...Wow, what a way to end the week! I don't know about you guys, but I'm loving Marty and this new guy Patrick, and Todd and Blair's wedding hairstyles are totally the height of today's fashion! I just know Andrew and Cassie will be together forever! Time to log in to America Online, with its blistering high-speed connection! I love the sound my dial-up modem makes! I'm so glad MTV is balancing out all its music videos with the occasional reality show! Too much flannel, you say? I think you mean I can never wear enough flannel!
Sorry -- like Friday's classic episode, I found myself lost in the mists of 1995 for a minute there. Anyway, to business. Oh, the joys of writing a Two Scoops column during a blowout sweeps week where most of the action was confined to a single disastrous wedding! Don't get me wrong, I love my job, but it's so convenient -- and yes, still thrilling depending on the circumstances, the stories, the characters -- when a soap beds down and prepares to detonate several key twists in one fell swoop in a single setting. And even when the stories don't always work, I can't really think of a show that executes this kind of classic sweeps denouement better than Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati's OLTL. Forget Balkans, bombs, bus crashes, toxic balls, serial killers, evil twins -- all you really need is a big wedding, a bunch of family secrets, and a maximum yield of sheer heartbreak.
So yes -- most of this week was taken up, of course, by the Buchanan twins' disastrous double wedding, which at this point I think we can safely say is off. Thanks to Rama and Vimal, Clint's machinations were exposed to the harsh light of day, and with them, inadvertently, Natalie and Brody's big secret. The facts speak for themselves, so instead this week I think what we've got to talk about are the individual character dynamics within all the shock and awe, which was a lot of fun.
First, John and Natalie. For now, they are almost certainly over. This doesn't come as any surprise to me, though, nor did it before Monday's show, when John's feelings became crystal clear. While speaking with his father's old friend as played by author Peter Straub (who, let's face it, came off about as blind as Superman), McBain approached his wedding day with all the enthusiasm of a condemned man in a Moroccan prison. He began grousing out of nowhere about having serious doubts about Natalie, not just in the moment but as a wife and a partner. He immediately glossed over his own deceptions over the years -- specifically, the one where he slept with her for months while knowing Cristian was stuck on Death Row -- as being done to "protect her." Please.
The bottom line is that John is a judgmental, self-righteous ass who holds everyone else to an impossible standard which he knows they can never achieve, and he doesn't really want them to -- because he doesn't want them at all. He just wants them to be there for him, available and disposable. I don't believe John wanted to marry Natalie, and I don't believe he loves her. Because he treats every woman he's ever been with onscreen the same way, like pocket lint. Evangeline, Natalie, Blair, Marty -- every single one of them had to force the breakup, every time. John had to practically be forced to leave Blair and Marty and go to the women they each thought he "really wanted" at gunpoint, and when he did finally go after Natalie, he didn't tell her he loved her -- he just said they belonged to each other.
But John doesn't want to belong to anyone, and he doesn't want to take ownership of anything. He wants what's easy -- sex and occasional companionship with a minimum of commitment. Anything else, any commitment of his own self, is too much and too hard, which is why he resists every breakup and initiating any serious relationship. That's why his love interests do all the work and all the talking. And he's never really respected Natalie -- he's always found her unworthy, as opposed to Marty, who he sanctified. Natalie (and Marty, and Blair, etc.) gives everything, and John simply refuses to engage. He's at core a very selfish, damaged, depressed, self-obsessed individual with a totally self-oriented inner life, what little of it there is, which leaves me constantly baffled as to why I must continue watching storylines featuring him as a major romantic lead.
It's not that Natalie didn't do wrong. Her behavior since Jared's death has been largely silly in my opinion, and once her pursuit of John went full-tilt she turned into a total idiot. Keeping her night with Brody secret was foolish; hiding the baby was far worse. She was wrong, but the last person I want to see judge her is John. If we look at the years of evidence and the character contrasts, when women are with John versus when they are not, I have to conclude that ultimately John's character is to blame for what so many women become around to him, thanks to his mixed messages, his ambiguities, his callousness, and his compulsive need to keep them on a string and keep total control in all his relationships.
When they were finally at the altar, John all but smirked as he loomed over Natalie while Rama and Vimal confronted Clint and the secrets began spilling out -- he knew he was onto something, knew he could finally "catch" Natalie at something, judge her, dump her, escape the marriage, and regain the leverage in their endless game of push-pull. It was disturbing to watch, and I'm not looking forward to another six months of it, which is surely what is coming. I wish Natalie would be freed from John's orbit, but I can't see ABC Daytime standing for it. That being said, the onscreen drama was excellent, and Melissa Archer gave it her all.
Then we have Brody and Jessica. Despite my huge issues with Jessica's character, I do really like this couple, and they broke my heart. I join the legions of fans livid that Ryder is in fact Robert Ford's son, but I keep hoping that can be undone the road. Let's put this in terms OLTL will hopefully hear and understand: FORD IS NOT HAPPENING. STOP TRYING TO MAKE HIM HAPPEN. IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! Shall we all chip in for a poster to send in to the studio? A cake? Sky-writing? What's it going to take? Silver bullets? I don't care that he plays with Hope or dons a hot dog costume and does the White Boy Rap; I don't care that he and James had a rough childhood. Ford sucks and I will never like him and never want to watch him and you can't make me. I will YouTube this on the regular, Brian Frons! Don't test me!
