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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Another few things bugged me about Thursday's O.C. ep. In general, the characters didn't react appropriately to what was going on. Caleb mentions Ryan's knocking a girl up in front of Lindsay, and she never asks him about it -- many viewers at TVGasm busted the ep for that. Seth notices his dad sneaking into the house in the morning. Does he ask about that? Nope. Kirsten lets it slide too, with a "I was worried about you." I mean, when a family man stays out all night without calling, it's something to ask about, isn't it?

But one of the biggest glitches for me was in the narrative. Sandy stays out all night with Rebecca, drinking and ... what. What did they do all night? Did they fool around? Did they just talk? Did they come close to fooling around? What?

I believe that Nothing important can happen offscreen unless it immediately becomes an issue -- a mystery of what happened, or if the event is known, an issue that rocks people's world dramatically. Sandy and Rebecca's night together is a complete blank slate for the viewers to fill in -- fine if you're Antonioni, not fine if you want to tell a story, which means controlling the audience's experience and making sure they're all hearing the same story. Storytelling is about taking control of your audience's experience -- "we control the horizontal, we control the vertical" -- and here they lost control.

The writers handle this same issue of romantic tension between two people who are off-limits to each other so delicately and cleverly between Summer and Set, where they almost kiss, and then don't. Why can't they do the same with Sandy and Rebecca? Is it because Kim Delaney's character is an almost total non-entity -- someone we have no sense of as a person? The girl's spent 22 years on the run -- how has that changed her? Does she still stand for what she stood for then? Does she think she was deluded? Stupid? Wrong? Is she still proud of what she did?

Does she wants Sandy back? Has she kept track of Sandy at all -- Sandy's career can't be hard to track? Why didn't she call all those years? Why show up now?

The tragic thing is that the setup is fine -- a woman from Sandy's past, a woman who's in some ways much more right for Sandy than Kirsten. But there's no follow through.

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