Self-reflexivity in American television is a touchy thing; when show-runners are analyzing themselves and their audience, they're often either too complimentary to their own work, or too harsh and contemptuous of their fans. But with the "Save Fraternity Row" storyline currently playing out on our screens, I think OLTL has struck a half-decent balance. It's a very, very surreal, very bittersweet experience watching this story, knowing it was devised as a thinly veiled roman à clef for the show's own eleventh-hour rescue from cancellation oblivion, back during a period when we all (Ron Carlivati included) thought the show would be continuing on after all. It was a dream come true for fans, but it proved a little too good to be true. This sweet, vaguely mournful atmosphere of a dream deferred is what dominated my thoughts while watching this week's OLTL.
Yes, it's being played for broad comedy in that typical Carlivati fashion and is very silly, but there's something so earnest and lovingly rendered about Roxy, Shaun, Nigel, and Destiny's madcap and, to us out here, pretty quixotic fight to save their beloved Fraternity Row, from crashing The Blanca Show to phone-jacking poor Bo and then shanghaiing David into joining the show. I've heard some criticisms of the foursome's portrayal here, but though I think that there's a touch of the buffoon, it's clear to me the writers couldn't be fonder of the characters' Frank Capra-esque determination to save their show -- and, metatextually, their world. To hell with Southwest General and Franco James!
It's fun to watch for me, but also difficult, because as we all know it's in the pursuit of a salvation that we ourselves will not receive for Llanview. But at the same time, I'm kind of okay with it if Roxy and company succeed in saving their soap. I think that's appropriate. I think that would be a valiant, defiant statement about the validity of the medium and its history, and what it can do, what it's meant to generations of viewers -- almost political in its dismissal of the reality of OLTL's fate. And now Roxy's committed the ultimate act of viewer/character transgression; she's subverted the bounds of the fourth wall, of reality and fantasy, and become a part of her soap, as "Lorraine." We wish we could wield the kind of unreasonable power Roxy does in her quest, enough to bend the fabric of time, space, fiction, and reality, but right now, it's enough for me to watch someone else go there.
There were other stories onscreen this week, of course, including Viki's return to Paris, Texas, and her reunion with my poor, sweet Charlie. Seeing Viki and the gang all back in Paris once more brought to mind Ron Carlivati's glory days before he started having serious issues with follow-through and consistency -- before Stacy, before the rapemance, before the Fords, before Marty started shanking people with a prison shiv. In Paris, things seemed so much simpler, and relatively character-based again; we had Charlie and Viki talking things out like adults, even if I differed with them on the subject, namely Viki and Clint's inevitable, rushed reunion. And seeing Gigi's story wrap back where it all began -- despite how ludicrous and labored it is -- works for me, thematically. I can't wait for this mess with "Stacy" and Cutter to end, but I appreciate the tie back to her and Shane's origins.
The thing for me is, I feel that Clint and Kim still have more heat and possibilities in Kim's fake pinky nail than Viki and Clint have had in a long time. When Clint begins a recitation of his renewed feelings for his ex with "when Viki allowed me into her home to serve time, I was very touched," I have a hard time taking this whole thing seriously. And honestly, who can't root for a good-time girl who steps into Angel Square, yanks her earrings off, and gets into a Bloodsport-style throwdown with her boarding school classmate in the middle of the Christmas tree sale? Kim and Clint are still my "OTP," as the kids say, regardless of how OLTL chooses to end things here. Hell, I still have a soft spot for Viki and Charlie B.
Then, of course, there were the Mannings. This has to be Todd's most benign scheme in years -- he clearly did not actually kill Victor, and unlike with some prior stories in Roger Howarth's final years during his last run on the show, they've taken great pains to show his trauma and remorse, with Howarth playing the pathos, particularly this past week. Given all of that, I can't really do anything but delight in Todd reconnecting with his loved ones, right down to happily blackmailing Jack into bonding with family time. He played those scenes with Andrew Trischitta (who's actually improving, kudos) very differently from how Victor used to handle Jack, largely with intimidation; the real Todd's hand in things is still dysfunctional, to be sure, but it's a defter, more sly and genial touch. He doesn't want to be Peter Manning; he doesn't want his son to be actually physically frightened of him, and while I doubt Victor meant that either, I frankly chalk a lot of his "parenting" up to his own warped psyche, compliments of Irene. Todd's no Father Knows Best, and he never will be, but the dynamic, the interplay, couldn't be more different than me. Here, Todd's catching more flies with honey than vinegar.
