Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guiding Light or Olivia: Which One is Hitting Rock Bottom?

The temporary departure of Jessica Leccia seems to have thrown the writers of Guiding Light into a tailspin. Their first act of lunacy was creating a highly unlikely, very unpopular pregnancy. The second was Natalia's reaction to finding out she was pregnant. Did she take her steely resolve to Olivia and tell her about her condition and hash out what adding a baby to the mix would mean for their future together? Did she confront Frank with the news that she was carrying his child? No. She did neither of these things. Instead, she ran. And she didn't just run. She ran without saying so much as a word to the woman she loves, the woman who was, at that very moment, waiting for her to join her and come out to the entire town. The writers would have us believe that Natalia is strong and brave enough to stand her ground and tell her son that she is in love with Olivia, strong and brave enough to walk away from a safe wedding to a decent man in exchange for the unknown territory of loving a woman, strong and brave enough to challenge her priest and stand firm in her belief that God loves her no matter what. The writers would have us believe Natalia is strong enough and brave enough to do all of these things, but too weak to and cowardly to pick up the phone, dial Olivia's number and say, "I'm ok. I still love you. I'm confused about a couple of things in my life and I just need to work some things out." I don't buy it. But I've said all of this before. It is what it is and, as a viewer, I'll have to live with it.

As this is where the writers have brought Natalia, my only hope was that Olivia's reaction to it would be more in-character. I fully expect - I embrace - the idea of Olivia Spencer hitting rock bottom. She's had the rug pulled out from under her. Remember - Olivia was afraid to pursue her feelings, sure that someone would get hurt, convinced that Natalia could not handle and was not ready to accept the love she had to offer. Over time, Natalia convinced Olivia to let her guard down, stop fearing the unknown, and end her fatalistic thinking. It would be only natural and logical for Olivia to react to this betrayal of trust by going headlong into a downward spiral. And Crystal Chappell is so damned good at the wounded anti-heroine thing - any opportunity to see her in this light is long as it makes sense.

"Olivia...she's her own worst enemy - when she starts hurting she makes everyone around her hurt even more." - Frank Cooper, describing Olivia Spencer

Let's look at how Olivia has reacted to the love of her life disappearing without a trace.

A heartbreaking, private display of sadness and grief in the woods, starting just a few feet from the Bauer BBQ.

While others play Happy Hetero around the grill, Olivia falls into a fit of crying and wailing that even makes the almost ridiculously beautiful Crystal Chappell look, well, less than beautiful. I like this. Even though the visual image of it alongside Happy Heteros is pure, unadulterated, homophobic evil....Crystal Chappell is perfect in this scene. It's what I think Olivia would do- find a place to be alone, be pissed off, and vulnerable, and let her heart break in privacy. Olivia does not like to let her cracks show.

A "religious retreats of the Midwest" road trip with Doris Wolf.

What does Olivia do when her girl disappears? She sets out to find her. This is the Olivia I know and love - she doesn't give up without a fight and, when she wants something, she goes out there and just takes it. I can even suspend disbelief long enough to buy the screaming in the churchyard: Olivia is, after all, brokenhearted. What I don't believe: inviting Doris Wolf along for the ride. Olivia and Doris may have formed a certain bond with one another, but I hardly think Olivia would so willingly show the chinks in her armor to someone who isn't exactly a friend. This is going to be an emotional road trip - Olivia has to know this. Would she really, truly invite Doris, a woman who, really, she hardly knows? I don't believe it. My Olivia takes this trip on her own. The only person I believe she'd possibly share such a revealing journey with (besides Natalia)? Oddly enough: Reva. With Reva tied up in a murder investigation, Olivia would most definitely have taken this trip alone.

Forgetting to pick Emma up from day camp because she's drunk, considering driving Emma home while she's drunk. This is not what Olivia does, not how she operates. Olivia hurts herself. She hurts other people around her. When it comes to her child, though, she is a fierce lioness. Olivia does not forget her kid or put her kid at risk. It just isn't something she's done or would do, and I hate that the writers make her do it. Olivia would be the last person in Springfield to ever neglect her child.

A fool's errand to Chicago.

With all due respect to the writers of Guiding Light, what the fuck is this piece of nonsense about? There's so much wrong with it, that it would probably save space to say what's right with it. What's right with it: Olivia doesn't force Emma to accompany her on this stupid trip, because she doesn't like the idea of scaring her. Ok, I actually do have to say what's wrong with it: It's pointless. Olivia knows full well that Natalia is at a religious retreat. Why the hell does she go on a wild goose chase to Chicago? And how does she get it into her head that Natalia has run away to some dive bar where she once worked? If Olivia absolutely has to go to Chicago, doesn't it make more sense for her to look up Natalia's relatives, and not some guy who employed her a million years ago? And the handcuffs. Really? Really? No. Just no.

