March 31, 2004
Besides its often hilarious pacing issues – Newport gets more done in the ten minutes before school than you do all day – “The OC” has been dominated by sudden or awkward Walk-Ins. This is when the one character who must never discover the indiscretions/secrets of another just happens to bring over Chinese food at exactly the wrong moment, letting herself in the front door. But last night’s “OC” flipped that MO with a series of satisfying Walk-Aways. You know the Walk-Away. That’s when, instead of dealing with a bombshell revelation rationally and directly, a character becomes steely-eyed – “You’re dead to me!” – turns on her heel, and stalks for the door. All of a sudden, chains of melodramatic pacing bind the confessing character. “______, wait!” he squeaks, but his mouth is soon clapped shut by an iron plate labeled “next week”, or, in the case of Fox, “two weeks,” “a month,” or whenever “American Idol” finally, mercifully ends.
“The OC”‘s little lost fawn Marissa has trademarked the tearful “I have to go,” following it with a quick escape. She blubbered it last week, when she Walked In on Ryan asking Marmaduke Luke about his dalliance with Julie Cooper. This week, we find that Marissa has disappeared from Newport. After searching for her in a grand total of three places, Ryan throws up his hands, bewildered by her vanishing. Meanwhile, it’s the Seder at the Cohen household, and old Sandy Cohen has those eyebrows in full effect. His mother is coming to visit for Passover, his crowing Jewish mother that blames him for abandoning her like his dad did blah blah blah (fill in the usual backstory here; remove device that says someone must be a Navy Seal). The cast gets a kick out of referring to “The Nana” in the third person, like she’s Sauron or Shaquille O’Neal. “Yeah, you’re not meeting the Nana,” Seth tells Summer, who goes on to adorably memorize half the Talmud. “I’m gonna out-Jew YOU,” she tells Seth, working the elbow on hip. There’s more Walk-Away happening between Jimmy Cooper and the comely Hailey. See, Hailey is grateful for Jimmy and the gang’s alleyway intervention, the one that saved her from white slavery or being melted down at the glue factory or an uncredited role on “The Red Shoe Diaries”, or whatever she was doing at Luna Chicks, which looked pretty tame. She’s already made the boys a huge breakfast, and now it’s time to drop by Jimmy’s and give him his, uh, gift. You know Cooper wants to give Hailey a pearl necklace, but no, he drops the “I’m best friends with Kirsten, I’m Sandy’s business partner blah blah blah,” and next thing you know, Hailey’s turning on her heel and storming off. Naturally, all Jimmy can say is “Hailey, wait!” The iron plate has been bolted to his lips.
And where did Marissa Walk-Away to? A Wolfman and Cyclops reference from Seth jogs Ryan’s memory. Naturally she’s gone to Chino, and the arms of Theresa, her dark-eyed alter-ego. Ryan shows up in the Rover Truck to take his doe-eyed fawn back to the OC, finds her, hair pulled back and potting plants, looking like a conscript at a nunnery on the wrong side of the tracks. The Walk-Aways are flying 2 Fast 2 Furious now, with Ryan juggling Marissa’s obstinacy and the engagement party of Theresa and Eddie, which just happens to be that day. The chains of melodrama prevent Ryan from explaining to the angry Eddie his perfectly valid reason for being there; instead, Eddie and his dark-complected pals push poor Ryan to the pavement, bloodying his arm. Aw. Back at the Cohen house Passover prep is in full swing, with The Nana being mysteriously un-bitchy. Turns out, on this “very special ‘OC'”, that she’s been diagnosed with lung cancer. This info cannot reach the characters through the normal channels. Sandy finds out only through a haranguing of his moms, while Seth gets the news in a fabulous combination of the Listen-In and the Walk-Away. He stands in a doorway, choosing to eavesdrop on Nana and Sandy’s conversation. Nana turns, shocked to see him there. What occurs? Nothing, of course – Seth’s steely eyes flash with sadness, and he drifts away to sulk at the foot of his Death Cab for Cutie poster. I am waiting for you to flee the scene, as if you held in your hand the smoking gun, and on the floor lay the one you said you loved.
For her part, the ever-beguiling Summer has cracked the weary spine of Judaism, dutifully trying to be Seth’s girl even as he for whatever reason doesn’t seem to want her to be. This is puzzling, but it might be those melodramatic battleship chains again. Back in Chino, Ryan and the Fawn are on their way to another Walk-Away, with Marissa demanding he get out of her way so she can, presumably, Walk-Away. But da da DAAH! It’s Time to Act! All of a sudden Ryan’s screaming, Marissa’s yelping right back, and soon crying in his goofy arms. It was an intervention, see. The wise machinist Eddie knows. “She ran to the place she knew only you could find her,” the suddenly peaceful pal says through his articulated features. There’s more Acting going on back at the house. Jimmy and Hailey have a nice moment by the front door, where they admit their budding relationship will “self-destruct” and cause all kinds of commotion. In typical “OC” fashion, they do it anyway. Adam Brody gets to turn on the Serious Acting Face during a heart-to-heart with The Nana, as Peter Gallagher has been doing – quite believably – the whole episode. The confrontation between Nana and Kirsten is a laugher at first – you always hated me, no I didn’t blah blah blah – but the scene is saved at the very end, when the two women share a cynical joke and a knowing look. It’s one of those tiny character sketches the show does so well, and it works wonders during a storyline that often threatens to buckle under the weight of that heavy melodramatic scrap iron, not to mention all the Jewish humor. The decidedly non-Jewish Summer and Kirsten trading Hebrew H-words in the kitchen? That’s gold, Jerry! Gold!
Ryan’s intervention with Marissa works, but only after Luke shows up in Chino to get slapped by the Fawn. Then he disappears. (How did he know where…never mind.) In another leap of pacing faith, it turns out Marissa’s only been gone for, like, a half a day, and yet she’s made a little home in Theresa’s garage, befriended a coterie of brown Chino children (remember, it’s the wrong side of the tracks), and changed clothes like 45 times. Still, she gives up her new life of four hours to return to Newport with Ryan, and attend the Seder at the Cohens. “How was everything at home,” Sandy asks Ryan upon their return. “You tell me,” he responds with a wink. “I was in Chino all day.”
After all the Acting and goofy Pacing, all we needed was one more Walk-Away to make the episode perfect.