For several weeks now, I've been saying things in Llanview are on an upswing, and now that we're deep into November sweeps, I gotta say it: I think OLTL's really starting to hit something of a stride again after months of deep suckage. When was the last time you remember seeing a Friday cliffhanger on an ABC soap with four major veterans over fifty years old dominating the action? It's been a long, hard, convoluted road, but they've finally managed to make me give a damn about Rex's parentage again, and there are exactly four good reasons behind that -- their names are Slezak, Zimmer, verDorn, and Kerwin. Between this umbrella story, some neat casting news, Marty's continued reign of terror, and the surprise twist of my suddenly giving a damn about Kelly again, I think we've got a lot to be thankful for this week before Thanksgiving. So let's dig in, and please remember, easy on the tryptophan in the turkey this year.
Not Quite The Maury Show Okay, so yes, first of all, obviously, we've got the DNA/paternity follies with the Buchanan clan. Let me just say this: I find it a crying shame that Vimal is, as far as I know, the only East Indian/Hindu person on American daytime today. Has there ever been an Indian actor on contract on US soaps? Worse, the poor guy isn't really the best exemplar you can find for Indian representation -- his hair looks a bit like a combover, and he's obviously a bit of a weasel, buttonholed by Clint into falsifying the Rex test before, apparently, being cornered by a mysterious Someone Else in the dead of night. Who is that mystery somebody, anyway? Your valiant columnist's best guess: Marty, up to no good again, screwing with Natalie and Jessica's tests. Her Crazy Logic fits, too: BFF Jessica would not want a baby with skeevy Ford, while Marty believes Natalie doesn't deserve to have John's kid and Marty could falsify those results as well. (Note to Marty: You've got it backwards on John and Natalie.)
Apparently all the minorities left in Llanview work in the hospital DNA lab -- not only did Kyle Lewis do a rotation back before he was fired (cough cough, tacky scapegoating, cough cough), but the technician on duty the morning after Vimal's break-in (or, as the incongruous title card read, "THE NEXT DAY...") was a real live Asian dude! Hey, when was the last time ABC had an Asian on contract? Well, anyway -- DNA follies are clearly afoot. And honestly, I can't say Brody and Natalie don't deserve the grief. I love these two schmucks, but their behavior regarding their one-nighter has been plum-dumb stupid from Moment One, and the only thing dumber is poor Jessica, who walks in on them talking about the paternity of Natalie's baby and busts out with lines like, "I think I know what this is about -- my sister is talking about my baby's paternity!" Oh, Jessica. I can't remember when you had a brain or weren't on anti-psychotic medication. Then we have Marty's steady march towards St. Anne's. Susan Haskell is still knocking it out of the park with this silly stuff, but she and Melissa Archer elevate a fairly pedestrian story with their great bitchy chemistry together. Now we've got Marty talking to a photo of Cole (and noticeably, a photo of Cole circa 2006 and not 2010 -- I'm just saying, putting it out there, never mind, you know what I'm saying) and constantly referring to his nemesis as only "That Bitch Natalie." Priceless. Silly, not worth the inevitable focus on John, Jessica, and Ford, but fun for all the people who are getting hit by the plot bus in the meantime.
The real meat of this DNA swapping story comes from Rex and the vets. I do find Clint's fanatical protection of the family name to be in character given Asa's own mercenary moves on this front -- look at how he handled Cord and Maria Roberts back in the day -- and Clint's been given plenty of reason in the last couple years to doubt Rex's nature. He's been driven to depths he never had to give lease to when his father was alive, and once he began by using Ray Montez against Dorian, he started down a darker, more coldly pragmatic path. I still love Viki having an active role in a real frontburner story, playing a hardened investigative reporter trying to unearth the truth -- once more, when was the last time you saw Viki drive a cliffhanger right before the opening credits, as she did this week when she burst in to interrogate Clint? That's the Viki who went to jail to protect a source, who clashed with Marco Dane and fell for Joe, who went to Eterna, Heaven, and the Old West. Viki sells tickets. All these vets do, and they deserve credit for making an already-failed and dead storyline (Rex's family) rise from the dead. They might even make Rex work again.
Drunk Dial Divas So yeah -- Kelly's drunk dialing to Joey on the roof of the Palace was hilarious. I have been there, believe you me, and not long enough ago. It was a real, human vignette, the kind of messy and uncouth stuff we too rarely see on soap operas. And it fit Kelly, who's seemed lost and adrift since she slept with Duke. She's clearly never forgiven herself for that, as she so eloquently articulated to Kevin this past spring, but I don't believe Joey is the answer. Her epiphany about him came out of nowhere, when in reality, I think Joey is another escape for her -- an artifact of a simpler, more innocent time from before the death of Blair's son Brendan, before the deaths of Ian and Drew, before her tangled relationship with Kevin, before she stole Ace, back when she didn't carry the stigma of having a child by her stepson.
Dan Gauthier and Gina Tognoni positively sparkled together this week, and it remains an infuriating mystery to me why Gauthier is not back on a long-term contract today. This is the real future for Kelly's character, her push and pull, fiery relationship with Kevin, who I truly believe, for all their angst, is her true love. Joey is a good guy, but he's just her youth. He reminds me her of who she was before she betrayed him and Cassie for Kevin. I welcome Joey's presence on the canvas again, a sensitive, soulful male, and I hope Tom Degnan does well in the role, but I just don't see Joey and Kelly as the solution here. It seems OLTL is deliberately leaving out a crucial part of the formula for Kelly's future success -- Kevin and her son Zane.
