On ''The O.C.,'' after Ryan and Alex battle over Marissa, the bar babe rides off into the sunset, and things are almost back to the way they were in season 1

By Annie Barrett
Updated March 18, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Mischa Barton
Credit: Mischa Barton: Art Streiber/ FOX
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”The O.C.”: Ryan and Alex battle over Marissa

Well, I don’t have to say it, because Seth did for me: ”This year? Not as good as last.” Not that I necessarily agree, but his argument is valid. This year: less fighting, more loud music, illegitimate children, and yard guys. Last year: more fighting, pre-Bait Shop O.C. soundtrack tunes whispering softly in the background, the threat of Ryan’s illegitimate child (which hasn’t really gone away), and manic-depressive prisses named Oliver. This year: pool furniture thrown in pool by Marissa. Eh. Last year: Hailey thrown into pool by Julie Cooper. Hmm. Advantage? It’s a little unclear.

I’d personally call it a toss-up, especially because this episode the intolerable Marissa wore a sweatshirt for the second time this season. They seem to put one on her whenever she’s on the brink of being especially annoying. Actually, that would imply that she’s always wearing sweatshirts, so I take back this entire paragraph (while hoping it’ll be left in as the official launch of my No-Marissa April campaign).

Seth also wants to take it back — all the way back to last year. He’s obsessed with this, and Summer won’t have it. The two quarreling lovebots represent two distinct factions of The O.C.‘s fan base: Seth speaks for those who think Ryan and Marissa are cute, and Summer for those who think Ryan and Marissa are a disaster. As Summer puts it, ”We have lived through enough pain and suffering.” Right on, sista. But he persists, and with the help of a useless cause to bring everyone together (nod to season 1!) and a mini-Jedi Mind Trick performed on Marissa, Spiderman spins a dazzling web of water-polo inanity in which the Fantastic Four can thrive again.

Now, I’ve written out a lot of combinations, but Sethummeryssa seems to me the best merge of these poor people’s names. (Thanks to poster Ray T for the inspiration.) In syllable 4, we must be sure to pronounce the y using the long i instead of the short, so as not to give Marissa the satisfaction of dominating too many syllables. This is important. Cue chanting. No-Marissa April! No-Marissa April!

The episode’s main event is a bonfire for the water-polo team. Yes. A bonfire for the water-polo team, i.e., ”if you didn’t see the show, you picked a good one to miss.” The bonfire is perhaps the biggest nod to last year, what with Marissa having to embrace school spirit and its lame-ass events, the resurrection of the Harbor School’s (or was it just Seth’s?) obsession with water polo, and a nice visual of Ryan getting into a scuffle on a beach with multiple males in a situation somehow related to water polo.

Ah, but Newport’s come a long way, baby! This time, Ryan is some sort of glorified pre-architect and has worked construction! In the most bewildering of second-season scenarios since Summer’s elusive set of bangs in episode 3, Marissa commissions Ryan to design the bonfire. Huh? I’ve built bonfires. Dig hole, insert wood, light fire. Why so fancy, Mariss? And it’s for the water-polo team, which I thought Sethummeryssa hated. No way would Last Year Ryan be up for this, and no way would that many high school students care about setting up such an event. Did you see the sheer panic on those poor volunteers’ faces? And they were willingly working for Marissa! Talk about bewildering. I wanted to slap them.

Julie Cooper’s certainly done a 180 since last year. Instead of wanting Ryan the hell out of Marissa’s life, she begs him to intervene this time around and persuade Miss Thang to move back into the palace. I’m surprised she had time to negotiate this as she was busy running around trying to mask her porn identity. Wouldn’t she have been much more productive if she whizzed around on roller skates? (Sorry, but to quote Sandy, ”It’s a Boogie Nights reference. Expect a lot of ’em.”) How great was it that as JuJu’s lawyer, Sandy had to watch her footage?

Meanwhile, the show’s two drunken womanizers, magazine guru Carter and the increasingly scary My Little Pony, Alex, are the only characters who seem to be taking St. Patrick’s Day seriously. My cheesy green outfit and I applaud them for that, although season 1’s got the edge here because more characters were consistently drunk back then. Carter’s a general mess, although Kirsten uses his college mag, Revolution, as smelling salts to snap him out of his funk. Hmm. She loves the bottle, too. . . .

Pony McDrunkenpants is an even bigger mess, as she throws beer cans (which I didn’t realize were allowed in the O.C.) at Ryan and stumbles around making threats before suddenly realizing at the bonfire that Marissa (gasp!) doesn’t love her. I liked Alex and really do feel sorry for her, but it’s hard to reconcile that with an intense dislike of Marissa. I guess I just can’t handle the idea of Marissa winning — it would have been better to see Alex shrug Twiggy off and march off defiantly to someone much cooler. This whole going-back-to-school thing seems very unlike the wild child we knew and . . . well, okay, the one we really hardly knew at all but still kind of loved because she was so pretty and dangerous.

Speaking of pretty dangerous, did anyone else catch sparks between Alex and Ryan? During their two season 1-esque near-fight scenes, it was almost as if they each got off on the mere threat of physical violence. Especially when Alex said to Ryan at the front door in her sultriest pony voice, ”You go down there . . . it’s . . . on.” I know she was talking about the bonfire, but perhaps she was subconsciously hinting at the kind of fire found only in pants. Rewind and check their faces, if you can. It’s soooo not worth it, but true. Maybe she won’t be gone for good. She and Ryan could move in together and throw biker-chic cocktail parties or something. I’d be all for that, especially imagining Marissa’s reaction. She’d run away again! I’m telling you, No-Marissa April. It could happen.

In the end, Sethummeryssa are intact, which we know won’t last. This definitely rings of Last Year, so for now, Seth has won. But like Summer’s proverb says, ”You can’t ride two horses with one ass” (although in Marissalex’s defense, you can ride a pony), and the show must gallop off onto another path to avoid repetition. I’m confident season 2 will reach unprecedented heights of scandal, heartbreak, booze, and bagelry. It’s Californnneeeeya, after all.

What do you think? Was there actual chemistry between Alex and Ryan? What’s a better porn-star name: JuJu or Kiki? And are Seth and Summer funnier together or apart?

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