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« Serial Drama's Best and Worst of 2011 | Main | And With That, I Have Become a Soap Crazy »

January 03, 2012

Ode to Joy and Natalie Banks

As we wind down, I'd been planning to do some character sum-ups as we start to say goodbye to them as characters. As there are no perfect people on this show (thankfully!), I'll try to remember the bad along with good, but it's way more fun to focus on the good. Unfortunately the holidays happened and I broke my stupid foot and life got insane, so I don't know that I'm going to be able to do it justice. However, I'd already started on Natalie and today seemed a perfect day to go ahead and celebrate her anyway because OH MY GOD HOLY CRAP Y'ALL NATALIE WAS SO AWESOME TODAY.

Now, this year has not been my favorite Natalie year. I've admittedly been very critical of the way she's been written since her decision to conceal her child's paternity during her pregnancy because I don't think it's been consistent with her character. She's a girl who misbehaves, but never because she's acting pathetic. She's never been pathetic. I love my bad girls (obviously), but this bad act and the way she's handled it since has not been "bad" for the reasons I loved this bad-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold. And considering as little as John's been willing to give her over this whole arc, it made me angry that they had her sink into trite insecurity and desperation. She's just not that weak. That said, let's not pretend I hated everything about her in this storyline. She kicked ass in the battle scenes with Marty, especially in her boots and wedding dress with a shotgun. One of my favorite moments of the year.

And now that I've made my disclaimer about my endless frustrations this year (which, like everything else, are just my opinions -- many of you may have loved the ways she's been featured in the past year and a half, and I envy that, I do!), let's move on. Let's start with the actress herself.

Melissaarcher

I saw Natalie's spicy portrayer, Melissa Archer, in the Off-Broadway play My Big Fat Italian Wedding this past winter, and while she was really only there for a night to make a special appearance and therefore wasn't given much to do, I believe it was the first time I'd ever seen her in person and she took my breath away. I'd always thought she was super-hot and, as I've expressed in these "pages" many times, got annoyed when the show seemed to downplay her looks rather than emphasize them, I got even more burned up about it then. Because until I saw her in person and was a few seats away from her, I really clearly had no idea. She is stop-traffic stunning. And not just for the reasons we already knew, but she has got killer legs on top of all her other spectacular attributes. And no, I don't just mean the most obvious spectacular attributes. Those wouldn't mean that much without everything else backing them up.

When Natalie Balsom first came on the scene in the very first part of the century (don't you love how phrasing things that way makes them seem way more monumental?), she was a terrific shake-up and a breath of fresh air. The Buchanan-Lords had turned into somewhat milquetoast sanctimonious good guys, whether we loved them or not. Sure, we had the occasional bad apple and Asa was still up to no good, but the Llanfair gang needed a little injection of energy. Jessica was a sweetie, but to what end? She didn't have much as far as tendencies to misbehave (ever necessary to drive story in a soap, lest one become a bland damsel-in-distress) and she'd been brought up well with love and generosity (ahem, before the rewrite that resulted in Jess' D.I.D.). Viki had her brother Todd's never-ending drama to deal with, but she'd turned mostly into an advice-giver. The wise lady on the sidelines. Sure, she was married to Ben, but I'll confess that I never enjoyed that relationship at all, so I needed something new.

Now those of us, very much including myself, who remember Viki's entire pregnancy with Jessica as well as the birth itself might have been pissed off at this pretty egregious retroactive continuity. I had mixed feelings at first. I loved the possibility, but I hated the retcon. I remember the moment Viki played that guessing game with Clint to tell him she was pregnant like it was yesterday, it was one of the sweetest moments the soaps could offer up. How dare they taint that? But as I always say, no matter how ridiculous a soap story is, if the aftermath is excellent then the payoff can make the bad rewrite worth it. (Cases in point: Irene's alive! Plastic surgery! Todd and Victor are twins!...but that's okay because it gave us the Two Todds. Jessica was abused and molested! Viki was Niki, like all the time when Jess was a toddler even though we saw those years on screen and it didn't happen!...but that gave us Jessica's split personalities and.... nope, that didn't make it okay because it wasn't worth it. The list goes on under pros and cons.)

Natalie came to town to cause trouble and she did it. But once she saw what a family full of love really looked like and once she realized there may be enough love there for her too, everything turned around. She didn't know how to be loved unconditionally (which is why every time she screws up she's always certain her family will turn their backs on her even though they never do) and she didn't know how to stop acting out. But when Viki loves you? She won't let you reject it. 

