Vintage Suds: GH, Back When Jason Was Sexy
Picture it: Port Charles, 1996.
There's a heat wave. We know this because everyone is sweaty, and not in the usual way you'd think of that adjective and 1990s soap operas. We open with little Lucas (played by the son from Liar, Liar -- how did I never put those two pieces together before now?) running a lemonade stand outside his parents' brownstone. Tony is there, teasing his son that doctoring might have been the wrong business to get into and maybe lemonade's a better gig, when Tom arrives. He's in a linen suit, sharing that ol' gem that anyone who's ever lived in the Northeast knows/hates by heart: "It's not the heat, it's the humidity that gets me. Oy." Then I "oy," because Felicia and her giant hair arrive and she and Tom start making sex eyes at each other. The three adults start talking about how the brownstone's air conditioning is out, as it always is during heat waves.
Then Tom and Felicia have a conversation-within-a-conversation that is ostensibly about the AC but is, in fact, about sex. Their sex. That they have. I feel compelled to disclose at this point in the post that this Tom-and-Felicia-sexin'-it-up plot throughout this episode is not something I can detail for you on the sacred pages of our blog. There is dirty talk, there are many double-entendres, there are ice cubes used in a sexual fashion, there are illusions to orgasms. I cannot possibly be expected to recap that. I only barely tolerated Tom and Felicia independently but together I was repulsed by them and I don't want to spoil my otherwise happy walk down Port Charlesian memory lane with these unfortunate goings-on. Therefore, when throughout the episode Tom and Felicia have, allude to, talk about, or prepare for The Sex, I will I will instead substitute my Matthew Ashford/Jack Devereaux happy place: Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator!
Anyway, back in front of the brownstone, Original Recipe Carly flies onto the scene on Rollerblades and makes googly eyes at Tony.
I had to rewind this first scene several times in order to recap it, because I kept getting distracted -- shallowly, I will acknowledge -- by the outrageousness of:
1) The aforementioned grossness of Tom and Felicia flirting.
2) The extent to which Dr. Tony Jones is tragically unhip.
What's the worst part? The tucked-in shirt, the "short" sleeves to his elbows, the short shorts, the white socks with black sneakers, or the haircut? At what point did Carly decide she had to hit that? (I do miss the warmth that Brad Maule brought to the show, and I recognize that we all looked a little like this back then. I am not totally heartless, just really shallow and easily offended by outfits this bad.)
3) The enormity of Felicia's hair.
Whoa. That's like 10 years past stylish.
4) Tom wearing a pinky ring, in addition to the poseur African bracelets for which I have previously expressed my dislike.
It's like they were trying to kill my Jack Devereaux love.
Meanwhile, outside of Kelly's, Robin runs into Jason. Jason is searching out a cold drink and unlike these days, when he would probably just blow some random passer-by's head off and snag his Dr. Pepper, he was going to buy one at Kelly's. But Robin says he's in luck, she has a drink, and he can have some! Oh, teenage flirting. How I don't miss you.
Jason polishes off Robin's drink but then decides to drink out of a hose that is conveniently placed outside Kelly's. Robin watches and says "you're so funny!" but she doesn't actually mean he's funny, she means she wants to hook up with him. And he's all, oh I'm funny huh, why don't I threaten to spray you with this hose? Sigh. So dweeby. Yet so adorable.
DISCLAIMER: I cannot promise to be unbiased when it comes to Jason and Robin. Back then, I really liked Jason, and I still had a lingering crush on Steve Burton that started way back with Out of This World. (I still think he's gorgeous when his hair isn't effed up, I just refuse to talk about that because of how horrible his character is now.) And Kimberly McCullough had me wrapped around her little finger from the moment I started watching this show, so that side of things is a no-brainer. Both of these actors have sold pretty much every single one of their romantic pairings, and they had crazy chemistry, and they were legacy characters with legitimate obstacles who got a good build-up and WHY MUST I JUSTIFY MYSELF TO YOU PEOPLE?!
