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 Two Scoops: February 8, 2010 columns
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Michael Easton
Autocide
by Michael
For the Week of February 8, 2010
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This is at least the second or third time in the last year that John has been fired from the force, lost his badge, gone rogue, and been a fugitive on the run from the law.
I'll admit it: I have a harder time relating to Llanview's latest BIG SWEEPS EVENT than people in other parts of our fair country do this week. Because from where I'm sitting, New York had it easy. We got a minor frosting of snow in the real-life winter storm that hit the East Coast, whereas the Philadelphia area (where Llanview is supposedly located) is practically submerged in snow and ice. Llanview, well, let's not even talk about it -- oh, wait, we have to talk about it, because this is my week. I mean, just look at those people; Dorian, Charlie, Schuyler, and Stacy are practically covered in fake tissue-paper snow! Some of that stuff doesn't even look like real snow, by the way; it's obviously just scraps of tissue in certain shots. Some of Llantano Mountain looks like a giant coconut exploded. But that's okay. They're trying. It's a lot of sound and fury and fire and noise, but what does this latest "storm of change" on OLTL really mean for our heroes and villains, and everyone in between? And why do these stories always feature a car crash?


First things first: John's latest "great escape." This is at least the second or third time in the last year that John has been fired from the force, lost his badge, gone rogue, and been a fugitive on the run from the law. He's starting to make Antonio's old track record look good -- Antonio, the guy who shot Ben in the face because he was having a rough time at home (and Viki still encouraged Jessica to date him; now that's forgiveness). And yet I do not care at all. Oh, it was a well-executed little plan by Brody and Natalie, but as far as helping John is concerned, I could not give a solitary hoot. Please note for the fashion file that Natalie came dressed for this latest Wacky Caper, decked out in 1940s newsboy cap as the Artful Dodger, or perhaps one of the kids from Bugsy Malone. All she needed was a fake mustache and a Cockney accent.


And of course, as John and Natalie have become "the cool kids" again, poor Marty was left holding the bag. Susan Haskell had to trudge out onto what appeared to be one of the more brutally cold and windy days we've had in the city in the last two or three months for this brief location shoot, gasping out her lines at Commissioner Lowell while the frosty gusts of air lashed at her face and pushed her hair into her mouth, while Lowell himself kept making insane cartoon villain faces at her, including the trademarked Robert Shaw cocked eye and sneer from Jaws. He may at one point have cried "shiver me timbers!" and told her to give him his pieces of eight or walk the plank, I'm really not sure, it's all a blur. Oh, sure, Natalie told John to call Marty and check on her, but did he? I didn't see him do it, so instead Dr. Saybrooke rotted in the clink for most of the week, probably fighting the working girls for cigarettes while John continued to pout inscrutably in all of our general directions.


Was it great to see Natalie drive that SUV like Speed Racer (one of the finest and most inventive films of the 2000s, I jive you not) and scream "Eat my dust, bitches!" out of the driver's side window? Of course. But Natalie's sudden burst of giddiness, this heady exhilaration that is often a part of her character seemed oddly out of tune with the times this week, at least, it did to me. This is a woman whose husband was just murdered by a criminal who is still on the loose and has just abducted her sister. Is she reverting to "old school Natalie" behavior as a show of bravado to hide her fear and grim determination, or is it there simply to remind the audience of the John and Natalie storylines of old where she often acted this way? The latter is what I suspect, and it feels like a cheap ploy to me that did not fully account for what Natalie's been through; the show seemed to simply jump from Point A to Point F with her character in the last few weeks. I have no problem with a fiery, feisty, fun Natalie -- that's the character I fell in love with nine years ago -- but I would think this would be tempered by her recent widowing. Instead, the show suddenly shifted her into "hey-John-let's-go-solve-a-mystery-no-need-for-me-to-have-scenes-with-anyone-else-on-the-show" mode again. And just as he did back in their glory days, John scowled at her and told her to stop acting crazy and reckless; after all, that's his job. Ho-hum.


I know, I know, I'm a buzzkill. I love Natalie and I love when she kicks butt, I just didn't think it made sense for her to be so "happy" all of a sudden. John did do one smart thing this week, though; he left all the legwork in the case to Brody, which of course led to Our Man From Michigan tracking down Mitch's latest hideout (rare Australian rocks cannot hide from Lieutenant Lovett) and then going off on his own to take care of business. All I could do when John told Brody to go find Mitch himself after the crash was nod sagely -- I wouldn't trust anyone else to get it done. I love Brody shamelessly and I loved his declaration of devotion to Jess this week; with the longtime exception of John, this writing team has never been embarrassed to let the men express real emotion and care for their love interests, and I appreciate having a decent man in a leading role on the show whose heroism I can believe in.


