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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: Anything to stop being bored

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “The Girlfriend” | Aired Sep 9, 2003

Meet Caleb Nichol, “the Donald Trump of Newport,” and Kirsten Cohen’s dad.

Those rewatching this series with me will remember that Caleb figures quite prominently into The O.C. And “The Girlfriend” wastes no time in announcing him as the uncompromising son of a bitch that he is. The episode also introduces his 24-year-old girlfriend, Gabrielle, who deserves our thanks for being the first woman to establish Ben McKenzie as one of the great screen kissers of all time. Seriously, he belongs in some sort of hall of fame.

But wait. Why is Caleb’s girlfriend kissing a teenager? I’ll get to that. Caleb and Gabi blew into town on a Learjet for Caleb’s birthday, our party of the week. Caleb also takes this opportunity to give Kirsten a hard time for signing up a new grandson and a new architect without seeking his approval. Kirsten grimaces through his passive-aggression; Sandy seethes. He doesn’t get along with his father-in-law and likely never will. (“Oh wait, we can’t. I’m still Jewish.”) So not only does Kirsten have to deal with her dad’s consistent disapproval, she also has to entertain her husband’s bon mots of resentment. Matters only deteriorate when Caleb offers to shoulder some of Kirsten’s responsibilities at the Newport Group, disguising her demotion as a selfless act on his part to free her up to spend more time with her expanded family.

Instead of asking Kirsten how she feels, Sandy launches into a plan to escape the will of the father. They’ll re-buy their old house in Berkeley, the one with the termites. Kirsten can have her gallery. They only moved to Newport in the first place to care for Kirsten’s ailing mother. (Surely those wounds are all healed by now, right, Sandy?) And if Kirsten quits the Newport Group, there’ll be nothing to keep them there. Sandy Cohen has a Leslie Knope-like tendency to steamroll. And while his sense of superiority over his materialistic neighbors is usually a delight, it can also devour every other valid opinion in its path. At family dinner, Sandy blurts out that Kirsten intends to leave, though she’s said no such thing. That results in Caleb and his son-in-law using the woman they both love as an excuse to posture for each other, continuing a class clash that actually has very little to do with her.

This leaves Caleb too busy—or apathetic—to notice his girlfriend’s wandering eye. Her lack of ardor for Caleb aside, Gabrielle isn’t played for the stereotypical gold digger. Nor is she played for a fool. She’s perceptive, if detached, and is aware that she’s not the great love of Caleb’s life. Gabi sees something of herself in Ryan and serves her seduction with a side of guidance counseling. What remains unsaid, I think, is a warning that Gabi only implies. If Ryan doesn’t go after his passions (Marissa included) because he thinks he’s unworthy, he’ll end up as jaded as she now feels. She’s not just bored with being the trophy girlfriend of a much older man. She’s bored with herself.

Post-shooting, Marissa is considering a reunion with Luke, who is now a pod person. He’s become irritatingly positive thanks to his brush with death and is determined to make another go of it with his lady. When Ryan shows up on the Coopers’ doorstep, Luke shakes his hand and sincerely thanks him. At the party, he greets Seth with, “It’s good to see you.” (“It is?”) He is—all evidence suggests—fixed. But Marissa’s doubts just won’t leave her be. She’s so decision-phobic that she actually pushes Ryan to tell her what to do, which both Ryan and Summer point out is very, very lame.

When the night of the party arrives, Kirsten hustles around the house ensuring that everything is just so. Her deference to her dad drives Sandy crazy, though he still won’t make an effort to explore what’s behind it. “Look,” he says. “The important thing is that it’s out there. You spoke your mind.” “No,” Kirsten answers, “you spoke my mind.” She takes it further. If Sandy has been so unhappy with their life in Newport, then the implications of that range far beyond Kirsten’s job title. Message received, Sandy corners Caleb to tell him to stop punishing Kirsten for her independence and her success. I’d have preferred it if Kirsten had had that conversation herself, but we’ll allow Sandy his contrition for being such a butt this week.

Meanwhile, Summer is at the party as Seth’s date, though not in quite the capacity he’s looking for. She’s been studying Forbes to prepare to converse with “hot, rich 20-something banker brokers,” Summer’s aspiration and surely the denizens of your recapper’s seventh circle of hell. When Seth tires of standing next to her during these conversations (like a kid waiting for his mom to stop talking to a neighbor at the grocery store and take him home to watch Disney Afternoon already), he puts his be-Conversed foot down. She uses him, which he’s somewhat okay with. But her pursuit of these guys shows a troubling lack of respect for herself, seeing how indifferent they are to everything about her but her cup size. Until now, Seth’s obsession with Summer has seemed to be built on her hotness and unattainability. (Though they had a nice moment last week with Seth stepping in front of her when Donnie pulled his gun.) But today we learn that Seth’s love dates all the way back to the third grade, when she shared her lunch with a runty squirrel, continued through sixth grade when she bravely read her poem in front of their class (“I wish I was a mermaid and was friends with all the fish …”), and persists now even in her selfish adolescence. Her face lights up (notable, since the only emotions we’ve seen from Summer so far are “drunk” and “eye roll”) right before she grabs Seth’s face in her hand and kisses him—out of joy and appreciation and maybe something else. And then she’s off to introduce herself to the next eligible banker.

Marissa mopes about the Cohens’ in her seersucker sundress, bemoaning the two beautiful men who love her. (Do you think her wallet’s also too small for her fifties? Are her diamond shoes too tight?) We find out that she’s still a virgin, having held out on Luke for reasons she’s been unable to articulate. Well, Ryan is those reasons personified—the living proof that there’s definitely more out there. But when she makes her way to the pool house to tell him so, Marissa happens upon Gabrielle. Straddling him. She runs back to the big house and grasps Luke’s hand, and they drive off to finally consummate their relationship. Ryan comes to her doorstep when Luke drops her off the next morning to say, well … something. Marissa peers at Ryan from behind her sex-hair and darkly shuts him down: “You’re too late.”

Other Stuff

  • “Seeing your parents should make you feel guilt, not terror.” This will make much more sense when we meet the Nana.
  • The Coopers are still a mess. Julie didn’t command Jimmy to do his eight to 10 years, but she is resolute on divorce. Oblivious Jimmy comes to Caleb’s birthday to beg for a job. He fails, but Julie succeeds in planting a hook in Caleb’s boundless desire to please pretty women who could be his daughter. This is going to be a thing.
  • “It’s fate, it’s destiny. We both like burritos.”
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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