Monday, January 30, 2006

The Pot Stirrer

“The Pot Stirrer”

Leave it to this show.

After my spiel in the last review about how I wasn’t interested in the show anymore, how the characters were flat and very much uninteresting as people, and how I had no real interest in writing about the show at the moment, Josh and co. somehow manage to completely reinvigorate the show with “The Pot Stirrer.”

Yes, I thought this was a great episode. It started off as just good, but as the days have passed, I have realized that it was more than that. This was truly a wonderful episode. Maybe it doesn’t quite compare when next to some of season one’s best episodes, but it doesn’t matter because I thought this was a great episode. It’s not like this year’s Chrismukkah episode where I enjoyed it because I was in the holiday spirit. This was actually good in every sense of the word. And what did it take? Nothing difficult. It just took what fans of the show have known since the first season: well-balanced storylines that focus on more than one character, storylines that show actual growth. It didn’t take fans long to figure out that’s what we wanted, and it didn’t take us long to voice our opinion about it, but it seemed to confuse the hell out of the writers. I’m not saying that Josh and co. have everything figured out because next week – what looks as if it’ll be the best episode ever – could go right back to the doldrums of teen soap hell, but I’m so extremely happy with this episode that I won’t look that far ahead. I’ll just focus on the now.

This episode was mostly Seth-centered as opposed to self-centered (guess which “self” I mean) the last few weeks, and despite the fact that we haven’t seen much Seth since, well, last season, this entire storyline played out beautifully due to the fact that Seth’s feelings are completely real and relatable. The Seth we’ve always known has been the one who wanted to run away from Newport, who wanted to go to boarding school, who wanted to wear winter clothes, and who wanted to be someone other than who he is. This is completely logical to me because the majority of his life, he was a complete outsider. Why he was one, I don’t know. He’s a good looking guy, he’s funny, he’s got a rich and powerful family, and he’s smart, but I suppose that sometimes, people can be threatening with how much they have going for them. I think that most of the audience sees what I see: his life isn’t that bad. But consider the fact that Seth is 17. He has only had two-three good years in his life. That’s means that a huge chunk of his life was spent being miserable. And while most of us go through our teen angst period where life seems miserable, it generally isn’t as bad as we make it out to be. For Seth, I really think it was. The evidence was definitely in the Chrismukkah video. Even when Seth suddenly had friends and girls fighting over him, it was easy for him to believe that things still sucked because he didn’t face the prospect of change. Now with the ultimate change looming over head, he realizes that what he has pretty good. Before now, he hasn’t been forced to really look at his life. He just assumed that nothing has changed. It’s an easy mistake to make. But things have changed. He’s not necessarily accepted by everyone – something that made his shopping for a girlfriend in the yearbook so cringe inducing – but he’s got a small, devoted group of friends. Even Marissa, in her own way, supports him, kind of. And considering their parents were best friends and apparently, the two of them weren’t close, the fact that they hang out now is very evident of how far Seth has come. I think that having that small group of friends, in many ways, is far superior to having the Luke-type popularity. This small support system is far less likely to crumble.

As for Seth actually smoking pot, I don’t think it could have been handled any more perfectly. Not only was there a distinct lack of “after school” feel to it (although as I type this an abovetheinfluence.com commercial, the one with the guy who smoked pot putting his fist in his mouth, is on and that’s definitely preachy), but Adam Brody didn’t overdo the performance. He absolutely nailed it. He was completely quirky and funny but not annoying. He was exactly what you’d expect from Seth Cohen on drugs. It reminded me a lot of the way he acted when he was drunk in the pilot. He was just completely and wonderfully weird. The most refreshing aspect of the entire plot was the fact that it gave us a lot of Seth and Ryan interaction, something really lacking from the show in recent episodes. Even more refreshing than the fact that they interacted was the fact that they interacted the way that teenage guys do. Ryan didn’t come into the room and lecture Seth on the horrors of drugs (although Ryan cracking an egg in a sizzling pan and telling Seth, “This is your brain on drugs” would have been so funny that I can’t even think about how many sides would have split), but he simply asked, “Are you high?” and said that he was bothered that Seth would do it alone. He didn’t see the pot smoking as a big deal or a cry for help, but he saw the fact that Seth is alone as a cry for help. That’s the wonderful distinction the writers made here. Ben McKenzie also played a terrific straight man to Brody’s high character. The way he delivered his lines, the small looks on his face, and the pure exasperation that he exuded were completely believe. How difficult it must be to live with Seth. And I checked my bookshelf, and sadly, I don’t have the Encyclopedia Brown book that Seth mentioned. Was it a real one?

