We gotta get out of here!
For the Week of August 25, 2008
Jerry ver Dorn excelled at his material this week as Clint reeled Jared in to his scheme to use Langston against Dorian by way of Ms. Wilde's long-lost family.
Pretty sure they used that as one of the show titles a week or two ago, and I have to say, it really fits. Now, don't get me wrong. Personally, I've enjoyed the 1968 time travel storyline. And I fully understand why OLTL's Powers That Be thought it would be a good idea to do two fluffy, light and fun storylines during the traditionally slow and plodding summer months on daytime TV; usually, daytime in the summer is a no man's land where stories sweat it out in limbo, waiting for September to hit so they can get back to building the storylines to another sweeps period. But judging by viewer feedback and my own drooping eyelids, enough is officially enough. I miss realism. I miss family. I miss not having to hear the words "portal" or "conduit" or even "`1968." That's why, while I really enjoy Rex and Gigi together, it was a real breath of fresh air this week to see the time travel stor beginning to wrap up, and new, compelling, more "down-to-earth" storylines starting to take hold, as Clint started digging in the dirt to take on Dorian and Cramer Enterprises, proving he would use anyone - even an innocent young girl - to get to his nemesis.
To think I'd worried that Ron Carlivati had done away with the "dark Clint" that was born in times of strike during the writer's strike - these days, Clint's playing it dirtier than ever. Jerry Ver Dorn excelled at his material this week as Clint reeled Jared in to his scheme to use Langston against Dorian by way of Ms. Wilde's long-lost family. "All business stories are personal stories," Clint intoned darkly. To hear Clint coolly deconstruct his own past with Dorian as a way of understanding her motives was to hear a master schemer at work; Clint's really following in his "Pa's" footsteps. Jared and Clint's dynamic hit the perfect notes, with Jared aching to atone for his sins and realizing that his and Clint's business ethics are not all that dissimilar, but unsure of the wisdom in going after a young teenager. There's no easy "bad guy" in a story like the one that's being set up; as fans, we may root for either Dorian or the Buchanans, or both. Dorian loves Langston, but she also did terrible, cruel things to the Buchanans and to Charlie simply out of spite against Clint, and her actions (along with Jared and Natalie's) helped to indirectly lead to Nash's death. Clint and the Buchanans want to reclaim their family business, but Clint's methods, targeting Langston, who's finally found a home and family again, are a classic case of "do the ends justify the means?" Whichever way you feel yourself pulled towards, it's a great story so far and I hope it continues in this vein; I feel it's just the kind of intelligent character conflict that Ron Carlivati is best at.
Speaking of improvement on the canvas, we have Tina at Llanfair, and she looks so much more natural and "right" these days it's not even funny. From watching her left unattended in the kitchen (bad idea) to seeing her appalled facial expression when Natalie explained why, despite being an heiress, she still has a job, Tina is a singular delight, and fortunately, no longer existing in the vacuum that was the isolated Mendorra storyline. She brightens up every scene she appears in, making everything vibrant, and adding the "daffy aunt" dynamic to scenes with the Lord/Buchanan family is a joy unto itself - watching her swan around in fluffy negligee while everyone else is trying to live a normal life is classic. Her sniping with Tess is one of the few things making that storyline bearable, and I loved that she had an "Idiot's Guide to Mendorra" to give to Antonio, who hopefully will bring my sweet maligned Talia home soon. I just hope Andrea Evans' stay has been indefinitely extended, because I couldn't deal with not having more interaction between Viki and Tina, not to mention Tina and Cord, and even the always-absent CJ.
The Tess story does show some hope for improvement, though, with the addition of Todd to the mix. Todd's dawning, giddy realization that Jessica was Tess was a real Tivo moment, with TSJ playing up Todd's taunting, prankster side, while not losing sight of the fact that his niece was ill and he needed to call Viki. But will he get a chance? And will Tess find Marty?
Speaking of Marty, I still don't think they are aiming for a "forbidden romance" between Todd and his favorite patient. Marty may yet fall for her rescuer while in her altered state, but Todd still seems uncomfortable and guilty when she displays affection for him. Yet, at the same time, we see that Todd is lonely and without anyone to talk to; he can't help being pulled into a natural rapport with Marty, who on some level he's always had the ability to talk to, which makes this whole thing sickly, compulsively watchable, like a traffic accident. I don't believe Ron Carlivati is perverse or intends to trivialize the original Spring Fling rape storyline, but I do believe that playing with the Todd and Marty dynamic like this is a very dangerous tightrope; his public comments on the storyline have already offended a lot of people. While I understand their complaints I don't see it the same way; I think the story is a curious psychological thriller, with a whiff of "what might have been" to the way Todd and Marty are starting to interact.