The whole big car crash was kind of silly, though; I mean, what did it actually accomplish other than contributing a promo ad and getting John and Natalie alone together (they totally didn't die in that explosion)? Dorian and Charlie kept moving, and Stacy and Nurse Charles got to the observatory. Speaking of Dorian and Charlie, their rapport was a little less irritating to me this week. It's not that I don't think the actors have chemistry, it's the fact that Dorian seems to cling to him while pretending she isn't, and claiming she only wants the best for his marriage to Viki (yeah, right). Tottering about on a walking stick in a fur hat, Dorian resembled nothing less this week than ancient Siberian explorer Dersu Uzala -- how Charlie managed to keep himself from braining her with that stick as she caterwauled her way through the snow in high heels, I have absolutely no idea. By the way, I know it's in Dorian's character to wear a great deal of makeup, but Robin Strasser is just as beautiful without cosmetics; she looked lovely sitting by the fire in Viki's cabin, telling Charlie to be careful as he headed out alone to find Mitch.


Speaking of Viki's cabin: I hate you, Gigi. Now more than ever before. I don't understand her life. Why don't rich women just come to me and let me live on their vacant pieces of property rent-free? That cabin was ridiculous. So jealous, gah. Why not just give her Eterna, Viki? You're not using it. Just let Gigi live in Eterna rent-free. Urrrghh. There was a silver lining, though, and that was the fact that I thought the scene Rex and Gigi had at the hospital this week, as they believed Stacy had gone into "labor," was the best either of them have had, separately or together, in quite some time. As Gigi poured out her heart to Rex about her own experience giving birth all alone, I felt for her, and for this couple, for the first time in ages. Rex actually seemed receptive to her pain and her issues again, and didn't overplay the moment. Is there hope for Rex and Gigi yet? I don't know, but there doesn't seem to be much hope for Gigi and Schuyler.


I'm sure you've heard of the phrase "thrown under the bus." That's what happened to Schuyler not long ago; he took a Greyhound to the face. The show let him conspire with Stacy and Kim, and pretty much wrecked his character in record time to make Rex out to be the better man. It's almost worked. Fortunately, though, OLTL seems to have some sense of restraint on this issue, because this week, for the first time in a month or two, Schuyler did the right thing and refused to go along with Stacy's scheme, deciding instead to tell Gigi the truth, which is good because whenever he looked at her lately, he was starting to resemble Frank Sinatra in The Man With The Golden Arm. I kept hearing the theme music in my head any time young Dr. Joplin approached. Don't take my word for it, YouTube it. Unfortunately for Schuyler, this was only the first week of sweeps, which meant he was not permitted to tell all just yet; instead, he got in a winter auto wreck of his own and is now staggering about in the wilderness, tying tourniquets on his legs and steering dangerously close to Never Cry Wolf territory. Given some of the wackiness on this show, I would not be surprised if Schuyler actually did have to fight off a pack of wolves next week. Schuyler is obviously suffering for his sins, but I think that's a good thing, because it means the show cares enough to put him through the wringer and allow us to sympathize with him as he struggles to right his wrong; neither snow nor sleet nor hail will keep him from Gigi, even if she rejects him.


Then there was Stacy. Oh, Stacy. She finally told the truth and look where it got her, tossed to the harsh elements. For a minute there, I thought she really was stupid enough to walk off into the night without her coat, but then fortunately (for the baby) she picked it up. I almost felt sorry for Stacy this week as she struggled to get through to Jess and pleaded with her captors to hear the ugly truth; when she whimpered, "I just wanted your son to love me," I remembered just how pathetic and immature she really is and always has been, an arrested adolescent who mentally never got past age thirteen, or so it seems. The problem is I as a viewer and a writer have always had to guess at these things with Stacy -- the character is such a narrative void, so uninspired and ill-characterized, that all we know about her is that she has been obsessed with Rex since junior high and apparently cares nothing for her family at all. But why? Why doesn't she care about Gigi? What did she think when Gigi was kicked out? "Serves her right"? And when did she suddenly decide she cares for her baby? The show wants me to believe she's had a change of heart, but I have a hard time believing it. The writing hasn't been there, often the acting hasn't, either, and so Stacy remains almost a total mystery right to the end. But who knows, maybe the rest of sweeps will shed some light on the young lady.


