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Princess Sparkle, Captain Oats, Julie Cooper-Nichol and the reliable Seth/Summer banter. These are but a few of the carrots that proverbially lure us to watch the O.C. every year. The smart dialogue and over-the-top acting make it one of the best soaps since 90210 or Melrose... even if true Angelenos know Orange County looks nothing like this.

After a long, hot summer of scripted "reality" shows, we were more than ready for our favorite guilty pleasure. The thrill faded almost immediately as we watched the Trey storyline come to a bland end. First we see Summer and Marissa lounging in front of the Nichol mansion. Whilst working on her tan, Marissa attempts to emote about nearly killing her boyfriend's brother. Later in the episode, someone from the D.A.'s office gets all Dragnet on everyone's collective arses. Just as things look hopeless... Trey miraculously recovers. Julie Cooper predictably meddles in her daughter's love life, but lacks the typical feline prowess that makes her so easy to hate. Honestly, it all wrapped up a little too neatly. We won't even bother to go into the weak Kirstin rehab story.

Does this mean we're done with the O.C.? No. The soap traditionally gets off to a slow start each season. Also, we concede that the O.C. propagates ridiculous stereotypes of California. Yet, for every stumble, there always exists a well written episode that reels us back into the insanity. Though nothing will compare to the infamous line, "This is how we do it in the O.C., bitch," we'll continue to watch.

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Our advice: Check out the other TV offerings, and tune into the O.C. later this month. By then, Kirsten will be out of rehab, Seth and Summer will once again upstage everyone and perhaps we'll get some early hints of Chrismukkah.