Petergallagher_theoc_s4_240The O.C. has been just a bit hit-and-miss in the past couple weeks as the writers grasped with the unfortunate need to reach a premature resolution, but Thursday (Feb. 15) night’s penultimate hour was a superior mixture of the kind of soap opera pathos and quick witted hilarity the show has sometimes blended so well.

[Guess what? There are spoilers here.]

Titled "Night Moves," the episode focused on the aftermath of last week’s earthquake and at various points everybody from Ryan to Kirsten’s unborn baby to Pancakes the Bunny faced at least some jeopardy. But this wasn’t a Big Shock episode of The O.C. and nobody fell off a cliff, got crushed by a car or locked tongues with Olivia Wilde. It instead opted to reaffirm the themes of family and forgiveness that will likely get beaten to blissful death in next week’s finale.

How much was the episode about family? Ryan and Seth, long brothers-in-arms, also became blood brothers when the former brawler from Chino required an O-negative infusion from the former friendless geek from Newport Beach. It may not have saved Ryan’s life necessarily, but it allowed for this priceless exchange.

Ryan: That’s weird, because all of a sudden, I have this strange urge to listen to Death Cab and read comic books.

Seth: Really?

Ryan: No.

Seth: Aw. That’s too bad, because if we could have turned this into a body-swap comedy, we could have squeezed another year or two out of this.

It’s either sad because it’s true, or funny because it’s true.

Just a few highlights of many:

  • Rachelbilson_theoc_s4_240_2Many of the actors got to do standout work, particularly Peter Gallagher, whose too-often-ignored Sandy got to be an authoritative leader at the chaotic disaster scene and then the concerned husband in the emergency room. Ditto with Rachel Bilson, who balanced humor and fear as she used her comic concern for Pancakes to mask her real worries about Seth. Melinda Clarke and Willa Holland got to be more purely funny, as Julie and Kaitlin and Gary the Ice Cream Guy were trapped in a strange chick flick in which they sang the episode’s title track and performed a She’s All That-style makeover.
  • In an effort to keep Ryan distracted from the shard of glass in his side, Seth attempted to keep his mind occupied with lists of people he’d punched since arriving in O.C., and worked in a variety of nostalgic references including the first time anybody’s said Sadie or Lindsay’s name in many a moon.
  • Endless zombie jokes! Darryl the Recurring Hobo gets a Land Rover! La Femme Taylor does a role-and-shoot and cripples her mom! Hercules to the rescue! Everybody survives! It’s a girl! Kudos to Stephanie Savage on the nifty script.
  • The ending. But surely Sandy Cohen has homeowners insurance up the whazoo.

    I could go on.

    But I won’t.

    Instead, because I can’t just love anything, the lowlights:

  • I think there had to be ways the episode could have been exactly as dramatic without being perilously over-directed. Oooh… Moody lighting. Oooh… dozens of fade-in-fade-out montages. Oooh… Shaky cam. Oooh… wacky angles. Oooh… Bass-heavy music to simulate heartbeats.

    Only one more week, kids.

    So, what’d you think of the episode? And, more importantly, what do you want to see happen in next week’s finale?