Turkey daze

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OLTL Two Scoops: Turkey daze
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The week of December 1, 2008
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It was a short week, but a heartfelt trio of Thanksgiving episodes reminded viewers what soaps are really all about: family, history, trial, heartache, love, home and hearth.

Maybe it's just me, but the sexiest come-on I heard on soaps this holiday half-week was, "I'll need a back hoe." Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about Charlie's proposition to Viki to dig up and remove the accursed Lord crypt from the Llanfair grounds, and help her banish the demons of her past. Though Viki ultimately chose not to take Charlie up on his offer, their scenes together - and others like them - were the hallmarks of a uniquely emotional, heartfelt trio of Thanksgiving episodes which brought home for me what soaps are really all about: Family, history, trial, heartache, love, home and hearth. It was a short week due to Turkey Day, so we only have so much to cover, but bear with me as I slog through my Tryptophan-induced haze and struggle to remain conscious long enough to give you my remarkably sentimental Two Scoops.

Poor Marty: Still amnesiac, and now in turtlenecks. I'm not saying it's a bad turtleneck, don't misunderstand me; she looks good, I'm just saying, let's not get too schoolmarm. Marty's struggles with her blank slate and search for her past have been compelling TV for me, as opposed to, you know, the brainwashing, baby theft and acquaintance rape. The writers seem to finally be treating this storyline with a modicum of responsibility and in-depth appraisal, and it's not gone unnoticed by me. I easily find myself sympathizing with the otherwise-dull Cole as he tries to form a new bond with his mom, but I'm also right there with Marty as she tries to navigate her new social landscape, which is an exciting angle for the story. I hope we see more of her with former BFFs Nora and Bo. As for John, well, I applaud him for saving Marty, but I still can't work up much caring for him. He still seems to be stringing Blair along, who protests far too much that she knows their relationship is "only casual," when in fact she is dying for a decent, demonstrative man to sweep her off her feet post-Todd. John will never be that man, I suspect; maybe he'll surprise me, but he never has before. And I think Marty deserves better, too. But the upshot of the storyline for this week was Marty safe and surrounded by friends and family who loved her, even if she didn't fully know them. I was glad to see that situation reconciled in time for Thanksgiving.

Alas, poor Tina! We knew her well, and yet I still can't get enough. Andrea Evans got another rare good hair day as Our Tina fled Llanview for parts unknown, and while Sarah may be a milquetoast character of late, I have to admit her ragged farewell to her wayward mum made me sob. People can bag on Andrea E. (you know, like "Sheila E.") all they want, but the fact is she can play more than ham and cheese, or camp and a row of tents; she can do deeper, more meaningful material on the rare occasions it is given to her, and for this viewer, she infused her farewell scenes with a humanity and emotion that we don't often get in daytime anymore, proving she's still got it. She exuded a sort of classic "hooker with a heart of gold", Old Hollywood pathos as she told Sarah that she was trying to do good, asked her to be a better "mommy" to DV's puppy than she'd been to her, and vowed to become a better person. There was a touch of the old silent movies to Tina's doe-eyed, choked-up farewell, and not in an "over the top" sort of way, but more a Charlie Chaplin-esque "sad clown" mischief. Because really, isn't Tina sort of a "sad clown" in her own way? In her final scenes, Evans and the writers encapsulated Tina's iconic character, distilling her appeal, and her fatal flaws, down to their purest forms, and presented her once more to us as she flounced off into the night. And you know what? The formula for Tina, and characters in daytime like her, hasn't aged. The stories might not always be perfect (I believe at one point there was the business with Cord and Tina fighting masked Mexican wrestlers...), but the formula works, if you work it. Oh, that sounds like an Alcoholics Anonymous slogan. Never mind. You get the idea, right? Anyway, I love you, Tina. Come back soon.

As for poor Sarah, she's left motherless, puppy-in-hand, and that creepy spider-woman is still trying to take her boyfriend. She easily got the line of the week when she described Vanessa as "under siege from immigration in my underwear." Oh, Sarah! In your mother's heyday she ate preening murderous vixens like Nessie for breakfast. Do you happen to have any deadly poison which activates upon skin contact available? No? Then maybe an exploding cake batter? At least Lola seemed to show some signs of life this week as she jetted off to La Boulaie to form new relationships with the rest of the cast that do not live in Cristian's Rhythm Nation Underground apartment. I am willing to give you a shot, Lola. Even if you are blatantly named for a wild historical figure. You could be the next Amanda Cortinas, or you could be the next Melissa Fumero, don't disappoint us. Of course, it did take Fumero a long time to come into her own...

Gigi and Rex continued their Winter 2008 Goodwill Tour to win back the audience from the depths of 1968 this week, as they succeeded in helping poor, sick, delicious be-furred Brody from becoming a prisoner in Cell Block H, instead having him remanded to the cushy and altogether non-secure confines of St. Anne's, the "Club Fed" for the Charles Manson set. Seriously, I was glad to see there is still tension between Shane and Rex, and thought the moment where Shane slipped and called Brody "Dad" was all too real. I still like the Morascos, but I'm glad the focus is currently on Brody and his recovery. We also can't forget the omnipresent "Lieutenant Wes," the moony-eyed soldier with the olive complexion who just always seems to have his beloved Brody's back. Do I detect a crush on the wind, Wes? Well, look out, because it's chemistry test time in St. Anne's, and your competition is a girl whose hair really, really needs some body.

