When does J-Unit’s busy schedule become Umnata’s blessing? When the big guy doesn’t have time to post The O.C. recap, that’s when! I’m the first to admit that this show pretty much has been heading to TJ in a hand basket since mid-season 1 (yeah, I’m talking to you, Oliver). Obviously things reached their nadir when Johnny showed up and stumbled off a cliff and the only way to salvage the show was to kill Mischa Barton in a horrific car accident. Now many people out there were ripped to shreds when Coop died in the arms of Ryan at the end of last season. I had my own mixed feelings about it. Was 90210 ever really 90210 post-Brenda? The answer is no. But the difference here is that I knew Brenda Walsh, and YOU Marissa Cooper are NO Brenda Walsh. I suspected that the show could benefit from the loss of Mischa’s stiff acting and bony back. Sure I had concerns – would this mean that Ryan’s soul mate would turn out to be, barf, Theresa? Will the show be pretty enough without Mischa (who say what you will about her, err, talents is rather easy on the eyes)? Would Seth explode if he didn’t reach a new limit of 250 obscure pop culture references per episode?
So let’s just say I had already drawn my line in the Newport Beach sand when I heard that the Newpsies would be up against the new loves of my Thursday life, The Seattle Gracies. Sorry, Atwood, Sethala, Kiki, JuJu, Sum and Sandy Cohen’s eyebrows, but we’ve broken up and I’ve found someone else. A little older, a little more mature, and with lots of great prescription meds at their disposal. But a funny thing happened on the way to The Pomp. There was a Blitzkrieg of Madonna-Baby-Adoption proportions PR touting Season 4 as The O.C.‘s best yet. Since I’m an American under the age of 25 raised on MTV and video games, all I know how to do is jump on a bandwagon and believe everything that the press tells me. Could it be? The best OC season ever? Better than Ryan holding Coop in his arms as she overdoses in TJ? Better than Seth confessing his love to Summer atop a coffee cart? Better than the constant bombardment of overly ironic, distractingly knowing self-parody set to painfully sincere covers of painfully sincere alternative songs of the last 15 years? This I would have to see to believe…
Now I didn’t say that I didn’t LIKE the “painfully sincere covers of painfully sincere alternative songs of the last 15 years”, which is all but evident by the fact that I’ve already downloaded and put into heavy rotation Placebo’s cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, the soundtrack to the beginning and end of this episode. Ugh, I can’t wait until Jack’s Mannequin covers “Every Rose Has its Thorn.”, because you know it’s inevitable and you know it’ll be rad. It’s been 5 months since Coop perished in the Volchek-caused car accident. As she lay in Ryan’s arms with a few coughs and gasps left in her skeletal frame (perhaps a <> “hey” <>), Ryan’s soul kind of slipped away, as well. The opening moments are all very David Fichner (which, I assume was intentional, as we’re about to see Ryan go all Fight Club on us), with lots of darkness and dripping water. Ryan gets a mysterious call, and cryptically says he’ll be right there.
The next scene was sort of confusing because outside of the seedy bar that Ryan is living in the Cohen Lexus pulls up. Yeah, you read right, he’s living IN the bar. It’s an upgrade if you ask me (and my poor, poor liver). At first I thought it was pretty neat that although he doesn’t live there anymore, he still has access to the Cohen’s fine automobile. But silly me I was just confused, because it’s not Ryan in the car, it’s just Sandy and his eyebrows. He got a hot tip and found out that Ryan was living and working in the Chino version of Cheers. It’s just like the regular Cheers, where everyone knows your name… and has Hepatitis! Sandy is directed over the storage closet that Ryan calls home and starts imploring for the young hunk to come home. Ryan seems to listen for a second, until he escapes out the window to his mystery destination. Hmm, I realize that this is a big trauma but isn’t this the second time in three years that Ryan has runaway from the Cohens? It’s a little annoying.
