Dirty little thrill
For the Week of May 4, 2009
Why is a storyline harkening back to the Spring Fling gang-rape centered around John McBain? Hasn't the show learned by now that mystery storylines revolving around John always fail?
It's your classic valentine: Big-haired girl meets big-haired boy who's in prison for rape. Big-haired boy cons big-haired girl into believing he wants to repent, then breaks out and takes her hostage. Big-haired boy and big-haired girl fall in love on the run. Big-haired boy is pardoned, but big-haired girl runs from her feelings and becomes engaged to preppy guy. Preppy guy turns out to be the town's new rapist, so big-haired girl decides she can't win and leaves town, only to return years later as a psychopath in league with preppy guy, out to murder everyone connected with big-haired boy lo those many years ago. Same old story, right? Well, that's what we dealt with last week on One Life to Live, as we met the "KAD Killers," plural, and they're our old friends, Powell Lord the Third (get it right) and holy roller Rebecca Lewis. Powell is still played by uber-creepy Sean Moynihan, who has these insanely beautiful-freaky eyes and hasn't aged a microsecond, while Rebecca is played by...this other lady. Not her original portrayer, the great Reiko Aylesworth, late of 24 and currently appearing on Lost. I have to say, I didn't see Rebecca turning out like this but it doesn't totally throw me. But it still makes for a tragic case, and we may as well talk about why.
I have vivid memories of the tortured Todd and Rebecca romance in the early '90s; as a young viewer, they were one of my favorite couples, and Rebecca one of my favorite characters. Reiko Aylesworth's huge eyes were so expressive, and her earnestness was sincere and didn't make her into a caricature or dim her "unholy" passion for a man who spat in the face of everything Rebecca hoped to stand for. A church girl seduced by the ultimate bad boy, Rebecca couldn't say no when Todd marked himself as her "dirty little thrill;" she'd come to Llanview an angel looking for deliverance, and found it in the arms of a devil. Rebecca tried to get Todd out of her mind by getting involved with supposed goody-goody Powell (a bit of an oxymoron, since Powell had raped Marty right along with Todd), but Powell turned out to be the notorious "hospital rapist," having suffered a complete psychotic break due to his actions in the KAD frathouse on the night of the Spring Fling. The milquetoast had become the menace. I loved the hospital rapist story, and I wept when Rebecca limped out of town, a broken, defeated shell of a woman; I grew to love Todd and Blair, but there was something forlorn, exotic and strange in Todd and Rebecca that has never been fully captured with Todd's storylines since. I can believe that in her ensuing years, Rebecca, always a tormented soul, has lost her grip on her shaky mental faculties and become fixated on Todd and Powell once more...if the acting and writing make me believe it, and if the storyline has a valid purpose. But so far, I'm not sure this "KAD killer" story does.
There are several problems with this storyline, but two huge ones: John and Todd. Why is a storyline harkening back to the Spiring Fling gang-rape centered around John McBain? Why is he our eyes and ears? Why is every longtime character, even those who were there, merely along for the ride, with Marty riding sidecar? Hasn't the show learned by now that mystery storylines revolving around John always fail? And then there's Todd, whose character seems to be stuck in a perverse kind of neutral; he does little these days other than avoid the storyline, mugging and smarming his way through scenes while boffing Téa up against every available surface. Trevor St. John and Florencia Lozano's chemistry is incendiary, and Todd and Téa's twisted rapport is mesmerizing at times, but I can never shake my memories of what Todd did just last November, and how he has failed to repent, doesn't even seem to care anymore. So my question is, does Todd care? Do the show's writers and producers? Are we simply supposed to forget that Todd is once again a rapist, once again a babysnatcher? When did it become okay for Todd to go back to being a debonair rogue, much less a sexually-charged ladykiller or a comic figure? Sean Moynihan's performance as Powell is spine-tingling, whereas Todd, who should have a central and complex role, is instead on the fringes of this story, playing