I know it feels like Thanksgiving was only yesterday, but if you can believe it, it’s already Christmas! Or, more accurately, Chrismukkah: the holiday Seth invented as a child of a multifaith household in which neither parent seems to actually practice their de facto religion (which perhaps explains Seth’s choice for an object symbolic of his mother’s faith):
Seth explains this superholiday, which consists of eight days of presents followed by one day of many presents, to a bemused Ryan, who you can already tell is going to be a big old Grinch about it. Sandy and Kirsten come home with a Christmas tree and humor their weirdo of a son as he goes on and on about merging Christianity and Judaism. After a lengthy pitch, he asks Ryan what he thinks and Ryan is like “That sounds very nice… for you.”Kirsten asks Ryan what some of his holiday traditions were when he lived in the ghetto. Ryan is like
Everybody stands around awkwardly for a minute and then Sandy says that all his holidays from now on will be the bomb dot com. Seth tries to hug him, but he tells them to enjoy their decorating and leaves. Seth decides that he is going to get Ryan into the Chrismukkah spirit if it kills him.
The next day Seth is sitting on Ryan’s bed doing a bit of gift-wrapping. A bed doesn’t really strike me as an ideal surface for this, but ok Seth, I see what you’re trying to do here! Ryan asks what he’s wrapping and Seth says it’s “Seth Cohen starter packs” for Summer and Anna, meaning a bunch of CDs and DVDs that he likes. This genius has decided to give both his girlfriends the same terrible gift, leading us all to continue to wonder why either of them gives him the time of day. Well, Summer at least. Anna is hopeless.
Ryan is like “You are an idiot and you need to pick one girlfriend. P.S. You had better not have gotten me any gifts because I hate Christmas.” Seth is like “Of coooourse not! Wink!”
They go to the kitchen and Kirsten casually asks Ryan for his shoe size. Ryan is like “NO GIFTS!!!!!!!!!!!!” and before this holiday tension can escalate Sandy comes in and says that Chrismukkah is ruined because Caleb refused yet another settlement offer (because I guess the whole wetlands lawsuit thing is STILL going on) and wants to go to court so they’ll both probably have to work through the holidays. Seth is like “STOP RUINING MY FAVORITE HOLIDAY!” and I’m like “Did you not explicitly say two episodes ago that Thanksgiving is your favorite holiday? LEARN TO CHOOSE A FAVORITE AMONG TWO SEEMINGLY EQUALLY DESIRABLE OPTIONS, SETH!”
Meanwhile Jimmy is asking Marissa’s opinion on which is the better tie to wear to a job interview and Marissa is like
JK she just arbitrarily chooses one and then tells Jimmy that he doesn’t have to worry about getting a job to make money for the holidays because Christmas just makes people depressed and they should just skip the whole stupid thing. Jimmy is like “Wait are you depressed?” and Marissa is like “Um… no?” and then Jimmy brings up the fact that she was supposed to start going to therapy after ODing in TJ and I am personally SHOCKED that Jimmy “Iron Fist” Cooper has failed to enforce any of the rules that were established when Julie agreed to let Marissa move in with him.
So anyway, after finally remembering that his daughter is in need of the assistance of a mental health professional, Jimmy does not insist that she start therapy but instead is like “We’re just going to have an awesome Christmas and you will never feel sad again!”
At school Ryan and Seth talk about how both Summer and Anna are coming to Caleb’s big Christmas party but neither will be his date because he is a coward. Summer comes running up to ask what the plan is for the party, but then Anna runs up and asks the same question and then they glare at each other for a while until finally Seth is like “Let’s just all meet there whenevs!” and they storm away.
Julie has assumed hostessing duties for the party, since she’s Caleb’s girlfriend again, and she supervises a bunch of dudes who are putting up a giant and hideous tree in the backyard. Kirsten comes by and is like “No T no shade but YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM AND YOU NEVER WILL BE!” because I guess when Kirsten’s dead mom planned these parties the tree was always in the living room. Julie is like “I don’t want to remind my boyfriend of his dead wife on Christmas, thanks for your input though.”
Kirsten goes to hassle Caleb about not accepting Sandy’s settlement offer and Caleb is like
and Kirsten is like “Bitch you are ruining my Christmas so I’m officially taking a vacation for the first time ever!” and storms out.