It was one hell of an introduction story that breathed new life into the show and into two of its core families. I've loved the evolution of her relationship with Roxy, too. And Clint! Remember when they first met? Such goodness.

Since then she's been part of two of my very favorite couples on this show. I totally dorked out about Natalie and Cristian. I'm still bitter that they split them up when he came back from the dead, really. (In fact, I still hadn't let go earlier this year. Oops!)

Crisnat

Hot!

And then Natalie and Jared? I resisted them at first, in part because they just plain weren't Natalie and Cristian, but also in part because... well, the beginning was kind of incest-y. But then I got sucked in. Hook, line, and sinker. And then they just ripped our hearts out. Oof. 

Now admittedly, John and Natalie somehow never worked for me. I know they're a massively popular pairing and so my commentary on the couple is... not everyone's favorite, shall we say? To me they always felt a little stiff (and considering the sparks she had with Cris and Jared, it irked), and when you add to that the fact that John is always passive in relationships, it put Natalie in a position of always being somehow too needy. A trait I just did not buy or like in her. But I'll say this now that we're near the end: they certainly have built the anticipation. It was a good move to finally have him pining away a bit. And for a pairing I was never crazy about? I can't wait for their reunion.

But today? Today she rocked. Mitch is probably my all-time favorite soap villain and I've always enjoyed that fiery, seething hate between Mitch and Nat (Mitch's "I love tangling with you, girl" today was so wrong and so damn right). And she got to be such a bad-ass today!

Natmitch1

He had the nerve to disparage Jared. Mistake.

Natmitch2

And then he had the nerve to threaten her child.

Natmitch3

And really, kudos to both Melissa Archer and Roscoe Borne today because these were some seriously good fight scenes. Disturbing to watch. I felt kind of dirty at my own joy. But if that's wrong, I don't want to be right (not that that's new).

Now I know about three million other totally huge amazing awesome spectacular things happened in today's kickass episode (OMG Todd and Blair! Cole recast with adorable Broadway dude Van Hughes! Troy and Nora! Prison breakout! Clint being awesome!) and I'll get around to all that eventually, but today was Natalie Day here.

So what do you guys think? Did you love how bad-ass she was today? What was your favorite Natalie pairing? What do you see Melissa Archer doing next?

Eight episodes to go, y'all. It hurts like hell.

Comments

I started watching the show religiously after a friend sent me a ridiculously hot clip of Natalie's fantasy of Jared at Asa's ranch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yKg-ideb54

So yeah, that's my favorite pairing. I stopped watching when he died and only came back for original recipe T&B. But Natalie has always been and will always be my second favorite female character on this show. I just adored her today, trying to choke the wonderful, wonderful Mitch.

Hate me if you will, but I ship Nat and Jess...you know if they weren't sibs. Ahem...anyway...Nat and Mitch were awesome today. They went all out in their scenes and I was very appreciative of this.

I miss Nat and Cris. I really, really do. ::sigh::

Also, Clint was a badass...love Clint and Mitch fighting over Jess. And Clint stared Mitch down, boy. Loved it!

Starr and Cole and Hope and then Starr hiding Cole while trying to ferret out if her parents had hooked up was great.

Todd and Blair....are just magic. The end.

Oh yeah, loved Troy and Nora, too :D

Oh BTW Louise, as much as I adore this idea of making posts character-centric and as much as I love Natalie, we're really going to have to find a way to discuss Todd's neck kiss because OMG. I died.

If you're willing to write a "day" story for each of the people you listed, I'm willing to make the sacrifice to wait & read.

By the way, did you know that Louise means "famous warrior"? I looked it up a couple of years ago, since that's my middle name.

"And no, I don't just mean the most obvious spectacular attributes. Those wouldn't mean that much without everything else backing them up." Total proof that you're not a straight boy.

I'm not much of a Natalie fan (I lost all interest once she stopped being the bad girl and got her nice but misguided hat on) but damn if she wasn't tearing it up with muh sweet Roscoe Born today (who is also my all time favorite soap villain -- and damn sexy to boot!).

It's too bad Mitch couldn't have made an appearance on the FRATERNITY ROW ep a few weeks back as Nigella's bad-boy lover. That would've been a real hoot...

