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Everybody here at TVgasm have had a lot to say about The OC. The first two real articles on TVgasm were B-side and I weighing in on what we thought of the first season. Believe us when we say that we are huge fans of the show. Therefore, when we thought the show was declining rapidly, we felt it necessary to make our voices heard, in recaps and in-depth analysis. Obviously we were not alone in our criticism, as many fans and critics said the same about many of the choices made the writers made this year. “It was so much better last year” we said, and it seems like the writers listened. This week, the writers hit the abort button and acknowledged most of the criticism, even as they mocked many of those points in the show.We begin the episode at Harbor. Ryan and Seth are discussing how spring is here and…wait a minute, they are at school? Ever since Zach was out of the picture and Lindsay moved out, it seemed like there was no reason for anybody to go to school. Marissa would have been expelled under almost any circumstances, and if that asian headmistress was still around, she probably would have. It was that complete lack of focus with regards to the kids that was one of the biggest criticisms. The writers wrote as if the high school kids were running the World Bank or something, nothing was ever fun. Bravo to the writers for starting off on a good foot.
What started great turned into a little more of the same. Seth continued to talk about the spring, how almost a year had gone by, how people tried new things this year that might not have worked out (yard guys, illegitimate daughters, less fighting). Why Seth spoke for the critics with his comments, Ryan took a little shot at them by saying “maybe you remember last year as better because it was all new”. Yes, I have never, ever, heard of a show about some California kids and their relationships in high school *cough*Saved By the Bell*cough*. And it was really ingenious to make those kids rich, because that was never tried before, well if you don’t count Beverly Hills 90210. Of course, you do have the added soap opera with adults and what is going on with there lives, kind of like Melrose Place with married people. But yeah, it was pretty much all new.
Ryan finally said that you can sentimentalize about last year, and you can’t live in the past. Well, if you say so, we’ll give it a try. Since we aren’t living in the past, they probably aren’t going to have some big school event(perhaps a party?) where Ryan will have an altercation over Marissa’s love. No, the fact that Marissa was organizing a spring bonfiire for the water polo team would not have anything to do with getting Ryan and Marissa to secretly work together and accidentally realize they were meant for each other. To make sure this doesn’t happen, Summer urges Seth not to meddle too much in the relationship. Ryan and Marissa are great people, but are a train wreck as a couple. We learned that in the past.
Seth doesn’t listen to Summer, of course. He wants Ryan to be happy. It will be at least a few years before Seth feels safe to come out of the closet and profess his undying love for Ryan (I think the real reason Ryan lives in the boathouse is so Seth doesn’t “accidentally” walk in on him in the shower). The next best thing to making Ryan happy with himself is to make Ryan happy with someone else. Marissa is having a problem finding anybody to help her build this bonfire, so Seth comes up to her and suggests Ryan. He is into architecture, and he does love to burn things down. Perfect match!
Kirsten and Sandy are trying to patch up their marriage a little bit, and one of the ways people suggest to spice up your marriage is to have shared activities. In that spirit, Kirsten decides to skip out on her trip to the gym (while we aren’t living in the past, why don’t they bring Kirsten’s gossipy friends back – they were GREAT), and do some golfing with her husband. And I do have to say, she is looking very waspy and very hot in her white golfing pants and argyle sweater. Even Sandy said she looked cute in her visor. The problem is that she sucks at golf. They eventually get into a conversation about Kirsten’s work, and they discuss Carter Buckley (and perfectly waspy name in itself), and Sandy realizes that he was the publisher of one of his favorite counter culture magazines at Berkley, so he must be in good company.
After her little spot of golf, Kirsten arrives at work to find out that the her meeting with Carter and Julie about selecting some pictures for the Newport Living Magazine was cancelled. It is clear that Newport Living is just another avenue for Julie Cooper-Nichol to self-promote herself, but Kirsten thinks it might be good for the company and is putting all of her effort into it. Unfortunately, it appears that Carter has decided maybe it is not such a great gig, and Julie’s mind is just not in the right place.
Ah yes, Julie. Her friend Lance is still looking for half a million dollars or he’s going to leak some video of Julie Cooper and get his money that way. Julie doesn’t know what to do, so she consults the one person she knows that can help her out. No, not her rich husband, but the only lawyer in town she is related to, Sandy Cohen, who tells her she needs to go to the police. Julie doesn’t want the police involved, and she also wants to do all of this without getting Caleb involved. She said it was the 80s, she needed money, and it was the 80s. Now I didn’t think that San Bernardino was a mecca for porn back then, but let’s pretend it was and go on with the story.
