Good news! No long diatribes this week in Two Scoops. That's right, you can put away your reading glasses and stop popping amphetamines to remain conscious through my florid prose. But before we go further, let me just take a minute to thank everybody for last time. I am grateful for getting most of what I've had to say about the repulsive turn in the Todd and Marty storyline out of my system two weeks ago, and I appreciate you all for listening. I especially thank you folks for writing in and airing your feelings about the story. I'm glad to see I wasn't alone in my disgust. Many of the insights and perspectives offered to me by readers were truly profound, and in some cases, deeply saddening, particularly from those who wrote about personal experiences. I think with these kinds of stories, especially in a genre that is still geared towards women, daytime has a certain amount of a "sacred trust" it is expected to preserve with its audience, even in this day and age; we expect it to progress with the times, and understand what it should and should not do. For instance, Luke and Laura, or Bill and Laura Horton on Days of our Lives - two tortured relationships which included rape - tapped into a strain of romantic fiction still popular in the '70s, but that chapter of their romance would not be considered acceptable today. As we as a people evolve, daytime has evolved with it, so when I see something that I consider regressive - such as the potential for "rape-as-romance" with Todd and Marty - I feel compelled to speak about it. Obviously, you readers did too. Thank you for doing so. Your voices have been heard. And now, lo and behold, so has Marty's.
Yes, it was a wild week of big finishes in Llanview, and I was both pleased and displeased, all told. Surprisingly, it was the slam-bang confrontation between Todd, Marty and John that satisfied me this time, whereas the "shock twist" of the…of the….yawn…oh, I'm sorry, I must have nodded off, the (yawn) shocking "baby switch" by Jessica's all-new alter, "Bess," just put me to sleep. I mean, dead babies are so 2004, y'all. You can only run the characters and the audience through their paces with these "baby switch" stories so many times before I have each scene anticipated and memorized by rote. So it was with this storyline. But it wasn't all snoozeville at the end of Llanview this week. We got more of Tina and Cain, we got Charlie the hero, and we finally got Jared and Natalie out of that frickin' room. All that plus Vanessa looking evil. So let's dish.
Firstly, I must lament the impending loss of Our Tina, banished from Fronsvision for want of Andrea Evans having an East Coast residence. For shame, ABC! It's not like a West Coast commuter is an uncommon story in daytime soaps. I get the feeling that if it was Vanessa Marcil flying back and forth we wouldn't be in this pickle - yes, I know, GH films in California, nevermind. Regardless, I am trying to soak up every precious remaining hour we have with Tina, and so I loved her whole bit with Cain and the puppies despite myself. And that's emblematic of what the whole problem's been with Tina's return, though I've enjoyed it: Often, her scenes can be very funny, very smartly-done comedy, as those recent scenes were. But they were just plain out of place in the middle of the pulse-pounding climax of the Tess storyline. Tina seemed to have quarked off into the Twilight Zone of storylines, and only finally made her return to the rest of the canvas late this week. While I was proud to see Tina take some responsibility, I felt for the loss of Tina's relationships with both Viki and Natalie, and I pray Andrea Evans will return from time to time so we can continue to see a running arc for Tina's character. Ron Carlivati hasn't even begun to broach the material with Tina's children and their issues with her and Cain, which led to their running away from her during their time away from Llanview. He hasn't redeemed her to her family, to her son or to Cord. If Tina runs off with Cain, I can't see what progress she will have made. Cain's a great character, but according to Sarah, her crime-filled romance with Cain is what made her a Llanview exile and a deadbeat mother in the first place.
Speaking of Sarah, the whole Roberts family is already engaged in quite a death march. Justis Bolding seems to be not long for the show herself, as Vanessa and her freaky gaze swan around Cristian's "Rhythm Nation" loft in her sexy negligee of death. No one seems to find anything suspicious about her incredibly creepy behavior or her scary, inappropriate grins, like at her arraignment, or when she talks about shooting people. "Let's do it anyway, Sarah!" Cristian complains. "Vanessa won't mind! And the underage teenager we took in probably can't hear us upstairs in the bedroom with no walls!" You gotta be kidding me. If I was Sarah I'd lie awake all night looking out for Vanessa and her beady insect eyes. Soon, Cristian will come to realize that Vanessa truly is, as Ray told Antonio, "a SPIIII-DEERRRRRR!!!" But by then, it will be too late for his relationship, as Sarah will surely be off in soap limbo again. Poor Sarah, I actually like her. And I'm already tired of the "intrigue" with Cris and Vanessa. If she wasn't so obviously shady, it might work. But this chick makes Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct look like a choirgirl.
Doing like half a dozen shows on Broadway a week has clearly not hindered Charlie's heroic physicality. Three cheers for Mr. Banks for doing the Hail Mary with Tess's homemade bomb! It's been a silly story all around but I just loved that OLTL let Viki and Charlie get in on the action in a major way for the dramatic conclusion to the "secret room" caper; it proves that they are still vital, central characters who matter instead of just standing around fretting while young bucks do all the heavy lifting. That kind of story presence is important to veteran characters, so I'm glad Viki and Charlie got their due, and got to share a romantic moment to boot. Just kiss her, Charlie.
