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 Two Scoops: November 16, 2009 columns
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Ilene Kristen
When the man comes around
by Michael For the week of November 16, 2009
Mitch Laurence. You can call him what you like: rapist, murderer, psychopath, Saturday morning cartoon. Either way, he's back, and unfortunately, he just smoked Jared.
You can call him what you like: Rapist. Murderer. Psychopath. Saturday morning cartoon. But he just brushes the haters off and keeps on doing him. And those who know him best call him "The Messenger." Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the weekend of November 14th, and finally, finally we can talk about the ten-ton gorilla that has been creeping around the edges of the room since Rex Balsom first began questioning his paternity in late 2007 -- Mitch Laurence. He's back, he's bad, he's large and in charge, and unfortunately, he just smoked Jared. Jared!


With Mitch on the scene, we went from ecstasy to agony and back again this week, as Matthew got his operation, Marcie got her baby and fulfilled a years-old prophecy, Bo and Nora made pinkie-swearing look X-rated, and Ross began to do a sad little routine I like to call "the Billy Warlock Shuffle." And who can forget the triumphant return of Nash? Oh, jinkies, as Tad Martin would say -- it's time for Two Scoops.


Now then, the intro is done so where were we? Oh, yes: MITCH! Finally I can say it: Mitch Mitch Mitch, Mitch Mitch Mitch Mitch Mitch! Please, raise your hand if you knew it was him all along -- if you knew he was behind Jessica's stalker, if you knew he was Rex's dear old dad. Because I knew, and I almost never guess these things right. I'm turning into a regular Encyclopedia Brown!


It was process of elimination, really: Over the years, this show has led us to believe that Roxy has slept with most of the Americas and a decent portion of what we once knew as "Old Europe." As one of the original good time girls, Roxy has never been shy about touting and flouting her many conquests, yet suddenly, when questioned about Daddy X, our favorite hairstylist went mum. And Roxy has no shame.


So, this left us with only several options for Rex's father. Using a finely honed sense of detection, I narrowed my list of suspects down to: A) Voldemort, B) Hitler, C) The Emperor from Star Wars, D) Sauron, or E) Mitch . In a squeaker tally of the evidence, using cutting edge research tools, Mitch came out on top. And after a writer's strike and several other lame and prolonged storylines, my investigative prowess was vindicated.


I'll admit, Mitch's explanation for his latest "resurrection" makes little to no sense (In 2003, Todd claimed to have cremated his remains, and before that, the corpse was taken into custody by Llanview PD only after Todd had poured poison down the dead Mitch's gullet). But that aside, it's wonderful to have Roscoe Born back; with his quasi-religious angle, which is straight out of the Robert Mitchum classic Night of the Hunter, Mitch is one of the most frightening, delightful, and enduring villains in daytime history, and that's why he has returned from the dead not once, but twice, which I think is really pushing it unless your name is DiMera. Granted, Carlo Hesser got away with it, as well, but he's always had a spare, Mortimer Bern, who seems to have several lives of his own to give for his twin. There's no double for our Mitch, only the genuine article. But hey: He's here, and he's turning Llanview upside down all over again.


I welcome Mitch back to OLTL, but I sincerely hope his latest run does not turn into the sort of acid trip his last one did, where Mitch was fawning over magical diamonds (last seen on Blair's finger -- maybe "the curse of the Bahdra" is what doomed her relationship with Todd), creeping through the sewers, and killing a new "under five lines" extra every three days. He became invincible, and his feats of villainy grew more and more over the top, until he had ascended into the camp horror pantheon usually only reserved for such luminaries as Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. All Mitch was missing was a creepy mask. His madness consumed the show at that time, leaving all other "down to earth" storylines seeming perfunctory and hilariously inappropriate in the face of Mitch's neverending freakshow. (Did anyone really care about Joey, Jen, and Flash while Mitch was trying to blow Blair and "Walker" up for the third or fourth time?)


So my advice to the show on Mitch this time is, learn when to leave the party. Learn when to rein the crazy in. Know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away. That was Kenny Rogers, right? Yes? Well, he was right about Mitch. I'm sure that's what that song was about. What a prescient musician, ahead of his time. Incidentally, I really hope Mitch will explain that whole "Victor's alive" debacle this time, since Ron Carlivati has seemed anxious to undo it ever since he took over as head writer.


