Oh, what a web ABC Daytime weaves when they conspire to totally overhaul the whole show in three weeks or less! With the flick of a pen, everything you know is wrong, and half the cast is heading for points unknown. Rachel Gannon? On the longest "short trip out of town" ever! Yes, she's joined the august ranks of Pine Valley's Bobby Martin ("My skis are upstairs!") and Salem's Don Craig ("I have to go mail a letter!"), and even though her roommate just got his "baby" kidnapped, then took Mitch Laurence hostage, then took Gigi hostage, signs point to it being unlikely that poor "Ricky" will ever be seen again. I guess when your mom's the D.A., you don't need to worry about breaking a new lease.
Kyle and Oliver? Don't leave the room for too long, let your laundry wait, 'cause this time two weeks from now they will be strictly past tense. Sierra Rose, what Sierra Rose? And poor Schuyler? Well, we've seen what's become of him. Even A.J. Quartermaine is looking down at this affair from the pearly gates (or points south), wincing to himself, sucking his teeth, saying, "Oooh, that's gotta hurt!" I haven't even gotten to Kimberly, or the latest ridiculous "retcon" of Rex's past. All in all, it was probably the craziest April Fool's week on Llanview record, and the changes aren't over yet. Hang on tight, kids, because the only way I can deal with this hot mess is to run it down in strict columns of "Good" and "Bad." Reducing it to a damage report spreadsheet's the only way to process this chaos. I don't know where we're going to end up a month from now, let alone a year. Ooof!
First things first, let's try to accentuate the positive, or relatively positive. Let's deal with...
Prodigal - As ridiculous as certain aspects of this storyline are, and as much of a waste it is to lose Scott Clifton, I couldn't deny the power of the Schuyler storyline this week. I found his race against time and desperate standoff with Allison and Mitch to be great soap, worthy of sweeps. In the past, some have dismissed Clifton as a lightweight actor better suited for comedy and supporting roles; since coming to OLTL last year, he's worked overtime to prove his critics wrong, determined to show audiences that he can play a complicated, tortured character like Sky, and I think he's more than succeeded. The only problem is that either OLTL or ABC Daytime (or both) has lost interest in his boundless potential, choosing to move away from Schuyler's fascinating and oh-so-soapy saga - which for my money, should be far from finished, and until Friday still seemed to be just beginning - and instead circle back to the same old, same old with Rex and Gigi. Bo-ring.
Clifton more than held his own alone in a room with Barbara Garrick and Roscoe Born - no mean feat - and the look of revulsion that flashed across his face when Mitch called Sky "son" was a split-second of perfectly tuned horror, which gave Clifton the perfect beat to make his fatal choice. If you ask me, when Sky tossed the syringe aside, Mitch should have died there. In any event, Sky moved from trauma to trauma as Oliver yanked the rug out from under him over Sierra Rose, and again, Clifton was able to shift gears effortlessly, cycling through denial, grief, and loss, then finally settling upon something far more insidious and desperate which drove Sky to seek out Gigi one last time.
It's a time-honored cliché that an actor's best scenes on daytime are always when they're about to be written out, but in Scott Clifton's case, he's been solid from start to finish. The rewritten storyline has painted Schuyler as "the sickly, outcast child," the recovering addict who tried to make good but was dragged down by his past and, thanks to Allison, his birthright; according to the show's suddenly re-tooled narrative logic, this means that Sky must flame out in a nihilistic blaze of gun-toting glory, but OLTL hasn't always worked like that. The OLTL I know has always been a home for the outcasts and the misbegotten characters - remember when Marty and Natalie were outcasts? Rex? David? - and Sky should fit right in instead of being whitewashed out of place for the sake of homogenization. This kind of difficult, torturous character drama is what OLTL is all about. It's a shame to see Schuyler go.
Father & Child - Okay, it was brief at best, but Oliver finally claiming Sierra as his own and accepting his role as daytime's first(?) gay daddy made me very happy. It's just too bad this storyline is moving at warp speed, with subliminal airtime, so ABC can purge itself of "the gays." For shame. But didn't Scott Evans look adorable with that chillaxed little girl?
