When Ryan Atwood, a tough, guarded, fiercely intelligent 16-year-old, plunges headlong into the wealthy, privileged community of Newport Beach, California, he soon discovers that the ruling families of Orange County are every bit as territorial as the tough crowd with which he ran on the streets of Chino.
For Sandy Cohen, the idealistic public defender who takes Ryan in; his wife, Kirsten, the linchpin of O.C. society; their awkward adolescent son, Seth; and the beautiful, troubled girl next door, Marissa Cooper Ryan's presence will forever change their lives.
01 - Pilot
Orange County is an idyllic paradise: a wealthy coastal community where everything and everyone appears to be perfect. But beneath the surface is a world of shifting loyalties and identities and family members carrying on secret lives.
When tough, guarded, fiercely intelligent 16-year-old Ryan Atwood (series star BENJAMIN McKENZIE) is arrested for participating in a car theft, idealistic pro-bono public defender Sandy Cohen (series star PETER GALLAGHER) is assigned to the case. But after Ryan's neglectful mother, Dawn (recurring guest star DAPHNE ASHBROOK), banishes Ryan from her house in Chino, Sandy becomes much more involved in Ryan's life than either of them expected. To the chagrin of Sandy's wife, Kirsten (series star KELLY ROWAN) a wealthy and beautiful former homecoming queen and apparently the perfect spouse, mother and businesswoman Sandy invites Ryan to stay overnight in the guesthouse of Sandy's lavish Newport Beach home. Kirsten worries how Ryan will influence the couple's teenage son, Seth (series star ADAM BRODY), a soulful dreamer ostracized by his peers.
Meanwhile, Ryan becomes attracted to Marissa Cooper (series star MISCHA BARTON), the heartbreakingly beautiful girl next door who seems to glide through life effortlessly. The indiscretions of Marissa's wealthy father, Jimmy (series star TATE DONOVAN), threaten to break her world apart, however. And Ryan and Seth quickly bond following a clash with some territorial teenagers, including Marissa's jealous boyfriend, Luke Ward (series star CHRIS CARMACK), at a beach party.
02 - The Model Home
Now that Ryan's mother has abandoned Ryan and moved away, Sandy has no choice but to accede to Kirsten's wishes and remand Ryan to Social Services. Facing the prospect of living in a foster home, Ryan prepares to secretly leave on his own. But Seth finds out and suggests a better idea: Together with Marissa, the boys sneak to an unfinished model home, the perfect hiding place for Ryan. Seth's mother, Kirsten, is the head of residential development for The Newport Group, a real estate company, and is selling the house. Ryan, Seth and Marissa spend hours in the model home's empty swimming pool, bonding, skateboarding and eating.
The next morning, when Seth takes Ryan to a remote beachfront diner, they scuffle with Marissa's boyfriend, Luke, and his friends, with whom they fought at the recent beach party. After discovering that Sandy has reported Ryan to the police as a missing person, Seth and Marissa purchase Ryan a bus ticket to Texas, where he has an acquaintance. Marissa admits that she wishes Ryan wouldn't leave, but he warns her that a relationship between them would never succeed.
Meanwhile, Marissa's materialistic friend, Summer Roberts (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON), finds out about the plan and, as a result, Luke and his friends break into the home and attack Ryan. During the fight, lit candles are knocked over, setting the house ablaze along with Ryan's bus ticket and cash. Luke's friends flee, but Luke drags the unconscious Ryan from the burning building before running away.
03 - The Gamble
Kirsten's company does not charge Ryan with arson for the model home burning, but he must remain in juvenile hall until he can be placed in the care of a guardian. Kirsten reluctantly brings Seth to the jail to visit Ryan. During the meeting, a violent inmate almost assaults Kirsten, but Ryan bravely defends her. Fearing for Ryan's life, Kirsten takes temporary custody of him.
After hiring a private detective, Sandy locates Ryan's struggling mother, Dawn (recurring guest star DAPHNE ASHBROOK), and brings her to Orange County for an uncomfortable reunion with Ryan. Dawn has left her abusive boyfriend and wants to work on her drinking problem and be Ryan's true mother again.
