Sealed with a Kish

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OLTL Two Scoops: Sealed with a Kish
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The week of August 10, 2009
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After the rapturous Bo and Nora kiss last week, One Life to Live followed up on the wedding drama with another pretty decent week in Llanview.

That's right, the "Kish" jokes are coming fast and furious, with added "Tokyo Drift." Whatever that is. What a week, huh? After the rapturous Bo and Nora kiss last week - their first in nine years, by my count - OLTL followed up on the wedding drama, and some of the best work of Hillary B. Smith and Robert S. Woods' recent careers, with another pretty decent week in Llanview for my deux scoops. Nora chose security over passion, Blair's unconscious channelled the Maysles Brothers, and thank God, Viki and Charlie finally tied the knot. And there was this other stuff, like the heavens smiting Stacy, and Sky keeping it a little too real about his crush. Oh, and of course, there was another hot gay kiss on soaps between Kyle and Our Boy Oliver Fish. Probably the hottest I've ever seen between two dudes on American daytime, though I thought Laurence Lau really sold his in his regrettably eyeblink-length storyline on As The World Turns last fall. But "Kish" is here, it's real, it's textual and not just fangirl subtext. It's hot, it's smart, it's what everyone's talking about, and it's going to flood this column like the measles. Lick it up, people. Mind you, it's not a slam dunk. Kyle and Fish's hotness was almost ousted from the top slot of fierce daytime homoeroticism this week by an unlikely dark horse. But more on that later. Let's get to the money.

Kishes From A Rapist

Her hair is straight and all styled. Her attitude is pure Supernanny. Her tears are an insufferable constant. It's official: Téa Delgado is back in full 1998, "toss me out of the house so I can go sleep with Andrew," DID, "Rodd/Todd," "strawberry punches and letter openers" mode. And I don't find it to be a good thing. I never found Téa more intolerable than when she played schoolmarm to a man who abused her, and engineered more and more abusive situations for herself while constantly grasping for the most shaky moral high ground possible from which to pontificate further about Todd's evil, evil ways, even as she enabled and exacerbated them. It's far worse that this character is regressing now, actually, because Téa's character is full of potential again, but I find it all being sapped as the show plays out an inappropriately fluffy version of ancient Todd/Téa tropes - the same things that ruined their initial romance - on the heel of Tarty. Whoever sent the memo out declaring that "Todd as Dean Martin-esque love rat" was the way to go following another rape charge needs to be fired, but you've all heard me ramble on about that, right? Right. And I don't want to be Téa, getting on my high horse and filibustering and then giving in the next time Todd touches my beautiful, beautiful hair. Yet here we were this week, with Todd as an unlikely Eliza Doolittle to Téa's even less likely 'Enry 'Iggins (just you wait), smugging it up together and all but doing it in front of the young'ins in the pews at St. James, ready to dethrone the epically horrible Joey/Jen romance of 2003 as the title-holders for "horrible church sex on soaps." These actors are great, but I've seen this all before, and it has even less substance today. Plus, I'm sorry, Frankie Negron, your music was beautiful, you're an attractive fellow, I may go looking for you on iTunes, but I have absolutely no idea who you are, and I'll bet Florencia Lozano didn't either.

And then there's Blair (and Dorian). You can take the Cramer divas' scenes this week two ways, I think. On the one hand, I find the treatment of Blair as sad, pathetic 'spoiler' to her rapist ex and Téa to be increasingly one-sided and demeaning - oddly, this echoes the way the character was treated when Téa was first introduced. On the other hand, you can chuck the subtext for a minute, because I thought Blair and Dorian's drunken revelry this week was absolutely hilarious. No one, but no one plays drunk as well as Kassie DePaiva, and no one looks nearly as good doing it. And you can tell just how gay-friendly this show is by the way it seamlessly incorporated the legendary story of gay/pop cult classic Grey Gardens into Blair's neurotic flashforwards. Depicting Blair and Dorian as the addled "Big and Little Edie Beale" from the Maysles Brothers' documentary was hilarious, and so on point; no other soap on the air has the remaining class to reference a work like Grey Gardens (or, for that matter, the Alec Guinness comedy classic The Horse's Mouth - Guinness' artist character in the film was name-checked on a tiny prop in Roxy's salon last year) or realize how brilliantly these tragicomic real-life figures mirror the dysfunctional Cramer matriarchal dynasty. Having Téa pop up in Blair's nightmare as Jackie O., with Florencia Lozano actually doing the accent, was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. If you haven't seen Grey Gardens, Netflix both the original doc and the cable docudrama with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange recreating the Beales - they're both worth it, and most of the dialogue between Blair, Dorian and Todd during those scenes was verbatim from the real women.

