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California, Here We Come! ‘The O.C.’ Season Four

September 25, 2015

The End’s Not Near, It’s Here…

Ah, the final 16 episodes of The O.C. Here we are (again). Fox ordered an abbreviated fourth season, a sign that the series’ dwindling viewership had finally prompted them to move on for good. Does it manage to provide proper closure? The short answer is a resounding “yes.” The long answer is that, like every show beloved by an audience, there were ups and downs, but nothing that wasn’t easily overcome by the bountiful reserves of back-stocked good will.

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Season three ended with Marissa Cooper being killed an in auto incident caused by a vengeful Kevin Volchok. The final season picked up a few months after that fateful night. Summer was wallowing at Brown, Seth was wallowing at home, and Ryan was tending bar, and moonlighting as the guy getting his face caved in in cage fights. It was a pretty dark entry point to the final season, but deep down, we all knew that the path to a warm, gooey series finale would lead us through the woods of Marissa Era closure.

Mercifully, this closure was attained by the third episode, leaving plenty of real estate for a satisfying final season. And what a whirlwind season it was. Sandy and Kirsten got back to basics. Julie took a little time for herself. Seth learned a little self-respect. Summer made an unforgettable friend at Brown. Taylor was officially absorbed into the group. Kaitlin ruled at Harbor, as promised. And oh, yeah, Ryan finally found a way to transcend his past.

With the quasi-nitpick that the finale was a bit more chaotic than I generally care to remember, The O.C. couldn’t have gone out on a higher note. Here are some of the broad strokes:

Ryan and Taylor

To put it mildly, Ryan and Taylor each began this season all out of sorts. Taylor dropped out of the Sorbonne. Fleeing her seductive french husband, Henri-Michel de Momourant (Henri Lubatti), Taylor returned to California, hiding out in Dr. Roberts’ mansion. Ryan, at this point a cage fighter, was caught up trying to cleanse his guilt through redemptive blows to the face. It wasn’t working for either of them. Their paths became inextricably linked when Henri-Michel tracked her down, attempting to bring her back to France. She roped Ryan into helping stage an affair, then justifying a divorce from Frenchy. Not exactly a meet cute, but hey.

To repay Ryan for his help, Taylor fraudulently offered her sleep-therapy services (now we’re talking). This healing process warmed Ryan to the idea of finally moving on from Marissa. Both Taylor and Ryan would help each other through further obstacles as their romance continued to unfurl. Taylor had mommy issues, and Ryan had daddy issues. Taylor managed to squeeze a little sympathy out her mother, and Ryan gave his father a second chance when they reunited for the first time in years. Baggage now unpacked, Ryan and Taylor became America’s new favorite couple (well, at least for a few weeks).

Smartly, the show didn’t end with an all-too-tidy Ryan/Taylor wedding. The two had great chemistry all season, and ended on a bit of a will-they-won’t-they. It was a pleasurable ending all the same, and felt a little more real life.

Seth and Summer

Seth finally grew himself a backbone. It was glorious. After taking the easy way out and often bringing dishonor to the family name, Seth learned to stand up for the good, and productively take matters into his own hands. As for Summer, she was making a name for herself as an environmental activist at Brown, until she got kicked out. Technically, it was Che’s fault (Chris Pratt) that she got kicked out, but we’ll get to him later. The point is Summer started making some noise in the world, and Seth finally molded himself into something resembling a suitable match for her. All was well with Revisionist History’s Favorite Couple.

Julie and Her Men

Julie had run through quite a few men in the first three seasons of the show, and it didn’t take her long to chew up and spit out Dr. Roberts in season four. Consider this the purging of the remaining vestiges of season three. She did continue to live in his mansion, but that’s just her way. It didn’t take long for love to come walking back in. She met rambuctious billionaire Gordon Bullitt through her dealings with NewMatch, and shortly thereafter, met a handsome mystery man named Frank. Julie juggled the two men for a while before ultimately deciding that she was better off alone.

I’ve referred to Julie as a predator before, and she has tended to do her best work when things aren’t going so great in the man department. I like to think she went on to do great things, channeling all her single lady energy towards something positive for a change (like early in the season when she convinced Ryan to hunt down and kill Volchok).