Um, yeah, so . . . I liked them.
Lily is in Sonny's penthouse (I miss that set) playing the piano when the doorbell rings. It's Harry. This upsets Lily because supposedly Sonny was meeting with Harry and since he's not, obviously he's off getting into super-hot Brenda's quintessentially 90s high-waisted white jeans.
. . . Which he is! No wait, he's not. She is wearing the jeans (and it must be said, Vanessa Marcil can even rock that look -- with a cropped black t-shirt, no less, the bitch), but she's on the pier and Sonny hasn't talked his way into them yet. He's just gazing at her from up the stairs.
We cut to the mid-90s theme song, populated with characters who have almost all since fallen prey to Bob Guza's fascination with homicide, deification of the mafia, and/or hatred of the Quartermaines.
Back on the pier, Brenda and Sonny make out. My god, Vanessa Marcil and Maurice Benard could melt a TV screen. But wait, it's not really Brenda and Sonny, it's Fantasy Sonny and Brenda.
Whose fantasy? It was probably Brenda (who's lovestruck throughout this episode), but we don't really know, because the non-fantasy versions make eye contact with each other just as the fuzzy fantasy filter gets taken off the lens, and Sonny turns and leaves. He left without calling her a whore or anything. Wow!
At the penthouse, Harry is not helping out his boy at all, telling Lily that Sonny said he was headed straight home about half an hour ago. Lily is justifiably paranoid but Harry tells her not to jump to conclusions. Lily says nothing's been the same since they got back from Canada and she refuses to discuss "that woman." Harry assures Lily she is the best thing that ever happened to Sonny.
Eh, I don't know, their relationship kind of bored me. The 1996 version of me really wants her slip dress/tiny sweater combo, though.
Robin begs Jason not to turn the hose on her, and he doesn't, but he has a great idea. No really, and it's not a new and exciting way to murder someone. They should go swimming! Robin's up for it, but says it's too bad that he's not a "Quartermaine in good standing" anymore because they could choose between the Olympic-sized swimming pool or the lake. Jason says screw it, they should hop the fence and swim in the Qs' lake. Woohoo, Jason shirtless! I am fully behind this idea. Robin is as well.
On the brownstone stoop, Carly is there because Bobbie got called into emergency surgery and asked Carly to watch Lucas until Tony got home. But Tony's already home. So they're going to make goo-goo eyes at each other for a few seconds before she heads out. Meanwhile, Felicia joins Tom on the steps and starts rubbing her hands all over . . . Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator!
Carly says it was nice meeting them and starts to head out, but Lucas asks her to stay and teach him to skate, and she does because she wants to nail her mother's husband. Speaking of, why aren't Carly and Sam better friends?
On a side note, it's not like I hadn't realized it before, but good lord does Sarah Brown look different. In addition to the lighter, much shorter hair, she's...well...I do believe she's had them done.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm just documenting my impressions. It's kind of my job. Sarah Brown is awesome regardless, as evidenced by the fact that she spent this entire episode in a bike helmet while her character flirted with her stepfather and yet she was likable and rootable throughout. In fact, virtually all the characters were! Is this what good soap writing is? I had almost forgotten. I briefly remembered, once a week earlier this year with that primetime show based in a hospital, but I thought maybe that was just a one-off.
Tom has loaned Tony his Rollerblades, and Carly has convinced him that learning to skate will be super-fun. Oh Tony, there are several things Carly will convince you to do that are so ill-advised, this hardly seems worth noting. Carly, Tony, and Lucas chat rather charmingly for a bit.
Up on the roof, Tom has decided to try to fix the air conditioner. Tom and Felicia are very sweaty due to the heat wave (It's because of the heat wave. It's because of the heat wave. It's because of the heat wave). Tom is shirtless (with light-wash jeans, a trend that I am horrified to discover has recently returned), and Felicia is in her awful 90s outfit that includes pleated shorts. They make out. Felicia has brought a bowl full of ice. With which to mix drinks, I'm sure. But instead, she starts running the ice cube all over Tom's back and then . . . Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator!
