On a two-episode night of ''The O.C.,'' Ryan and Seth have a spring-break fling, then face the consequences of their absence

By Annie Barrett
Updated May 07, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
Adam Brody: Art Streiber/FOX

”The O.C.”: Miami vice, L.A. confidential

I don’t think I’ll ever be more distraught over television than I was last Thursday around 8:01 p.m., when I realized that an empty podium and a disenchanted-looking audience — the prelude to President Bush’s Unhappy Hour news conference thingie — were likely not part of The O.C. I hung on for a few seconds, thinking perhaps this was the work of the Ironist, but even Seth Cohen wouldn’t take a bad joke that far. I started weeping at 8:02 when Fox.com told me the Miami variety hour was on hold until this week. I poured my first vodka on the rocks around 8:04. I don’t remember much after that, but I do know that Peter Gallagher didn’t wake me up the next morning with waffles and fruit on a classy wooden tray. Damn it!

Despite this week being a two-hour extravaganza that could certainly warrant pages upon pages of nitpicky detail, I’ll have to treat both shows as one. Luckily, they were pretty cohesive — I’m almost glad we got to see them back to back. (Problem is, I need to see more.)

The O.C. has covered affairs, psychopaths, druggies, alcoholism, illegitimate children, near drowning, ruined parties, catfights, and murder — obviously, the show was long overdue for a good old-fashioned car crash. Poor Kirsten, who stepped it up a notch from her usual wino self to straight-up vodka territory, drove drunk after going on a post-kissing-Carter bender. It was predictable, but I cried anyway. I’m a sucker for the ”fake-out near-miss accident followed by the real crash” sequence. If Kirsten wanted to be extra soap opera about it, she could develop amnesia or go into a coma, but previews for next week suggest otherwise. At least she and Sandy exchanged I love yous before Kirsten went crunch. If she’d eaten Sandy’s loving breakfast or anything else that day, this all might have been prevented. Eh, probably not.

That Kirsten tragedy was shocking for a moment, but we knew it was inevitable at some point. Trey almost raping Marissa? Not expected. Not surprising either, when you really think about it, but weren’t we all kind of pulling for Trey before he ruined everything on the beach? I really thought he could turn out decent. His brother has practically turned into a Boy Scout, studying hard and building giant bonfires. Is there a badge for putting up with Marissa’s crap for two years? He could earn it!

I’ve called Trey ”cute” and I think even ”cool” in the past. I take it all back. The guy needs to go, right now. That beach struggle scene, featuring (luckily) a huge-ass piece of driftwood, was horrible to watch. I’m not terribly fond of Marissa — as you might have noticed — but no one wants to see a girl get attacked. Yeah, yeah, he was drugged up ”out of his mind” and cried like a baby after she ran away, but sorry, those aren’t excuses. He just sucks.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected much out of a cokehead who willingly slums the days away with Skanktastic. What is with that girl? All she does is enter scenes and immediately drop trou or touch guys in the naughty parts. There are people who do this for a living; she should at least be charging money for her time. Anyway, Skank the Tank got all up in Ryan’s biznass and made him suspicious that Trey and Marissa had something going. Marissa was afraid to tell Ryan the truth, so his suspicion heightened even more as he noticed Trey’s getaway from the nightmare-in-stucco mansion. (If Julie and Caleb’s divorce goes through and they all move out, that thing could be the largest Taco Bell in the universe.)

Spring break in May? Sure! I haven’t even mentioned all the Miami vices that went down last night. The Florida scenes were on the whole pretty light and fluffy. Using nothing save his smooth words and intimidating Tony Blair hair, Sandy kept a jerky chiropractor from marrying his mother, the Nana (Linda Lavin), for her money. It was a great excuse to see this excellent character again and to witness Seth in gargantuan wraparound sunglasses bonding with seniors over Metamucil. Speaking of excuses, I remember reading press releases over the winter about how Josh Schwartz decided on a whim to do the Miami episode, basically because he could and Fox would expense it. Ha.