From a future druggie to a drug dealer, I have to say that I really like Kaitlin Cooper in spite of the misleading promos. There is still time, I suppose, for Kaitlin to turn into a Valerie Malone bitch, but I highly doubt she will in such a short time, and I think that’s for the best. The previews made her look completely one-dimensional, but she’s far from it. In fact, she’s a very complex character. Just like with Seth, you can easily relate to her. She’s been completely scorned by her family. Julie, someone who incorrectly claims to be such a terrific family woman, just forgets her birthday. I suppose that’s better than forgetting to invite Kaitlin to Chrismukkah the last several years, but still, it’s not good. So Kaitlin’s decision to play devil’s advocate, as opposed to the devil, is perfectly in character. She has every right to be angry. She has every right to be upset. She mentioned that it was difficult to be Marissa’s sister. I’d imagine it is too since Marissa gets everything given to her while Kaitlin can’t get any attention. And the fact that she’s back to get a bit of revenge on Marissa allows her to be the voice of reason in a group of characters that has otherwise lacked reason lately. I think it’s pretty obvious that Ryan knows there’s something up between Johnny and Marissa, but it’s even more obvious that he’s not willing to face it. And since no one was willing to bring it up, he could safely place it behind him. Now, he can’t. The previews show that he’s mad at Marissa, and hopefully this will signal the end of their relationship. I know I clamored for the relationships to stay steady, but when this is the storyline we get, I don’t want it. I won’t discuss Johnny any further this week because everyone knows how I feel about him, though I have to say that when he called Kaitlin instead of Marissa and Marissa looked like she was passing a kidney stone in response, I really laughed. It’s about time she realized people don’t all love her.

And while Marissa’s realization that people don’t always love her is funny and welcomed, it’s far less welcomed to see the same thing happen to Julie. Of course, it’s not bad in the storyline because it’s clear that neither she nor Neil would actually be capable of keeping a relationship right now. It doesn’t undermine what came before it, and I don’t believe that it’ll undermine what, if anything, comes later. It’s just a natural progression. It’s clear that Julie has never been able to get her feet under her after her first divorce. She’s always relied on others to help her, and she really hasn’t faced any of the problems that she needs to face. She’s not a complete person, honestly. Terrific, yes, but complete, no. That too is very reasonable. And Kaitlin’s return really puts that in perspective. Julie seemed fascinated with prospect of starting a new life and a new family with Neil, but she hasn’t even fixed the problems in her current family. You can’t move forward on a shaky foundation. It just doesn’t work at all. It’ll collapse. So again, Kaitlin plays the voice of reason, a perfect role for her character. I felt the key was a wonderful symbol in this episode. It stood for opportunity, for hope, and for a new beginning. When Neil told Julie to leave it in the house, she looked absolutely crushed, and I was too. It wasn’t an overt breakup, but it was obvious what he was saying. I believe that their relationship still has unbelievable potential and that the writers see this, so I’m hoping to God that they continue to pursue and continue to pursue it slowly with both characters attempting to figure themselves out before they figure each other out. If this works, then I’ll forgive everyone for Jimmy’s departure and the poor way it was handled twice. The show definitely needs another consistent adult figure, and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be Neil Roberts. He is absolutely terrific in this role.

