Mr. Self-Destruct

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OLTL Two Scoops: Mr. Self-Destruct
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The week of March 9, 2009
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Cole has come undone thanks to his unseemly Mentos addiction, and now it's time for another whip-zoom-pan soap opera car crash with stationary vehicles, fog, and the illusion of speed.

It seemed like an appropriate (or at least cheeky) choice of column title, albeit paraphrased, to me; after all, another famous Nine Inch Nails song, "Head Like A Hole," played during the infamous Llanview University Spring Fling of 1993, which continues to wreak havoc upon Todd, Marty and their friends and family's lives today, leading to Marty's own auto-destruct "party girl" resurgence recently. But somehow, I doubt Cole's loved ones would appreciate the historical gesture. Yes, our young Mr. Thornhart has come undone at the seams thanks to his unseemly Mentos addiction, and now it's time for another whip-zoom-pan soap opera car crash with stationary vehicles, fog, and the illusion of speed. That's what you get for wearing that Spin Doctors-esque hat, Matthew - two princes stand before you, and both of 'em got in a car crash cause one was too stoned to drive. Man, I hated the Spin Doctors. In all seriousness, I was reasonably pleased with this week, moreso than I expected. I found some surprise gold in the teen scene, a fine sendoff for our latest "Mr. Buchanan," some nice movement in the Brody/Jessica/Natalie/Chloe arc, a wonderful return to regular rotation from A Martinez, and a spellbinding tour de force from Ilene Kristen as Roxy. All this plus a Psycho ripoff. Maybe that NIN reference was more apropos than I thought, given my suspicions about the culprit...

So where do we start? Well, let's start with the least interesting, that's generally less painless later on: Stacy Morasco. Where will it end? It's maybe a month in and already she's going full tilt boogie with the Rex obsession; already I'm tired of watching her very overt passive-aggression get shrugged off by hapless Gigi. Suddenly it's roofies in the beer, lingerie, schemes for isolation, the whole nine yards. Skye Chandler and her Max obsession looks at this mess and goes "you in danger, girl." I actually think Crystal Hunt does a perfectly acceptable job with what she's given; it's just that she isn't really given anything to work with. There's a lot of questions here, like how and why, OLTL? Are we to believe Stacy has perhaps "always wanted" Rex, going back to some pubescent crush in Michigan? Is she that stunted a personality that she still truly believes she was meant for Rex, and not her sister, who he is clearly deeply in love with? And why are we being asked to care about what Stacy feels, when she has been shown over and over to not care about anyone else? Assuming for a moment that the Balsom/Morascos themselves can generate the audience interest, and despite some rough patches I believe they can with the right story, why not keep our attention focused on the potentially winning storyline of Rex's father (more on that in a minute)? And if these two stories are to intersect, who's to say the lack of interest in Stacy will not pollute the good storyline? If she becomes a major player in all things Rex and Gigi when I'd rather be watching more of them or more of Roxy at the hospital, then how can I guarantee undivided attention? I don't care about Stacy's childhood crush turned Fatal Attraction freakout. I do care about the secret of Rex's father. And I don't think these two tastes go great together.

Speaking of the other side of this storyline, brava! to Ilene Kristen for pulling it out and bringing it home in her showstopper scenes at the hospital (in Llanview?) where she visited, presumably, Rex's daddy. Who is he, if not Mitch Laurence, my obvious suspect (the only man goodtime girl Roxy would ever be horrified to have lain with)? And if he is Mitch, how does Roxy know he's alive, and how did he survive Jessica's blow to the head? All these questions and more spring to mind, but for now it's enough to simply appreciate the actress' wonderful work in these scenes. Our Roxy is generally used as such a broad, comedic character that we forget that Ilene Kristen was not always a supporting player; a couple decades ago, on Claire Labine's down-to-the-home-baked-bread "kitchen sink drama" magnum opus Ryan's Hope, Kristen played the salt of the earth, devastatingly real antiheroine Delia Reid, and tore it up from the floor up five days a week on ABC Daytime. She can do darkness, depth, and affairs of the heart just as well as anyone else, and her tortured soliloquy at her "mystery man's" bedside this week was just a glimpse of her full potential, too often untapped in Roxy's secondary role on the canvas. If anything, the possibility of more outstanding opportunities for Ilene Kristen to shine is a big lure for me in this "who's the daddy?" storyline, because any man who can chill Roxy to the bone means more Emmy bait for La Ilene. And what will it mean for Rex to learn his father is a gorgon on the order of, say, a Mitch Laurence, or maybe someone worse? Could he really go back to his hard-partying "player" ways, as Layla prophecised this week? And what about poor Gigi and Shane, whose fierce hairstyles took a beating on the highway this past Friday? Where oh where will it end for the family Balsom, and why oh why must I keep watching Stacy in the middle of it all?

