On ''Laguna Beach,'' Jason walks all over Jess; Talan strays from Taylor, who at least fights back a little; and new kid JP explains it all to you

By Timothy Gunatilaka
Updated August 13, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
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”Laguna Beach”: Jason plays; Talan strays

Jess, he’s just not into you! Why can’t you learn that? I really wanna like this girl, but her willingness to be continually victimized by Jason is just sadsadsad. Then again, my own willingness to believe she’ll get a clue is equally vain, I suppose. So I shall stop now, because there might be hope elsewhere. And her name is Taylor. Could it be that a strong female can actually thrive amid the playas and predators of Laguna Beach’s male population? We can always dream. But more about her later.

”There’s no proof he cheated on me,” proclaimed Jess, ”and if I went by what everyone said, I would have broken up with him by now.” What does that mean exactly? Jess is not the smartest bird in the coop, but I don’t understand how this is an argument for her to stay with Jason. In some situations, it might be honorable to defy the voice of the masses, but it’s something else to defy the voice of reason. It doesn’t matter that there’s no tangible proof revealing Jason’s infidelity. Jess may think she’s being judicious by espousing some innocent-until-proven-guilty principle, but I mean, if even Kristin finds someone to be disloyal and reprehensible, he’s gotta be pretty evil, no? Watching Jess constantly call Jason’s voice mail while the boy dined with Alex was more tragic than watching anything poor Stephen has suffered at the hands of Kristin the harpy queen. And that’s pretty bad.

Even when Jess lashed out at Jason for his coldness, he turned the talk into some absurdist discourse on life’s theatricality. And sadly, she played along:

Jason: ”It’s just the way you’re acting.”

Jess: ”How am I acting?”

”You tell me.”

”If I knew how I was acting, I wouldn’t be asking right now. How am I acting?”

”You’re acting…fine.”

Seconds later:

Jess: ”Love you.”

Jason: ”You too, baby.”

Is this Samuel Beckett? Sometimes, although I’m fond of these people, I am shocked by how dumb they can be. Jess finally confronted the boy without relying on some lame imperative (”Swear on our relationship”), and then she just resigned herself to the dolt.

(Fortunately, amid all this Jason-Jess misery, the episode provided a comic highlight: During the double date with Alex and Jason, white-haired Casey schemed to get Cedric alone to herself, saying, ”I left my phone in your car. Can you come with me to get it?” Smoooooooth, Casey. I bet that trick worked all the time 50 years ago, when you really were a teenager.)

Providing a foil to the Alex-Jason-Jess triangle was the continuing battle for Talan’s heart between Taylor and Kristin. Unlike Jason, Talan appeared to be acting on his true (albeit vacillating) feelings for the two girls. Too bad the affections of this self-professed ”nice guy who finishes last” can be so easily manipulated by the girl ”who plays games.” There was this really nice moment between Talan and his previously unheard of friend JP: ”Here’s the deal,” JP said. ”Here’s how I feel about Kristin: She is like super cool, but you couldn’t really like get to…Chicks do that so much: The guys have no interest in them, then they can hook him, and once the guy’s hooked and starts to getting amped on a chick, [in a random foreign accent] it’s like, ‘Hoe-kay, I found a new guy.’ ” I really feel that JP gets it. With such aw-shucks insight, might we have our new all-knowing Lo for this season?

While it was refreshing to hear from JP, it was even more revitalizing to observe Taylor’s ire over Talan’s indiscretions, especially when compared with Jess’s excuses for Jason’s. When Morgan S. told Taylor she saw Kristin’s car outside Talan’s house, Taylor snarled, ”He’s such a hypocrite.” Moreover, when Taylor actually confronted Talan, I was completely floored by her mettle: ”Go be with a whore. Go be with Kristin….You can say whatever you wanna say, you don’t act like it….It’s such bulls—.” Finally, a female on Laguna Beach shows backbone without being a vindictive ball breaker (sorry, Kristin). Taylor rules! Well, almost. For just as soon as we thought we had found a girl to rally around, she backed down, and we were left with an image of Taylor linking arms with Talan. Too bad too. Laguna was so close to advancing women’s welfare.

Seeing that Talan is Kristin’s dupe and Jess is Jason’s dupe, why don’t we put them together? The cute but naive twosome could be good mates. They seem too dim to really hurt each other. Similarly, by the end of the season, I want to see Jason and Kristin try to sadistically manipulate one another. As for Taylor, there’s just too much potential in this girl to subject her to one of the Laguna regulars. While he’s not the hottest biscuit in the oven, JP at least strikes me as someone almost worthy of a real human relationship.

What do you think? Who looks more like a 38-year-old posing as a teen: Jason or Casey? How many bracelets is Talan wearing? A million? Two Dashboard Confessional songs played this episode. Do you think Laguna viewers will give Dashboard the Journey treatment and put the band on the iTunes chart this week?

Laguna Beach

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