The scene where Roxy shows up at Llanfair and completely causes Natalie to break down, but Viki comes to her defense without hesitation, was one of my favorite scenes in the whole show's history.

And, yeah, my favorite pairing was Natalie's with Jared, so much so that for a while Jared was my imaginary boyfriend.

Oh right, here's the first part of the scene I was talking about:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drDM9Rhr2lI

I loved both Cris & Natalie and Jared & Natalie, but I also think that Al (NM) & Natalie was a HUGE missed opportunity. That alone makes a good reason Max turned out NOT to be a Buchanan, lol.

And yes, Todd & Blair were A-frickin'-MAZING today. The neck kiss was TOTALLY unexpected and SIZZLING HOT! I only wish my OTHER favorite couple, Max & Gabrielle, were back doing the same things. Because I KNOW they would bring it in that department, too. They always did.

Speaking of which, as long as you're doing days for characters, there's a certain character I mentioned in the last paragraph who's returning soon. I know you may be just be doing a few of the current characters, but I think a few returning characters are worthy of ones, too--ESPECIALLY this one.

Wonderful post. I've always loved Natalie. Her introduction (the red dress!) was a big part of my early days watching the show. And she was on fire today!

Now to confess the Natalie pairing I always wanted to see: Natalie and Kyle Lewis! They would have made amazing friends. They could have gone out for drinks, snarked on people they didn't like (Kim, for example), and laughed about how Kyle once blackmailed her wearing cowboy chaps. Alas, it was not to be.

ITA, UseYourIllusion, Natalie and Al was a HUGE missed opportunity. They had great chemistry. I always thought Natalie had great chemistry with the guys she wasn't paired with (Al, post-prison Cristian, Paul Cramer, pre-engagement Brody) and I never saw the chemistry between Natalie/pre-prison Cristian, John or Jared. I never understood why Natalie and Brody weren't written as a viable couple and John/Natalie/Brody treated as a true triangle.

I loved Natalie's introduction and think the character reinvigorated The Buchanan clan, but I disliked Natalie for much of her run. I thought she was trapped in boring pairings, lame story, Melissa Archer's acting wasn't always very good and Natalie showed a lack of loyalty and self respect. I have liked Natalie more in the past two years and the actress has improved. I think Natalie could have benefitted from some time on the backburner throughout her entire run.

Just watched today's episode. It was really good although I have never enjoyed Mitch Laurence. I can only hope that before the show concludes that Jessica is re-Buchananed (biologically Clint's daughter) because the de-Buching of Jessica was the single worst decision any writer has ever made on OLTL. Ummm, David Vickers and Rex Balsom get to be biological Buchanans yet Jessica gets to be the result of Mitch Laurence's rape! Seriously?!

I see Ty Treadway is still beautiful to look at and painful to see act. Lol.

NuCole was very good and made me like the character in the first time ever. Too bad it's the end of the show's run because I could see myself liking this version of Starr and Cole.

Oh yeah, Todd and Blair are EVERYTHING!!!!

I LOVE this post. I don't know how I'm going to say goodbye to my Nat. She was amazing today, "tangling" with Mitch. She wasn't about to get kidnapped again without a fight (in a short dress and heels no less). As far as pairings I liked Natalie and Cristian the best, until he "died". Jolie has had some good moments. Not enough really. And Jared never really worked for me mainly because of the actor. I agree that Natalie & Al were a huge missed opportunity. There was a spark there. Natalie and Brody should have also been explored after the one night stand. I hope Melissa Archer goes on to do great things in primetime or movies. She's really grown as an actress over the years and seems like such a sweet person.

I adore Nat, she is my favourite character and i will miss her.

If i have to choose one Nat pairing... She had chemistry with all her men but my choice would be Jarlie.

Interesting though I loved Jolie back in the day and was very happy to see their reunion, Jarlie was my second choice. But the way they are writing John made me have an epiphany. Until recently i was on the edge of my seat waiting for a reunion but John has always been like this, i just didnt want to see it!
Dont get me started with self righteous Evangeline, John used to drive me crazy. Well he still drives me crazy. Cant believe i will say this but thanks to soap gods Evangeline had enough sense to put a stop to that nonsense.

Jared is the man and i wish he could come back...

Once my brain started fuctioning again after the hotness of T&B and the RH heart kiss, my fav part of the show was when Nat went for Mitch after he dissed my, er, her Jared. I loved Jared so much cause he loved my Nat if she was being good and even more when she was being bad. Oh but my fav scene with Nat was when she was going to attend Asa's funeral in black and
then shows up in the red dress. Who could resist her.

