At my last job I had to watch a lot of TV. It was a dream job in many ways; good money, good people, good location, almost no work. But the work we did have became extremely repetitious. See, at one point I was doing nothing but watching clips off music stations all day long. Just me, a carbonated beverage, and my weary eyes listening to a cacaphony of languages and suffering through miles of Europop. London, South America, Tokyo, Germany, Russia, South Korea... Wild, wacky stuff. Anyway, we kept having to watch music videos for weeks on end, and you understandably found yourself cycling through the same videos over and over. Me personally, I got saddled with what seemed like 24 hours a day of watching nothing but German pop import Tokio Hotel. If you know any young teenagers today, you have probably encountered Tokio Hotel at one point or another in the last year, and like me, you are probably sick to death of them. They are an extremely "emo" goth pop band led by a kid named Bill Kaulitz, this tiny little androgynous thing with the craziest haircut since Patti Labelle; as of 2008, their English-language debut is taking junior high schools across America by storm. The bane of my existence was one of their songs. Tokio Hotel's biggest hit in Germany for a long time was this sappy little ballad entitled "Spring Nicht." (translated: "Don't Jump") This was Tokio Hotel's attempt at social consciousness, urging the youth of Germany to not leap off rooftops if their refrigerators were low on brautwurst or lager. Day after day, I had nothing to do but watch the music video for "Spring Nicht" over and over, until all I wanted to do was jump off a roof. Everyday, Bill Kaulitz standing there emo'ing his little heart out as his spectral doppleganger leaps to his death, wailing, "Spring niiiichhhttt!!" at the top of his lungs. It was killing me. It got embedded in my brain, like some diabolical meme or subliminal message. So perhaps now, at the end of this rambling introduction, you understand why, when triple-rapist Todd threatened to top himself last week on the roof of the Palace Hotel, all I had running through my head was little Bill Kaulitz and his hedgehog hairstyle screaming "Spring niiiichhhttt!!"
But of course, Todd did "spring," and that's how we opened the week on OLTL: Todd's final act of self-pity. Personally, I thought if someone hit the water from that high up the fall would kill 'em, but not Todd! He took a couple slugs in the back and head, fell off a cliff in a car and still made it back to Llanview. But where does Todd go now as a character? What was the point of what happened? And what the heck else happened in Llanview this week? Well, for starters, Viki met Bess, Justis Bolding dashed out the back door like a criminal, Wes Grainger showed us his physique, David tried to assist the elderly, Scott Clifton joined the show, and Blair finally, blessedly gave Todd a piece of her mind, and hopefully some of his own back too. So let's talk about it.
Where to start but Todd, again. He goes off the roof pulling a face and making cow eyes at Marty. "This will make you happy?" WHUMP! "I tried! No, no blankets, I tried, Marty, I triiieddd!" Spare me. Fortunately, Blair showed up at Todd's the next day to give him a reality check. I gotta say, Blair took the words right of my mouth. When she tried to explain to him that she'd always accepted him, rape or no rape, and that she only ever wanted him to move forward and put his new family first - well, that to me is the truth that has been slapping Todd in the face for years. He constantly goes searching for Marty or Marty-surrogates to absolve him of his endless guilt, claiming he needs to find women who "unconditionally accept me and see me as just a man, not a rapist," but he fails to realize that Blair has, IMO at least, always been that woman who accepted him. To Blair, Todd was a man, a lover, a husband, a father first, and he consistently runs from that, maybe because she's a schemer like him, or maybe because she has a varied sexual history, because she is not the "pure" Madonna he (inaccurately) built Marty up as in his mind. If he can't get validation from Marty or Marty stand-ins, Todd doesn't see his future as "real," doesn't buy into it or accept his family or responsibilities. I think that's the problem, and I think that was the gist of a lot of what Blair was talking about this week. I admit my bias but those scenes were the first time I have really cared about Todd in almost a year. Those scenes were the first time in ages he has come off human, not psychotic, with real emotions and a character arc I can see onscreen! And yes, the chemistry was still there between the former Mr. and Mrs. Manning; he listened and reacted, tried to explain to her (and us) what had happened to him since his spiral into madness was triggered by Starr and Cole having sex. If things continue to proceed as they did this week with Todd and Blair, I would be open someday to another well-done reunion like the one Ron Carlivati penned in 2007, but that is a long way away to be very frank. Too much has to be done with Todd before then before I could accept him as a romantic lead again. As Blair told him, there is so much he doesn't face: His responsibility to his children. His past and present, and how he tried to bury himself in his fantasy with Marty. His second rape of Marty, which he dares to define as "consensual." What he tried to do to Starr. Todd has to learn to live all over again, to face his life and his family as it is in 2008, not 1993, and he has to start by paying for his crimes. I hope that OLTL will continue exploring Todd's rehabilitation and his "hard truths." Unfortunately, I fear that payback for Todd's dirty deeds may be a dream delayed. Why do I think Todd may not pay? Because the Palace Hotel suicide attempt seemed to make the story shift very abruptly into a new direction. All of a sudden everyone's talking about Todd and Blair and their connection, while Marty is off flirting with Wes and fighting with John. John even insinuated that Marty is "done with Manning for now." Okay, so...what happens to her revenge? Marty is still the victim here. Todd still manipulated her. He still raped her (again). Am I supposed to call the Todd/Marty duel 'even' and forget about that dynamic now that Todd jumped into the Llantano River? Well, it's not enough for this viewer; not nearly enough. Todd may become busy making amends to Blair and his children, but Marty still deserves justice, and I fear that this will get lost by the wayside. I don't accept what happened at the Palace, with Todd drowning in self-pity long before he hit the water, as the end of what Todd did to Marty.
