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''The O.C.'': The kids plan for college

On ”The O.C.,” Seth and Summer plan to head East for college; meanwhile, Ryan’s reluctant to leave the Cohens’, and Marissa can’t even write an entrance essay

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Adam Brody, The O.C.
Adam Brody: Matt Barnes/FOX

”The O.C.”: The kids plan for college

It’s official: The kids are going to college. After only five years of high school! I’m impressed. This week’s episode was probably just the first of many ”Where will they all go?” fiascos, but I thought the situations were mostly realistic (starting with the random nod at how every college in America insists on showcasing lab partners grinning at their microscopes on the covers of admissions booklets. I always noticed that too. Why?). Summer’s insecurity about not being smart enough for Seth returned; Taylor’s hyper-manipulative nature mellowed into a defeated but mature acceptance that she probably isn’t the one for Seth; and Ryan showed hesitation to leave the first stable, loving nest he’d ever had. It all makes sense.

Of course, after tonight’s plot twists, the producers face some potentially huge technical difficulties — namely, the question of how the show would be able to continue with characters on opposite coasts. (Not to mention how messed up the universe would be if Marissa could actually get into Berkeley. What?) But for now anyway, the first rush of college planning is pretty rewarding to watch. And when I say ”rewarding,” I mean ”Seth and Summer kissing in furry hats.” It doesn’t get much better, unless you’re watching sudden surf champion Johnny Harper run smack-dab into some California girl’s convertible. I’m a horrible person, but I have to admit that I laughed when he got hit. It’s how I deal with shock, and things that are really funny.

Seth Cohen was in rare form tonight, particularly when he nearly mauled the Harbor School couch twice, then justified it to Ryan with ”’Cause I don’t give a crap about this school — I’m out of here!” (Ryan’s extended giggling fit after this line was also choice, and seemed almost improvised.) I honestly didn’t expect Seth to be so excited to leave Newport and Summer behind for an East Coast college. But I did like how the writers made his excitement more believable by having Seth dump out his boarding-school brochures from a few years ago onto Summer’s bed, reminding her (and us) that before Ryan arrived and Summer started talking to him, he’d always wanted to leave Newport anyway. That was cute, and so was Seth’s hug with Sandy at the end, when the whole family made peace with Seth wanting to go to Brown instead of Sandy’s alma mater, Berkeley. I loved that. They should hug more.

The Taylor-Summer storyline was also remarkably enjoyable, considering it nearly prompted a tragic breakup-makeup drama for the snow bunnies-to-be. Taylor was positively evil with that line about Seth not wanting Summer’s DNA in his offspring (seriously…ouch!), but she was also delicious at times: ”Feel my head. I have college fever!” I do question her judgment of Summer’s ideal school as ”someplace sunny where kids drink till they vomit.” I did the New England thing myself, and I’m pretty sure the kids drink till they vomit anywhere dorms exist. Taylor redeemed herself, though, by dumping her own bag of crap onto Summer’s bed and convincing her to apply to Providence College, 20 minutes away from Seth’s choice, Brown. Cute, and it would be pretty cool if the show could pull that off. But part of me wants them all to go to school in the county (The C.) and just commute from home. We’ll see.

As for Ryan and Marissa… eh. Ry Guy needs to get a life. I feel like he could easily have one — a pretty cool one, even — but Marissa keeps dragging him down. Nothing a few lap dances purchased by Sandy’s shady business partner can’t fix, I guess (check the preview for next week’s episode). Even though it was cheesy, I loved Ryan’s line tonight after Seth whined for him to ”name one thing about Newport that isn’t evil”: ”I’ll name you two,” Ryan said as the girls walked in. Awww.

Marissa’s whole College vs. Worldwide Surf Tour thing wasn’t really doing it for me. And maybe it’s a California thing, but I still don’t get why someone’s presence at a weekend surfing competition means she has automatically given up on going to college. (And on dressing well, too — what was with that Hypercolor sweatshirt?) I also didn’t appreciate the lanky lady’s destruction of expensive technology for the sake of a dramatic moment that wasn’t really dramatic at all because (once again) I was too busy laughing. It must have been the shock. I found it a bit weird that Marissa’s dad showed up in her montage of haunting Trey memories, but then I came across a fun fact: Tate Donovan directed this episode, so maybe he was feeling left out and snuck a few frames of himself in there for pure self-amusement.

Most of the plot revolved around the kiddies, but the side dishes of trailer-park Julie Cooper and Sandy’s Berkeley friend Paul Glass were welcome diversions. My favorite Julie moment: when she told her nameless, snobby neighbor she trying to ”keep it real” with the U-Haul, then dismissively called the woman by her apartment number. Yeah! Up yours, 3F. The dinner party with Paul was good, too. After taking some heat for rarely including black characters in the show, The O.C. compensated by inviting one to dinner and then having everyone ditch him at the table — but not before he got in a pretty decent joke: ”What do you call a black guy that flies a plane? A pilot, you freaking racist.” Ha.

What do you think? Will the kids really split up, and if so, will Seth and Ryan cheat on each other? What did Marissa’s computer ever do to her? And is it just me, or is Julie’s new neighbor Gus a less attractive but just as down-home version of Sawyer from Lost?