Question: Please tell me you were just joking around when you said Ryan and Taylor are gonna pair up on The O.C.! That would be gruesome.

Answer: I think you'll be changing your tune when you see the two of them together. They're thisclose to edging out J.D. and Turk as my favorite tube couple. Their little flirtation begins in the fourth episode, which, I have to say, is one of my favorite O.C. hours ever. I especially loved the opening sequence, which chronicles Summer as she powers through the five stages of grief. It's unlike anything the show has attempted before, and I don't think I'm overselling it when I say it's a triumph of writing, directing and music. It's ingenious. After watching the first four episodes over the weekend, I really think you guys are gonna fall back in love with The O.C. this season. The writing seems tighter, crisper, funnier. And the best news of all: tons more screen time for the underrated Melinda Clarke. If I thought it'd do any good, I'd start an Emmy campaign for her. But let's be real: It'd do absolutely no good.