Last night's highly entertaining holiday episode of "The O.C." was rooted in fantasy, but it still advanced a few plot lines that will come into play later this season: namely, Ryan's relationship with Taylor and the town's process of coping with the death of Marissa Cooper.
As this episode begins, Kirsten is urging Ryan to invite Taylor over for Christmas Eve, but he's hesistant, since that might make her his girlfriend. "It's Chrismukkah," Kirsten reminds him. "We make our own rules."
Meanwhile, Kaitlin is whining that she has to accompany her mother to Christmas dinner in "the ghetto" (a.k.a., Riverside), while Taylor's mother has sent her a mass email saying she'll be in Cabo for the holidays. Soon, Taylor's traipsing over to Ryan's to invite herself to Chrismukkah, but her timing isn't great. Ryan has just discovered a long-lost letter from Marissa, which he has yet to open.
Ryan attempts to escape from Taylor by climbing a ladder to the roof to hang some Christmas decorations, and the next thing we know, the two have tumbled to the ground. Thankfully, they are okay, but a peeved Taylor dusts herself off and leaves. Ryan, meanwhile, wanders into the Cohens' house and realizes that perhaps things aren't okay after all, so read more
Ryan first realizes that something's up when Kirsten, who is planning a party, mistakes him for a member of the catering staff. He heads over to the mall, where he happens on Julie making a public appearance to raise money for homelessness; she assumes that Ryan is just another street urchin. Panicked, he locates Seth, who is being harassed by a pair of comic-store nerds joking that "his girlfriend" is across the street. When Ryan sees that they're talking about Summer, who is trying on a wedding dress, he assumes that Seth and Summer are engaged.
Looking for some sanity, Ryan tracks down Sandy Cohen, who is now serving as mayor of Newport Beach. When Ryan tries to explain what's going on, Sandy look at him like he's crazy: “I see that you’re having some trouble and I sympathize with that. But stalking me and my family is not the answer.”
Thankfully, the next person Ryan runs into is Taylor, who knows exactly who he is because they are existing in the same alternative universe, which is a bit tense since Ryan doesn't want to date her. Taylor figures they must be there because someone is in trouble, and right then, Summer appears, decked out in velour Juicy sweats and lots of bling. Taylor realizes she's become "a mindless bimbo" who plans to marry Che, who in this universe is an obnoxious frat-boy named Chester. In this radically different role, Bilson is actually hilarious and, throughout the episode, gets handed some of the best lines.
Taylor and Ryan split up to make separate discoveries about the new Newport Beach. Taylor learns that Mayor Sandy Cohen is married to Julie, who is having a very kinky affair with Che/Chester, and that Marissa is alive and arriving at the airport at 3 p.m. Ryan discovers that Julie is married to Jimmy. Back in reality, the denizens of Newport hear that Taylor and Ryan are both in comas, but they are fine and will wake up when they are ready. ("So it's a coma-light?" asks Kaitlin.) Kirsten finds the letter from Marissa and realizes why Ryan isn't ready to return to the real world.
Back in alt-world, Ryan goes to the airport to find Marissa, only to realize that the "Miss Cooper" who's returning from Berkeley is actually Kaitlin. She's a prodigy who went to college early, but she says Marissa died three years ago after OD'ing in a Tijuana ally. Ryan is despondent, but Taylor reminds him: “Ryan, you gave her three more years. She got to fall in love. She got to graduate.” Furthermore, she points out, he saved the Cohens from themselves.
Now, they just have to fix things, so Taylor and Ryan head to Kirsten's party and engage in a series of hijinks to fix Seth up with Summer and get the Cohens back together. Ryan explains the whole alternate-universe thing to Seth, who understands perfectly, while Ryan and Taylor conspire to get Che and Julie together for a bathroom tryst so they can get Sandy and Kirsten reminiscing about old times.
In the midst of all this, Taylor stumbles upon her mom and her alternative-universe self: "In alt world, I’m a boy! And my mom is still a bitch." When she overhears her mom chastising the boy for being fat, she decides to stand up to her once and for all. Apparently, that's the issue she needed to face before coming out of her coma, and soon she is back in the Newport Beach hospital room.
Meanwhile, Jimmy catches Julie and Che getting it on in the bathroom, and both Sandy and Summer learn of their partners' infidelity. Soon, everyone else is starting to get very suspicious about the what Ryan is up to. As the bimbo Summer asks, “Who is this random guy we’re all listening to, and why am I not drunk yet?”
Ryan explains to them that really Sandy and Kirsten should be together, Sandy should be fighting for the little guy, and Summer should date Seth. Everyone is pretty confused but seems to think this random guy has a point. Unfortunately, his antics get him tossed in jail, from which Sandy bails him out. Ryan asks Sandy what happened to all of you, and Sandy says that when Marissa Cooper died, “It was like everybody got stuck.”
After that that, we see alt-world Ryan read the letter, causing real-world Ryan to wake up. The gist of the letter, written to Ryan the day Marissa left, is that she had to leave Newport because it was the only way they could get on with their lives. When Ryan wakes up, the first person he sees is Taylor. Neither can remember what happened, but both remember having strange dreams with the other person in them. “I’m really glad you’re here,” Ryan says to Taylor.