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'The O.C.' nostalgia recap: Exes of spontaneous combustion

Season 2 | Episode 16 | “The Blaze of Glory” | Aired Mar 17, 2005

What do you get when mix two highly flammable exes (Ryan and Marissa) with one jealous girlfriend (Alex) and generously douse the flames with gasoline (the spring bonfire)? A fiery flare-up that only The O.C. could conjure.

Despite its title, there’s not much glory to be found in this episode of The O.C. No one has been really been up to their best behavior: Seth plays puppet master to push Ryan and Marissa back together, Marissa withholds truth from Alex, Julie works overtime to bury her porn past, and Kirsten goes through the motions.

A blaze, sure. But glory? For irony’s sake, let’s call the dishonor as we see it.

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

One of the greatest strengths in the writing of The O.C. (other than the delectable drama and everything that comes out of Julie Cooper’s mouth) is its self-awareness. It’s like the writers are winking at us when Seth waxes nostalgic about last year, effectively saying, “Yeah, we know the new supporting characters were a bust. Let’s move on the wiser, shall we?” And this becomes Seth’s mission: Get us back to the highest highs of season 1 … er, last year.

But, as he learns, things don’t simply fall back into place because you want them to. Everything falls apart, people change shape, and pushing the pieces back together when they don’t fit doesn’t a happy Core Four make. The past can’t be erased or stepped over like a puddle in a parking lot. Nonetheless, Seth chooses to ignore Ryan and Marissa’s innate combustibility, in spite of Summer’s warnings, and sublimate the spring bonfire as an opportunity for a Core Four revival.

As we all know, Marissa is the all-important social chair at Harbor School, but she can’t go it alone for the water polo team’s spring bonfire pep rally (good grief is the Harbor School doing too much). Seth suggests Ryan’s help for building the bonfire, given his experience with construction and affinity for architecture. Like he could turn it down, Ryan agrees to work with Marissa. Fire, meet gasoline.

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

Elsewhere, the Cohens hit the links and talk Carter. Turns out Sandy was a big fan of Carter’s past work and would like to meet him. *crickets* What’s that, Kirsten? Earth to Kirsten. For some reason, the idea doesn’t spark interest in Kirsten. Why? My leading theory is that she’s crushing on Carter, and Kirsten rolling up to Carter’s place after he bails on work to scotch-soak his would-be wedding anniversary backs up that theory.

When you go out of your way to cheer up and re-inspire a colleague you barely know, there’s something going on. On the other hand, Kirsten could also just be trying to, I don’t know, actually complete work on the magazine she and Julie are launching. Still, her cagey attitude tells a much different story.

Meanwhile in extortion hell, Julie turns to Sandy to fend off Lance’s half-million-dollar blackmail, but her motives might shock you. No, it’s not just her image she’s afraid will be tarnished by the idling scandal. She fears Marissa would never speak to her again, considering she’s already got both feet out the door. Sandy saves the day by forming a production company and purchasing The Porn Identity’s rights from Lance (Lesson No. 1: Don’t f–k with Sandy Cohen) and gives her some parenting advice: Relinquish control. Once again, Julie delegates and asks Ryan to talk some sense into Marissa. Who threw a bucket of water on Julie?

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

Warner Bros. TV/CW Seed/screengrab

The problems begin before the bonfire is even lit. Alex talks to Seth about Ryan and Marissa. She tells him she has fallen hard for Marissa and wants to know if she has anything to worry about. Instead of easing her concerns, Seth gives her a new one, letting it slip that Ryan and Marissa slept in the same tent at the mall. Whoops. Realizing that Marissa lied to her, Alex flies off the handle. Beer cans fly through the air at Ryan’s head, quickly followed by threats. It’s enough for Ryan to bail on working with Marissa.

He’s put in a difficult position. Ryan cares about Marissa, so he of course wants to help her with the bonfire and getting her life back on track. But after being pushed to do these things by Seth, who’s obsessed with the past, and Julie, who’s motivations are primarily egocentric, what’s the point? Why should he? Being the decent human being that most people don’t give him credit for, he shows up for Marissa because he will always be the guy who shows up.

While Marissa watches his masterful work ethic in awe, Alex arrives with two minions in tow to beat up Ryan. It’s the saddest romantic turf war of all time, largely because her efforts are unsuccessful. Marissa and Alex have the blowout that has been brewing for episodes. They don’t fit into each other’s lives, not like Ryan and Marissa do. And that’s how we lose Olivia Wilde, but regain the glory of the past. Together, Ryan and Marissa light the bonfire and ignite their reunion. If you’re going to go down in flames, you might as well go out in a blaze.

Episode Mixtape:

  • “Snakes of Hawaii” by Army Navy
  • “What I’m Looking For” by Brendan Benson
  • “Frequency” by Feeder
  • “Meantime” by Futureheads
  • “A Smile That Explodes” by Joseph Arthur
  • “AFK” by Pinback
  • “Debaser” by Pixies

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

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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