I know summer doesn't officially begin for another week or so, but I can't help but feel the summer excitement now that school has been dismissed for the year. Without papers to correct or grades to worry about, I now can devote more of my focus to Llanview and what Higley has in store for our favorite characters. Last week's column was posted very late in the week (Friday), so for those who may have missed it, I'll begin this week's column with those comments I made regarding Todd's "execution" before I move on to discussing all of the other stories that are kicking off this summer.
Only in Llanview is someone executed only to be miraculously brought back to life in the eleventh hour! It sounds outrageous, doesn't it? Far fetched? Definitely, but I'll tell you what-I can suspend my disbelief in this situation because of the well-crafted and phenomenally well-acted episodes leading up to Todd's execution last week. The suspense was riveting, the tension thick, and the stakes high. For once in a great while, I looked forward to watching OLTL and seeing what was going to happen next.
Fans of this column know that I've not been a fan of this Todd/Margaret storyline. Without mapping it out, I believe this story is soon reaching its two-year mark. That's a long time for one storyline to drag out. It's a long time for one-time supercouple Todd and Blair to be immersed in a storyline solely devoted to one crazy psychopath. But, the payoff in this tale's climax almost was worth it. I say almost because I still don't think I can disassociate myself with some of the craziness that led to this point. But I digress. I can recall when Margaret first started to stalk Todd and become, at that time, just a thorn in his side. As she became more and more psychotic, I grew to dislike the character more and more. Acting aside, this character was just a nuisance, like a fly that pests someone for hours on end with a flyswatter nowhere in sight. As she began to take more elevated and dangerous risks in her quest to win Todd's affections, the storyline became less and less plausible for me. I didn't like the way Margaret attacked Starr, and I was repulsed when Margaret kidnapped Todd and ultimately raped him so she could become pregnant with his child. Even Blair's abduction and presumed death in the car compactor, with great location shots that accompanied the story, couldn't make me like this storyline. But in 8 months (or less!), this led to Margaret's pregnant return with Todd's baby that culminated with Todd and Margaret out on the lake where she supposedly "drowned" at Todd's hands. Months and months in jail, a baby later, and a brainwashed Margaret shipped off to Thailand, and we finally are seeing the payoff. Thank goodness OLTL did a recap of what led up to Todd's execution before the actual episode aired. Even I had forgotten a few key details. It also helped, I presume, the casual viewer understand what is happening.
This leads me to the Memorial Day episode, the one when Todd was going to actually die for a crime that the viewers know he didn't commit. Talk about dramatic irony---for once, viewers KNOW Todd is innocent; we BELIEVE in him. When Blair insists that she can't trust him and thinks that he had something to do with this, all we can do is shake our heads at her ignorance because we know the truth. In fact, we are all too keenly aware that the slimeball she's sleeping with is the real culprit behind the injustice being served to Mr. Manning.
The episode itself was unbelievable. Admittedly, it is rare to find suspense on soaps in this technological age with the Internet and spoilers that pop up the moment one word is uttered somewhere about a possible outcome to a story. So with the Internet filled with rumors that Trevor St. John was really going to die, I found myself in a quandary. Surely, OLTL wouldn't be so foolish as to get rid of a character so rich in history and with so much storyline potential to mine, would they? This had to be a stunt, right? Yet, I was intrigued; I wasn't sure. Was Todd REALLY going to die? The tension that built up in those scenes was something I haven't experienced in watching this show in a very long time. Todd's heartbeat came thump-thumping right out of the TV screen! I could hear those heartbeats, I could feel the angst and the turmoil festering within him. Listening to him give tender goodbyes to sister Viki and then good friend Evangeline was heartbreaking, and it gave viewers a chance to see the emotional side of Todd very rarely seen.
I have read that some feel Todd has been emasculated because of his outward showing of emotions…but lest us forget, the man thought he was going to die in a matter of minutes. With his final chance of a reprieve gone (after the warden took the Governor's phone call indicated that a stay of execution would not happen), Todd was a man who was scared of death yet angry that he knew he was being wrongfully killed. His tender exchange with Viki during which he admitted he wished he had taken more of her sage advice and learned from her coupled with his admission to Evangeline that she is his "dearest friend," all showed the loyal side to Todd-the side that demonstrates that he will move heaven and earth for those he loves and who are loyal to him. That attitude was only cemented when he refused to really give Blair any kind of closure. He didn't gush over the mother of his children, nor did he admit his deep, passionate love for her. Instead, he told her that he would haunt her forever, that once she realized his innocence, she would never forgive herself and he would find ways to affect her dreams. It was truly heartbreaking for Blair, who clearly still loves Todd and finally came to grapple with the realization that the father of her children would really be put to death. All she wanted was the opportunity to have closure with the feelings she still has for him, and he wouldn't allow that to happen. It was the one way Todd was still able to show some sort of control in a situation far out of his hands.
With such a phenomenal build-up to the execution, I was very disappointed with the fall-out from the revelation that Margaret was still alive. Sure, the reactions in the viewing room were priceless, and it was particularly satisfying to see Spencer's mind race at the possibility that his entire plan just blew up right before his eyes. It was also poetic justice that Spencer had to be the one to save Todd's life after he spent a good year trying to make sure that his life would be taken away from him. But the rest of the fall-out just fell, well, flat. Margaret's amnesia or brainwashing or whatever it is became simply frustrating to watch. The police must be fairly certain that Spencer is somehow involved in the whole situation, and yet he still roams in and out of Todd's hospital room like he has some right to be there. Why isn't anyone demanding that another doctor look over Todd's condition? And seeing Blair cry over Todd in the hospital and promise to always trust him and to always love him NOW…AFTER THE FACT THAT HE'S BEEN PROVEN INNOCENT makes me sick. Although, if that means that we viewers will see Blair start to regain her feistiness and her tough demeanor, then I'm even willing to stomach the pathetic pleas that she is dishing out to Todd.