The Whisper Campaign - I know, okay? I know. Believe me, I've been around, I know. What Langston is doing is terrible, selfish, unbelievably hypocritical and cruel. But it's also, I think, devastatingly human. The cheap plot devices that the increasingly tawdry teen storyline are spinning around - Ford and Hannah - are artificial and weakly written, but the layers of doubt, anxiety, deception and frayed friendship building up in the Llanview High nexus are where the real meat of this storyline is, what little of it exists. The Starr/Cole/Langston/Markko unit was always prefabricated by the show, a bit too clean and perfect, and until now any attempt to disrupt its equilibrium was quickly quashed.
Now, it's all coming apart due to Langston's affair with Ford, and they're powerless to stop it. Langston is wedded to her impossible, hopelessly adolescent point of view which shifts from moment to moment, recalibrating at a moment's notice in order to protect her secret; she has no problem guilt-tripping poor Markko, projecting her dishonesty onto him, or forcing Starr to take the hit for her in order to keep her cover secure. She plays on Starr's friendship to ensure her silence, while Starr finds herself becoming a hypocrite before Cole's eyes, even as she chafes at his bond with Hannah.
I think Brittany Underwood, Kristen Alderson, and Jason Tam are playing the heck out of this disaster-in-the-making, and there's a really good story somewhere in here, if only someone would find it and streamline it. Personally, I'd rather see Langston find her way back to being the tortured heroine and Starr the teen queen bitch - perhaps Langston's machinations and Hannah and Cole's relationship sends Starr over the edge - but in the meantime, Kristen Alderson has her most interesting material in ages, and Underwood is giving Langston real teeth; we can't wait to see her busted, and that, for better or worse, is what soap's all about. Normal people doing stupid, human things, and the chain reactions that sets off amongst their friends and family.
What Ever Happened To Aunt Melinda? - Okay, so Mitch and Allison didn't kill Melinda Cramer. Then who did? That's my question, and while I'm none too pleased with Kelly spending all her time with Todd and now John (sigh), I at least enjoy seeing her on the job, and going after a character-driven goal, as opposed to a plot-driven one. I think Gina Tognoni's settled in well, but would be acquitting herself better with more scenes organic to the character's past and her roots, like the ones she first had with Dorian, Kevin, and Blair. The search for Melinda's killer is a fine idea; the problem is that it is, thus far, being couched in terms of which man will she pursue the case with, and how will that man possibly be her future. In no time flat, we're asked to add Tognoni's Kelly to the pile of female leads only defined by male-driven storytelling, and that's an unfair handicap. I like the idea behind this storyline, and I'm genuinely curious as to who else could have offed ol' Melinda. I just don't want it to turn into an extended male beauty pageant for the honor of Kelly's hand.
Blair's Hair - Shallow Time! There's only one way you're not a woman defined by a man on ABC Daytime lately, and that's if you don't really have a storyline at all. But I'll be damned if Kassie DePaiva doesn't make having no story look like the safest place left on this show; she and Matt Walton might as well be in a fallout shelter. Blair and Elijah had an "official" date this week, and they continued to be sexy while doing so. What's more, Blair finally cut her overgrown shag off, and now sports a wonderful shoulder-length bob, which I am totally all for. Elijah promised to do right by her kids, he and Blair had a nice dinner at home, Dorian registered her tacit approval, everyone wore nice clothes, no one swapped paternities, no one got raped or flashed back to junior high, it was just good romance. Blair and Elijah's "no story" love story remains one of the precious few wholly untainted bright spots on OLTL this spring.
Whose Child Is This? No, Seriously, Whose? - Oh, God. I mean, what can I say? You know what I'm talking about. Do I really need to run down the facts again for everyone? No? Okay, thanks. Then let me just say this: That didn't even make any sense. Check it out - first of all, first of all, by the time Roxy gave birth to Rex, Mitch was already "dead." Remember Natalie, Rex's "older sister?" She was born after Mitch first "died" in Llanview. By the time Rex was born, Mitch was long presumed dead, apparently living it up in Europe or somewhere; he was certainly not in Statesville Prison, rocking a bad dye job and waiting for Roxy to bring him his new son. So that's just a lot of fail right there.
