…Yes, yes, I know, the conventional wisdom is that it is still a "battlefield." After all, that's what Pat Benatar and all those dancing prostitutes taught us in that old music video. But things have changed in the 21st century. Love has modernized, gone wireless and digital. Love is a compact and efficient distilled concept, available for ninety-nine cents on iTunes. Love is in your iPod, fully loaded. In fact, if your love still has an aerial or antennae, it will be cut off next year. And there's no more modern love these days than "love in the afternoon". Daytime love has gone to the Internet, is both streaming and streamlined, readily clippable. Five out of ten of you probably have made a YouTube vid summing up the love of your favorite couple, or perhaps you settled for just a jittery full-motion video message board avatar which makes my Firefox lock up (thanks, by the way). It used to be that to truly articulate their heart's desires, soap couples needed an expensive location shoot and a musical montage set to Peabo Bryson or Michael Bolton. Not so in the online age. Today, for better or worse, everybody's a cynic, and the networks simply don't have the money to send Luke and Laura around the globe again. New methods are necessary; new ways of showing romance, passion, foreplay, lovemaking, as our favorite couples express themselves in all-new ways. Case in point: Jared Banks and Natalie Buchanan on last week's OLTL. Their seething passion and love/hate relationship was expressed not through mullets, soft rock, and Vaseline on the lens, but through constant, brutal "pwnage" in online video games as they battled it out in the Buchanan lodge in front of the television. Through these vicious sessions of online bloodletting, we learned two key things about the budding couple: One, that every time Natalie "killspawns" Jared or uses cheat codes, it is fanning the flames of her desire for him! And two, that Jared can only learn the error of his scheming ways when he is repeatedly trounced by women and fourteen-year-old nerds playing from Kansas! Love is a deathmatch, Jared, and Natalie just turned on the God Mode! Ah, romance!
In all seriousness, the scenes between Jared and Natalie this week were both delightful and compelling, and I think all of us breathed a collective sigh of relief when Jared finally "manned up" and told Natalie the truth (most of it, anyway) on his terms. And in an interesting turn of events, the show eschewed the usual separation anxiety that we might expect for another five to six months, instead choosing to amp up the proximity between the two star-crossed individuals when Natalie grudgingly decided to keep Jared's secret. In doing so, OLTL elevated the sexual tension, taking Jared and Natalie's relationship from angst-ridden to something that crackled with banter, dueling wit, and above all, heat, full of double entendres and hidden meanings. Sure, Natalie and Jared were duking it out metaphorically with video games, but that set piece could've been any other classic give-and-take romantic back and forth we've seen in the best soap (or film) love stories. With the "Jared Buchanan" angle dispelled in Natalie's mind, we can now see these two characters again as two people who give as good as they get, and understand where the other comes from, understand each other's insecurities, and are not above playing on them to make a point or challenge one other. Jared and Natalie are one of the best new couples on OLTL in a long time, and I am thrilled to see their relationship leaving Wuthering Heights behind and going straight for, oh, let's say, His Girl Friday…though if anyone is the Girl Friday, it's Jared. Natalie is in control, as it should be after her doomed, subservient relationship with John.
Meanwhile, the show continued to play with my heart this week when they stranded Bo and Nora together in the freezing tundra. We've seen any number of these "OH NOES BO AND NORA ARE TRAPPED TOGETHER WHAT WILL HAPPEN??" scenarios in the last few years, and every time they go nowhere, so I was and am very skeptical, but I still really enjoyed the scenes, especially the flashback to the old dance contest. Lindsay's histrionics about Bo and Nora being left along together were classic Lindsay, and while her attitude used to drive me up the wall in the old days, she hasn't dipped into that particular well in so long that it was actually refreshing to see her "Bo and Nora" tunnel vision return. I think the quadrangle of Bo/Lindsay/Nora/Clint has huge potential if they successfully re-pair Clint and Lindsay and Bo and Nora, if that's even possible. OLTL has tried to do one too many "quads" in the last few years, but this is one that is actually organic to the storyline and characters and works. I would be remiss not to mention hilarious scenes of Nora and Lindsay clashing over big band or New Age music at the lodge, and Matthew entering only to trash Lindsay's musical tastes. I wonder if Lindsay ever realizes this is cosmic payback for her mucking about with Matthew's conception and paternity so much!
These stories were the only ones that really moved, but there was still a lot going on in Llanview during the week. The interminable story about Starr's pregnancy scare continued, with Todd somehow gaining total control over La Boulaie to the point where he can now ransack even Langston's belongings like the Gestapo. Why Dorian or Blair don't shut his little banana republic down is beyond me, but that's one thing I hope to see the writers improve when they return. There's no way Dorian would ever stand for Langston being treated the same way Todd handles his own kid. This story is not simply boring but also plodding and lifeless to me; Kristen Alderson and Brittany Underwood do their best, but it all seems so pointless somehow. I can't put my finger on it; I just wish they'd all get better material as soon as the strike writing ends. I feel the same about the LPD follies. While Hunt Block is still awesome as Lee Ramsey, Antonio's endless rage about Talia and John came out of nowhere, and is an unfortunate remainder of the "Huffing Antonio" many disliked in the past eight years. Antonio's gentle relationship with Talia redeemed him in my eyes, so why do this now, when they've only just begun? I can only hope that this is truly all some kind of con against Ramsey, and that Antonio and Talia are not really in as dire straits as they seem.
Viki and Charlie had some wonderful scenes this week as they reconnected and Charlie wrestled with the truth about his big lie. It's so nice to see them up and around again after several weeks of cruising. And I have to say, I like another story on the backburner, that of Nash, Jessica, Sarah, and Cristian. Yes, it seems to be a time-filler during the strike, but I like that Nash is shown to be insecure about being the Buchanan family's "poor relation," anxious to make something for himself on his own and not just live on Jessica's family money. That kind of vulnerability and neuroses is very true to life and something that needs to be addressed; it also makes sense why Nash might be drawn to Sarah, who could remind him of his wilder days with Tess and Claudia Reston. I don't want to see any of the couples embark on affairs with the one of the other couple's partners, but I do think the dynamic is interesting. Nash is still so obviously being set up for a fall by his hunky European investor. That's what you wear for wearing all those scarves inside, Nash.
So, it was an easygoing week in Llanview, but when it did snap, crackle and pop, the sparks were all coming off the wireless love match between Jared and Natalie. Next time, Jared, get to the rocket launcher before she does! I bet Cord and Tina never had this kind of trouble when they were playing Pong. Speaking of Tina, how THRILLED are we that she is finally coming back!! I know, right?! Oh, I can't even type, I'm that excited. Bring on the big hair and huge doe eyes! Poison more people accidentally, Tina! I demand more exploding cakes! I'll meet you back here in two weeks and we'll discuss whether or not Lee Ramsey has Tina upstairs in Todd's penthouse, and, if she is upstairs, whether she is watching basic cable or making him pay for OnDemand! You know she's bleeding him dry.