Hey, more power to him. Miami was good times, complete with religious-metaphor-happy Bob Jones University students and a hilarious reenactment of MTV’s over-the-top spring-break specials. That intolerable host who couldn’t stop screaming the word ”bananas” was right on target. Sometimes I flip to MTV and wonder if they’re actually filming on earth, in English. Pixie, a star of Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley co-hosted, just like the Laguna Beach regulars who often grace MTV with generous doses of fresh-faced inanity. Jaime King guest-starred as Southern belle Mary-Sue, who, with her blonde hair and innocent dimwittedness, reminded me of Elly May from The Beverly Hillbillies. Mary-Sue conned Seth into licking whipped cream from her chest and sucking a cherry out of her mouth. ”Did she say . . . cherry?” Maybe ”conned” was the wrong word, considering Seth’s enthusiastic romp around the torso and eventual win.

Of course, Summer, on a ”time-out” from Seth, saw the whole thing, while enjoying ”ye-nocchi” (oh, gag me with that pronunciation) with Italian chef Zach on their romantic dinner. Flustered after watching Seth lock lips with a hoochie on national television, Summer whirled around and planted one on Zach. A kiss this time, instead of her fist. Speaking of which, that was the hardest punch I’ve ever seen on The O.C. The zebra-print punching bag and Minnie Mouse-like boxing gloves only added to the overall effect.

In Florida, after we were all scared silly by the Bible boys’ threat that ”it’s gonna be Judgment Day for him,” Seth escaped from all the fire and brimstone with nary a scratch. Best line of the night: ”I guess they really do believe in eye for an eye,” uttered by Seth as he calmly strolled back to the hotel with a Michelin Man-like whipped-cream makeover. No, his real punishment was waiting for him at home, where Summer accused him of finding ”new and even more public ways of disappointing” her. It shouldn’t be this hard, she thinks, and she’s right.

Enter Zach, who in the past three episodes has sprouted a sudden edge. He wants Summer, and no, he’s not nice. ”Wake up, Seth,” he said. ”I’m a water polo player. We’re never nice guys.” I knew it! We can all breathe a sigh of relief as one of our favorite O.C. stereotypes has been restored. Zach tried to worm his way out of his partnership in the fastest-produced graphic novel there ever was, but mighty (duck) Reed swept in just in time by ordering him to order a crab sandwich. Seth on the straw-as-piccolo in this scene is worth at least a mention.

The justification for the episode’s title, ”The Showdown,” came at the end of the hour, when Seth and Zach got into it over Summer, who showed up at the Atomic County release party because Reed convinced her that getting into her role as Little Miss Vixen could launch a career in fashion and entertainment. Good one, Reed. I got a little creeped out during the whole scene in which wannabe-celebrity teen Seth read to other teens in some sort of focus group setting, but the going got good when Zach and Seth started wrestling on stage. The fight was actually sort of homoerotic for a minute, with the two lads scrambling around under the curtain and straddling each other’s backs. Seth head-butted Summer in the nose, the aftermath of which provided Zach with an excellent opportunity to pound Seth over the head with a life-size cutout of the Ironist. Get it?

The sweaty, heaving young men delivered Summer an ultimatum: Choose one of us. It was the same dilemma presented to Seth by Summer and Anna in season 1. Back then, Seth tried to get away with choosing both before eventually picking Anna, but tonight Summer, sage beyond her years, chose neither. At least for now, anyway. Summer’s realization that Reed was the cause of all of the love triangle’s problems was actually right on target — while the three argued backstage, Reed literally bumped into Zach, which caused the actual showdown to begin.

Whew! This is getting too long, even for a doubleheader. There’s a lot more to mention, like the ingenious code phrase ”Greased Lightning” for the Cohens’ alarm system (Peter Gallagher once starred in Grease on Broadway), and Seth’s aside to Zach, ”Why don’t you get a haircut? Everybody’s getting sick of this Sean Cassidy thing.” I need to stop. Tonight was a blast. Oh, except for all that sad crap I mentioned first, but let’s hear it for ending on a high note!

What do you think? Is Caleb a goner? We know Sandy’s well over Rebecca, but is Kirsten in love with Carter? And how long will Summer’s you-choose-you-lose policy really last?