Okay, first: Automatic props to any eagle-eyed Grand Theft Auto IV enthusiasts who caught the ref in the front page teaser. It just worked for me, what can I say. Yes, it was a busy week in Llanview... Two kids are in the hospital, Blair's still in a medically-induced coma, and Schuyler's unemployment and inevitable residence in the fleabag Angel Square Hotel means he is now two minutes away from living in a van down by the river. Cole's booked for a suite in the big house thanks to his wacky vehicular manslaughter, but he STILL! can't resist having one.more.Mentos. (BTW, this is me avoiding all the TV-M off-color "Cole goes to prison" jokes. See? I'm practically Loretta frickin' Young here.) Stacy discovered the identity of Rex's Mystery Dad with a classic James E. Reilly offscreen reveal. "So that's who the Salem Stalker is! Of course!" Brody and Jessica tried to put a pin in their burgeoning lust, yet somehow this did not result in another Angsty Naked Shower Scene for our Lt. Lovett; I have already sent reams of angry snail mail to the OLTL studios, and I encourage my readers to do likewise until Brody resumes his emo showers. (You So) Crazy Téa regained a thin patina of sanity and went all "Single Ladies" on Todd, except she failed to do the dance from the video or! the legendary Gwen Verdon "Mexican Breakfast" dance number it was inspired by, so no snaps to her there. Well, maybe some. Marty and Nora had a Lifetime-worthy meltdown over their shared trauma, as Haskell and Smith wiped the floor with all comers to the throne. Meanwhile, a serial killer, another frickin' serial killer still stalks the populace, leaving scraps of paper, unwanted numerological accessories and for all I know, maybe also some Alpha-Bits cereal on his victims to spell out his dastardly message. Yet on top of all of that, it's important that none of us get it twisted, okay - Starr Manning and her epic drama are all that matters! She lost a baby! A baby named Hope! When Hope died, it was like hope died!!!111eleventy No one understands what she died from! And now with her mother half-stabbed to death and her over-21 crush out on the street, there are two less people available to listen to her talk about it 24-7! I'm not sure you're grasping the full range of symbolism here; the baby's name was Hope and it died and why aren't you paying attention?! I don't care if your psychotic cousin is stealing your man, Langston! Eyes portside! Look at me! Long story short (too late), I have loved Kristen Alderson's work since she was a wee little thing, but every time the character gets face time these days it becomes The Starr Manning Show, and I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of it. We'll get back to her in a little bit, but before Starr starts whining again, let's try and cover everyone else on the show, as if they mattered...
Firstly, let's take a look at the Morascos' struggle with leukemia, plus Rex's still-a-Mystery Dad. This week taught us that not only is Stacy Fatal Attraction Glenn Close crazy, she is also Kimberlin Brown/Sheila Carter crazy - like Sheila, Stacy has no problem breaking out the "muscles of the insane" psycho wrestling moves. She slapped Roxy around like a turn of the century child laborer. Let's see if I get away with that joke. Anyway, having found Mystery Dad and discovered his identity, Stacy now apparently plans to broker some sort of deal with Gigi by claiming that Mystery Dad's oh-so-positive marrow is hers and trading it to Shane for...well, meticulous scientific research indicates that she will probably want Rex for herself. And God, what a tired twist. Here's what I always wonder about characters like Stacy when they do stuff like this: Are they really that blindly crazy? Do they honestly believe that the object of desire will readily submit to being handed over by their mate? That Rex will just suck it up after hating Stacy and be like, "well, I guess if Gigi doesn't want me for some strange reason after you gave her your bone marrow to save Shane, I can give you a whirl, date rape or no date rape?" Because she already knows Rex doesn't like her. How's she think this is going to work? That of course begs the question to OLTL's creative team as to exactly what kind of soap villain Stacy is, because so far, her childhood obsession with Rex and her plan to make Gigi 'give' an unwilling Rex to her screams classic soap psycho. Do they intend to write her out of that, or just write her out? Because that kind of blind, bullheaded insistence on La Stace's part is very Sheila Carter, or Tracy James. Remember Tracy James? With the Doberman? Kept Larry Wolek in her basement, I think? I've only seen bits and pieces, but just looking at pictures of that woman you knew she was damn crazy. It's the eyes. Despite Stacy's lame schemes, I actually find much of the leukemia drama very affecting, especially when we saw the community at large come together at the Buenos Dias, or when Rex shaved his head. The real connective tissue came in the work done by John-Paul Lavoisier, Ilene Kristen and young Austin Williams, whose performance when he learned of his diagnosis was particularly realistic. So often soaps hire untrained kids for minor roles and the children throw away big scenes like that with wooden recitations; Williams kept it real. Farah Fath is extremely rough when it comes to dramatic scenes but she's improving, and I'd still like Gigi and would rather watch her than Stacy or sadly, Starr. And I am still very into the Mystery Dad over-arc, but I hate it when shows do the Jim Reilly Offscreen Reveal. In fact, South Park kind of parodied it last week with the non-reveal of kid superhero "Mysterion." "Of course! It was him all along!" Just tell me! It's Mitch, right? Right? Sigh.