Here's why I feel like I'm the April Fool here. Exactly what purpose does it serve to spend almost three years on the secret of Rex's father, only to turn around and invalidate all of it, ripping Roxy away from any remaining blood children, and invalidating her role as den mother? Don't tell me, ABC, let me guess - Bo is Rex's biological father on top of also being his "spiritual father." Wow, great. Guess what? I don't care. Bo already got a surprise son last year - David - and that was infinitely more interesting than this wish-fulfillment nonsense, which will only serve to make Bo and Rex's already overexposed relationship more cloying and predictable. Enough! Let it alone! Let Rex be Mitch and Roxy's, let him and Sky be full brothers, that would have been fine, this is just...ugh. Ugh. I have no interest in Rex's "Next Quest For His True Family, No Really, We Mean It This Time." Please, just stop. Stop.
Whither Klimt? - And then there was another case of what I often refer to as "the Poochie exit." Sigh. Kimberly Andrews Buchanan booked it out of Llanview this week in record time, not unlike ill-fated cartoon mutt "Poochie The Dog," who was hastily written out of "The Itchy & Scratchy Show" on The Simpsons; as in other cases past which I believe I've mentioned in this column, all that was missing was a title card reading "Kim Died On Her Way Back To Her Home Planet." Nice to see David and Kim clash, but how lame was it to not reveal his blackmail material, and literally play Kim off the stage like this was Showtime at the Apollo and she had been doing some sort of live polka act? You could practically see the giant hook dragging her out! I will dearly miss Clint and Kim, another of OLTL's recent goldmine finds, now squandered and dismissed by a foolish TPTB. Even without Amanda Setton, a capable recast surely could've been found and slotted in. At least they left the door wide open for Kim to return, take revenge on David, and get Clint back, a story I would be so beyond down for you have no idea. But now what will Clint do? Go back to mooning over Viki? Oh, Clint, no. You don't have to go home but you can't stay there. That space is reserved for CHARLIE. No touch. Bad touch.
John Loves The Lovely Ladies - Yes, that's right: Llanview's answer to Family Guy's Glenn Quagmire keeps his door open for alllll the lay-deez. Marty? Sure, move in, pregnant lady, just stop bleeding on my quilt! (Seriously, he looked more concerned for the quilt.) Natalie? No problem, baby, snuggle up right here next to my scruffy chin! Let John dry your tears and hold you inappropriately, then blame it on you when Marty comes home. Wow, Kelly, you too?! Sure, why not, I got some time! Gah! I can't stand the thought of an impending "John and Kelly" story on top of all his other bad stories with other ladies. Why do all the strong women on the show have to fall down on the job for John McBain? Who really enjoys watching the McBaincapades? This kills me.
(Still) Hot For Teacher - We saved the worst for last. Let's see here: Jessica lies to everyone, manipulates her way into Cristian's confidence, plays paint-the-hottie with him in the school gym, and now Cristian is holding onto mash notes from 1997 and making lame excuses to Layla. Is this progressive storytelling? I don't care if Jessica wrinkles and twitches her nose a lot like Elizabeth Montgomery on Bewitched, it's not charming and she's not fun. How is this supposed to entertain? It's unwatchable, it's ruining Jessica in ways I did not think possible, and worst of all, it's incredibly boring. Even more than John. And that's saying something.
So there you have it: the good, the bad, and some ugly. I don't know if it's about to get worse or better, but anything on this show that isn't Blair, Eli, or nailed down appears to be up for some frickin' grabs, and personally, I'm getting tired of this crazy tilt-a-wheel. Next time we talk, we'll be bereft of yet more interesting characters, but hopefully, some new and interesting storylines will form to take their place. There's still a lot to like on OLTL, the question is how will it be used? Catch your breath from the craziness, and I'll see you in two weeks.