Where is Judge Fitzwater when you need her? She NEVER would have been bamboozled by the shenanigans of Spencer Truman, the man deemed too "mentally unfit" to stand trial. Those people in the courtroom this week who know what Spencer is capable of and are aware of his past transgressions were too quick to spot a "faker" a mile away. However, those novice "puppets" as part of Spencer's own little play to make sure he wasn't declared guilty found themselves moving to each of his whims. Why is so difficult for a judge to see through the pathetic attempts of Spencer to look insane? His lawyer merely called his mother a "whore," hardly grounds to go mental! But Spencer remained a blabbering idiot for the rest of the trial, hit his head against the toilet a few times to draw blood, and created the illusion that he lost touch with his sanity. Puhhhleese! A mistrial? The only solace I get from the judge's mystifying ruling is that I have the opportunity to see Todd get some REAL justice from the creep who was nearly successful in having Todd executed for a crime he never committed.
As much as Spencer has been a prominent wart on the landscape of Llanview for the past year and a half, I actually didn't mind his trial maintaining the focus of the action this week. It does seem that Dena Higley has finally found an umbrella story that encompasses most of Llanview. I suppose I never realized just how far-reaching Spencer's grip on Llanview really was. From the whole Buchanan clan to the McBains to the Cramers to the Mannings, it seems that nearly all of the show's main families are affected by the cruel and twisted acts that Spencer committed. Finally, Higley has managed to craft a tale that utilizes all of the key players in a significant manner. And I will give her due credit for that. It is my hope, though, that she follows through in what APPEARS to be a set-up for a major murder whodunit. I mean the requisite "I'm gonna kill you myself" comments that Blair makes through jail bars or the threats that Todd shouts in open court aren't written for superfluous reasons, folks. I would imagine that Spencer's days are numbered, and I'm more than ready to see the man pay for what he did to the most celebrated people in Llanview and see a good murder mystery the likes of "Who Shot Carlo Hesser" back in the 90's.
Another aspect of this story that I have absolutely found riveting is the way it has been used to reintroduce the character of Marty and her grown child, Cole. First, let me address Marty Saybrooke. I watched this character really grow and mature on this show, and I was a viewer during her entire run with the show. I thought this character was one of the most tortured yet complex characters Llanview has ever seen. But I'm sorry, I'm just not buying the recast. Christina Chambers is a good actress, don't get me wrong, but she does not embody the spirit of Marty like Susan Haskell did. And it isn't that I'm against recasts, because I can face the fact that this is reality and not every actor will be available to resume the role that he/she created. With that said, Chambers does not act like, talk like, or feel like "Marty" to me. The tumultuous past that she and Todd share does not play through the camera to me. Even though Trevor St. John had the difficult task of taking over a wildly popular role from Roger Howarth, he has managed to win over a legion of die-hard Todd fans and make the role his own while still managing to hold onto many of the quirks and the important facets of "Todd." His anger, his jealousy, his impetuous manner---those are all still there. But the new Marty is just a cowering wimp. I don't find any of her inner-strength there, and I don't find even the smallest bit of her feisty spirit remaining. In order to give homage to such an important and celebrated part of OLTL's rich past, the producers had an important job to fill this role with someone who demonstrated the spirt of Marty Saybrooke. I just don't feel Chambers was the best pick in this case.
On the other hand, the introduction of Cole Thornhart has been blockbuster from the very start! Starr Manning was bound to grow up sooner or later, and she is no longer the little girl who played with snakes and spiders. This girl is a young woman who is coming to grips with the past of her adoring father who committed a heinous crime on the mother of the beau she is fascinated with! The chemistry between these two is phenomenal, and for me to be interested in the relationship of a bunch of high school kids is mind-blowing to me. But I think what draws me to the story is the way it draws on the past of these kids' parents and also connects it to the present world in which they live. Cole is someone with flaws but who is likeable, engaging, and caring. He is someone who can stand up to Todd and has the potential to be a real "thorn" in his side (pun, intended!). This young actor is also just fantastic! He has the acting chops to go head-to-head with St. John and Kassie DePaiva while also showing a relationship with his mother that is warm and believable. This kid is going places!
Finally, I'm pleased that Spencer will get his comeuppance at the hands of the man he wronged the most, not from the court system. Todd was quick to realize that he had to make his move to kidnap this slimeball and make sure that he didn't live a pampered life in a mental institution instead of behind jail bars. And from the moment Spencer realized what was happening, wasn't it strange how all traces of his insanity seemed to evaporate? Spencer knew exactly what was happening to him and that the gig was up for him. The fun will be in seeing what Todd does to him! I only wish we viewers had our say, too!
Other random thoughts for the week before I close:
1. Jess and Tess were integrated, and I suddenly couldn't be less interested in her character or with Antonio and Nash than I am now. Nash has become so isolated from the rest of the canvas that he could be written off the show tomorrow, and I wouldn't even notice. He and Tess were unbeatable as a team and as a couple, and I raved about the palpable chemistry they shared. But now, I have to struggle with my thumb to not hit that fast forward button anytime any of the three characters are on. Higley made a big mistake integrating Jess and Tess completely as soon as she did, and the results are before us.
2. The stage is being set for a showdown between the Mannings and the McBains once Tommy's real identity is revealed. I loved Starr's comment that Tommy "looks just like Jack did when he was a baby." Things that make ya go hmmmmm….. But having Starr develop a connection with Tommy is another clever step in making this story more complex and making the ramifications for everyone involved more earth-shattering. Seeing what good parents Michael and Marcie are makes it more difficult because of the constant turmoil that the Mannings go through. What will prove interesting is what will happen if the baby Blair is carrying is really Todd's. Four children for Todd? I wonder if this story will end more happily than we think by having Todd & Co. to realize that Tommy might be better with Marcie and Michael? Wouldn't that be a twist?
3. Finally, it's about that time for news on Hillary B. Smith's contract! We all know that last December she renewed the contract for just one year to "wrap things up" with Nora. Although Nora has been shoved to the side dishonorably during Spencer's trial, I can't imagine how Nora's character could be adequately removed from the canvas in such a way that would appease fans. Nonetheless, things have been very, very quiet with news about the status of her contract, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of the effort made to be proactive in keeping her in Llanview this year has made a difference. As many of you know, I made it my New Year's Resolution this past January to devote nearly every column to mentioning a favorite Nora moment or to discussing why HBS and Nora deserve to stick around Llanview. NoraDiva1 did the unthinkable this year and created the first fan-base initiative that includes five Llanview women and incorporates a mission statement and a directive. The CHERI initiative has been mind-blowing. The barrage of letters, emails, correspondence to Disney executives, CEO's, ABC producers, soap magazines, and everyone else in between has shown the perseverance and the commitment that fans have to these women and to the belief that veterans are an integral part of ABC shows. We have been proactive all year long, from January until now, to show our outcries, and I hope that being proactive rather than reactive to any type of devastating news will reward us with good news. So, everyone keep your fingers crossed and put as many positive thoughts out there! So many of you worked extremely hard, and it would be encouraging to know that our efforts were not in vain.
I will be back in a couple of weeks to present you with my Best and Worst of 2006 column!
Enjoy your week,