For the Week of June 20, 2011
The execution of the bullying story has been schizophrenic from the beginning. Austin Williams has given a star turn as Shane, but the initial storyline was extremely rushed.
So I'm in a quandary this week -- a lot went down in Llanview these last five days, some major stuff, some for better, some for worse, and a lot mixed up in-between. And some of it I feel a bunch of different ways about. I wonder if you do too. I'm on the road right now, paying a visit to my ninety-nine-year-old grandfather for Father's Day -- I'm the only relative currently in the country -- but I felt like I had to weigh in on this week's events, including how it pertains to fathers and sons, not to mention mothers, lovers, spouses, and all points within those twains. I think today's One Life to Live and its storylines are caught between classic domestic drama and cheap shock 'n awe, and even though we are cancelled, it's still a pastiche worth poring over, don't you think?
Okay, first off: Gigi -- she died a horrible, lonely, cruel death this week in a basement room, choking on carbon monoxide. Even worse, her last thoughts were for John McBain. As I feared, they're also pinning this on Jack, which is a near-impossible thing for the character to come back from even if he was played by someone with more acting range.
But it's a tightrope -- in the old days of soaps, the über-moralistic Irna Phillips era, characters would do horrific, thoughtless, cruel things to each other that seem barbarous now, sometimes killing each other, but they always had their reasons, the impulses and neuroses that drove them that were rooted in day-to-day domestic problems and issues. In some ways, I think Jack's bullying setup spiraling out of hand and killing Shane's mother would not be at all out of place on one of those old shows.
The problem is OLTL's execution of the bullying story, which has been schizophrenic from the beginning. Austin Williams has given a star turn as Shane, and the writers seemed inspired by him to produce solid material for Shane and his family for several months, but the initial bullying storyline was extremely rushed and ill-thought-out, and Andrew Trischitta's Jack remains little more than a one-note creep. Lip service is paid to dealing with Jack or the Mannings in-depth, and as a result, you can't tell this kind of story the way you could in Ol' Irna's day -- where we knew these people inside and out, why they would do terrible things, make horrible mistakes. We don't know Jack, to coin a phrase, not since the recast, and we have precious little glimpse of his home life. Blair, the only consistent parent, has had her story focus split onto the Todd/Tomas mystery, and the bullying story has suffered from the writers' inability to balance both plotlines. That's why a harsh, shocking storyline which could actually have been consistently good and grounded in reality is merely a collection of heartbreaking, excellent sequences to me so far, strung together with rushed or poor plotting.
Still and all, the scenes where the Balsom-Morasco collective learned the awful truth this week were indeed heartbreaking, especially Austin Williams' work -- the single, tiny "mommy" he let out was a very brave acting moment. I did find it pretty sudden how Roxy and the doctor were once again pressurizing Rex to pull the plug on Gigi as soon as possible, much like Matthew's obnoxious doctor did to him for weeks. I mean, could anyone blame Rex for harboring some doubt after how that turned out (more on that in a minute)? And here comes Natalie yammering about Clint's convenient new donor, apparently blind to Rex's death stare as the truth sinks in for him. I assume Clint will get Gigi's heart, after all, leading to some real Rex and Clint drama and bonding as father and son, but the story doesn't end there -- they're going to have to do a huge amount of work to make anyone care for Jack ever again, and while I enjoy seeing Téa connive to keep him out of jail, there's a limit to what I can take when the Mannings and their storyline are limited only to coddling monsters and their spawn as opposed to handling them in-depth.
And so yeah, also: Matthew! Open eyes! Lookin'...a little out of it! But hey, his eyes are open; I'll take it! Thank God. His doctor, on the other hand, looked fairly disappointed to me. "What? We can't kill him? Really?" Suck it, lady! All of Nora's hysterics paid off. Meanwhile, I don't want Clint to die, and I understand he is short of breath, but in these "Clint's weak heart" scenes, all I can think of is Redd Foxx in Sanford & Son. It's getting to be a bit much when I expect Jerry Ver Dorn to shout "I'm comin', Elizabeth!" every fifteen minutes. Bottom line is heart transplant stories are tired, daytime. This is okay, but it's not great. Let's move it along, get to the meaty material with the characters as opposed to the preamble and suspense. I'd rather hear more about the bun in Destiny's oven, and Nate getting perp-walked.
