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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: I'm comin' out. I want the world to know.

Season 1 | Episode 4 | “The Debut” | Aired Aug 26, 2003

It’s cotillion season in The O.C. For the locals, that means tradition, family, and parents dressing their children up like dolls in order to best show off for one another. So what’s in it for Newport’s teens? Per Seth, the ball is “another reason for them to get wasted and throw up on themselves.” Can you blame them?

The official function of the function is to welcome the town’s “most accomplished young women” into society. But it’s not just the ladies who will be making their debut. Cotillion is to be Ryan’s first foray into the moneyed coterie as an official member of the Cohen family.

After a chat with Child Services, Kirsten and Sandy make Ryan an offer: be theirs, permanently. “I can’t ask you guys to do that,” Ryan says, having had it drilled into him his entire life that he’s nothing but a burden. “Well, you don’t have to,” Sandy replies, amused. “We’re asking you.” If Daddy Warbucks shows up with a brand new locket, I’m officially going to lose it.

“Dude, you’re a Cohen now,” Seth announces. “Welcome to a life of insecurity and paralyzing self-doubt.” He’s not kidding. Ryan is on eggshells immediately, hoping to honor the Cohens’ trust in him by steering clear of trouble. Not so easy, when the town feels smaller than a bread box and its lead alpha male is gunning for him. If only Ryan could switch off the sexual tension he has with the girl next door. But he runs into Marissa at his tux fitting and she smiles like he just handed her a beautifully wrapped present when he tells her that he’s staying and really, what’s a guy to do?

The cotillion escorts are known as “White Knights” in this instance, and it’d be sexist and archaic as hell if the women weren’t so obviously in charge. The boys are shuffled about; their main duties being a) to look dashing (or at somewhat comfortable) and b) to properly show off the lady on their arm. But which lady? Our successive scenarios:

Scenario #1: Luke/Marissa, Seth/Summer, Ryan/Anna(??)

Promised to Luke, obviously, perpetual chairperson Marissa sets up Ryan with new girl Anna Stern. We know Anna is going to shake things up, because she’s just moved from a city that sees snow (“Pittsburgh? Ew”) and because she wears hipster buttons on her blazer. That leaves Summer rolling solo. She’d been lobbying hard for Ryan, which is presumably why Marissa steered him elsewhere. Lucky for Summer, there’s one White Knight available, and he worships her.

Scenario #2: Luke/Summer, Seth/Anna

Some tense moments at rehearsal make it clear that Luke is dead set on picking another fight with Ryan. And with everything riding on his conversion to pacifism, Ryan decides it’s safer just to bow out. He sends Seth to Anna with the news. (“Oh, don’t worry. Your hit man already took care of it. I didn’t feel a thing.”) She gets it. She’d already deciphered Ryan’s feelings for Marissa with her East Coaster’s intuition.

Marissa seems to still be weighing her options until another one of Julie’s horrifying pep talks does its thing. Julie’s concerned about Marissa’s “future.” She wants her “to be comfortable.” That’s the security that Luke—violent tendencies and all—can offer. It’s deeply disturbing that a mother would put this kind of pressure on the relationship of her 15-year-old daughter, but at least Marissa is savvy enough to rebel against it. There’s no great love between her parents, she can tell. Jimmy was Julie’s ticket out of Riverside, and we see how well that turned out. Marissa backs out of the dance.

Last seen trying to swap Jack Johnson tickets for Holly’s date, Summer can now ditch Seth for the more socially appropriate Luke. That pairs up Anna and Seth, who get right down to nerd bonding. “I can’t believe you read comics,” Seth wonders at her. “I mean, you’re a girl!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Anna answers, anticipating the “fake geek girl” debate ten years early. We like her.

Scenario #3: Seth/Anna, Ryan/Marissa

Sandy and Ryan enjoy a boys’ night in of video games and deep talks, not a cummerbund in sight. Sandy reads Ryan’s concerns about fitting in and assures him that there’s no one who does. (“I guarantee you, every person at that cotillion feels like a fraud.”) They’re interrupted when Marissa shows up at the door in a very unsubtle red to tell Ryan that they should go and face their fears together. Ryan’s covert nod to Sandy and Sandy’s subsequent enthusiasm are equally precious.

Luke is out the door as soon as he sees Ryan and Marissa arrive together. Ryan offers to take his place, and we’re in for the most tentative and highly charged dancing we’ve seen since the ball at Netherfield.

Down one date, Summer tries to recommit Seth. But Anna had gotten to him first, chiding him for his sulky response to Summer’s initial dumpage. Whether his dream woman ever looks his way or not, Seth will have other chances. In fact, he’d just run out on a cute girl who seems to share his every interest just to brood about the one who’s always treated him like he doesn’t exist. Anna will have none of this nerd entitlement. “Confidence, Cohen,” she says, and this character’s entire purpose is made clear. Meet Seth’s starter girlfriend.

The cotillion starts. Parents tearfully applaud; their kids are so young and impossibly pretty and endearing awkward with one another. But the spell is broken when Holly’s dad Greg finally forces Jimmy to admit why he can’t cash him out. Jimmy has not only lost his own money, he’s lost half the town’s. Including Greg’s. The other man tackles Jimmy, and both Sandy and Ryan end up in the fray.

Sandy’s right. Everyone in this town is so lost and so desperate to keep up appearances. They project their dreams and goals and insecurities onto their kids, who cannot possibly deal with them. The whole mirage comes crashing down around them, and no one is more bereft than idealistic Marissa. And despite their efforts, neither Ryan or Luke can make her better in that moment. Not when the main man in her life has already let her down.

Other Stuff:

  • Ryan can’t even look the Cohens in the eye when they ask him to stay. He’s too afraid that none of this is real.
  • “Mom, don’t say underpants.”
  • “I don’t really dance.”
    “Neither do I, I just move well.”
  • They haven’t even shared much screen time yet, but these first few episodes have given us enough little moments between Jimmy and Marissa that we know there’s a deep bond there.
  • Seth calls out Summer for being nasty. She almost looks ashamed. We’re getting to it!
  • Anna refers to Marissa as “Princess Mononoke” and I’m still trying to unpack the point of that reference.
TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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