At Julie Cooper-Nicoll-Roberts’s home, our poor depressed JuJu is taking stock of her medicine cabinet: Oxycotton: Check. Prozac: Check. Mmm, Elephant Tranquilizers: Check and Check. Julie makes a selection, and heads downstairs where Kaitlin is putting on the Thigh high assassin boots she borrowed from Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I think that I was one of six people last year who didn’t totally hate Willa Holland as troublesome Kaitlin Cooper, so the sight of her doesn’t make me convulse. Plus, she looks and sounds just like Mischa (okay, not as pretty, but who is?), and if there is one thing that I’m going to miss about Coop it’s the way she always used to speak as if she had Goat balls in her mouth. R.I.P. Julie is shocked to see Kaitlin lounging about, as she should be in school. Tsk, tsk young lady. Kaitlin totally blows her mother’s mind by informing her that it’s 8 pm. On Saturday! In case you missed it, Julie is really fucked up. That doesn’t stop her from heading out for the night however.
At The Mermaid Inn, my favorite seedy motel this side of the Econo Lodge that is behind my house, Ryan is having his rendezvous with the mystery caller. He knocks on the door, and, yowser!, its Julie Cooper-Nicholl-Roberts! Hopefully this little tryst will end better than the time Ryan headed over there to (possibly) knock up Theresa and Julie boned poor, dim (and much missed) Luke.
It’s now 36 hours earlier (how very Babel of you, Josh Schwartz), and Seth is leaving a long message for his long-distance sweetie Summer, who has “successfully” transplanted herself on the East Coast at Brown. He’s telling her all about the goings-on around Newport while she’s been gone, somehow making this obvious “plot device” (the whole character rundown) seem all the more natural as a painfully pitiful message on Summer’s machine. He informs Summer (us) that Ryan has deferred college for a year and is working at Chino Cheers, Taylor has sent home some photos from her life in gay Paris and Kaitlin has started her plan of Harbor High domination, complete with Luke’s twin brothers, Brad and Eric, as her doting minions. The minions maybe my favorite addition to the show this season. One is sort of Albino looking and other one is a Brian Krakow ringer. They don’t say much, and just follow Caitlin around like puppy dogs ogling her or whatever other female is in the vicinity. In the words of my best friend Carla, “There is nothing I don’t like about these two.”
Seth’s lame-as-they-come days (he doesn’t start RISD until January) consist of boredom and bonding with adults. His dad is back at the public defender’s office and Dr. Roberts’s boring love of golf is no deterrent to Seth, as he’s so desperately in need of companionship. Don’t worry, Seth has put away his doobie and self-referential style of the last few years, and is back to the lovable nerd from season one, already one of the best “remedies” that this season premiere offers. It’s particularly funny watching Seth bond with the Newpsies, at a luncheon his mother holds. It’s also nice to see the Keekster, one of my very favorite characters being part of the social circle she so hates again. Although I have to admit I liked Kirsten better when she was a somewhat inept homemaker and occasional drunk, not a recovering alcoholic and Martha Stewart Clone, but I suppose there are some mistakes that even Marissa’s death can’t fix.
We see that Summer is listening to this message, but doesn’t pick up the phone. Who can blame her? If only every one who called me just told me everything they had to say on my voicemail I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone again! Or maybe Summer’s just confused by this season we have on the East Coast called “Autumn”. All that foliage is enough to cause anyone to go batty. It seems our beloved Summer has taken to Brown’s liberal minded sect of students like Ryan Philippe takes to his younger co-stars (I mock through my pain people!). As a matter of fact she even has an activist, hippie new pal in the form of dorm mate Che. Che is played by the sorely missed Chris Pratt, or as we have come to know and love him in that displaced hamlet, Everwood, Bright Abbott. It seems that Summer has fallen under Che’s hippie spell, and become involved in any activist activity available, today being “Save the Chickens.”
Even though one who knows Summer as well as I do can tell that our Valley Girl isn’t 100% into her new found life as a protestor, it seems to suit her for right now. She did just lose her best friend after all, and it beats cage fighting. Plus, Summer has rarely looked better, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to persuade Che and Summer to join my “War on Paris” campaign that I’ve mentioned in some of my other recaps. The world just isn’t safe while that Hilton girl is out there, able to procreate. Or speak at will.
