On ''The O.C.,'' in homage to the ''Donna Martin graduates'' episode of ''90210,'' the kids try to get Marissa back into Harbor
Mischa Barton
Credit: Mischa Barton: Matt Barnes/FOX
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”The O.C.”: A shout-out to ”90210”

Power to the pretty people! The entire O.C. gang fought a long, hard battle, and it appears that like Donna Martin but with much better roots, Marissa Cooper will graduate.

To be clear, when I say they ”fought a long, hard battle,” I mean that they ”had the support of basically everyone in the community except Taylor’s mom and somehow managed to make the campaign process seem really difficult.” The sudden Marissa-centric premise and the melodrama involved were a tad ridiculous, but so is everything in the show. By now, for most of us, the over-the-top quality just makes it more fun.

Julie and Dr. Roberts snacking on pork rinds, Taylor having a ”button guy” on hand, supposedly cool teenagers meeting at a club to drink soda — none of these elements were plausible, and yet you probably wouldn’t change them if you could. What would be the point?

I mean, is it worth it to ponder how Taylor, a girl repeatedly described as friendless, would be the only person whom the entire student body would blindly follow? For me, no, or at least an ambivalent ”eh,” because without Taylor’s involvement in the Free Marissa campaign (which Marissa couldn’t have cared less about), I wouldn’t get to hear lines like the perfectly delivered ”I love campaigns” and ”You missed my Boxing Day party,” or her mildly indecent proposal to Seth about ”a long night of candle wax, tube socks, and the new Fiona Apple CD.” My notes for that line were as follows: ”?!?!!!!!!!” I love the idea of Taylor being into that, whatever that is. Hopefully, her current security in the group’s foxhole means she’ll stick around — at least until Marissa decides to fight to the death for the coveted (for some reason) title of Social Chair.

Taylor aside, this week was heavy on the couples banter. They even switched up the couples for a bit, as Ryan and Summer had not one but two conversations all by themselves, and they weren’t just awkward ”heys” or ”laters” per their usual exchanges. Seth’s ”I’m not going to sign his genitals” was the perfect response to a perfectly clichéd immature gesture, and Summer was on top of her pop-culture shout-outs game with her Star magazine-inspired lip readings. Even Julie and Neil established an almost Seth-Summer-esque rapport based on their mutual ability to determine the right time for a drink. Aww, they have the same hobbies and everything. (For the record, Marissa and Johnny also had a bunch of convos, but I wouldn’t call it ”banter” so much as mind-numbing boredom or a good time to get up and pee.)

The courtroom scene — I’m aware it took place in the school, but it felt like an Ally McBeal free-for-all in there, complete with random outbursts and an utter lack of adherence to reality — was perhaps a bit too dramatic for the subject matter. I mean, I got the feeling something huge was supposed to be going on, but all I could think about was how blatant Veronica Townsend’s cleavage was and how hilarious it was that Seth and Summer had called Taylor while she was just chillin’ on the pot. But suddenly, voices were raised, the sports agent screamed for everyone to shut up, and Sandy went into preacher mode. As more and more adult advocates stood up to praise Marissa as a ”model student,” it seemed a bit too perfectly timed, sort of like a musical. The moment Dr. Roberts squeezed Marissa’s shoulder for added effect, I almost expected him to break into song.

Once Johnny slunk away from the door after hearing Marissa’s verdict — hey, awesome timing, dude, and way to steal Marissa’s favorite thinking shack as your own…God, you’re boring — the foursome reunited on campus. Which would have been cute enough, but then they started holding hands and running toward something. Which would have been more than enough, but then that ridiculous senior class photo shoot took place. Which…well, you get it. Yes, I know, they’re very pretty — and often zany! — but I think one good power shot of the quartet would have done the job. The still-frame montage, which included an unfortunate ”candid” shot of Marissa making a peace sign while Ryan tried to arm wrestle her (if you think about it, their romance is kind of the other way around) was like an extended dance mix of a single that would have stood fine on its own.

Then again, who am I kidding? The moment after I shouted ”Get over yourselves!” at the screen, of course I rewound the scene for a repeat viewing, hence, the dissection of the uncharacteristic peace sign. I’m a sucker, and besides, anything’s better than watching what was slated next: Fox News’ nightly horrifyingly intimidating pre-show question ”It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?” Um, no…but do you know where Kaitlin is? ‘Cause the promos had made it sound like she was coming back this week.

What do you think? Is or was something going on between Summer’s dad and Taylor’s mom? Why can’t Johnny get that he’s history? And which T-shirt will sell more overall: ”Donna Martin Graduates” or ”Free Marissa”?

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