BTW, about Layla, I rarely give her either props or snaps since I all too often find the character to be a snide follower of "pretty princesses," be they her sister or Adriana, but sweetheart, you get both snaps and props for apparently having read my column and acted accordingly by calling Pervy Goatee Cristian on his foolishness this week and dubbing him "jackass." Truer words were never spoken, baby: We thought he was a good guy, but he was just another walking hormone case. At least Cris made the call to Sarah, and I like his and Layla's chemistry, far more than him with her sister. I just fear that despite Tika Sumpter's always vivacious personality, neither character has the true strength or foundation to support story together. This is not Sumpter's fault, and it may not even be Fumero's. But Cristian as a lead has always been dependent on the strength of the female characters he was linked to, starting with Erin Torpey's Jessica and going down the line of succession. With Layla, things aren't as snooze-worthy as, say, Vanessa, but how many fires has Layla's character sparked on her own? Maybe the audience will prove me wrong. I'm waiting, Layla fans: Tell me why these two should or shouldn't work together, in your opinion. I kind of like them; I just worry they have never been invested in enough by the writers to function on their own, if indeed that's what coming.

Equally backburnered this week, but not forgotten: Jessica and Brody, as well as poor Jared and Natalie (I think Jared is locked in a closet somewhere), though Natalie got some face time playing Nancy Drew in the Chloe affair, and Jessica got some priceless scenes walking in on a barechested and sweaty Brody and finally...seeing him for the first time. Her appreciation was etched across Bree Williamson's face, and it was a sight to see, from both POVs. If the Brody and Jessica quasi-pairing is really going places, now's the right time to begin really exploring it IMHO; Ron Carlivati has taken his traditional slow burn with these two characters, and I have always appreciated his usually careful approach to new couples and characters (except for the Montez clan and Stacy). The elephant in the room, however, remains the memory of Nash. For Jessica, due to her DID relapse, it has still only been a handful of months since she lost her husband, and though she did reference Nash last week, I feel there should be more weight put into her dealing with the hole in her daily life, and struggling with her emergent feelings for another man, as well as the possibility of feeling disloyal to Nash. I have never lost a partner, so I can't imagine what it must be like. I do think the first person someone might be with after the loss would be a major step, depending on your circumstance, and something that needs to be grappled with and conquered. Hopefully, as this story moves forward, we will see Jessica begin to struggle with these feelings of betrayal, or of coming to grips with moving on from Nash. For her to simply begin ogling Brody and saying "Nash who?" wouldn't be right; I don't think that's what happening, but I do think it can't be all titillation and no emotional resonance, especially with a single mom/widow. After all, correct me if I'm wrong but didn't it take Viki and Clint several years to hook up after Joe died? I read that he was busy squiring Jacqueline Courtney around. They all go for Jacqueline Courtney. Pssh. BTW, I almost forgot - good on Natalie for spotting Bess. But if she figures this whole Chloe thing out before May, we may be in for a rehash of the "a secret kept for the right/wrong reasons" and I hope they don't just repeat the same pattern; that was a great story last year, but how many times can Natalie keep a huge secret to protect family in two straight years? Don't do it, Natty. Or if you're gonna do it, do it differently.

Anyone else have to play 'Where's Viki (and Charlie)?' this week? Me too. Poor Viki. Come back. At least she got some nice scenes with David leading into his exit this week. I am SO GLAD Dorian and David stayed married as "Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan;" you can call this story juvenile or pointless if you want to, but I feel it's been a sweet comic love story, and a wonderful jolt of adrenaline for not only the Buchanan clan, in accepting David as Bo's son, but also for David and Dorian (and Bo) as characters, with David finally gaining some measure of clarity and perspective on himself and who he wants to be, and Dorian finally beginning to grasp the true depth of her feelings for David beyond the wounded pride and spite that kept her from him in recent years. These two love each other, and have for a long time. What's more, I don't feel David's transformation or continuing quest (now taking him back to L.A.) to be that strange or out of character; Tuc Watkins describes David as "a man who thinks he's the greatest con man in the world," someone always looking for validation of identity or purpose, of an indication that his pursuits are the right one for him, be they fame, fortune, or Nirvana. David rarely knows what he wants, but now he knows that he wants to have a goal worthy of his potential, and of his newfound father's respect. The thing Watkins and the writers do with the character are, I think, sometimes too subtle; yes, David is overtly comic and sly, but I don't think he is utterly without his own inner language or process. If I can see the evolutionary narrative line in David's character from Point A to Point B, then I have to believe that it's there, and that I'm not fooling myself - I think David's varied transformations, from con man to magazine editor, to fry cook to primetime star, to Buddhist monk to struggling actor are all different facets of the same confused, tragicomic joker. You tell me if I'm wrong, or if you see David a different way; I'm genuinely curious as to what people think about the character, or if everything I'm saying is just a load of pretentious wank. Anyway, Watkins and our new Mr. Buke will apparently be back soon, and I'll be waiting. For my money, his character is in a wonderful new place.