Meanwhile, Marissa's father, Jimmy, borrows $100,000 from Kirsten to save his faltering financial business. Since Kirsten and Jimmy dated long ago, Sandy and Jimmy's manipulative and judgmental wife, Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE), are concerned when they find out about their spouses' secretive behaviour.
At a casino night charity event, Ryan fears that his mother will spoil the evening, while Seth amazingly finds himself acting as a good luck charm for Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON), the girl he longs for. When Dawn remains poised, Ryan relaxes and enjoys the party, but nervousness soon overcomes her, and she becomes embarrassingly drunk. Later, she remorsefully leaves Ryan again, asking Kirsten to care for him in the way Dawn never could. Ryan is now part of the Cohen family.
04 - The Debut
Sandy and Kirsten convince child services officials to let them become Ryan's caretakers, and Ryan agrees to stay out of trouble. But with the upcoming cotillion, an old-fashioned formal event at which teenagers make their "debut" in society, that may be hard to do. Reluctantly, Ryan is matched with an iconoclastic East Coast girl, Anna Stern (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG); to his delight, Seth is paired with the dateless Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON); Marissa plans to attend with wary Luke; and despite some individual last-minute hedging on Sandy's and Jimmy's parts, all the parents agree to accompany their children to the ceremony.
Meanwhile, agents from the Security and Exchange Commission visit Sandy at work and inform him that Kirsten's check to Jimmy was not treated as an investment but was deposited into Jimmy's personal account. Outraged, Sandy threatens to tell all of Jimmy's deceived clients until Kirsten asks to talk to Jimmy first. Jimmy admits that, due to poor investments and mismanagement along with the extravagant spending habits of his wife,he is in major financial trouble.
Marissa refuses to go to the cotillion because she had an argument with Luke, and Ryan tries to avoid trouble by staying home as well. When scheming Summer accompanies Luke, rejecting poor Seth, he and Anna discover that they have a lot in common. Later, Marissa persuades Ryan to be her escort after all. At the cotillion, Greg Fisher (recurring guest star CHRISTOPHER COUSINS), one of Jimmy's wealthy clients, becomes suspicious about Jimmy's evasiveness. When Jimmy confesses that he has lost Greg's money, Greg becomes enraged and pummels Jimmy. Chaos ensues as Sandy is injured trying to protect Jimmy, and Ryan finally subdues Greg before anyone else is hurt. The event comes to an unfortunate end as the police arrive.
05 - The Outsider
After befriending a likeable busboy, Donnie (PAUL WASILEWSKI), at a casual seafood restaurant, Ryan takes a job there. Wanting to experience Ryan's social group, Seth accepts Donnie's invitation to a party in Donnie's neighborhood. Ryan fears the Seth doesn't comprehend the type of people he will encounter, so he sacrifices a potential date with Marissa to protect him. During the wild party, the luxury car that Seth borrowed from his mother is destroyed by thieves.
Feeling bad that he prevented Ryan and Marissa from getting together, Seth persuades Marissa to plan another date with Ryan. While the hesitant pair happily shares sandwiches by the pool at the Cohen house, Seth disregards Ryan's advice and allows Donnie and his rough friends to attend a Newport Beach party with him. Ryan must again abandon Marissa to help Seth when Donnie's group becomes uncontrollable, and a fracas between Donnie and Luke results in Luke getting shot in the arm. Unbeknownst to Marissa, who has not spoken to Luke since their argument before the cotillion, Luke and Marissa's friend Holly (recurring guest star ASHLEY HARTMAN) have begun dating.
Meanwhile, Kirsten, Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE), and two of their fellow society women embark on a spa weekend that becomes uncomfortable when Kirsten confronts Julie about the way she is treating Jimmy. Home alone, Sandy and Jimmy try to bond during a barbecue. Although the two men have never been very friendly, mainly because Jimmy dated Kirsten before Sandy married her, Sandy gives Jimmy some strong advice about how to deal with his financial ruination and possibly save his family. Later, chastened Jimmy offers Julie a choice: They can liquidate their house and all of their assets and start over together, or they can declare bankruptcy and keep their possessions--while Jimmy goes to jail for 8 to 10 years.
