The plot thins on One Tree Hill. Last night’s episode was a bit of a filler (though for you Lucas/Peyton fans, they all feel that way now, right?), but it was filler with at least some purpose. It stood to reason that after Lucas and Peyton left the show, something dramatic would have to happen in the lives of Nathan, Haley and Jamie — it’s been way too happy in that household for way too long. Here’s the breakdown of events as they unfurled:
The opening montage: Haley is in the kitchen, looking at the photographic evidence — the ultrasound and the pics of Nathan at the party where he met the extortionist. We see Brooke running out of the house, telling Julian that she loves him. Over at Skills’ and Mouth’s pad, Skills gets out of bed, disrobes to get into the shower and, closing the bathroom door, screams at something Mouth obviously set up to freak him out. (Immediately planning his revenge, he asks himself who to turn to when it’s life or death — and he dials for Jamie Scott. Awww …) Just as Millie comes to Alex’s room to get her out of bed for the photo shoot she’s supposed to do, Alex stumbles into bed after a night out partying. Millie threatens her half-million-dollar fee, and Alex rises to the occasion … but is determined to be incredibly difficult all the way.
At work, Mouth’s editor tells him that a friend saw Nathan’s outburst at the restaurant last week and wants him to look into it. Mouth, very aware of his friendship with Nathan and the potential conflict of interest, reluctantly agrees.
Nathan, back at home, is getting the glare from Haley as she pores over the photos. He insists to her that he didn’t touch the woman making the accusations. Haley isn’t suspicious, but she’s angry that Nathan doesn’t seem to realize how potentially damaging the photos could be, or could have been. She says that the woman obviously was smart enough to know how to hurt them, and he should have been smart enough to avoid it.
Cut to Dan’s ongoing motivational seminar, where he disseminates platitudes such as, “What they see is who you’ll be,” only to have someone in the crowd leap up and point at him, shouting, “Murderer!” When the cameraman asks Rachel if they should cut to commercial, Rachel says not to — Dan is a murderer, and Dan is talking about truth, not trying to cover it up.
Meanwhile, at the photo shoot for Brooke’s new clothing line (which is being shot by Quinn, coincidentally enough — because everybody in Tree Hill has world-class talent), Alex shows up looking haggard, and tries to take a pill. They sit her down for makeup to help her look more vivacious, and Alex, always full of class, says that the face cream smells like Millie farted. Millie, of course, denies doing so, but Alex then takes the credit. (Yes, this is how low OTH is reaching these days. But I know it can go lower. Come on, OTH — make it happen!)
At the apartment, Skills enlists Jamie’s help to catch whatever the critter is that’s hiding out in the bathroom. With a full complement of hockey and baseball protective gear, Skills looks like he’s about to take on a little league team all by himself. He offers Jamie $10 to deal with it for him, and Jamie holds out for $15 — then goes in and comes out a minute later holding a lizard. (Apparently, Skills has a phobia for such things that Mouth has seen fit to exploit as part of his campaign to get Skills to move out.)
Julian shows up at the photo shoot, where he meets Quinn and Alex … who tells Brooke that she’s too old for him (and snorts as she laughs about it). Alex has the hots for Julian, being the movie producer that he is, of course, and with her paucity of scruples, has no trouble trying to move in on him.
Then we get to the tough stuff of the episode. Clay and Nathan have a frank discussion of their options regarding his potential blackmail. Factoring the effect on Jamie, Clay tells Nathan that they should consider paying her demands — to the tune of $200,000. Nathan balks, of course, saying it’s an admission of guilt to do so. But Clay says that Nathan simply should consider it. As they discuss the ramifications either way, Mouth pulls up. “Here comes the press,” says Clay. Nathan is obviously concerned, and when Mouth approaches, he rightfully asks if Mouth is there as a friend or as a reporter. Mouth hesitates, but says that if he needs a friend to talk to off the record, he’s there for him. Nathan spells it all out for him, and Mouth is sympathetic, but you can see him agonizing that he’s squelching a story that theoretically he should be reporting. Nathan gives him the out, telling him that if the story breaks, that he should do what he has to do as a journalist. But, always the loyal friend, Mouth sticks to his guns: When he goes back to the office and his editor asks about the story, Mouth tells him that there is no story, which is liable to land him in hot water if the story breaks somewhere else first.
Watching Brooke and Julian interact at the photo shoot, Alex remarks to Quinn that Julian has really big hands, and “probably a really big thing.” Quinn, like everyone else at the shoot, is fed up and disgusted with her, and then they start shooting. Right from the start, it’s easy to see that as much of a pain in the ass as Alex is, she obviously knows her way around a camera.
