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Last week, the writers of The OC spent the hour answering some of the cliffhanger-type questions that we had at the end of the last season. Needless to say, when they are forced to navigate their way through plot twists they had no intention of lasting that long (a lot of them, that’s for sure), we are fed a lot of drama, but we usually end up feeling unsatisfied. What’s frustrating is that the pieces are there for plenty of great stories, but we only have time to fully explore a few of them. The rest are kind of thrown at us and sometimes we really don’t know what to make of it.Last week, I tried to convince people that I enjoy this show and that I am recapping it for more reasons than wanting to use 5000 words to make fun of it for not being a good crime drama. I still say that if the writers are trying to play that game, they should at least pretend to have researched what they are writing about. But we are past that now, and I’ll try not to obsess about it for the next nine months.
We start the episode with our usual breakfast banter, which we missed last week when Ryan was having flashbacks to the shooting. If there is any single reason why these three guys need Kirsten back in the house, it’s that without her, they have turned into complete slobs. I haven’t made my bed since I moved out of my parents’ house, so I know the feeling. Some call it laziness, but I like to call it my attempt to challenge the traditional social constructs that suffocate western society. Look, I see no reason to make my bed. I am going to toss around the covers during the night anyway, and I’ll probably eat just as many spiders in my sleep either way, so why bother, really?
Without Kirsten, these guys have apparently forgotten how they are supposed to take care of themselves. And I am not talking difficult things that require some physical labor like scrubbing your bathtub. I’m talking the most basic of the basic, like throwing away food that is old and has gone unused. You know, stuff like trashing pizza boxes and getting rid of milk that is four weeks past its expiration date. When I saw how messy the kitchen was, I thought to myself “you know, it wasn’t messy last week, what’s going on?” I then checked the previous episode on the Tivo and, sure enough, there were pizza boxes laying around in the kitchen last episode. Bravo! I make fun of the show enough for breaks in continuity, so I am more than happy to say I was wrong this time. It doesn’t explain why they are the only people in Newport who don’t have a maid to clean up and make quesadillas, but I forgive them. In fact, we never see domestic help outside of the people who Marissa sleeps with, so I can see why they decided not to add a whole bunch to start the third season.
There are a lot bigger things to worry about, like school. When the four kids are in the diner, eating their last breakfast before they are big bad seniors, Summer mentions that it is their last chance to make something great. As she says, nobody is in juvey or in a jump suit, so that is a success. While it is true that none of them were institutionalized for anything, whether it be violent crime, alcohol or drugs, it may be a little too soon to buy tickets for the prom. Before Ryan and Seth had gone off to school, Julie Cooper showed up at the Cohen’s house and let Sandy know about a little bit of a petition that was going around, with “little” meaning more than 1000 signatures. It looks like some people were really concerned about their kids being influenced by sex and violence. They confiscated all of the copies of San Andreas and now they want to keep Marissa and Ryan out of school.
Julie and Sandy aren’t about to let that happen, so they talk to the principal of the school, Dr. Kim. Whenever I see her, I always think of that crazy Chinese restaurant she runs that has the fortune cookies that causes mother and daughter to switch bodies until they reach a life-altering epiphany about just how difficult it is to live like the other. I am not sure what sort of dessert you give when you are trying to rescue troubled teenagers, maybe some orange wedges or fried green tea ice cream? Whatever it is, Dr. Kim doesn’t have a chance to work her magic. She wasn’t the one trying to keep Marissa and Ryan out of school, it was the school board, and they were taking the recommendation of the new Dean of Discipline, which is the fanciest name for truancy officer that I have ever come across.
Dean Hess is not about to take any shit when it comes to disciplining teenagers. When Sandy tells him that he has dealt with troubled kids in the public defender’s office (not that we’ll ever see him in court), Dean Hess counters that he has a master’s in education and has dealt with kids at some of the most prestigious private schools on the east coast. I don’t think it really proves anything other than he spent six years learning about theories of learning how to teach learning, and after all that, he was still too big of a pussy to spend time fixing bad schools and decided to dedicate his life to making sure that a bunch of rich white kids aren’t too threatened as they grow up learning to be future board members of banks the government has to bail out. BRILLIANT move Hess, I salute you. OH, and if it can get any worse, he seems to be patterning his wardrobe from the entire summer 1994 Ralph Lauren Wedding issue. Seriously, look at those pants. Still, it is Hess that gets to make the final decision, and he decides he won’t be a complete bastard. He’s going to revue the cases and let Ryan and Marissa know that night about their decision.
