Crouching Echo, hidden beaver

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Crouching Echo, hidden beaver
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The week of September 12, 2011
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Kristen Alderson has shone in this mystery so far. Making her the mature connective tissue for the whole Manning clan has strengthened Starr's character for the first time in years.

You know, we've had some wild and woolly times with OLTL this summer, but I think all of us can safely say we did not expect this Labor Day week to end on Cutter lovingly stroking Roxy's pet beaver. You all remember Morris, right? Roxy's stuffed beaver, who whispered secrets to her (with John-Paul Lavoisier evidently providing his wacky voice) behind the front desk of the Angel Square Hotel a couple years ago, back when we all still thought Mitch Laurence was Rex's bio-dad?

Well, Morris has a new secret that Roxy just shoved up his kazoo -- the nine-millimeter from the Buchanans' wall safe, with one round missing from the chamber. Victor Lord Jr. is dead, and everyone's a suspect. And now, the person holding a potentially integral key to the murder mystery is at the center of an entirely different, decidedly stranger mystery. We've got secrets upon secrets in Llanview as we head into the fall -- and maybe a few sweet goodbyes.

So let me just say straight out, no, I don't think Todd, Rex, Jack, or Shane killed Victor. Oh, I know, I know; Natalie suspects Brody, Echo and Roxy suspect Rex, Rex suspects Shane, Baz suspects Tomas, and on and on. I certainly don't think Tomas did it, since Ted King just signed on with Prospect Park Media's new OLTL, and kudos to him. Nor do I even suspect Brody, despite the screw-job he's getting by the writers. It's too obvious, or the characters are too "important." The problem with a lot of these soap murder mysteries these days is that they often don't end up truly risking anything, and instead enlist dayplayers or recurring gadabouts -- or simply try to incorporate the mystery into a larger story.

Right now, I'm betting Victor's shooter will end up being one of Irene's anonymous flunkies sent to off him, so the drama of that reveal is basically null beyond what future Helena Cassadine-esque shenanigans Irene may get up to. And for that, I daresay, they would need a stronger actress -- Barbara Rhoades is okay, but frankly, she's starting to come off a bit wooden to me. Are we sure no one can beg Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda Walsh, ATWT) to come in and take over the role?

But more importantly, come on -- no way is anyone named "Victor Lord, Jr.," Todd's scheming twin, really dead. That character is a goldmine for future conflict. I don't know how they'll pull it off -- they'll probably ignore the circumstances of his onscreen death, as they did for Lee Halpern and Mitch. But I am positive Vic's not actually taking a dirt nap. Leave Téa Delgado's true love dead? Ron Carlivati would never do it. So again you have a story that I fear ultimately has relatively little lasting drama. That being said, I'll play along for now -- I do want to see how this all plays out with Todd, Blair, Téa, and Irene.

Credit to where it's due: I think Kristen Alderson has shone in this mystery so far. Making her the mature connective tissue for the whole Manning clan has strengthened Starr's character for the first time in years, and her bond with Roger Howarth's Todd has deepened and matured as well. Where Victor/"Todd" (not nearly as saintly as they made him out to be this week; BTW -- he did violate Marty all on his own, regardless of his impaired mental capacity) grew to treat her as just another traitorous female after Starr became a mother to Hope, the candor and straight talk she has with the true Todd is different, more open and friendly. He treats her like an adult as opposed to an annoyance, like an intelligent woman but still a daughter.

It's a little disconcerting to watch them speak almost as equals, but I think it's part of the way this Todd has grown because of his confinement, and I welcome healthy growth in the character, just as I did when he was last on the show, and when TSJ first took over the role. Likewise, the old Todd -- or Victor, for that matter -- would not have gone to the cops voluntarily about his whereabouts, or so precisely articulated his feelings for the kids or why he couldn't kill Victor. I appreciated that character beat. There was a time when Howarth's Todd would simply have sulked and joked his way through the serious issues, but that got old way before 2003.

