Sandy a sidekick. But instead of giving us a, you know, GOOD storyline, they give us this ridiculous storyline about going to the strip club. That’s actually not a bad idea in theory because everyone with a pulse or a brain (I suppose you have to have one to have the other, well, a working one to have a working other) knew that Matt had his demons. But the execution was excruciatingly bad.

This guy takes Ryan out to a strip club the night before a big presentation, completely blows it in the most unconvincing acting ever on the show, and Sandy forgives him because some stripper walks into the office and hands out the sob story about how he’s heartbroken and how they have heart-to-hearts in between lap dances. It’s touching, I know. In fact, didn’t The Cosby Show do this very same episode? I don’t know. Regardless, though, it was ridiculous. Absolutely no tension, no shocks, no twists, nothing.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some redemption lurking because there could be. The writers could dig up a huge skeleton in the guy’s closet. I’m sure that’ll happen because no one on this show becomes a regular.

Sandy seems to want something to do. Gallagher seems excited as always, but he just can’t find any good material. His character, even in the best episodes, has, at best, been mediocre thanks to writing that just doesn’t have any type of point. I find that pretty disheartening because I’d imagine that there are probably more people out there who like Sandy than there are who like Marissa. And that’s not just my bias speaking. This show could reach an entirely new demographic if they would start to redevelop the adult characters.

Kirsten and Julie…

That leads me to these two, another low point of the episode. Talk about wasted potential.

Julie, as a rule, is one of the most intriguing characters on the show. Well, that was the rule in the past. It doesn’t happen like that anymore. They are putting all this potential on her, but no one’s actually pulling the trigger on any type of real storyline. There are so many emotional problems that the writers could attempt to deal with now, but they decided to forge ahead with this business venture. I guess it’s an attempt to salvage what was left after Charlotte departed, but it’s not a successful attempt. Talk about characters and actors just going through the motions.

But there was some redemption to be found in the middle of the snoring, and redemption, thy name is Julie. I know I just spent a paragraph saying she’s boring, but she still had two shining moments. The first was her look when the man revealed that he was going to pay big money for her to date him. She seemed so proud of herself. That’s the trashy Julie coming out that I like. The woman more concerned with how much money she’s worth than her actual self-worth.

The second big moment was when she suggested that they should a hooker service. It was exactly the right line, and it was delivered with the right tone and the right facial expression. It was a show-stealing line. And really, why wouldn’t they run with the idea that Julie actually begins to run an escort service? Not a dating service but an escort service. Hell, why not go with the idea that Julie whores herself out? I’m not asking she become a full-fledged pimp, but the storyline is so preposterous that it would add some much need camp and trash to the show. It’s not an actively good idea but neither is anything else they’re really coming up with. I mean, I’m not going to crap on this storyline yet – I reserve immediate crapping for anytime Marissa brings in a new guy – but I am going to keep myself weary of what’s to come. Leah, from the wonderful O.C. Community boards, said that from a little bit she’s read of spoilers, she likes where the story’s going, so I’ll take her word for it. I’m not going to read the spoilers myself, but it’s nice to know that there’s something good lurking. Maybe, at least.

Ryan and Marissa…

Where to begin with these two?

First, let me say that I think Ryan is the most pitiful character on the show. That’s not a knock on Ben or anything because I actually really like Ryan. But he’s been saddled with Marissa and her ridiculous storylines so really, not much good can come from it. He’s been asked to play this sort of wandering, blithering fool and while he handles that role gracefully, it’s not something he should be playing.

Anyway, let’s just say that we should never speak of the strip club adventure again. The idea that Ryan had an internship was cool, but it went to hell as soon as he was paired up with Matt. Stupid. Let’s move on.

How damn stupid can Marissa possibly be? This is the exact same predicament she was in with Oliver, and she’s not even bright enough to realize it. Here’s an apparently misunderstood, depressed guy, and Marissa throws herself on him and then acts surprise when he reveals feelings.

Did she really need to spend every waking moment with Johnny? The guy is on crutches, he’s not a quadriplegic. I’m pretty sure that he can get around. If they wanted us to feel that Johnny was so helpless they should have done something better than have him hurt his knee. There’s a high school football player I read about in the paper a week or so ago. He had two-three torn ligaments in his knee, said he could barely stand because it was like standing on Jell-O, and the kid still played offensive line. I see people day in and day out who get around fine on crutches. Marissa reacting like Johnny had just had a heart attack when he fell over in the kitchen was just horrible. This storyline is more painful than any knee injury ever.

