...Soooo, once again we're going to start this off with a bang right out of the gate, mmkay? I'm not going to give you guys a lot of preamble this week, because I really don't think any of us need it -- the bottom line is OLTL has been must-see TV for weeks now, and I have been running to the TV every day since this "Two Todds, No Waiting" caper went into full-tilt boogie. What's more, the ratings are reflecting the sea change in the show like whoa. I don't know if you've checked our numbers recently, but OLTL is taking both AMC and GH to school in a major way week after week, and no amount of angry mobsters or dead Pine Valley citizens are stopping this runaway train so far.
What's more, those promos for The Chew are starting to look a little desperate to me; catch that crazy glint in Mario Batali's eye and the flop sweat on his brow. There is no way an ill-conceived, very vague-sounding new "variety show" is going to make the numbers OLTL is currently making -- I think we're almost at three million viewers. And a huge part of that is this turbocharged Todds mystery, which took a sharp left turn into South Kookyburg this week as we discovered the identity of the mastermind behind this whole mad conspiracy.
Was I the only one who had a feeling for a while now that Irene Clayton Manning would be deeply involved in this in some way, shape, or form? I'm frankly surprised she has never come back from the dead before. Irene is one of those hazy, indistinct characters lost to the mists of time, a pivotal, deceased relative whose life and choices drove story for decades into the future. Unlike Victor Lord, who was far more powerful and ominous in death than he was in his ridiculous 2003 return (I still hope Dorian was right a couple years ago when she hinted that the doppelganger Mitch produced wasn't the genuine article), Irene is a character who has barely been tapped for story in the last twenty to thirty years beyond the Todd and Tina retcons, and the weird Manchurian Candidate angle they appear to be taking with her character, where an unassuming woman turns out to be the devious power behind the throne, appeals to me.
Anyone who could do something like with the two Todds (and I bet they really are twins, as Starr suggested, fitting the show's duality of Victor/Viki, Todd/Tina, Viki/Meredith, Natalie/Jessica, Megan/Sarah, et al) had to be someone intimately connected to the Lord family history, and Irene fits the bill. Nor does it surprise me that Irene is not the saint she has often been posthumously made out to be. This woman bedded and wed(?) Victor Lord, carrying on with him for years. She had to have some inkling of what he was. And old-school screen and TV star Barbara Rhoades, who I remember from Soap, is enjoyable in the role so far -- kind of a demonic Ann-Margret.
Any way you tell a "Two Todds" storyline, it is going to turn out ludicrous on at least several levels; the best you can hope for is that the writing and performances are on point, and by and large, with a few exceptions (*koffkoff*Jack*koff*), they definitely have been, through and through. This show has learned the lessons of Days of our Lives and the "Roman/John" storyline, but unlike that story, it is not drawing out the truth about whichever Todd is which for years to come -- with another paternity test in the hopper and Brody, John, and Tomas raiding Irene's secret bayou base (that really does sound ridiculous) and finding Agent Baker having been fitted for his own pair of extraordinary rendition footie pajamas, not to mention Trevor St. John's impending exit, things are coming to a head very quickly. I can't wait for Monday, and I'm glued to the TV everyday; however we care to slice it, that is the essence of good soap.
Once again, the Todds story dominated the week, and so there are a number of aspects of that umbrella storyline for us to discuss. First, you've got "TM" (yeah, right) bonding with Viki at Llanfair. Weren't those scenes wonderful? Erika Slezak just lights up opposite Roger Howarth, and it's touching to hear the show actually allowing Viki to vocalize how delighted she is to have her brother back, the brother she could talk to, who talked to her, who seemed to truly respect her. Todd and Viki haven't had that kind of close rapport in several years, and it came rushing back to me the same way it clearly did for her.
There's such an intimacy, a connection to how Howarth is playing his scenes with all of Todd's friends and family that highlights the profound difference between the two Todd Mannings -- one earthy, visceral, and emotional, the other detached, colder, far more cynical. You can call one man real and one fake, but I think what this story has done is simply split Todd Manning amongst two halves, thematically and psychologically -- we see both sides of who he is, two extremes in two separate beings, who even sit on Viki's couch in the same way. "TM" is being gentle and kind now, but he still has an edge to him, a danger waiting to spring out at the slightest hint of anger; notice how he threatened to take out David's tongue on Friday, just as he attempted to do years ago during the baby Jack storyline. His dangerous side is simply expressed differently than TSJ's Todd's, who is more remote and frankly, more sinister to me in his utter absence of morality in the last several years.
I have touched on the Victor Lord parallel before with the post-rapemance Todd, and I think that holds true today. No wonder "TM" repeatedly invokes that storyline, or how Todd's treatment of Marty and Jessica during it is so utterly alien to him. I cannot tell you all how grateful I am that "TM" called the show on the rapemance storyline with Marty; the shameful looks on the assembled cast's faces as he yelled at them were both hilarious and very cathartic for me as a viewer. This storyline both vindicates what I wrote about that storyline at the time and the de-volution of Todd since, and gives me back a "Todd Manning" I can believe in again.
Especially interesting in this arc, too, is the strange, shattered vibe over at Todd and Téa's "house o' rape." (I'm afraid I'll always think of it that way.) People are playing house but seem to scarcely believe it. Téa seems to be clinging to her reality by broken fingernails, trying to shore up Trevor St. John's Todd's confidence while utterly unsure of herself, her marriage, her family, her future. Yet more and more in Florencia Lozano's performance, I see Téa edging towards something more grimly resolute -- this is the man she loves, this is the Todd she chose, this is the life she wants, no matter who he really is. It's dawned on her as it has on me that TSJ most likely truly believes he is Todd, on some warped level, even if I definitely believe he is not.