Elsewhere in the family, Tiger Beat Jack earned yet another slap this week when he grabbed his little brother, shook him like a rag doll and told him Victor was dead. Oh, Jack! Even your fantastic hair and winning smile can't help you cry on-camera or display convincing grief for a lost loved one. The Sam/Blair scenes about Victor were touching, although admittedly you could only expect so much from little Patrick Gibbons, and he at least didn't look like it rolled totally off his back like some child actors on soaps that I've seen in the past. Remember that one little Jack, before Carmen LoPorto, who grinned at everything and talked in a singsong voice?

I did like Shane dropping by La Boulaie to hurl shade at Jack and his pain. Andrew Trischitta always seems legitimately afraid of Austin Williams in scenes, which is a nice character note to play -- or maybe that's just his fear of the cameras. I believe Jack's story, but if Todd didn't take him to the ER, who did? Tomas? Could Tomas have seen the shooter, or shooters? I can buy him stumbling upon Irene's goons taking Vic out, and spiriting Jack away to protect him? That would make Tomas a reluctant manipulator yet again. That routine's getting old, even for Ted King. I'm betting Irene's people have Louie and Todd's gun, too.

As to the rest of this mess, no, I don't think Brody is the shooter, but it seems clear now that his lie is unraveling. Natalie is onto his nerves, as is John. Can I pray that this lame Liam story will end soon, hopefully without Brody dead, in jail, or off the show? One can only dare to dream. And I have no idea what Shaun was on about in the Friday tag, but it's always good to see him.

And then there's the big character showcase this week from the Victor story: Todd and the newly widowed Téa, facing off at the police station. Lozano and Howarth have always been fiery together, so I wasn't too surprised when it quickly segued back to Téa's favorite subject with Todd: sex, or their lack thereof. She's been taunting him about their sex life since the '90s -- often in public, which gave it a skeevy abusive vibe to me -- and on some level she's obviously still pissed that it turns out that Todd never did give her much in the way of tender lovin' after all. Looking back on the old days with these two, I honestly never understood why he wouldn't sleep with her. He had a healthy sex life with Blair during their original romance and marriage, because he was secure in their love; it stood to reason that if he had fallen for Téa in 1997-98 he could come to have the same with her, but he never quite did. The question is why?

Off-camera, the rumor has always been that Roger Howarth vetoed sexual contact for Todd upon his return to the role in 1996, but this was disproven or at least modified when Todd bedded Blair again in 2000. I've heard all the competing fan theories -- he was recalling trauma at the hands of Peter Manning, he was crippled by what happened to him in Ireland, he was traumatized by seeing Blair with Patrick Thornhart, or he just didn't want Téa at all. I don't believe any of that. It doesn't add up with what I watched. I think it's more nuanced. I think there was a time he wanted Téa, a time he was in love with her, or something like it, but he was never able to connect with her on the same level as Blair or even his lusty pursuit of Rebecca Lewis.

Maybe Todd never fully trusted Téa? I really don't know. I do know I found their verbal fights in the old days to border on sadomasochistic, because Téa seemed to crave their mutual rages while Todd often, IMHO, didn't. No matter how bad he got -- and Todd did treat her terribly on any number of instances -- she refused to leave, hoping to perhaps push it beyond the point of return where he would give in to her fury instead of his own. So much of their relationship had to do with control. In her relationship with Victor, Téa rediscovered and fulfilled that fire beyond wordplay and physical violence, moving into something closer to fully functional and lasting (though still, IMO, very dysfunctional) for them.

But with Todd, she's back in the same place she always was. Beyond the fact that she believes Todd killed her true love, I believe that's also why she chose this of all moments to bring up their sex life -- it's what she always could count on to hurt and demean him, and it's what she never got closure on, not to mention their larger romance. He rejected her; he abandoned her. Victor didn't, and now in her mind, Todd's taken it all away again.

