Adambrody_theoc_s4_240 As you may have heard by now, The O.C. needs your help. After watching the fourth-year soap get obliterated by CSI, Grey’s Anatomy and that thing where Howie Mandel pretends he isn’t terrified of the germs on suitcases, FOX has decided to give The O.C. a shot on Wednesday night in a 9 p.m. time slot that could become permanent if the numbers are acceptable.

So I’m here reminding you to watch, though not necessarily because the episode airing on Wednesday is particularly stellar. It’s the rockiest of the four episodes FOX has sent to critics, uneven in tone and pacing, but it still contains shining moments. The episode that airs on Thursday night is better and the one that will show at some point next week is better still, putting the multi-episode Marissa Malaise behind us and moving in directions that recapture the voice of the first season. But in order for those future episodes not to whither on the Thursday vine, I recommend you tune in tomorrow.

For the first time since season one’s crucial pre-hiatus episode "The Escape," The O.C. is ready for a trip South of the Border, this time forgoing the fetid touristy haven of Tijuana for the differently fetid, differently touristy haven of Ensenada in Baja. For a show that’s often been dominated by self-referentialism, "The Gringos" mostly keeps its tongue (if episodes have such things) out of cheek. If "The Escape" was fueled a tone of drunken abandon and out-of-control rebelliousness, "The Gringos" is fueled by Ryan’s bruised rage. He’s not going to Mexico for street tacos and tequila. He’s hoping to find Volchak and vengeance.

Even with Seth tagging along and befriending a squad of blitzed Marines, the Mexican material is dark and doesn’t mesh well with subplots that include Julie and Caitlin Cooper working together on a clothing drive for Darfur refugees and Summer getting a surprise visit at Brown from the very secretive Taylor.

[Spoilers, just in case you couldn’t guess.]

Some highlights:

  • Seth’s spot-on reaction to learning Ryan’s destination: "Perfect, I need Chiclets."
  • Taylor showing up not just at Brown, but in Summer’s bed in a teddy only gets funnier when she discovers that her friend has let certain hygienic niceties lapse ("Ohmigod. When was the last time you shaved your legs? It’s like a forest.").
  • Summer’s reaction to a night outside protecting a campus tree — "Have you ever tried sleeping outside? There is so much grass and you can’t turn off the stars" — is the kind of line reading that nobody does better than Rachel Bilson.
  • No matter how often they change the rules, shows like The O.C. don’t get Emmys, but there ought to be some kudos for Melinda Clarke and her display of palpable grief watching TV’s Dumbest Cops ("Are people in America really this fat?") and warning Caitlin about the real facts of life ("The world is an amoral toiletbowl and one day we’ll all be flushed.").
  • "Ask anybody. Gay dad always trumps slutty mom."

    Some lowlights:

  • The trip to Mexico yields insufficient payoffs. Seth gets a tattoo and betrays Ryan? Sandy discovers that Julie sent Ryan on a mission of murder and gets upset? Taylor gives romantic advice in Spanish to a Mexican stranger on a cell phone? The episode begins with Ryan alienated from the Cohens and wanting to kill Volchak and ends the same way, but without any notable character movement. Plus, Kirsten makes a point of referencing her two semesters of Spanish and then doesn’t speak a word? Come on!
  • Steve-O. He pops up in Mexico as the loudest of the hammered Marines. I guess somebody thought the Mexican scenes needed more variation of tone, but I was mostly grateful that he didn’t staple some sensitive part of his anatomy to any other sensitive part of his anatomy.
  • The Darfur clothing drive didn’t do much other than repeat what we already know — Caitlin’s a troublemaker and Luke’s brothers are dorks. Then again, if a single teenage girl pauses and Googles Darfur, maybe that’s a positive.

    Is Wednesday night a better time for you to watch The O.C. (don’t forget that Lost is going away for a while after Wednesday)?

    What’d you think of the second episode?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg