Season 3 of “The O.C.” is a season of strong women (with a few exceptions) steamrolling their way through the scandalous world of Orange County and beyond. Summer (Rachel Bilson) and Julie (Melinda Clarke), for example, make up for Seth’s (Adam Brody) suddenly missing sense of humor. In terms of new and new-ish female characters, Taylor (Autumn Reeser) and Kaitlin (Willa Holland) are delightfully thrown into the mix, and they top my list of who I’d like to see return during Season 4 of my rewatch.
The season's new male characters, though? That was more of a mixed bag. Read ahead to see which newbies earned honors in my coveted “Addition Awards” for their loved, hated, and neutral contributions to the third season of “The O.C.,” including a perhaps-surprising one I might like to see again.
LOVE: Taylor Townsend — Most Valuable Player
Taylor Townsend had a masterful story arc in Season 3. I was annoyed by her at first, but her delightfully weird personality took over my heart. I am convinced she is the long-lost cousin of “Gilmore Girls” character Paris Gellar (Liza Weil)!
In the season's seventh episode, viewers and Seth get a peek into Taylor’s family life, and her monstrous mother makes Taylor look a little softer. By the time she wants to help Summer and Seth stay together in (or around) Brown University, we are no longer questioning her motives. We see her make a similar gesture at prom, setting Summer up with Korea’s most famous pop star to help make Seth jealous. And when she later nonchalantly lets it slip that she ended up having a threesome with her date and the pop star, I laughed so hard I got tears in my eyes.
By the end of Season 3, Taylor is still not in the Core Four, but, as she says, “Second Circle Core.” As my mostly spoiler-free rewatch continues, my fingers are crossed for a Season 4 Taylor return. I hear there's an opening in that Core Four now.
LOVE: Kaitlin Cooper — Most-Needed Return
I absolutely count Kaitlin (Willa Holland) as a new character in Season 3. Yes, we met her briefly a long time ago in Season 1, but she never had any real storyline, and the show went months at a time without a mention of her. Plus, she is most definitely all grown up now in a way she wasn’t before. In fact, she’s played by an entirely new person! (Holland took over the role from Shailene Woodley.)
As I head into the show's final season, I very much hope Kaitlin's returned presence is, in part, because we need a mini-Coop in Season 4 — not a Marissa (Mischa Barton) replacement, but a Marissa-adjunct who is a dynamic character on her own. Since I have next to no plot memories from my original viewing of “The O.C.” two decades ago, I don’t know if she returned for Season 4, but I sure do hope so.
Kaitlin makes quite the splash in Season 3 and provides some much-needed comic relief. She’s got the sass of Season 2’s new character MVP, Alex (Olivia Wilde), and is developing the sultriness of, well, her mother — not to mention her inappropriateness! I admit that I laughed out loud when Kaitlin pranked her latest soon-to-be stepfather, a plastic surgeon, by asking him to “turn her As to Bs.” Use your imagination!
NEUTRAL: Johnny Harper — Most Forgettable
Johnny Harper (Ryan Donowho) is a giant walking yawn. Marissa befriends him at her new school, and in what felt like a thousand episodes later, Johnny dies. We are supposed to care, but I don’t think that we do!
One might argue Johnny serves a few purposes: He breaks up Ryan (Ben McKenzie) and Marissa, he causes strife between Marissa and her sister, and he ushers his cousin (who we could also do without; see below) and Kevin Volchok (Cam Gigandet; also see below) into “The O.C.” landscape. But I am certain the writers could have found another way — better ways, interesting ways — to accomplish all of the same goals.
Throughout Season 3, I couldn't wait to move on from Johnny. Now I can't wait to move on from this blurb.
HATE: Sadie Campbell — Best in Failed Chemistry Experiments
Sadie Campell (Nikki Reed) is the cousin of dead Johnny. The group meets her for the first time when she arrives for his funeral. She and Ryan strike up a romance, though they have zero spark; really, they need Marissa-and-Volchok chemistry lessons. Thus, Sadie takes the “Best in Failed Chemistry Experiments” crown from Season 2's winner, Rebecca Bloom.
Speaking of Volchok, Sadie actually has a past with him, which gives Ryan pause. Sadie and Ryan try to make it work between them, but the relationship ultimately fails and she leaves “The O.C.” — to hopefully never return!
Also, what was with all the “Twilight” cast members this season? Besides Reed and Gigandet, Jackson Rathbone, JD Pardo, and Justin Chon also came on the scene. What a strange coincidence, given that the first “Twilight” film didn't even come out until two years after this season aired.
HATE: Matt Ramsey — Most Smarmy
“The O.C.” also introduced Matt Ramsey (Jeff Hephner) in Season 3. Cue eye roll. He looks a lot like the Food God guy who pals around with the Kardashians, and, as it turns out, he's equally smarmy and annoying. A new colleague of Sandy’s (Peter Gallagher), he initially seems like he might be a great mentor for Ryan, whose past experience in construction is unfolding to reveal an architect in the making. But when they end up at a strip club, Sandy is understandably not pleased.
Matt is obviously too sketchy for Sandy to work with — or so you might think. It becomes clear Matt is trying to worm his way into taking over the Newport Group, and I was surprised to see the principled Sandy Cohen compromise his values a few times due to Matt's slippery morals.
Fortunately, Sandy ultimately comes to his senses, and I was as horrified as he was to find teenage Marissa in a nightshirt at Matt's apartment one morning. Thank goodness it was innocent — poor Marissa had gone through enough — but Maya (Morena Baccarin) was not so lucky. Matt is just an all-around icky guy. I very much hope we've seen the last of him!
LOVE and HATE: Kevin Volchok — Best Bad Boy
Kevin Volchok is every mother’s worst nightmare. He’s an absolutely horrendous choice of a mate. Marissa should know better. But I also totally get it. I have a lifetime of weakness when it comes to the teen drama bad boy archetype. Dylan McKay, anyone?
Marissa and Volchok, even though we barely know him, have an onscreen chemistry that even she and Ryan don’t have. Throw in a few moments of vulnerability, and their connection starts to make even more sense. After Marissa tells Volchok that she used to dream of being the oldest daughter in “The Sound of Music,” she accidentally finds he's rented the movie to learn about her interests. It’s meaningful — and seductive — when people make efforts to know us better! And watching him look at a manual on how to tie a tie, in preparation to take Marissa to prom, was a little heart-wrenching.
Of course, I can't overlook the role Volchok played in Marissa's death. He pretty much caused it with his out-of-control driving. It's hard to imagine how he, and Ryan, pick up the pieces after that. Though I have attempted to stay away from spoilers during my rewatch, I did inadvertently learn that Volchok reappears in Season 4. I admit, I’m intrigued!