Season 2, Episode 1

Just look at the mess the writers left to clean up after the end of Season de Numero Uno: Caleb about to lose not only his fortune but perhaps his freedom; his new, much-younger bride Julie spending what's left of that fortune like there's no Tomorrowland; Ryan stuck in Chino and with teenage old-ball-and-chain Theresa, who carries their bambino/a; Marissa back to the bottle and brooding now that she can't be with the two most-important men in her life: dad Jimmy and boyfriend Ryan. (Thank God those Neutrogena ads came along to ease the pain.); Seth Cohen—as in "Mrs. Seth Cohen," which is now emblazoned across the latest TV-show-inspired baby tees that Fox is hawking to prepubescent girls, which is great because those "Future Bill O'Reilly Sexual Harassment Plaintiff" halter tops just weren't moving—THAT Seth Cohen sailing off for ports unknown now that he no longer has faux brother Ryan around to make Newport Beach tolerable; Seth squeeze Summer and parental units Sandy and Kirsten mending broken hearts, not only because the boy has split but because one of them must now step into the role of comic foil, something they just don't have the chops to pull off. (Come back to the five and dime, Linda Lavin, Linda Lavin.)

With all those threads dangled out like so much untamed pubic hair, how could McG, Josh Schwartz and their staff of stone-washed scribblers possibly make things right in one one-hour episode (actually, 22 minutes when you remove the commercials)? Well, fear not, Riviera fans, 'cause by the time tonight's end credits roll, the Soapest with the Mostest manages to put Seth and Ryan back in the pool house where they belong and everything is right again in the Cohen manse—at least until the fallout from the Caleb Nichol government kickbacks-case has those textured walls coming a-tumbling down.

MEXICAN SPOTTING OF THE WEEK: No sign of Rosie the Latina maid, but there's a hunky new gardener making eyes and exposed bulging pecs at Marissa as she sprawls out, barely coherent, in next to nothing around the Nichol estate. At least, he may be a Mexican. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Dark tan. Credits that include American Family and Resurrection Blvd. Besides, if The O.C. is going for Newport Beach realism (why start now?), he'd be Mexican all right. Of course, he'd also be confined to scenes taking place during daylight to conform to the real Newport's official No Mexicans in Town After Sunset law.

LINE OF THE WEEK: "The more time I spend with Zach, the less time I think about . . . God, what's his face? Built like a bean pole, curly hair, runs away like a little bitch on his sailboat, leaving nothing but a note for his girlfriend who cried over and over for him until the Fourth of July until she decides she doesn't cry over bitches on sailboats." Summer, catching up with emaciated, liquored-up best pal Marissa.

 
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