While all of this was going on, Marissa and Summer were busy with Marissa’s next big school event, the kickoff carnival. Marissa has a binder that has more pages than the New Orleans and Louisiana Hurricane Evacuation plan, and she is not letting any of it go to waste. When she gets to her meeting, however, there is another girl at the podium giving orders. What the hell is that bitch doing? This is Marissa Cooper; she’s tall, pretty, and wears Chanel, you can’t just take over the kickoff carnival without consequences. The girl in question, Taylor Townsend (who must be evil because her name is an alliteration), has been trying to take Marissa’s place as social chair since freshman year, and she has been thwarted every time. Even though Marissa has missed school for drinking, drugs, lesbian experimentation, Mexican gardener experimentation, her father losing her job and moving out of the state to live on a boat, she always manages to come back and put on a great show. We all remember the Snow C and the prom, right? It looks like being acquitted for attempted murder or second degree manslaughter or whatever the writers failed to tell us was happening last week also failed to take Coop down. She’s back again and puts Taylor Towsend back in her place.
At Grand Horizons or whatever vague, uplifting, metaphor they used to name Kirsten’s rehab clinic, Kirsten is preparing to leave. She pauses as she is packing her clothes, perhaps thinking about what she said last week. She knows that the program says she is ready, but she is still worried that she may be “broken” and doesn’t want to go back home and let her family down again. She is silently contemplating what to do, but luckily for her, Charlotte has been staring at her from the background. I know that Josh Schwartz said that Kirsten and Charlotte weren’t going to become sin sisters (a few of my friends found a porno called “Sin Sisters” on the playground when I was around 12; let’s just say that movie wasn’t exactly what we expected), but the lesbianish overtones to their shared scenes is just impossible to ignore.
Charlotte walks in and Kirsten once again confesses her apprehension about going back, and Charlotte agrees that it can be tough. She says that sometimes it is hard to go from their sheltered life to the real world, much like it is difficult to go from Boston Public to – uh, OK, it’s great to be miles away from a David E. Kelley show. She continues and says that she is planning on staying at her father’s house on Lake Arrowhead. It’s miles away from civilization, and just perfect if you are planing on re-enacting scenes from all kinds of movies like “Misery,” “Single White Female” and “Cape Fear.” Sounds like an AWESOME time.
We all know that Kirsten shouldn’t go, but she doesn’t know how crazy Charlotte is yet. She tells Sandy about her plan, and he is for the most part happy. He is kind of worried that if she isn’t ready for the outside world she should just stay in rehab, but if his wife says if she needs a halfway house, so be it. As she says, she needs to know that when she goes home, it is going to be for good. When they reach Lake Arrowhead, I am still trying to figure out how they are going to progress with this story, and things just seem strange. Charlotte had trouble with a lock, which shouldn’t mean anything, but we know she is crazy so maybe she chopped the real owner’s head off and it is in a freezer in the basement next to the banana bread and rum cake. Once inside, she says she is going to teach Kirsten how to cook, and just to show everybody she isn’t crazy and is not going to kill Kirsten or make a necklace from her ears or a lamp from her boobs, she says to invite Sandy over.
In Newport, everybody is sort of waiting to see what happens to Marissa and Ryan. Although over a thousand parents signed this petition, no word of it leaked to any students, so the two kids really had no idea about their status. That was all about to change with one phone call. Ryan would be saved, but Marissa would not be going to Harbor for her senior year. Ryan, Seth, and Summer got to see if they can’t help cheer her up, and we once again see Captain Oats and Princess Sparkle united in their holy equine union of perkiness. It’s a good thing Seth and Summer are only children because their older siblings would have ripped the heads off of those four legged beasts long ago because of their suckiness.
