Mischa Barton and Nicholas Gonzalez: FOX
Annie Barrett
November 11, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

”The O.C.”: Back to school

It’s back to the Harbor School for the still-crazy-after-one-year O.C. crew. And — surprise! — Seth and Ryan don’t want to go. But then — surprise! — they do. I couldn’t believe it. And even though Seth and Ryan usually do a pretty good job of making their own lives miserable or awkward, this time they had some help from a few outside sources, each of whom was at least slightly off-putting in some way.

First, there’s Dr. Fisher, Ryan’s overbearing guidance counselor. I didn’t think high school counselors were allowed to be that attractive, let alone helpful. Mine didn’t seem to care much about me and was kind of ugly. He didn’t speak to me in a low, throaty voice, either — although that might have persuaded me to get more involved, maybe join the water polo team. Dr. Fisher informs Ryan that he is going to be an architect. ”Isn’t that what you want?” she asks, confident in his answer despite having just met him the day before. She really wishes he would sweep everything off her desk and whisper, ”No, Dr. Fisher. Protractors be damned. I want you.” But instead, Good Ryan Hunting takes his new advanced-placement schedule and silently broods his way out the door.

Worse is D.J., Marissa’s summer fling, whom she can’t date because he’s the ”yard guy” (YG). I somewhat disagree with Summer’s description of YG as a ”hot, hot yard guy, in the yard, who was hot.” First of all, YG never actually stood in the yard this episode. And his habit of keeping his shirt around his waist or breezily open at all times is clearly a ploy to distract girls with his pecs and abs so they don’t focus on his lackluster personality. Or worse, his strange face. He’s a full-on Monet — from far away it’s okay, but up close it’s a big old mess! Either his skin has been smoothed over with 30 layers of foundation, or he is actually a wax museum replica of Erik Estrada. Or maybe I just don’t like him because he’s YG.

By the way, are they calling D.J. the ”yard guy” because Desperate Housewives already has a ”gardener”? Or is it just a California thing? Did YG’s guidance counselor tell him, ”You’re going to need AP Biology and Introductory Soils if you want to become a yard guy”? And how does he know that Marissa calls him that? It’s all a little creepy. As is the name D.J. I didn’t like it when it was Candace Cameron on Full House, and I definitely don’t like it now.

But I do like one of the other people making life hell for our two boys: Summer’s new boyfriend, the Zach Attack. The only thing wrong with Zach, a.k.a. the WASP version of Seth, is that there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him, and everyone knows that in order to last on The O.C., you need a tragic flaw — like Ryan’s Chino-ness, Seth’s Cohen-ness, or Caleb and Jimmy’s criminal-ness. So far Zach seems perfect. He joins Seth’s comic book club (somehow, during the first few minutes at school, someone made up fliers in an inexplicable shade of neon pink) and is delighted that Summer plans to eat fried Snickers and funnel cake at the kickoff carnival. Okay, stop right there. I think I’m in love with Zach.

Speaking of love, Seth does a variation on last season’s coffee-cart declaration of Summer Lovin’ by straddling a hot dog stand (and then showing massive amounts of Cohen-ness and, for the second episode in a row, Kramer-ness, by awkwardly tumbling down). In the big as-seen-on-commercials moment, Seth throws himself in front of Zach Attack’s giant BMW in a last-ditch effort to win back his pastel princess. But Summer remembers how he ditched her and tells Seth, ”You like the chase, and that’s all. So you know what? You can have it.” And even though I want to smother the crestfallen Seth with a giant car-wreck hug, or at least the funnel cake and fried Snickers that never got eaten, Summer’s right.

What do you think? Is Zach the new Seth? Is neon pink the new black? And does YG have a chance with Marissa now that Ryan has caught them making out?

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