The Seth-Summer-Anna Triangle
Molly Lambert: When I think about The O.C., I mostly think about how wrapped up I was in the love triangle of Seth Cohen, Summer Roberts, and Anna Stern. You can compare that to how uninvested I was in Ryan and Marissa (snore), who had less than zero chemistry as a couple. The best chemistry on the show was always between Ryan and Seth, which is the downfall of all bromances that also try to work as heterosexual romantic comedies. It always bothers me when a show sets up a great love triangle and then drops it or resolves it completely. That shit should be dragged out for years for my televisual pleasure! The Anna-Seth-Summer love triangle worked because I liked all the characters equally. You could understand all three points of view equally. Initially it wasn't weighted immeasurably toward one pairing or the other. You could root for Seth and Summer, simultaneously root for Seth and Anna, and then also root for Summer and Anna to put their own burgeoning friendship above Cohen. In the end, Seth dropped Anna for Summer, and the show dropped Anna for the second season. I was legitimately angry at a TV show about fictional teenagers for betraying me in this fashion.
Anna was the first female character to come into The O.C. who was, like Seth and Ryan, a Newport Beach outsider herself. She was also a female mirror of Seth; she liked comic books, she wore a lot of sweaters, she was into Death Cab for Cutie. In short, she was a lot (exactly) like me at 19. She also had the haircut and personality of Watts from Some Kind of Wonderful, foreshadowing her plot arc. And in a painfully relatable plot twist, Anna found out that having so many things in common with Seth Cohen did not actually make Seth Cohen interested in her romantically. He wanted to date a pretty, popular rich girl rather than his buddy Anna, despite knowing full well that Anna would actually like his mixtapes and get his Psylocke references. Seth chose Summer because he wants to advance social castes and fulfill his masturbatory fantasies about seeing Summer's body in spandex. He may have self-identified as an indie-rock nerd himself, but he still wanted to go out with booth babes.
During their good-bye, Seth even gave Anna a condescending speech about how he might be ready for a girl like her later in his life, after he's had more life experience (read: banged out more rich girls). That was pretty much the moment I turned on Seth Cohen. Not for the dumping! For the condescending little speech. And let's be real, he was a terrible boyfriend to Summer too. All he did was lie to her, lie about lying to her, do some grand gesture to win her back, and then learn nothing from the experience since he just KEPT DOING IT, OVER AND OVER AGAIN. I started to feel pretty quickly that Summer could do better. Just because a dude looks like Adam Brody and self-identifies as adorkable does not mean he can't be a dick. He's just a different kind of asshole; the passive-aggressive kind.
Anna showed up again in the third season, running into Seth at a Brown University pre-frosh party. Obviously she had not been waiting around for two years for him to grow up and realize he'd like a girlfriend he could actually be friends with. There was a brief misunderstanding and a resolution, but she no longer posed a threat to the now canonized OTP of Seth and Summer (whatever). Anna helped Seth get an interview at RISD, because of course she knew people there. In retrospect, I cut Seth Cohen and his ilk some slack because they were young and stupid and you only learn how not to accidentally hurt people through a lot of doing it. And I understand why Seth chose Summer, because I understand why Andie in Pretty in Pink chooses Blane (his name is Blane!). You're allowed to be superficial (so that you learn why not to be) and you might not get another shot. You learn through experience. Plus hey, 19. Later, Cohen.
Rooney on The O.C.
Rooney was on The O.C. Maybe you heard.
Seth and Summer Totally Did It
Amos Barshad: The truth is, I remember nothing.
When they told me we were paying homage to The O.C., I felt all warm and gooey inside. For a while there, this was a show I didn't just watch, but obsessed over. As I remember, it aired Wednesdays in America, but Mondays in Canada, which meant you could, if you really wanted to, download new episodes a day and a half early. Which, of course, I did every week. This was sophomore year of college: I would come home from morning classes, still half-asleep, uninterested in anything but greedily consuming the bounty. Two things:
1. I did this with the door closed, and the sound low. I wasn't exactly terrified that my roommates would catch me watching; I just preferred that it wouldn't happen. That same year, I remember an editor at the college paper loudly bragging about how he had no guilty pleasures: He could, and would, readily explain to you the justification for all of his manifold pleasures. I thought then that was a commendable achievement; not that long after, that was how we were all being trained to think. And, OK, yes: Living post-guilty-pleasure is living true. But it's also all right to feel a tiny bit nostalgic for the weird, dumb thrill of loving something with shame.
