YEM fans, be sure to check out the latest hit podcast, Welcome to the OC B*tches! This OC-rewatch podcast stars original TheO.C. actresses Rachel Bilson and Melinda Clarke. Each week they take listeners back to a particular episode, share inside stories, behind-the-scenes information, and interview guests who were also once part of the series. If you’re not already a fan of The O.C., this podcast is the perfect way to quickly familiarize oneself. The O.C. (which stands for Orange County in California) was a popular young adult drama that ran for 4 seasons and 92 episodes from 2003-2007. The show starred Ben McKenzie (as Ryan Atwood), Mischa Barton (as Marissa Cooper), Rachel Bilson (as Summer Roberts), and Adam Brody (as Seth Cohen).
In the 2000s, there were quite a few drama-based shows for young adults to enjoy like Dawson’s Creek, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, the 90210 reboot series, among others. By the 2010s, there was Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, Glee, and The Vampire Diaries. In many ways, The O.C. was able to appeal to the fan bases of all of those shows and had awesome music soundtracks in each episode. In honor of The O.C. and its lasting impact, here are YEM’s Top 10 O.C. Episodes of All-Time! This list is in no particular order:
Season 1 – “Premiere” (Pilot Episode)
Ryan Atwood is a troubled teen from a broken home who’s taken in by his lawyer and his lawyer’s family, the Cohens. After growing up in a low-income and abusive family his whole life, he goes through a bit of culture shock when he moves to a wealthy upscale neighborhood in Newport Beach, California, and is forced to adjust to his new surroundings. It’s revealed Ryan is very smart but has had some tough breaks in life. He soon grows close to his newly adopted family, especially his new brother Seth. Ryan also meets Marissa and the two hit it off.
Season 1 – “The Heights” (Episode 9)
Ryan doesn’t feel like he’s fitting in at his new school at Harbor High. To make things worse, a jock named Luke and his jock friends regularly bully and harass Ryan and Seth. A lot of Luke and Ryan’s tension is because they both want to be with Marissa and their fights quickly escalate into some serious scuffles. By Episode 9 though, Ryan shoots his shot with Marissa. Even though he’s afraid of heights, he still goes on the Ferris wheel to be with Marissa and the two share their first kiss.
Season 1 – “The Countdown” (Episode 14)
With the year coming to an end, Marissa tells Ryan she loves him for the first time. However, Ryan doesn’t say it back! After feeling rejected, Marissa ends up getting invited to a New Year’s party by Oliver (who’s interested in Marissa) and goes without Ryan. Thankfully, Ryan makes it to the party just in time for the New Year’s kiss at midnight (after climbing tons of stairs and bursting through the door) and tells Marissa he loves her too. This is also the swingers party episode, where theCohen parents (Sandy and Kirsten) almost hook up with other people before ultimately deciding against it.
Season 1 – “The Telenovela” (Episode 20)
Ryan and Marissa’s relationship is “just friends” at this point. Theresa, an old flame of Ryan’s comes into the picture, and thetwo kiss. However, this episode is likely best remembered because of Seth declaring his love to Summer at a kissing booth. It’s also revealed Marissa’s Mom Julie (played by Melinda Clarke) is having a passionate affair with her own daughter’s ex-boyfriend Luke!
Season 1 – “The Goodbye Girl” (Episode 21)
Anna is unique and different, much like Seth, and since she didn’t grow up in the OC (and therefore she’s not a snob like many people in the town) it benefits the dynamic between the two of them. Seth and Anna seem like a healthy romantic match for one another. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Seth is in love with Summer and Anna ends up moving to Pittsburgh in this episode. After a tearful embrace at the airport, Seth questions what he’s going to do without Anna in his life. That’s when she says “Confidence, Cohen” which Seth likely interprets to believe in himself more.
Season 2 – “The Rainy Day Women” (Episode 14)
Seth thinks he’s lost Summer forever but Summer is unable to hide her true feelings for Seth any longer and comes back to find him. Seth (in a Spiderman mask) falls off the roof of the house in the rain but is saved by a rope he tied to the chimney. When Summer finds him, the two share a rainy upside-down Spiderman kiss. Also in this episode, Marissa moves out of her house and moves in with Alex (played by Olivia Wilde) after Marissa tells her mother that Alex is her girlfriend. The same-sex relationship between the two was a special moment for LGTBQ fans of the show and further broke down barriers on television for lesbian relationships. (Also, be sure to check out Season 2 – Episode 16’s “The Blaze of Glory” for theincredible goodbye kiss between Alex and Marissa during the night of the school bonfire, it’s a must-watch!)
Season 2 – “The Dearly Beloved (Episode 24)
In a chaotic end to the season finale, Ryan finds out that Marissa was almost raped by Ryan’s brother Trey. This enrages Ryan who immediately goes after him. When Marissa finds out, she rushes to Trey’s apartment where she finds Trey about to kill Ryan during an extremely violent fight. Marissa shoots Trey, saving Ryan in the process. Imogen Heap’s song “Hide and Seek” begins playing right as the bullet pierces Trey’s back. This moment became one of the biggest moments in the history of The OC. After being left on a cliffhanger, the following season shows Trey eventually pull through and live.
Season 3 – “The Cliffhanger” (Episode 14)
Johnny Harper was a character with a significant story arc in Season 3. As a short-term schoolmate of Marissa, he develops feelings for her which she does not reciprocate, since she’s dating Ryan in the fall out of shooting Trey. Johnny’s also had a traumatic childhood of his own. After revealing his feelings to Marissa, Johnny’s girlfriend cheats on him with his ex-friend and surfing rival Kevin Volchok. To make things even worse, Johnny suffers a severe knee injury when a car hits him, which ends his surfing career. Struggling with multiple unfortunate turns in his life, Johnny drunkenly falls to his death off a cliff in this episode.
Season 3 – “The Graduates” (Episode 25)
After breaking up with Ryan not too long after Johnny’s death, Marissa begins going on a downward spiral again. She relapses on alcohol and drugs when she has a relationship with Kevin Volchok, who’s clearly no good for her. However, the end of Season 3 presents a turning point in her life. Marissa breaks things off with Volchok and the group graduates from Harbor High School. Marissa also receives a letter from her Dad and is going to join him for a year on his sailboat. However, Volchok decides not to go quietly. On the way to drop off Marissa at the airport, Volchok rams Ryan’s car and flips the car over. After escaping the fiery wreckage, Marissa dies in Ryan’s arms. Marissa’s death became the most tragic event in the history of theshow. Fittingly, Imogen Heap’s music plays, much like at the end of Season 2.
Season 4 – “The Chrismukk-huh?” (Episode 7)
Ryan and Taylor end up falling off a ladder putting up Christmas lights, which knocks them both unconscious and they end up in the hospital. From there, the episode goes into detail about how the O.C. would have been if Ryan had never come to Newport. Many interesting things are revealed: Marissa would have died three years earlier in Tijuana of a drug overdose because Ryan was not there to save her. Johnny would have lived because he never would have been hit by the car (he was going towards Ryan when he got hit at a surfing competition) nor ever met Marissa due to her death years before. Seth and Summer would have never gotten together either. What made this episode special is that it offered some closure to Ryan’s character after Marissa’s death, while also giving closure to fans in the show’s final season.