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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: Stay gold, Ponyboy

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “The Outsider” | Aired Sep 2, 2003

This week and always on The O.C., Ryan Atwood isn’t accustomed to having things handed to him. So while Seth is content to spend the rest of his lazy summer playing PlayStation and skating the boardwalk as Sandy and Kirsten provide for him (“They’re parents. They work for us”), Ryan isn’t so comfortable. The boys witness a table-bussing disaster at the Crab Shack, and just like that, Ryan is gainfully employed.

He’s not the titular outsider anymore either. That position has been filled by Donnie (The Vampire Diaries‘ Paul Wesley, back when he went by Paul Wasilewski), fellow busboy and working class kid. Their rapport is easy, and as Donnie shows him the ropes, we can see that Ryan was craving this kind of connection. Seth sees it too. He was already nervous that morning, babbling on about how he’ll finally get the chance to sink his teeth into his novel and convincing no one that he won’t miss his friend terribly. Donnie takes Ryan out after his first day on the job, resulting in the de facto brothers sharing a very tense breakfast the next morning. The O.C. Truth #1: Anything that puts a wedge between Ryan and Seth can’t be good.

Boyfriend troubles aside, Ryan’s love life is looking up. Luke and Marissa have stayed broken up since cotillion, party girl Holly is already moving in on Luke, and Ryan is free to act on his feelings for the girl next door. If he can get up the courage, that is. When Marissa and Summer wander into the restaurant on a sun break, Ryan asks how her dad is—how Marissa is—and then suggests a hang. But he loses his nerve when she pushes him to call it what it is: a date. She can’t. She blames her family troubles, but maybe she’s also a little disappointed in Ryan’s lack of follow-through.

The next time he sees her, Ryan’s emboldened by his night out in Corona and by the fact that he’s not wearing an apron covered in fish juice. He was asking Marissa out on a date, he confirms. “I just wanted to clear that up,” he says. “‘Cause I’m gonna ask you out again.” Charmed, Marissa invites him to join her for babysitting night. Part of Ryan’s motivation in securing a steady paycheck was to be flush enough to take Marissa out. But Marissa has had enough of platinum cards that mask emotional unavailability. She just wants to spend time with him, and maybe share some mac and cheese.

This night of romance is foiled when Ryan has to deal with his own babysitting charge. Seth shows up to the Crab Shack (adorably) with tickets to an IMAX shark experience. When Ryan bows out for dream date reasons, Donnie invites Seth to join him at another house party. Ryan gets that look of squinty concern. Donnie and his crew will eat Seth alive. They’re hard. They’re unpredictable. They listen to the Black Eyed Peas.

They also trash Range Rovers. Ryan and Seth manage to convince Sandy that the damage occurred in the IMAX theater parking lot (“Shark movies bring out a rough crowd”), but that’ll do it for Seth and partying on Donnie’s turf. For his next spectacular lapse in judgment, he has Donnie tag along to a Holly party, overlooking the deep resentment Donnie has developed for a crowd that treats him like a servant daily. Seth doesn’t see the error of his ways until Donnie shows him his questionable party accessory. No, not his Hot Topic wallet chain—the gun he has shoved in his waistband.

Meanwhile, Ryan is blissfully ignorant of the potential bloodbath threatening the Fischers’ nautical striped coach and pristine hardwood floors. Seth proved his ultimate wingman status by showing up to Marissa’s door to take full responsibility for Ryan’s no-show the previous night. (“It turns out I’m quite skilled at getting a date, provided it’s not for me.”) Marissa and Ryan finally have their first date, and it’s wholesome and sexy and perfect enough to make you nostalgic for a childhood you never had. He makes grilled cheese. They flirt with their feet dangling in the pool and, because it’s the law, pull each other in, fully clothed. Clearly, this is first-kiss territory … until Seth calls.

Donnie is drunk. He trashes the house, skeeves out the girls, and gets into it with Luke, the poster child for everything he hates about Newport. (“That Abercrombie & Fitch, water-polo-playin’ bitch.”) Ryan comes in just as the confrontation hits the breaking point. Donnie pulls his gun—the one thing he’s got over these rich kids—and Ryan throws himself on top of him. In the fray, the gun discharges. Luke slumps to the ground, clutching his arm.

Ryan calls Marissa from the hospital. Ryan wants Marissa and Luke is her ex, but she cares about him and she deserves to know—even if his near-death experience will bring them back together. The O.C. Truth #2: Ryan Atwood will always do the honorable thing and it will usually backfire.

Where have the parents been this whole time? Dealing with their own messes. Sandy is doing what he can to help Jimmy, who seems to have no interest in helping himself. His plan, as Sandy sees it, is to roll over and wait for someone to clean up this mess for him. Sandy can keep him out of jail if he liquidates his assets—his life—and makes restitution to his clients in the amount of $4 million. Maybe starting over would work for Sandy and Kirsten, but Jimmy has no illusions about why Julie married him.

On a Newpsie retreat, Julie confirms as much. “My domain is the kitchen and the bedroom,” she tells the ladies. “His is the office. I kept up my end of the bargain.” It’s an awkward mini-break, considering the Coopers’ new infamy. But Kirsten comes through with some glorious takedowns that keep their particular sins in perspective. (“No, what’s uncalled for is your $500-a-day coke habit in college.”) Her defense irks Julie, who’s always seen Kirsten (accurately) as the specter hanging over her marriage. Frankly, it’s Julie’s right to be angry with Jimmy, and it irritates her that the calmer, more forgiving, and independently wealthy version of her lives right next door for constant comparison. When she gets back, Jimmy gives Julie the opportunity to decide what kind of person she is. They’ll start over with nothing, or he’ll go to jail. The decision is in her hands. And maybe it’s not that easy to be Julie Cooper after all.

Other Stuff

  • Both Seth and Marissa make mention this week of how cool/good Ryan looks in tank tops. Take that as you will.
  • First mention of Summer’s hot-mess stepmom!
  • “Why? Talking about stuff is just gonna get us all bummed out.” —Luke, on feelings
  • Sandy schools Jimmy on how providing for a family goes way beyond keeping them in ponies and Juicy sweatsuits. Weekly reminder that Sandy Cohen is a prince among men.
  • Summer’s rejection of Donnie is kind of glorious.
  • At the hospital, Seth asks Ryan if he’s scared. And without any trace of vanity or qualification, Ryan says that he is. These two will always be straight with each other.
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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