Previously on The O.C., Dawn Atwood, Ryan's mother, showed up and was "a mess, not a mother." Ryan squinted from the sun and cutely waved her goodbye. Lady Heather thought it was "sweet" that Marissa was concerned about "this boy," but Marissa needed to focus on her future, which meant Luke. Jimmy needed $100,000, Kirsten loaned Jimmy $100,000, and Lady Heather told Sandy that Kirsten loaned Jimmy $100,000. Also, Seth wanted to sail to Tahiti, and Ryan was going to stay with the Cohens from now on.
We open the episode with Ryan and Seth playing videogames in the Big House; Seth goads Ryan, "Oh? Oh, really? You think so? We'll see about that one." It's difficult to recap Adam Brody, because his delivery is so good, but the lines don't quite fly off the page when transcribed. Just know this: anything he says? It's good. In any case, Ryan, in response, is quiet except for one impassive "Yup." He still wins, and Seth forlornly concludes, "So the pupil has become the teacher." Hee. Ryan stares at the screen, and sometimes Benjamin McKenzie is less Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and more Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.
Sandy and Kirsten somberly approach the boys down a long, long hallway. Kirsten is stunningly turned out in a white suit with red accessories. She looks very expensive. Sandy? Not so much. Seth asks "who died," but the Cohens want to talk alone with Ryan. As Seth exits, he says, "If this has to with the rug, though, I just wanna tell you that...Ryan had nothing to do with it." Kirsten and Sandy are all, "Rug? What?" so Seth hightails it out of there.
Sandy sits down opposite Ryan with a heavy and slightly ominous-sounding "so." He reveals that he and Kirsten went to Child Services that morning and then pauses, causing Ryan to clasp his hands together nervously. Sandy explains that they told Child Services that they wanted Ryan to stay with them, and Ryan perks up. He actually looks hopeful, which is not an emotion Benjamin McKenzie has had to exhibit previously on the show, what with all the doleful and the mournful and the plaintive and the sad and such. Sandy adds, however, that there's a "catch": because Ryan is a minor, the Cohens will have to assume all legal responsibility for him. Ryan can't ask them to do that, but Sandy dismissively says, "Oh, you don't have to. We're asking you!" Aw. Kirsten joins in to say that they have talked about it, and that they want to be his legal guardians. They want him to be part of the family! If he wants to be, that is. To the bewilderment of the Cohens, Ryan asks, "What if it doesn't work?" When pressed, he expresses concerns that something will happen and they'll change their minds. Sandy asks, "Like what? You steal a car? You burn down a house? You beat up the captain of the water polo team?" Well, put together like that, it is kind of curious that they'd so eagerly take in this delinquent they've known for all of a few weeks. In any case, Sandy insists that it's in the past, but Kirsten says that Ryan will need to promise to stay out of trouble, which means "no more fights." Sandy explains that Ryan is still on probation, and "Child Services will be up our ass!" "Up our ass" should join "dude" on the list of words and phrases Peter Gallagher should never, ever say. Ryan pledges that there will be no more trouble, which basically ensures that there will be. And since this is a television show, that's a good thing; otherwise, it would probably get a little boring. Still, Ryan looks very earnest, and we know at least that he plans to try to remain trouble-free. Sandy gets to his feet and welcomes Ryan to the family with a handshake. Ryan is all "thanks, guys" in a very "aw, shucks" kind of way. A happy-looking Kirsten goes in for the hug, which Ryan has no idea how to receive because...well, there are no hugs in Chino! Only chokeholds and wedgies! Kirsten announces that Seth can come out now, and he slinks out of the kitchen and ooches over toward Ryan. "Ooch," by the way, is the best work I can come up with for the weird yet delightful walk/dance Adam Brody employs to depict Seth's restrained delight. Ryan deduces that Seth knew what was going on but didn't say anything, and Seth admits that he didn't want to "jinx" it. They clasp hands and Seth says, "Dude. You're a Cohen now. Welcome to a life of insecurity and paralyzing self-doubt." Hee. Ryan unconvincingly says that all he has to do now is stay out of trouble; Seth echoes his doubt: "Yeah. That could be...difficult." Ryan shifts his eyes around, because he is concerned, and that is what concerned people do.