Ryan assured Marissa that they will do everything possible to get her enrolled once again, but Julie Cooper is way ahead of them. By the way, I am not saying Cooper-Nichol, as it is just semantics at this point. Anyway, Julie has decided that she and Jimmy need to make a big donation to Harbor, like in the $100,000 range. And by “we” she means Jimmy, because most of her money which she is expecting to get from Caleb in his will is tied up while they pour through a bunch of overseas accounts and tax shelters. Earlier, we were not too surprised to find that Jimmy was in money trouble again, this time from a loan shark. Jimmy owes him money, and he wants to collect pretty quickly. As you can imagine, this whole ransom deal to keep his daughter in school is not helping him at all. This is turning out to be a lot like the first season. Remember when Marissa’s sister wanted a pony and Jimmy couldn’t say no? Well, he still can’t say no, as if that isn’t obvious.
Ryan makes his attempt to see Dr. Kim and change her mind, but once again, he has to defer to Dean Hess. Ryan schedules a meeting, but when he gets there, Dean Hess isn’t exactly willing to work with them. Marissa tries to explain that the shooting really wasn’t representative of what she’s like, and the Dean counters with a list of all of Marissa’s foibles, including the drinking and the drugs. I admit he does have a point, but you also have to admit that if he is going to base his reactions on their previous history and nothing else, there was no need for him to even be there. I thought he worked with problem children, and was more than a hired gun to see them expelled. Whatever the reason, Marissa stayed expelled, and she was devastated, but wasn’t devastated enough to say that she was proud of what she did (shooting to protect Ryan) and would do it again if she had to.
WIth Marissa out of the picture, what is Summer to do? Who is going to go and help her mismatch clothes from Anthroplogie? Who is going to lay around in the sun with her? Who is going to help her convince herself that three venti lattes a day and some frozen yogurt is a balanced diet? If Summer can’t have Marissa around, at least she can continue Marissa’s legacy. She’s already tried going out with a water polo player, and that really didn’t work, so she will have to get more creative, and even more involved. She is going to try and continue Marissa’s excellent results on the social committee.
Summer’s plan has a little bit of a problem because, as we all know, Summer is not one for too much school spirit, or much of school at all. Quite honestly, I would like to think she is smart and talented at something, but we only know that she shops and sunbathes. Does she even take class or is she just looking for that guy who will never go to UCSF and break her heart in the process? Summer has a seat at the social committee meeting, and Taylor Townsend is there, eulogizing Marissa and ready to take it over. When Summer raises her hand and asks if other people can do it, like herself, Taylor goes all buck wild on her, saying that she doesn’t know what it’s like to have all the responsibility and none of the power and Taylor is going to have both this year.
From that point on, Summer decides she is going to oust Taylor and start studying the huge binder Marissa carried around. While she is studying fire codes, Seth tells her that she is doing it all wrong. Like the wise man that he is, he lets her know that what she should really be doing is not out-Taylor Taylor with rules and regulations but to out-Summer Taylor with creativity. See girls, sometimes guys are good for something. With that in mind, the two of them crash the carnival committee meeting. Right away, Summer kind of takes over. She throws out suggestions for things to do, and before Taylor can counter with her Eisenhower era alternatives (we also know she is evil because she dares not dress provocatively and is wearing all of those pastels Dean Hess finds so becoming), everybody is agreeing with Summer. They even managed to fit a black girl (the first one ev-ar?) in there, and gave her some lines. Oh Josh, it’s not that hard, is it?
Jimmy Cooper had been working hard to do something for his daughter as well. He wasn’t able to pay the loan shark, but is able to convince him to lend him that $100,00 he thinks will get Marissa into school. Wnen he comes to Julie with the check, you cam imagine the feeling he went through when he heard Marissa had ruined it all. He could either be elated that he never had to spend the money, or pissed off that he was going to be out another 10 points for that hundred grand. What he definitely wasn’t expecting was Julie to walk off with the check to pay the gardener, pool boy, and maids. But once you’re in, you might as well go all in. He’s going to have to pay back the money or die, and the easiest way to get that kind of cash is going to be marrying Julie and waiting for Caleb’s will. Now I believe that Jimmy and Julie really would be happy together, but I am not sure Jimmy was going to plan on marrying her so soon. She said yes, and now he just has to sit and hope that he still has kneecaps when he gets all of the money coming to him.
