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Detailed Synopsis S1E1-6


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August 5, 2003
Troubled youth
Poor Ryan - his brother inaugurates him into the world of car theft in a singularly incompetent manner. His public defender is an interfering do-gooder. His drunken mom throws him out of the house - but not before her boyfriend roughs him up a little. What could possibly go right?

Movin' on up
Actually, Sandy, that meddling lawyer, may not be such a bad thing after all. He's impressed with Ryan's smarts and potential, and invites Ryan to stay with his family for the weekend. Much to Ryan's surprise, Sandy lives in an ocean-front mansion in way-upscale Newport Beach. "I didn't think your kind of lawyers made money," Ryan says. "We don't," Sandy replies. "But my wife does."

Meet the neighbors
Ryan waits outside while Sandy breaks the news to his wife, Kirsten, that a felon-in-training is their new houseguest. Ryan meets gorgeous girl-next-door Marissa, who doesn't buy his bad-boy story. She thinks he's just the cousin from Boston, but is obviously still intrigued - even as she drives off with her rich boyfriend. She invites Ryan to a charity fashion show the next night.

Come sail away
Kirsten reluctantly agrees to let Ryan bunk in the pool house - which, by the way, is swankier than most places any of us will ever see. The next morning, Ryan meets Seth, Kirsten and Sandy's geeky son. They bond over video games (despite Seth's "Grand Theft Auto" foot-in-mouth moment) until Sandy kicks them out into the sunshine. Seth takes Ryan sailing, and confesses his undying love for Marissa's friend Summer. No, he's never spoken to her. These things take time.

Going to the show
Sandy tells the guys when they're leaving for the fashion show. Seth doesn't want to go until Ryan asks if Summer will be there. Suddenly, Seth's interested. Next door, Marissa's buffed and Botoxed mother looks away from her own reflection only long enough to cut down her kid. Very nice. Good thing Marissa's dad is perfect, right? Right?


At the show, every woman in the OC seems intent on getting into Ryan's pants - and every one has a different idea of where he's from. Ryan doesn't enlighten them. He's too busy basking in the perfect world that is Orange County. He is surprised, however, to hear Jimmy, Marissa's dad, freaking out in the bathroom. That might have something to do with the increasingly impatient visits from the SEC. Summer, Seth's dream girl, invites Ryan to an after-party. Ryan brings Seth along as well.

Party on, dudes
Teens plus money minus adults equals wild party. There's sex, drugs, alcohol - enough to make Ryan think he can get in much more trouble here than he ever could back home. He's right. Seth tells him that this is the dark side, but Ryan doesn't seem to believe it. But look closely - golden girl Marissa is drinking much more than anyone else. Marissa's boyfriend Luke is taking off down the beach with a blond bimbo. Will anyone be able to respect themself in the morning?

Betrayal - and redemption
Summer has had her eye on Ryan all night. After enough alcohol, she finally makes her move. Ryan tries to shrug her off, but a drunken Seth walks out to find her draped all over his supposed friend. Seth smacks him and tells him to steal another car and go back to Chino. With that, Ryan becomes a laughingstock, and Summer is no longer interested. Seth staggers off and is set upon by a bunch of popular jerks. Ryan tries to fight them off, but they both get beat pretty badly. "Welcome to the OC, bitch," sneers Luke.

Paradise lost
Back at home, bruised and still-smashed - but endlessly amusing -- Seth expresses his appreciation that Ryan had his back, then falls asleep. He's not the only one passed out - Ryan sees Marissa's friends dump her unconscious body in her driveway, then run away. Nice. He takes her back to the pool house and tucks her in. The next morning, Marissa's gone - but Kirsten is there. She's livid that Seth got into a fight, and blames Ryan. This wouldn't happen to her boy if he wasn't hanging out with thugs. Sandy says he's glad Seth is hanging out with anyone at all, but Kirsten will not be swayed. Ryan must go. Sandy takes Ryan back to his run-down house - only to find that Ryan's mom moved out, leaving no forwarding address. Harsh. With no place else to go, Sandy and Ryan head back to the O.C.

