Pour one out for Caleb Nichol. He was one of “The OC”‘s shining columns, a cantankerous rock of bastard charm who brought out the best in Sandy Cohen sarcasm. Sanford even lobbed a zinger during his eulogy, saying the White Devil would surely be happy building mansions in heaven. In life it was Cal who coined a nickname for Ryan that unfortunately didn’t catch on. But if the old guy had ever met Ryan’s brother Trey, he might’ve switched the fantastic handle of Inland Street Thug to the shaggy-hair’d ex-con sibling.
Despite the tarnished, but still giving golden heart of the Cohen family, despite assurances that he would go straight, despite a job at that venerable holding pattern The Bait Shop, Trey was a bad apple from god-awful Chino, and could not be rehabilitated. In “The OC”‘s world, Ryan and Trey’s hometown continued to be some sort of horrifying (read: hilariously unrealistic) cross between a gulag and Snake Plissken‘s Manhattan.
Even Ryan was susceptible to its dastardly pull, almost two years on from his escape. As the second season unfolded his fight with instability kept rearing up. Like, “He’s better now that those lethal weapons he calls hands have been cuffed by Newport’s coddling. But watch the fuck out! He’s still a caged animal, and he’ll eat your face!” But in true Inland Street Thug fashion, Trey had it worse. He stole watches and Risky Business artifacts; he lurked and smoked in a chintzy pub that looked like an East German Bennigan’s. He just had that Chino crazy gene, the one Newporters feared would infect their water. For him, “OC” stood for “on cocaine,” and Trey wouldn’t stop until the Doe Eyed Fawn put a bullet through his shoulder. Cue the tense serial fanfare. “Deh-deh-DAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!”
Yes, things got pretty soapy on “The OC,” version 2.0. The final episodes were strong, but damn if midseason things weren’t just plain mediocre. (Making the show very difficult to write about.) ABC’s “Life as We Know It” was kicking “The OC”‘s ass – welcome to Seattle and breaking the fourth wall, bitch! – at least until it was cancelled. But the axing of that show led to the extremely foxy Marguerite Moreau (Ms. Young on “Life”; had her way with worrywart Ben) appearing as Seth and Zach’s WildStorm rep on “The OC”. Unfortunately it was sort of an “eh” story arc that only became really entertaining during the penultimate comic store scene. A Zach and Seth slap fight and Summer in PVC and a whip? That’s gold, Jerry. Gold.
This season Marissa the Fawn was as wobbly-kneed and weepy as ever, even as a wannabe lesbian, and what the fuck happened to Alex, anyway? She was banished to the Island of Lost “OC” Characters along with Luke, Lindsay the Lovely Firecracker (Jake Brown: “She doesn’t even come back for her biological father’s funeral? WTF?”), and Weird Beard Carter. What a smug loser he was, and not even because he tried to steal Kirsten from former Father of the Year Sandy Cohen. It’s because he didn’t even need to be in the show. Kirsten’s alcoholism was effectively established with a few drunky parties last season – it should have been linked directly to the distance in her marriage, which was a much more compelling storyline. (Besides, Kelly Rowan and Peter Gallagher have always had great onscreen chemistry.) Add in Seth’s ever-present feelings of inadequacy, and you have a powerful “we’re gonna make it through this” episode. Which is almost as good as the “very special” episode, which the “OC”‘s season finale turned out to be. The intervention scene was kinda hammy, but it was cool how it was Ryan and Seth that really made Kirsten realize how damaged she was, even if Benjamin McKenzie remains a fencepost in a bowl cut that acts with only one face. Still, watch the fuck out. He has PTSD from growing up in Chino! He might eat your face!
There’s no question about it: Summer and Julie Cooper have become the “OC”‘s strongest and best characters. Julie’s developed into a terrific hybrid of coldhearted bitchery and jaded honesty. She used to be bubbly and blindly opportunistic, the typical plastic Newport skeez. But her bootstraps past – including an unfortunate detour into porn, handled with clever humor in a great series of sequences – as well as seeing just how far she WOULDN’T go to kill Cal – she’s not a monster – gave Julie Cooper-Nichol an engaging and realistic warmth. And she no longer just emptily asked Marissa to love her, as if it was what she saw a mother on “The Valley” do once. Instead she admitted her failings and took a realistic look at their relationship. She even had Sandy’s back with Kirsten’s alcoholism. For that matter Summer did, too, trying to hook her up with a plate of crab.
Stuck between two idiots and a friend who was a lesbian one day and a victim of the Inland Street Thug the next, Summer brought brassy humor and real backbone to a show that was often just one more awkward walk-in away from complete prime time soap meltdown. Her turn as a boxer was great, as was her evisceration of the types at Seth’s WildStorm party in Silverlake. Summer is cynical enough to dress down a nation of Chuck Klostermans. But she’s also gentle and wise, and can put sad sack Seth at ease with only Princess Sparkle and a few knee caresses. Or the crack of a whip.
So Trey had sex and did drugs with a coo-coo for cocoa puffs devil girl whose name was never fully established. She’d show up behind lockers to accost Ryan, or appear in a bra on Trey’s crappy couch with a coke mirror in her palm. Maybe she actually OD’d during that party at Marissa’s, and was only a figment of Trey and Ryan’s tortured Chino brains. I see dead floozies. Maybe. Regardless, the Street Thug now lies on his apartment floor, clutching a sucking chest wound. Marissa, who shot him, is still crazy. But the Fawn has a family now with Jimmy back in the picture. Kirsten’s in rehab, giving Sandy a dose of reality. And Seth and Summer are back together (“Seth Cohen’s a tool!”), even if it probably won’t last. (Hopefully it won’t – like Fleischman and O’Connell, they’re better at flirty fighting.) As for Ryan, once the bruises from being choked by his brother wear off, he’ll probably have even more Chino baggage to cart around Newport Beach. Keep in mind he also ran into Theresa, his dark-eyed gorgeous ex, and she’s got that pesky baby. What’s going to happen on “The OC,” season three? At this point, it wouldn’t be surprising if Oliver knocked on the door.
Songs featured in this episode:
• “El Manana” by Gorillaz from Demon Days
• “Crosses” by Jose Gonzalez from Veneer
• “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap
• “You’re Not The Law” by The Dead 60’s from The Dead 60’s
• “An Honest Mistake” by The Bravery from The Bravery
• “Hot Ride” by The Prodigy from Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
• “Friends” by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals from Cold Roses
• “Twenty Two Fourteen” by The Album Leaf from In a Safe Place