Robin and Jason jump over the fence and its No Trespassing sign, while Jason recounts that he used to take walks down there after the accident, when he had to stay with the Quartermaines but needed to get away. They come upon initials carved into the fence -- JQ + KW -- and Jason appropriately deems that "dorky" and assumes it was him and Keisha. Robin points out it could have been Karen Wexler, but Jason has no idea who that is. Aw, sad. Robin explains that Jason was so wild over Karen that he failed to notice anyone else, especially lil' freshman Robin. Jason finds this unbelievable. He wants to know why she never told him that she liked him, and she says because she was shy, so of course he wants to know whether she still is (and, ergo, if she still wants to hook up with him). We cut to commercial, and that's the first Jason-related commercial cliffhanger that hasn't related to killing or endangering someone that I've seen in at least a year.
I feel the need to give Steve Burton props here, because we routinely accuse him of phoning it in these days, but watching this episode reminded me of how great he (and Maurice Benard) were back then. In these scenes in particular, Burton played Jason as flirtatious and charming and a little unsure of himself and Robin's attraction to him and MY GOD, it is sexy.
When we come back, Jason says if Robin isn't shy anymore, she should race him into the water. Uh, okay, go wild, hitman. She says sure, and heads to the boathouse to get a bathing suit. (The same boathouse where the current writing team began the destruction of Luke and Laura's daughter with the Lulu-Dillon sex, in case you're keeping track and bitter, like me!) But of course the boathouse is locked and so there are no suits! Jason responds -- thank god! -- by stripping down to almost nothing and diving in. He tells her to come on in and, since I guess she is still a little shy, she jumps in with her clothes on. These two are so cute, it's almost ridiculous.
On the brownstone roof, Tom and Felicia are all intertwined, and Tom's hand makes its way up Felcia's . . . Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator! They banter for a reaaally uncomfortably long amount of time, though. Loudly.
Sonny arrives home, which saves Harry from having to cover for Sonny's absence for any longer. Lily excuses herself so that Harry and Sonny can do "business." Instead, of course, Harry grills Sonny about "what he saw" -- which I guess was Sonny and Brenda together? -- and why Sonny is being such a dick to Lily. Harry brings up The Wire incident and says it's insane for Sonny to want to hook up with Brenda. Yes, Harry, but it's also hot. Let's keep our eyes on the prize. Sonny snaps at Harry -- with the tone that these days is reserved for when he throws something fragile across the room -- and Harry chills out a bit but says Sonny needs to decide how much he's willing to lose to get Brenda back.
Lily comes back to the penthouse living room and tells Sonny she went to the trial earlier that day. (I'm not sure which trial she's referring to, but whichever one it was, I'm sure it was far less infuriating that they ones of the last couple of years.) He had heard that she went, but wants to know why. She says it was mainly to support Laura, but also to let Detective Garcia have someone in the room who believed he was doing his job and not just persecuting Laura. I'm so confused. Why do I not remember this storyline? (Though in truth, all I really remember about Lily at this point is Clink-Boom. It kind of overshadows the smaller stories, you know?)
Sonny says he's not angry she went to the trial, but that next time she should ask him first. Controlling moment passed, Lily tells Sonny she's made dinner reservations for them at some new place on the lake, and Maurice Benard does a good job of having Sonny force himself to look like a date with his wife is something that sounds fun. Just then, the phone rings. Sonny answers and it's Brenda, though of course Sonny doesn't let Lily know that. And of course, Lily knows anyway. Sonny leaves to meet Brenda on the docks. (Which is actually a pier, but whatever. Would that that kind of thing were all I had to bitch about on modern-day GH.)
