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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: Smile like you mean it

Season 2 | Episode 4 | “The New Era” | Aired Dec, 2 2004

Who wants to play a drinking game? When Seth whines about Summer or not having a girlfriend, sip your drink. Whenever there is an awkward moment, take two sips. Every time of the The O.C.‘s characters says the words “new era” during the episode titled “The New Era,” chug.

Yes, it’s a new era for the residents of The O.C. The Core Four is crumbling like a dry pastry and the Newport Group is its own brand of natural disaster. So far, this supposed “new era” doesn’t seem so great. But like most abrupt life changes, all it takes is some getting used to and some good news.

Seth, still on a journey of self-improvement, can’t seem to commit to the whole “selfless” thing. But hey, haven’t we all dropped the ball on a resolution or two? He rattles on to Ryan about the struggles of singledom, and it’s a song Ryan doesn’t want to hear. They scan the school to check out Seth’s prospects, judging solely on appearance … until Lindsay enters their field of vision and calls them out. She teaches them a thing or two about feminism, and her brazen, strong-willed personality sends Seth’s heart all aflutter. He asks Ryan to set them up.

A funny thing happens when Ryan later extends the date invitation to Lindsay: He clarifies that it’s for a date with Seth after she’s already accepted. What was that twinkle in Lindsay’s eye? Could her love-to-hate relationship with Ryan be growing into a love-to-love relationship? It’s no matter; she’s got a date set with Seth.

Marissa subscribes to the idea of the new era as well. (Maybe this recap is a drinking game too?) She celebrates her lack of boy drama, since DJ is missing in action and she and Ryan are “friends.” The matchmaker bug is biting everyone as Summer and Zach try to set up Marissa, but she’s not having it. She visits DJ at his job landscaping for a different family and invites him to the Bait Shop later. They argue, but it’s not nearly as tragic as her 2004 style choices.


Julie, who is now the CEO of the Newport Group, brings a ficus into the office for no apparent reason other than to make Kirsten’s life a living hell. And to have Julie as a boss and office mate is as hellish as it gets. She offers to help Kirsten with business, and when she declines, Julie commandeers the reins of an important meeting. She kicks Kirsten out, leaving herself to her own devices when the opposing forces ask her an esoteric business question. Needless to say, Julie has a Romy and Michele moment.

Sometime between homeroom and math class, Seth’s date with Lindsay turned into a “group hang” with Ryan and Alex. It doesn’t take but a second for Seth to announce to Summer that he has a date. She doesn’t care, but we all know that deep down she does. Marissa isn’t thrilled that Ryan has a date, making this the first uncomfortable Core Four reunion of the episode. (Drink!)

“Being CEO is a b-tch,” Julie bemoans to Jimmy, to which he retorts, “You’d think you’d be a natural.” Julie bribes her ex with a lobster roll in exchange for business advice. Asking Jimmy Cooper for business advice is like asking Liz Lemon for love advice—take it with a multiple grains of salt. But alas, she walks off his boat with a fresh idea.

Back at the Cohen compound, Sandy binges on Cheetos and Court TV while in pajamas, surely a welcome sabbatical from dealing with Caleb’s legal woes day in and day out. The Cohens are being dragged down by Caleb and Julie, but they vow not to allow the “Gruesome Twosome” destroy their careers/sanity. Unfortunately, you can’t predict the emotional climate, just as you can’t predict the weather. Julie shows up at the Cohens’ door, catering crew in tow, ready to throw a ravishing cocktail party.

Ryan and Alex

But here’s where the new era gets dicey: The group hang is instantly tense. No one has anything in common, and Seth won’t shut up about Summer. As if the double date wasn’t bad enough, they run into Summer and Marissa. Not even the jam-worthy performance from The Killers can prevent this date from hitting rock-bottom.

Before long, the group hang implodes. Lindsay is tired of hearing about Summer, Alex can tell that Ryan likes Lindsay, and Seth yet again chases after Summer. (Listen, I’m the biggest Seth-and-Summer shipper out there, and seeing them apart is traumatizing. But it’s painful to watch Seth act out in desperation.) The Killers soundtrack the moment with “Smile Like You Mean It,” but no one is smiling like they mean it. They’re grinning and barely bearing it.

Shockingly, Julie’s unauthorized party at the Cohens’ does not implode. She schmoozes with fellow developers while Kirsten and Jimmy booze it by the bar. Kirsten, all business, doesn’t see how Julie’s methods of madness could work in their favor. To her begrudging delight, they do. Julie got the deal back on the table. Smile like you mean it, Kirsten.

Maybe the new era is a success after all. The Newport Group hasn’t totally capsized. Summer and Zach put their Seth problems to bed. Marissa and DJ reconcile. Ryan asks Lindsay out. And Seth and Alex kiss before going out for an ice cream nightcap. It’s the dawn of a new, entertaining day in The O.C.

But you know what they say: Don’t get too cozy. Winter (formal) is coming.

Episode Mixtape:

  • “Fortress” by Pinback
  • “On Your Way” by The Album Leaf
  • “Primitive (The Way I Treat You)” by Ambulance LTD
  • “Silence” by Gomez
  • “The Love Goes” by Trent Dabbs
  • “The New Face of Zero and One” by The New Pornographers
  • “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers
  • “Everything Will Be Alright” by The Killers
  • “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” by U2

All four seasons of The O.C. are available to stream on CW Seed.

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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