Despite worrying that her character is being railroaded, I think Blair's manifest (and hilarious) fears of ending up like the women of Grey Gardens allowed us an insight into her character which is generally not afforded to a lot of women in similar stories on daytime these days - the triangle of today is usually just that, form without content, women scratching and clawing and bed-hopping, with no exploration of what, how, why. And certainly, this insubstantial "story" has all of those weaknesses, and is mainly leaning on the strength of three great actors. Yet in giving us a real window into Blair's psyche, and what she fears lies in her future (given her family history) if she can't fight for love and outside companionship, no matter how misguided or unworthy the man may be, OLTL empowered her character again, just a little bit. And I think that's important. That kind of small insight, that insidious vulnerability writ large, is usually something Kassie DePaiva has had to do on her own in the past with bad writing, but it's what's kept Blair viable, and rootable, for almost twenty years.

The Long Kish Goodnight

Of course, the people who find and win love don't always know what they really want. Case in point, Mrs. Nora Hanen Gannon Buchanan Colson Buchanan...again. Thank God Little Richard didn't sign off on this one. Shockingly, the ill-advised double wedding of the century went off without any substantial hitch, and no sooner had the non-Andrew (I call foul) minister finished the vows, Clint was back to stroking Nora's hair and hissing, "My precioussss." Seriously, I have to give it up to Jerry verDorn for consistently dancing on the razor's edge of subtle, controlling denial, and genuine, heartbreaking affection and love as he portrays Clint. Just as easily as I could see that Clint was quietly shutting Nora down last Friday by talking over her when he visited her suite before the ceremony, I could also see how much he loved her when he spoke of "[his] 20-minute girl" and took her in his arms at the reception. Clint, for all his flaws, is still a very good man, and Nora's speech to Rachel about how she could trust in his lesser love but not in Bo's inconsistent behavior and occasional contempt, crystalized her character's struggles in the last decade since The Cabana Incident in a heartbreaking way - you could understand why she felt she needed to marry Clint this week, even though she clearly didn't want to, and the kill-me expression on her face at the altar screamed something along the lines of Nicolas Cage's immortal turn in "The Wicker Man" - "Not the bees! No, not the bees!" Now, of course, comes the true soapiness - Bo standing in dark corners alone, trading meaningful glances at Nora, his brother's wife, while her heart bleeds for him. It's an old soap story, but it's still a good one, and Hillary Smith and Bob Woods' chemistry hasn't dulled at all - they can still turn it on when they really want to. Keep it coming.

It's sad to think of the truly happy supercouple as the second stringers this week, but that's what they were during the big angstfest at the double wedding. Viki and Charlie Banks will never be second-string in my heart, though; I was delighted to see them finally married. Actually, I think their romance has been pitch-perfect - and perfectly timed - from Day One to Wedding Day. I also disagree that they are matronly, frumpy, or old and boring; I've always felt there is a mature, understated sensuality to Erika Slezak and Brian Kerwin, something that comes with age, confidence, and a timeworn sense of life, love, and what goes into all of it. When Viki and Charlie were in each other's arms the morning after, it felt totally real, a snapshot of life today, where we're told "sixty is the new forty;" for people like the Bankses, you can see it full-blown before you, autumn passion, real, not just soapy confection or overblown flight from age. Everything about Viki and Charlie makes me happy, even when they get precious little airtime, probably thanks to some peeved exec in an airless conference room. I loved them with Bree, interrupting their morning, that felt real, too. Now give them a story. Hopefully Viki's done with the dead husbands. Seriously, how many have died? Three? I count literally three. But I think Joe died twice, and Roger Gordon was thought to have died in Eterna, so that's like five. Did Roger Gordon die again? Or was that just the thing on his head?

