Thursday, April 20, 2006

Two Episodes in One!

“The Day After Tomorrow”/“The Dawn Patrol”

Where do I even start?

How about by passing around the Kleenex? I think that’s in order, right? I mean, seriously, these last two episodes have put me through the emotional wringer. “The O.Sea” did it last year, but that was the first episode that really tugged at my heart strings (“The Ties That Bind” just kind of irked me at first), and no episodes had really done it this season. “The Aftermath” gave me chills in the final scene, but that’s been pretty much it as far as utter sadness goes.

But what the hell? I’m feeling like life is hopeless, that relationships are ridiculous, and that there is no such thing as morality anymore. This is the kind of stuff usually reserved for avant-garde plays, but nope, it’s The O.C..

Okay, I guess I’ll start with apologizing for not having a review last week. I thought I’d be fine, but I got home from spring break, and I just didn’t have time to put anything good together. I had to catch up on some of the homework I didn’t do while I was in Orlando and then at the beach. And by the time classes started again, life sped up. But it’s slowing down a bit. For the next few hours at least. So let’s try to talk a bit and see what we can come up with.

As I said last time, I’m going to start just covering a major point of each episode and then give brief thoughts on other things. Seeing as how this is a two-fold review, I’m going to cover two of the major stories: college and Seth and Summer. True, there’s an overlap, but we can do them differently also. No worries.

College is kind of a shaky time, to be sure, particularly when you only apply to one school. Now I only applied to one school, but I did it for early admissions to the school I wanted to go more than any. If I hadn’t gotten in, I’d have time. These kids don’t have the luxury of early admissions, but that’s okay because reality and this show aren’t always synonymous. Anyway, this period of a teenager’s life would be even worse when you consider extreme emotional angst and inner turmoil, and trust me, these characters are very conflicted. It’s important to look at what college means to each character, so let’s try that:

Ryan: The first person in his family to be any kind of, well, anything that isn’t a criminal or a deadbeat. I guess Dawn isn’t exactly a deadbeat now, but working odd-hour shifts at a diner isn’t exactly a wonderful job. I don’t mean to disrespect anyone who works at a diner now, but you have to admit, you hope to have more once you’re an adult. Anyway, college is an opportunity for Ryan to make something even more of himself, to break free from his past. I think that’s the most important thing for Ryan, to try to distance himself from who he was. He hasn’t been able to do that fully just yet, and I think he recognizes how important it would be for him to do it. At the same time, he faces the fact that he might have to leave the Cohens, the first family that’s really ever been a family for him. Even when they’ve judged him, they’ve done so because they care. Imagine that you had nothing for your entire life, but then one day, you had everything. And then it’s time to leave it. Look, I don’t care if you move to a nice school in nice Berkley: living away from home is not as nice as being at home. You gain a lot, I know, but you lose a lot also. But it’s genuinely amazing how far Ryan has come, how the Cohens have pushed him to be more than he should have been. I think this is most noticeable in the fact that he went to his mother and asked her to graduation. Okay, so he chickened out first, but that’s to be expected. He’s wrestling inside. But when he came around, we could all see that he’s a real man. He’s grown up into someone special, and the fact that he’s in such a good college really shows that.

Marissa: Marissa also continues to wrestle with inner demons, and hers also extend back to her family. A father who abandoned her twice, a sister she doesn’t know, and a mother who doesn’t exactly know how to parent. She’s lost her boyfriend, she’s lost her best guy friend (we’re all grateful), and she’s completely unsure of herself. She has her father’s cowardice, not her mother’s resolve, though she could certainly learn a lot from her. Moving away to college is a chance for Marissa to start over. Remember in season one when she mentioned that months after Tijuana she was still the girl who overdosed? Well, at Berkley she can be someone different. That’s a good thing about moving on, she can have a clean slate. And she definitely needs it. The problem is whether or not she can believably move forward. She’s dug herself in a huge, huge hole. And it’s something that’s difficult to overcome, at least quickly and in time for college. Maybe that’s the angle that Josh will run if he decides to keep everyone in Newport. He’ll start with the idea that Marissa just isn’t stable enough to move forward and slowly, they all come home. I don’t necessarily like that idea, but it is believable. There are plenty of people who just aren’t ready to move on. And is it right for Marissa to move on when things are so difficult at home? Her relationship with Julie is terribly strained. What’s better for Marissa? Should she move on and start over, or should she stay home and try to fix what’s broken?

I thought maybe I could talk about Seth and Summer and their college choices and then talk about them in a different way in terms of their relationship, but it’s just not possible. So let’s just try to tackle them and see what we come up with.

