On ''The O.C.,'' Seth and Summer try to show school spirit, while Ryan has a work-related lap dance, and Marissa spends too much time with Johnny
Rachel Bilson
Credit: Rachel Bilson: Matt Barnes/FOX
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”The O.C.”: Tubas, strippers, and surfers

Wow, that was a strange ending. How will Ryan react to hearing that Johnny loves Marissa? Will she be cool with his mandatory-for-work lap dance? We don’t know! Argghh!

In a jittery daze of non-knowing, I flipped to The O.C.‘s website to find out the episode’s title. I guess I can’t be bothered to do this ahead of time like a responsible person. Guess what it was? ”The Disconnect.” Those crafty writers have done it again! We weren’t meant to know how the phone conversation turned out. We got disconnected! Get it?

A lot of other subplots seemed to fit the theme of disconnection. While Ryan and Marissa flittered around town missing each other’s calls and getting either mounted by strippers or shoulder-leaned-on by shaggy-haired invalids (advantage: Ryan), Seth and Summer had similar though quite independent reactions to the devastating blow delivered by Brown Guy: The university takes only one student from Harbor each year. Neither couple was exactly in harmony for the entire episode. A-listers Seth and Summer made it work in the end, but at least for now, the B-list couple remains a little out of touch. It was actually quite realistic, and I found the episode’s tense and confusing ending somewhat refreshing.

The Ryan-Marissa shadiness also made Summer and Seth’s adorableness all the more welcome. The scene in which his pirate costume squared off against her marching-band outfit was very cute, albeit a tad unrealistic, because I don’t think Seth could fake school spirit as a mascot. But I did believe that Summer could play the tuba, thanks to her hilarious confession that the ”beauty pageant camp” she told Marissa she’d gone to one summer was actually a band camp.

I doubt we’ll ever see the tuba again, since usually these random cutesy stunts are a one-time deal: In the O.C. world, things happen so fast that two teenagers who usually seem kind of ADD could complete their college applications on the same bed in just a few hours. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this is not possible. The whole college ordeal took me about four months, and I think I still got everything in late.

Anyway, Seth wised up that it was okay that Summer was smart, and that it would be okay if she was the one who went to Brown. (And it would, because ”how cute are seals?”) Not to worry, Seth hasn’t gotten rid of the condescending attitude — his correction of Summer’s ”whomever” was right in character, and also completely necessary because that error was bugging me too.

The theme of disconnection even carried over to the adult folk. Sandy and Matt were never on the same page about their preparation plans for the next morning’s big meeting, principally because Matt does his ”best thinking” at strip clubs featuring androgynously named law-student dancers. Right, and I do my best writing when I’m stoned, eating mac-and-cheese-and-bacon, and listening to Madonna. Dream on, dude. Matt still really bugs me. There’s something about his face I don’t like. It could just be his face. Anyway, he’s on his ”last chance” at Sandy’s company, which basically means we have to endure him for a few more weeks until he royally messes up again and then leaves town. Dramatically, I bet! I hope it’s soon.

Kirsten and Julie were similarly in the dark for much of the episode, both by not really feeling each other’s business ideas (Julie’s ”nude maids” idea vs. Kiki’s bookstore) and by getting masterfully manipulated by some rich tool named Jeff, who offered the then party planners $5000 to cater a dinner during which he and Julie could decide they weren’t hungry. I loved Julie’s delighted line to Jeff — ”Do you like crab cakes?” — when he interrupted her and Kirsten’s business lunch, not to mention her assessment of their date: ”We totally didn’t click, we had nothing to talk about, and his tongue was like sandpaper.” Hmm. In that order, Julie? Love her.

The episode wasted way too much time on stupid Johnny, his stupid mother, and stupid Marissa. That mom reminded me of Cheri Oteri, especially since she was being a highly inappropriate cheerleader for the pair’s nonexistent relationship. I did like that Marissa suggested that she and Johnny spend time apart, and I loved that it looked like Ryan wasn’t about to flip out when she started telling him about the ordeal on the phone before the big disconnect.

And it wouldn’t be The O.C. without some clever self-referential moments. I enjoyed Seth asking Ryan if he’d noticed that Summer had gotten funnier lately and how she might even be funnier than him. My favorite was his response to Ryan’s request for a ride: ”Why don’t we have cars?” Every viewer has thought the exact same thing at some point. Very nice.

Six days and counting until Chrismukkah. I’m declaring Thursday Wear Your Yarmaclaus to Work Day. Dress appropriately.

What do you think? Did you like or hate that the episode left us hanging? Will Julie host Chrismukkah dinner in her trailer? And shouldn’t Seth and Summer start applying to a backup college or twelve?

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