I hope, when Téa realizes he didn't do this, that she and Todd get to sit down and talk sensibly about their history, warts and all. They never, ever have. In any event, they were great, ugly scenes for the duo. I'm not a fan of the pairing in a genuine romantic sense, I haven't been in many years, but as rivals, exes, and dramatic foils, they have always crackled, no matter who played the role of Todd Manning.

Meanwhile! Across town, at the Minute Man Motel, a horse of a different color entirely rides the wind: L'Affaire de la Spotted Pony. My French is rusty, did that work? As thin as it is for the show to be telling a story all about a strip bar in Kentucky instead of Llanview, I will admit to being somewhat intrigued by this mishegoss with Christine/Aubrey, Kim/Aubrey, Rama, and Cutter/"Cutta" (as Rama calls him). First, I'm still really intrigued by the distinct suggestion that "Christine Karr" is in fact Katrina Karr's little girl, the baby Jenny Wolek raised for several years in the early '80s after Karen Wolek (Judith Light!) and Marco Dane switched a live infant for a dead one in one of their earliest, longest, and most successful "baby switch" stories in daytime history.

Like Christine, Cutter and Kim, Karen, Marco, and Katrina were Llanviewites living on the wrong side of the tracks, people on the fringe of society, and like them, they had shadowy pasts and dark secrets. While these characters (sans Kim) aren't a patch on Judith Light or Gerald Anthony, their mystery on the "underside of Llanview" is holding my interest, so long as they bring this convoluted plotline home to Llanview as opposed to just going on and on about a bar in Kentucky. I'm not into Christine or Cutter's rekindled romance, and I pray to God that is not Stacy in that frickin' hospital bed, but I really like Amanda Setton, Josh Kelly, Shenaz Treasury, and the callback to Llanview past. So I'm in for a little more here -- why not? Also, can someone explain just how Rama knew Christine in the first place back in January if her whole history was with the real Aubrey?

And now, a brief lament for a soon-to-be-departing character: Baz. I know, I know, his storyline with Starr is lame, and their chemistry limp at best. But I gotta say, I kind of like Barrett Helms. He projects at least some intelligence, and there are far too few characters of color in Llanview as is, let alone with a European sensibility. He could do other things on the show other than hold Starr and Dani's Pradas. Unfortunately, his exit seems to have given Austin Peck an excuse to return. I liked Austin Peck on ATWT -- really -- but at this point I would pay for him to go away. I did have to guffaw at his deadpan closing line this week: "Victor Lord Jr. was my hero." That I totally believe, bro.

And then there was Cristian. It's been a long time coming -- David Fumero's barely had stories worth any of our time in ten years, excepting his romances with Natalie and Layla -- but I still was a little misty to see him go. Wisely eschewing a reunion with Bree Williamson's Jessica (and God, I don't even want to talk about that business with Ford and Fantasy Tess -- it's wrong, I know it's wrong, you know it's wrong, America knows it's wrong, it's got to stop!), he instead sought sunnier pastures in Barcelona, where -- surprise! -- Erin Torpey was waiting for him. Sure, it's a little cheesy, but it's sweet, and very similar to Joe Lando's exit as the widower Jake Harrison in 1992, where he met a brunette doppelganger for Jessica Tuck's Megan at the airport and left town on her arm.

I've always wanted Torpey to return to the role of Jess, still do to be honest, but this was a lovely valentine to their old fans and it gave Cristian a nice goodbye that he, of all people, truly deserved. With him go all the Vegas, excepting Saundra Santiago's recast Carlotta who's almost never seen. I do miss them, despite the bad times and a number of bad stories. But there were the good times, too -- Cristian and Jess, Cris and Natalie, Antonio and Andy, Talia, Jamie. I'd like to see some of them back, someday. In the meantime, godspeed, Mr. Fumero, you beautiful Cuban hunk. May you never look your age.

So that's our week: goodbyes, bad alibis, and a couple whodunits. I'll be back in two. Until then, my lovelies, please remember: woodland animals do not make good storage for your illegal firearms. Adieu!


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