Back at school Ryan and Marissa are proving that they are soulmates by grouching about how much they both hate Christmas. Ryan is like “Unfortunately my new family is rudely insisting on buying me presents like a bunch of dicks, so I have to go to the mall after school to get stuff for them with whatever meager wages I earned during the two weeks I worked at the Crab Shack” and Marissa is like “I AM A SHOPPING EXPERT LET ME COME WITH!”
They have a very romantic shopping montage but then realize that neither of them has enough money to shop at such a swanky mall so they head to the parking garage where a nasty surprise awaits them in the form of a very suspicious security guard.
The next day Kirsten is officially on vacation but because she’s such a workaholic she’s easing in by going through various Newport Group business documents while sitting in the kitchen in a bathrobe. Seth comes in and spots a couple of gifts on the table and asks who they’re from. Kirsten is like “Can’t you tell by the cheap wrapping paper that they’re from Trash Mom and Trey?” and they talk for a minute about how awkward it is whenever they’re reminded of Ryan’s trashy past. Then Kirsten gets distracted by an alarming piece of paper and Seth is like “What did you find? Has grandpa been using the company card for hookers and blow?” She’s like “It’s a very small cliffhanger that we’re not going to resolve for at least five minutes, hold onto your hat!”
Meanwhile Marissa is having a very serious talk with Jimmy about getting caught shoplifting when Julie comes barging in and is like
Jimmy says that he and Marissa were just discussing what an appropriate punishment might be and Julie’s eyes roll out of her face. Julie blames Jimmy for setting a bad example with the whole stealing money thing which is fair, but he and Marissa find this very offensive. After announcing that Marissa is super grounded as soon as the Christmas party is over, Julie asks Marissa why she stole. Marissa is like “I dunno. Because?” Both Julie and Jimmy finally put their foot down about the therapy thing and Marissa is like “BUT I HAVE A 4.0 GPA OBVIOUSLY I DON’T NEED THERAPY!”
At the Cohens’ the boys are suiting up for the party and Seth asks how the romantic mall excursion was. Ryan is like “It was great until Marissa stole a bunch of shit and got busted by security!” They meditate on the shittiness of Marissa’s life for a minute and then Seth presents Ryan with his very own giant personalized stocking. Ryan is like “I SAID NO PRESENTS!” but Seth says that it’s a Cohen requirement and Ryan is like
Kirsten is upstairs sitting alone in her bedroom with a glass of champagne, still staring at the suspicious document from before. Sandy comes running in to tell her that he finally settled with Caleb and gave him way too much money because he wanted to be able to spend Chrismukkah with his family, and she’s like “That’s cool. BTW I have to give you this piece of important paper but just FYI once my dad finds out I gave it to you I am going to be super fired and you will be the sole breadwinner in this household like it’s Freaky Friday or something!”
Downstairs, the doorbell rings and Seth is very surprised to see a mistletoe-toting Anna has arrived despite the “let’s all arrive at the party separately” plan. It really says a lot about how ridiculous Anna usually looks that even with weirdly clumpy looking locks of sparkly gold hair she looks the best she’s ever looked on this show, ensemble-wise.
Seth is like “You’re violating our agreement!” and Anna says Summer never needs to know. But OOPS! Summer rings the doorbell a second later, also carrying mistletoe! These ladies are weird. Anyway, they’re very mad at each other for breaking the rules and Seth is finding his love triangle less and less sexy and exciting with every passing moment.
Meanwhile Ryan is over at Marissa’s helping her put on a necklace and telling her that maybe therapy will be good for her. Marissa is like “ET TU, CHINO?” She insists that her parents are the ones who belong in therapy which is possibly also true but is sort of undermined by the fact that she then asks Ryan to go fetch her wrap and sneaks a bottle of vodka into her purse as soon as he’s gone.
The Cohen contingent arrives at the party and Summer and Anna try to get him to choose which one of them to hang out with first and he makes the choice I think we were all waiting for and goes to look for Ryan (there is no Luke in this episode so I have to ship something).
Meanwhile Sandy and Kirsten go to say hi to the host and hostess. Caleb is like “Isn’t it wonderful that we settled our lawsuit?” and Sandy is like “Yeah, about that…” and drags him away for a private chat. Julie takes this opportunity to ask Kirsten if she thinks Caleb likes the party and Kirsten is like “Oh yeah it’s great, my husband’s about to ruin it for him though it’s going to be an unforgettable evening!”