06 - The Girlfriend
Kirsten nervously prepares a magnificent birthday party for her widowed father, Caleb Nichol (recurring guest star ALAN DALE), an extremely successful and driven businessman for whom Kirsten works. She is devastated when, rather than being proud of her hard work while he was out of the country, Caleb berates and demotes her for making deals without his approval. The situation worsens when Sandy, whom Caleb has never liked, reveals that Kirsten wants to quit and begin a simpler life away from Newport Beach with Sandy, Seth and Ryan. Caleb's gorgeous 25-year-old girlfriend, Gabrielle (NICHOLE HILTZ), trapped by her businesslike relationship with the much older Caleb, flirts with a conflicted Ryan at his job.
Meanwhile, since being shot in the arm, Luke has become attentive and polite, puzzling Marissa and everyone around him. He apologizes to Marissa and promises to be a better boyfriend if she takes him back, which she does. And furious that she has to give up her glamorous lifestyle because of Jimmy's financial failure, Julie demands a divorce from the distraught Jimmy
Despite being angry with Kirsten, who is hurt by Sandy's premature action, Caleb goes to his well-attended birthday party, along with Gabrielle. Marissa and Luke are there together, and shallow Summer has manipulated Seth into inviting her so she can hunt for rich young bachelors. Jimmy stuns Julie by arriving unexpectedly and desperately asking wealthy Caleb for a job. Caleb refuses--until conniving Julie uses her wiles to make him reconsider hiring her husband. Later, Sandy confronts Caleb and convinces him to reconcile with Kirsten and keep her on staff.
Gabrielle finds depressed Ryan hiding from Marissa in his guesthouse and aggressively seduces him. After Marissa witnesses the shocking scene, she makes a serious decision and goes home with Luke to have sex for the first time. Later, she tells Ryan that it is too late for him to try to date her.
07 - The Escape
It's the end of summer, and Seth convinces a reluctant Ryan to plan a trip to Tijuana, where hundreds of rowdy teens congregate to indulge in escapist excess before they have to begin school again. In addition to dating Luke again, Marissa is angry with Ryan after witnessing him with an older woman. She also wants to stay home and take care of her overstressed father. But Summer persuades her to come, and the four kids drive south, Ryan and Marissa not speaking to each other and Summer and Seth sparring constantly. During an argument, Seth accidentally drives off the road and damages the car. The friends are forced to stay in a disgusting motel overnight while the car is being repaired.
Meanwhile, Jimmy and his wife, Julie, have decided to get a divorce. With Julie and their youngest girl away for the weekend, Jimmy plans to move out and then tell Marissa and her sister about the divorce. Kirsten helps Jimmy paint the interior of his new place, and they reminisce and wonder what would have happened if they had gotten married. Impulsively, Jimmy kisses Kirsten, causing a very uncomfortable moment. At the same time, Sandy seriously considers a lucrative job offer from a very attractive and flirtatious former colleague, Rachel Hoffman (recurring guest star BONNIE SOMERVILLE), at a large law firm. Although he fears giving up his ideals, Sandy feels that his marriage is suffering because of his financial dependency on Kirsten.
Jimmy calls Marissa, who is still at the motel with the others, and tells her the bad news. The others try to comfort Marissa, who decides to continue on with them to Tijuana to forget her troubles. Unfortunately, she finds Luke kissing and groping her manipulative friend Holly (recurring guest star ASHLEY HARTMAN) on a dance floor, and, devastated, steals some painkillers from Summer's purse and takes them with tequila. Later, Seth, Ryan and Summer are horrified to find Marissa unconscious in an alley, and they frantically try to get help as the party rages around them...
08 - The Rescue
While Marissa recovers in the hospital from her overdose, everyone remains concerned about her. Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE) vents her anger at Ryan, blaming him for all of Marissa's problems and warning him to stay away from her daughter.
Meanwhile, Sandy tries to get acclimated to his new job at an affluent corporate law firm. Kirsten is displeased about her husband's rekindled relationship with his attractive former colleague, Rachel Hoffman (recurring guest star BONNIE SOMERVILLE), who is once again his co-worker especially when Kirsten sees Sandy and Rachel having an intimate after work cocktail.