Mitch may be awesome, but Mitch don't play nice, and unfortunately this time out he just had to bring the noise early by smashing my heart into a thousand itty-bitty pieces. I refer, of course, to Jaarrreeedddd!!! Oh, I've run out of punch bowls to shatter! I can't think of any more appropriate old school sitcom grief analogies; I'm reduced to doing what Glenn Scarpelli did on One Day At A Time when Ron Rifkin was killed off, all I can do now is smash Bonnie Franklin's flower pot! And I don't even have a flower pot! Yes, Jared was innocent of the accusations levied against him; Mitch merely blackmailed him with the Banks family's secret shame, namely that Charlie punched Jared's abusive stepdad's ticket.


At a time like this you have to be thankful for small favors - I'm extremely grateful that Jared's character was not assassinated, and that he died a tragic, heroic character, loved by Natalie and his family. Most of all, though, I'm grateful that he ain't Nash. Because, wow. I don't think anyone tuned in to OLTL this week expecting that all up in our lives. That was a creepy, extremely effective "rotting corpse," and yet I couldn't help guffawing every time it got a Mariah Carey glamour close-up; I loved that the show had the gall to do that, yet I also felt bad for the Jessica and Nash fans. That's going to be burned into my memory when I think of Nash, and I wouldn't really wish it on any couple or character. Except maybe Jen Rappaport.


On a more serious note, yes, losing Jared was a real heartbreaker for this fan. I was a huge fan of Jared and Natalie, and I can't see the logic in killing off the character. He obviously loved Natalie with everything he had, and was willing to give her the life her fans felt she deserved (even if not all of them cared for Jared himself). What's more, he was a complex, yet heroic male lead, of a dying breed, which ABC Daytime is still in dire need of replenishing; too many of its leading men are dark, damaged, and borderline misogynistic, brooding antiheroes whom women prostrate themselves at the feet of, and one wonders if a Holden or a Jack Abbott or a Robert Scorpio could survive in today's daytime. OLTL has bucked this trend with characters like Jared and Brody, yet men like John and Todd continue to reign supreme, and Rex gets worse by the month.


It's possible the show will choose to backtrack with Natalie and reunite her with John. While they had heat and passion some years ago, I just don't see a future there anymore, especially given what became of that couple. John's character is static, frozen in place and time, and has been that way for a long time. All of John's relationships turn out the same way; he is taciturn, uncommunicative, unwilling to give or be given to, unwilling to connect or commit, and when another damsel in distress comes along, he jets off to his next female adventure, only to sour on her in six months. What John really loves is the chase, the hunt, the unattainable object; whether he's trying to catch his father's killer even after he's been caught, or avenge his fiancée even after she was avenged. I don't know, but John remains the same by-the-numbers cipher to me. Like many depressives, his self-lacerating angst is, in fact, supreme self-obsession.


John never changes; John doesn't want to change, and clearly, either someone at OLTL or at the network proper does not want John to change, either, or they would have written it by now. He doesn't even have the excuse of being brain-damaged like Jason on GH. Whereas Natalie is a character who has changed and evolved since coming onto the canvas in 2001; she has gone from schemer to Ingénue to married businesswoman, and she had her own life, her own professional interests, and a man committed to her for her. Why would Natalie, who's had someone as open, loving, and giving as Jared, go back to being a doormat for John? Even Marty and Blair have gone under his treads.


What about John has changed? What can John give her now that he did not in the last six years? I can't think of a good answer, so I don't want to watch it. I think it would be a tragedy, and I don't care to see Natalie regress backwards from true, adult love. If the geniuses at ABC felt Jared just had to go, I'd just as soon have seen Natalie go with him, alive and well and off into the sunset. Maybe that makes me a bad Natalie fan, but I've watched her since her early days with Michael Tipps's Al and I'd really have preferred a happy ending to seeing Natalie retrace old mistakes.


