Do you ever notice how it seems like all the contract killers or hired assassins on television these days seem to have shaved heads? Maybe it's me, but this seems awfully counterproductive. I get that hitmen are trying to go for the whole "nondescript, could be anybody" look, but, um, when everybody in the room but you has hair, then you are no longer nondescript! Like, I watch TV now, and if there's one dude with a buzz cut and coveralls, I immediately know, "hitman." Easy. Hitman, right there. And what do you know: Dorian goes to Ben and Viki's old buddy Jackie McNaughton, and who does Jackie subcontract her job to? Another burly dude in a maintenance uniform with a shaved head. No wonder John spotted the shooter immediately; anyone who has watched an hour of primetime television can do his job. Remember the not-so-halcyon days of ABC Daytime circa early 2000s, when the assassins were not only women (with hair) but had all sorts of ridiculous, elaborate cover stories? "Oh, I've come to Pine Valley to do a reality television show with Ryan Lavery; oops I just shot his wife in the brain." Nobody in town saw that coming! Now buzzcut gym bunny assassin guy, him they see coming. It's a problem, that's all I'm saying. You notice it was so easy for John to spot this dude that he did not even bother to stop chewing gum as he blew him away? Rewind your DVRs; I will wait! You see? He was actually chewing as he shot him! Hilarious. The organized criminal element of Llanview should be ashamed of themselves. When the cops can't even be bothered to swallow their gum while killing you, you're slacking on the job.
Aaaanyway. It was a busy week in Llanview, I don't need to tell you that. Things actually happened, stories are moving again, I am fairly pleased, except for the things I am not pleased with. But first off, let's get to the triumphant return of Bitchy Bangs Balsom, yes, she is still using her married name. Adriana's bangs look great, and though she may not feel great, she is also great fun to watch. Melissa Fumero is very easily giving the performances of her career during this brief return, and I frankly think that while she's been very good, the writing also has a lot to do with it. We've seen this kind of story play out before; one love interest fades out in the face of their old partner's new pairing, and in most current daytime regimes, that spare love interest is often vilified or destroyed, "thrown under the bus" to prop up the new couple. Now, people could make a case for this being done to Adriana as well, as she is being extremely irrational, vindictive and petty towards the Morascos as well as Bo and Roxy (and bravo to RSW and Ilene Kristen for their work this week). But what I think the major difference is - in both peformance and writing - is how OLTL chooses to give us a deeper insight into Adriana's inner struggle. We are being allowed to see that Adriana is not simply about spite or nastiness, that she honestly questions herself, questions what she's doing. When Adriana asks herself and Layla how she got to this place in her life, how her relationships with Rex's loved ones disintegrated, how she became "the bad guy," we understand her, we believe in her, we even feel for her. Roxy may be in Gigi and Rex's corner and have valid complaints, but she is also relentlessly cruel to Adriana, and Adriana responds in kind while also showing that she is hurt. We are allowed to relate to her, which is more than many other shows would do with characters in her position (see: Annie, AMC). Adriana is not "Evelyn Evil," as Shane portrayed her, but she's deeply conflicted, in pain, and scared about what will happen to her if she gives up on her life with Rex. In her own way, Adriana is both strong and pathetic, and right now, that makes her fascinating, and compulsively watchable. Bravo to Melissa Fumero, and to the writers for not taking the easy way out. And on a personal note, thank you OLTL for letting Gigi punch out Adriana. Even though I enjoy Adriana's storyline, I have been waiting for that since the Balsom-Cramer nuptials! For all her pathos, the way Adriana treated Rex's son was disgusting, and she earned that punch.
Speaking of people who have earned a beatdown, thank goodness Tess appears to be on the verge of being apprehended, or at least found out. Of course, she didn't skedaddle before locking both Jared and Natalie in the secret room. Now two people can stand there yelling at a television! Great. In any event, I'm delighted that Viki is finally back and that Bo brought her up to speed so quickly; I understand her compulsive denial about the possibility that Jessica might have split again, but it should have been expected when Nash died. I suppose the Viki and Charlie romance will take a backseat while the Tess Mess is sorted out, but I hope they get a fair share of airtime soon. And it's so thrilling to have the possibility of real Viki and Tina scenes. When Tina, Bo and Viki all shared space this week it was like something was right in Llanview again. And it may be campy, but I'm not going to say that the cat and mouse with Cain and Tina was not hysterical - especially the magnificent ransom photo of Princess David Vickers beside a copy of the latest edition of The Banner. I pray that any rumors of Andrea Evans' departure are unfounded.