Also worthy of praise this week: The grand fallout from Mr. Thornhart's Wild Ride. Just about everyone in the storyline brought it, from the youngsters like Eddie Alderson and even Brandon Buddy, to the grown-ups like Robert S. Woods, but most especially those twin titans, Hillary B. Smith and Susan Haskell. I teased them about being "Lifetime TV" in my intro, but there's a reason Lifetime (and daytime) has its viewer base; soapy tearjerker drama is still its own art form, when done right. Showbiz has been proving that since Mary Pickford. Smith and Haskell may not be playing the eternal adolescent like Pickford, but they have a goldmine of history, emotion, and angst to draw on when working together, and they really delivered this week. Marty and Nora's frayed BFF relationship has taken the mother of all hits thanks to Cole's accident, yet Nora's heart still couldn't take her brutal, thoughtless comment about how Marty should've stayed dead, nor could she allow the guilt-stricken Marty to rip herself apart. These women are not Central Casting bimbos or primetime-ready bitches or vixens; they are not Aaron Spelling dittoheads whose relationships blossom, twist and wither within a forty-five minute time span depending on who's stolen whose man. Marty and Nora truly love each other, and their relationship, amnesia or no amnesia, accident or no accident, is one of precious few enduring female friendships that I can still find on ABC Daytime. Watching their bond be put through the wringer, their bond and all the other family and friend bonds in this story, is the essence of daytime, not mere sex, violence or sweeps stunts. I also have to give it to Eddie Alderson and Brandon Buddy for selling their difficult reunion as Cole (who BTW they clearly need to frisk better - is he even detoxing yet?) and Matthew, post-accident; one gets the impression that Matthew is still holding most of his anger in, and hopefully he'll get an outlet soon. We now know Alderson can do well with good material, and he's finally getting it. Now they just need to keep Matthew crippled for a while, in order to properly do this storyline justice. And don't think I've forgotten about Bo and Nora. Oh snap, y'all. I love it when Clint randomly appears in scenes to interrupt them, then disappears again. "I just stopped by to player-hate. See you guys next week."
Marty may love Nora, but she's not forgotten her priorities. She got a lawyer for Cole this week, and of course it just happened to be our favorite crazy bitch, Téa Delgado! "Short-term gig?" Whatchu talkin' about, soap magazines, she's still here, large and in charge! And let's face it, Téa and her crazy can take anyone in court. I love that Marty and Téa have formed a reluctant partnership, and by love, I mean, in an Olivia and Natalia Guiding Light way. Seriously, people. I'd take Marty with Téa over John and Marty; at least these two have a consistently incendiary onscreen chemistry that does not threaten to get bogged down in self-righteousness. I expect Téa has more than a professional motive, however; she's finally regained a sliver of stability by telling Todd off, but knowing Téa as I do, I feel her rejection of him had much more to do with realizing that she always came in last place for him than with any new rationality. I'm not sure of how much of Téa's newfound 'good' behavior I can take as genuine righteous indignation as opposed to just the spite of the spurned lover, and that's part of what makes her screwed-up character so fascinating. I think using Marty and John against Todd will once again go back to being all about Todd for Téa; he's her sick fix, and while she knows he's bad for her and only cares for himself in their equation, she's only ever really wanted men who were bad for her, so she could be bad with them. Actually, Téa had some chemistry with McBain this week - Florencia Lozano was selling those scenes. At least with Téa, John's studied contempt for the women who touch him would make in-character sense. He doesn't like her, but that doesn't mean she's not fierce.
By the way, about Todd: His latest crackpot custody scheme is utterly insane. Like, bugnuts. Are they trying to make me want Todd even deader than I already did after Todd/Marty? Does Trevor St. John want to leave the show or something? Yes, bravo to Jack for telling him off, but for Todd to try yet again to steal the kids from their comatose mother (his second try at a Coma Grab - classy) after raping Marty a second time and trying to steal Starr's kid defies an adequate, non-profane description. I wouldn't let Todd have custody of a lawn ornament these days. He might rape it. This is just crazy, people. I don't get it. IDGI - see, I just resorted to Internet acronym. I am now a fourteen-year-old Myspace user. What is OLTL trying to do with Todd? Is their intention really to ruin him, or take him past the point of no return? Todd's motivation is murky at best (he's been fine with the kids being left with Dorian before); the actor is talented, the character is rich with history, but seems headed down a repetitious path of two-dimensional, thinly-plotted villainy and relentless alienation from all friends and family left on the canvas. I'm sure he's not the serial killer spelling out "KAD" on his victims, but if the show hopes to redeem the character to a fraction of what he used to be they have got to bring him back from the brink. Incidentally, about the letter under Blair's finger, I liked that story better when it was on Twin Peaks. The owls are not what they seem, McBain! Blair's going back to Missoula, Montana! Call me when The Little Man From Another Place shows up.