We are used to seeing Julie as an antagonist or for comic effect, but it was obvious from her reaction that she had nowhere left to turn. She was desperate for Sandy to help, and it wasn’t just for her own image. Her relationship with Marissa was in such a place that she feared her daughter would never talk to her if she found out about what she had done. She said this with greatest sincerity, and for good reason. Her other daughter isn’t speaking to her because she was sent away to boarding school so very long ago, and hasn’t been seen since. And while he is always willing to help, Sandy will never pass up an opening for a joke, he makes a Boogie Nights reference, and promises there will be a lot more.
While all of that was happening, Kirsten made a visit to Carter, only to find him drunk and listening to old music. Just in case you hadn’t realized that you shouldn’t live in the past, the writers want to show you how bad it is when that is what you obsess about. Carter is complaining about his failed marriage, and he can’t stand that he is going to end up working for a magazine dedicated to 55 year old women who have 25 year old breasts (I guess they have been reading their Brentwood Magazine). He says she should find somebody else, and she decides to leave
About halfway through the episode, the writers make their first Valley reference. Seth is sitting around complaining how it was so much better last year. Marissa had convinced Ryan to help out with the bonfire, so they decided to meet at her place. First, Ryan needed some inspiration, so he asked for Captain Oats. Seth is still very attached to his toy horse, so he makes some sort of strange horse molestation joke. Thankfully, Ryan punched Seth, something that a lot of us had wanted to do all year, as annoying as Cohen has been at points this season. Tough guy Ryan(or his absence, to be exact) was also one of our complaints about this season. Just in case you didn’t know people were complaining about it, Seth mentions it as well.
Ryan gets to Marissa’s place. Alex is at work, so they have the entire place to themselves. There are clothes everywhere and beer bottles are strewn all over the place, kind of like the TVgasm offices after one of our parties. Actually, that is how the offices look most of the time, but Marissa and Alex’s place looks worse. When he gets there, they get to work modeling the bonfire using popsicle sticks and glue. They needed Captain Oats because they need the correct proportion of a horse. Ryan is an architect and a carpenter, not a bad combination.
They go about their business and have an awkward hug, a hug witnessed by Alex. Alex had visited Seth earlier that evening(who desperately tried to find out if Alex and Marissa had taken any interesting pictures of their relationship), and since he was not very smooth, he let the little secret out that Marissa was not just stuck in the mall with everybody else, she was about to share a tent with Ryan too. Well, it was just over after that. If there is any threat to the propagation of true lesbian love, it is nefarious nylon tent cohabitation under times of duress. At least that is what the statistics say.
Alex had been sitting outside of her apartment, drinking a beer, working herself up into a tizzy about her girlfriend. As Ryan is walking away from the apartment, Alex throws a beer bottle at him and tells him to stay away from Marissa. Ryan is a huge pussy, but even in his season 2 pussiness level, he has no problem standing up to a girl. He tells her to walk away, she pushes him, and we think they are about to fight, but even Ryan can’t hit a girl.
I was sort of confused about Alex complaining about the tent thing, but I realized it speaks to a larger problem. Marissa lies all of the time, and this was just another example of that. They yell at each other a little more, and Marissa finally leaves and seeks out Summer for some help. Summer braids her hair, and they talk about their problems. It is evident to everybody that Marissa is in way over her head, she just can’t admit it. If only there was somebody that she would really listen to that could convince her to go back home. Her mom had tried earlier, but Marissa is too proud to let her mom win this argument.
Julie understands this as well. She knows that she needs to find somebody that will be able to communicate with Marissa. Somebody she trusts and somebody who understands she needs to be back home. In a perfect world, Julie would have simply called up her ex-husband Jimmy, who Marissa had lived with, but was now in Hawaii. But since this whole thing needs to end sometime before the bonfire ends, she is going to have to ask somebody else.
So, just as he has done all year, Ryan is back to do the work that the adults can’t do. He doesn’t necessarily believe that he should be with Marissa, but his self-righteous streak is too strong. He can’t let Marissa throw her entire life away just because she hates her mom, and he definitely should be the one tell her all about it. If Ryan was a lawyer, you know that Sandy would be out of a job.