I also have to give kudos where kudos are due, and this week it's in a surprising area, the "Morasco Fiasco." Farah Fath got some of her best written and performed scenes on the show this week as Gigi had her dark, tequila-fueled night of the soul at Schuyler's apartment, and unburdened herself about her issues with trust, intimacy, and, yes, Rex. I understand that fans of Gigi are few and far between online these days, and I won't pretend I don't understand why. But I do think there is something different and compelling about the character that has always interested me, namely, that they always remember that she spent years as a struggling single mother, and don't spare the details; in many ways, Gigi is still struggling, with Rex the absentee boy detective.


The logistics of Gigi and Shane's family life, of getting Shane from Point X to Point Y or paying this bill or that one are constantly referenced in the dialogue, and I still find it to be a breath of fresh, down-to-earth air in a daytime world where kids are often extraneous plot devices, where money is almost never an issue, and nannies abound. The things Gigi talked about -- her inability to have a sex life, or to trust that Rex would be there, do his share of work as a parent and lover, and stay even when he was in residence -- are very real emotions, and I thought those scenes were as genuine as Rachel's similar confessional a few months ago.


The key to this storyline, extremely flawed though it is, is that Schuyler seems ready to be the man Rex is still too young to be. And now, having learned that Mitch is his father, I'm sure we're in for yet more identity issues for our young Mister Balsom. You don't have to vilify Rex to do this, but John-Paul Lavoisier has to be willing to play more than the surface of it. An interesting angle would be to have Rex totally regress back to his scheming ways, subconsciously trying to head off the "evil genes" at the pass by falling into old behaviors, while Gigi takes solace in the arms of a more mature man; this might be sad, but it would also be realistic in examining young couples who had kids too soon. Anyway, a week with precious little Stacy is a win for me.


Now we come to Two Delgados To Live. Oh, Téa: Why you so crazy? This week, Téa continued to throw temper tantrums at Danielle and poor Elijah, and I continued to wish I was dead every time Elijah complimented her for being so gosh darn wonderful. Elijah has turned into that same helpless, useless male we've seen too much of on ABC Daytime in the last decade, "the spare." You guys know the spare. You've seen him before. He's Hugh Hughes; he's Boyd at Fusion, or Aidan Devane, or Greg Vaughn's Lucky Spencer, or Alcazar, or Ric. You think, "gee, I like that guy. He seems okay. Why don't they do something with him?" But they don't, not really, and you know why? 'Cause he's the spare. He's marking time. The spare is the guy who they toyed with pairing with a female lead, then shied away from in favor of more of the same.


In this week's example, Elijah and Téa could have been a fun pairing of love/hate legal eagles, but OLTL clearly decided to go for a hearts and flowers treatment with Todd, and so now Elijah is left without a story arc, but with a loose character thread connecting him to Téa. So what does he do? He does what all the spares do; he backstops some other dude's story with Téa. "Gee, Téa, you sure were right about my brother. Thanks for taking me with you to London. I can help! Tell Todd the truth! Guess it wasn't in the cards for us, huh, kid? Here, Téa, take my personality. I didn't need it!"


This brings us to Ross, who, judging by his demeanor and facial hair, suddenly has turned into a cross between a werewolf and the white Ike Turner overnight. All he needs is that belt Laurence Fishburne had in What's Love Got To Do With It? -- you know, the one with the giant hands for the buckle. Yeah, one of you knows what I'm talkin' about. Suddenly Ross is Public Enemy #1, a jarring shift in the writing, which is about as subtle as a subway pile-up. He punches his brother! He sort of kind of threatens to rape Blair! This is hardly the same laid-back, boho surfer dude we were reintroduced to in Tahiti, or the funny grifter who had such a great rapport with Blair on the Good Ship Wedding Interruptus. And that was only a few weeks ago! It's a sudden, hard left in the script, and it reeks of editorial mandate to justify Téa's behavior towards Ross and her daughter, and that leads us to a little thing I like to call the "Billy Warlock Shuffle."