If nothing else, the shift in focus in the "Tarty" saga this week gave us one dazzling new treat: Hello, Wes Grainger. I don't care what anyone says, that dude's body is nice. Not everyone has to be Michael Phelps, this guy will do me just fine. Yes, Party Marty has dove back into her old ways and she's proving that timeless adage that age ain't nothin' but a number 'cause you got amnesia when the van you were traveling in fell into a rock quarry in New Jersey! A lot of people say, oh, Marty shouldn't be doing this stuff, Susan Haskell's too old for that, and I say nonsense. Yes, Marty's behavior is rash and foolish and neglectful of her son, and her choices are not to be commended. But in terms of characterization, and Haskell's ability to play the scenes, IMO nothing much has changed since 1993, which is actually appropriate here since Marty is an amnesia patient. She has no concept of her true age, does not feel herself to be an older woman with a teenage son. The Marty of 2009 is lost, confused, and angry, feeling helpless, so naturally, she does what the young Marty of the '90s did: She raises hell. As for Haskell's looks, she's barely aged a day, and it's not unheard of in the days of Desperate Housewives for a young hunk like Wes to be all over an attractive older woman. And in the end, they didn't even have sex; instead, Wes and Marty just shared a touching heart-to-heart. I suspect Marty and Wes's connection will be more along the lines of the "former" Marty's casual relationships with guys like Jason Webb, but the scenes were lovely nonetheless. Until John showed up to play Inspector Sanctimony. Don't pretend like you can take down the Navy SEAL, John! Give me a break.
Wes's buddy Brody, however, remains in St. Anne's, putting a curb on their "bromance." (Or more? You can never tell with Wes's scenes.) Wes doesn't like pretty girls with multiple personalities sniffing around his "partner in crime!" Oh, Wes, you green eyed cutie. Actually, Brody's scenes with Jessica, as she apologized to him for Tess's insults, and Brody admitted that she was the closest thing he had to a friend in the hospital, were extremely moving for me. The interesting wrinkle is that you can see in his eyes that Brody is already starting to form a too-close attachment to Jessica given their current predicament; this is a common problem for people who meet up in certain types of medical treatment programs. I am excited about the possibility of a Brody and Jessica romance further down the road, but they would have to handle it honestly - people hook up in rehab or therapy all the time, and in the real world, such relationships rarely end well; usually, people are using those hook-ups to continue to self-medicate. Brody and Jessica would have to move past that stigma, and the writers would have to prove to us that their relationship would be based in something other than mutual illness and desperate camaraderie in close quarters. I believe Ron Carlivati can do that; I'm just looking forward to it.
Then there was Viki vs. Bess. Good times! I loved that Bess finally laid things out on the table with Viki regarding Jessica's molestation, telling her Jess didn't forgive her; while I feel for Viki deeply, this is an inescapable fact since Tess is a living expression of Jessica's repressed rage and trauma. And of course the other beat was when Jessica returned and insisted to Viki that she didn't blame her; Viki knows better. What will this mean for these characters' futures? I have no idea as of yet, but I am loving the mindgames with Jessica and her alters, and Viki and Natalie and Jared and everyone else in the mix. This story just keeps getting better, shocking since it is built on a derivative baby switch and a truly horrible fall storyline. I can't blame Viki for not letting Tess testify in court (even though she herself did as Niki, years ago), but I'm sure glad Nora has another option against Todd (more on that in a bit).