And while I find his Todd to have become a reprehensible creature, I do believe he loves and wants Téa and Danielle in his life. Watching him internally struggle with his identity in that very detached way while lashing out at Téa, even as Téa begins to struggle through her own process, is fascinating stuff, especially as the show has come to terms with who this Todd has become and how different he is from RH's. It's a terrible shame TSJ could not remain with the show through to January. Head writer Ron Carlivati has indicated he intended to keep both "Todds" on the show long-term, and I happen to believe that's true -- I think they would have been made great rivals. As great as this material is, it's sad to know that it's soon to be curtailed. I don't know how TSJ is going to leave Llanview, but I'm betting Brody will be involved, as he continues to turn "black hat," and he knows that TSJ's Todd has the truth about Liam. I imagine everyone's going to be out for blood.
At the other end of the spectrum, I like Ted King, I like(d) Blair and Tomas, but as far as I'm concerned, when you leave a lady's husband to be tortured and murdered in solitary confinement for eight years, that's a deal-breaker for me. My interest in this potential couple pretty much dissipated at the moment of that reveal, and the heat Howarth's Todd has brought to his scenes with Kassie dePaiva certainly isn't helping Tomas's chances. I had given Todd and Blair up for good with the rapemance, but that is no longer a part of the character's history; this is Todd reborn, with a new lease on life and love -- and a future. Tomas could have fought for Blair's hand, but the revelation of his level of involvement in Agent Baker and Irene's scheme has undone the guy for me, at least as per all things Cramer. It's too bad there's no one left on the show really to pair him with; Kelly is heading off with Joey any day now, and Marty is in parts unknown with Patrick. I think King's a great talent and Tomas a compelling character, but OLTL has mishandled him with this latest piece of exposition. And yet, I could still watch him karate chop guys all day.
This Todd story has me gagging for 2:00 p.m. every day, but there are other storylines on this show, and unfortunately we must occasionally discuss them. Case in point: Destiny's Child! I adore Tonye Patano as Phylicia Evans, I've made no secret of that, and her righteous bitch-slap on Friday was so incredible I think it broke Nora's phone and possibly her cheek. That being said, I couldn't really co-sign that level of anger. Yes, Nora was out of line to beg Des for Matthew's baby, but I found Nora's scenes with Destiny heartbreaking; this is a woman at the end of her rope, who is barely able to function and is clearly not totally rational. Let's have a little pity for her, hmm? I'm just glad Eddie Alderson is still on contract with the show and not consigned to Offscreen Facility #63 -- I expect Matthew to awaken by November sweeps.
What I don't co-sign is everyone letting Nate (a.k.a. "Buster Ridge") off the hook, including, but not limited to, Danielle, who seems totally fine with everything he's done now. Like her mother before her (sorry, I love Téa, but her crazy ass is "ride or die" with TSJ-Todd in the worst way), she will apparently accept just about anything from a man, including a public shaming with sex on camera, and keep coming back for more of that old-faced chipmunk love. Why is he still on the show? Are we really supposed to keep rooting for Ol' Nate in the wake of Hold The Diploma? If I was him, I'd call the Irene Manning Express and fly out of town like Marty, never to be seen again. I get that Nate and Matthew's crimes stalemated each other. I just don't know why the show is once again pivoting to try and make me care what happens to this dude. Who could after that porno?
I'm not sure if Destiny is actually having Matthew's baby for sure now or not -- she seemed to be talking to Vivian about carrying to term at the end of Friday. I thought she was still on the fence before that scene, but I know this is far from over. I just hope the storyline doesn't go too far without Matthew awakening and taking a larger role.
But wait -- there's more! Viki now has not one but two surprise houseguests, as the Permanently Aggrieved Asian Judge of Llanview ruled to allow Clint to become, apparently, her permanent prisoner of love until time immemorial. Seriously, though, I have to say this, that poor Asian judge always seems so put-upon. Every time there is a weird case, he shows up and gets the duty, and he has to deal with all the BS from Téa and Nora over whatever it is the suspect did this time, and he always has to deal with their mishegoss and silliness and crazy strategies, and I just want to make him some cocoa and give him a sandwich and some tickets to Hawaii for a six-week vacation. That guy deserves better. You know he's wishing he did traffic court.
But anyway, yeah, Clint is now Viki's boarder. That is one light sentence. "Here, go live with family for the rest of your life." "If you say so, Judge! Foiled again!" I like it, though; though I loved Charlie, and I really loved Clint and Kim, I'm open to a Viki and Clint reunion, provided it is written well and has an appropriate length of time. So let's see what happens there. I can't wait for Clint to see "TM" as Jessica did.
Oh, and uh, yeah, there was that Rex storyline. I can't even. I don't know, Gigi's a ghost or something, there's security cameras, Shane is not on but Rex is -- I'd rather be watching Shane here, but at least Delphina and Natalie kind of made those scenes interesting. I have an inkling what the "spotted pony" is, but I'm sure we'll see for ourselves very soon. Hopefully Rex will stop bounding around the mansion like an idiot by then. I can't take any more of his "I saw a ghost!" performance. I just can't, America.
So that's the week that was: Todd, Todd, Todd, more glorious Todd, and then some other stuff, which was a mixed bag! I loved just about every minute of it regardless, and I can't wait for some more. I'll see you guys in two weeks for another round of fun, at which point we will hopefully know who the really for real this time Todd Manning is and can dish about the post-reveal Llanview. It's a rush to write about this show when it's running on all cylinders, and I hope it's been as good for you as it has for me. I'll see you in two.