Gushing aside, my love for David doesn't mean I can't enjoy the welcome return of A Martinez as Ray Montez, an equally strong foil for Dorian, and potentially a romantic one. Sorry, but I still like the guy, despite Vanessa and Lola, and I'm eager to see where this war of wits will go between La Cramer and Senor Montez. Speaking of Lola, I worry about Langston's physical safety. Apparently young Ms. Montez may have gotten all stabby on her mother lo those many years ago, and now she's absolutely gobsmacked over Markko, who was clearly turned off by her advances this week. What happens when Lola decides it's time to go all Alicia Silverstone in The Crush up in this thing? Who are you going to leave to find the bloody knife next time, Lola? It seems whatever Lola wants, Lola gets, especially if it's supporting players who are probably leaving the show ("I got into UCLA!") Watch your six, Lang-Lang. That's all I'm sayin'. Watch. your. six. 'Cause Starr ain't watchin' it. We'll get to her, too.

About David's father: Bo had some great scenes with Matthew and Nora this week, dealing with his new son and his youngest, respectively. Robert S. Woods also got wonderful scene partners in Hillary Smith and surprising dark horse Eddie Alderson, who really stepped up his game with his longtime onscreen parents. Sometimes I feel our boy Eddie is disconnected from the scenes, but not these last few weeks - he's been hitting it out of the park, and he brought it home. BTW, I hope the recent focus from the last several months on more and more Bo and Nora interaction is not a fluke, especially since those flashbacks and strolls down memory lane this week made my Bo/Nora-lovin' heart quail. As we flashed back on Nora's varied and unfortunate hairstyles and Bo's varied...looks, it all came flooding back to me, and yes, I got a little verklempt along with Nora there. That's something soaps as a genre still do better than virtually any other in television; when the veterans and families are there for long enough, there is a sense of home and family that stays with you as a viewer, the invisible family member, remembering along with Bo and Nora like you were there with them...because you were, day in and day out, like a real-life parent or child. Now, of course, Matthew has gotten into what is sure to be a typically horrific accident with drugged-out Cole, and one can only hope this will bring Bo and Nora even closer together. Nothing against Jerry ver Dorn, but it's Bo and Nora, people. Every time they toy with these two my heart leaps into my throat. Never give up, never surrender. This is Sparta, you know the drill.

We'll go back to Cole shortly, but first let's go over the adults who have failed him: John and Marty. Yes, they have chemistry, but oy, are they tiresome lately. I will say this; I've enjoyed Marty much more this week since she started taking some responsibility. Her scenes with Nora were dynamite as Nora threw down the gauntlet on her old friend and told her to shape up, and Susan Haskell delivered as she grappled with her feelings for Cole. When she strained to reach the unreachable young man in his bedroom, I really felt her desperation. Unfortunately, too much of this drama became a backdrop for another series of circular conversations with John, Blair, and Marty. Why does John always have to try and shut women up with his Street Fighter II combo attack of "grab, yank, force-kiss?" "Oh, you want me to take the garbage out? You want me to take the garbage out? Well, (yank, forceful kiss)" That's how he ends every argument, like Guile in Street Fighter. Guile always cheated with the Sonic Boom; John McBain cheats with his mad-mouth tongue finishing move. Old school Super Nintendo players know what I'm talking about here. Then of course another woman of John's get brutally mauled on the job. Blair got the Janet Leigh Special and apparently survived, though it was hard to be sure with her lying in a mangled heap on the bathroom floor as Robin Strasser somehow had to convincingly deliver unintentionally funny lines like "Your pulse is strong!" Uh, yeah, it looks that way from here. BTW, if Téa isn't the perp, my vote is for one of the other Spring Fling rapists to be Llanview's latest stabbity killer. Both have connections to Todd and Marty, who seem to be the focal points so far. And frankly, Todd needs something to more clearly focus his character lately.