And how incredibly contrived was the falling asleep thing? Talk about poor writing. People get paid big money to come up with stuff like this. For six figures, I could come up with something better than the two morons falling asleep together.

Next week’s preview shows Johnny with a gun. It also shows Johnny dancing with the gang. Hopefully the latter comes before the former. Johnny killing himself would probably be the greatest single moment in the history of the show. No way the writers deliver such an awesome story, but I can’t think of a better way to spend Chrismukkah than celebrating the loss of Cliché Plot Device 45.
I have to say, though, that the end, with Ryan and Marissa talking on the phone, was kind of sweet. It’s nice to hear them converse like an actual couple. It’s nice that Marissa didn’t get pissed at Ryan for going to the strip club. I could easily see her going insane, much to my chagrin. It’s too bad these sweet moments have to be surrounded by such ridiculous contrivances. I just wish the writers understood how bad most of this stuff is.

Seth and Summer…

Here’s your winner of the night and even this wasn’t much of a winner.

Seth and Summer always have an interesting dynamic, regardless of the storyline, so it’s always nice to see them playing off of each other.

I was worried about the way Seth reacted to the news of Summer’s SAT score (I do hate, though, the idea that they conveniently took the SAT off screen, though I should give props to the writing staff for doing their research about the new SAT scoring system) because it seemed so dickish. I wasn’t going to be able to stand a night of Seth completely demeaning Summer because it’s just not fair. I know she’s not the brightest person, but people shouldn’t completely write her off. Zack Morris got a 1502 on his SAT. I’d say that anything can happen.

It was nice that this story led to a look at Seth, though. The fact that Summer’s score actually revealed his insecurities was a nice touch. It was kind of heartbreaking when Seth said that he was only better at one thing, and he didn’t even that anymore. It’s funny how we get these glimpses of Summer that Seth doesn’t – all of the conversations she’s had over the last few years about how Seth will eventually grow tired of her for not being good enough have been so honest – and how those glimpses could drastically change the relationship. It’s actually a nice look at both characters and their insecurities. The fact that both are so in love that they don’t feel that they deserve the other is oddly sweet. That’s what when the relationships feel most real.

If only the writers could remember that when they’re writing the abomination known as Ryan and Marissa.

As for the Brown stuff, I’m still not buying it. Neither of them will get in. Summer doesn’t have a shot in hell. A good SAT score won’t compensate for bad grades. I hate this idea on television that an SAT score is the ticket to a good school. Hell, I hate the emphasis on standardized testing in general, but this is neither the time nor the place. As for Seth getting in, okay, he might, but the emphasis has been so much on Brown that it just seems unlikely that he’ll get in. Maybe the twist is that it’ll be so obvious he doesn’t get in that he actually does get in. Clever, huh?

It would be nice if they’d apply to back-up schools. Remember that Kirsten said that graduating from Harbor is a ticket into any UC school. Why not just apply to one or two just to make sure they have somewhere to go when this doesn’t pan out? I’m not asking for them to apply to a bunch of schools like most hyperactive high school seniors, but I’m asking for a little bit of realism injected into the story. I’m still glad they’re addressing the issue of college, but I’m not glad that they aren’t attempting to do it realistically. At least neither of them have to worry about financial aid.

Random Thoughts…

Where in the hell was Taylor in this episode? Not only is she the best new character the show has introduced since Anna, she’s the most complex character on the show at the moment. There are so many opportunities for this character, and to have her dropped from an episode is inexcusable, especially since she played such a pivotal role in the previous episodes. I guess we have to make more room for Johnny.

Seth and Summer sure finished their college applications fast, huh? A quick check of the Brown website reveals that there are four forms that you have to fill out. I’d imagine that gathering up all the needed information, writing the required essays, and proofing all the information wouldn’t happen in a night. And do people actually really mail their applications out themselves? My guidance counselor did that for me so that he could attach all the important records.

Johnny sucks. Honestly, I had decent hopes of this public school thing working out, but it’s been no different than when they sent Marissa to rehab. I’d love to see him kill himself. If not now, maybe later. There’s a good twist. Have him not do it next week, but then actually do it the next time. I like that idea. I should get paid the six figures.