By The Numbers

Mermaid Inn Visits: 3

The Valley Mentions: 2

Ryan Punches: 2

  • Both Volchok

Formal Newport Events: 6

  1. New Match New Year’s Eve
  2. Kirsten’s 40th Birthday Party
  3. Ryan’s Birthday Party
  4. Taylor’s Birthday Party
  5. Julie’s Graduation from Berkeley*
  6. Seth and Summer’s Wedding*

*To be fair, these events probably didn’t happen in Newport.

Music of The O.C.

There weren’t a ton of show-stopping numbers this season, and the 16-episode run limited the opportunities. Here are the top five, plus a bonus:

“Running Up That Hill” — Placebo (Episode 1)

“The End’s Not Near” — Band of Horses (Episode 2)

“The Commander Thinks Aloud” — The Long Winters (Episode 9)

“West Coast” — Coconut Records (Episode 10)

“Lazy Eye”— Silversun Pickups (Episode 12)

Honorable:

“Night Moves” – Kaitlin and Julie Cooper (Episode 15)

Power Rankings

1. Ryan (TIE)

Here he is once more. We already know an awful lot about Ryan, but here’s the brief summary of his season four: Ryan got into cage fighting; Ryan went on manhunt for Volchok in Mexico; Ryan exercised restraint when he turned Volchok over to the police instead of fighting him again; Ryan had a fake affair with then-married Taylor Townsend to help her secure a divorce; Ryan developed real feelings for Taylor; Ryan fell off a ladder and into an alternate timeline; Ryan had many romantic misadventures with Taylor before deciding he wasn’t ready for a relationship; Ryan and Taylor reignited their passion at Seth and Summer’s wedding; Ryan pays forward Sandy’s first-season kindness when he seaw a kid in need.

The only way the show’s final scene, with Ryan and the kid, could have been any better is if he silently put his arm around the kid’s shoulder, and while walking him to his car, placed a Yama-Claus on his head. No words needed. You’re welcome.

1. Taylor (TIE)

Taylor was inroduced to us as a villain in season three, but she won our hearts in season four. She filled the void left by Marissa and was easily the more interesting character in the end. Her warmth, neurosis, and “Type-A-ness” made for a welcome combination of traits. She got divorced (not to mention married), posed as Ryan’s sleep therapist, became the subject of a hit French erotic novel, rented a homosexual for an evening, impersonated a limousine driver and overcame her mommy issues.

And this:

3. Seth

Seth made great strides as a human being in season four. He was entertaining as ever, but he finally learned to consider people other than himself in his decision making process. He risked temporarily alienating both Summer and Ryan, but he generally did it in the name of good. One such instance was standing up to Ryan to save both Ryan and Volchok from each other or worse. He also selflessly encouraged Summer to pursue her environmentalist passion, and of course, his faith was rewarded in the end.

4. Sandy

Sandy had a rough go in seasons two and three. Fortunately, he shed his Newport Group responsibilities and got back to just being a family man. He took up his old post at the Public Defenders office, and had a goofy almost-bromance with a guy named Spitzy. He flexed his leadership chops in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. The show is at its best when Sandy is large and in charge. Sandy was rarely front and center this season, but at the very least, he helped grease the wheels for the younger generation.

5. Julie Cooper (TIE)

Julie’s ending was among the best for any character. Faced with the decision of choosing between two marriageable men, Julie opted to rededicate herself as a mother, and even go back to college. Also true to Julie, she had both Gordon and Frank, along with Kaitlin and her young son, there to cheer her on at her graduation. Things weren’t always pretty with Julie, but she was easily one of the biggest winners by the final end credits.

5. Summer (TIE)

Summer only needed one semester at Brown to launch a career in environmental advocacy. She stole and adopted a rabbit, got kicked out of school, had a pregnancy scare and experienced the Newpsie life for 48 hours. Summer is probably the most changed character over the full 92 episode run of the show, and that’s more than enough to land her safely in the top five when all’s said and done.

7. Che

As a human person who did not watch Everwood, my first Chris Pratt experience was Che from The O.C. Pratt, our favorite ubiquitous but lovable movie star, plays the wonderfully bizarre didgeridoo-whispering, hippy songbird. Che is such a wonderful character, and in typical O.C. fashion, he goes through many phases. He was Seth’s rival for Summer’s attention at Brown, an environmental activist extraordinaire, a saboteur of all things bureaucracy, and a spiritual Sherpa. He got Summer kicked out of Brown, helped Seth find his spirit animal, and still had a surprise or two in store for us at the end of his reign. Long live Che.