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The Model Home
August 12, 2003
Act casual
It's Ryan's last night in the OC before being turned over to Child Protective Services, and no one wants to talk about it. Besides feeling like the bad guy, Kirsten also stressed out about a model home she and her father are building to kick off a new development - the contractors just disappeared. Seth doesn't help things by asking the obvious question - we've got so much room, so why doesn't Ryan stay here? Sorry, dude, not an option.

Late that night, Ryan decides he'd rather be anywhere than in a foster home. As he's preparing to run away, Seth finds him. Seth tells him running away is a crappy plan. You got a better idea? asks Ryan. Well, yeah see, there's this big empty house no one is using right now.

For this mission, Seth is dressed super-stealthy in a black turtleneck and other appropriate spywear. Hee. He's interrupted by his dad, who wants to talk, and share, and otherwise be the sort of caring parent that really can cramp a spyboy's style. Seth throws him off with the time-honored covers-up-to-the-neck "No, really, I was asleep" move. Outside, Marissa spots Ryan and asks what he's doing there. Ryan shrugs off the question, but Seth in all his stealthy glory gives the game up. Intrigued, she offers to blow off Summer's birthday party and drive them to their secret hideout.

Model home
The model home is isolated, half-finished, empty perfect. As Seth shows off his skillz in the empty swimming pool/skateboard arena, Ryan and Marissa bond over parental issues. They're interrupted when Luke calls looking for her. She's missing an empty, meaningless party that demonstrates how shallow and unworthy her friends are! We can't have that.

The next morning, Seth and Marisa want to make a supply run for Ryan. But Sandy has discovered Ryan is gone, and Kirsten called the cops. Seth claims he knows nothing - except maybe that Ryan ran off to Mexico to gamble on cockfights. Next door, Marisa is waylaid by Luke, who wants to spend the day with her. Marisa deflects him with tales of a bikini wax. Yeowtch. Meanwhile, her dad, Jimmy, is looking desperate among the paperwork. He tries to talk to his wife, but she pulls a "La la la I can't hear you!" and demands money. Nice to know Jimmy's getting the support he needs.

All the essentials
Seth and Marissa give Ryan their supplies - necessary stuff, like loofahs and putting greens and mix CDs. Bring any food? Oh, yeah that. They romp on down to the pier for breakfast, where they run into Luke and his cronies. Marissa tries to distract him while the boys sneak out back, but the plan is foiled. Luke insults Seth, Ryan defends him with his fists (and a pithy quote: "You know what I like about rich boys? [Wham!] Nothing."), and the whole low-profile thing goes out the window.

Kirsten and Jimmy meet at the model house to talk - not realizing the kids are hiding upstairs. They overhear Jimmy confess that he's in financial trouble and hit Kirsten up for $100,000. She agrees, and lets slip that the new contractors start tomorrow. Ryan's got to go. Back at the Cohen home, Sandy tells Seth Ryan's been spotted, and drags him out to look for him. Marissa's at another - or maybe the same - shallow-debauchery party, where she's increasingly uncomfortable with everything. She storms out when everyone starts talking trash about Ryan.

Bad things
Marissa runs to the model home, where Ryan is packing up by the light of many candles. She wants to stay the night, but Ryan kicks her out - if they do anything, he'll never want to leave, and they're from different worlds. She runs away crying, not noticing that Luke and his ganga had followed her. They storm the house and fight with Ryan - knocking over candles and setting the place ablaze. Ryan is knocked out, but Luke runs back in and pulls him from the flames. Ryan takes off hitching, but Luke finds him to make sure he's all right - and to make sure Ryan won't tell anyone what happened.

Unhappy ending
Seth confesses all. His folks are furious. The cops want to question him and Marissa, but before they can, Luke pulls up - with Ryan. The police cuff Ryan, but Luke confesses he was there, too. Both guys are hauled off by the cops.