Roscoe Born channeled Godzilla when Mitch learned The Truth About Stacy; luckily for Ms. Morasco, Zombie Jessica was there to stay his not-so-righteous hand, fresh from her electroshock therapy a la The Snake Pit. I am so frickin' tired of storylines in which Jessica is hypnotized, brainwashed, abused, traumatized, shocked silly, brainscrambled, poached, fricaseed, taking on another personality, or otherwise mentally ill that I cannot tell you. This is basically the exact same storyline Jessica had with the Music Box Killer, who made her his slave, except I don't think he tried to have sex with her. When did this show decide that Jessica's only possible story avenues were trauma, tragedy, and madness? Was it because of the recast? Because I don't think Bree Williamson would appreciate being pigeonholed like this. Why can't Jessica just work at the Banner or something? I've said this before -- I like her with Brody, but Jessica as a character has no identity anymore; most of what they do with her is have her suffer horribly, and then the other 20% of the time, she is just a bland heroine waiting for something terrible to happen. Viki survived her DID storylines because she had years of trial and triumph as her own woman, her own person with romances and victories and failures all her own, without constant abuse or madness. For every Niki Smith storyline, Viki would get to go to the Old West, or travel to Eterna, or fall for Sloan Carpenter. What does Jessica have to fall back on as a character? OLTL is leaving her no room to grow. She's turning into Marlena Evans, and Marlena wasn't even possessed by the Devil until like age 35.


To add insult to injury, it's that time again: Mitch once again has the Chinatown Blues and is trying to go all "she's my sister and my daughter" on Jessica. The flickering ceiling lights told him to, you can't argue with that! This is not the first time dear old Dad has tried to get Jessica into bed, but coming as it does on the heels of "the rapemance" and more importantly, Jessica's own DID story and the revelation of her molestation, this feels ill-timed at best and like horrible overkill at worst. What next? I don't think Mitch will actually rape her, but what else can Jessica possibly endure? Honestly, enough. And by the way, is anyone ever going to kill Mitch properly? I vote letting Viki have a turn at bat. I've actually enjoyed the Mitch/Stacy Follies these last couple weeks, but if we're going to go back to Jessica being tortured, this is going to get old fast.


On the sidelines of the showdown at Llantano Mountain, things may have not been as crazy or action-packed, but they were just as genuinely entertaining if not more so. Take for example Kim back at the Buchanan homestead, weeping into Clint's arms and accepting some surprise tea and sympathy from Nigel. The look Amanda Setton gave Peter Bartlett in that scene was incredible, piercing through all of Kim's layers of hardened cynicism to something much more interesting, the frightened kid underneath. On the outside, Kim is a stock soap opera vixen, all sex and bitchery and pointy edges, but Setton (and the writers) imbue her with much more when she's around Clint (and now Nigel). In the presence of this older father/lover figure, Kim's armor melts away; she seems simultaneously in awe of him, in love with him, and desperate for his approval and understanding. There's something real about her time with Clint that Kim doesn't know how to deal with -- he doesn't traffic with her in the usual currency of sex or filthy lucre, instead, he looks at her intellect and cunning, and asks her about her hopes and dreams. Clint is a self-made man who thinks she's capable of success the same way he obtained it, and she doesn't know how to deal with someone like that. Likewise, Kim was stunned by Nigel's willingness to extend her a hand; her world just doesn't work like that. It was a touching scene to me.


Fortunately, the Gay Agenda was not left out this week -- Oliver took to the mountains with the rest of our hetero heroes, and good for him for doing so. Anything they can do, he can do better and probably with better hair. Meanwhile, back on solid ground, Kyle was given the unfortunate task of interrupting Roxy's Character Moment ("Let me tell you how I slept with Mitch, curious audience") with sheer Plot Point ("That can wait, old woman! Stacy's baby is not your grandson!"). Thanks a lot, Kyle. However, that being said, Brett Claywell and Ilene Kristen are still a great team together, and Kyle's loving care for Roxy was not unlike Clint and Nigel's for Kim. Family ties aren't just about blood, and often soaps forget that.


Of course, what would a sweeps week be without some teen romance? Oh, sure, Ford continued to creep me out as he invited Langston full access to his, er, office, but it wasn't all gross. We also had Matthew and Dani getting their winter groove on, and I have to say it -- Matthew's pretty smooth. There's a phrase I never thought I'd type. Someone's been watching way too much Slater on Saved By The Bell. If he calls her "mamacita" or begins rocking a jheri curl, we'll know he's been cribbing. Seriously, they're adorable, and held my interest, unlike Starr and Cole.


Speaking of not holding my interest, Todd and Téa were in bed almost all week, only getting out of bed to head over to the Buchanan mansion so Todd could apologize to Viki for allowing Tess to rampage through town and inadvertently miscarry Chloe -- a year late. Too late, Todd. Sorry. I have no idea how Viki can look him in the eye when he talks about how he only did it so he could keep his rape victim locked in his house and have sex with her. Ugh. And why are Todd and the other Cramers still not doing anything about Mitch? Anything at all?


Those minor complaints aside, it was a fairly decent week. I still think that whole car crash was a big overblown load of hot air, but there were some good story beats and character combinations set around the event. I'm sure next week, Jessica will sprout another ten personalities and all bets are off. Poor Bree Williamson. Onward and upward, folks; please stay warm this winter weekend, and remember, do not wear heels to an assassination.


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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