As most of you know, Billy Warlock played the long-suffering AJ Quartermaine on GH for many years. Even though AJ was little Michael's biological father, and a struggling alcoholic, he hadn't murdered anyone or made his living in organized crime. But this didn't matter to Carly, or Sonny, or Jason, who considered themselves Michael's only rightful family, and it definitely didn't matter to the GH writing staff. Over the months and years, fans grew increasingly discontent with the writers' rationalizations for the mob characters keeping AJ away from his son.


Never one to pay heed to audience discontent, GH responded by simply doubling down, making AJ do more and more ridiculous, terrible, out of character things, in a series of kludgy, insulting attempts to "justify" his being kept from Michael. It came out of nowhere, it never rang true, it was never rectified, none of the mob scene characters ever admitted they were wrong, and AJ never really got his shot at parenting, right up to the day he died. That's what I think we got with Ross here: The Billy Warlock Shuffle. From out of nowhere, Charming Ne'er-Do-Well becomes Third Angry Drunk From The Left On Cops. And suddenly Blair is out of other romantic options, and Téa's playing God is supposed to be okay. I don't like it and I don't buy it.


What's more is that Blair would never, ever do what she did this week, where she suggested to Ross that he simply forget all about Danielle and go back to the islands. This would never happen. Say what you want about her bedroom history and loose morals, but Blair's children and family are everything to her; she even considers Sam, born of Margaret Cochran and rape, to be her very own, and has embraced him without a thought. I think the biggest reason Blair took Sam into her heart has to do with her own troubled youth; Blair went in and out of orphanages and foster homes, and spent most of her childhood looking for her family, for something better.


When she had Starr, Blair (and Todd) became determined to give Starr what they'd never had. You can argue as to whether or not they totally succeeded or failed at that little project, but they tried. She tried. Blair can be called a lot of things, bitch, vixen, liar, tramp, but she cares about family, because she knows how hard she fought to have one of her own. I do not believe she would ever tell Ross (or anyone) to go home and give up his kid simply because she's hot for Todd and doesn't want him to know about Dani. I don't believe that for an instant, and it's a symptom of how pathetic the writers have made Blair when apparently her only purpose in life is now to snag Todd again, even after everything he's done to her and the children this last year.


In conclusion, the story goes like this: Blair's desperate, Ross is a werewolf, Todd has no real perspective anymore -- things simply happen to him, he doesn't make anything happen - and Téa sure was right all along. This is crappy writing, and it hurts everyone in the story, especially Téa and Todd.


The issue is not that Téa is being bitchy, per se. Téa is supposed to be bitchy, that's when the character is fun. Sometimes that's when the character is great. And I love Téa when OLTL is honest about her complexities. But if they're honest, then they know Téa is also capable of being wrong. Her treatment of Ross, of Danielle, of Elijah, and even of Todd has been wrong. The problem is, the current writing refuses to acknowledge this. That's what Elijah's doing here; he is mouthing artificial platitudes for the audience in order to tell, not show us how we (and Dani) should feel about Téa's behavior. And telling instea d of showing is the first big no-no in creative writing.


"She really is a great mother! Ross really is dangerous!" Why does Elijah suddenly believe this? Why is he suddenly totally on Téa's side and not his brother's? Why is Ross suddenly homicidal? Why is Rachel cool with Téa after what Téa did to her, has done to her by siding with Todd since 1998? Why is Blair telling people to give up their kids? Not because the writers really bothered writing for these changes, but because they or ABC suddenly decided that was necessary this week. Because Téa can't go on "like this." Because Téa needs more support. My question is, why?


You can always tell when a soap chickens out with a character; these days, it's when they get a long-term contract. Téa was originally planned to do a short-term bid in late '08 through to this past spring, and that's when the definition and vision for the character was crystal clear. She was tough, dangerous, amoral, but she had her own bizarre moral code and set of values, and neither she nor the show apologized to anyone. Today, all they're doing, in a way, is apologizing for Téa -- by making everyone else apologize to her, by tossing other characters' personalities in the meat grinder, by sanctifying her through the mouths of characters who are unlikely to do so, they're actually ruining her character just as much as they're ruining Blair, or Ross, or Elijah, dulling all the edges and eccentricities that made Téa's character glitter in the night. They're turning her into a Carly or an Emily from GH. And Téa ain't no Emily.