Also fascinating: the renewed Todd and Téa rivalry. Florencia Lozano and Roger Howarth are playing the hell out of this, and it's what they've always done best, in my opinion. I've heard some people say that Téa's anger seems to be fueled not only by the death of her husband and the belief that Todd is responsible, but also by the undercurrent of her having "lost" it all -- the "real" Todd is back, he prefers Blair, while her own life has been blown to smithereens. I think Téa even made mention of Todd getting everything back, "including Blair," which is an interesting note to play.
I don't know that this particular issue is any kind of conscious motive for Téa -- I think she's very driven for "justice" for Victor -- but I do think that she's definitely back to the kind of "deathmatch" mindset she always used to relish with the real Todd. Even as she lusted after him, she often held him in a kind of contempt; she would push him and push him because she enjoyed the fighting and the anger. At times, their scenes this week, the interplay, would not have been out of place in scenes from 1998. The difference is that this time there's no love left to lose, and they're both fighting for other people.
While I enjoyed the Manning family Christmas at La Boulaie, I still think one recurring false beat is the near-disappearance of Danielle from Todd's storyline. They just haven't done very much at all with her and Todd, and I can't figure out why that is. I believe Todd cares for her, and I think Kelley Missal is a fine young actress; maybe if they articulated further why he's perhaps hesitant to approach her, aside from the obvious issue with Téa, I'd be okay with it. That being said, Sam and Todd were absolutely adorable together, and I was so, so, so glad that Jack got to throw what his father did to him in the family's face.
I was even more happy when Todd sat down with little Sam -- Blair's son by another man, the man who stole his wife, his family, and his life -- and calmly explained that he had done a terrible thing, that he regretted it, and that he would try not to do any more bad things in the future. Of course, he's already up to skullduggery, we all know that, but there are extenuating circumstances, the situation may not be as he believes, and for me what really counted was that he was able to look upon Sam with love and caring in a way he hadn't been able to handle with Jack so many years ago. When Sam hugged him and said he was already a good guy, I got a lump in my throat, I'll admit it. Do they have to find Tomas?
Note from Michael: Hi, everyone! Just to clear something up -- I'm well aware little Sam is biologically the son of Margaret Cochran. However, he's been Blair's little boy since he was about two, and has been raised as her son; she took him in because he was Victor's, and raised him as her own. When I say she has a son by another man, this is what I'm referring to - where Sam's mommy is concerned, DNA is irrelevant.]
As nauseating as Jessica and Ford are, they were kept to a minimum this week. But that's not the really frustrating Buchanan girl love match. Yes, I speak once again of John and Natalie, who still can't get their mess together after eight frickin' years and one live baby. What's more, if I didn't know any better, I'd swear to all that's holy that this show is seriously chemistry-testing John and Téa. And I've always thought they had great chemistry, and were the show going on, I wouldn't mind seeing some torrid affair there, but this show is off the air in a month -- even though I personally hate Natalie being stuck with John, I have to wonder what he's doing if he wants to make the John and Nat fans happy. We have John cozying up to La Delgado-Lord, stroking her hair, holding her hand all day long, and Nat can barely get a word in edgewise. They've got the heat, but where is this going, exactly, on a cancelled soap?
Finally, there's Matthew and Destiny. The writing seems a tad schizophrenic here; Matthew wants his life and college and his youth, but he doesn't want his child living a lie the way Greg made Destiny do, but he does want the kid adopted. Huh? I did like Matthew's candid appraisal of the situation, and how he didn't want to lose everything he'd planned for in life to the baby, but the scenes seemed perhaps unnecessarily harsh. In the end, we know Matt and Des will come together alongside Shaun and Vivian, I think. I just hope Matthew doesn't end up like too much of a tool on our way there. Also, David has a secret kid? Why tell us now?
Anyway, that's the week that was, guys. Christmas is fast approaching, and I'll see you guys back here for the holidays with some best and worst moments for our last year in Llanview very soon. Until next time, remember to do your gift-shopping early, don't buy a tree you can't carry (Blair), and if you happen to find a very attractive Latino man tied up in an undisclosed location...just leave him there. Later!