2. I bailed out somewhere toward the latter reaches of the second season. I remember tuning in for the one where Marissa dies. Anything else from the third or fourth feels like an alternate reality. But for that first season, I think I really did love The O.C. It gave me a sense of enormous well-being.
Which is weird. Because thinking back, as I tried to pick a clip to commemorate, it turned out, I remember nothing. Kirsten ... had a sister? Julie ... slept with Luke? Anna ... was from Pittsburgh?! But going down the YouTube sinkhole was a revitalizing experience. Take this arc of Summer and Seth doing sex for the first time:
They cringe, they shout, they force jokes, they fast-talk right over each other; I mean, I don't know how, but it really does immediately makes you feel better about everything. Sure, it's nice to see that some of the patter actually holds up. ("The other night, when we ... had sex ... you weren't the only virgin in the room." "There was someone else in the room?") More to the point: Post-sinkhole, craving a binge, I checked to see if The O.C. is streaming on Netflix. It isn't. So I guess I'll just have to download them all again.
"Gather Around, Marissa. I'm Gonna Teach You How to Schmear."
Great, these bagels were stale. Almost chipped a tooth.
[Innocent bagel dies in bagel-guillotine as Modest Mouse plays.]
"Everything's OK now. We killed a bagel for you."
The Death of Coop
Juliet Litman: I always hated Marissa. It's so easy to hate the main girl on teen soaps — Joey Potter, Rory Gilmore, Amy Abbot — because they generally have to complicate relationships and make poor choices to extend story lines. Marissa was constantly finding ways to get Ryan and herself in trouble by getting expelled from school, stealing watches, stealing bottles of vodka, taking too many painkillers, shooting Ryan's brother, and befriending the wrong people. Finally, her recklessness leads to her death. Her short-lived ex-boyfriend Volchok (Cam Gigandet) decides to avenge his broken heart by knocking Ryan and Marissa's car over a cliff. At the time, there were rumblings that Mischa Barton had been fired, and her death was not a complete surprise. Yet I was wholly unprepared for the brutal end of the girl next door. The scene perfectly echoed the final scene of Season 1, Episode 7, in which Ryan rescues Marissa from a drug overdose in Tijuana, carrying her the exact same way. Mazzy Star's "Into Dust" played over that scene, but by the time Marissa died, Imogen Heap had become The O.C.'s resident dirge singer. Even while I was weeping over the death of a character I loved to criticize, I was reminded of what made the show fun to watch. Even in times of death, the scripts rewarded fans with allusions to earlier episodes and winks to the audience, making you feel like you were part of the club.
And if Marissa had never died, Ryan Atwood never would have taken a turn as an angry cage fighter. Never forget how much we owe to Marissa's death.
"These Women Sacrificed a Lot So You Could Vote."
Yes, this is Chris Brown teaching Kaitlyn Cooper (Willa Holland) about women’s suffrage in Season 4. Later, he turns down some marijuana. And you thought we were being cute when we said these were simpler times.
The O.C. Cast: Real Estate Listings
Impeccable and stylish two-family brownstone in a hot, emerging neighborhood. Great bones, large glass windows — some with stately awning — with views of limpid pools, plus a spacious garage for your sentimental mail truck.
Immaculate condo, close to bars. Thin, beige lines and streamlined construction. Severe modern fireplace (gas, inoperable) serves as a striking visual hearth. Needs TLC.
Airstream trailer on a huge lot, tons of possibilities. Let your imagination run wild! Flashy yet understated, trashed by previous occupants before being relocated by indie band of preservationists. Embrace the romantic beach-loner lifestyle or flip it for cash. Some nicks and dents. AGENTS SEE PRIVATE REMARKS: Current owners, residing in Chino, have not been informed of intent to sell.
All-glass loft located at peak of imposing hill, surrounded by wrought iron gates. All lights on dimmers, mirrored walls, floating staircase, Juliet balcony, dramatic driveway lined with palms. Built on fault line.
Sexy Vegas timeshare. Fire your gardener and enjoy the maintenance-included xeriscaping on the semiprivate rooftop pool with built-in margarita bar. Close to colleges, tennis courts, and gyms. Short sale — may not hold up to inspection due to foundation issues.