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The Gamble
August 19, 2003
Jailhouse rock

Ryan's in jail, but Sandy says there's good news - Kirsten's company dropped the arson charges, and Sandy should be able to get Ryan out in, oh, a mere 30 days! Ryan watches Luke stroll out - he's got no priors and he's got parents who will take responsibility for him. Ryan, however, is stuck. The other inmates are salivating over this piece of fresh meat, and one in particular seems to want to carve him up.

Ladies who lunch
Back at Casa Cohen, Kirsten is preparing for a Society Ladies gathering, Seth is sulking (and grounded), and Sandy is trying to make things right - he's looking for Ryan's mother, Dawn. Seth asks again why Ryan can't stay with them, and tells his mom "if anything happens to him in there, it's all on you." Kirsten and Sandy are saved by the bell - the Society Ladies have arrived.

Jail bait
Kirsten is bored - and a little disgusted - by the mind-numbing chatter of the Ladies as they discuss the latest charity party, so she sneaks outside. Seth decides to make a break for it - he's going to visit Ryan in juvie. Kirsten catches him, but decides prison is better than the Ladies. Seth asks Marissa if she wants to join them, but she blows him off - Luke isn't talking to her, and she wants everything to go back to normal. As Kirsten and Seth are visiting, Ryan's nemesis starts sliming on Kirsten. Ryan defends her honor, and gets brutally beaten. Kirsten takes him home for his own protection - but not for keeps. They have to find his mother.

Ladies redux
The Cohens have a dilemma - Sandy's got to go to court and Kirsten has to set up for the Vegas Night party, but they're afraid Ryan will run if they leave him alone. Looks like Ryan will be meeting the Ladies. Next door, Mommie Dearest is giving Marissa a pep talk, all about Luke. She tells Marissa to come along - to the Vegas Night set-up! And guess who else shows up to help (and make amends) - Luke! Ruh-roh! The ladies - Julie in particular - are indignant that Kirsten brought Ryan along (but fawn over Luke). Actually, Julie seems bitchy about Kirsten no matter what. Julie and another Lady go to a coffee shop to kvetch, where Sandy overhears them. He says he doesn't know why Julie is so set against Ryan -- after all, she's from Riverside, which isn't that different from Chino. Julie is mortified. She's saved when Sandy gets the call that they've found Dawn..

Dial M for Mother
Julie storms home to Jimmy, indignant about Sandy and Kirsten. Jimmy tells her about Kirsten's $100,000 loan. Now Julie is indignant and humiliated. Back at Casa Cohen, Kirsten and the boys meet Dawn. She tells Ryan she's turned her life around - got a new job, dumped her abusive boyfriend, stopped drinking, Ryan is skeptical. Why did she abandon him? Because he was always the smart one, the one she really loved. When he got arrested, she knew she'd failed - she couldn't handle it. Ryan grudgingly agrees to give her a chance.

Vegas, baby!
Kirsten invites Ryan and Dawn to accompany them to Vegas Night. At the party, Dawn starts of well, gambling (and cleaning up) but refusing alcohol. Ryan tries to talk to Marissa, but Luke is all glowery in the corner until Ryan tells him Marissa chose Luke (which is a lie). Seth gets distracted by Summer, who adopts him as a good luck charm. Julie bitchily tells Sandy about the $100,000. While everyone is distracted, Dawn starts drinking hard. Sandy confronts Kirsten, much to Julie's glee. Jimmy tries to make things right, but they're interrupted when a drunken Dawn smashes into a waiter and makes a scene. All of the O.C. stares, aghast - rich people don't get wasted, you know. Luke helps the Cohens and Ryan drag Dawn out, for Marissa's benefit. Maybe he's not a total schmuck.

The next morning, Dawn tries to take off while Ryan is sleeping, but Kirsten catches her. Dawn tells Kirsten she'll never be a good - hell, even acceptable - mother, like Kirsten is. Ryan wakes up in time to see his mom leave. Kirsten agrees to take Ryan in. Seth is thrilled, and Sandy is impressed. Ryan looks like he can't believe his luck - I guess nothing eases the sting of parental abandonment like a really nice crib in The O.C.

