On ''The O.C.,'' Marissa connects with Johnny, and Seth connects with Taylor Townsend; meanwhile, Sandy gets a new business partner, and Julie gets wise to Charlotte's scheming

By Annie Barrett
Updated November 11, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
Mischa Barton: Matt Barnes/FOX

”The O.C.”: The trouble with Johnny-come-latelies

First I have to applaud the cheesy metaphor employed in this week’s episode, ”The Swells.” Get it? Everything from Ryan’s rage to Seven of Twelve Steps’ scheming to Taylor Townsend’s low-rider khakis was swelling up like crazy tonight. And even though no one wants to see it happen, if the implication’s that The O.C. is like the ocean, everything is about to change.

At least with Ryan and Marissa’s relationship, we knew change was coming. These two have never been able to stay drama-free for long before one of them starts binge-drinking or getting into fights. Ding-ding! Ryan won this round by punching out Kevin Volchok, who’s just like early-season-1 Luke but unhealthily obsessed with a different water sport. Volchok seems like a huge jerk, but he’s a much better candidate for Marissa’s Bizarro World Hunk of the Month than Johnny. Ryan also channeled his season 1 bad-boy persona, and this time it wasn’t even his fight. Then again, bad-boy Ryan is who Marissa fell for in the first place, so maybe things will work out.

Not if Johnny ”I whaled on my drunk dad, please connect with me!” Harper has a say in things. I thought he had way too much say in general tonight — each line of his was another bad cliché on the way to disaster. His mysteriously vague plea for companionship on the beach, his wrestling with Marissa over an embarrassing childhood photograph… his entire character seems so contrived. As Johnny went on and on about how he beat his father with a baseball bat, I couldn’t tell if I didn’t believe him because he was lying, or if I didn’t believe him because the dude playing him (Ryan Donowho) was a pretty questionable actor. (It’s probably both.) While Johnny rode out the gnarly waves of his infatuation with Marissa, his girlfriend Casey cheated on him with Volchok. Nice twist there, even if we saw it coming.

Sandy, appropriately the only surfer of the original bunch, must have been inspired by ”The Swells” enough to embark on a big career change. He tried to sell the Newport Group on the condition that a low-income housing development would remain intact, and ended up agreeing to continue the business with new partner Matt Ramsey, a 26-year-old go-getter who likes to drink whole bottles of tequila at a time. Great idea! Matt Ramsey looks like a slightly older version of season 2’s Zach, but with less floppy hair. (As in, still floppy but less of it — not less floppy. It’s pretty floppy.) Let’s hope Kirsten doesn’t start joining the good old boys for their impromptu shots ‘n’ brainstorming work sessions.

But wait. The really important thing you should get out of this episode and Sandy in particular… is that you need to get Peter Gallagher’s new soul collection, 7 Days in Memphis. It has nothing to do with the show. Practically no normal O.C. viewer would like it. Buy it today!

Things are definitely changing for Julie Cooper, and not for the better. Her new roommate/gal pal Seven got Kirsten to help fund a black-tie charity event for underprivileged women. Right. Except it’s just two underprivileged women, and they share an ocean view. Luckily, Julie knows evil when she sees it. She can probably smell it, too, like a rare strain of Designer Impostor perfume. As soon as she flipped through Seven’s seven or so credit cards with different names, Julie immediately confronted her with a snappy ”Who the hell are you?” It’s hard to predict what Julie will do. We know she has the capacity to be quite treacherous, but she might not be able to follow through if her plots involve the demise of someone she cares about — this time, Kirsten. Remember last season’s pool plunge to save Caleb? Julie almost seemed human back then, and has since.

Speaking of evil, the most shocking ”swell” of the episode involved hints at an unlikely current between Seth and (ew! I can’t! But I have to) Taylor Townsend. In her defense, I’m beginning to actually feel sorry for the pathetic little misfit, and the scene with her overbearing, also pearl-adorned mother added some much-needed depth to Taylor’s character. She still sucks for shutting out Summer from the lock-in — oh, and for hosting that nightmare in the first place. Is that even legal? I thought the Dean of Discipline was long gone. Is there another type of ”red flag” that the senior class social chair gets to tack onto transcripts? ”Lacked enthusiasm during trust falls”? ”Declined free S’mores”? Yawn.

The best part about the lock-in was that it relegated Seth to a so-sad-it-was-hilarious perch on a pommel horse, skinny legs dangling, cell phone in hand. The worst part? After an entire Saturday night of bonding, Seth might realize he has more in common with fellow geek Taylor than with Summer the teen queen. It’s a haunting hypothetical, but I personally don’t think we need to worry. Seth might question things momentarily, out of understandable pity for Taylor, but how could he give up going out with someone who tells Chili (the poor man’s Seth Cohen), ”I’m already dating a dork”? That was classic Summer/Seth, and no way will Taylor come between The Ironist and Little Miss Vixen. Come on, what would Taylor’s comic-book name even be? Annoying As Hell? Tight Ass? Sweater Set?

What do you think? Can Ryan and Johnny end up being friends? How great was it to see Summer and ”Atwood” actually talk for once? And will Julie and Seven stop mingling powers long enough to invite Marissa into their evil condo?