After four seasons and countless fistfights, the Newport group is hanging it up with a finale that executive producer Josh Schwartz promises will "offer real closure." So what better way to say goodbye to The O.C. (Thursdays at 9 pm/ET) than a look back at the Fox serial's best moments?
1. "Welcome to the O.C., Bitch!" — "Premiere," 8/5/03
Luke's bon mot to new punching bag in town Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) quickly became the signature line of the series. Says Schwartz, "Kids from Orange County say they're from ‘the O.C.' like it's ‘the Ukraine.' I always found it funny so I gave Luke that line."
2. Marissa Dies — "The Graduates," 5/18/06
Marissa (Mischa Barton) died in Ryan's arms after being run off the road by her bad-boy ex Volchok in Season 3's shocking finale. Despite what the rumor mill would have you think, Schwartz contends that the tragedy was not dictated by anyone's off-set antics: "Losing Marissa — and Mischa — was a big loss for the show."
3. Julie's Affair with Luke — "The Telenovela," 2/25/04
Jaws dropped — and temperatures soared — when Julie (Melinda Clarke) bedded her teenage daughter's ex-beau (Chris Carmack) while also romancing her best friend's father, Caleb. Talk about multitasking.
4. Chrismukkah Is Born — "The Best Chrismukkah Ever," 12/3/03
Seth's Festivus-like mixed-faith holiday was almost called something else. "A lot of names were tossed around," recalls Schwartz. "Han-umas being one of them." Oy to the world!
5. Marissa Goes Lesbian — "The Lonely Hearts Club," 2/10/05
Coop's sapphic fling with Bait Shop babe Alex (Olivia Wilde) was too hot to handle — at least by Fox standards. "It was post-Janet Jackson/Super Bowl FCC time," Schwartz says. "And we were forced to end the story line much sooner."
6. Seth and Summer's Spider-Man Kiss — "Rainy Day Women," 2/24/05
Ever the pop-culture avatar, The O.C. scored with this cinematic nod to beauties and their comic book-fan boy toys everywhere. "After the episode aired, we got calls from then-Marvel head Avi Arad and Spider-Man director Sam Raimi saying how much they loved it," Schwartz says.
7. Marissa ODs in Tijuana — "The Escape," 9/16/03
The kids' ill-fated run for the border stands as one of Schwartz's favorite eps. "It sums up what I think the show was capable of: feeling real, heightened, funny and, at times, operatically tragic," he says.
8. Oliver Goes Nuts — "The Links," 1/14/04
Although Schwartz calls Marissa's friendship with the unhinged interloper (played by Taylor Handley) "the single most passionately hated story line," he gives the kid props for being creatively crazy. "C'mon, people! He broke a plate, then punched himself in the head — twice!"
9. Sandy Serenades Kirsten on Their 20th Anniversary — "The Power of Love," 1/13/05
Solomon Burke's "Don't Give Up on Me" never sounded so sweet. "It embodies their crazy love for each other," remembers Schwartz. Plus, "after Peter Gallagher serenaded Kelly Rowan, he got a record deal out of it."
10. Cage-fighting Ryan Falls for Taylor Townsend — "The Sleeping Beauty," 11/30/06
"Like a lot of people, I originally thought it was an odd pairing," Autumn Reeser reveals of the romance that juiced the lighter, quirkier final season. It also — finally! — gave Ryan (the best thing to happen to muscle tees since Marlon Brando) a reason to smile. And that's the happiest ending we could ask for.
For scoop on other Thursday-night shows, including Grey's Anatomy and ER, pick up the Feb. 26 TV Guide.
Send your comments on this feature to firstname.lastname@example.org.