12 December 2006

Um, OMG, Caitlin like, rocks!

I think the last time The O.C. enjoyed two good episodes in a row was during the first season. But last week's episode, like that of the week before, was fantastic. No one got arrested, no one fell grievously ill, no one fucking died for sobbing out loud, just one hour of good old-fashioned puppy love and debauched partying. Okay, so Summer got kicked out of school, that's pretty major, but important to the show for larger purposes. Now she's stuck in Newport till next fall, and Seth says he'll defer RISD an extra semester in order to stay with her. This gives Schwartz & Co. about six months to dream up that one last kooky plot twist that finally leads to the whole gang's inevitable enrollment at California University at Orange County.

Except of course for Ryan, who just has to do his own thing, so he enrolls at cross-town rival Chino State. Graduation rate: just like those incredible prices in a high-end consumer electronics catalogue... too low to print. Also known as "where the wild things are." Like as in, "welcome to the jungle, kid." Good opportunity to re-introduce all the kids from Newport Public who aren't dead or in jail (bad Heather, Johnny's girlfriend, that insufferable "Bizarro Seth" kid) yet. 'Cause you just know they'll all wind up in the same place. And of course this socioeconomic cross-pollination can only lead to one thing: showdown between the haves and the have-nots at the annual CUOC–CSU gridiron tilt in late November (nickname: the Lemon Bowl). Naturally the two schools are long-standing rivals in all sports, but the near-brawl has to take place at a football game, because there's really only three sports not historically dominated by one school or the other, and CSU's basketball program is under NCAA-mandated suspension following last year's point-shaving scandal.1 I'm telling you, you take your eyes off those public school kids for one minute...

But we're getting ahead of ourselves here. A few other observations on the current State of the County:

  • Gordon "The" Bullet: a questionable addition whose novelty is wearing thin fast, but has too many good points to just write off. For one thing, it's always good to have Julie dating yet another rich guy, and the idea of him aggressively pursuing her and her resisting his "charms" is a nice change of pace. But I think it was his sudden and unexpected display of vulnerability after their disastrous dinner with the Cohens that ultimately tipped the scales in his favour: after all that alpha-male bluster, he's really just a poor little puppy dog, eager to please and starved for attention.2
  • Having Julie and Kirsten's dating service accidentally morph into a call-guy service stocked with hot young gigolos is exactly the kind of overwrought nonsense I generally find unnecessary and bothersome about this show. Are we even going to find out how this misunderstanding occurred? Did that sexpot client just offer the kid money at the end of the night? And if so, what made him think to call Julie and offer her a share of it? I'm willing to give this one a chance simply because it smacks of Julie's secret porn-tape subplot from a couple seasons ago, which was both a hilarious idea and a well-written storyline, right up to its surprisingly affecting conclusion. But Schwartz & Co. are skating on pretty thin narrative ice when they turn to ideas this inherently ridiculous. Colour me open-minded but highly skeptical.
  • Nice to see Che get exposed as a whiney rich kid, but I didn't like the way the writers portrayed him as a sympathetic galoot (in a pitiful sort of way), rather than a scheming little weasel. The good: I like that "Che" is short for "Manchester"; clever detail there. The bad: Seth should have punched him in the face instead of shoving him into the pool. Che still could have fallen into the water and dragged Summer with him, but that way he would have at least emerged with a bloody nose. Also, Summer would have scolded Seth for resorting to violence but secretly been really turned on by seeing her man throw a punch.
  • Caitlin just took an immeasurable leap forward in terms of character respectability with that party, and may in fact be my new hero. At this point I'm having trouble accepting that she was actually related to that walking wet blanket Marissa. Could Marissa have pulled off these moves? More importantly, would it even have occurred to her to bother trying? Let's recap the high points:
    1. invites all the kids who aren't invited to the mean ol' popular girl's party, no matter who they are; totally choice move, because she immediately becomes the savior of not only all of Harbour High's social outcasts, but pretty much everybody outside the highest social echelon, while at the same time guaranteeing herself a big enough crowd that she won't get stuck hanging out with the same half-a-dozen boring losers all night;
    2. openly smokes marijuana and offers it to others with no repercussions, which puts her way ahead of Seth3, that's for damn sure;
    3. continues the show's by-now long-standing tradition of alarmingly casual underage drinking, again with no repercussions; and most deliciously
    4. tries to hook up with her main rival's boyfriend, and when that doesn't work? Oh, just gets him to come out of the closet instead! I mean, she gets rebuffed on her initial advance, so she goes for the even more devastating move? PWNED!
    At that point it's game, set and match, Caitlin Cooper. And when the mean girl shows up in tears, having just arrived from her own sparsely attended soirée, to concede defeat and offer school-ruling privileges? Caitlin can't even be bothered. "Just be nice to your friends," she scoffs. Coolest move ever! Seriously, at this point I don't think she can be stopped. I'm completely prepared to believe that by the end of the season she'll successfully broker a bilateral disarmament agreement between India and Pakistan, and look jailbait-fabulous doing it. Oh yeah, and when she finishes teaching her rival a crucial life lesson and leaving all of Harbour High a palpably better place for it, what does she do? Turns around and goes back to cleaning the graffiti from one of the unconscious twins' faces, thanklessly looking out for her friends as the rest of the party fades into yesterday. She's almost too cool to be believed in this episode, but I think I like her that way.
  • And of course the Taylor-Ryan saga continues, which makes for some good moments (Sandy and Kirsten vying for the role of "the new Seth" in Ryan's life4; Taylor hiring some gay dude to pretend to be her boyfriend and paying him in rare Japanese action figures), some not so good (Ryan's lame infatuation fantasies5, which require "actor" Ben MacKenzie to reveal his painfully inadequate range). All in all I like where they left it: the two of them are kind of back to where they started, with plenty of room left for several more episodes of the same endlessly endearing mating dance. Bring it.
By the way, watch for some awkward scenes between Seth and Summer in the coming weeks, as US Weekly reports the real-life couple have called it quits. On one hand, I'm like, totally bummed. I mean, they're both like, so hot. On the other hand, that same article places Brody at some party flirting with none other than Ashlee Simpson! Pinch me! I mean, hello? Like, oh my god, is my head about to explode? I don't think I could even handle it if those two were to start dating. That would just be like... oh my god!