And then there was the…yawn…I'm sorry, the "baby switch." So now we've got "Bess." While I don't mind a junior Jean Randolph in principle, she seemed slapped together as a characterization; in fact, this whole story turn came off so slipshod, ill-advised and tired in how it was presented onscreen. First of all, how many times did I really need to see the dead baby puppet? If at all? Were they paying by the hour for the use of some sort of sophisticated piece of animatronic equipment (which never moved)? By the end of Wednesday I was prepared to start a drinking game; "chug every time they unnecessarily show the dead infant's face for no good reason." Was that close-up view really essential for the storytelling, OLTL? Gross, just gross. Plus, it's not like we haven't had way too many stolen/lost baby capers in the last few years. ABC Daytime has come to rely on this morbid fascination with women's reproductive systems, and on "the miracle of birth" being used as part of some sort of inverse disaster scenario and emotional crucible, and I'm really just tired of it. I dreaded Starr, Blair, Marcie and Cole's anguish over the "death" of young Hope, and I felt for them, but at the same time, I already knew everything they were going to do at least a week in advance. All that remained for me as a viewer was to slog through scenes I had seen many times before, in a story that is now poised to once again eat up months of valuable time. It's descended to the level of some sort of strange "dead baby kabuki theater," the same rituals and scenarios and emotions eked out over and over, which I'd already seen with Tommy/Sam in 2007, and 2006, and Ace in 2004, and Miranda, and Babe Carey's dead child, and Sonny and Carly's dead baby, and… You get the idea, right? Right. I'd like to hope Ron C. will do something different with this story, if it was his idea at all. Brian Frons seems to dig these dead babies. Sigh. It does help that Dorian seems to already be on to Dr. Joplin. And at least we're done with the secret room, and Jessica is back. Bring on St. Anne's. And more Brody, if he's headed there too. I'm just speculating here, but I am already a potential Brody and Jessica shipper. Buy your t-shirts and Livejournal avatars now.
As to the guy indirectly responsible for the baby switch, well, Todd got almost everything he deserved this week, save death or mutilation at the hands of Marty. After so many wrongheaded, offensive choices and missteps with this storyline in the last two months, I'd expected OLTL to fumble this material, especially since I'd heard in advance that John would be the one physically assaulting Todd as Marty stood by and watched. But fortunately, it didn't quite play out that way. In John's defense, Marty is still very weak and would not have been capable of rendering the proper beating on Todd that I would have liked to see her personally effect. Also, while John rightly attacked Todd upon hearing that he had bedded his rape victim, it was Marty that got the last word, making Todd stare down the barrel of a gun and explaining to him just why his "transformation" into a new man was a load of crap.
Todd (and OLTL) finally let us in on his whole thought process this week, as he waxed rhapsodic about the earthshaking effect Marty had had on his life, his mind and his sense of being. It seemed to me that Todd was in deadly earnest, and was being completely honest with both Marty and John about how he felt and what he thinks he's become, in being with Marty. The only problem is, as Marty said, "you used me." Nothing Todd and Marty had in that house, nothing they "did together," was done with her own full knowledge, or sense of context, or consent; however he pretended it was, she became a chess piece, something Todd manipulated to achieve a desired result, in this case, his own personal catharsis and "cleansing." But what makes Todd's full disclosure so sad and pathetic is that he still doesn't realize, in his euphoria, that none of what he feels happened is real, or counts, if he had to take it, or fake it. On her own, with an awareness and an understanding of her circumstances, even if she'd just been told the truth and not remembered it, Marty would never have given Todd what he feels has set him free. His release from his pain is false, because it was predicated on more lies, more manipulation, and yes, more rape. Despite all OLTL has done wrong with this storyline, I feel it should be applauded for having Marty and John both say, repeatedly, that Todd has raped Marty again, and for not shying away from that bottom line. I hope they'll not try to muddy the waters in the future. But I was wrong when I said Todd was an animal in my last column. Judging by his desperate, manic explanations this week, he's simply a sick, pitiful creature who will never understand. I was glad Marty got her chance to stand up and unload her fury on Todd, and chose to make him suffer and pay in front of the world. Susan Haskell's performance was incandescent, and reminded me of why she will always be a profound asset to this show no matter what the storyline. I can't wait to see her reunited with her friends and family, and yeah, I'll admit it: I even welled up when Cole saw Marty.
So Marty is back, and Llanview's finally got her. Now the question is, what will keep the rest of the townsfolk from ripping Todd limb from limb like they should? And how long must my tired eyelids endure this all-new, all-not different baby switch? And when will Helen Keller or Ray Charles turn up to tell Cristian, "Hey - Vanessa's evil?" And can I pay Andrea Evans' airfare myself? And why has Brody had his shirt on in all his meager scenes in the last two weeks? You don't have to untie him, just take his shirt off! Consider it! I'm influential, I know people! (Not really.) That's a wrap, ladies and gentlemen. See you in two weeks.