Yes, that's right! We have a chemistry test! Behold the mental health board-approved animal magnetism between: Brody and Jessica! No, it's not Rodi's or Capricorn, or even the Bon Jour Café, but in terms of places for two people to meet, you can do worse than the stable, plush environment of St. Anne's, where the nuns are ready to rap your knuckles for getting too fresh too soon, or for letting your alters out to firebomb the town. In all honesty, I'm willing to give these two a whirl as long as the potential friendship and romance is slowly and carefully executed, something Carlivati usually has no problem with. What Jessica needs more than anything right now, aside from therapy and family, is a non-judgmental friend who can understand her struggle, and Brody can definitely do that. What's more, Mark Lawson is an excellent actor with, incidentally, a totally smokin' body. I look forward to seeing where this story goes, and I hope the focus continues to be on Jessica working through her traumas and struggling to regain control of her life. In what they've done with this character in the last couple weeks, they've already begun to delve into areas of the DID rehabilitation process that we too rarely saw with Viki in the past. Telling a full story about Jessica fighting to regain her custody of her children and her place in the world might be hard and heartbreaking to watch sometimes, as it was this week, but it is also plain good soap and stirring family drama. Brody and Jessica may not be with their loved ones this year, but they're doing the responsible thing, dealing with real human problems, and finding solace with new friends in their new home. Once again, another example of simple, unpretentious, goodhearted holiday scenes on a soap opera during November sweeps, while on General Hospital, I'm sure someone is being shot in the face.

And then there was Viki. Admittedly, the "Lord crypt emo freakout" is a time-honored OLTL tradition: Viki and Todd have both gone through the wringer by "Fawwtha's" tomb a bunch of times, Tina too, Blair once or twice, you name it. In some ways, you can easily say that after all this time, scenes in the Lord crypt are now just old hat, Emmy bait, scenery chewing. But that's not how I viewed Viki's return to the crypt this week. Really, what better time was there for Viki to go in there and lose it? As she said, there is now a damning, toxic legacy trailing down from Victor, fueling the illnesses, pain and sins that have befallen Viki, Todd, Tina and now Jessica. In her mind, seeing Todd once again spiral into rape and violence, seeing Jessica committed, it surely must have seemed as though there was truly no escape. When Viki said she had tried to consider herself strong, but knew she would only be remembered after death as a victim, it broke my heart, because I can imagine Marty's character, or Jessica's or others, either in fiction or even abuse survivors in real life, thinking the same. It was just too real a statement, too raw for daytime, and perfect from the writers.

I don't consider Viki or Jessica victims per se, but too often in the past, OLTL has made them victims, instead of allowing them to grow from their traumas and become empowered once more, consistently. The 1995 DID story did that for Viki, but it was undone down the line when Gary Tomlin got a yen for more Niki Smith, and Dena Higley got a hankering for child molestation stories, which then crippled Jessica. There was rumored to be an unofficial "ban" on DID storylines post-95, and I think that ban, real or not, should have been respected. I still feel that way; I think that storyline was a brilliant final statement. Yet when Charlie told Viki he considered her a survivor this week, I agreed with him. No matter what fate, or the writers, do to Viki or Jessica or Marty or others, they remain on the show, heroines, unbowed. I consider OLTL to be, when it's truly honest with itself, a female-centric soap, perhaps more than most though the genre is founded on women, and I think in showing Viki (or Dorian, or others) persevering through the decades, it has a proud legacy. And I hope that the current storyline about Jessica's recovery, which is already going places Viki's DID stories hardly ever went, will be another "survivor" statement. I believe in Viki, and I believe in strong women who can survive. I learned a lot of that when I was growing up, watching people like her, or Robin Strasser, or Susan Haskell on One Life to Live. So I give thanks for that message this November, and I hope OLTL and Ron Carlivati remember it going into December and the new year, instead of selling out when it comes to justice for Marty, or recovery for Jessica, or a reckoning for Todd, no matter how big a character he is.

Charlie gave Viki a wonderful, touching surprise with the all-new "Buenas Dias Café" this week; I'll leave the interior decoration critique to my counterpart next week, and I just hope Carlotta signed off on the whole thing before paying him. But what a love letter to Viki, and what a nice sendoff before Thanksgiving. OLTL has had a rocky year, full of the good, the bad, the sublime and the reprehensible, but I've always appreciated this creative team's remembering to bring things back to family, happiness, love, and simple caring when it comes to the holiday episodes. On other soaps, you get violence and scandal served up for the season, and some shows choose not even to acknowledge the occasion, or simply add some trite, token scene or title card. OLTL did it right, and I appreciate that. So happy Thanksgiving, y'all. And if you should find yourself liquored up and full of Tryptophan this holiday season, with all the rest of the family either arguing bitterly or crowded in front of the Xbox playing Rock Band, and if you too have a crypt of darkness and shame on your family property, remember, don't do what Viki did: Take a power drill instead.

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