Why am I bagging on Todd again? Well, for starters, let's look at his scenes with Cole this week. I thought the scenes themselves were excellent on both sides, and frankly pretty disturbing; that was compelling material, but that's also a problem. Todd as a character has been sort of drifting for a month or so as this casually perverse bon vivant, and it's not doing him any favors when he sits around with framed photos of his double rape victim and tosses off lines like, "I gave her what I thought she needed." Trevor St. John is doing a bang-up job of selling Todd as a skin-crawly pervert, but he's capable of much more than that, and so is Todd, so where is the shred of morality necessary to this character's continued existence? He has now raped Marty twice, the second time with forced imprisonment and an attempted baby theft, yet still he just sort of wanders around town cracking wise and creeping everyone out. When is his character supposed to come back into sharp focus again, and how is he going to be at least semi-redeemed? He didn't look too torn up about Blair being butchered like a steer at La Boulaie, either. I'd like to think this serial killer story will provide Todd another chance to prove his humanity, but he seems dark gray, at best, right now, almost pitch black. All Todd seems to see is that he wants what he wants, and he's sorry he hurt people, but not sorry enough to want to pay or change.

As to the rest of Cole's druggie rampage this week, I have to give it to Brandon Buddy; I thought he did very well. He was strong with Trevor St. John (the best moment came when Todd accused him of turning into him) and especially with La Haskell. They've piled on the angst and pain for Cole for over a year and despite the silliness of the evil Mentos, his descent has been surprisingly convincing and compelling in the last couple of weeks as the makeup dept slathered the shadow below his eyes and Buddy's performance got more unhinged - I find myself truly believing this is where Cole's formerly squeaky-clean character would end up, without proper support and attention. His friends aren't the greatest help either, enablers that they are. Cole can't take Starr and her histrionics, but to be fair he isn't leaving her much choice or room to work with him either; I can't blame her for turning to "Mr. J," but wrong though it was, I sincerely hope she didn't do it just to make Cole jealous. Let's get sidetracked for a minute: I think Scott Clifton and Kristen Alderson have fine chemistry, but it seems their characters' linkage could be over before it begins. Here comes more armchair psychology, so prepare yourselves. Poor Schuyler seems like a nice guy, but in many ways he bought himself this trouble; like his ex Stacy, Sky seems to be an arrested adolescent (as many recovering addicts are) who relates better to young people than to adults with authority and a sense of themselves, which is what he himself should be. Instead, Sky has had people like his mother and Stacy cleaning up his messes for years, so he stays a sort of man-child, which is why he crosses so many boundaries with Starr. No, he didn't initiate their kiss, but he gave her all sorts of unspoken openings and clearances to his space which, as a teacher in his position, he should not have. These characters have chemistry, but if their storyline is to work romantically it must be done very slowly and carefully, and with a full accounting of Schuyler's failings as an adult. That may not be the prettiest or most clean-scrubbed story on soaps, but it could be fairly true to life, if it's played right - if Sky gets his crap together, and if they don't start seeing each other right now. Because, eww, no.

As to the rest of the high school tomfoolery: Everyone was okay except the truly awkward scenes with Matthew's supporting cast, all of whom the young Mr. Alderson was better than. "Destiny" is a potentially promising character who they appear to have cast with a thoroughly green young actress, and her character actions seem to denote an intimacy between us and her that we don't have since she's only been around a week. "Oh, look - Destiny stopped the music! Good for her!" Well, are we really expected to cheer her on when she just showed up five days ago? Then there's the twelve year old playing "Justin," Matthew's miniature nemesis. He is about a third of the size of everyone else in the storyline and looks like he could still be doing action figure ads on Nickelodeon, so why am I supposed to buy him as a jerk who can cut Matthew down at every turn and boss around the upperclassmen drug dealer? All Matthew needs to do is stick that chibi kid under his Spin Doctors hat. Newsflash, "Justin," Starr's ex Travis had genuine junior high swagga; you are just fronting. Accept no substitutes, people. Unfortunately, the road will likely be clear for Justin and the vapid Becca now that Cole has driven and drugged Matthew right into danger with the Morascos. That's what you get for abusing the Freshmaker, Cole. You cripple your friends.

That sounds like an appropriate note to leave things on. Next week, we'll see the sweeps-tastic results of Cole's drug binge, which I am interested in even though Stacy continues to plague my days and nights. And when will they show us who Rex's dad is? Will Cristian and Layla pass the rigorous chemistry tests that somehow gave Vanessa Montez a free pass? And what of Bo and Nora, and their now-much-more-acceptable hair? And what will become of Brody, and his exercise regimen? All in all, I think there's a lot to think about, and a lot to look forward to. But please remember, don't Mentos and drive. You might hit a family of moptop heads. Later!

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