Jared and Natalie were finally released from Story Limbo these last couple weeks and came back with a vengeance, handily solving the Chloe/Hope case in what must be record time. Once again, sadly, they seem to be holding a huge secret and having to keep it from the family "for the greater good," remaining sexy while doing so - this really won't end well. I only hope Jared and Nat find a new way to work this caper out as opposed to "do nothing," the brilliant plan (but great story!) that resulted in Dead Nash last year. Jessica's finally settling into Life With "Chloe" and is flirting up a storm with Brody - they're hot - so I can understand Natalie's conflict, but Jared made a very good point when he said that if their suspicions are correct, that means Jess is not integrated and everyone is still in danger. I can't imagine what Jess's psyche is in for when this all falls apart; talk about repeat trauma! I'm frankly ready for Jessica to stop being the go-to "agony aunt" and having some love in the afternoon - or at least burgeoning romance, she's still a new widow - with Our Man Brody. Girl needs a break, and not a mental one. Isn't Chloe/Hope adorable though? Man oh man.
Brody and Jessica weren't the only ones mixing their chemistry tests at the Buenos Dias this week (Viki and Charlie shout-out goes here, BTW, we miss you); the drive towards Cristian and Layla continued as Cristian paid a visit to Evangeline in Silver Spring, Maryland, it is Silver Spring, singular, I lived near there, get it right, and then clashed with Layla over all sorts of rudimentary gender politics which is all really just a fancy-dress rehearsal for Our Next Romance. I thought Cris and Layla both made decent points against each other, especially when Layla called him on using Evangeline as a crutch to excuse himself, but Cris endlessly calling her a 'bitch' didn't really sell his points, nor do I think Layla drove Vincent away; Vincent Jones was a thug whose relationship with Layla I never understood or believed in, and she did nothing to make him cheat. In my opinion, Layla's real weakness as a person is her "follower" clique instinct; upon coming to the show, she partnered up with Evangeline and Adriana and instantly become their henchman, blindly following what they believed instead of developing her own sense of self or opinions about people. Now granted, this is as much a fault of the writers' lack of interest in giving Layla a real personality as it is the fictional character, but I'm looking at this from inside a story perspective so bear with me. The brittle materialism and snobbery Layla picked up from Adriana was what poisoned her non-relationship with Fish, who she blew off, just as Cris said. I like Cristian and Layla's chemistry but the writing seems very lazy, since the characters just aren't that inspiring. At least they appear to be approaching each other with a degree of honesty previously unrealized. That's something.
Did I say Jessica was becoming an "agony aunt?" Well, she's got nothing on the reigning princess - our Me TV Girl of the week, Starr Manning. Yes, we're back to her, because in case you forgot, the show is still All About Starr and every time she's onscreen, she refuses to let me forget it. Starr seems to me like she'd be the Queen of Twitter; the only problem is her every Twitter (Tweet?) would be the same thing. "1:00 PM - Thought about Hope. I can't believe she's gone! 1:03 PM - If only Matthew had been wearing his seatbelt that night, he would have been protected in the crash. If not for me and Cole not using protection, we would never have made Hope at all. Do I regret that...? 1:08 PM - Mr. J got fired, OMG! He would never have been fired if not for me and Cole, and Cole wouldn't be using drugs if we hadn't lost Hope! 1:12 PM - Langston says Lola is giving Markko shifty eyes and kissing her with uncontained lust. The same kind of uncontained lust Cole and I felt that night last year when we made Hope! And now she's gone! Can you believe it? Me neither! Langston, where are you going?" Enough. Somehow, Blair's stabbing, Cole's accident, Matthew's paralysis, and I'm sure, in one way or another, Shane's cancer are all about Starr and poor Hope. Poor, poor Hope. Seriously, OLTL? Enough. We know Kristen Alderson is the young heroine. We've watched her and loved her for years. But, I just can't take this anymore. Somehow, whenever Starr gets into a scene, she manages to turn it around to be about her in a minute flat. It's got to stop; it makes me want to bleed from the eyes. Recapping it is difficult enough, especially when she goes on these long woolgathering monologues about Hope and Cole and the recent past. At this point, they all sound the same, and I start having to restrain the Pavlovian "Dr. Strangelove" response to turn off the TV. I'll always love Starr as a character, but she's been rendered so milquetoast and so self-absorbed (worst of all, we're apparently not supposed to see her that way) that I can no longer stand it when she appears. She won't even leave Schuyler in peace, and I like their chemistry. How am I supposed to like them and grow into them when she never leaves him alone? She's always doing the most inappropriate or hysterical thing, especially with her teacher, and it's killing me, it really is. If Starr is going to help carry the show into the future, the character has to seriously dial back the histrionics, the waterworks and the endless "me me me me." Where is Starr's backbone? Where is the fire we remember? Where's her strength? All she does is cry and whine. That's not the little girl Todd and Blair (and we!) raised. Give me something to work with, ABC Daytime. I'm willing if you're willing.
Starr and her Me Channel aside, OLTL had a pretty solid week; real family drama mixed with new romance and excellent performances. As we leave bizarro March Sweeps, I hope the quality continues to improve and the more questionable stories start sorting themselves out. I'm looking at you, endless John/Marty quadrangle. And you, crazy serial killer story. And you...Stacy. Until next time, guys, please remember, it's not about you. It's about Starr.