It seems that Seth isn’t just hanging around the pre-AARP set of Newport, but he’s also got a (my) dream job of working at the local comic book store. One of the highlights is when Seth sends a little girl crying from the store for having the audacity to ask for a comic book based on the X-Men movies. Yeah, right, girl in a comic book store…
Anyway, Kirsten pops by because she has nothing to do all day now that the Newport Group is sold, she’s not on the sauce, and 7 of 9 isn’t pulling her strings. She has a care package for Ryan, which she sends along with Seth to Chino Cheers, along with a request for him to join the Cohens for dinner. Seth is pretty Debbie Downer about the whole thing insisting that both the package and the invitation will go to waste, but who can say no to Kirsten? They should really just send Kirsten to talk to Ryan. She’d have him packed, and possibly crying, with Coldplay in the background, in 2 minutes tops.
Although I hate to see Julie in pain, she is hysterical playing a domestic goddess gone insane. At the homestead she is brutally murdering some hedges much to the dismay of the on looking Dr. Roberts. He approaches her, lucky not to lose a limb, and suggests that perhaps there is a happy medium between a pill-popping zombie and a Rachel Ray doppelganger. Dr. Roberts gently pushes the Marissa is DEAD DEAD DEAD issue, but Julie dismisses him. She does realize, however, that she should leave the hedges to the gardener, so she can finally tackle that grass table top she has been working on. The only good news here is that Decoupage is the last step in the grieving process, so we’ll be out of the woods shortly.
Despite his doubts, Sethala brings the care package to Ryan’s evil lair and invites him to dinner at the Cohen residence. Ryan says he’s too busy, as he checks his schedule:
NAP: 3 -4 pm
CAGE MATCH: 4-5 pm
BROOD: 5 – 7 pm
SHRINKY DINKS: 7 – 8 pm
Seth isn’t taking no for an answer, however. He makes the very good point that if Ryan shows his bruised face for dinner with Sandy, his eyebrows, and Kirsten, all three of them will get off his back for a while. The thought of shaking the Jewish/WASP guilt for a few days is appealing to Ryan, so he agrees to the peace treaty.
Back at Brown, Summer is trying desperately to get students to care about Chickens and to inspire chickens to fly, when she gets a phone call from Taylor. Zut Allor! Paris est tres fantastique! However, when Summer abruptly gets off the phone, we find that Taylor isn’t in Paris at all, but simply at the diner on the pier of Newport. Quell Surprise!
The Cohens are waiting for Ryan, but it soon becomes abundantly clear that his rescheduled Shrinky Dinks got the better of him. Story of my life, man! Sandy’s eyebrows order him to head over to Chino Cheers and check on Ryan, but Seth says that he’ll check on him, because Ryan probably isn’t too keen on a Sandy Cohen pep talk right about now. Sandy checks with his eyebrows, who deem this an acceptable response, and allow passage to Seth.
It seems that it wasn’t the Shrinky Dinks that kept Ryan from the Cohens Mitzvah, but rather a cage fight. Against The Undertaker! Okay, not The Undertaker, just some big guy, who Ryan requested to fight. Alright, it’s not too subtle, the whole Ryan getting pummeled so he can FEEL SOMETHING! FEEL ANYTHING! But for some reason it works. Seth walks in on this and his dainty frame cringes at ever punch Ryan takes.
After the fight, Ryan rejects both his payment for getting pummeled and Seth’s friendship. I can’t tell which is sadder. Ryan tells Seth the Cohens will be better off without him (Dude, while that was true maybe 4 years ago, that ship has mother f-ing sailed). Seth informs Ryan that he isn’t going anywhere without him. Ryan, showing true jerkitude, asks Seth if he’s willing to fight him for it, and gives Seth a shove. I think that Seth should’ve at least gotten a punch in, especially after seeing Ryan fold like a little bitch in the cage fight. Seth doesn’t and is sent on his merry, non-confrontational way.
