Friday, September 30, 2005

The OC Season 3 Episode 4: How Marissa got her groove back

Previously: Season 3 Episode 3: Hate To Say I Told You So

Full disclosure time here. I have never been to public school. Well, that's not true. I went to public elementary schools in Japan and the UK but I have never had the John Hughes Americana experience in my formative years.

So when my public school friends would regal me with tales of their adventures - guns, smoking in the bathroom, cars that cost less than $25,000, spontaneous choreographed dance numbers - I would lean on every word, wide eyed like a little boy listening to his grandfather's war stories, and wonder if I could survive even first period in the Sarajevo that is the American public high school. On the flip side, not being the token Asian would have been awfully nice. Thanks, dad.

Lucky Marissabot. Unlike your fearless leader, she gets to experience taxpayer-funded education firsthand. Except we don't see her in the classroom. Just getting dropped off by Ryan, getting harassed in the hallway, getting saved from harassment in the hallway, not getting picked up by Ryan. That's what school is, really. It is but mere respite between the drama, romance and comic misunderstandings.

So yeah, comic misunderstandings. It appears that Nora Ephron took over for Josh Schwartz and turned the Ryan-Marissabot relationship into a chick flick. Poor Ryan, he's getting stood up for breakfast! But don't blame Marissa, she and her mom are getting evicted and she forgot all about the breakfast date. Oh look, Ryan looks through the wire fence (oooh, public school decor is edgy!) and thinks Marissabot's getting harassed - oh, it's just a nice guy trying to console her. Is Marissa ditching homework to go to the (gasp! non-themed!) school dance with public school ruffians? Well, yes.

Back in civilization, the Seth/Summer vs Taylor/Dean Hess tag team match continues. Seth, to his credit, still refuses to out Summer, earning him more shit from the Dean of Discipline (for full effect, play something from a Richard Wagner opera in your mind every time I write "Dean of Discipline". Also, I find it's oddly entertaining to insert the Law & Order bassline and "da dum" in random TV shows. But I digress).

Taylor, on the other hand, extends an olive branch to Summer, revealing that her bitchiness is actually a defense mechanism to cope with her crippling loneliness. It makes sense. I've been there too. But wait! This revelation comes way too early in the episode, before anything climactic has gone down between Summer and Taylor. Shit, it's not even 8:20 ET yet. But Summer is oblivious to the timing of the plot development and takes Taylor at her word. She doesn't even see Taylor ominously stepping over the "End of Summer Dance" banner. And I thought I was bad at catching signals.

Nothing much over at Chez Cohen. Kirsten is cooking some fancy ass grub (which hopefully don't require any cooking wine or sherry). Oh, by the way Kiki, I know you're excited about actually using those shiny kitchen appliances, but you might want to start off with the easy stuff. Whatever you're cooking up sounds way too challenging for a proven non-cook. Tivo some Food Network programs so you can watch how the pros do it. That cute Giada DiLaurentiis chick is pretty good and Alton Brown knows his shit. But don't do any of that Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade shit. That stuff looks awful and it's all a rather blatant product placement.

Aaaaanyway, Kirsten and Sandy are cool like that, which means Jeri Ryan has to come in and try to ruin the coolness of it all. Except she's not all that good at ruining things. Turns out, she's not so much a psycho stalker as she is half of an incompetent con artist duo. She tries to trick Kirsten into investing, oh I don't know, $2, 3 million on this halfway house for women winos but Kirsten ain't go no money in her name and she's shutting down the Newport Group because no one knows exactly what the Newport Group does other than lose money. Jeri Ryan tries to give this whole "Getting over your past is important but it's also for pussies" speech, to which simultaneously confuses and coaxes the best creeped-out look from Kirsten. Jeri Ryan reports back to her scam partner with the bad news, but promises to strike again. Off camera, the two share a "Mwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha" belly laugh, I'm sure.

Ryan isn't doing much of anything other than getting stood up by Marissabot, pining for Marissabot and getting ditched by Marissabot. That, and he's waiting for his home-school tutor, who will presumably teach him the legend of Jebediah Springfield and that Whacking Day is a sham byproduct of xenophobia. Howeve, this storyline does yield the best Cohenism of this season, "You home schooled kids are pathetic."

Back to Marissabot. Man, her introduction to the school is so straight out of Brandon's first day at school in 90210. They should've just completed the homage by having a 45-year-old sophomore newspaper editor be her love interest. But alas, we have a surfer dude, his girlfriend and their Screech-esque comic relief, who save her from the one mean girl who keeps harassing her in the hallway and making "bang bang" finger gestures. Why does that girl hate Marissa? Well, Casey the self processed not-that-nice, but actually nice girl explains, it might be her fancy ass outfit and her Chanel necklace. That, and the sense of entitlement and self-pity that surrounds her boyish body like a force field.

But at the non-themed dance, the "bang bang" girl's still mean to Marissa. Which is kinda appropriate because the song that's playing is MIA's "Fire Fire". Screech Jr comes up with an alternate theory - it's because the uncivilized public school hooligans are like dogs and they can smell fear. Nah, I'm still going with sense of entitlement and self-pity. But thanks to the only three nice kids in public school, Marissa goes from inconsolable to relatively okay. Ryan, who's getting his insecurities tested like a motherfucker goes to crash the non-themed dance, but decides not to when she sees Marissa chatting happily and Seth shows up from his own themed-dance sensing he'd be there.

Again, back to the civilized world of Harbor Academy. So I told you Taylor was playing the "Me Kim Jong Il. Me so ronery." act on Summer, right? Well, Taylor tricks Summer into admitting her part in the theft of the "South Pacific" set to (cue Wagner) the Dean of Discipline, forcing her to resign as social chair. Oh dear! There goes her one resume padder! Consequently, Summer gets to feel what Taylor felt throughout Seasons 2, all the work and no credit. At the dance, Taylor is not at all graceful in her usurping of Summer, as she makes a speech thanking the Dean of Discipline and really emphasizing that this is the End of Summer dance.

Oh, the whole suit-and-shorts thing ain't working. It didn't work when Boyz II Men rocked it in 1992, and Motownphilly certainly is not back again.

Summer has, well, will have the last laugh though, as she catches Taylor Townsend sneaking out of the gym, and discovers her making out with (cue porn music) the Dean of Discipline. I would have pulled out my camera phone, but that's easy for me to say sitting on my couch 3,000 miles away. But Summer now has ammo in hand she can unleash at the most opportune time.

How did I get this far without mentioning Julie Cooper? Granted, she wasn't her usual self but what do you expect when your sugar daddy's mansion gets repo'd and she has to move to either that motel she used for hooking up with Luke or Trey and Alex's old apartment (it's hard to tell - OC set designers seem to have a singular idea of what plebeian Orange County living looks like). And trying to tell Marissa that they weren't being evicted was a little pathetic. That's like telling your daughter that you sent her hamster to Hamster Camp when the girl can clearly see the toilet plunger in your hand. Still, she had the second best line of the night, "We will get back on our feet and when we do, we'll be wearing expensive footwear when we do." Ah, that's me Julie. Booyakasha.

As the episode draws to a close, Marissa has sneaked into Ryan's poolhouse (don't people lock their doors in Newport?), and Ryan comes back from his snooping mission, though Marissa doesn't have to know. The awkward couple decides that Youth Group's cover of "Forever Young" (which I'm actually preferring over the original) is "their" song. Meanwhile, Julie sobs alone, Kirsten deals with her horrible dead father and Summer smiles smugly.

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