Street smarts and book smarts

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OLTL Two Scoops: Street smarts and book smarts
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The week of January 24, 2005
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Characters used their street smarts and book smarts to help them with relationships and with uncovering mysteries previously gone unnoticed. It was refreshing to see characters not dumbed down by writing.

Don't let the title fool you...I'm not here to discuss the latest installment of one of my most favorite reality franchises, "The Apprentice." Even though I was hooked by the premise of Donald Trump's pitting contestants who were "street smart" against those who had "book smarts," I am not here to discuss my feelings of annoyance towards the grating guitar player or my feelings of elation that the street smart team won the first challenge (which is odd that I would root for them since I have a Master's Degree of my own). But, I digress. An interesting thing struck me as I watched "One Life to Live" all week---I finally saw minds working; the wheels in the brain were finally moving as characters used their street smarts and book smarts to help them with relationships and with uncovering mysteries previously gone unnoticed. It was a refreshing week to see characters not "dumbed down" by writing. Apparently, smart writing must lead to smart characters!

First, as I mentioned before, it's so refreshing to see Kelly Cramer finally become a more focused and balanced woman. She really had allowed herself to become completely irrational and distracted by her obsessive love for her husband and her desperate attempts to keep Ace's identity a secret from everyone else. Since putting her relationship with Kevin behind her and since realizing Ace is with Babe, Ace's biological mother, Kelly has really been able to think clearly and make solid decisions that will ultimately help her move on with her life. What showed her street smarts this week was when Kevin, moved by the 8-month infant of a political fan of his, asked Kelly to move back in with him once he reclaimed Ace. Apparently, the fond memories of Kevin and Kelly acting as responsible parents with Ace during his initial months with them prompted Kevin to make this proposal to his ex-wife. The Kelly of yesterday would have jumped at this suggestion! The thinking-Kelly of today knew this was not a good idea, and she wisely told her ex that things were best as they are. Further, she urged Kevin to allow Ace to remain with his biological mother. It's such an amazing transformation that we are watching in this character. Kelly is someone who was so closely connected to my fast-forward button for many, many months. Now, she is interesting and compelling again. Her entire demeanor is suggestive of a more independent and smart woman. I'm really excited to see what her next move in life turns out to be.

Next, as much as I despise and deplore this entire Margaret-kidnaps-Todd-to-conceive-his-child storyline, I was finally thrilled to see some progress being made in locating the two of them! Seeing Blair and Nora, two very smart and intelligent women, join forces to locate evidence that might connect Margaret to Todd was long overdue. Nora, using her book smarts as a lawyer, knew exactly where to look to find pieces of the puzzle that might lead the two of them in Todd's direction. Discovering that Margaret checked into the Palace Hotel the night of Blair and Todd's intended wedding, that Margaret had been digging through their trash, that Todd hasn't touched his accounts in the month that he has been gone---all of these discoveries (and more) showed the efforts of two women who can move mountains when they put their minds to work. It just amazes me how in the scope of one episode, so much evidence can be quickly uncovered, yet it takes a month for anyone to realize that those clues are actually out there. Nonetheless, I'm nit-picking. It will be interesting to see what happens once Blair and Nora reach the cabin where Margaret is detonating dynamite to free Todd from where he is trapped. This storyline is apparently FAR from over, but if it continues to move in the smart direction it was heading late last week, I will tolerate Crazy Margaret's antics for just a little while longer. Speaking of Margaret, ever since a reader pointed out her resemblance to Glenn Close's character in "Fatal Attraction," that is all I see now whenever she is on the screen. It's creepy. And while I'm on the subject of Blair and Nora doing some investigative work at the police station, something caught my eye which nagged at me. Next time you see a scene in the police station, take note of the pay phone in the lobby. There is graffiti written all around that phone---in a police station! I was amazed that a police station would allow its image to be tarnished with graffiti. It's such a ridiculous thing to notice, I know, but it just bothered me to think that nobody in that police station would think it is appropriate to paint over those little hearts and scribblings on the wall in their lobby.

Then we come to Cris. First, let me say that is was good to see that the brainwashing scheme used on him apparently is flawed. Cris is desperately fighting the instructions that were given to him, and he has made the first step in trying to regain control of his life by destroying that little black book with his thoughts and notes and instructions written in it. Using some street smarts, I guess Cris figures that eliminating the tangible evidence will somehow free him from carrying out the next step in his programming. I only wish he would confide in Natalie or someone else about what has happened to him---that would REALLY put him on the path to recovery. With all of that said, how disgusted am I with learning this week that David Fumero is exiting in the coming weeks. With his return slated to be only four months, the time has now come for Cristian to leave Llanview again! I know this isn't Dena Higley's fault, since she assumed her head-writing duties concurrently with Fumero's return, but it's enormously frustrating to finally connect to a storyline that was somewhat ho-hum in the beginning only to learn that it is now coming to an end. It almost makes my investment in the character and his quest to become the Cris we all remember not as important as it had been. I now feel like I just want this story wrapped up so I can see how the other affected characters will move on. I never understand why a character is brought back after such a long time only to be thrust into a front-burner story and only for a short period of time. It reminds me of Vanessa Marcil's brief stint as Brenda Barrett on GH. Great return, but a lackluster end to her short run.

Finally, we come to our favorite discussion topic of Evangeline/John/Natalie. Interestingly, I really, really enjoyed each of these characters independently this week because of the smart way each one of them was written. After just expressing concern over how Evangeline was being written as a "jealous schoolgirl," I can breathe a sigh of relief. The scenes when Evangeline confronted Natalie and urged her to confide in John about her misgivings about Cris were heartfelt, genuine, and smart. Our book smart/street smart Evangeline is back! No jealousy, no cat fights, no "stay away from my man" speeches. Here is the Evangeline who is secure in her relationship with John and who is willing to extend herself to Natalie, the woman she has once feared might give her a run for her money with John. Likewise, Natalie wasn't copping an attitude with Evangeline. Sure, she expressed the confusion of should I or shouldn't I talk to John, but eventually she saw Evangeline's honest intentions and thought long and hard about her words of advice. Only later then, did Nat do the smart thing in calling John about the note she found in Llanfair that suggested Cris was in some trouble. When John left Evangeline in mid-kiss because of Nat's urgent phone call, we didn't see anger, we didn't see jealous sparks of rage, and we didn't see frustration. We saw Evangeline thankful that Natalie is trusting John and helping to solve this case. We saw Evangeline relieved that she was no longer in the position of keeping Nat's suspicions from John because she didn't want to be in the middle. And we saw John return to his role in helping Natalie by acting as her protector, of sorts. He even reiterated to Nat that he and Evangeline were in a good place right now in their relationship and that she must not feel torn in whether or not she should call him in the future for help. I liked how the three of these characters interacted with each other all week and that they are being written in a more intelligent and smart manner.

Character development is such an important job for a writer to maintain. Even when plotlines get far-fetched and out of control, if the characters are written in a way as to preserve their book smarts and street smarts, we viewers can tolerate the ridiculous antics of people like Margaret and even idiots like Tico Santi. But when formerly smart characters are shown to be bumbling idiots, it becomes very difficult to rally support for any story or even the show. It looks like OLTL is headed in the right direction!

Enjoy the week,

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