Meanwhile, after John's shocking display of non-contempt for Natalie, she was understandably convinced that Hell had in fact frozen over, and that there was no hope for her and John, leading to "Brodalie" once again sealing the deal right there at Llanfair. I would consider this a cause for celebration, except this show is being cancelled, and all the language in the scripts and much of the acting points to this being a "false dawn" for Brody and Natalie -- it all seems designed to reinforce that she's settling for him when John is still what she really wants, while Brody, it's suggested, is just desperate for a family. I think Melissa Archer and Mark Lawson's chemistry is worth a lot more than that, and that Natalie and Brody could give Jessica and John a real run for their money in a quadrangle if they fully committed to each other, but I'm not delusional enough to think that this show will not, unfortunately, end on John and Natalie reunited. Right now, I'm worried Brody will end up dead or in St. Anne's as Ford is valorized. More on that in a moment, because I've got bigger fish to fry: Jessica.
Yes, just after Ford and Tess...declared their love...Jessica finally came back. Swanning into Llanfair after two fake marriages and a lot of skankin', she waltzed into Brody and Natalie's love nest and began to rip into them for daring to betray her. Is she kidding me with this? Jessica splits into alters when she breaks a nail. She tried to kill both Natalie and Jared repeatedly, she nearly blew up the house with Bree in it, she tried to kill Viki at least twice, and that's just before this year! Is it any wonder Brody finally, blessedly gave her the smackdown? He said everything I've been wanting someone to say to Jessica for a while.
This wouldn't be as much of an issue if OLTL had not repeatedly made it clear over the last several years that Jessica lets her alters out to deal with her problems -- a fact Jessica has discussed before, but no one has really dealt with. She lets this happen, then lets everyone let her off the hook. Now she wants to act like the aggrieved party? I think not. The showdown between Brody and Jessica seemed very real, with a weary spouse who can't deal with the other one anymore, and it was the best work Bree Williamson and Mark Lawson have done in awhile. I've always liked them together, and I like Brody with Natalie as well. That's why it's a mystery to me why OLTL seems to be leaving this potential triangle or quadrangle (with John) behind for more of...wait for it...The Holy and Divine Robert Ford.
I needn't enumerate the ways in which Ford and Tess consummating their "true love" disgusted me, as I'm sure they've occurred to all of you. Congratulations! He raped her again, only this time in a funny costume! And four months after Langston left town! Markko was right about him, after all, not that I'm surprised. I find this pairing beyond repugnant; I have absolutely no sympathy for Ford, no interest in Jessica falling for him, and no time to discuss it. It's the bane of my existence. How can OLTL be so tone-deaf on this issue after the Todd and Marty debacle?
What I also don't understand is why OLTL hasn't been using a vengeful, vindictive, integrated Jessica Brennan for years, instead of dragging the alters out for more nonsense. This is a character who could be strong and have an articulated personality again, as opposed to cheap stunts and psycho freakouts. Even when I think Jessica is totally in the wrong, as I did this week, she was magnetic to watch as she, Brody, and Natalie went toe-to-toe because that is a real person, not a cartoon like Tess, Bess, or Wes. That's actual, human drama, yet OLTL seems poised to can Brody for John and Ford, with Trevor St. John's Todd(?) mixing it up in the storyline for little reason. Can't we just once not go the predictable, tacky route? How many days do these guys need to be on per week? It's a waste of good story not to explore this further, but I fear we are supposed to see Ford and Tess/Jess as the "rebels" fighting against squares like Brody, who is also keeping John from Natalie. Give me a break!
Then there were The Rest, In brief: The Two Todds story had little traction, but the real question is why is Roger Howarth's "TM" remembering his past in still images? Has he been shown photographs, or is it a cheap swerve on the part of the writers to make us second-guess? I loved his interaction with little Sam, and can't help but notice the potential irony if Howarth is in fact the same Todd who disappeared in 2003, the man who initially could not accept Jack, who he thought was another man's child. If he can now accept Sam -- another man's child, a child Blair raised as her son -- then the "real" Todd would have come a long way. Viva Father's Day? Maybe?
As for the Buchanan manse mess with Rama, Vimal, and Cutter, what can I say? It's silly, the story changes every few weeks. First she loves Vimal, then it's an arranged marriage, then he's keeping her from backburner love with Cristian, and now the Patel parents are coming to town. Whatever. All I know is it doesn't make sense for Josh Kelly, Shenaz Treasury, and David Gregory, no matter how talented they may be, to be wandering the Buchanan mansion alone like they are stars of the show. It's a time-waster of a story. Kelly and Treasury could be doing so much better. Even Cristian could!
Mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, and everything in-between. One Life to Live scaled the heights of the sublime and plumbed the depths of the ridiculous this week, but I've seen a lot worse. I'll be back in two weeks for the next lowdown. In the meantime, I just pray Jessica stays integrated, and Ford stops it with the damn costumes. Fingers crossed, peeps. Later.
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