I count myself lucky that I did not have to cover Todd and Marty's meadow frolic from last week. There are some things you just don't want to have to deal with. These two characters continue to have very compelling character scenes with interesting layers which, so far, are unfortunately adding up to either nothing at all, or nothing I really anticipate wanting to watch. If Todd and Marty were to have sex, all bets would be off for me not only as a columnist but as a longtime viewer, as the very idea turns my stomach. All I can do right now is pray that the worm is turning and that Todd's newfound apprehension about his plans for Starr and Marty is going somewhere positive and honest for the character, who, as Dr. Joplin said, is almost completely "beyond redemption" - and would almost certainly be gone forever if he slept with his would-be "fiancee." Yes, I appreciate that we are getting Marty's perspective as she writes in her diary, and I appreciate that Janet (who we'll get to in a moment) knows the truth and may be ready to work against Todd. I just don't want this all to add up to something that could leave almost every character involved in a horrible new place. Isn't it enough that Blair is now the Girl Friday of an utterly disinterested John? If this week's developments mean Todd is ready to begin really questioning himself, and the two women in his home are going to take a stronger hand, then I'm all for that. I'm just tired of the dangerous, controversial buildup to a climax that, thus far, this show does not seem ready to handle responsibly without compromising each character. I hope I'm wrong. I believe in Ron Carlivati's work, but every element of the umbrella storyline of Todd, Marty, Blair, John, and Starr's pregnancy has been severely flawed since this began.
Now, I have to take time out just to address Nurse Janet, who is not actually Nurse Janet. Yes, it seems John has gotten his hands on a copy of Gary Warner's hardcover One Life to Live: Thirty Years Of Memories and has, like the rest of us, identified poor Janet as Lee Halpern, a.k.a. Carol Dennison, a.k.a. the wife of Tom Dennison, Joe Riley's woebegone twin. All I can say about this particular turn is "whoa." Ron Carlivati clearly loves his history, and obviously didn't miss a trick once he discovered the role of Janet had been cast with former castmember Janet Zarish, who had played Lee back in 1988. I certainly question the necessity of this plot twist or the overall value it has to the story at large; however, as a character beat, I can't say I mind it or think it does anything bad to the show. Zarish is an excellent actress, and her facial reactions as John unspooled Todd's dark history with Marty to her were spine-tingling. Anything that gives this recurring player more screen time in this storyline is fine with me, as long as it is organic to the storylines of today. If the Lee Halpern reveal won't detract from that, I have no problem with it.
The most exciting storyline for me this week turned out to be the business wars between Clint and Dorian, as the character drama, not to mention the big climax at the airport, delivered a lot more than I'd expected. Firstly, there's Clint and Nora, who eschewed solving the larger, deeper problems in their relationship for more sex. This flawed solution did not, however, dilute the impact of their great clash over the Ray Montez affair. There is simply no way for Nora to continue with Clint down this road, and I'm glad she finally verbalized it and exerted her strength, even if she let herself slide back into his arms (for now). The push-pull power struggle between Nora and Clint works for me because even if they are not the optimum romance for either character, both HBS and JVD bring so much passion and intelligence to the table as they spark off each other in their moral, psychological and sexual warfare. Clint knows Nora, who has been lonely for a long time, needs to feel needed and loved by him and uses it against her; he knows Dallas' (who cannot leave soon enough for me) presence hurts her and throws it in her face. At the same time, he can't stop her from getting under his skin and awakening his better nature, which finally compelled him to try to stop Ray from taking Langston to Colombia a moment too late. The most damning image of Clint this week was his red-faced and impotent yelling match with Ray after Dorian turned down his offer for the last time; he had absolutely no idea what to do, and he deserved every inch of his confusion and humiliation. Clint is not a bad person in my opinion, but he has become foolish and vengeful, and I think his choices and his changing nature have only begun to weigh on his relationship with Nora. At least, I hope so. The Nora I love would not settle for becoming Renee: The Sequel.
Another great moment in this story was Langston's cold speech to Clint and Ray, defending Dorian's refusal to accept his blackmail. In that moment, Langston truly became a Cramer, a process that took Adriana much longer in the same position. The question is, what will this kind of character transformation mean for Langston in the long run? Her goodbye with Markko was heartbreakingly emotional and touching for what has otherwise been a third or fourth-tier couple, but their "love montage" was frontloaded with waaayyy too much fromage for my taste, and the return of their dreadful "theme song" from "Prom Night: The Musical" was wholly unnecessary. That said, watching Dorian and Langston stand firm against Clint and Ray ramped up the tension at the airport, until things came to a great, big soapy conclusion with the over-the-top spirituality of Dorian's magazine tete-a-tete with Mel ("Do you really want to buy GUNS AND VENGEANCE?" Please, I had to just laugh and surrender to it), the Montez family reunion and the big shootout. Just when you thought Vanessa Montez could not get freakier, she handles a silenced pistol like an expert and, worse, makes Cristian don a Che Guevara guerilla cap. Cristian, I'm sorry, but at this point the evidence against this chica is just mounting up. When your lady friend can handle a silencer like a pro, you got problems. I fear for Sarah's future as Vanessa and her gigantic eyebrows of death make landfall on American soil. And just why did she visit Ray at Plato Prison, anyway?
So that's that; Vanessa shoots Ray, John shoots an obvious assassin (and keeps chewing), Adriana is still large and in charge, and Tess is on the run. A good week, but I still need "closure" on some of the more long-in-the-tooth storylines, and come November sweeps, I am so ready to get it. See you just after Halloween, boys and girls. And if you have to kill anyone between then and now, please remember to keep all your hair.