a kind of STD-ridden Cary Grant to Téa's sadomasochistic Katharine Hepburn; the disconnect between characters and story tone is extremely jarring. I have no doubt Trevor St. John can play serious material, but OLTL seems frightened of letting Todd be anything but insubstantial, unwilling to rock the boat after the disastrous Todd/Marty story, so they simply take no position on the character anymore at all. For what Todd is, for his indelible and complex historical role on the show, that is narrative cowardice. If Powell and Rebecca have indeed been reintroduced to remind Todd and us of his former sins, why is Todd still being a skeevy rake, brutally ordering his children around like furniture? Why doesn't he seem to care about anything except, as always, getting what he wants when he wants it? And why do we have to watch yet another story about women being victimized and occasionally murdered? The verdict is still out on "Rebecca #2," Jessica Kaye, and the sound writing or lack thereof of Rebecca's profound character change. I hope that Ron Carlivati proves me wrong on this storyline, and that what's become of Rebecca is the catalyst Todd needs to become a whole, human person again, however ugly he may be...not the "freak he turned into," as Starr called him on Friday. If they are going to play off Todd's history, then Todd needs to be worthy of the storytelling; it's time for a direction for this character again, and a commitment to revitalizing him. I don't know who I'm watching these days, but it's not Todd; just an echo of him.
Speaking of Todd, Téa's giving in to him - and getting duped once again during the custody case - utterly fails to surprise. It's her role in life. It's very strange to see Todd and Téa, once the monastic couple with a "soulful connection" which went "deeper than sex" (which they weren't having, then) is now the couple of easy one-nighters and torrid romps all over the courtroom. But the nastiness, the masochism, the headgames are the same; the sexual component is simply on the outside now, as opposed to being locked in. I see little change, frankly. Poor Téa just can't help herself, just can't win. Even R.J., beautiful R.J., can't tear her away from her favorite mistake! BTW, if these recent appearances on Téa's arm are R.J.'s only role upon his return to Llanview, color me fuschia for furious. Fuschia works, right? You guys think so? Y/N?
Jack and Sam readily accepted Todd getting custody, but understandably, Starr was unhappy; it kept her away from Cole's handheld camera freakout back at La Boulaie. What a time our young Thornhart had, finally detoxing, and yet I find his struggle, despite some very gouda/cheddar moments (such as Starr's painful third-person fairy tale), infinitely more realistic and compelling than, say, Al Holden's fight with addiction from several years ago. While I cared more for Al as a character due to his prior history, I find myself caring more for Cole in the moment now due to the realistic way his drug rehabilitation has been presented. Whereas Al spent a mere episode or two with Marcie and was good to go, Cole's stumbled and fallen from shaky sobriety more than once or even thrice; he's finally making a rocky go of detox, with no one to hold his hand. His hallucinatory visions of Nora, Schuyler, and Marty were harrowing stuff, and Eddie Alderson turned in probably his best performance ever as a malicious spectre of Matthew, rising like Lazarus from his chair to force Cole out of the bedroom window. I don't know where Cole's going next, but I hope the character stays entrenched in gritty realities and not soppy teen romance; he's finally become interesting. Also: Really nice arms. It was a gun show, y'all.
Speaking of Eddie Alderson, I'll admit he's improved by leaps and bounds in the last year or two; he acquitted himself very well in some very clunky, subtext-laden scenes at Llanview High this week where the other kids, led by Munchkin King Justin and his Lollipop Guild, went all Lord of the Flies on Matthew, ready to "kill the pig," as the book says. Frankly, he was better than the "OK I GET IT" material, and I continue to be troubled by the young actress playing Destiny; the character is a reasonable sketch, but the girl seems totally out of her depth, especially opposite Alderson. If the show wants to head for some kind of Destiny/Matthew tween romance, I feel a recast is in order - especially since her family seems on the verge of expanding.
