Season 1, Episode 17
Date of airing: January 21, 2004 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 12.72 million viewers, 7.7/12 in Households, 5.6/13 with Adults 18-49
This episode had a neat cliffhanger. Even though it’s obvious that Ryan won’t get kicked out of the Cohen house, as well as the Harbor school, and won’t be leaving Newport Beach either (after all, there are still ten episodes left this season and there is no chance that Ryan leaving will be a plot point midway through it), or it all happens on a temporary basis and we will soon be back to square one. Still, Ryan beating up Oliver and risking his status at Harbor and with the Cohens could lead to some trouble for him, maybe even in a legal sense if not through his friends distancing themselves from him. After all, Ryan was still on probation, and if Oliver doesn’t use this opportunity to have Ryan charged with an assault, then Oliver is not only stupid, but Ryan also kind of found his match, since Oliver not charging Ryan would only mean that Oliver sees another match-up between the two. Oliver still is a terrible character, since he continued to turn into a plot device for both Ryan and Marissa, but at least he has become a terrifying threat for the two. Okay, mostly Ryan, because Marissa probably can’t even swing her fist fast enough to hit a face. So, while Oliver is a terrible character, he is at least a terribly intriguing villain at this point, making THE O.C. a true primetime soap opera, as characters like Oliver are probably found only in daily soap operas.
The episode was okay. Seth and Anna’s story annoyed me a little, but not as much as it did in the previous episode, because this time around the two seemed anything but oblivious about the fact that all their similarities kill the mood of their relationship and could maybe even threaten it. They didn’t have fun in this episode, and they were sort of criticizing each other for liking the same things, for dressing the same, for eating the same food, and even for having the same plans for the rest of the day. All the excitement in their relationship has pretty much gone to the wind, which is usually the first step towards a slow-burn separation. Seth and Anna slowly realizing their actual disconnections through their many connections paves the way for Seth and Summer though, and considering how much Seth hated Summer’s episodic boyfriend of the week Danny, it’s obvious the writers were still going for that romance, not forgetting anything about it and planting the seeds again. And that kind of makes Summer a plot device, too, although she is written as part of the main character pool. I don’t think that serves Summer very well as a main character. And here is another question: Why was Bret Harrison credited with his character name? Yes, the guy has a name and face I recognize (although I wonder if that was the case in 2004 as well), but it seems weird that producers would give Harrison this kind of recognition, when his character wasn’t at all special. In fact, he was not funny. He was a plot device. He was kind of disgusting at the end.
Ryan doing his best to break his friendships and make it as a one-time criminal in Newport Beach by breaking into a file storage room was a bit weird as well, because it kind of turned him into a wholly different character. Yes, he could have talked to someone about his suspicions, and yes, maybe he shouldn’t have read the letter, considering he already had the suspicions about Oliver, and what he might be able to do, when it comes to Marissa. The letter became yet another plot device in this episode, and all of a sudden Ryan completely changes into a madman and goes for the jugular. Granted, he went for it for just not liking anything about rich people, but back then he had nothing to lose. Now he is here though, and Ryan is working hard on making his life even more difficult. Then again, Oliver might have known Ryan a lot and knew where to hit him emotionally. Like I said, they both found their match.
Meanwhile, the adult storylines continue to be hit and miss. I liked that Julie became a little friendlier and is now a co-worker of Kirsten (the writers have executed the character reboot of Julie, and now she can become more of a less-evil woman, who by the way is in her mid-30s? I don’t think that’s true…), but I didn’t like that Jimmy decided to be a chicken and talk around the hot bowl of oatmeal and not take the risk of starting a new business, when all he wanted was staying in Newport Beach. I mean, what was Jimmy thinking would happen if he decided not to go into the restaurant business with Sandy? Did he believe he would find another job that paid less? That was just a story carrying the two characters through the episode, because for obvious reasons they were unable to get stuck in other stories just yet. We’re just out of Jimmy being the villain in Newport and Sandy being critical towards his work and his extended family, so before the writers went into the final stage of the season, they needed to run on empty for an episode or two with the characters, and this certainly is such an episode.