Earlier in the night, Kaitlin is on the pier smoking a jay while the twins are doing her homework. It’s hysterical, for realz. You know why, because it’s not done in a “look at her, she’s a bad girl” kind of way. Like when Valerie moved into the Walsh household, sparked up her blunt after acting all goody goody with Cindy and Jim and then called the 90210 gang a bunch of avocado heads. This was just a bunch of kids hanging out doing what kids do. I love it. While she’s complaining about the weak ganja the boys scored for her, she spots her step daddy on the town with the ex-step monster. Ruh Roh.
That night at the ranch, Dr. Roberts finds Julie trapped under an entertainment center she was trying to move, but didn’t realize was a built-in unit. Oh Julie! Kaitlin takes this opportunity to question Dr. Roberts about his whereabouts earlier, and he relies on the old Plastic Surgeon standby: Emergency Surgery.
This issue is resolved when Kaitlin lays her information on Dr. Roberts out bare, requesting the expensive boots we see her putting on earlier in the episode be purchased for her in exchange for her silence. If Julie wasn’t in a drug-induced walking coma, she’d be so proud!
The next day, Sandy and Kirsten press Seth for information on Ryan, but he cagily gives them only half-truths, like explaining Ryan’s bruises as a series of shaving accidents. He tells them that Ryan might need a little more time to get out of his cage and into their car. Ooh Ooh Yeah Yeah. I love Billy Ocean.
After Seth saw Ryan the previous night, he called and left another message for Summer telling her about the dire state of things at home, interrupting Summer’s jam session (she played the, umm, wood blocks, while Che was on the massive Hookah) with her new friends. She immediately flies home and the next day is waiting for Seth when he gets to the comic shop. This is followed by a painfully awkward hello. I guess it’s hard for them to get back into the rhythm of their relationship so abruptly, especially with everything going on. This, for once, doesn’t seem like a machination by the writers to split these two up (and by machination, I mean Anna. Or Zach.). It seems that this is the first Seth is seeing of Summer 2.0, the Environemntaltron, as she is going on and on about the expensive leather boots in the window (the ones that Dr. Roberts hushes Kaitlin up with – nice touch) that could feed thousands of Angelina Jolie’s kids and yelling at Seth for not recycling. Summer had an entire flight back to Newport to concoct a plan, which hopefully doesn’t involve painting a room with a Paris setting. Phase one is Summer’s responsibility: Get Ryan to the comic shop. Seth suggests that before they take on this project, Summer go home and get settled, but it’s obvious that home is the last place Summer wants to be.
Kirsten decides that a visit to Julie might be the order of the day. Kirsten is ogled by the twins as she enters the house, which isn’t at all noteworthy, but I think that they are hysterical. Watching them take off on their bikes as they follow Kaitlin down the driveway is priceless. Minions rule!
When Kirsten knocks on Julie’s door, she is in full-on crazy rich lady mode, hopped up on pills sleeping with a mask over her face. Genius. She gets a call from a mystery man, and tells him she’ll call him back. This sparked Julie right up, and she answers her bedroom door with mock enthusiasm, disarming Kirsten with a hug and off-handedly complimenting her on her top. Julie, you sly dog you.
Summer has met up with her father for dinner where she spots Taylor grabbing a to-go order. Quelle domage! Taylor doesn’t so much offer an explanation as she spouts a heaping pile of nuttiness and exits, stage left!
At this point it is completely unsurprising, but the phone calls that Ryan and Julie have been receiving have been from one another. This brings us up to date with the beginning of the episode. Julie hired a private dick to find Volchek who apparently was never brought to justice after being the cause of Marissa’s death. And now Julie wants justice – CHINO style! Ryan says he doesn’t want the file on Volchek or anything to do with this. Julie doesn’t believe him, because although he didn’t go to Marissa’s funeral (gasp!) or visit her grave (double gasp!) she knows how much he loved her.