Destiny may have a thing for Matthew, but love isn't in the air only in the classroom; Bo and Nora had a near-miss kiss this week, and after all these years, all I can do is squee. Yet while I'm happy that this storyline seems to finally be gaining speed and weight - I never truly believed the show would dare attempt to reunite Bo and Nora in a substantial way - I was really struck when looking at the presentation of those scenes. Bo and Nora seemed forlorn, deflated, weathered; maybe the actors made a personal choice, maybe it was the direction, but it almost seemed as if the years apart had weighed upon them in a harsh way. They looked like much older people seeing each other again for the very first time - and I guess that's exactly what they were. I hope OLTL doesn't drop the ball on Bo and Nora like they have so many times, and I continue to hold out hope for their awesome '90s love. Get bent, Clint.
There was lots of love to go around, though; Brody and Jessica finally got it on, and oh, Lord. Mark Lawson tells the camera he wants it to stay there with him for the night, and all I can say is, you don't have to tell me twice. It took half the opening credits for me to realize he was talking to Jessica and not me. Believe me, I was pissed when I figured it out. Freed from his (idiotic) promise to Gigi, Brody gave Jessica the trufax and that's all those two lovebirds needed to do the Dew, and not a moment too soon. It seems we so rarely see our brawny Lieutenant Lovett truly happy, and he was clearly walking on air. Brody and Jessica's giddy rapture after consummating their passion was infectious, and lasted into their trysting on Friday; I love their clandestine affair, and the hesitancy and awkwardness of it mixed with the impulsive, heady rush. That's what love in the afternoon should be about, and it's just a shame to know it'll surely get rained on when the secret of Chloe comes out. I can't wait to hear what Viki has to say about Jessica's latest life choice.
Then there's the tragic romance of Dorian and Ray. Yes, they're free to be together with David out of the picture, and I love the couple, but it's impossible to watch these scenes without remembering A Martinez has been foolishly dismissed...again. Seeing Ray read to Sam or help Jack with homework, back Dorian up note for note and impulse to impulse, is a sad experience, knowing it won't last. The character seems a perfect and unique fit for the Cramer matriarch, much like Charlie to Viki, with a hint of danger lurking in Ray's checkered past and dangerous ways. Why can't they go on forever? Oh, ABC Daytime, why are you the murderer of love?
Finally, there's the dregs: Marrowgate '09. Poor Schuyler spent all of Monday waving a bag of marrow around, and what'd he get for it: Out one roommate. Then again, he got rid of Stacy, so more power to him. Knowing my luck, Sky will be foolish enough to take her back. Rex appears to have lost some oxygen to the brain, as anyone with even a passing experience with Stacy, let alone his own roofie madness, would instantly give Sky's claims some thought. Instead, he's already descending to Cristian-and-Vanessa levels of cluelessness. Meanwhile, Gigi simpers around town mumbling about God. Because that's what this story needed: God talk. I finally figured out what could make Stacy more annoying, have her talk about how God is on her side. I'm surprised the Almighty hasn't had blood raining down on her. What's it gonna take for Rex's Zombie Dad to wake up and give the blonde terror what-for? Props must go to Austin Williams for giving a very raw and genuine performance when Shane learned of his idiot parents' idiot breakup; most soap kids couldn't have pulled it off, nor would Eddie Alderson have done so at Williams' age. Listen, I like Rex and Gigi, really I do. But I hate "idiot writing," and this storyline has descended to Passions levels. And no one wants to go down there. It's damp and it smells.
Yikes, this column's pretty somber, isn't it? Maybe I just had a lot to say, and the show's been giving me pause lately. See, all in all, I think it was another grab bag of good and bad on what I feel is still a troubled, disorganized show. Compelling ideas and characters with interesting storylines mix with bad mandates, thrown-together stunts, or plot-driven silliness. I hope the grand denouement of the KAD killings leads to a clearing of the decks plot-wise and helps reconceptualize some characters, like Todd; I also hope May Sweeps sees us free of Marrowgate, but I'm not holding my breath. I'll settle for Bo and Nora finally slipping each other the tongue. And poor Rebecca - you'll always be Reiko Aylesworth cuddling up to "Zorro" to me. See you guys in two.
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