    Tangents & Clarifications
  1. CUOC, not surprisingly, can beat CSU handily at most of the country club-type sports (golf, tennis, equestrian), while CSU tends to dominate the "grittier" sports in the collegiate pantheon (stickball, kick the can, auto theft). Interesting trivia tidbit: the third sport at which both schools traditionally excel is none other than water polo, a sport most people would understandably expect to be dominated by the rich kids. Instead, CSU plays the role of perennial scrappy underdog and invariably makes the conference finals year in and year out, due in no small part to their unique home field advantage. Whereas the CSU players are used to the conditions of their campus's pool, CUOC and other visiting squads are thoroughly unaccustomed to swimming in what is essentially a chlorinated vat of medical waste and animal remains; their play suffers accordingly. [Return]
  2. Big bonus points for the Bullet who, when discussing widespread Jewish media ownership, addresses Sandy affectionately as "Hebro". A few left-field laughs like that per episode and the big guy can stick around as long as he pleases. [Return]
  3. Who you'll no doubt recall missed his interview with Brown, blowing his shot at acceptance, and later went on to burn down his father's office. All during his "experimenting" phase. Way to go, lightweight. [Return]
  4. The winner? Tossup, really. Kirsten gives the better advice, but Sandy does the better Seth impression (mentions comic books and indie rock) and has a more relaxed overall demeanor. Of course this latter advantage is partly due to the undeniable sexual tension between Kirsten and Ryan. Mark my words. [Return]
  5. Interesting side note: in its first couple of seasons the show was known for, among other things, a tendency to try to "have it both ways", in that the writers seemed to feel that, by acknowledging and poking fun at the inherent cheesiness of the show through either self-referential comments or witty discussions of thinly-veiled fictional show-within-the-show The Valley, said cheesiness became automatically excused. It worked the first couple of times, but they drove the idea into the ground and eventually abandoned it, as though tacitly admitting that the show had become so ludicrous that no amount of half-assed postmodern-lite one-liners could excuse it. At the same time the tone of the show had become so suffocatingly melodramatic that such japery would have seemed jarringly incongruous anyway.
    When Ryan describes his woefully unimaginative Tayl-lucinations (pole dancing, excessive soap suds)a to Seth, Seth responds with a joke about how cheesy his fantasies are, echoing the thoughts of the viewing audience. On one hand, it's indicative of the overall return to form the show is undergoing these days that the writers aren't afraid to reach back and pull out some of the old gags; on one level they're winking at the cheesiness of the scenes, but the self-referentialism also works on another level as they seem to be pointing out that the lighter tone of the recent storylines recalls the show's carefree early days, before teen death, parental alcoholism and corrupt local politics became the order of the day.
    On the other hand, nice try. Why not just give Ryan some really kinky fantasies? Why can't Ryan harbour some surprising fetishes deep down beneath that hardened exterior? [Return]
    1. which, by the way, I'd wager Autumn Reeser had a blast shooting

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