That being said, Kelly and Rex were actually cute together, and their kiss was hot. I could get onboard with their having a sordid fling, as both are deeply immature in some ways and seem to often look for escapes from situations that require responsibility and commitment. I wonder if their flirtation is now totally resolved, as it seems Gigi and Cris's is. This week appeared to give us a healthy, mature end to that subplot with Fumero and Fath, who have nice platonic chemistry. In another refreshingly real moment for a soap, Gigi and Cris drunkenly considered sleeping together, but laughed it off and remained friends sans angst and over-the-top music. I'm just not sure what their futures are on the show. I like both characters, but a pairing of them would be pointless.
Fade Into the Blackground Okay, what else can we give renowned character actress Tonye Patano to do on this show as Phylicia Evans? An affair with one of the Gannons? An unlikely attraction to rich patriarch Clint? I'm open to ideas, but the bottom line is this woman is too damn talented (as is Frankie Faison as Richard) to be languishing as Destiny and Shaun's talk-to mom. This is not the first time a Phylicia has lingered on the fringes of this show with her talent not fully exploited -- mere months before The Cosby Show, Phylicia Rashad did a stint on OLTL as Ed Hall's rebound girlfriend, Courtney Wright. Then as now, the soaps didn't recognize the talent of a powerhouse actress of color, and she moved on to brighter stardom. I don't want to see Patano doing nothing, like so many other recent minority hires -- Daphnee Duplaix, Jason Tam, and A Martinez among them.
So, Greg is gone, hence the punchline above. I'm amazed he only got six years. It was an ignoble exit for an ignoble character who never amounted to enough; they toyed with giving his character greater depth right to the end with the Charlene subplot, but even that was an afterthought. What comes next for Destiny? Does she actually learn more about Charlene, or will that, too, fall down the memory hole? Can we explore more about the Evans family, and how criminal Greg was seen as the apple of their eye while Shaun struggled to measure up? There's more to be done here, but I fear it isn't forthcoming. I don't want to see these characters just "fade into the blackground."
The Uncatfight ...is what Inez and Nora had this week. Everything but the smackfight. Honestly, I'm so bored by Inez that I wish someone would hit her -- Eddie, Nora, Clint, doesn't matter. It might wake her, and by extension me, up. I'm with Nora now -- I'm convinced Inez is a straight-up creeper. Shifty eyes, shifty looks. She's letting Nora's neuroses do the work. When I have to root for grisly child-beating abusive bastard John Wesley Shipp over the battered wife, you know something's askew with a character. Eddie Ford may be pure evil, but he's a lot of fun thanks to Shipp's riveting, flesh-crawling portrayal, whereas Inez remains a drip. The sooner she goes the better for me. Protect your turf, Nora.
Fill-in-the-blanks In Love I'll take "Todd and Téa for $200," Alex. Yes, Téa had PTSD this week -- who cares. Not me, really. I'm more focused on the fact that their party was infinitely more interesting once they were off-screen, and that Todd then had the stones to turn around this week and divest Marty of visitation to their grandchild. Because if anyone's more fit to be around a small child, it's Todd, right? Give me a break. The approach to Todd is beyond schizophrenic now -- he tells Starr he has to take a breather from "atoning for Marty," but when was the last time he even attempted to make up for what he's done as recently as a year or so ago? The last time they really clashed was when he gave her the air quotes about his multiple rapes and she fell down the stairs. Todd's enjoying this, and I wish he'd admit it. It's only Trevor St. John's amazing channeling of a sort of a manic Michael Keaton-style actor's energy that is making this sociopathic "hero" vaguely watchable. No matter how crazy Marty is lately, I still want her to rip his face off and keep babysitting her granddaughter.
As for Starr and James -- dullsville this week, sorry. Moving slowly. But hey, I liked the mention of Cousin River.
Mystery Date So my grief over the loss of Matt Walton and Blair's luckless love life is severely assuaged this week, and the reason boils down to two little words: TED KING. Ohhhh mahhhh Gaaaawwwdddd. Sweet mystery of life, at last I've found you! That's so right, it's almost wrong! I've always loved King's work, especially on GH as the soulful Alcazar twins, and I can see a combination of King with Kassie DePaiva being dynamite -- I eagerly await his January arrival. Good move, OLTL.
In the meantime, I wonder how Eli's Mystery Box fits into the equation. The last Mystery Box I remember was on Family Guy, where Peter Griffin chose it over a free motorboat, so personally I'd be hesitant to open said box ("A boat is just a boat, but a mystery box could be anything! Hop in!"). Still, where would we be if she didn't open it? I'm up for a good mystery that doesn't involve Blair chasing after ruined old Todd. And aren't Cristian and Blair cute together, as always? As for Blair's attempted seduction of Ford, all I can say is shut up, Langston. Nothing could make me like this guy. Nothing in the Milky Way. And Langston's bitchface at Blair is approaching Adriana proportions -- I've seen so many young Cramer girls go down this path, eating their own kin over men, and I don't want to see Langston turn cold and self-obsessed too. Ford ain't worth it.
So all in all, good week in Llanview! I was riveted to the telly every day, and it's been a long time since I could say that. Bring back Kevin, Rachel, and some of the gays, and I just might be over the moon. OLTL this fall is a testament to the power of balanced storytelling with veterans and the new generation side by side. I suggest the show continue learning from its costly mistakes and focusing on the characters and families that work. I'm happy to be surprised with how things are turning out. Happy Turkey Day in advance, everyone -- I love you all, and while you're around your holiday table, remember the Greg Evans rule: A wing is not a breast.