Robin and Jason are out of the lake and Robin is shivering, so Jason gallantly gives her his t-shirt, because that is what happens in every teen movie or soap opera after the young future lovers go skinny-dipping. Jason asks about Stone and that sends Robin off on a little reminiscing, including about the memory book. There's even a flashback to one of those scenes, proving that someone is determined to make me cry. Jason wants to make sure Robin isn't upset talking about Stone (what about me and my feelings though, Jason?!), and she says no, she's good, and she thinks Stone would be happy that Jason and Robin "are together." Aw. Then they kiss.
Tom and Felicia are doing stuff on top of the air conditioner when Bobbie interrupts. A topless Felicia horrifies me with the double-entendre "I'm right on the edge of a breakthrough" while holding a hammer and claiming to Bobbie that she's repairing the AC unit. Ugh. Bobbie wants to know where everyone is and Felicia fills her in on the Rollerblading. Bobbie hopes Tony doesn't hurt himself. Oh, Bobbie. Bobbie tells Felicia to "have at it" and leaves, and then Tom pops up from his hiding place and . . . Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator!
I must point out how lovely Jackie Zeman looks in this episode.
This was before everything went horribly wrong and Mallory became forced to refer to Bobbie's appearance in every post that mentions her as, simply, ". . . " Oh, Bobbie.
The future adulterers and invisible gay character are back from skating, and of course Tony fell and injured himself. Because that's what dorky older guys do when they're trying to look cool in front of their hot newly discovered grown step-daughters. Bobbie wants to know what possessed Tony to try something so stupid and Carly's all "me!" and Bobbie looks a bit suspicious as Tony tries to explain things in a way that doesn't make him seem like a tool. He fails. Carly offers up some free physical therapy to help him recover (this is one of Carly's careers that I had forgotten ever existed), which Tony doesn't want to accept but Bobbie talks him into it. Oh, Bobbie.
Sonny meets a nervous Brenda on the docks/pier.
Brenda: I'm just going to say this to you, and I don't want you to interrupt me, okay?
Brenda: Sonny, I love you. You know, I can't get, I can't get past it. It's just a fact of my life. And I know that you feel the same way too, right?
Sonny: You said you didn't want me to interrupt.
Brenda: Then nod your head. Something.
Sonny: ::fidgets, then nods::
Brenda: Yes. Listen to me.
Brenda: I don't want you to think that I'm doing this on impulse, okay? Because I'm not. I've thought this through very carefully for a long time, and it's the only thing left for us to do. I'm not going to make demands on you anymore. I'm not trying to trick you. I just want to offer you all that I have to give. Do you understand? How much I want you? How much I want us, and I'm willing to take it any way I can get it? I don't care if it's a moment here or a moment there. I'm willing to take that and have it be enough for me.
Sonny: What are you trying to say?
Brenda: That I won't ask you to leave her. I know that the only reason why you're alive and here and not in prison or dead somewhere is because you married Lily. And I'm okay with that. I understand it. I'm grateful for it. I've decided that no pride or saving face or anything is worth knowing that I can't be with you anymore. That I'll never be able to make love to you anymore. [It is a true testament to my fondness for old school GH that I typed out that phrase. - Ed.] Nothing's worth that to me. So what I'm saying is that you can do whatever you need to do. You can stay married. ::puts her face in her hands:: I'll be your mistress.
See, now this is the kind of emotionally overwrought, completely unrealistic, enjoyable as all hell escapism I am looking for once a day. Why is that asking too much?
Vanessa Marcil sold that scene. She was a perfect blend of vulnerability and aggression. I am a feminist but she had me rooting for the mob boss to accept her proposal to be his mistress! She's amazing. Man, I adored her portrayal of Brenda. Among other things, she made Sonny super-sexy and somehow forced me to be willing to overlook his heinous profession. Is there nothing she can't do? Other than pick a decent post-GH project, I mean?