Julie then goes and interrupts a Ryan/Marissa makeout session and says “Oh, you wore the Chanel, how pretty!” which is a sentence that is almost never true and is definitely a lie in this case
She tells Marissa to go say hi to Caleb because he’s the host and she needs to at least pretend to have manners and Marissa is like “Thanks but no thanks” and excuses herself. Julie is like “I hate the holidays” and Ryan is like “Ditto” but I think what they really mean is “Loving Marissa is exhausting.”
Sandy has now cornered Caleb and I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats about that secret document and now finally we get to learn all about it! Apparently Caleb had some kind of geological survey of the wetlands that proved that basically if you tried to build on them your fancy condos would get sucked into the earth, so he just made Sandy’s clients pay a shitload of money for worthless land and now he’s in big trouble.
Apparently Seth has chosen to bestow his first round of one-on-one time on Anna, and they sit by a fountain and she gives him a hand-drawn comic called “The Adventures of Seth Cohen and Captain Oats.” I mean, it’s no “Atomic County” but it’s pretty good (shout out to people who have suffered through season 2!). Seth of course basically shits his pants over it and Summer looks at them from across the party and gets super jelly.
Elsewhere Kirsten and Jimmy are dancing which seems like probably not something Kirsten would do considering Sandy was hella pissed at her last episode about the time Jimmy kissed her, but ok. They talk about their kids and all the hijinks they get up to and how Jimmy is worried about Marissa.
Speaking of Marissa, she has had it with this party and is ready to get crunk in the bathroom by herself.
She pours basically half her bottle of vodka into what looks like a tumbler of Coke, takes a sip and makes a face as though she is surprised that it doesn’t taste good. You’d think a drinking expert like Marissa would have thought to bring rum instead but I guess she is kind of a moron.
Anna leaves Seth to get a drink and Summer takes the opportunity to swoop in and drag Seth into the house to give him her present, which is to let him ogle her while she reveals that under her ugly dress she is wearing a Wonder Woman costume (which at least explains her odd hair and makeup choices). She lassos him and they kiss but then she feels something odd poking her and is like “Is that a homemade comic book in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” She takes it out and suddenly decides that her gift is ridiculous and Anna’s is amazing and she’s very embarrassed at her own behavior. Seth is like “NO YOUR PRESENT IS PERFECT LET’S GET BACK TO IT!”
Then Anna comes in. Was she spying on them or did she just decide to randomly wander around a stranger’s house? These are the questions. Anyway she sees Seth and Summer in a compromising position.
Anna is like “Oh my god you look amazing that is a way better present than my dorky comic book what I am doing????” and finally both Summer and Anna have realized that they are in a ridiculous situation and tell Seth that he has to choose between them.
In the time it took for that whole situation to unfold, Marissa has gotten quite inebriated. She bounces over to Ryan and starts sticking her face all over his face and he’s like “Oh hi, Marissa. Why do you smell 100% more like vodka than you did before?” and she’s like “It’s a party, chillax!” and then poor Ryan is like “You are reminding me so much of my alcoholic mother right now” and Marissa tells him to shut up and then tries to drive herself home.
Ryan blocks the car with his body because he’s had a lot of bad Christmases but he’s pretty sure his girlfriend dying in a car crash would be worse than all the rest of them combined. She’s like “I’M TOTALLY FINE TO DRIVE I’M NOT AS THINK AS YOU DRUNK I AM!” and then she crashes into a parked car immediately.
Back at the party Sandy is allowing Caleb to save face by making an announcement that he’s such a great guy that he’s selling the wetlands to Sandy’s client for one dollar.
Everybody is like “What a swell dude” and they toast to his greatness.
After her minor driveway accident Marissa has allowed Ryan to drive her home and they’re just having a blast, driving in silence. Marissa pulls out her trusty vodka and prepares to start drinking it straight from the bottle and Ryan is like “Girl, really?” She starts to put it away but the cap falls off and she bends down to retrieve it just as a cop decides to pull them over. Ryan is like “I AM ON PROBATION WHY ARE YOU WRECKING MY LIFE!”
Marissa puts the bottle between her feet and buckles her seatbelt (so sneaky) as the cop comes up to tell Ryan that he needs to fix the taillight Marissa broke five minutes ago. The cop, whose name is Officer Sparks btw, asks if they’ve been drinking. Ryan says no but Sparky becomes very suspicious when he shines his light in Marissa’s eyes and she starts squinting? I don’t know, let’s just pretend it makes sense. Sparky is just about to ask them to get out of the car when he gets a call that something way more urgent than a kid acting as a designated driver for an underage drinker is going on so he lets them off with a warning.