This was a horribly flat script. The characters didn’t come alive, the dialogue was uninspired, and the structure was piss-poor. Are they even rewriting scripts anymore? Something tells me that we’re getting first drafts of scripts put on the screen. Or that we did with this one at least. Josh is writing next week’s episode and even if the storyline sucks, he’s still got a way with dialogue that everyone else really lacks.

Summer played the tuba? That’s not even a cute idea to think about. I’ve got nothing against the tuba – I played the baritone in middle school – but they were going for some kind of cute nostalgic trip with this, and it really didn’t work. I doubt anyone sat at home going, “Aw, sweet” when she said that. But maybe I’m wrong.

Seth arguing for his rightful role as the mascot was funny, but the ensuing banter between Seth and Summer wasn’t.

The constant references to Chrismukkah showed us just how important this episode was. It wasn’t. They’re excited about next week. I guess I am, too.

So yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. This ended up running about the length of a normal review, maybe a little less, so I guess I did have more to say than I thought.

Regardless, though, this was still a terribly frustrating episode. I just feel like potential is everywhere, but the writers don’t want to tap into it. Instead of delving into all the changes that come with senior year, they’re just dealing with the same ole, same ole. The drama of senior year writes itself at parts. I suppose that we’ll get more into that as the season progresses, but I’m begging for just anything different.

Chrismukkah hasn’t let us down yet with two awesome, awesome, awesome episodes, so here’s to hoping that next week delivers.

I’ll see you then.

-Drew

Something to say? Want to join the Johnny Should Kill Himself club?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Game Plan

I swear, one day it’s Thursday, the next day it’s Sunday. I’m not sure what happens to the days in between, but they always seem to disappear, and then I’m left with trying to write this review before Monday (which probably won’t happen, so if you’re reading this Wednesday, you’re not too late) because I like to be prompt.

I guess next week I’ll need a better game plan. (Zing! Two weeks in a row with these oh so clever puns. What’s that? Too much? Okay, I hear you. I’ll stop. Maybe.)

This episode is being touted pretty heavily as one of the best of the season; some are going as far as to say it’s one of the best of the entire series. I don’t think I’d ever mistake this for one of the top ten episodes of all time, but this was a strong episode powered by what tvguide.com called appropriately called “credible angst.”

If you haven’t made it to senior year yet, then you might not be able to appreciate this episode as well as others. That’s a broad generalization, sure, but I would imagine that going through the experience that these characters are helps the episode hit home harder – and yes, I will be telling you different stories about the college application process my friends and I faced in high school. I was afraid that the show wouldn’t handle the college thing well and that they’d just toss it out to us in the final few weeks of the season as an afterthought. But they’re attacking it early, so kudos to them for realizing just how life-altering the final year of high school is.

That’s not to say that there weren’t flaws with this episode because there were, and they were glaring. But they couldn’t overshadow a strong, hilarious script and inspired performances by actors who, week after week, seem to be settling into this season more and more. And trust me, when the actors are happy, even the worst of the worst can seem better.

I’m going to break things up a little bit differently this week, so for those that fear change, please have your medicine ready.

Sandy…

A nice little break from the Sandy runs the Newport Group storyline marked this episode. I like that storyline, but this was a very interesting one for the fact that we got to see Sandy act as a father. But it wasn’t the obnoxious father that tried to ground the guys last year; it was the hopeful father that comes out whenever it’s time for these life-altering events.

I was a little disappointed at first because I felt like they were going to run the angle with Sandy where he tried to force Seth into applying to Berkeley. Then, they’d have the two of them get angry with each other, they’d end up fighting, Seth wouldn’t get in to either school, and then there’d be reconciliation just in time to go to Orange County University. Thankfully, they allowed Sandy to remain levelheaded. His reasons for wanting Seth to go to Berkeley weren’t selfish. They were incredibly selfless. He just wants Seth to have the opportunity to grow and flourish. That’s a great role for Sandy to play, and if the writers follow through with this idea that college is a time for growth, watching Seth flourish in a collegiate environment could make for very interesting television.

And I have to say that Sandy’s Berkeley friend wins the award for best one-off character. I don’t know if he’ll actually be a one-off character, especially not with the idea that Ryan and Marissa might apply to the school, but let’s assume that he is for sake of this review. The racist pilot line was enough to steal the show (shockingly it wasn’t even the best quote of the episode). Sure, the guy didn’t have much depth, but that was such a funny line that he deserves some credit.

Next week it looks like that the guy Sandy works with might actually be a bad guy. Who would have guessed that?

