I'm serious. She's got to stop with that. Who knows where that glass has been? Tess lives on the edge, alright. Anyway, we got a huge amount of mail from everybody after my last column, and I so appreciate all of your input and your thoughts - I really appreciate the assorted compliments for my longwinded prose. I can't possibly top what I wrote two weeks ago for overwrought ranting, so I've decided I'm not going to. No "Come To Jesus" sermons on the mount here; this time, let's just have some fun dissecting all the petty minutiae of One Life to Live. This week in Llanview, we've got the smoldering heat of A Martinez in a conspicuous all-black ensemble, we've got the aesthetic significance of Brody's chest hair of evil, we've got Starr giving a ghastly Afterschool Special speech about teen pregnancy, we've got Natalie's poorly-expressed rage in captivity, and we've got the return of Adriana and her bitchy, bitchy bangs. All that and more. Oh, we'll get to Todd and Marty, don't worry! Don't even worry. I got this.
First off: Natalie and her Glass Case Of Emotion! They really didn't give Melissa Archer much to work with down there; most of the week was spent with Natalie staring at the Gina Russo Flatscreen Special, talking back to it with a limp array of trite, tiresome cliches such as "You tell her, Jared!" or "Don't listen to that crazy bitch!", or perhaps "Yes, Jared, believe in our love!", or even the tried and true "Nooo! Aarrrghh!!" Now, look, I'm not saying I don't believe in Jared and Natalie's love; I totally do. I even understand the writers reserving the right to let Natalie scream and vent; I would too if my sister had gone crazy and locked me in the basement with plans to seduce my boyfriend and feed me nothing but hotel breakfasts for the rest of our natural lives. I'm just saying, those scenes got really old. They're so old now they're dust. They're dust instead of scenes. In fact, my Tivo exploded. 'Cause of the dust. And what about Natalie's physical expressions of anger? All she had down there for most of the week was frickin' pillows! There is nothing less intimidating or heartfelt for an actor to try to work with than having to simply throw harmless, soft pillows around a room over and over. It was like Natalie had missed her Not-So-Sweet 16. And then, yesterday, she finally got a chair in on the act, but man, you could tell that the props department had already worked that thing over - it collapsed as soon as it touched a solid surface! What's that about, PTB? I'm just asking! Why can't Natalie tear the roof off? Give her a real chair to smash, at least!
And then there's Tess. While I think Bree Williamson has developed into an excellent actress, this whole routine could not be more old. It's so old it's - well, you know the gag. "I guess Natalie left town, huh, Jared? Huh?! Nothing to see here, everything's so clear! More eggs? Why are you looking at me like that?!" Please! She's so obviously crazy and evil. I'm not saying anything you don't know, am I right? But this is possibly worse than the old Viki and Gina story it is liberally ripped off of, except for better actors (excluding the great Erika, of course) and a much smarter male lead in Jared "I Don't Play That" Banks. I love that he keeps shutting Tess down, and I loved Tina, Charlie and Roxy backing him up. I hope Jared's persistent questions keep coming.
Todd and Marty: Thank you for taking most of the week off, because I couldn't possibly write much more about this crazy stuff right now. As regards their storyline, I was a bit heartened on the Monday following my last column, when Todd was, IMO, shown to be clearly delusional and mentally ill after kissing Marty. His talk about "being whoever we want to be" and how he "hated Todd Manning [and wanted] to be rid of him" was totally straitjacket material; it's now clear to me that Todd has gone Grape Ape on us, and that makes this difficult story a lot more palatable to me as a viewer. Now all they have to do is not go totally over the line (any more than they have), give Todd satisfactory punishment, and also, stop selling it as a romance in the print and television media. Because those promos are getting really disgusting. I don't blame OLTL, as they don't make the promos themselves, but the material is tough enough to watch, even when it can be very gripping. Fortunately, on yesterday's show, Tess of all people drove these points about Todd's madness home for me; her taunting of Todd about his getting lost in his pathetic, crazed delusion of a dream world with Marty said everything so many of us have been saying about Todd, and that, I hope, means that the writers have at least some inkling of what they're doing here. That allows me to believe we'll see Todd get his, big time. Don't prove me wrong, Ron Carlivati. Meanwhile, John and Marty Mark II still have mad chemistry, and I hate to admit it.
It's ironic that Starr would give a speech about not wearing a basketball under her shirt when Kristen Alderson basically is. But wow - you wouldn't even see a high school PSA scene that cheesy and overly earnest on Degrassi. It was all a bit much and I felt embarrassed for the actors, though I can't really argue against the content of what she was saying. It's not that Starr didn't have a good message; it's that the scenes were stilted, and the storyline itself has had all the tension and excitement of the Bataan death march. It feels like Starr has been pregnant longer than Margaret Cochran's magical incubation from several years ago - and that was a long time. I just want it over and done with so Starr, as a character desperately in need of revitalization, can move forward. Unfortunately, Todd seems to be so crazy at this point that he now objectifies and victimizes Starr as any other woman in his life, like Blair or Téa or even Viki, who he dishonored with his DID deception. His plan to basically revamp the "Dead Baby Lie" for Starr is easily the most disgusting thing he's ever done, and he is circling the rim of a storytelling abyss which will lead to no possibility for redemption. I don't believe Ron Carlivati has done Todd wrong or out of character; I believe the harsh and perverse side Todd displayed when the fight for Tommy began was much more in character than what Dena Higley had written for him. I do believe that the only way for Todd not to be out of character now is if he is truly mentally ill, and so far they've portrayed that. But if he gets within a breath of doing what he plans to Starr and her child, it'll take more than just a visit from the men in white coats to get Todd out of this corner.
