Less important things first: Kirsten is doing so well in her fun-filled rehab stint of poker games and walks in the huge gardens that her doctor says she's ready to leave, which Kirsten isn't all that thrilled about, especially now that she's just found a new rehab buddy in Charlotte "7 of 9 (shots of tequila)" Morgan. She lies to Sandy that she doesn't know when she'll be released, and then Charlotte watches her sleep. Now on to the big cliffhanger: Trey isn't dead, but he is in a melodramatic coma, leaving Marissa and Ryan as the only conscious witnesses to Trey's shooting. They both say that Marissa shot Trey to save Ryan's life, which the D.A. has no intention of believing since Ryan has a record and people always love to blame Ryan for stuff. Trey wakes up, but Marissa, Ryan, Seth, and Summer decide to take Jimmy's yacht out for a fun time music montage instead of going to see him. Caleb-money-hungry Julie, still with the probably-equally-as-Caleb-money-hungry Jimmy, is not as foolish, and she sees the shooting as an opportunity to keep scandal away from her family, finally get Ryan away from Marissa, and let her daughter's background remain blemish-free so she can get into a good college, like going through the trauma of shooting the man who tried to rape you to prevent him from killing your boyfriend wouldn't make for an awesome application essay. Trey takes Julie's offer of twenty thou in exchange for saying that Ryan shot him because it's either do that or be suffocated by a pillow. By the time the cops arrive to arrest Ryan for attempted murder, he and the gang have run off to Jimmy's yacht with the brilliant plan of sailing it to Mexico to hide out until they can get Trey to tell the police the truth. Fortunately for us all, this insanely stupid plan does not get a chance to play out, as the police catch up to them before they can leave port. So Ryan's back in his jailhouse blues, and Marissa and Summer are back in their candy striper uniforms as they infiltrate the hospital to talk to Trey. The plan is so ridiculous that even Seth "I'm Gonna Sail to Tahiti" Cohen doesn't think it will work, but amazingly, it does, and Marissa convinces Trey to tell the truth and he tells her that Julie put him up to lying in the first place. Marissa tells her mom to stay out of her life, but isn't all that angry or upset about it, probably because she's used to it by now. Ryan gets out of jail and goes to see his brother, only to find him out of the hospital (people in months-long comas tend to heal pretty quickly) and on a bus to Vegas. They wave to each other as the bus pulls away, and Ryan cries on Sandy's shoulder. The episode should have ended there, but then we had to see Marissa and Ryan cuddling at the lifeguard tower as they wonder if they'll be able to get past this. Seeing as how they were able to get through a season's worth of "Ryan is framed for attempted murder; the kids escape to Mexico!" arcs in just one episode, I'm thinking they'll be just fine by next week.
Last season on The O.C., a bunch of new characters came and went, while the audience mostly just went. And then the season ended with Caleb dying, Kirsten going to Swedish rehab, and Marissa shooting Trey, and some of the audience came back, along with Tate Donovan.
And now, Season 3. It starts off very blue. Literally. Trey is wheeled into the ER as everyone speaks with the echoey voices of non-reality. Ryan and Marissa, followed by Seth and Summer, enter after the stretcher. Despite what the doctors are saying, Trey's medical emergency couldn't have been that urgent, since everyone had time to stop for haircuts on their way to the hospital. Ryan's looks very good, by the way. Flashbacks to scenes of Ryan and Trey's stormy relationship are intercut with Trey dying at the hospital. A doctor sees Ryan's battered face and says he needs medical attention. A cop says he can get it once they're done talking to him. Over in a corner, another cop is asking Marissa what she means when she says she shot the hospital's newest gunshot victim. Marissa may want to consider going into the exciting field of police work, since the intelligence of the profession's representatives so closely mimics her own. Ryan yells at Marissa not to say anything. We really know that this isn't a real scene when Seth notices someone other than himself and asks Ryan if he's okay. The doctors say they're losing Trey. Ryan's vision starts to go all funhouse mirror as Sandy runs in, asking what happened. Ryan passes out.
Ryan wakes up in the poolhouse, his face bruise-free. Seth enters, and Ryan says he just had "the worst nightmare," and we all wonder if Josh Schwartz is about to repeat Dallas's mistake. But no, it was a just a little fake-out, as Seth says that Ryan's nightmare is real, and that the "lawyer guy" is on his way over.
Post-credits establishing shots of Newport take us to Marissa and Summer, lounging by Marissa's pool. Marissa exposits that, of all the things she thought they'd be doing the week before their senior year began, facing charges of manslaughter after putting her boyfriend's brother in a coma wasn't one of them. Well, I'm glad Trey isn't dead, but I would like to know how a gunshot wound to the chest can put one in a coma for two freaking months. Then again, this is The O.C., not ER, so I guess we'll just have to make do and move on. Summer then attempts to actually be a sympathetic and reassuring friend and says that Marissa will "get through this." Marissa doesn't know if her relationship with Ryan will. She says it's like an "elephant in the room." Of course, everything looks like an elephant compared to the walking skeleton that is Mischa Barton, so that's not saying all that much. Summer has had enough of this trying-to-be-a-good-listener crap, and babbles on about how she's never known anyone in a coma before except for the people on The Valley, but that's usually just for silly melodramatic plot-furthering purposes. I agree. And the meta isn't cute when it serves solely to point out how many problems this particular plotline has. Summer concludes that the way Ryan went after his brother because of what Trey did to Marissa is "so freaking hot." Marissa doesn't respond, because, as selfish and self-absorbed as she is, even she would have been a better friend here than Summer. Finally, she says she hasn't been able to sleep at night from all that post-shooting guilt. "Oh, senior year," Summer sighs. And then we cut to the mansion they're sunning themselves outside of so we can all feel just a little less sorry for them.