Let’s look at Seth first. A lot of people are complaining about how Seth is being an ass, some even saying that his reactions have been out-of-character. I find very little validity in that. In fact, I find him to be acting very much in character. Go back to season one and remember that Seth always felt that he was better than everyone he lived around. He was smarter, cooler, and funnier. He didn’t fit in, but it didn’t change the fact that he thought he was better. As a loner, he had no one to talk to other than himself, and he became self-involved. He knew no other way. At the same time, though, his loneliness probably manifested itself in a way that caused him to feel a horrible sense of inferiority. After he hooked up with Summer, he probably still thought of himself as below Summer. That, of course, was ironic, because she thought she wasn’t good enough for him. Anyway, Seth prided himself on being academically superior to everyone, and that was his ticket out. And then he discovered that it didn’t get him where he wanted to go. Now those feelings of inferiority come rushing back. He doesn’t know how to deal with it. He’s still internalizing everything, trying to relate everything back to him. Thinking it over and over and over to the point of killing him. At the same time, though, he loves Summer and wants what’s best for him. And in a way, these feelings are contradictory. He wants the best for himself, and he wants the best for her, and he feels that Brown is the answer they both are looking for, but Brown can’t be the answer for both of them. Now, Seth is self-deprecating and self-internalizing (if that’s a phrase that’s usable), but he’s hardly confrontational. It’s much easier for him to take this confusion, to take these problems, and essentially say, “You know what, screw all this. I’m leaving.” And that’s what he did.

Summer’s problems are very similar. We learned that she lived a certain lifestyle, but as we’ve gotten to know her more, it seems like she probably never truly felt like she fit in. Abandonment issues abound in her life, and her father doesn’t seem like he’s the most stable person either, their strange, incestuous relationship aside. Now she finally meets someone who’s different, someone who is smart and cool and funny. And she fell in love, maybe against her will. She never felt like she was good enough for Seth, and I’m guessing that she feels the same way now. She got into Brown, and now it seems like Seth wants something different, maybe even something better. Seth is her life. Seth is someone who saw her for a person not just for a beautiful girl. And now he’s willing to leave. Now, through all this, I’m not saying that Seth had a right to lie because he didn’t. But it makes complete sense. He wants to make himself feel better, he wants her to succeed. This is the ultimate opportunity for her. I’m not saying it’s what she wants because it never was anything she wanted. She wanted to stay west and go some place warm. At the same time, though, getting into Brown is no small accomplishment, and I think that Seth recognizes that.

A lot of people took offense to the end of “The Dawn Patrol” when Seth suddenly said, “I have to get Summer back.” I think some people think that that was a sudden change, but it wasn’t. I think it was always clear that he wanted Summer back. He never wanted her to leave. But as long as he stayed with her, he’d be reminded that he’d failed to reach his goal. And if he tried to act like it didn’t bother him, he’d be lying, too. Seth’s actions aren’t the best, but they are completely logical. He’s trying to deal with his own inadequacies, and they’re manifesting in the worst possible.

I would like to say, though, that in “The Day After Tomorrow,” when Seth broke up with Summer, it was one of the best scenes I’d ever seen on the show. Adam Brody played the scene with such a reserve and such fragility that I could see him crumbling under his own faults. Rachel Bilson played the scene with such fear and trepidation. She looked positively terrified. She looked like she was going to fall apart as well. She was shaking, she was crying, she was just perfect. I don’t know that I remember a scene so well executed ever. I agree with someone who said that it was blocked oddly, with Rachel having to squat while Adam sat, but I don’t mind. It was so brilliantly executed, just like this storyline.

And this storyline isn’t succeeding just because of the actors, but it’s succeeding because of the writers and because it’s a well-crafted storyline. It’s incredibly different than anything we’ve seen so far because it doesn’t rely on a third character (unless you count the wonderful Taylor who has been the best friend Summer has ever had on this show) to move the plot along. It relies on two people who are struggling internally. It relies on something that many college seniors can relate to. It’s honest and it’s real. It’s logical, too. I have not felt, for a moment, that this was anywhere near contrived. I am absolutely in awe at how this has played out.

So there you go, folks, I’m done now. It’s 1:13 A.M. on Thursday morning (yeah, I started last Friday and thought I’d be done), so I don’t really have time to write anything else. Let me just run this down real quick:

- Excited about Sandy
- Curious if Kirsten will drink gain
- Can’t wait for Anna and Theresa
- The baby has to be Ryan’s
- Want to see Ryan and Volchok fight
- Taylor is still the best thing to ever happen to this show
- Finale is going to rule

Kids, hopefully I’ll be back soon after the next episode. It should be a good one. Sorry for the lateness, sorry for the rambling (I noticed as I was writing that I wrote a few sentences several times), and sorry for lack of content. But hopefully I’ll have more soon. Or maybe I won’t be back for a while. I don’t know. I really want to comment on the Josh quote that Ausiello quoted in TV Guide, but no time. There are some general spoilers in the column, but I recommend people checking it out at

Have a good one.

Questions, comments, anything.


At 5:33 PM, Blogger Rodrigo said...

I loved this review. You're worth the wait... This season will end with such a bomb... I can see that coming, plus Kirsten drank again!! OMG

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