Okay, serious time again: Brody and Jessica, I love them, poor Brody, etcetera etcetera. Honestly, I feel worst for him and for them despite Natalie being one of my longtime favorite characters -- she's just been so stupid over John and this baby for so many months, whereas Brody at least had the right idea all along. I hope these two will find their way back to each other, but I can see the Nash Brennan Memorial Contrivance cruising Jessica's way -- I fear she'll hook up with Ford in the aftermath, cementing him on the show in ABC's mind, since he is apparently Ryder's daddy, leaving Brody to skulk off the show. I reject this premise, of course, and want Brody to stay right where he is. He's a good guy and a soulful, somewhat complex hero played by an exceptional actor. Tell it on Facebook, down with Ford!
As to the rest -- poor Charlie! Poor, stupid Charlie. I love him, I've been over this, I love him with Viki, but he's been ruined by months of bad writing, and I hope his character survives this and we're not in for another twenty scenes of him sitting in Angel Square alone pondering the hooch, which is usually what happens when this sort of thing goes down. Brian Kerwin got a good moment this week when he lashed out at Clint and begged for the truth from Rex, but I've said it before -- I want Charlie to get his spine back and go after Echo and Clint properly. Especially Echo, who, while entertaining in doses, really deserves some payback.
It's too soon to gauge where this is all going for Rex and Clint, but I still think making them both mortal rivals and blood kin was a smooth move and a smart way to subvert what would have been both horribly maudlin and unbelievably boring if Rex had turned out to be merely Bo's son or something. The heart of OLTL has always been class struggle, and for better or worse, with debatable effectiveness, the Balsom-Morasco clan has always been portrayed as struggling/working-class; now, they will be nouveau riche, and I think that has the potential for some interesting development. I have made it clear in the past that I think Rex and Gigi work best in second-tier or supporting roles, and I think they can still explore this class struggle well without eating up airtime four days a week. I hope they don't soften the Rex/Clint relationship too much, either -- they crackle right now.
And then there was the Aubrey Wentworth saga -- sorry, "Wentworth" or whatever her real name is. I'm sorry, the scammer twins' fast save from Clint's hidden video was weak -- you had Cutter standing there grinning like a fool, saying something like, "Oh, luckily I had the other drive on me to switch with Clint's footage!" What? "The other drive?" You expect me to believe Cutter and Aubrey filmed some sort of little "skit" in the Palace suite to somehow "prove" her love for Joey at some later date? Please, please! That is weak -- how much did the breakdown writers get paid for that bit? How much are they getting per week, per script? Just say the drive was damaged or something! It's like they take us for complete idiots.
This story isn't totally lame -- Gina Tognoni works hard, and I love it when Aubrey goes up against Clint. I think Josh Kelly has potential, and I think Tom Degnan is only truly intriguing in his romantic scenes with Gina Tognoni, who brings something hot out of him that isn't totally doe-eyed and naïve. But even there, I see no urgent need to reunite Joey and Kelly, a couple which was improved upon significantly by Kevin and Kelly in the last decade. Joey and Kelly are Cristian and Jessica with far more baggage and dirt, a "first love" deal ruined by Kelly's actions and which Joey should run, not walk from, but which they both could potentially return to in order to escape current problems. In the end, though, the couple doesn't amount to much, and this is all just a silly series of romantic entanglements -- Cutter and Kelly have little going for them, and Joey is still a clueless male neophyte. I will reiterate that what this story really needs is actual weight -- Kevin and Zane, and characters with depth, as well as writers unafraid to write Joey as something other than an undergraduate fool.
And then came The Rest, which this week unfortunately includes Tomas and Blair, who got very little airtime. What they did get, however, was choice, and very hot. I demand more of this couple and their crazy Todd mystery - by the way, we all saw Todd get another Mystery Call this week at the Buenos Dias, right? Who was calling, Todd? Walker Flynn? Roger Howarth? In other news, Starr broke up with Cole onscreen and James broke up with that girl from Everwood, but Starr got the wrong idea and then OH MY GOD I DON'T EVEN CARE. I DON'T EVEN CARE. MAKE IT STOP. Also, Destiny and Shaun got no airtime other than to confirm that Matthew and Destiny have, in fact, finally stopped kissing over at Bo and Nora's. They and Shaun deserve better than this absentee writing. By the way, Nate, no one wants to talk about sex with you. Put it away.
Finally, let me comment again on the 1995 episode ABC reran on Friday, which I haven't seen since I was in junior high but which was as wonderful as I remembered. To me, these were some of OLTL's glory days -- you had Patrick and Marty at their height, Todd and Blair at theirs, Bo and Nora in full supercouple flourish, and any number of entertaining stories within a diverse canvas. You'll notice that scenes actually ran longer than 90 seconds, and that they weren't just about plot but also character, family, and personal issues. Time and care was taken, and these people and their lives were not forced into a very confining, preexisting mold. People said what they meant, expressed themselves, had intellect, were present in their own lives -- a character as opaque, as inactive yet domineering as John McBain would not have lasted six months. And the less said about what's become of Todd since, the better; the Todd of the 1990s, whether he was with Blair or Téa or Rebecca Lewis, would never rape Marty twice then crack jokes about it, as he has in the last couple years.
I was actually very happy with this week on OLTL, and the huge wedding implosion. But the 1995 episode represents to me a time when I did not have to qualify my enjoyment of the show with any number of caveats: John, Jessica's ruined character, Rex's overexposure, Joey's lack of representation, the thin storylines for Cutter, Aubrey, Starr, the marginalization of people of color and the dismantling of Todd. I hope the powers that be take a good look at the episode they just re-aired, and draw on it in looking at how to present a more complete show in the future. And please, give me more Tomas and Blair. Because there can never be enough, I'm just saying.
So there's your week that was. See you in two, during which time we are not likely to get another great rerun from OLTL past -- but hopefully the rest of sweeps will keep making up for it. 'Til next time, kids.