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The week of October 6, 2008
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Rex's magical mystery tour worked because the writers were candid about the character's flaws and mistakes.

I don't really do game shows, myself. I've always wished I could be on one, though, because that stuff looks easy as all hell. I mean, honestly: Fill in the blank and win five or ten grand? Alrighty. "Give me a vowel; oh, you mean there are in fact eight 'As' in this phrase and it is now totally obvious what the solution is and I win a truck of cash? Well, okay, Pat, give me all that paper, if you insist!" And let's talk about Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, since OLTL reused their set this week during Rex's dream. Apparently the answer to the rhetorical question in that show's title is "not ABC," because that is the easiest damn "challenge" game I have ever seen. It's like the company needs to lose money. "Okay, John: The question is, which definition would properly describe water? A: Hard-headed, B: Well-read, C: Right-wing conservative, or D: Wet? Think carefully, homey. Would you like to phone a friend? No? Oh, you picked D? Oh, snap. Here's fifty thousand dollars!" Please! Why am I not on that show right now?! Why am I even sitting here dancing for pennies?! Where are you, Meredith Vieira? Bring me my money! A Milli!

(Deep sigh) So one paragraph later, I am still not a millionaire, and that's okay. No, really, I'm fine. I'm fine. Stop looking at me like that. The point is, I don't do game shows, know what I'm sayin'? But I can appreciate the concept, and I really appreciated it this week, as Rex faced off against deliciously evil game show host Ty Treadway-er-Colin McIver in an existential game show-slash-deathmatch, coming to grips with not only his mortality, but also his own inner doubts and bad judgment, in an attempt to reconcile himself and face the future as Shane Morasco's father. Fans had been crowing about the announcement of these "fantasy episodes" for a while, fearing it would be another rocky, ill-advised excursion into camp like the trip to 1968, which got a mixed reception at best. I was worried as well, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by this week's episodes. I felt Rex's voyage inside himself provided a truly satisfying climax for the long-running storyline of his becoming a father.

The biggest reason Rex's magical mystery tour worked for me was because the writers were candid about the character's flaws and mistakes: Almost every dirty deed he's ever done, from his initial reason for coming to Llanview (to scam Jessica) to his failed art heists with R.J. to his sleeping with both mother and daughter Rappaport, and finally to Rex's self-righteous decision to "play God" and keep Todd from his son, was lain bare during "So You Want To Be Shane Morasco's Father." Nothing was excluded, nothing was forgotten, and we were reminded why this story was so compelling in the first place, by asking ourselves, how can Rex possibly be a father? What has he done to take responsibility for himself, or for how he's treated the women in his life with his indecision towards Adriana and Gigi? And hey, what about the mysterious dropped plot thread of Rex's own unknown father? (Can you guess who it is? I bet I can.) The writing for Colin as the grand inquisitor was funny yet brutally honest, echoing fan complaints about Rex's choices in the last few years, and the overall tone was playful but also crystal-clear: OLTL gets it. Rex cannot continue to pick and choose when it comes to difficult situations and morally questionable actions. The piper has come calling, and it comes in the form of, as Colin said, "an adorable asthmatic ten year old." Yet doesn't Rex also have a right, despite his mistakes and many flaws, to live and love? I came away saying "yes," and believe it or not I wouldn't always have said so. Rex has really ticked me off many times in the last seven years, but his emotional crucible this week cleared the decks for his character by dealing with what he's done and where he's been, and asking us to accept him as he tries to become a better person.

A lot of people are trying to change in Llanview, in different ways. Back in the world, Gigi finally screwed up her courage and told her kid the truth, and not a moment too frickin' soon. Young Austin Williams was taken care of by solid writing which presented Shane as the "un-soap kid," not one to mouth platitudes or scream accusations and run away crying as quickly as possible because a soap doesn't want to be bothered with a characterization for a child. Shane was angry with his mother but asked intelligent questions and made smart deductions. Gigi accepted her share of blame for her foolish choices, but also acted as her son's mother and told him he may have only one chance to face his dad on honest terms. There's no doubt that the writing for Rex and Gigi had gotten to be a bit "much" during the 1968 story, and that their love story had started to grate on a lot of people. On the other hand, I felt their choices this week were decent and honest, and went towards redeeming elements of their more reckless behavior. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

There's also the issue of Adriana. She's back and so are the Bitchy Bangs! Adriana is Rex's prison warden; Adriana decides who goes into the hospital room and who goes out! Achtung! Do not stare directly into the bangs! I'm sorry, she's loads of fun, and I can feel for Adriana and understand the mistakes Rex made, but Gigi is right; her behavior is just plain "weak and petty." Adriana herself knew, and said earlier this year, that if she didn't get out of Llanview Rex would divorce her, and her only chance was time and space. He'd also already told her he wanted out and wanted to be with Gigi. What exactly does she expect to accomplish here? When Rex is able to speak, his wishes will still be the same as before. Does she plan to tie him up like Margaret Cochran did Todd? Will she claim to be pregnant? Adriana continues to make the same mistake she's always made since this story began; she focuses on a problem from "without," the supposed threat of Gigi and Shane's mere presence, and refuses to deal with "within," the fact that her relationship with Rex had been on shaky ground for a while and she was unwilling to talk openly with him about it. Instead of dealing with things together with her fiancé, Adriana focused her energies on persecuting Gigi and grinding her under her stiletto heel, and preparing for her "perfect wedding" with the focus of a Stinger missile. Meanwhile, off on the sidelines, Rex continued to quietly wrestle with burgeoning new feelings for his ex which he could not vocalize while Adriana flew around the country planning Operation: Get Gigi. She would rather have bought Gigi off or used Brody against her or, worst of all, willfully kept Rex from his son than have to face an honest discussion. She left Llanview to get away from an honest discussion. And an honest discussion is still the thing she most fears while she refuses to let anyone tell her about the state of things today, or let Rex see who he wants to see. I just can't respect a person like that very much.

