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The week of June 30, 2008
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Jessica tore the block up at Nash's funeral, then split once more into Tess. Hate her, love her or somewhere in between, Tess is a polarizing character bound to have a devastating impact.

I'll be honest: I'm starting to wish I also had multiple personality disorder. If only to get away from this frickin' heat! It feels like the surface of the sun in my apartment, and boys and girls, believe you me, New York City in the summer without an overpriced A/C is no joke. I got enough fans in here to power an engine, I worry that every time I trip over something I'll slice a limb off, and it's still not cool enough. Let my alter sweat it out in this sauna! We'll call him "Matthew." That sounds appropriately quasi-Biblical and a little foreboding, right? Michael and Matthew? Well, maybe not. The only thing I can think of that sort of rhymes with "Michael" is..."Bicycle." And we couldn't name an alter that. That would just be silly. As opposed to the rest of this paragraph.

Anyway. All kidding aside, it was an MPD-elicious week (oh, I'm going to hell) on OLTL as Jessica tore the block up at Nash's funeral, then split once more into "Tess." Hate her, love her or somewhere in between, Tess is a polarizing character bound to have a devastating impact. I think I've said before that I felt that the original Tess storyline as created by Dena Higley was, overall, tacky, exploitative and gimmicky. It's been rumored that Ms. Higley got the OLTL gig simply by pitching a one-line summary of the storyline to Brian Frons: "Jessica has an alternate personality." Higley didn't really bother with much deep thinking from there, sadly. and the story that resulted was, I felt, both sleazy and self-righteous, destroying Jessica's childhood as we saw it onscreen and compromising a passel of beloved core characters who had been there as she'd grown up (especially Viki), going for the most shocking and character-rending retcon possible, and then, having the gall to promote it as "a social issues story." I find nothing responsible or well-thought-out about writing a storyline in which both mother and daughter are revealed to have been the victims of separate, repeated molestation, during which the mother (or rather, her alter) is painted as almost indifferent. It seemed as though Higley wanted to do something grotesque and then be congratulated for "shedding light on a difficult subject." I also felt that Tess as a character was often cartoonish and two-dimensional, either "homicidal" or "in love," and that we were expected to just accept either aspect of her character depending on the episode, and then ignore the other side of the coin. All in all, I found the Tess story to be vastly inferior to the classic DID story with Viki in 1995, and a story which ruined Jessica's past in a way that can never quite be fixed. That said, I've enjoyed Bree Williamson's performance as Tess, I loved her chemistry with Forbes March, and I think that when the writing is there, she's able to soar. So I'm totally willing to give this return storyline for Tess a chance, especially under the more responsible and mature pen of Ron Carlivati. Just Friday alone was an improvement, with the creepy, slow transformation from Jessica into Tess which didn't need dialogue, endless flashbacks, or cheesy voice-overs or hallucinations...just a woman looking into a mirror, stripping "to the bone" and becoming someone else. Equally haunting was the surreal montage of Nash and Jessica's past together just before she passed out in the cottage.

I also have to give it up for Williamson's performance at Nash's funeral. Her breakdown and rage at Natalie and Jared was incredible television, and brilliant writing and acting. It better go on her Emmy reel, because it was as good a funeral meltdown, IMO, as Alexis Davis's famous rant at Sonny and Jason on General Hospital in 2002. I've gotten feedback from viewers on either side of the Jessica/Natalie divide that's come about from this storyline, and frankly, I have to say I agree with both of them. I feel for Jessica, and I feel for Natalie. Jessica has made a number of terrible mistakes throughout her life and brought Jared to town via "Tess," and Natalie and Jared also made a terrible, terrible error in judgment that cannot and should not be easily forgiven. Even if I understand Natalie's intentions regarding keeping the secret, and even if I understand her love for Jared, I can also understand why it's the last possible thing Jessica wants or needs to hear about right now. She was entitled to her rage, even her nasty comments about Natalie being "trailer trash." Do I believe Natalie is trash, or that Jessica has always secretly thought so despite making peace with Natalie in 2002? No and no. But Jessica was sick with grief and pain, and everything that's happened to her life in the last weeks, and the huge betrayal by her sister, has made her find herself back where she was in 2001, watching Natalie turn her life upside-down seemingly (to Jessica, that is) on a whim. At the same time, Viki, Clint and the other members of the family need to be willing to talk to Natalie and communicate when Jessica can't. Natalie deserves to know that some people in her family will still reach out and hear her story. I feel the fallout from the BE takeover is a story with no "right" and no "wrong" and no total "villains" or "heroes," and that's why I think the writing for it has been excellent. I'm polarized even though I see both sides.

As for the other stories this week, I have to say I'm still giving Tina and Marty's returns a lot of latitude. Tina is supposed to be traveling in secret and on the run, so it makes sense that she has yet to reconnect with the rest of her old friends and family in Llanview. Also, I feel that the front burner story for Talia and Antonio is, for once, well-deserved, and that the rest of Tina's roots will come into play later. I can't wait to see who's waiting for Tina and Talia in Mendorra, but I have a feeling I know exactly who. As for Todd and Marty, thank goodness Marty still has her brains even with amnesia. And Todd's latest pad is pretty nice, I must admit, but if you're going to be hiding "dead people" in there, maybe you should reconsider the ground-floor glass-lined bedrooms, Todd. I was saddened to see Blair and Todd divorce but I knew that after Todd's despicable behavior during the strike, Blair's entire character would be irrevocably compromised if she just kowtowed to his will one more time. I hope they can make it back together, even if right now I can't imagine how.

Moving right along: In the "My Eyes, The Goggles Do Nothing!" department, we have the unspeakable engagement of Bo and Lindsay. I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! The only thing I can say to justify Bo's insanity is that perhaps he is suffering from some kind of gonzo midlife crisis. Yes, it's well-acted and fairly well-scripted, but it seems like an awfully transparent way to keep Bo and Nora apart for mysterious, long-recurring reasons that I no longer am willing to blame on Ron Carlivati. I hope R.J.'s back soon, but in any event his letter is in Nora's hands, and I can't wait for her to bust Lindsay just one. More. Time. I remember the first time she nailed Lindsay before Bo's eyes, eight years ago, and it was nail-biting appointment television, even though Jill Farren Phelps and Megan McTavish made sure not to give us what we wanted in the aftermath. Over in the "Yes, Please" aisle we have shirtless Chris Stack, which was meanwhile, back in the special needs section, we have Cole, ready to sue Starr over her fetus. Cole, honey. Please. You'll take one look at your real, live mother and forget how to spell "father." At least Starr has retained a modicum of responsibility, even though her constant begging for Marcie to adopt her kid and continue the McBain-Manning feud is getting on my last nerve. I actually like the story now, with it picking up and Starr making rational choices; I just wish we hadn't had to go here at all. Thanks, scabs. And no thanks, Dorian, for doing a truly foul thing and trying to re-commit your fabulous sister out of little more than petty jealousy. I can't wait for a certain someone to come out of the mists of the afterlife and give Dorian what for. I love her anyway, though.

In any event, Tess is back, and there's going to be hell to pay. Hell with big, teased hair and skanky makeup. And that dress. Who knows where that dress has been. Bring it on! And see you in two weeks.

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