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The Debut
August 26, 2003
Welcome to the family

Sandy and Kirsten agree to become Ryan's legal guardians. However, there's one condition: Ryan has to promise to stay out of trouble. No more fights.

Coming out
Now that he's a member of the family, Ryan has to participate in traditions like the debutante ball. At the deb staging area, Ryan runs into Marissa, who is happy he'll be sticking around. Luke is less than pleased. Kirsten offers up her boys to escort any unattached girls. Summer starts salivating at Ryan, and Seth starts pining for Summer. This could get ugly.

Jimmy unmasked
Back at Casa Cohen, Jimmy apologizes for not talking to Sandy before he borrowed money from Kirsten, but avoids any specifics on why he needed it. Later on, an SEC agent confronts Sandy in his office - does he know Jimmy is being investigated for fraud? Sandy tells Kirsten, then says they have to out him to the community. Kirsten asks him to wait until she has a chance to talk to Jimmy. When she confronts Jimmy, she's interrupted by a bitchy Julie, who continues to live large. Jimmy can't say no to his family, so she goes off to spend more money that they don't have. Kirsten tells Jimmy he needs help.

To go or not to go
Ryan wants to skip the ball -- he doesn't think he can stay out of trouble if he's in the same room with an obviously hostile Luke. Seth tells him some poor lonely girl will be depending on him, and if Ryan wants to bail, he'll have to tell Marissa himself. Ryan goes over to do just that - only to find a radiant Marissa in a half-done-up dress. Ryan is definitely going.

Meet the debs
At the rehearsal, Summer pounces on Ryan as her escort, only to find that Marissa has promised him to someone else -- Anna, an edgy new chick from Pittsburgh. Summer is left dateless, but a delighted Seth is there to pick up the slack.

Tension builds
Marissa demonstrates the waltz position with Ryan for Anna, and sparks fly while Luke glowers at them. Anna knows exactly what's going on. Also, she realizes her escort is "Newport's most wanted" -- which she seems to think is the coolest thing ever. Meanwhile, Kirsten wants Sandy to help Jimmy with his legal troubles. Sandy refuses - he's got nothing but contempt for someone who had everything handed to him but manages to piss it away. At a pre-deb cookout, Luke accuses Ryan of hitting on his girl - though Marissa was the one who approached Ryan. Ryan announces he won't fight, so Luke sucker-punches him. True to his word, Ryan doesn't fight back.

Going to the ball - or not
Ryan decides not to go to the ball - he doesn't want to cause any more trouble. Sandy decides to skip it as well - he doesn't want to participate in a society event that lionizes the likes of Jimmy Cooper. (Seth, on the other had, is rarin' to go.) Next door, Marissa tells Mommy Dearest she doesn't want to go. Julie storms out, muttering dire things about Marissa's future. Jimmy tried to bow out too, but Julie pulls rank - he's going, dammit.

With Marissa out of the picture, Summer swoops in on Luke. Seth slinks off, depressed - despite the fact that he'd been having a great conversation with the gorgeous Anna. But Marissa changes her mind - she tells Ryan that she'll go if he does. When they arrive, Luke stalks off. Ryan offers to be Marissa's escort, despite Julie's protests. Anna asks Seth to be her escort. He agrees. Now that Luke is gone, Summer is dateless. She tries to steal Seth back, but he develops a spine. Go Seth!

The debut
Everything goes well, until one of Jimmy's irate clients confronts him about his money. Jimmy admits he doesn't have it, and gets pummeled. Sandy tried to save him, and he gets smacked down, too. Ryan steps in - so much for the no fighting rule. The client is ushered out, yelling, "You're a thief!" Marissa goes to Jimmy, but Julie just sits there, hoping no one notices her.

Seth goes off with Anna, who may be his perfect woman. Ryan tries to comfort Marissa, but he doesn't have any answers. Luke appears - he came as soon as he heard. He offers to take her home, but Marissa says she needs to be alone. Uncharacteristically, Luke doesn't blame Ryan for this, and Ryan ends the episode without getting knocked out.

