Let's get this out of the way first: I do not have David Fumero's body. I've never claimed to. That's not to say that I'm overweight, but simply that I've never had that body, I never will have it, and that's just because while seemingly everyone else in New York is going to a gym, and there is in fact a cheap one two blocks from my apartment, I simply can't be bothered. I'd rather read, or watch a movie, or play Grand Theft Auto or just do nothing. That's my work ethic, right there. Anyway, the point is, David Fumero I am not. And it's a really strange reflection on last week's episodes that one of the biggest topics of the week on a lot of boards is how Cristian looked with his shirt off while posing as a Mendorran executioner. Yes, a lot happened this week: Tina and the gang escaped Mendorra, leaving poor Talia behind; Viki left for Africa in yet another contrived excuse for Erika Slezak's annual vacation (though I felt last year's was quite well done); Bo and Rex continued to screw around in 1968 and have probably plunged us all into a V For Vendetta-esque fascist state due to their meddling with space and time; Vincent Jones finally got the hell off the show; and Gigi actually gave Madame Delphina five thousand dollars! to help preserve the temporal fabric of our reality. But all anybody seems to want to talk about is David Fumero and the executioner's abs. Okay. Let's talk about it.
First of all, let me say that I question what people are expecting from their average royal executioner. How many masked, bare-chested axe-wielding psychos have you seen with perfect bodies? Precious few, I'll wager. A big part of this, of course, is stereotyping. For years, we have seen nothing in our mass media but negative images of executioners with love handles, pot bellies, or downright bloat. The implication is, "He doesn't have time to work out, because he just works his upper frame and biceps chopping people's heads off seven days a week." And that to me is an unfair image; unfair to your average, everyday executioner who, for all we know, has an Equinox membership. People go in expecting to see a fat executioner, and so poor David Fumero finds himself walking right into that whole ancient 'executioner-as-tubbo' stigma. Now, certainly, it's possible for us to do some kind of side-by-side comparison of David Fumero circa 2000 and David Fumero 2008, and contrast the two. Let's say you go to Soaphunks or Superherofan or whatever soap hunk site you prefer, and check yourselves, perhaps after spending fifteen minutes drooling over Billy Magnussen or something. Upon closer examination, it's true; Mr. Fumero doesn't seem to have the same insane 36-pack or whatever that he used to, but I think he still looks pretty darn good. I wouldn't kick him out of...my house...if he came over to eat...or something. So I think this mini-fluff over David Fumero's abs is just silly. Too many fine young actors have suffered under the cruel 'Executioner As Bloodthirsty Bear' stereotype for far too long, and I for one will not see our fine Mr. Fumero ground under its heel. Thus ends the adult-minded, topical portion of this week's column. Thank you for your attention.
In all seriousness, the real question, of course, is why are David Fumero's abs the biggest thing to talk about on the boards this week? Honestly, I think it's because the show is in a bit of a summer slump. During the summer months, stories tend to drag, waiting for the fall to begin to escalate again; factor in the "anniversary special" material on top of that, and you have a lot of stories and characters floating in limbo, running their paces through a series of fairly ephemeral, if fun IMO, storylines to pass July and August by. I don't think it's in debate anymore that the Mendorra saga was far from an unqualified success. I enjoyed the storyline for what it was, a classic, campy adventure, and I know opinion was mixed, but like many of you, I was also definitely ready for it to end this week. Completely isolating Tina from Llanview for so long was part of the story, but it also turned a lot of fans off. I'm grateful that Ron Carlivati actually had two arcs (1968 and Mendorra) to fill the summer when the other larger storylines were on pause, and I've personally enjoyed them, but I think we're all ready to get back to real drama: What will happen to Buchanan Enterprises? When will Marty be discovered? What will happen with Viki and Charlie? When will Rex learn the truth about Shane? Who is Rex's father? Will Tess ever just go away? And who do I have to pay to make the teen pregnancy storyline end?
As to the business of said stories: I actually thought Starr and Cole's break-up was handled well. I could understand why Cole would be so repulsed by Starr's attitude that he wouldn't want to be with her anymore, but I also understood Starr's point of view in that she is simply not ready for a child, and Cole is medicating his own grief over Marty through Starr's pregnancy. Unfortunately, while this is solid human drama, I'm just totally over the storyline itself. It was a scab concept that is apparently being forced to play out all the way to the end, and I'd rather see the back of it so the show can get back to dealing with Starr in a way Ron Carlivati might have originally conceived. As for Cole's mom, Marty's bond with Todd is deepening and I think their scenes together are still fascinating, and compelling in a very twisted way. Todd seemed weakened in his fight with Blair this week, and rattled by seeing her in the chaste nightgown he bought for Marty; I think he's always had a "Madonna/Whore" complex, with Marty as the sexless Madonna, and Blair and all other women unfairly being painted as the "Whore." Blair is the one that he wants, who his conflicts with seem insurmountable, but in that scene she was wearing the clothes of his untouchable confidante, the only one Todd's warped mind feels he can trust. If the amnesiac Marty is able to help Todd come to terms with what he's done to Blair and Starr I say more power to her, but that doesn't mean she won't still owe him the beatdown of his life for his latest disgusting actions. I don't think Todd has ever believed Marty to be his true love or anything gross like that, and I don't think she knows him better than Blair or Viki, at least, not in 2008. I do, however, think that the two of them have a very strange relationship that's only getting stranger. But any actual "rapist/rape victim" romance is still absolutely off-limits. If that happens, you won't see me writing about it. I have a hard enough time with the already tiresome material between John and Blair.