Jason and Robin are making out but Robin pulls away. Jason asks what's wrong and she says "this could be dangerous." Jason thinks she means the HIV, but she actually meant that she was enjoying it too much. Jason's like, what's the problem exactly? Robin explains that it's hard for her to let go and have fun because of everything she has to deal with (which I guess means he was right, it's the HIV), but that since meeting him she's wanted to. He says no pressure from him, she says she'll just need some time, and then they decide to dance to no music, because that is also always what happens when young future lovers are in some improbably romantic situation in a teen movie or soap opera.
Then they make out some more. It's very hot. (I want to say they make out hotly, but I feel like I'm cheating on Patrick Drake.) Back from commercial, Robin again stops the making-out action, this time because she claims to be worried one of the Quartermaines will catch them. Jason doesn't care, but Robin says her shyness means she does.
Robin: Definitely not. But I think that's enough for tonight. I'm kind of on overload.
Jason: I can live with that. In fact, you just gave me a reason to look forward to tomorrow.
Aw. And then some Russian mobsters came and shot her in the uterus.
Tony hobbles up the brownstone steps with Bobbie's help. They and Carly and Lucas exchange some familial pleasantries. Tony compliments Carly on how good she is with Lucas, and mentions that Lucas must miss having a big sister. Oh god, BJ! BJ's heart! I am not going to cry, dammit. If the memory book reference didn't get me, this one won't either.
Tom and Felicia pop out to say that the AC is fixed. I know I swore I wouldn't transcribe this kind of thing, but I don't think you'd believe this actually happened if I didn't:
Tom: Just, you know, gave it a couple of good bangs.
Ew! Unsexy! Jack and Jennifer's banter does not approve!
Tom and Felicia talk about cold showers and then head off to his apartment but stop on the way behind the brownstone door to make out like junior highschoolers and . . . Jack and Jen flirtatiously banter at The Spectator!
Back on the pier, Sonny basically begs Brenda to pick up her dignity and walk away.
Brenda: I do.
Sonny: Think, Brenda! Sneaking around, meeting in shadows, avoiding each other in public, never acknowledging our true feelings to anyone? That is . . . you can't make me believe that that's what you want.
Brenda: Yes, it is. You don't know how hard it's been for me without you.
Sonny: Yes, I do.
Brenda: Because you feel the same way, Sonny, and you know that any time together is better than no time at all.
Sonny: Brenda, I can't tell you what it means to me that you're willing to do this. But I cannot let you.
Brenda: Why not?
Sonny: Because it's not fair to you.
Brenda: Sonny, let me decide what is fair for me. Unless you want to tell me right now that you don't want me anymore.
Sonny: God, no, I want . . . I want you more than anything. But I can't, I can't do like this.
Brenda starts crying and Sonny hugs her.
So of course Lily shows up at that exact moment, and we fade to black.
I know this episode was from during a Robin marathon, so I probably shouldn't have focused so much on Sonny, but every time I see shows from this era I can't get over the difference in Maurice Benard's performance, but even more importantly, in the writing for Sonny. These days, a woman throwing her self at Sonny like Brenda did would make me insane, but back then, as a viewer you kind of wanted him to agree to let her be his mistress, even though you knew he would say no, because he wouldn't treat Brenda that badly. He wouldn't just use her as some sexual prop in his life. Can you say any of that about Sonny and the women he's been involved with in the last five years at least? No. So I did get a little fixated on enjoying Sonny. It's discombobulating!
All that said, this was from the SOAPNet marathon of Robin's loves, and Jason absolutely deserved a spot in it. The two actors were -- and still are -- fabulous together, and just as I did with Sonny, I sat and marveled at how much I used to like Jason and what a disservice the writing has done to him and for that matter to Steve Burton since 2000 or so. So when it comes right down to it, I walked away from this episode thinking the same thing I do virtually every night when I hear the Tivo chirp that tells me I have earned the right to delete another episode of GH: Man, this show used to be so good. WTF happened?