In discussing the dual marriages, I'd be remiss not to mention the storylines of their kin. First there's Rachel with Dr. Greg, whose comments about her "love lockdown" lifestyle cut too close to the bone. I thought Greg's observations about Rachel's tough character were fascinating, but the way he treated her, and the way he tried to demean her strength, made him come off like scum. Daphnee Duplaix and Terrell Tilford have some heat, but Dr. Greg needs to get a Georgie Phillips-style beatdown first. Meanwhile, Matthew finally took Bo and Nora to court at the end of the week, and told the mercifully Todd-less Téa all about Bo and Nora's woodland buss. The look on her crazysexycool face as she eyed the tortured thornbirds walking into the courtroom was pure awesome, and I can only hope the action stays hot and spicy, Téa-style in the courtroom. Oh, Téa. Why don't you stay in your good storyline instead of your bad one? Téa: You So Crazy!

Kish The Girl

Yes, we've come to the motherlode: The Best Story In Soap Opera History. It continues. Still. I'm excited. I know you're excited. Let's get to it, much like we would an efficient triage amputation. First, there's Stacy and her babyoopsitdied. Oh, well. I'm sorry, that's horrible. I just can't summon up the energy to feel bad. You know, generally when women miscarry on soaps they direct their cliche, panicked monologues to the unborn children - "it's okay, baby, you'll be fine!" Not Stacy. Stacy just yammered on and on to and about her damn self the whole time. That's kind of the essence of the character, don't you think? Now I'm sure she will fake the pregnancy a la Annie Dutton and a thousand other more interesting daytime whackjobs. And again, I don't care. Unless Cynthia Watros literally shows up as Annie Dutton to help her, I don't care. Move it along. Wrap it up. I'm holding up the Dave Chappelle "Wrap It Up" box with the flashing sign, every time this chick appears onscreen. I suggest you do the same. If I could, I would address this storyline with only the same three words in each column: WRAP IT UP. But I don't think Dan Kroll would like that.

Slightly more interesting is Sky laying one on Gigi. Now I may be an extremely bruised and battered fan of Rex and Gigi, but I do think Sky and Gigi are adorable together, and I think Rex's behavior towards his lady love regarding Stacy's pregnancy has been utterly disgusting. What I don't get is how or why Sky is in love with Gigi. No, it's not that I can't understand why he would care for her; I just haven't heard him articulate any reasons. When did he fall for her? Because of what? Is it just a rebound thing? What makes his character tick? That's what I need them to explore about Sky's growing affection, and Gigi, frankly, didn't seem all too chagrined about the kiss herself. She needs something to hold on to. Rex is displaying typical Alpha Male jackass behavior, and somehow, inexplicably, has decided it's best to keep the mentally unstable woman living rent-free in his other home instead of getting a restraining order, filing charges, and then going for custody of the unborn child while Stacy is in a mental hospital. He's doing a slightly less repulsive version of the old Sonny/Sam/Carly two-step on General Hospital, where Sonny's loveless marriage continued in one penthouse and his pregnant mistress lived across the hallway. Who can blame Gigi for not being too flustered by a man who seems ready to put her first, instead of his crumbling ego and sense of power? Rex is behaving like a petulant teenager, expecting everyone else to carry the weight of his mistakes while he refrains from doing anything too difficult like locking Stacy up and dealing with legal red tape to protect his family and move forward; he's like a dazed Ingénue instead of a man, while Gigi and Shane take the burden and Mr. Balsom acts vaguely nice and ineffectual. Lame. I can only hope this story keeps focusing on Sky and Gigi, and not Stacy.