Hey, did you blink and miss Sarah leaving town? What was that? "I told ICE you were in a sham marriage! I hate you! I'm leaving town! Goodbye!" Five minutes at best. It was like Poochie the Dog's sudden exit from The Itchy & Scratchy Show on The Simpsons. And the day before she was hanging out in her apartment with Layla, without a word! Talia gave no sign of Sarah's sudden departure either. Did she plan to take her things? Did her roommates have any idea? Is Layla going to look up in two weeks and say "huh - it's quiet in here! Hey, Talia, why are we short on the rent?" They really gave Justis Bolding the bum's rush off the show. Not a single goodbye with anyone but Cristian. But it's the families I weep for. I found Justis inoffensive but bland; Sarah's the character I really care about, and they've never been able to get a true handle on her as an adult. Pairing her with Cristian, "Mr. Rorschach," the most vanilla blank slate possible, did not help. It's a problem that's not going to go away unless they really commit to the character and her family someday, and I hope they do; Cord and Tina and their kids are a goldmine waiting to happen. Meanwhile, Cristian is officially what the British tabloids call 'a love rat;' he wanted to keep Sarah on the side, but clearly is also infatuated with crazy Vanessa, whose attention he enjoys and whose wiles he can't resist. After all the long hard struggle to get and keep Sarah, including the Mendorra caper, Cristian tossed it aside because Vanessa is hot and mysterious. This negative, and brutally realistic light is rare and slightly intriguing for the boring Cristian, but it is bad for his already staid character. He's being such a typical, stereotypical "guy" about Vanessa and Sarah, he's gone from an amiable nice guy to someone who just wants to get laid, so why should we care what happens to him now? I say let her take him down like she did Ray. The only thing that livens this story up is the madcap joy of Teeeaaaaa Dellhhhhhaaaadddoooo, her amazing hair and clothes, and her thick accents on certain words. Téa's determined to get the truth, and no wooden young actresses like Lola will stand in her way! BTW, Téa's limp defense of Todd to Viki was oddly touching, as Viki rightly enumerated all the ways in which Todd had failed her and his family in the last year. Yes, Téa was (IMHO) wrong, but you understand why she feels as she does, and why she'll never change - why she's so strong with other people like the Montezes, but crumples in the face of Todd's dysfunction, dying to defend it. Anyway, the more Téa this Montez storyline has, the better. She is its saving grace.
Hey, did you know marijuana is a dangerous gateway drug? Neither did Cole and Matthew! I can't blame Matthew for wanting to get high with that haircut, but boy this "Reefer Madness" thing is already pretty heavy-handed. And what a cliche drug dealer! Ski hat, stringy hair; you know that dayplayer is cute when they stop dressing him down. All he needed was a boom box blaring 311 and it would be totally late '90s. Was Eddie Alderson that good in Clint Eastwood's Changeling? Because he's a nice kid, but he's never really flexed the acting muscles on our show, to put it mildly. I'll wait and see, but I am skeptical that Our Eddie can handle such a heavy story, even one about the dangers of that devil weed!! I feel for Hillary Smith having to stare at Matthew's joint like it was a swastika badge. Meanwhile, down the hall in AP Science, Scott Clifton has come all the way from Port Charles to teach high school kids. He's awfully young, but I've always liked Clifton and I'll give him a whirl, even if the idea of Starr "with" Mr. J is vomit-inducing. Also, the Dr. Joplin connection seems a threadbare basis for a continuing presence on the show. Of course, hopefully Ron Carlivati will find deeper roots for Schuyler than that. Tread carefully, Ron. Nobody wants to watch teens in winter. Are you listening, Brian Frons, since this was probably your idea? No, of course you're not, stupid question.
Then there was "David Vickaroshi." There have been so many unbelievable racy, priceless lines in the scripts these last couple weeks as part of this storyline that I am amazed OLTL got it past the censors. David asking Carlotta to "hold my staff?" Alex talking about David's DNA being found all over La Boulaie?! David talking about finding true happiness "deep within the groin?!!" Oh man. It may be comic but this Buchanan Enterprises story with David's return is still an embarrasment of riches, with every twist interlocking with another story beat effortlessly in that Carlivati way; David confesses Dorian's drugging to Viki and Charlie, Viki and Charlie chase Dorian, who flees to St. Blaze's with Blair's ticket, where she meets Alex and Beaver Calhoun, who is already looking for David...it all fits! HBS and JVD deserve kudos for their impeccable comic timing opposite Tuc Watkins this week, especially Hillary; her facial reactions to David's "turn to the light" have been priceless. And who can forget "Clint, can I get you a chair or something soft to sit on?" Just gold! And we still don't have any clue where it's going. Is David faking? Is he for real? Will he take the money and run when and if he learns he's a Buchanan? Will he try to run the company? And what about Dorian? This story has me on the edge of my seat, and I challenge it as a shining example to anyone who says OLTL doesn't use veterans. I could do with a little more Natalie and Jared, but Natalie is building up the Chloe story, and now Jared is tangling with David, so I expect more good times to come rolling down the pike.
Finally, this week saw the return of Janet Ketring, a.k.a. Lee Halpern a.k.a. Carol Dennison a.k.a. lovely character actress Janet Zarish. Crazy-ass Janet, who ditched Marty in her time of greatest need and let Todd bed her patient, is still skulking around Llanview, which is conveniently stupid of her since Nora desperately needs her testimony to nail Todd. I hope the LPD can track her down, because Todd has got to go down for something. Was Janet the one videotaping everyone around Llanview on Friday? I guess, but for what purpose? And now she's dragged her old boss Renee into things, a neat use of history. Don't screw with Pat Elliott, Janet. She'll cut your hair too!
So there you go. Suicide attempts, Wes's pecs, Blair laying down the law, Viki and alters, David making women hold his staff, and the evils of marijuana. All in all, a pretty good week for the show despite a few dog storylines. A nice start to 2009 for me. See you in two weeks, and remember, spring nicht!