Timothy Gunatilaka
September 27, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Laguna Beach”: Friends, lovers no more

Something stunk on Laguna Beach this week, and I’m not talking about Alex M.’s alleged ”hygiene problem.” While packing for her visit northward to Stephen, Kristin ominously asked Alex H., ”Is it warm in San Francisco?” Clearly, the answer was no. But shouldn’t Kristin already have known that? For she was the one bringing the freeze to Frisco. Poor Stephen — his huge hopes of reconciliation so horribly dashed by Kristin’s platonic recoil. Indeed, the girl virtually maintained a requisite two-foot distance from the boy at all times. Maybe we should all chip in and buy Stephen a better cologne. Or should we just buy him a clue?

”See, I told you I’d come up,” Kristin initially exclaimed to Stephen. ”I told you.” (Actually, the producers probably told you.) But every instance thereafter, Kristen looked less than excited. Stephen would take her to his intimate A-game spots (only to be spurned) and then assert how pleasant it was being just pals (before bemoaning the impossibility of moving from flames to friends). And let me emphasize every instance. Outside the amusing scenes showing Talan freaking out Jess-style about Kristin leaving and Casey’s hygiene claims about Alex M., I found this episode tragically repetitive. Perhaps Stephen deserved some props for his persistence in his attempts to woo Kristin. And though every scene played out in similar fashion, the embarrassment and ache only increased each time.

Stephen brought Kristin to some Lovers Lane-type place for a fireworks show and showed her his best kissy eyes and put his arm and blanket around her, but she just retreated. (”Stop. Stephen, don’t.”) Sitting on a pier, Stephen told Kristin, ”It’s weird just being friends with you….I’m attracted to you more than anyone else, so I’ll always have that natural tendency to act affectionate with you.” But Kristin couldn’t have been more indifferent: ”Um, yeah,” she said, looking vomity. ”I’m ready to go whenever you are.” Meanwhile, a seagull almost attacked Kristin. Ha. Don’t seagulls usually feed on trash?

Nevertheless, Stephen got the last laugh. (Or was I the only one chuckling?) Dropping Kristin off at her hotel (as opposed to his dorm room) after the failed fireworks date, Stephen sent her out of his car, said, ”And can I have my sweatshirt?” and then shoved his Chinese-food leftovers out the window for Kristin to toss. Ha. Maybe our boy will be all right after all. Everyone knows making someone throw away your Chinese food is code for ”Hell, no, my heart’s not broken.” Indeed, despite the pinkish hue cast on his face and the seemingly endless lip biting, Stephen didn’t shed a tear amid Kristin’s final dismissal.

Stephen: Glad you’re well. Is it weird to you at all?

Kristin: What? Seeing you? No.

Stephen: I want it all to be open with us, and you don’t have to hold anything back, if you feel like you’re gonna hurt me. I think it’s all good. I had fun.

Kristin: I had fun too.

Stephen: I don’t know. Being friends works.

Kristin: Does it? You still treat me like your girlfriend.

Stephen: I’m just so used to that. Like once I went away to school, we just…[He makes some bizarre clicking sound]. Weird trying to figure out what we can be.

Kristin didn’t verbally respond but instead looked on with an unprecedented compassion. Previously, she had just rolled her eyes at whatever Stephen said, but with a slight nod and sympathetic stare, the girl expressed some understanding. Seriously, Kristin? Click-clock-click with the tongue and you understand what Stephen’s saying? But he wasn’t using real words by the end! Even during the fireworks scene, Stephen’s speech would devolve into staccato tongue clicking. Is this some mating call? Maybe if Stephen were trying to woo a sparrow, he’d get lucky. (Casey kinda resembles an ostrich. Maybe he can mouth-click her into bed.) But oddly enough Kristin apparently comprehended those inexplicable sound effects. She wasn’t falling for the mating call, but she didn’t seem as dumbfounded as I was.

Indeed, there is, or rather was, something beyond language, maybe not true love, but a connection transcending friendship. Viewers don’t need to see last season to understand this connection. For what truly made this episode painful isn’t so much Stevie’s embarrassing advances (although they were plenty painful) but the sight of romance’s demise. Kristin clearly has moved on, and perhaps her reluctance to show any warmth during the visit wasn’t only because she’s a frigid witch (which she is) but because someone had to do it. One of these two had to rouse the courage to call the corpse dead. Then again, this is Laguna Beach, and for all I know, these two crazy kids will be back together by October. But Kristin’s visit to San Francisco was dead on arrival.

What do you think? Will Stephen ever get over Kristin (especially given his forthcoming scenes with LC)? Also, when did Casey become ”LC’s friend”? Finally, what kind of ”bad hygiene problem” do you think Casey claimed Alex M. has? (Keep it, um, clean.)

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