Kish Me Deadly

Don't believe the hype. There was actually two profoundly homoerotic stories on ABC Daytime this week. There's a dark horse comin' over yonder, and the brand on its hide spells UNDERCOVER LOVE. I speak of course of Cole Thornhart's Totally Heterosexual Undercover Adventure. This week on Undercover Adventure, blond tart Asher and his burly Russian boss came by Cole's apartment, which vaguely resembles the inside of my air conditioner, and threw Cole around like a piece of meat. Within minutes, Cole was clutching the scraps of his shirt and all but crying "Oh, Rhett!" I haven't seen such thunderous subtext since Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break. If you saw that movie, you know what I'm talking about. All that has to happen next is for Cole to pursue Asher through the streets, then turn his gun away from him and shoot into the sky in heartrending frustration over his torturous love. Then Val Kilmer can show up from Top Gun and tell Cole "you can be my wingman anytime."

In all seriousness, I actually like the intrigue of this storyline; Cole, John, and Brody made a lot of rookie mistakes and the criminals in this story don't seem to be totally stupid, our heroes actually had to work to put them off the scent. It's a pity Brody could not have gone undercover as, say, an Olympic swimming hopeful, but I guess that wouldn't be character-based, would it? No. No, it wouldn't. I apologize. In any event, let's see more of this, and less of Cole, John, Marty, and Starr dominating the airtime with far lamer pursuits. As annoying as John and Cole can be at times, I find Cole's character to have markedly improved and deepened since his addiction and recovery, and on General Hospital, you know this story would be strictly a Sonny and Jason affair, with the cops as an afterthought, or on AMC, the police would be flouting the law to play personal favorites; here, they really are the heroes. I think that's still worth something, John or no John (please, no John).

Just Kish

Okay, so this is the real motherlode. Last stop, everybody off, time for hot guys kissing. Maybe I'm applying my own cultural conditioning after years of watching uncomfortable straight actors try to play gay, but I was stunned by how much Brett Claywell sold his passionate kiss with Scott Evans this week; we could see every inch of Kyle's desperate longing, proving that a real actor, straight or gay, can always subsume themselves (Claywell is straight) for the sake of character integrity. Like Bo and Nora's old-embers-stirred-to-flame clinch the previous week, Kyle and Fish's big Hollywood kiss started out clumsy, then turned furtive, tender, and very serious. It's great stuff, and we still only have pieces of the backstory, but I know that's yet to come.

What's remarkable about Kyle's character for a "soap gay guy" is that he's so normal and unpretentious; there was never any big, overblown scene where he stood up and said, "YES, ROXY - I, KYLE LEWIS, HAVE KNOWN THE TOUCH OF A MAN, FOR I AM GAY! MOTHER MARY, FORGIVE ME! I AM ADAM, AND I LOVE STEVE!!" Kyle's a working adult, he just is gay, no press conference; we caught the casual inference and the offhand remarks just like you would any GLBT person in real life, where there is not a setpiece or a signpost to announce one's orientation. And his character still retains that gritty edge to it, that seamy past; no other gay character on American daytime, except perhaps Olivia Spencer on GL, is allowed that touch of danger (excepting Adam on Y&R, who doesn't seem to be gay). When he seethes at us in the opening sequence, you know he might be up to no good. Or he should be. Cris knows the truth, which mean Layla can't be far behind; if, with Oliver's secret out, this storyline turns into a standard come here-go away courtship for the boys, I'll be annoyed. Kyle should screw with Oliver and vice versa the same way straight couples/vixens/etc on soaps duel to sublimate their passions. "Kish" is too genuine to do the same old vanilla story beats we've seen with sanitized gay couples too many times. Already, we have two adult gay men, not dewy male Ingénues, in pro-active roles on the canvas, busting stereotypes; Fish is a cop, Kyle a criminal. Their kiss was raw and rough, not virginal. The show hasn't pussyfooted around, and I appreciate it; it's pure, uncut Kish, baby, and I can't get enough.

Another one down. I think it went well. By the way, thank you everyone for your tips on my sore throat, which cleared up nicely; the way you channeled your inner Florence Nightingales touched me. I'll see you in two weeks, hopefully with more Kish, more Bo and Nora, more Viki and Charlie, and less Stacy. And no more puns, I promise. I love you, goodbye!

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