Today, the show for me was ALL about Nat and Mitch, it was amazing. Not much of a T&B Fan...eeeh...He will hurt her in the end again JUST like the other 100 times. Besides, they have lived past their time..10 years ago they were good. Nat and John all the way, IMO, they have tons of chemestry.

Natalie and Chris, how I loved them. Then Nat and Jared-you're right-they broke my heart. Never been a fan of Nat and John but hoping Ron Carlivati will do them justice. For their long suffering fans sake. So far, Ron has dragged this out too long. There is anticipation and then there is redundancy (how many times are we going to hear "we need to talk" and then an interruption occurs. How many times will Roxy or Tea or the mail man tell John how much he loves and wants Natalie and John does...nothing. Bore-ing) and the moment for any reunion or declaration of love is past "the moment" and it has become anticlimactic. But it is what it is and I'm watching to the end. BTW, loved Natalie and Mitch fighting. Right up to the end , when Mitch turned his back on Natalie who was holding a giant flashlight with which she did NOT smack Mitch on the head with;instead she looked like a deer caught in the headlights. But we'll see what happens today. The show ended rather abruptly yesterday. Thanks Louise for an entertaining column.

"the moment for any reunion or declaration of love is past "the moment" and it has become anticlimactic."

Exactly! Thanks Ariel...

Oh my gosh, John and Natalie had oodles of chemistry when he first showed up to town then he slept with Evangeline and poof! He became Moody McAsshat. Couldn't stand him after that. Natalie deserved better- she deserved a man who loved her because of her flaws- not in spite of them! That's what she had with Cris and with Jared. *sigh* I'll miss my Nat.

The T&B neck kiss was hot.

I'm sorry. Was there more to today's show than Blair and Todd? I remember him looking at her and, and, and.... I'm sorry.

Pitted against Evangeline only highlighted Natalie's immaturity and neediness. Evangeline Williamson was a great character, a loyal, self-respecting, self-possessed woman who chose her well-being over being in a relationship with closed John McBain. Now that is a character I have missed immensely. Renee Elise Goldsberry oozed tons of chemistry with all of her romantic pairings, but I especially loved her with John (no strings to strings) and Todd. OLTL struck pay-dirt with REG and mismanaged her.

Sorry Evangeline was never paired with Todd. Todd would never have had anything to do Mitch's sanctimonious lawyer, like the rapemance with Marty, the kissing Kelly, the flirting that led to the MadMagaret rape, and the weird S&M true love with Tea that was all Victor,thankfully not Todd.
So happy that this is true.

TSJ was hired for the role of "Todd Manning" and it was up to the writers of OLTL to write for the character and NOT the actor in the role! I have the same issue with JJ, Sarah Brown, etc.. who originate a soap character and then the writers give us "OOC" stuff until the original actor returns to the role and try to whitewash all of the crap that they wrote when the actor was gone.

I, too, liked Todd with Vangie back when Renee was on the show and I know that TSJ even fought to get out of the merry go round of TnB but was denied the pairing.

Jolie 1.0 was smoking hot the first time until Frons in his normal "this is a Super couple in the making...snort" dumped the pairing in favor of John and Vangie. I liked JoVan and Jolie 1.0 and thought there could have been years of a triangle between the threesome and then Renee left the show.

Lord above, I hope you write an entry on today's episode, Louise. The show defies all expectations.

I didn't see much of Nat/Jared together but anything's gotta be better than Nat/John.

The man is so effing nonchalant while Nat is in Mitch's hands! When Mitch released her and Nat stumbled, he didn't even reach out to catch her. He does not act as if the love of his life is in danger! He's just so stone-faced! God, say what you want about Blair/Todd but I remember when Mitch had Blair and Todd went nuts....err...more nuts than usual.

So maybe this Jared fellow can come back from the dead for Natalie who deserves better than that poo-poo head John McBain.

As for "Todd" and Vangie, they were fine but I had already disassociated the character from the real Todd Manning because Todd -Manning - while waiting to die, natch - would not be conciliatory and thankful to a lawyer who was useless in getting him off death row. I know TSJ pushed for that because it was obvious how he gave that his all - to the point where REG looked a bit freaked - and while he unprofessionally attempted to tank what he was given in terms of T&B.

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