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The Outsider
September 2, 2003
Suspicious minds

Ryan takes a job at the Crab Shack so he can stop sponging money off the Cohens. Seth is facing a bit of separation anxiety as Ryan goes off to work. Sandy is facing something worse - the Ladies are in his kitchen, gossiping about Jimmy and trying to decide whether Julie should still be invited to their spa weekend. Kirsten tries to come to Jimmy's defense, but the Ladies are having none of it. At least lay off Julie, she says - she's our friend. The Ladies don't look convinced. Next door, Julie tells Jimmy that she has to go to the spa to do damage control. He has the weekend to fix everything, while she tries to preserve the family's place in society.

Working for the weekend
Ryan gets shown the ropes at work by Donnie, a guy from a Chino-esque part of town. Summer tries to cheer Marissa up by taking her to lunch at The Crab Shack. Oops. It's all a ploy to get Marissa talking to Luke again. Oops again. Luke swans in and pisses off Donnie by being well, Luke. Luke tries to distract Marissa from her pain, but manages to piss her off, too. Donnie offers to show Ryan where the real people live after work. This crushes poor puppy-dog Seth, who comes to collect Ryan at the end of the day. Seth is back to having no life.

Cutting loose
The next day, Sandy is helping Jimmy with his legal woes, trying to make Jimmy understand how bad it is. Jimmy says it's abundantly clear. Sandy takes pity on him - why don't they do something fun while their wives are away? It's time for steaks, beer and video games - along with confessions from both men about their undying love for Kirsten. Hmm. Seth tries to get Ryan to hang out with him, but Ryan finally asked Marissa out. She's babysitting her sister, but invites him over for dinner. Donnie invites Seth to a house party in his 'hood. Ryan tries to talk him out of it, but Seth is so going. Ryan comes along to protect him. The party is wild, Seth's mom's car gets trashed, and Marissa ends up getting stood up.

Diva, live
At the spa, Julie gives the performance of her life for The Ladies. "Oh, I blame myself!" "No, you're the victim!" Mission accomplished - the Ladies are firmly on her side. Kirsten calls home during Boys Night In and gets Jimmy on the phone. Julie catches her talking to Jimmy. In the steam room, the talk turns to divorce. Kirsten tells Julie she's just as responsible for the family's financial woes - "He didn't buy ponies and jewelry for himself." Julie is not taking that - she's the one who married Jimmy, even though he has always been in love with Kirsten. "Who knew that when he knocked me up, it would be the best thing that ever happened to you," Julie says. Damn.

Damage control

Seth slinks over to Marissa's to beg for her to give Ryan another chance. She caves. Sandy tells Jimmy he thinks Jimmy will avoid jail time if he makes full restitution, which means he'll have to sell much of what he owns to pay everyone back. Jimmy is not impressed.

Cutting loose, part 2
At the restaurant, Seth lets slip that there's a party in Newport. Donnie invites himself along. Ryan is aghast, but Seth says he can handle it. Ryan goes home to his date with Marissa, which ends in the pool. At the party, Holly jumps Luke. While they are otherwise engaged, Donnie and his hommies show up. Seth realizes he's way out of his depth when Donnie reveals he has a gun. Seth calls Ryan for backup. The sounds of breakage tempts Holly and Luke out of the bedroom. Donnie pulls the gun on Luke just as Ryan gets there. Donnie tries to convince Seth and Ryan that settling scores with Luke would be fun, but Ryan tackles him. The gun goes off, hitting Luke in the arm. Donnie and party flee.

The aftermath
Ryan calls Marissa from the hospital - she comes to Luke's side. Seth tells Ryan they really need to stick together, because when they're apart, people get shot. On the way back from the spa, Julie and Kirsten finally talk - Julie always wanted the high life, and she doesn't want to go back to being nothing again. Back at the house, Jimmy tells Julie she has a choice to make - they can sell everything and make restitution, or declare bankruptcy and keep the house. If they do that, Jimmy goes to jail.

