Penultimate "The O.C." spoilers coming right up...
Well, how about that? The last few episodes had me worried that Josh and company were just limping to the finish line, and even the first third or so of last night's episode had me thinking, "They're spending their next-to-last episode ever on this?" But somewhere around the point where Julie and Kaitlin had their Bob Seger duet and Seth started Ryan on a trip down Punchy Memory Lane, I just went with it, and by the time everyone was hugging in the hospital, I was getting choked up.
One of my few major complaints about this season has been how subdued Seth has been throughout. Adam Brody arguably went too far in the opposite, mugging direction in the middle seasons, but if there was one part of last week's "Summer worries that Seth doesn't care about anything" subplot that rang true, it's that Seth seems to be on Lithium or something equally personality-muffling this year. So it was very welcome and funny and touching to have him go so meta throughout his rescue attempt, to have him bring up so much of the good (Ryan punching Luke a whole lot), the bad (Johnny and company) and the abruptly-forgotten (Lindsey and Sadie), and the whole body-switching line was the icing on the cake.
Some series devote a week to a clip show right before the end, and in a way, this one felt like a clip show, not just with all of Seth and Ryan's nostalgia, but Taylor referencing Jimmy Cooper, the nod to the instability of the Balboa Wetlands (subject of an early Caleb Nichol plot), Julie's Seger love and other bits of mintuiae for the die-hards.
And, at the same time, it played like something that would have been perfectly appropriate as a series finale. After four years of having his bacon saved by Ryan, Seth finally gets to return the favor. Julie and Kaitlin finally reach an equilibrium and genuinely enjoy each other's company. Taylor makes peace with her mother (after the most awesome roll-and-shoot in the history of roll-and-shoots). The Cohens will have a daughter to join their two fully-grown sons. And the McMansion -- Ryan's salvation from his dead-end childhood, the site of so many good and bad and funny moments for him and the Cohens -- collapses. (And, in the process, gave Peter Gallagher yet another moment to shine, as you could see so many things flashing across his face as he surveyed the wreckage, not the least of which was the realization of how lucky they were to have been out at the time of the quake.) When the preview for the finale boasted, "All your questions will be answered!," I turned to my wife and said, "I'm not sure I have any questions left, really."
Which doesn't mean I won't be glued to the couch next Thursday night at 9, blowing off "Grey's" and the NBC comedies and maybe even sitting through some commercials if I have to, to say goodbye to this wonderful roller coaster ride of a show.
What did everybody else think?