Which brings me to...

Flirting with Josh.

I believe Olivia would flirt with Josh. Sex is something that Olivia has always turned to when she's vulnerable and/or in pain. (Remember that threesome action with two complete strangers she took part in when she found out she only had weeks to live? Good times.) However - and this is a big however - I don't believe Olivia would flirt just for the sake of it. The writers have Olivia looking as if she's enjoying the flirtation with Josh that never amounts to anything. Even as she calls him to bail her out, it's in her most flirtatious, almost light-hearted way. This is not the Olivia I know. I'd be more willing to buy an Olivia who is so broken-hearted, so full of pain, that she jumps into bed with Josh, and fucks his brains out, in a self-loathing effort to forget her troubles. This business of casual flirting that leads to nothing, and almost looks fun? It doesn't ring true. There is nothing fun about what Olivia is going through. If she's turned to sex as a balm in the past, it's always been a poor cure....she shouldn't be looking as if she's enjoying the cat-and-mouse game quite so much.

Putting Rafe in his place.

Power suit? Check.
Aviator glasses? Check.
Kick-ass, don't-get-in-my-way attitude? Check.
Steely nerves when facing the enemy? Check.

Olivia and Rafe finally have a showdown of sorts and, for what it is, it is a thing of beauty. When Olivia tells Rafe that, quite possibly, HE is to blame for his mother's disappearance, she might as well be saying, "I have had about as much of you as I can stand. You're mother isn't here to protect you now, girly-man, so it's on." Now, this telling off could stand to be longer and stronger. For instance, when Rafe says that Olivia has forced his mother to leave him, I yearn for Olivia to point out that, in fact, Rafe abandoned his mother weeks ago. She also could mention how rich it is for an attempted murderer to stand in judgement of anyone else. There's a lot Olivia could say during this exchange, but doesn't get around to or have the time to. What she does say, though, is powerful. And the fact that Olivia doesn't break down until Rafe is well out of sight gives me hope that crazy-ass, bad-mother, illogical Olivia is on the way out, and angry, strong, dangerous Olivia who never lets her cracks show is back in Springfield.

As Frank pointed out to Natalia last year, when Olivia starts hurting, she makes everyone around her hurt even more. That's the Olivia I'm holding out for. I've missed you, honey.


Anonymous said...

You called Olivia honey. Thats scandalous.
XO Liz

Martha said...

Don't you be calling my girl "honey". I will cut a bitch. Oh yes I will.

Ocean1Blue said...

And I hope the angry, strong Olivia holds fast when Natalia comes back. Natalia deserves Olivia's anger. What she does not deserve too quickly, or too easily, is immediate forgiveness. I hope Olivia unleashes some of that fury Natalia's way. They have to be completely honest with each other now. No more bullshit.

Neixa said...

Yes I miss old Olivia too but this Olivia is different..she has grown as a person, we have see her change over this last year after the heart trans, Nat frienship and love..I think that's why she is acting this way..Also as a viewer also have to accept the fact that is drama in a soap opera with no much time to wrap things up.. I wish and hope for a Happy ending between between Nat and Liv.

Snapper said...

Grown as a person? How is shifting from being the most responsible, engaged parent in town, to neglecting one's child and putting her in harm's way a sign of emotional growth?

I'm sorry - this has nothing to do with emotional growth. It's about bad writing.

As for the short time that's left for this show - yes, time is very why are the writers wasting what little time is left on this nonsense? Having watched this show for as many years as I have, a happy ending (for *anyone, not just Otalia) that doesn't make sense won't satisfy me. If the actors and writers and crew have invested a lot, so have many of us who have watched over many, many years. We deserve not just a happy ending, but a good journey.

columbus150 said...

Damn right! Olivia driving to Chicago for no good goddamned reason and handcuffing herself to a bar we have never seen before was complete bullshit. Made absolutely no sense at all because Liv knew that Natalia was at the retreat. Getting drunk, forgetting to pick up Emma - and then preparing to leave with the child in the car - these are things that Olivia would never do. She may be a lot of things but she is the best mother in Springfield. Her scene with Rafe was a start but she should have read him the riot act. This entire storyline since Natalia abandoned Olivia without a note has been complete garbage. The only bright spot was the Ava/Olivia talk when Olivia came out to Ava. The rest has been time-wasting crap in a soap which does not have time to waste.