As Dan wraps up his infomercial, he talks about being a murderer and not hiding from it, and the importance of stepping out into the light of truth. At the same time, he reintroduces Rachel, and tells how they had a traditional, chaste courtship. (Lies: We see in flashback that she was an exotic dancer and he picked her up while she was at work. After sleeping with Dan — for money — Rachel seized on the idea of exploiting his life for monetary gain via the self-help industry.)
Quinn talks to Brooke about husband troubles and how happy Julian and Brooke seem. Brooke suggests that Julian is bored, not having a film to work on at the moment. Meanwhile, in between shots, Alex manages to sneak a pill when Millie isn’t looking.
Haley has it out with Clay for not taking better care of Nathan, and accuses him of wanting to be out in public with Nathan more than actually wanting to protect him. Clay is forced to concede that she’s right, and apologizes. She insists that it’s not fair — they shouldn’t have to choose between paying $200,000 and potentially jeopardizing their relationship with Jamie for life.
Back at the apartment, Jamie turns all old-man-on-the-mountain with Skills about the ongoing feud. Naturally, Skills’ apprehensions about moving are connected to the pressure he would feel to commit to moving in with Lauren, and subsequently marrying her — it’s just too soon, according to Skills. Jamie tells him to talk to Mouth about it. (Genius!)
Alex starts flirting shamelessly with Julian, basically advertising herself to him as a floozy, asking him to help fix her hair, etc. He chuckles at the attention, but he’s not interested, at least by appearances.
As Brooke talks to Haley about how the shoot is going, Haley begins to break down about the whole extortion nightmare. Again, like the good friend, Brooke stops everything and she and Quinn sit down with her to talk it out. As they talk, Alex intrudes with a story about a friend of hers who took similar advantage of someone and got a rad fur coat out of it. The three gals get up and head out to Tric for booze.
At Tric, Quinn, Brooke and Haley get into the Nathan blackmail issue over drinks. Millie, who’s still in charge of babysitting the just-out-of-rehab Alex, stops her from drinking a pair of double shots of tequila by drinking them herself. (This is how Millie got into trouble at Tric once before, remember?) Brooke, who’s been the subject of tabloid speculation in her career, has words of advice: Don’t pay that [woman] a dime.
Skills calls up Mouth to talk about a truce between the two, and that they need to talk about their living situation. (Cue “This Is a Fine Bromance” music.)
As Nathan looks out at Jamie in the pool and muses about how he’s going to tell him about this latest nightmare, Haley comes along and tells him that if he wants to make it all go away and just pay this woman, she would promise not to say anything more about it.
Clay shows up at Tric and sits down next to Alex. He orders a shot, and after he throws it down, she sucks his face in an effort to taste the booze. She steps away momentarily, and Quinn sits down at the bar. Just as she and Clay start to talk, Alex returns and propositions Clay, telling him to meet her in 20 minutes. He says to make it 30, and Quinn can’t believe it. “You’re that guy?” she asks. “I am tonight,” he says.
Closing montage: Now that Dan Scott’s motivational talk is over, he finds out that Rachel had paid the guy to shout “Murderer!” at him, to bring the truth out, and so that people would see him at his best, dealing with an extremely difficult truth. Plus, as she says, “It makes for good TV.” The doorbell rings at Brooke’s and Julian’s house, and Julian opens the door to see Alex standing there. She hands him a movie script and tells him that it’s the something different that he’s been waiting for. Back at Tric, Quinn looks distressed when her cell phone rings. When she checks to see who’s calling and decides to ignore it, a voice tells her to answer it. “You’re going to have to talk to me sometime,” says her husband, who’s standing behind her, looking mildly intimidating. Skills has the big talk with Mouth about the pressure he’s feeling regarding his life and moving out at this particular moment. Mouth tells him to stay as long as he wants, then, feeling good about what a great friend he is, he goes to lie down — and a snake begins to slither up next to him on the bed. Millie and Brooke look at Alex’s pictures and agree that they’re much better than Alex the person. Clay sits down with the extortionist and hands her an envelope, telling her that it contains the amount they’re willing to pay to make this all go away. She opens it to find that it’s empty, and Clay gets up and leaves. Lastly, at the end of the day, Nathan and Haley find out where they stand with the blackmail issue, and realize that they’re going to have to tell Jamie about it. After savoring the last minutes of Jamie’s innocence, Nathan sits down next to him on the swings to have a talk.
What’s going to happen from here? According to previews of next week’s episode, the pregnancy story will break in the tabloids, Quinn will decide to divorce her husband and — at least we’re led to believe — try to get it on with Clay. Will it play out that way? For my money, I’ll bet that Mouth’s job is in jeopardy, but he saves himself and makes points at work in the end when he exposes Nathan’s extortionist for the fraud she is. But anything can happen on OTH, as you well know, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Photo: FRED NORRIS /The CW ©2009 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.