8. Kirsten

Kirsten basically got to chill again. She turned 40 and had a baby. No need to over-think anything here.

9. Kaitlin Cooper (TIE)

As promised at the end of the third season, Kaitlin returned to the show for good. Her Valley accent might have been a little too real at times, but Kaitlin was a major reason (along with Taylor) that the fourth season not only stayed afloat, but flourished in Marissa’s absence.

No proper O.C. retrospective is complete with out a bit of head-scratching over Kaitlin’s age. Taking all evidence into account, Kaitlin conceivably aged from age 10-16 in a time period that could be considered less than four years. This cannot be glossed over. Throughout the course of season one, she is mentioned as being in 5th grade and 11 years old. It’s not uncommon for 5th graders to be 10 years old entering the school year, and based on later seasons, Kaitlin’s birthday is in January (the second half of the school year), further suggesting that she may have been 10 the first time she appeared in the show. The character was written out of the show for about a season and a half before returning for the holidays during season three, during which she celebrated her 15th birthday. It is never explicitly mentioned that she turns 16, but unless she is from Venus, it’s fair to assume she turned 16 before the show concluded. Semi-related: Kaitlin is seen driving a car on her own before the age of 16. I’m not going to begrudge the writer’s room for fudging the numbers to make a more interesting show as long as we can all admit that things did get a bit silly.

9. Gordon Bullitt (TIE)

Bang!

11. Pancakes

Yup. Summer named her rabbit Pancakes. Deal.

12. Frank Atwood (TIE)

There was no way this show could end without Ryan reuniting with his father. He got off to a rocky start, injecting himself into the story and then faking a terminal illness. But Frank (Kevin Sorbo, of Hercules fame), eventually demonstrated that we was deserving of a second chance.

12. Henri-Michel de Momourant (TIE)

Henri-Michel is the French intellectual and author who seduced Taylor while she was attending the Sorbonne. He reeked of cheese and erotic body odor. He also wrote A Summer for Peaches, the tale of his romance with Talyor that reached Fifty Shades-levels of notoriety. Like a true gentleman, he bowed honorably back to France as Taylor and Ryan’s relationship blossomed.

14. Darryl

Darryl is the homeless man who never seemed far from the action. He also salted Kaitlin’s game once.

15. Spencer Bullitt

Spencer taught tennis lessons to the Cooper ladies, nearly turned NewMatch into a full-blown prostitution ring, and was Gordon’s son. Spencer really isn’t that interesting. Top 15 could be considered overachieving.

16. Brad & Eric Ward

The young Ward twins played water polo, fawned over a Cooper girl, and generally acted like meat-head high school athletes. In other words, they followed in older brother Luke’s footsteps rather closely.

Also Receiving Votes

Kevin Volchok

The Volchok drama extended into the second episode of this season, but in the end, he went peacefully, allowing a return to normal for the remaining characters.

Veronica Townsend

Dr. Neil Roberts

Neil allowed Julie to take his mansion right out from under him, then he moved to Seattle and apparently joined the cast of Grey’s Anatomy (Not really, but also… really! You should seriously watch this season again.).

Will

Chris Brown played Will The Band Geek, and was a brief love interest for Kaitlin. Also, let this be “Exhibit A” for why Chris Brown is primarily a singer and not an actor.

Walter

Sophie Cohen

The newest Cohen!

Spitzy

Sandy’s man friend, and ultimate reason for deciding to leave Newport.

Che Quotes

“The chickens, man!”

“We’ve got a petition and a 24-hour tree-sit set to go so if that doesn’t work, revolution.”

“What if they go back on their word? I told them we’d be watching. Like a hawk over the Serengeti, we’ll be watching, so I think our friend is safe for now.”

“Why are we only with our tree friends in times of danger? We should be with them in times of joy, too.”

“Besides getting you kicked out of college, you know I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

“I wish I knew you were coming into town. I would’ve made a bracelet!”

“A little thong removification.”

“That’s amazing! I’ll weave you guys something ASAP.”

“Huh. It doesn’t matter. If it wasn’t evil they wouldn’t have to keep them locked up in cages like animals.”

“I had a dream. In my dream, my spirit animal was a frog and I was in a stream. I had the most magical day.”

“Come on, man, you can’t lie to me. I can see your aura.”

“…let’s go out on the lawn and have a truth circle.”

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