Now, as for people I can still respect, there's poor Brody, rotting away in a jail cell. That poor, sweet guy. Mark Lawson's performance has been heart-wrenching, and I am delighted Brody was not killed off and seems to not be on his way off the show just yet. OLTL has gone out of its way not to "vilify" Brody; every other word out of Bo or Marcie's mouths is about how Brody didn't mean to hurt anyone. After seeing the way General Hospital has treated its war vet characters, I appreciate OLTL's sensitivity to the issue. And while I know Brody should not attend any future psychiatrist's sessions shirtless, surely there can be a first time for everything.

The Rex/Gigi/Adriana drama dominated this week, so things were moving much slower in The Mystery Of Ray Montez. Creepy Vanessa got Cristian out of jail and took him back to her sinful pleasuredome, where she slathered glistening lotion on her chest and tried to ply him with tacky tropical drinks and dripping candles. "Oooh, it is so hot in darkest Colombia. So hot, so wet! Protect me from the evil Ray but under no circumstances call anyone or verify the story I am telling you!" Why am I not buying this? When even Cristian smells a rat, you gotta wonder about this chick. Ray at least seems to have empathy, but Vanessa is the very definition of SKETCHY. And her poor kid, who knows what she's like! Back in Llanview, Clint and Ray made the fatal mistake of meeting in an open sitting room in a house full of people. Oops! The teens banded together to spill the beans about the Buchanan/Montez "bromance" to Dorian, and now, oh, it is on, people. Dorian is back to kick butt and take names, and she is all out of room in her address book! Also, why the heck has Nora just told Clint to sod off with Dallas (or Ray) and slept with Bo yet?

Tess vs. Natalie in The Glass Case Of Emotion also got merciful short shrift this week, but what little we got of them was so, so sweet - what a change! Yes, psycho Tess, weep as Natalie gives you the business and tells you the cold, hard truth about what you are doing. I drink in your pain, your salty tears of insanity sustain me! Both Todd and Natalie laid it on the line for Tess this week and it was so overdue: She'll never get away with it, she'll lose everything and have nothing, and Nash would have hated her for it...while still loving Jessica. I was so glad Natalie finally got some of her own back against Tess, and oh man, Jared's attitude towards her nonsense was absolute music to my ears. He was having none of Tess and her big crazy eyes, and I am ecstatic that he seems on to her. Now bring in Viki to lay the smackdown. Please. Please?

The young parents weren't the only people in Llanview trying to change this week. Todd still wants to live in limbo with Marty and erase the past. When the Todd/Marty story takes turns like it did this week, I have no problem with it; I felt their material was exceptionally well-done. Marty stumbling around on her cane in a big dark house, at the mercy of a handsome but dangerous stranger, searching for her forbidden past was pure "gothic" - not romance, but just gothic, in the classic sense of fine soapy mystery. And Todd's mind games and word games-with himself as well as Marty-were riveting, as was their exploration of Marty's history. That's why I don't understand why they need to cheapen otherwise fine material with the stomach-turning physicality of Todd and Marty's forbidden bond. Todd and Marty don't need to make out repeatedly in order for us to see the burning chemistry between them, or that she is falling for him, or that his deranged mind is unable to help itself from starting to see her in the same way. They don't need to fool around on the bed and make the viewers tune out in order to tell the same story; in fact, isn't it almost more fascinating an angle if the amnesiac Marty wants them to touch and kiss and hold one another, but Todd wants no part of it, even as he admits he is falling for her? That adds a weird, "psycho repressed monk"-like vibe towards Todd's already crazy behavior. Based on weeks like this one, in which the danger and thriller vibe of the story was amped up to 11, I feel somewhat more confident that Ron Carlivati does have a solid and satisfying conclusion planned for this difficult and frankly often mishandled story. I just fear that too few people will be watching or know about when it comes, and I'll understand exactly how they feel.

Despite the above reservations, if I take the week on a whole I have to think OLTL is continuing a positive trend in quality after a rocky summer. I felt the Todd/Marty and Tess storylines improved dramatically, with John and Jared finally beginning to put the pieces together about their respective women being very satisfying. The Montez story is proceeding well and I can't wait for Dorian and Clint's next duel. And, once again, the climax with Rex and the Morascos was excellent work by OLTL; the two dreaded "fantasy episodes" encapsulated Rex's history and his potential (or lack thereof) for the future perfectly, and brought everything we've seen with him since Adriana's pregnancy scare a year ago full circle. I hope the quality work continues, and I'll be here in two weeks to talk to y'all about it. Hopefully by then, Marty will have castrated Todd. Fingers crossed, people!

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