Clint follows in Asa's footsteps. Charlie and Jared hold on to the same secrets. Rex's features hide in the bone structure of Shane's face. Adriana vents all her middle-aged neuroses years in advance, like rocket fuel, and officially becomes her mother. The lesson on OLTL this week was that "blood will tell"...in its own good time, of course. Preferably in time for May sweeps!
There's plenty to talk about for this column, and the obvious place to start is with the Cramer-Balsom nuptials, and of course, "The Bride" from Hell...no, not Uma Thurman's character in Kill Bill, though personally I wouldn't be surprised to see Adriana wielding a Hattori Hanzo katana and disemboweling her enemies pretty soon. Isn't Adriana's transformation into what even Melissa Fumero has referred to as a full-fledged "Bridezilla" positively delicious? Oh, sure, it's not necessarily something we've never seen before - "girl from old couple turns bitch so new couple can flourish" is a classic daytime staple. One of the most recent successful examples on OLTL would be the metamorphosis of the milquetoast Jen Rappaport into a bedhopping schemer desperate to keep Cristian from Natalie in 2002. But that story didn't have these writers penning better dialogue and characterization, and unlike many of the other iterations of this trope on soaps, I see Adriana's personality change and darkening as fully "organic" (what an overused word) to the character and storyline. It's been thoroughly established in recent month just how profound an effect Dorian's brief presence has had on Adriana's young life, and how Adriana's morality and perspective have been irrevocably altered by Dorian's micromanaging and scheming. We saw hints of that when Adriana became especially intolerable in 2007, as the self-righteous secret-keeper who preached "family loyalty" to Blair but decided that only she and Rex could be allowed to know the secret of Tommy McBain. And when Adriana asked Dorian not long ago if Dorian just wanted to control her in order to relive her own life and all of Dorian's own selfish mistakes, it rang especially true, because that is in fact what Adriana's doing now: For all her supposed disgust for her mother and her hatred of her, Adriana's simply taken Dorian's worldview as her own, perhaps in order to "survive" her mother's mischief. I guess when you hire a stalker for your own kid you have to expect that.
In any event, Melissa Fumero is doing great as the newly-evil Adriana, and Robin Strasser is hilarious as Dorian slowly grows more and more henpecked by the frenetic "Rexiana" wedding planning, as well as Adriana's inexorable demands and emotional blackmail. Dorian has been forced to become her own daughter's "helper monkey" and it's fun to watch her dance as fast as she can. Even Rex seems to be less and less enthused about this whole thing, and can we blame him? You can just see that "beta male, must present my neck to the alpha of the animal kingdom" look creeping into his eyes, as Rex succumbs to the curse of other hapless high society husbands, like Guy Ritchie or perhaps, yes, Brad Pitt. You know the look; the one where they seem like they'd rather kiss a semi than adopt an eighteenth baby from Thailand. How long will it be until Adriana demands she and Rex head for Darfur to adopt five-month-old twins who she will insist on naming "Calvin" and "Donatella", plus a Spanish baby named "Tico"? Run, Rex! In the words of Iron Maiden, "run for the hills, run for your life!" Adriana has also predictably dragged poor, useless Layla into the madness, which actually has given Tika Sumpter some good comedy moments, playing "straight woman" to Adriana and Dorian. Now Layla can be sent off to Michigan, of all places, in the dead of night to do Adriana's dastardly bidding, accompanied only by her friend's grande dame villainness of a mother. How do they handle this with business expenses next year? Apparently Layla is Adriana's feudal serf. I hope she's getting time and a half for this duty. All in all, I'm loving this classic soap story, I'm loving Adriana the megabitch, I'm loving Gigi and Rex together too, and more than ever I can't wait for Gigi to shed her shackles of passivity and throw down with Adriana, preferably in the church, in front of everyone. And thank you, little Shane Morasco, for giving us another episode of "When Keeping It Real Goes Right" and saying, flat out, "I don't like (Adriana)." Keep it real, Shane! You're so hood.
On the more high-minded and serious side of things, the Buchanan Enterprises storyline continues to thrill by not talking down to the audience and giving us weighty material about adult issues, both professional and emotional. Just as Matthew gave a middle school speech about "transformational or transactional" leaders, Nora learned Clint had executed some transformational leadership of his own, destroying Asa's rivals in order to protect BE. The confrontation between the lovers was a standout scene which led to one of Hillary B. Smith's best and most heartfelt performances in several years, and easily Jerry verDorn's best work since coming to OLTL. Nora was poleaxed by her complicated memories of life with Asa and Bo, and a combination of disillusionment and longing for Clint. Clint wasn't simply a cold, business-minded hatchet man, but was clearly grappling with his mixed emotions and split impulses, his desire to be with Nora and his drive to protect the company and bear the same dubious cross that Asa did before him. While I may be a Bo and Nora fan going way back, I can hardly complain about Clint and Nora on days like those which they had this past week, dealing with real issues and real story in a human way which made them totally relatable and totally compelling. I'm eager to see where this will end up when Dorian's machinations are exposed. If Clint could do what he did to relative opportunists like Webster and Cobb, what will he do to a personal enemy like Dorian?
