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 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.


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.


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