How ‘The O.C.' Saved Thanksgiving

It’s been six years since The O.C. went off our TV’s and into box sets around the world. Am I still saddened by this? Were the last few seasons highly questionable and it was time to end anyways? WHAT ARE YOU, A COP? Yes, I could have watched The O.C. every year forever. I don’t care how cheesy it got, or really, how bad it got. There could never be enough blank stares from Ryan, morning bagels with the Cohens and ‘Hallelujah‘ as the song of our lives. And now I have to go find a tissue.

But the truth of it is, when the holiday’s start to roll around, I really do get O.C. nostalgia big time. Not because of the wonderful Chrismukkah, but because one time, for me, The O.C. saved Thanksgiving.

I was out of college and looking for something adventurous to do in 2005, so I packed up my things and moved to Vail, Colorado to be a ski bum for one winter (but where I ended up living for over three years). I did this totally solo. Being born and raised in the same town you go to college has its plusses, but when it’s all said and done, you’re ready to be on your own and how can I put it… GET THE HELL OUT OF TOWN.

When I arrived in Vail in early November, Australians and Kiwis and British people and just a mixed bag of around the world nuts surrounded me. (Nuts that are sweet and have charming accents.) My living situation was a four-bedroom apartment with total strangers: a guy from Pennsylvania, a guy from Ohio who I instantly thought I recognized from The Real World and a big, rugby playing Aussie. It was culture shock, to say the least. Bonding didn’t happen quickly, and you could tell we were all probably over-exaggerating our stories and even quite possibly lying about our pasts to one up each other. In no time at all, I realized I’d made a horrible decision, became homesick and could only laugh when my new Aussie roommate called popsicles “ice blocks”.

Then Thanksgiving came. It was my first major holiday away from my family. Talking to them on the phone, as they were calling me from my grandmother’s house in Lawrence, Kansas (where I had spent every Thanksgiving my entire life) was beyond hard. I tried to sound so cool and chill about everything while I held back tears and drank scotch. I didn’t even drink scotch! But it seemed right. After I hung up the phone, I overheard this guy from Ohio, Scott, hanging up from what sounded like the exact same conversation. We sat down to admit we were both babies and realized we couldn’t make it out here, so far away from family. Then I made a joke about at least we don’t have it as tough as Ryan. And instantly he said “Ryan from The O.C.?” Our eyes locked, and we both said at the same time “YOU WATCH THE O.C.?” It was a beautiful little “jinx” moment. From there, we decided we would go buy the entire first season, pick up food we would attempt to make that seemed “Thanksgiving-y” and as much wine as we could carry.

That night at midnight, we started episode one. And for 24 hours straight, we watched the entire first season, never once not singing the opening credit song we all know by heart. He loved Ryan, I loved Seth. He loved Marissa, I loved Summer. We both loved the Coens, except for Caleb Nichol – he was a real d**k, that guy! Throughout those 24 hours, we baked horrible turkey, made dry stuffing, but did really well at opening bottles of wine. We forgot about our families and our loneliness. And after episode 10 or so, other people from other apartments starting popping in, sitting down and became instantly hooked on this Orange County obsession. They would ask questions, we would pause it and we would catch them up.

By the end of the last episode, there were 14 people all cuddled up in front of The O.C., 14 strangers from around the world, all glued to the TV as Seth tried to understand, but couldn’t, that he was losing his best and only friend, that look that said it all as Marissa saw Ryan drive out of her life, Ryan being a man because he is a man, but leaving the only real family he ever had, Seth sailing away on his own, running away, Marissa realizing that this is not the life she wants, the Cohen’s realizing they are losing a son – two, really. This all happens in the final three minutes of the last episode. All while Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” plays. I looked around the room and saw these people crying, wondering what would happen, hugging each other, and I felt so comfortable, I felt at home. We weren’t strangers anymore, we were people brought together by a teen drama on Fox. We all started making CDs with all our favorite O.C. tracks, (chill, we weren’t all rocking iPods at the time) and from that moment forward, it was like we’d known each other a lifetime.

And that guy, Scott, whom I’d initially started talking with about The O.C., he is still one of my best friends to this day. We still talk about the moments we paused the show throughout those 24 hours, like when Ryan takes on Luke and the perfectly horrible line “Welcome to The O.C. bitch!” that came out of Luke’s mouth.

The moment when the gang heads down to Tijuana for spring break, and you start to see the sparks really fly between Seth and Summer in the cutest of ways, and then… Ryan rescues Marissa and you honestly don’t know if she is dead. The entire Chrismukkah episode, where Seth introduced us all to what bringing two families together is all about, you mix the holiday’s names duh!

When Marissa is brainwashed by Oliver (I can barely stand to type his name shame!) and Ryan runs up those stairs to kiss her right before midnight. OHMYGOSH.

And the cliffhanger. That final scene. That final episode. It ended in all the ways you couldn’t possibly want it to end; yet it was perfect all the same. And the music. THE MOTHER EFFING MUSIC. It wasn’t even a soundtrack; it was when music started to become as much a part of the script as the words did.

Jem’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” when Marissa tells Ryan she understand why he has to go, but that she loves him.

Nada Surf’s “If You Leave” playing as Seth drops Anna at the airport to say goodbye.

Finley Quaye’s “Dice” as Ryan gets to Marissa just in time on NYE. And of course, Buckley’s “Hallelujah” played a few times, most notably at the end.

Luckily, I’ve been able to spend most Thanksgivings with my family since, but each time the leaves start to fall and chill starts to come, I always remember my first Thanksgiving away from home, how it brought a group of strangers together and what quite possibly gave me the strength to stay in Vail, where I would end up having three of the best years of my life and making lifelong friends. Now excuse me while I go play some holiday music – you know, The O.C. season one soundtrack.

Featured image provided by I Couldn’t Help But Wonder