Down the hall from Clint and Nora, Jared and Natalie continued to sparkle with their office banter and sizzling, whip-smart back and forth. Oh, sure, in the real world, Jared's constant advances on his boss would mean major litigation and a visit from South Park's "Sexual Harassment Panda", but here on OLTL, we're all too aware of Jared and Nat's burning desire, and that makes their Hepburn/Tracy roadshow a continued delight. The living black rain cloud that is John McBain stopped by during the week to tweak the fans and make some sort of ridiculously random move on Natalie, which is obviously part of his and Talia's "Operation: WTF?" (more on that below), but that couldn't snuff out Jared's fire. His dogged, illogical insistence to Charlie that he and Natalie can be together even when he faces prison time for fraud is charmingly stupid; hopefully, things between the star-crossed pair will thaw enough during sweeps, however, leaving Jared with more than just his current pie-in-the-sky delusions and overpowering passion to keep him warm.
Now, as to what I like to call "Operation: WTF?" (figure out the acronym yourself) I speak, of course, of whatever the hell it is that is going on with John, Antonio, and Talia at the LPD. I thought I had it figured out, that it was some sort of covert sting against Lee Ramsey, but apparently it's a little more complicated. Sure, the threesome in blue carry out many of their silly little romantic peccadilloes in public, in full view of the prying eyes of Eddie and the other beat cops, who can then report back to Ramsey, but not all of their confrontations have been public. Antonio certainly seems to believe this all to be real, even in private. Which brings us to "Operation: WTF?" Whose brilliant idea was it to carry on a fake "affair" without clueing in Antonio?! Let me guess...John? Mr. "I'll Take Care Of Your Girlfriend While You're On Death Row"? Mr. "You're Under Arrest For Being The Biological Parent Of My Brother's Child"? Yeah, I thought so. What a brilliant plan. Doesn't John know what happened to Ben Davidson the last time Antonio got this huffy? Unless they plan to have Antonio shoot John in the head too, I've had it with this writer's-strike nonsense. The Nash/Sarah flirtation, which was almost as disposable as this, was at least wisely kept to a short shrift this week, but this story needs to speed the heck up. I dig Ramsey, and I miss my Antonio and Talia. At least the mystery of Penthouse Lady still has me gripped with regards to the LPD. If it really is a certain redhead, at least it'll be the real thing this time.
I've saved it for last, because you know I just had to: The continuing saga of Starr Manning and Cole Thornhart in Ju-NOT, also known as Surprise Baby. It isn't enough that this is the only thing about OLTL that ABC continually promotes in commercials. It isn't enough that this was obviously conceived during a strike by someone other than Ron Carlivati. It isn't even enough that we've been given a specific timetable for how long this grinding audience ordeal will continue. We still have to endure this storyline at least three out of five days every week, and last week was no exception. This time around: Funny wigs and identity theft! Starr and Langston's ill-conceived plan to swap appearances in time for Starr to jet off to Atlantic City somehow went off without a hitch, as Langston apparently planned to get away with sitting in the Llanview High library all night long. Then there's the probably-intentional cinematic riff on Juno, with Starr in a dark Ellen Page hoodie, biking off to the bus stop for her procedure - hey, just like Juno! Spare me, just...spare me. The only bright spots in this whole affair last week were the presence of Jack, sassing it up with his sister, as well as the surprisingly meaty confrontation between Todd and Cole, in which Todd finally lost it when Cole called him on the nasty truth of his obsession with his daughter's relationship: Todd sees himself in Cole and Marty in Starr, and can't extricate his own private demons from the reality of the situation. Trevor St. John's freakout when Cole confronted him was sudden, creepy, strange, and appropriately Todd in a way that only St. John has done. Some people don't care for the way TSJ's Todd seems to turn rabid or sexually aggressive on a dime, but I think it fits with Todd's psychological profile as a barely-reformed criminal and predator, and those scenes with Cole were actually gripping stuff. It's a pity the rest of the storyline has dragged to the point where I wish I could bike to Atlantic City myself and abort it from the show.
So, all things considered, a pretty decent week in Llanview, I have to say. Things are picking up again as we have only a couple weeks until the strike material ends, and Ron Carlivati takes us into May sweeps! I'll meet you right back here just in time for Adriana to walk down the aisle...possibly while holding Rex at gunpoint. Ciao!