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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: Step right up

Season 1 | Episode 9 | “The Heights” | Aired Nov 5, 2003

It’s an endless summer in The O.C., but in weather only. This week, the kids return to high school and the horrific social structure that goes along with it. (Seth: “Three hundred Lukes, minus his redeeming social qualities.”) It’s a good thing that none of our heroes did anything over the break that would possibly throw the rumor mill into an almighty tizzy …

Whether one drinks out of a chichi pitcher like the Cohens or brings the carton to the table like bachelor heathen Jimmy Cooper, teenagers all agree that orange juice is the one redeeming aspect of the dreaded first day of school. There’s much trepidation in the air, especially around the heads of Ryan (brutal thug who will be a bad influence on all of Newport’s spotless angels) and Marissa (basket case who drove her boyfriend to cheat and then tried to off herself). But they’re also each other’s “something to look forward to,” as they make plans to hang out in some kind of date-like way after the final bell.

Seth, meanwhile, has already mentally prepared for another year of Summer’s cold shoulder. (“Slowly, I thaw her icy heart.”) But there might be more in it for him; remember Anna, the be-pixied Pittsburgh girl who made hipster waves at cotillion? She’s back, and it physically pains her to be witness to all the groveling. “Girls like to be chased by guys who aren’t into them,” she advises. And while that statement is both a feminist’s nightmare and a blind oversimplification, it may just hold true for Summer. I like to think that Anna recognizes—though she doesn’t put it in so many words—that Summer is too hung up on social mores to process how she really feels about Seth. And throwing a rival into the equation is not an entirely terrible fix.

There’s a lot of game-playing this episode, both by those who do it with eyes wide open and those who—with the best of intentions—just keep tripping over each other. Ryan and Marissa miss their first prearranged hang when Marissa decides to stick it out as the Kick-Off Carnival social chair. Actually, Dr. Kim won’t allow her to quit, which is kind of a troubling approach to dealing with a recently suicidal student. But within the problematic framework lives some actual good advice. “Don’t disappear, Marissa,” Dr. Kim urges. “This is your school.”

Marissa seems invigorated by reclaiming her Type A, “rah-rah Harbor School” roots. (Though what kind of maniacs would choose cotton candy over funnel cakes?) Ryan also tries for a piece of that self-actualizing action by going out for the soccer team. Athletic supporters Sandy and Seth stand firmly behind him; Seth is so pleased to have a potential jock in the family. Go figure. (“Someone to achieve all that your Jewishness has prevented me from accomplishing.”) When Ryan tells Marissa his news, she fails to mention that Luke is the soccer team captain. Way to give a guy a heads-up, Coop.

Luke has been trying and failing to get a moment with Marissa all episode. With Summer and Jimmy (for once, effectual) running interference, he finally succeeds in ambushing her after her committee meeting. His “poor me” story gains him no traction. When Marissa doesn’t give him the absolution he wants, Luke suggests that they “just start over.” She wants to neither forgive nor forget, but an eavesdropping Ryan doesn’t hear that part. He skips their second proposed date in favor of doing some kind of sulk/study hybrid back at home.

The next morning, Marissa acts on Summer’s advice to keep the Luke conversation to herself. Ryan takes her glossing over the truth as evidence that the two are getting back together, a fact he celebrates by kicking Luke in the shin at soccer practice. (Boys.) Utterly confused, Marissa confronts him in the pool house to find out what’s gotten into him. “You’re as bad as he is,” she says, and her frustration is clear. Ryan is supposed to be honest and drama-free; she didn’t expect these demands on her. “What happened was between me and Luke; it has nothing to do with you.” Hear, hear. Ryan has no claim on her private conversations. “This isn’t going to happen,” he spits out, and she leaves.

The night of the carnival arrives. Ryan may be an idiot about his own relationships, but he’s a perceptive observer of Seth and Anna’s. Anna has been inserting herself between Summer and Seth all week, much to Summer’s chagrin. (Rachel Bilson has the best expressions of disgust in the business.) Ryan wants to know what’s in it for her. “We’re friends,” she explains weakly. “And you’re gonna let that slide?” Ryan answers back. I also want to point out that Anna is wearing a sparkly pink tube top over a black long-sleeved T-shirt in this scene, not because it has any bearing on the plot, but because hooray for 2003.

Fortunately, Ryan has come to be aware of what a jerk he was being. He rushes after Marissa and Summer to the Ferris wheel, stopping only to apologize to his nemesis. He shoves his fear of heights down deep, cuts in on Summer (“Not getting involved”), and takes the seat next to Marissa. Ben McKenzie’s face-acting in this scene is superb, as Ryan alternates between heartfelt confession (“I really don’t trust people, but I trust you”) and abject terror. (“And if we ever get down from here, I mean, we can talk about it.”) Charmed, Marissa does her best to distract him; it’s their first kiss.

Meanwhile, more kissing is happening on the ground. Emboldened by Ryan’s advice, Anna lays one on Seth. He responds in kind, but notices that Summer is watching. “Is this all part of the plan?” he asks, oblivious. “Because it looks like it’s working.” Anna resignedly goes along with it, because she’s seen Some Kind of Wonderful and knows how this turns out. Seth hands her the sock monkey he won for her and accepts Summer’s invitation to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Over in Adult World, things are just as high school. Rachel dangles a juicy case in front of Sandy. It’s one that will make his name as a high-powered defense attorney, but also maybe bring about his own divorce. The Newport Group is suing the Balboa Land Trust for the right to build on protected wetlands. The Land Trust has waived the conflict of interest, but that conflict is alive and well at Chez Cohen. Sandy’s first mistake was allowing Kirsten to find out about his firm’s involvement secondhand; not a great start. To make matters worse, Kirsten doesn’t trust Rachel, and neither do I. (“If your marriage can’t survive this, what kind of marriage is it?” Sit down.) In the end, Sandy puts his money on that marriage. He’ll take the case; they’ll make it through. (“There’s a reason why we’re together.” “I have that suspicion.”) Take that, Rachel. Go sit on the desk of another married man.

Other Stuff:

  • “The master race? It’s been perfected, Ryan. And they all go to our school.”
  • Shout out to the Cohens’ healthy and storied history of morning sex.
  • Sandy: “You’ve got Seth.”
    Ryan: “Seth’s got his women.”
    Sandy: “Seth Cohen?”
  • Buy a damned cookbook, Jimmy. You’re an adult man.
  • So much foreshadowing in Summer quickly covering up her interest in her dissected frog.
  • Anna schools Seth at skeeball, and he calls her “a lesbian.” In a lot of ways, the early ’00s were still the Dark Ages on TV.
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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