Now, I've debated this with people before, and it's very true that Todd was no prince even before his rape of Marty - in fact, he was racist (needling Rachel Gannon about her interracial relationship with frat brother Kevin), misogynistic and cruel. But even at that time, Marty was able to disarm him by seeing through all of Todd's ugliness and zeroing in on his core traits as an incredibly vulnerable, insecure coward, who she was able to cut down to size. Years later, in equally murky scenes to the ones we have today, well-written by Michael Malone but with, in my opinion, more of a negative intent for the characters and story (Malone reportedly favored a Todd/Marty romance post-rape, which both actors violently opposed), there was the implication that some of Todd's rage against Marty stemmed from the fact that she had rejected him as more than a casual lover after their first (consensual) night together, and that he had wanted more of an emotional connection and understanding. Now whether or not each of us believes those scenes to be shallow editorializing by a writing staff that had lost its way, that material is "in continuity," so to speak. And today, Todd finds himself able to have that emotional understanding with the amnesiac Marty in a way he'd never had before. So in that sense, I can understand Carlivati saying that there is an element of "what might have been" to these scenes. If they were to legitimately "go there" and push a real romance I personally would be repulsed, but I don't begrudge OLTL for toying with the dynamic and letting us see how Todd reacts to what is happening, how his relationship with Marty has transformed. What he's doing to her has rapidly become very sick and twisted, as much of a violation as her original rape, but in Todd's mind, perversely, this is probably the happiest and most content he's been in months, because now he has what he once claimed he always wanted from Marty: A friend. It's not "shock TV," but it is dangerous, and risky, and strange, but to me, very watchable. You'll have to make up your own mind.
In a wonderful bit of business, Susan Haskell finally got to get out of her nightgown this week and into some nice eveningwear to appear at John's bedside as the spectral Marty. And in the shock twist of the year: They actually had some chemistry! That was a pretty decent kiss. Of course, I used to think John and Blair had an easy chemistry, too, but their romantic scenes are so forced, even if the personal interplay is kind of fun. If nothing else, I appreciate Blair's need to get John out of dark clothes. But poor Blair has fallen down a rocky slope as a character so fast that right now she feels like nothing but a utility for the story with Todd, Marty and John. When will she get her own back and not just be "Part D" in "Quad A?" She was doing so well, kicking Todd out, and now she seems to have little personal attention to her character at all, beyond of course running after Starr, and her all-consuming need for John's very mediocre companionship. If they're going to rebuild her relationship with Todd, or rebuild her own life as a single woman, couldn't they get started already?
Those Starr scenes this week really were an exercise in endurance. At the country club, Blair looked like she was physically resisting forking her own eyes out as Marcie suffered through one minute psychotic break and little aneurysm after another at the thought of having another baby. Can't anyone see how desperate Starr and Marcie come off? I'm not saying that Starr giving up her child is a bad idea - I think it's a good idea - or that Marcie doesn't deserve one of her own - of course she does, when she's more stable - but these two both come off so half-cocked and histrionic. No wonder Michael's rejected her after those sorrowful scenes at Roxy's hotel. Blair and Cole both had good points this week: How do they all expect to live in the same town, with Todd? How the hell does Blair get to be "Grandma" when Blair's daughter, the real mother, has no role in the child's life? How will they explain that to a child? Pretend Blair is Marcie's mom? Each new caveat by Starr and Marcie comes off as another bizarre stopgap measure, and none of it adds us to a stable foundation for parenting a child. What will they compromise on next? Breast milk? Baby names? "Okay, Starr, we can name her Gabrimiley Albe-Agatha Crawalsh!"
For all of the silliness in 1968, it did give us several solid points with resonance in the present: Take a look at Bo's return home, where he realizes in his conversation with Clint (and with Asa, in a tear jerking final performance by Phil Carey) that he could become his own man, whereas Clint, who ran from Asa in '68, now finds himself transforming into the old man by necessity. "Sometimes we don't have a choice," Clint said, but that's not true. Meanwhile, Gigi faces the possibility of Rex leaving her again, for Vietnam, and Emma Bradley mirrors Gigi by letting another man raise her illegitimate unborn child (presumably, David Vickers is now "Bo's" son, still a Buchanan heir). There was way too much treacle with Gigi and Rex in '68, but I love them anyway, and I loved the comedy with young Spencer fearing Olympia - the spitting image of his future murderer. I also thought Lea DeLaria gave a quietly devastating performance as Madame Delphina when she told Brody and Layla that Rex and Gigi were "gone." Honestly, I have quite enjoyed the story and I understand its echoes into the present-day plotlines, but really, I think viewer patience is at such a null point that this definitely could've ended last week. For 1968 to really have succeeded critically, it needed to come at a time when other stories were also strong, and not simply idling through the summer months; that way, people would've had happy alternatives to break up the fantasy elements of the story, and might've been able to better receive this whole endeavour. That said, I'll be thrilled when Rex and Gigi are finally home, living life with the rest of Llanview, hopefully onscreen a little bit less.
Even with 1968 still in its death throes, OLTL seems to be pulling itself up by its bootstraps: The business wars between Clint and Dorian are starting to hit their stride, Tina is feeling more like a part of the canvas, storylines are beginning to interconnect again, and reality, and relatability, are starting to return to the proceedings. While I haven't considered the summer of 2008 a "failure" by my own personal standards, I do feel the show was badly weakened to many eyes, and I'll admit it lost its luster to me in some ways too, especially with the drudgery of John and Blair, the pregnancy storyline, the nonexistent relationships between the Mannings and the unbelievably obvious villainy of Tess. I'm thinking autumn will bring more improvement, and I think OLTL will be back in fighting shape in no time. Even at its weakest this year, it still beats anything else on daytime.
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