Julie and Kirsten…

So Charlotte’s name didn’t just quietly disappear from the show—good. That would have been a horrible mistake since she played such a crucial role, if not necessarily a good one. The more I distance myself from that story, the more I dislike it. It just seems horribly contrived, even more so than your usual teen drama plot. A woman sneaks into rehab to find a rich woman to exploit. I guess it happens, but it just feels weird. I would have rather they gone with the Single White Female stalker thing and had it play out over the course of at least half a season so that it would legitimately lead Kirsten back to the bottle.

Speaking of the bottle, something a friend of mine brought up was the fact that he was glad that Kirsten didn’t go to drinking after finding out about Julie. I am too. That would have been such a copout and really stripped all credibility from this storyline. I just don’t think you can run such an emotionally driven storyline and throw it away so quickly. So I’m glad they didn’t.

I really hurt for Kirsten in this episode. She seemed so hurt when she realized that Julie had been in on the scam. I was also really pleased that Julie didn’t attempt to deny it. That would have been an obnoxious obstacle to Kirsten finding out the truth.

It was also nice for Kirsten to realize just how bad off Julie was. I don’t know how much mileage you could get out of Kirsten and Julie not talking since some episodes they don’t really talk anyway. It’s a fun relationship, but it’s never really been that deep. But this episode might have changed that. The fact that they realized just how much they need each other is extremely touching. I’m not completely buying that Julie’s going to be an excellent friend to Kirsten, and I’m not buying that Kirsten’s naïve to believe that she will be, but whatever the case, I’ll enjoy this for a while.

As for Julie-specific, I hurt for her as well because with each passing week, she loses more and more. And she’s stuck with Gus, the second best character on the show. Okay, so he’s even more one-dimensional than Sandy’s friend (did he even have a name? I know he did, but I’m not going to turn on TiVo to find it out at the moment), but still, it led to some pretty memorable moments. I’d actually like to see Julie living in this environment for a little while before she tries to branch out. It’s a nice change of scenery on the show. Now, if they decide to send her to Chino then maybe they should take a step back. For now, let’s get some mileage out of trying to deal with these problems.

And seriously, give Julie Cooper a job flipping burgers. Would there be anything hotter than Julie in one of those atrocious Burger King uniforms? Actually, no.

Seth and Summer…

So here’s where I’ll share my first personal experience. The friend I mentioned earlier was from up north, so when he moved to South Carolina, I think he always knew he wanted to get away. It’s not that he actively hated the place – he can correct me if I’m wrong – but I always got the sense that he felt he wasn’t completely at home. Or, if he was, he still needed to explore a little bit more. And that’s awesome. Some people are like that. But his girlfriend wasn’t. She didn’t even attempt to understand his situation or his desire to leave South Carolina to go to college. So they argued constantly about the college situation. He applied to Boston College (got in), and she applied to University of South Carolina (got in). They broke up and even though he’s now at the University of North Carolina, their breakup (much of which, in my opinion, stemmed from these college problems) has made it so that they don’t even talk anymore.

And if there’s one couple that I root for more than I rooted for them, it’s Seth and Summer.

Interestingly, the opinion on these two as a couple hasn’t been unanimously positive like I figured it would be. Some are clamoring for a Seth/Taylor pairing, citing that Summer is just too shrill and bossy to be considered a good girlfriend. I didn’t actually see that in the episodes, probably because I didn’t want to, but I’ve looked back, and I suppose I can see how she’d rub people the wrong way. I see her as being a little immature and cute; others would see her as brash and annoying.

Regardless, college is a real problem that high school relationships face. We watch these people go through hell and do anything and everything they can to get together without the consideration that they may be forced apart. High school is strange like that, you know? All these problems that seem so large in high school become nothing in such a short time. There’s your lesson for the day.

Summer has stayed irritated at Seth for the majority of the season, if not mad, so I had a feeling that Seth was going to just bow down to her and apologize for wanting to move away. As we’ve learned from this show, the woman is always the victim. But enter Taylor.

Not entirely sure about her motives, but she sure as hell seemed sincere, and she looked awesome while she was doing it. I’m loving the green sweater. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that FOX spun the commercials to show Taylor as a bitch when, in fact, she was acting kind. Nice twist from the usually dickheaded FOX (we’ll get to FOX and its dumb decisions later, though I’m sure you know what I’m angry at).