Speaking of adults, wasn’t it just unbelievably wonderful to see Sandy have a storyline that was all his own? For once, he wasn’t sitting around and solving the kids’ problems, throwing around a few clichés disguised as fatherly advice. There was no ridiculous moral spiel like at Marissa’s hearing. This was Sandy acting as a human. Sandy flirting with moral corruption was the storyline that was screaming at the writers when they decided to put Sandy in charge of the Newport Group. Why it has taken so long for them to pull the trigger is beyond me, but I’m glad they finally did it. I believe that we all had some sort of idealized vision of Sandy coming out the first season. Truthfully, was there a more perfect dad on television or even in reality? I love my dad and all, and many of you love your dads, but Sandy seemed to even eclipse them at times. He knew what to say, he was never overbearing, he was goofy, and most importantly, he was fatherly. It all added up perfectly. His scene with Seth about sex still ranks as one of the most perfect scenes ever on the show, mixing love, awkwardness, and realism. But no one’s perfect. The writers attempted to show us this with the Rebecca storyline last season, but that failed ultimately because it made the mistake of messing with family and doing so irrationally by having Sandy completely disregard his wife’s feelings. It was just too much for fans to handle because we knew Sandy was such a loving and aware husband. And the storyline played for too long. It often made Sandy look like a bumbling idiot instead of a caring ex-boyfriend. That was certainly not the writers’ intention, but it’s what happened because the writers were careless. This storyline, about the business, is somewhat reminiscent in the fact that what we know about Sandy is being tested. He has always done the right thing, or, at least, most of the time. And now, in a way, he’s doing the right thing. He wants to build a hospital to help people. That’s pretty cool, huh? But he’s doing it the wrong way. His ethics are skewed, but his intentions are good. This raises a very interesting question: if the other bidder was going to build a hospital, should Sandy have just let it go? After all, the same thing would have happened, right? Now, it’s not quite that simple since the Newport Group needs the business to make money. But if that’s what Sandy’s intention is, then is he after creating a hospital or is he after money? And if he’s after money, does that mean that greed is getting the better of him? He’s obviously aware of the fact that he’s doing something wrong, and he’s obviously not okay with it, but he doesn’t necessarily have the strength, at the moment, to turn it down. I have no doubt that somehow Sandy’s chivalrous side will prevail because that’s what happens for Sandy, but for now, it’s extremely interesting. And the line that absolutely sold this story, the one that was such a huge slap in the face: “Caleb would be proud.” Ouch, Sanford. Ouch. It’s also nice to see business enter back into the story because it helps us remember that these adults are adults, and there problems extend far beyond Marissa Cooper’s latest trial and tribulation.

Random Thoughts…

If it’s true that Kelly Rowan is filming a movie, she needs to end quickly. I’m sick of seeing her relegated to little more than useless. Since when can she cook, by the way? I thought she was trying, but I didn’t know that she was so good that Julie would use her for that purpose.

Kaitlin in a swimsuit is seriously jailbait.

How cute was Summer’s angry face? She had a small role in the episode but a nice one. I like her spiel about ending up with the wrong life. Not that she couldn’t just transfer to her life, but it’s a nice moral lesson in an episode that was mostly about amoral actions.

People say that Mischa’s acting ability seems to have improved. I say that her, “NO!” in the kitchen was proof enough that it hasn’t.

Next week’s previews look absolutely unbelievable. If Johnny falls, and I do believe that he will since this storyline bombed from the beginning and the writers can’t be stupid enough not to realize it, then the world will be great. Remember that suicide is never good unless you’re a dipshit surfer with no emotional range and the brains to rob a gas station to pay for a surgery. How great will it be if he falls to his death? And how great will it be if Ryan pushes him? Oh man, that’d be fantastic. Not so fantastic was that I told a friend how much I wanted Johnny to kill himself before remembering she had a family member commit suicide not long ago. Watch what you say, people. Think before you speak.

John Stephens, someone who I don’t remember being that great of a writer, churned out a terrific script this week. I heard he was part of something huge on Gilmore Girls once, so at least he has credentials. He hasn’t impressed me until now. This was genuinely wonderful to listen to. And the actors were so much more inspired with a good script.

And so yeah, that’s going to do it. This actually was shorter in the past, but I believe that I said more than I have recently. Far less sarcasm and far more analysis, but really, you can think the writers for that, not me. Just a terrific effort from a team that looked as if they were burned out. Whether or not the show can keep this pace up is debatable, but as it stands, this was the best episode the season. They did everything write.

-Drew
Question, comments, but no spoilers?
dukedevils9192@gmail.com

1 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Are all my wishes for this show coming true??? Is Conan the OC Destroyer actually going to fall to his untimely but rightful death? Poor Ryan should see the error of his ways - loving Marissa Cooper gets you
1. Sent to Seattle to live with you gay dad because you slept with her mom - thus causing you to drink and drive
2. To attempt suicide with a gun and sent to the insane asylum
3. Treated like the low class gardener you are
4. Sent home to live with your parents where you should have been in the first place.
and now
5. Drunk and tossed off a cliff!

I like Ryan and Marissa together but they have barely been that this year - right down to their pitiful side lip kiss goodbye - I kiss my guy friends like that. I kiss my fiance on the mouth! Anyway I am blabbering - See you next week!!!!

 

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