Ryan waits until he pulls away and then gets out of the car and throws the vodka onto the beach like a big fat litterbug and then slams Marissa’s door over and over. She yells that he’s scaring her and he says “GOOD! Because you’re scaring me!” It’s very intense and Marissa feels ashamed of herself. Then, as he goes back to the other side of the car, Ryan gets the best line of the episode:
He tells Marissa that he already got his fill of alkie drama back in Chino and she needs to check herself before she wrecks herself or they’re through.
The next morning Seth fills Ryan in on the developments in the Summer/Anna situation and Ryan is like “Oh so they told you basically exactly what I told you? Cool.” He asks how Ryan’s night went and Ryan is like “Not too exciting, just got pulled over while driving a very drunk Marissa home with an open bottle of vodka in the car!” He says that shit like that is why he hates Christmas but Seth has a whole different spin on things. See, in the olden days Ryan would have probably ended up in a fistfight with the cop and sent to jail, but some other schmuck’s emergency got him off the hook, so basically:
So Summer and Anna both come over later and Seth gives them each a very heartfelt “I just want to be friends, enjoy your consolation prize of a bunch of albums by indie bands and a copy of The Goonies.” DOES THIS MEAN HE CHOOSES RYAN?????? He doesn’t say. But Summer and Anna both say “Fuck your lame gift, and also fuck you, I don’t want to be friends.”
Caleb also drops by the house, and he yells at Kirsten for her sneaky document-sharing. She thinks she’s totally fired but Caleb is like “You are one sneaky and conniving son-of-a-bitch and maybe just maybe you have the makings of a real estate mogul like me!” Not sure you should take that as a compliment, Kiki.
Sandy goes out to the poolhouse to invite Ryan to watch a movie with the rest of the family but Ryan wants to go with Marissa to her first therapy session, I guess to just awkwardly wait outside the whole time? Sandy is like “Let her deal with that shit on her own, son” and Ryan is like “Yeah ok, let’s do family bonding instead.”
And now I am very sad to tell you that the beginning of the end is here. For those of you who have never watched this show, you have probably seen a lot of references to somebody named Oliver in the comments, and how awful the show gets when he shows up. It is with a heavy heart that I recap the following scene.
Marissa goes to her new therapist’s office but she’s early, so she sits down on a couch across from this goon:
She tries reading a magazine for a minute and then gets up to leave. He is like “I came here so many times before I actually went in to my appointment, you may as well just stay because it’s not so bad. P.S. I know that you are Marissa Cooper and that you’re Social Chair at Harbor even though I don’t go there. People know me as Mr. Red Flag but you can call me Oliver!”
Marissa doesn’t find this at all creepy mostly because she’s too focused on being freaked out about going to therapy. She sits there awkwardly and he says “For a Social Chair you don’t seem too social!” Instead of saying “Mind your own fucking business” she just says that she’s embarrassed to be there. He’s like “Yeah, it’s pretty embarrassing! So anyway, what’s wrong with you?”
He then tries to Sherlock her, saying that she’s not quite an alcoholic but that she has for sure OD’d on pills at least once and she’s like “Wow, you’re so smart! But it was painkillers, not muscle relaxants.” Anyway, they make a bit more awkward therapy small talk and then it’s time for her appointment to start so she leaves with what should be an awful impression of this super creepy stranger but because Marissa is a very damaged soul she is just intrigued.
Back at the Cohens’, Seth is lying on the couch with his shoes on for which I want to slap him. He’s feeling very sorry for himself and I’m not saying that they placed this bowl of ornaments very prominently in the shot on purpose but I’m also not saying they didn’t.
Ryan comes in and asks how it went with Summer and Anna and Seth is like “UGHHHHHH” so Ryan tries to cheer him up by finally putting up his stocking. This touches Seth’s heart enough that he gets up off the couch to help, and then Sandy and Kirsten come back from the video store having rented Fiddler on the Roof, It’s a Wonderful Life and Over the Top. Seth gives them the Seth Cohen Starter Packs that Summer and Anna threw in his face earlier and the whole family settles in for a very idiosyncratic holiday.