Otalia: The Art of the Matter
She'd been teased and mocked for years, no more so than in her competition with other, younger and, some would say, prettier hopefuls. Her appearance had been derided as "downmarket." She obviously couldn't afford fancy stylists and didn't have the finesse of her peers, but when she revealed the depths of her talents she left viewers and critics quaking in their boots.
I'm not talking about Susan Boyle, the YouTube and Britain's Got Talent overnight sensation. I'm talking about the magnificent week of high octane, balls to the wall drama that has been Guiding Light.
I'm glad I waited before posting anything about the extraordinary week that has transpired on GL as the Olivia/Natalia love story played out before my astonished eyes. Temptation tested me in the aftermath of Olivia's shattering graveyard soliloqy to her heart donor Gus and, later, her heartstopping confession of love to Natalia, in what is quite possibly destined to become remembered as one of the greatest performances in daytime of the last decade. My fingers fidgeted over my keyboard during one of the most gloriously tortured daytime weddings in recent memory. My mind raced with superlatives about Natalia's struggle at the altar and her tearful confession of love for Olivia mixed with guilt about Frank. While the week belonged to Otalia (which I will get to in a moment), the entire show was, to borrow a phrase, a towering inferno of greatness. Let us count the ways:
Reva/Edmund: Whatever the defects in the separate sagas of The Death of Lara and The Birth of Baby Colin were nearly wiped away by the brilliant twist of having Edmund attempt to kidnap the newborn infant and Reva's grim determination to stop him. What made that twist so awesome was that it harkened back to how Edmund had once threatened (as in tried to kill) Reva's son Jonathan as a baby back on St. Cristobal which directly led her to leaving Jonathan to protect him and how messed up he became in life; this was Reva's chance for the ultimate do over. David Andrew McDonald returned Edmund to his deliciously evil ways with flair. Kim Zimmer's performance was brilliant, looking and sounding as if she had fought Death himself to save her child. Equally fantastic was how the story logically wove Josh back into Reva's orbit, given that Josh was helping her to save their son Shayne (Jeff Branson, who smoldered in his own scenes with Gina Tognoni (Dinah)) from the threat of Edmund as well. Robert Newman was just great as the suddenly menacing, vaguely cold-blooded Josh, a nod to the fact that Josh had originally been something of a villain when he first appeared in Springfield. When Edmund asked what would the minister in Josh say to his kidnapping Edmund, Josh's deadpan reply, "Get thee behind me, Satan" was simply awesome.
The Spauldings are Back Big Time: From the deliciously snarky family dinner at Towers to Alan's shenanigans to get Phillip to take a psychiatric exam before rejoining the company, for the first time in years the Spauldings look and feel like exactly like the dysfunctional clan we've known and loved for over a quarter century. It's been ages, but Alan (a noticeably energized Ron Raines) is finally being written not as a baby-obssessed cretin, but how one would imagine Christopher Bernau's Alan would be today: endlessly manipulating his family through psychological gamesmanship. While it is true Grant Aleksander (fitting back into the ensemble like a glove as the eternally bemused Spaulding prince) has sent a shot of adrenaline through the show, there are two additional reasons why this week marked the true return of Spauldings.
The first was the reemergence of Marj Dusay's Alexandra. In a few short days, this has to count as one of the years' top character rejuvenations so far. When Alex slapped the snot out Alan, the familial connection between brother and sister as equals was instantly, firmly reconnected after years of Alexandra's portrayal as either an appendage, a plot device or, worse, an afterthought. Aunt Alex is now back on the scene as a viable and welcome spoiler in the tussle between Alan and Phillip. The other reason the Spauldings are back is Zack Conroy, an extremely talented young actor who brings the looks of teen heartthrobs Zac Ephron, Chase Crawford and Ed Westwick (Nate Archibald and Chuck Bass, respectively, on Gossip Girl) and through sheer force of personality has done what was once thought impossible: making Daisy (Bonnie Dennison) somewhat bearable.
And what of the genius of this week's developments in the Otalia story?