I did wonder why Seth was so adamant about leaving, though. I understand completely the desire to leave, but when, in the history of the world, has a long-distance relationship worked (yes, someone out there made it work, do you people not understand stereotypes?)? And I thought that the one thing that Seth wanted more than to leave Newport was to have Summer. It is nice, though, to see characters chasing dreams, and it’s nice to see the two of them attempt to be happy.

Of course, there’s a big twist coming that probably includes Taylor’s dad working for the Brown board, resulting in Seth not getting in to the school, but let’s not dwell on that. Let’s dwell on the fact that Seth and Summer are, well, adorable, their nose graze was perfect, and their future together seems bright. Let’s not ruin that with a bunch of hypothetical scenarios.

Oh, and “I just had a meeting with the college counselor, she said I have a very good shot at getting in because I’m awesome,” was simply brilliant. The follow-up lines about the gun was just beautiful, too. Seth is back!

Ryan and Marissa…

Glaring mistake, thy name is Ryan and Marissa. I’m serious. I can’t take hearing about how Johnny understands what Ryan doesn’t. So Ryan takes in his brother, the same brother who almost got him arrested, he watches him fall constantly, he finds out Trey raped Marissa, he goes to Trey, he gets in a fight, Trey almost kills him, Marissa shoots Trey, and then Trey leaves without a real goodbye.

Yet somehow Ryan doesn’t understand what Marissa’s going through. I’m not saying that he’d understand perfectly because no one reacts to the same situation the same way, but he would know better than Johnny. Sure, Johnny took a baseball bat to someone’s head, but don’t tell me that he understand a situation that has to do with Ryan better than Ryan does. That doesn’t make sense. At all.

So, what else happened? Johnny’s hit by a car and that secure dream of surfing is shot. Big deal. Um, that’s it. At least next week implies that Johnny doesn’t like his feelings about Marissa. They should run the suicide angle with him. He’s as good a candidate as anyone.

And honestly, this idea that the shooting would ruin Marissa’s chance of getting into college is inane. Was she ever even charged with anything? And really, it’s not like it was cold-blooded. She did it to protect Ryan. Any school that doesn’t see the very obvious shades of gray isn’t worth going to. But there’s not always drama in logic, and there’s rarely logic with Marissa Cooper, so what can you do?

Forgetting Marissa because I hate her, let’s move on to Ryan, a character that I can relate to very well at the moment. I didn’t have Ryan’s childhood or anything, don’t get me wrong, but I still understand his reluctance to go off to college. Why mess with a good thing? Sometimes there just doesn’t seem like there’s anything better out there, and you don’t want to move on until you’re sure you can find something. I’m still living with my parents in my second year of college, and I don’t regret it. When it’s time to leave, I will. Ryan leaving early could cause major problems considering the unresolved anger we saw at the end of the last episode.

I’m not sure what Ryan and Marissa said in the last scene to really appeal to the Berkeley guy, but it is nice to see that they have a future, no matter how much I hate Marissa and want her off of my television. That is until they break up four or five more times this season. It’s a long season ahead.

Random Thoughts…

Did I mention how ungodly hot Taylor was? Because she was.

Great script. I can’t say that enough. Just hilarious.

Isn’t it nice when these teenagers act like teenagers, deal with real teenager problems but still manage to keep enough tension to sustain an hour program?

Sucks for all those people at Brown who actually believed that the show was coming to film at the campus? That would be great. A rumor went around my campus last year that Mischa was coming to school there and that she was knocking out a wall in two dorms and she was going to live in both. Mischa Barton and her unattractive nipples in the dorms. How fun.

Okay, forget it, I have no more random thoughts other than to tell you people that I hate you. I mean come on, I sit here and pimp Reunion like she’s a surgically enhanced prostitute, reminding you that it has some of the best twists and turns I’ve ever seen on television and you people still go watch CSI instead. True, only Nielsen homes count, but c’mon, someone who reads this thing has to be a member of a Nielsen family! So now the show is done after thirteen episodes meaning that we’ll never know the solution to the mystery. This is just terrible. And Joey’s as good as gone, too!

So yeah, that’s all I’ve got.

It was a strong episode this week, not the best of the season, certainly not the best of the series, but a strong way to follow up what I feel was the best episode of the season. Hopefully things can continue this way for the rest of the season. There’s a lot coming up for the writers to deal with. Can they do it well?

We’ll see.

See you next week.

-Drew

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