A lesser version of this has gone down with Todd, and I've discussed this before. This approach is hurting everyone involved, and it's ruining Téa, as well. I like Danielle, and I'll get to her more in a moment, but this slanted mess has got to change.


Moving on. I am totally shipping Matthew/Danielle. I'm sorry, Destiny. I can't help it. And even if I could, I wouldn't want to because I think Eddie Alderson and Kelley Massal (did I get her name right this time?) snap, crackle, and pop together. Our young Mr. Alderson has become The Talented Mr. Alderson this past year, and I've been so proud to see him blossom as an excellent actor. He now seems viable with a serious love interest, and Dani definitely fits the bill; her rebel yell, her defiant, yet heartbreakingly sentimental, devotion to him makes her the proactive female to Matthew's bashful young male, and that is a progressive dynamic we rarely see on ABC, and an interesting role reversal that should be encouraged.


By contrast, unfortunately, these young actors' chemistry highlights Shenell Edmonds' lack of experience in my book. She simply comes off very awkward by comparison, despite some very fun scenes with David and a great bond with Shaun. She just can't measure up next to the intensity of Alderson and Massal's performances, and seems a little intimidated and out of step. I believe there's a place for the character of Destiny, and frankly, I'd be left with a bad taste in my mouth if the young black character disappeared to give way to another white teen pairing; I'm just not sure how to improve the situation with Destiny and make this love triangle exciting without Edmonds really stepping it up.


It's not all bad news for Destiny, though; I give her major props for helping Matt and Dani make their escape, and despite my loving the tender "autumn passion" of Bo and Nora's adorable finger caresses, I whooped and hollered when they arrived too late, too bad, so sad, to prevent Matthew's surgery. In your face, Bo and Nora! They really deserved that, and thank you Anonymous Hospital Administrator Lady for putting Nora in her place.


I'm also glad OLTL was able to sell me on being of two minds about the Buchanan lovebirds; I hate Bo and Nora's attitude towards Matthew's operation, but can still love their well-done, well-written scenes in these last few weeks, where they confronted their love for one another, and agonized about how to handle the logistics of breaking Clint's heart. Is there any good way to do that, really? In my experience, no, but watching Bo and Nora fumble and struggle with it -- trying to find out how to do the least hurt to a man they both love -- is very real and heartfelt to me. Oh, and I see David may be staying on to spread his own brand of Anarchy In The UK -- well, okay, but that storyline with Dorian seems unfinished. Again.


And now we hit the miscellaneous file: Kyle and Oliver put off sex before romance, despite the grave robbery leading to one Dirty Sexy Fish. Another gay stereotype busted -- it's not all just sex. Good for OLTL. Cristian and Layla, on the other hand, made the wise decision to not put off love today for want of Evangeline singing Christmas disco tunes tomorrow, and good for them; I'm tired of seeing Layla come in at second or third place. Greg and Rachel got closer, and Shaun was improbably trotted out to force Greg to head to Seattle. I like Greg and Rachel, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Shaun is about to be on a lot less, and I find that a cheat. We all knew he was going to lose in this triangle; the least they can do is give the character a contingency plan going in, as opposed to letting him fade back into the woodwork.


Over at La Boulaie, Langston needs to step off -- Markko's vote is absolutely none of her damn business, and if they try to make a serious storyline out of this, my eyes are going to roll all the way to Pluto. Who won the election, anyway? Finally, somewhere up there, Gabrielle Medina is smiling -- the bizarre prophecy of 2004's Heaven Can Wait storyline has been fulfilled, with Marcie giving birth to her baby Gabriel. I love it. I just love it. Now resurrect Gabrielle. Come on, you people brought back Lee Halpern, for crying out loud. How big was that letter-writing campaign, Ron?


So there we are. Mitchfest '09 has begun. Be sure to get your commemorative iced tea at the gift shop, and I will see you cats in two weeks. Remember: Always heed the message, before the message heeds you. And when in doubt, ask Mitch.


Michael


Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of soapcentral.com or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen, what has happened, and to take a look at the logistics of it all. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same view point.



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