Sandy was indeed invited to visit Lake Arrowhead, and when he got there, Charlotte was staring at him from the bushes, looking like she was trying to figure what caliber pistol would make the least amount of mess if she were to shoot him several times in the head. Although they have never met, their first encounter is not too positive. Sandy wants Kirsten to come home to her kids, where she has family support, and Charlotte actually makes a good point that if she is not ready, she will relapse, and that would be even worse. Before anything happens to Sandy, Kirsten comes down and we don’t hear from them until the end of the show. I guess dinner was awesome and Kirsten knows how to cook? Maybe we’ll learn next week.
At the kickoff carnival, everything is a success, except, of course, Marissa isn’t there. Summer actually did something constructive and she only has her boyfriend to celebrate with. She can’t even relish the moment when she rubs it in to Taylor about how awesome everything turned out. When Taylor counters that it must suck to miss Marissa, Summer says that Marissa will be there, as if saying it alone will make her feel better.
In fact, Marissa did come back. Earlier, Ryan had invited her to to the carnival, but instead they got into a huge argument about Trey’s shooting. Sandy had made it back from Arrowhead in time to give him advice to go back and listen, so that is what he does. He and Marissa kiss and make up, and they head to the kickoff carnival. And since we know how much they love Ferris wheels, that’s the first ride that they go on, and Seth and Summer join them.
Before we finish up with the carnival, I have to mention the crazy scene at the lake. Kirsten is walking around outside and she hears Charlotte crying. We aren’t sure why she was walking outside, but when she finds her friend, she has a flask in her hand. Charlotte is babbling on and on about how depressed she was because Kirsten was going to leave her, and how was she going to survive, and she was scared to go drinking. Kirsten promises not to go anywhere until Charlotte is ready, which is the exact thing Charlotte wants to hear. As Kirsten leaves, Charlotte tells her that she will catch up. After all, she needs to have time to give the camera a diabolical “you’re mine now” smile, and take a real swig from a secondary hip flask she had stashed in her alcoholic marsupial pouch. This whole thing is starting to get an older, female version-of-Oliver vibe, but I am actually really interested to see what happens next.
OK, back at the carnival, everybody is on the Ferris wheel. Seth is complaining that his stomach is too Jewish for the rides, but I am not sure why that is so funny. B-Side proved earlier this year that he can hang with the best of us roller coaster freaks, even if it took some prodding (and I was the one throwing up afterwards to tell you the truth). Before he can get too annoying, the roller coaster stops. It’s at the bottom and there is Dean Hess. Taylor narced on Marissa, and he was there to take her away from a school function. Ryan tried to keep it cool and says that Marissa is his guest, but Dean Hess really isn’t about helping kids as much as he is about making grandiose showings of force to get people to kowtow to him.
Hess grabs Marissa, and since Ryan is wearing his James Dean black leather jacket of toughness, he is not about to let that go lightly. The Dean is actually hurting Marissa, and when he doesn’t stop when Ryan asks, Ryan simply punches him in the face. Dean Hess was upset about the punch, but probably more upset that his cornflower cotton sweater will now have to be dry-cleaned. The punch was good because now he has the perfect excuse to kick Ryan out as well. He tells them they are never to be around school again, or they will call the police. “Harbor’s Most Notorious Couple” looks like they are going to public school, and Taylor Townsend is right there to watch it all happen.
I thought this episode was much better. When the writers aren’t trying to wow us with legalese, they are doing pretty well. I love the Taylor Townsend character, and not just because she is played by TVgasm friend Autumn Reeser. There have to be these antagonists in the actual school because they can fill up the show with lots of petty high school drama that we love, leaving the depressing and serious stuff for the adults. It looks like she will be recurring, and hopefully we’ll meet some other classmates as well. Dean Hess is also a good addition, because again, there needs to be a source of conflict where the problems are real, but on the whole not that important. Petty teenage dramas, that’s what we love. I still don’t know what to make of Charlotte and Kirsten, but I get a little more worried every week. Jimmy’s renewed financial problems are a little repetitive, but this definitely had a good season one feel to it overall.
What did you think of this episode? Is Taylor a worthy adversary for Summer? How will Ryan and Marissa do in public school/lesser private school?
Hey! Count: Episode 10, Season 15.