Yacht. Investment property. Kitchen fire caused extensive damage, so bring your contractor.
Charming Tudor in the mall district. Do not judge from street — must be toured to be appreciated! Raised vegetable garden in backyard, solar panels newly installed. Walk-in closets. AGENTS SEE PRIVATE REMARKS: Showings must be scheduled in advance; current tenants negotiating possession of property during divorce proceedings. Shadow of stepmonster frequently spotted haunting premises.
Spacious, updated apartment in architecturally significant landmark building. Charming library with built-ins to accommodate expansive record collection. iPod dock in every room, balcony wired for surround sound. Great views. Funny doorman. Back on the market; buyer flaked. Oops, never mind. She's back. /SALE PENDING.
Sean Fennessey: In the aftermath of The O.C., there has been some handwringing over the fate of nearly every cast member, collectively once tabbed as a new constellation of Hollywood stars. Adam Brody never became the next Tom Hanks, as Bill Simmons once predicted. Rachel Bilson never transformed into America's sweetheart. And Mischa Barton, well, she Mischa'd. Olivia Wilde is often identified as the reigning queen of the O.C. sweepstakes. But there is another. An actor who gunned down bin Laden, who swept a blonde starlet off her feet, who crafted one of the singular comic characters in recent sitcom history, who will soon be a Guardian of the Galaxy. Chris Pratt! Mr. Andy Dwyer was once Ché, the secret trust-funder who radicalized Summer at Brown. There are dashes of Dwyer in Ché; the guitar, the earnestness, the idiotic diffidence. Why didn't we see this sooner? GIVE POULTRY A VOICE!
Mmm, Whatcha Saaay
Emily Yoshida: Ryan’s brother Trey was getting to be a problem in Season 2, in a way that wasn’t really interesting enough to justify keeping him around and trying to redeem him, so all signs pointed to his getting offed in the season finale. What the signs didn’t point to would be that he would get shot in gleefully melodramatic fashion to the tune of what still stands out in my memory as one of the best/worst music cues, Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek,” which had served as the motif for the entire, death-centric Season 2 finale. In the world of The O.C., even a bullet at point-blank range isn’t enough to keep you from delivering a rueful, slow-motion, over-the-shoulder glance at the girl who shot you down. Even a violent, bloody death shouldn’t stand in the way of Emotions. It wasn’t the end of Trey (spoiler alert: He wakes up from a coma in the Season 3 premiere; one of the early signs that that season was going to be pretty starved for ideas), but it was truly the beginning of the end for Marissa, who graduated from alcoholism to lesbianism to firearms in about as quick a succession as one normally does at age 17. There’s some sort of moral buried in there, I’m pretty sure.
The O.C. was still wildly popular then, but I wonder how many people actually got the reference when the moment was immortalized in what is, for my money, one of the weirdest, slowest, funniest digital shorts in SNL history.
And This Is How It All Ended, in Case You Forgot, Which Maybe You Did, We've All Lived Rich and Fulfilling Lives in the Six Years Since the Finale
Mark Lisanti: Spoiler alert: The O.C. ended in 2007, so please proceed with caution if you're afraid that watching the finale montage might forever scuttle your catch-up binge plans. But let's be honest; if you didn't watch the show, you're not reading this far anyway. Only a crazy person would do that. This is a safe space to saddle up on Captain Oats and take a leisurely but triumphant trot into the Harbor School reunion, your arm wrapped around the much-too-attractive partner you've enchanted with your hyperverbal nerd-charm, your encyclopedic knowledge of indie bands with a 50-50 chance (at best) of aging well, and your comic-book collection alphabetized by artist. No one will be throwing you into a pool this time, unless it's a mutually agreed-upon splash-in just for old times' sake, because didn't it seem like someone was getting heaved in among the meandering floaties and motorized chlorination-sharks every single week, back in the day? You almost get wistful for those groggy next mornings, your still-sopping Flash T-shirt drying on some high-end patio furniture, the warm basket of bagels in the kitchen waiting to be sympathy-schmeared, the impossibly lush eyebrow-thicket of a parent raised hairlineward in concern, but not overbearing concern.
That's why you're here. That's why we're all here.
This is how it ended for everybody.
See you in another 10 years.
Maybe bring a fresh T-shirt. The venue's got a pool.