Cristian's abs aside, Tina is back home, and thank God. She looked totally natural back at Llanfair, in her element, striking up a much-welcomed friendship with poor Natalie while Tess glared daggers. How can people not see this is Tess? She's barely hiding it at all! I think even Niki in 2002 was more subtle at times. I'm excited to have Tina in this story, though, and I hope it's a patch on her previous "alter capers" with Niki. My only big issue with Tina at the moment is that in her too-brief scenes with Viki, they didn't have Viki (or anyone else, for that matter) read Tina the riot act for her behavior in the last eleven years. She dropped off the face of the Earth and let her kids run away while she schemed with Cain, and didn't stay in contact with Viki, Cord or anyone. When will someone call her on it? As for the rest of the Mendorra crew, I actually teared up at Antonio and Talia's big goodbye. I thought it was very poignant, but didn't betray Talia's own tough-as-nails nature, and I hope she's back ASAP. I'll miss the wonderful Christopher Cousins too, who got a great exit sky-diving out of the royal jet. I just wish Tina had gotten to see David, who she just missed at the Llanview airport. I notice David still doesn't know he's a Buchanan. They really should get on that.
Viki's gone and a lot of the stories seem to have to stall all over again without her; what about poor Charlie, who she had a nice goodbye with but is now relegated to some tender scenes with Jared, talking about his architecture? Good scenes, but what else will the stunningly talented Brian Kerwin do for the next couple months? What about the Tess vs. Tina story? I can't see Tess being exposed before Viki gets back. And will Dorian ever get busted for drugging Charlie, or will some karmic payback coming be enough? I guess we'll see.
At the other end of the spectrum in Llanview, I was pleased to finally see the back of Vincent frickin' Jones, who I considered one of the most uninteresting and shallow characters in recent history, to say nothing of the actor's performance. It was bad enough they had him wearing old wardrobe fitted for the beloved R.J. Gannon, but then Dena Higley's regime seemed to want to transpose R.J. for Vincent on the canvas, and I find that "one-(black)-size-fits-all" mentality repugnant. I think it's imperative that OLTL rebuilds a diverse African-American canvas, but for my money Vincent should not be part of it, and so I was thrilled when Layla dumped him for his two-timing and sent him on his way this week. They even gave us some more nice scenes with Layla and our man in Havana, the delectable Brody Lovett. Brody was up and down the moral scale this week, hanging up on the time-lost Rex but redeeming himself by giving Gigi the money to pay the impoverished Delphina (and BTW, isn't the fabric of time and space more important than your rent, lady?). I still don't approve of Gigi's behavior towards Brody, but I also feel he's over-invested in her; it's a dysfunctional relationship altogether, but I'm grateful that OLTL is not painting Brody as a delusional villain, but rather as a complicated, multi-faceted man.
As for poor Rex and Bo, they continue to be stranded in 1968! and I am still enjoying the heck out of it. I was pleased with the way OLTL underlined the character conflicts Ron Carlivati started exploring this time last year between Bo and Asa, by making Bo follow in his father's domineering footsteps by banishing Maria Vasquez ("Meester Asa, I love Cleent!") and mouthing jingoistic slogans about a war that Bo knows to be brutal and pointless. His "Asa" actions seemed to visibly haunt and weather Bo, and I was genuinely touched by a lot of those scenes, especially when he had to send Natalie-as-Maria away, fake tan, silly accent and all. I still enjoy Farah Fath's crazy performance as Emma, and Austin Williams and John Brotherton's spot-on Spencer and Clint (do you notice how little Spencer never blinks?), and I've loved January Lavoy and Peter Bartlett's 180s as Rosa and Chuck the 1st, but I still can't believe they cast Loyita Chapel as Renee, wearing what looks like a dead mongoose on the top of her head, while Hillary B. Smith is sitting the role out. That was the one really false note in the casting for me. What I do love is Broadway royalty Lea DeLaria's dual role as Madame Delphina/Professor Del Fina - everything Lea does is just gold, and her bombastic performances, along with JPL, RSW, and even Farah Fath's (as Gigi) heartfelt, down-to-earth commitment, give the time travel storyline a kind of gravity and reality to me that it probably shouldn't have. I believe in what's happening to these people, and I believe Gigi and Rex love each other, so I am committed. To a time travel story. God help me.
All that said, 1968 is fun, but summer limbo is summer limbo, and I think we're all ready to get back to serious business. I don't know what I'd do if the big discussion topic in two weeks is, say, Melissa Archer's shade of lipstick. It's been real, guys; see you next time.