When Ryan returns to Chino Cheers, he pulls his Marissa Memory Box out from under his bed, and decides that he doesn’t need any reminders of Marissa so he throws his pictures, etc. out in the dumpster out back. He better not have gotten rid of the seminal Model Home mix! It’s the first glimpse we get of Marissa in the somewhat flesh. For a second I’m surprised to find myself missing her. What? She’s just so pretty!
The next day Summer is at Chino Cheers, and I can tell I’m going to love this scene. I’ve always been a big fan of the unexpected match ups on this show. That’s why I’m a sucker for a nice Kirsten/Ryan scene. IF Seth and Julie Cooper would go on a stakeout together it would all but send me to OC heaven (which is like regular heaven except, you know, skinnier). And the moment is just as sweet and tentative as I could have hoped for! One of my favorite lines of the night belongs to Summer (MVP of this episode) when she sees Ryan’s bruised up face and says: “I like what you’ve done to your face.” We finally see the old Summer a little bit more, as she tells Ryan to let her do what she does best, boss people around. It takes a little coaxing, but Summer is the one who gets Ryan out of Chino Cheers and to the comic book store for a family intervention.
Family Intervention!?!? I know, I was thinking the same thing, especially when I saw that it involved a slide show, but damn it, I’m about ready to move into the Cohen pool house MYSELF. It seems that Seth and his army of Justice League Nerds created a comic book for Ryan about how much he means to them. Hey, hey, hey, if you didn’t get a little emotional when Seth said his “superpower” before Ryan arrived was one he didn’t want (invisibility) or when Kristen, aka The Ice Queen, melted when Ryan entered her life then you officially have no soul. NO SOUL. Just like Tom Cruise! You are Tom Cruise! I’m sorry, that was mean.
Anyway the graphic novel grovel (I’m on a roll today!) is enough for Ryan. Sandy drives him home and Ryan admits that he’d like to move from the Chino Cheers storage closet to the Newport Pool House, a lateral transition if you ask me. Then Sandy imparts some sage wisdom on ol’ Ryan that for the first time in years, doesn’t make me wax my own nether regions. Honestly, I’ve hated Sandy Cohen (and his goddamn soapbox) for the last two years. Once Sandy has Ryan moving back in, he starts talking about more tentative things, such as Marissa’s death. He tells Ryan that he’ll never get over what happened, Marissa dieing in his arms, but he’ll get used to it. Anyone who has suffered a tragedy of any kind, can certainly agree with that harsh, yet comforting reality. Way to go Sandy!
Sethala drops Summer off at her house, and they have a strained goodbye, that involves a hug and, my fav, a wave goodbye. Now while I get this whole estrangement thing (long distance relationship, death of a best friend, new found hippie-dom), what I don’t get is what I’m considering Seth’s either obliviousness to this, or his lack of concern.
Summer heads up to her own room, which we remember is only separated from Marissa’s room by an open door. Summer looks into the empty room and sees Marissa’s skeleton! Oh wait that was just her back, and Summer’s imagining it. Whoops! My bad! This freaks Summer out, and she leaves Newport like at Atwood in the night, effectively ditching Seth for their “like old times” breakfast date at the diner the next morning. She leaves Seth a message with a lame excuse about a protest the next day she doesn’t want to miss. I’m oddly comforted by the “I love you” that ends the call.
Before Ryan heads back to Casa de Cohen, he makes his first stop at Marissa’s grave. I thank the television gods that he doesn’t pour his heart out to the headstone. He is joined a moment later by Julie, who devastatingly admits to being there everyday. Got to hand it to Melinda Clark, she is doing some of the best ever mourning on television. Ryan has a change of heart about the file she had on Volchek and asks her for it. When she inquires about what changed his mind he ominously says: “I need to do this.” DUN DUN DUN!
So what did we think about the season premiere? In case I wasn’t clear… I loved it, which is a really nice break for me from heading from one sorry ass episode of Desperate Housewives to weekly shit shows on Nip/Tuck. I think The O.C. is FINALLY living up to its hype again. Let’s hope it continues…