Now, on to some other important stories…
Can it be that a soap opera has FINALLY managed to provide us with a paternity test that is actually authentic? It's quite refreshing to get news about a child's paternity that is conclusive; too often characters tamper with the results with the intent to prolong story. I'm actually glad that Brennan's paternity is resolved. I think a great deal of story can actually be mined out of the realization that Tess and Nash are the parents of the child. Speaking of Nash, how noble of him to abandon his family to ensure their safety? And what about Tess giving up control so that Jess can take better care of their little girl? I think both of these acts are true acts of responsibility on the part of the real parents of Brennan and show that the decision to actually make them the parents was a good one.
While I've enjoyed seeing Tess in control for so long, it was a nice change of pace to see the softer and calmer Jessica return. I'm ready for integration, and after having seeing Tess for the better part of two whole years, I'm already know what parts of her I want to see integrated into Jessica. With the best parts of both, I bet the result will be a character that both Tess and Jess fans will be satisfied with watching.
There are some characters, though, I'm ready to see leave this storyline PRONTO. The first is Antonio. Because Tess and Nash have been prominently featured for so long, Antonio and Jess's relationship has been long forgotten. I might have remembered the chemistry that the two may have shared, but by seeing Bree Williamson and Forbes March forge such an unbelievable bond over the past year, I have been able to see just how little chemistry exists between Jess and Antonio NOW. His arrogance in thinking that he can just immediately adopt Nash's baby so that he can raise it is alarming as well. He just seems to think that he can be the child's father whether it's on paper or not, and that attitude is another reason I'm ready to see him move on to meddle in someone else's business. Secondly, I sure hope the Reston family isn't becoming the new Santis. The signs are all there, folks. The Santi family introduction was just as pointless and just as uninteresting as the introduction of Claudia and her father. I mean, who really cares? So Nash broke Claudia's heart? Get over it!! For her father to go to all of this trouble and create all of this unnecessary drama makes me just roll my eyes, quite frankly. If Higley wanted to create a roadblock for Nash and Tess, she should have consulted her "How to Write a Soap Opera 101" book and went to the index. I hope this isn't the start of something we'll all be complaining about for months to come.
Michael and Marcie and the Baby
I love the twist, but come on! Who can't see that the baby these two are ready to take in will turn out to be Todd and Margaret's love child? The signs are all there! In Higley's defense though, she hasn't made the child's identity blatantly obvious (and I should note that I do not know definitively that this is the new Manning spawn), but she is setting up the story for explosive results. Since Todd's "execution," the primary focus seems to be on having Margaret regain her memory (which she is slowly managing to do), but there are occasional mentions of her child to whom she can't remember giving birth. Few questions have been raised regarding where the child is or what happened to it, and that seems strange to me, especially coming from Todd. A few scenes of his yelling about the location of his child isn't really creating a strong focus around where this baby would be (and whether the baby is alive or not). But the only other infant on the canvas right now is the one that Michael and Marcie are ready to bring into their home by acting as foster parents. What I like about this story is that Michael and Marcie have mostly been in their own private world in Llanview; their storyline together doesn't really intersect with many others going on, with the exception of Michael's connection to David's involvement in his father's murder. So setting the groundwork for M&M to start caring for a child that they believe might eventually be theirs to adopt months down the road will surely provide significant drama and angst when the identity of the child is revealed. If the baby is, in fact, Todd and Margaret's I hope that enough time is given for M&M to form a big enough bond with the child before revealing who the baby's parents are. Just as we had to endure two years of Todd and Margaret before getting to a pivotal and dramatic climax with the "execution," I feel a similar payoff could be in store if more time is given with this aspect of the story.
Cristian and Evangeline I just love, love, love Evangeline's character. She was always a strong, independent, and focused character before, but with her struggle in coming to terms with her blindness, she has shown even more class and dignity than ever before. Instead of resigning herself to a life of missed opportunities and limited chances, she is taking the bull by the horns and embracing her new life, limitations and all. She isn't willing to settle for anything less than she would have accepted with her eyesight, and I applaud that. Keeping a character's integrity in place, especially one as valued as Evangeline, is important. With that aside, as far as her relationship with Cristian is concerned, I must say I'm not a fan. When the two began their initial flirtation after Cris's release from prison, I was intrigued by the potential of the two as a couple, but the more I see Cris dote on her, the more I feel I don't enjoy seeing the two in a relationship. As a FRIEND, Cris is the best. I would love to see the two continue a close friendship, but seeing them romantically involved sends zero shockwaves through my screen. On the other hand, I'm wildly in favor of an Evangeline and Todd flirtation. Maybe it's the refreshing novelty of seeing Todd share intimate scenes with another female besides Blair, but I really like the chemistry and the genuine sharing of emotions that these two have and do. The Todd and Blair era is over as far as I'm concerned (although I love Blair's new vendetta against Spencer), and it's time to explore new possibilities!
Soon we should be seeing a return of Nora to our screens. I'm very disappointed that Higley doesn't think that with all of these other stories going on that we viewers cannot handle Nora's rehabilitation as well, but I'm going to give Higley a chance to redeem herself when Hillary B. Smith returns to the screen any day now. Let's just hope the 6-week wait was worth it!
Enjoy your week,