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The Girlfriend
September 9, 2003
Daddy dearest

Kirsten's dad, Caleb, is coming to visit, and everyone is in a tizzy. Kirsten is worried Caleb will find fault, Sandy is sniping about how the old man despises him and Ryan is worried Caleb will hate him. They're all right. Everyone is distracted, however, when they meet Gabrielle, Caleb's gorgeous bikini-clad 24-year-old girlfriend. The boys are incoherent with hormones.

Who are you, and what have you done with Luke?
Next door, Luke tells Marissa that being shot changed him, and he wants to make things right. Marissa is unsure, but Luke says he won't pressure her. Ryan stops by to invite Marissa to the party Kirsten is throwing for Caleb, but is interrupted by shiny, happy Luke. Not only does Luke not hit him, he actually thanks Ryan for helping him when he got shot. Ryan has no idea how to deal with the new Luke, and leaves without asking Marissa.

Family dynamics
Caleb is snippy as hell about Kirsten adopting Ryan without telling him. Maybe she wants to spend more time with the family, which he can accommodate by demoting her. Kirsten is shocked. Later on, Sandy tries to comfort Kirsten, then urges her to quit. Next door, Julie drops the bomb on Jimmy - she wants a divorce.

The boys run into Summer and Marissa, and wonder of wonders, Summer acknowledges Seth. She invites herself to the party. Seth tries to have a spine about it - does she honestly want to go with him or does she just want an invite - then decides he doesn't care. Ryan tries to invite Marissa, but it's too late - Luke beat him to it.

Tension builds
Gabrielle makes eyes at Ryan across the table over dinner. In the kitchen, Sandy urges Kirsten to tell Caleb she wants to quit. Caleb overhears, and there's a huge, loud fight, after which Caleb announces he'll expect Kirsten's resignation. The boys and Gabrielle retreat to the pool house. When Seth leaves to find another video game for Gabrielle, she takes the opportunity to jump Ryan. He's surprised, but he doesn't put up much of a fight.

Party on
At the party, Caleb is still cold to Kirsten and Sandy, and still expects Kirsten to resign. Kirsten is devastated. Gabrielle stalks Ryan, who is highly confused. Seth is even more confused when he meets the kinder, gentler Luke - "He got shot in the arm, not the head." Summer uses Seth to introduce her to all the rich financier types at the party.

Sandy tells Kirsten that whatever happens, she spoke her mind to her father. No, she replies - you did. She actually loves her job and doesn't want to move away. If this isn't what Sandy wants, they have some talking to do. Julie is aghast when Jimmy shows up at the party, but Jimmy thinks he can convince Caleb to hire him. He's wrong. Julie takes the opportunity to work her wiles on Caleb, and lands herself an interview - maybe for a spot as his new trophy girlfriend? Summer asks Marissa if she and Luke finally did the deed, then tells her she'd better do it soon. This makes Marissa want to check out her other option.

Caught in the act
Gabrielle tracks Ryan down in the pool house. She flings herself at him, and he seems just fine with that. Marissa bursts in on them. Humiliated, she grabs Luke and flees.

Seth finally confronts Summer. She's unrepentant until Seth angrily tells her those guys don't know her like he does. He lists a bunch of things that have more to do with her soul than her breasts. Who knew? Summer is smitten, and kisses Seth. Then she leaves to stalk more rich older guys. Oh well. It's a start. Sandy confronts Caleb -- the only reason he's being an ass to Kirsten is that she's good enough that she doesn't need him. Caleb huffs off, but later finds Kirsten. Since his wife died and Kirsten's sister cut herself off from them, Kirsten is all he has left. Instead of telling her he's proud of her, he says she still has a job. Again, it's a start.

Decision time
Marissa and Luke are getting hot and heavy at his house. She agrees to go all the way with him. Luke looks like he's enjoying himself, but Marissa seems to be doing it just to so she can say she's made a choice. When Luke drops her off at home, Ryan is waiting for her. You're too late, she says.

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Detailed Synopsis S1 E7-12