Fortunately, Sandy is the lawyer, and he has been doing his best to represent Julie. It turns out that Lance owns all of the rights to the Porn Identity, and he is free to do with it as he pleases. This is really hard for Julie to hear, but she says that it’s not like she could guarantee that Lance wouldn’t leak the tape anyway when he got the money. This gives Sandy an idea. He goes to Lances motel room, and makes it known that he is going to buy the video, all of the prints, and any stills that were from it. Lance will get his $500,000, but if anything is leaked, he will be sued for piracy and copyright infringement. One problem is taken care of, and he lets Julie know that his agreement prevents a leak. The agreement also states that he has two more weeks to come up with the money. That means that Julie is going to either become a drug dealer or tell Caleb about the whole thing. See, she can’t dwell on the past.
While Sandy was taking care of Julie, Kirsten had been working on finding some inspiration for Carter Buckley to get back into publishing. Carter was bummed about his marriage falling apart, but he was also really disappointed about seeing his career stoop to the level of Newport Living Magazine. Sandy had an old copy of Carter’s work from Berkley, it was a time when Carter was inspired to see the good in people, and maybe he could do it again. The trick work. Kirsten deposited it into his mailbox, he picked it up, and then sobered up enough to tell Kirsten just how sorry he was, and that he wants to get back to work. It just doesn’t make sense to live in the past.
Marissa is setting up the bonfire, but she is kind of lost. The horse’s head is going to end up being attached to the horse’s ass, and too many people are asking questions. Ryan had rushed to her apartment to convince her to move out, and then pulled his ever so charming, and well known schtick. He basically breaks into Alex’s apartment with the intent of forcing Marissa out. He realizes she isn’t there, but when confronted with Alex and the possibility she will fight for Marissa, he tells her to bring it. Seriously, I would have my money on Alex, Ryan really is very short. Plus, you know she will fight dirty.
Instead, Ryan heads to the bonfire. He wants to talk to Marissa, but she has other plans. She throws him into the fire (figure of speech) and he starts coordinating everything that has to do with the bonfire. He stands up on a chair (otherwise nobody would see him, he’s very short) and really takes charge of the whole thing. They then cut to Marissa with a very happy look on her face that says “Wow, if I try hard enough, maybe I can marry a civil engineer.”
The pep rally starts, and it looks like everything is going to go well, except Alex has decided to make one last stand for Marissa’s undying love, and she brought reinforcements. She knew she could take Ryan, but that would not leave her any time to seduce Marissa back into her heart. Alex brings to of her friends to keep a tab on Ryan. They are about to fight when Marissa comes, and they decide to have “the talk”.
You are going to find it hard to convince anybody that the whole Alex and Marissa thing was not a ratings stunt, but the next scene was handled well, or at least as well as anything we have seen this season. Although we haven’t actually seen Marissa attend school in months, the two have all of a sudden decided that maybe they don’t fit into each other’s lives. Alex is running a bar, and Marissa drinks from the bar. Marissa goes to high school (we think), and Alex is a dropout. Alex likes women, and apparently Marissa is done with her lipstick phase and is back with the guys. They hug and break up. In an odd sort of twist, Alex says that maybe she will move back home and go back to school. I hear she has relatives in Pittsburgh and Chicago that might take her in (and therefore the writers will never have to have the messy situation of her living in Newport to deal with).
With the breakup taken care of, everything is right back where it should be. Ryan and Marissa are single and not seeing each other, which is the first step on their way back to being a couple. Seth had been trying to get them back together, and while I don’t think Summer was trying to keep them apart, she certainly didn’t want to force the issue. If Ryan and Marissa get together, and will their relationship progress any farther than the disaster stage is what the show will focus on in the next couple of weeks.
This might have been my favorite episode of 2005. As much as the writers tried using inside jokes and self-referential humor to poke fun at their critics, in the end the execution looked like they pretty much followed a lot of what many of us have been clamoring for. It’s not just as simple as Ryan getting into fights and kids having fun and drinking. It’s about the focus of the show and the characters and relationships chosen for emphasis. Ryan is still too self-righteous and there is still no mention of his pregnancy. There are also way too many Valley references. Then again, if the writers find it necessary to make fun of their critics as a way of making their show better, I guess that is something I will live with.