How sad is it that A Martinez is apparently already gone from our show? Because I just love him as the taciturn, coiled spring that is Ray Montez, the wraith in Armani. From his first scenes at La Boulaie, Ray had crackling chemistry with Dorian, and I have a definite need to see that go somewhere. Ray's scenes with Langston and the Cramers were both tender and full of tension due to Ray's obvious inner conflict; we don't know his full story yet, but there are hints that he may not be a murderer after all. Who is Ray, what drives him? And what's the deal with his creepy wife Vanessa? Yeah, I said creepy. She creeps me out. The actress is fine, but Mrs. Montez comes off straight shady to me. She does perk up the scenes with Cris, which is a good thing, but I've always felt David Fumero was best in less action-packed or suspenseful stories, that he exceled in stories where he could simply be the down to earth, solid guy he clearly portrays. Mellow Cristian as action hero has never worked for me, and it doesn't now, but I'm willing to give it a shot because so far l'affaire Montez, with Clint, Dorian and the Buchanan Enterprises conflict as its superstructure, is one of the most intriguing new stories OLTL has had in several months. Brittany Underwood plays brilliantly off Martinez, and Dorian's love for her adopted daughter was no more palpable than when she became choked up as she pled her case to Ray, in a moment when Dorian would normally be on the attack and screaming.
As to the BE side of things, Clint continues to justify his actions. He tells Asa's picture that he's doing what Asa would have done, and I imagine that he is absolutely correct. I approve of Clint's transformation into a new Asa as a fascinating outgrowth of his character, but I don't want Nora to stick with him. For goodness' sake, while she was crying over Matthew, Clint was looking at his watch! Sooner or later Nora's going to have stop turning a blind eye and face up to what her relationship has become, unless she's simply afraid to be alone. And I think she is. I want to see where this dirty duel will take Clint, Nora and Dorian, and I hope A Martinez will get a reprieve as Ray Montez and continue in Llanview.
(Incidentally, speaking of Matthew, I just want to say that Matthew as a high school freshman depressed me beyond all rational thought. I am not that old. Come on, this kid was like seven…last year? Maybe? Please? Oh, God. I feel like a fossil.)
I have to accuse OLTL of some prejudice this week. No, it's not about the lack of an African-American canvas, though that is unacceptable. I speak of a far more insidious form of stereotyping: The "body hair = evil" message sent to us with Brody Lovett's unbelievably edible chest. Let's look at the facts, shall we, ladies and gentlemen of the court? Cole: Smooth as a baby's bottom - good guy. Todd: Rugged and hairy - maniacal rapist. Rex: Shaved and glossy - nice fellow. Brody: Luscious furry manscape - Unstable war vet. Your witness! What's up with that, show? Brody sleeps in almost nothing (sigh!) on Gigi's couch, and suddenly, he's choking kids. I won't stand for this anti-fur campaign! In all seriousness, Brody is still hot as all get-out, and Mark Lawson is excellent, but I won't say I didn't see his breakdown coming. Brody has always been on the edge, and invested far too much of his own self in his fantasies about life with Gigi and Shane; instead of finding ways to deal with his own pain, he sought to try to suture the wounds in himself with their kindness. This doesn't make Brody an evil person, and fortunately I don't think OLTL has presented him that way. He is, however, unwell, and I just hope his downward spiral doesn't end with him dead. Then who will flash that manfur every week? I liked Gigi and Rex's tender scenes this week, even if I'm the only one; I feel they had a lighter, more deft and subtle touch in these episodes than they have had since the 1968 storyline began. Gigi and Rex are best when they're not totally frontburner and overexposed, and I remembered why I'd liked them by the end of the week. I'm happy to see Melissa Fumero again as Adriana, but apparently ol' "Ugliana" has learned absolutely nothing. She's still blaming all her own mistakes and flaws on everyone else. When Adriana withheld the truth from Rex and then plotted to help falsify Brody's DNA test, she became as complicit in the lies as Gigi and Brody in my mind, if not moreso, because she was the one closest to Rex until recently, the one he counted on to trust with his life and his care. Adriana started out as the person on the outside looking in on the melodrama with Rex and the Morascos, but she became one of the dirtiest players in the game. Like Brody, Adriana isn't evil either, and the show doesn't make her out to be; unlike Brody, I feel she is shallow and weak. And, again, like Brody, she invested too much of her own self-worth in loving Rex, and lost herself in the process. I'm glad Rex laid down the law, and I look forward to more drama with the Balsoms. This doesn't mean, however, that little Shane does not owe Gigi and Rex a world of grief for their foolishness in the last ten years - and I hope they get it with both barrels from their son.
So, that's that this time. Keep the great feedback coming! I'm grateful that I was able to rouse some passion in my readers - I was stunned I had that many readers! You guys are great, and I'll see you in two weeks. Pray for Brody and his chest! He's gonna need it.