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Arts and Entertainment

Remember That 2004 Episode Of 'The O.C.' Where They Go To L.A. And Meet Paris Hilton? We Do.

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In a long, sweaty summer of heat waves and dive bar rebrandings, it's all too easy to forget why you moved to Los Angeles in the first place. Today, we're serving up some early-aughts nostalgia with a recap of the show that made us all susceptible to the siren call of Southern California: The O.C. Season 1, Episode 22, appropriately titled "The L.A.", takes us on a tour of the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles nightlife (as seen through the eyes of a group of 28-year-old teenagers, Angry Ryan, Nerdy Seth, Sad Marissa and Sassy Summer.) Let's dive in, shall we?

The whole episode revolves around The Valley, a show-within-a-show parody of The O.C.
There are Infinite Jest levels of complexity at work here, guys. Summer meets her favorite TV heartthrob, "Jake Needleman", a quintessential early-2000s L.A. douchebag played to perfection by Colin Hanks (to clarify, we do not think Colin Hanks is an L.A. douchebag, although, who knows, maybe he was in the early 2000s. Who wasn't?) Douchebag Colin Hanks invites the two high school girls to his birthday party in L.A., which is a pretty accurate depiction of a certain brand of Hollywood actor.

The twentysomethings teens go to a hot, sexy Hollywood party at a strip club.
Remember, this was back in the halcyon days of 2004, when ironic stripping was all the rage. Seth and Ryan decide to tag along to L.A. to keep Marissa from finding out that her mom is sleeping with her ex-boyfriend (oh, man, remember high school?) The boys ask their parents for permission to go to the party, and receive some sage advice about the City of Angels that we would all do well to pay heed to.

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Jumbo's Clown Room (photo via Instagram) is on the left, The O.C.'s "Luna Chicks" on the right. Hmmm.

The Hollywood strip club, "Luna Chicks," is a blatant and amazing rip-off of Jumbo's Clown Room.
I'm assuming the original script for this episode read "Jumbo's Clown Room, or whatever name we can get the rights to." There's a perfect moment of Hollywood shade in which Douchebag Colin Hanks introduces the gang to "his team": agent, manager, lawyer, publicist, producing partner. They are all wearing tinted sunglasses and Von Dutch hats, because 2004.

Paris Hilton plays a savage, highly literate version of herself.
Seth and Summer are heading for the door when they stumble into none other than the High Priestess of the Early Aughts, Paris Hilton herself! Remember, this cameo came at the very height of Hilton madness, before her long cultural hibernation (and her recent triumphant return to meme society.) Paris turns up her nose at Seth and Summer's O.C. roots with a single, glorious "Ew."

Paris strikes up a conversation with Seth about books, confiding in him that she's writing her grad school thesis on magical realism in American fiction—and scoffing at Seth for not having read enough Thomas Pynchon. It's extremely satisfying, and I want Paris Hilton to show up and roast every man who has ever tried to Explain Books To Me in the club.

There's self-referential humor for miles. Douchebag Colin Hanks persuades Summer out to his car to watch his performance in an unaired episode of The Valley. He tries to flirt with her by talking about himself (this is also known as "an L.A. first date"), even playing her his band's CD, which is a subtle allusion to Big Japan, Adam Brody's real-life band. Inception!

It turns out Douchebag Colin Hanks is secretly dating his Valley costar, in a not-so-subtle allusion to Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody's real-life relationship. As a girl who was 13 years old in 2004, and extremely horny for feeling some confusing things about Seth Cohen, I remember being dazzled by this reference to Adam Brody's IRL dating life when the episode first aired.

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Chewed up and spat out by the City of Angels, the gang flees home to Orange County. After a skirmish with security, the gang gets kicked out of the Hollywood strip club, which is a quintessential L.A. experience every soul must go through before transcending this earthly plane. They trudge down Hollywood Boulevard while complaining about parking, which lends a touch of cinéma vérité to the episode.

Girl, it is a Saturday night in Hollywood. You're lucky you didn't get towed to Encino.

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