Dr. Michelle Kim (recurring guest star ROSALIND CHAO), the dean of Harbor High School, is not happy about the prospect of having a student with a criminal background. She makes Ryan take a placement examination to determine whether or not he will be accepted into the school. Ryan risks his future at Harbor High and his future in Newport by leaving in the middle of the test to join Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON) and Seth in an attempt to save Marissa from being sent away to San Diego. Ryan's risky move could result in both Marissa and him being forced to leave Orange County.
09 - The Heights
The summer is officially over, and it's the first day of school. Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON) still ignores Seth in public, but privately she is jealous of Seth's burgeoning relationship with iconoclastic East Coast girl Anna Stern (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG). And Summer isn't the only person fighting feelings of jealousy. Kirsten still isn't comfortable with Sandy's friendship with his sexy new co-worker, Rachel (recurring guest star BONNIE SOMERVILLE). Rachel makes matters worse when she specifically enlists Sandy to work on a lawsuit that an environmental group has initiated against Kirsten's father and his land development company, despite the obvious conflict of interest. Kirsten is incensed, but conflicted Sandy truly believes in the environmentalists' cause.
Meanwhile in school, Marissa and Ryan become closer, but Luke is still desperate to win her back. When it looks like Luke may succeed, Ryan lets his jealousy overwhelm his reason and starts a fight with Luke. Disappointed in Ryan following the brawl, Marissa must decide whether to forgive his rage or abandon him.
10 - The Perfect Couple
Having seriously dated for one week, Marissa and Ryan are progressing slowly. Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON) tries to deny her true feelings for Seth as she witnesses Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG) and Seth getting closer. Meanwhile, the case against Kirsten's father, Caleb (recurring guest star ALAN DALE), continues to cause friction between Sandy and Kirsten. And Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE) tries to mend her relationship with Marissa, inviting her, Jimmy and Ryan to attend her charity event--where her new relationship is revealed.
11 - The Homecoming
When Seth tries to choose between dating Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON) or Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG), he ends up in the middle of a very complicated situation. Meanwhile, Ryan visits his brother, Trey (recurring guest star BRADLEY STRYKER), in prison, accompanied by Marissa. When Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE) finds out that Marissa is with Ryan in Chino, she becomes furious. As everyone nervously waits at the Cohen house for Ryan and Marissa to return, tensions mount, making the holiday a Thanksgiving to remember.
12 - The Secret
After Thanksgiving, Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG) and Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON) remain upset with Seth for his behaviour on the holiday, and Seth struggles to reconcile with them. Meanwhile, Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE) has relationship problems of her own. Jimmy and Sandy team up to tackle Jimmy's legal issues. A secret indiscretion by Kirsten is exposed. Ryan and Luke become partners on a history project, and an astonishing revelation creates an unexpected alliance between them.
13 - The Best Chrismukkah Ever
Seth excitedly introduces a sceptical Ryan to Chrismukkah, a Cohen family tradition that resulted from Kirsten being Christian and Sandy being Jewish. As everyone prepares for a huge holiday party organized by Julie (recurring guest star MELINDA CLARKE), Seth continues attempting to juggle Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG) and Summer (recurring guest star RACHEL BILSON), both of whom want to date him exclusively. Meanwhile, on opposing sides of a lawsuit, Sandy and Kirsten dread working through the holiday season, but Kirsten learns something about her father that could change everything. And Ryan and Marissa's shopping trip leads to trouble--and the beginning of even bigger problems for Marissa.
14 - The Countdown
Kirsten's rebellious 25-year-old sister, Hailey Nichol (recurring guest star AMANDA RIGHETTI), comes to town on New Year's Eve, causing turmoil in the Cohen household. Ryan and Marissa plan a quiet evening of popcorn and movies at home, but Marissa later decides to attend a party hosted by a young man, Oliver Trask (recurring guest star TAYLOR HANDLEY), who goes to the same therapist as she does. Meanwhile, Hailey persuades Sandy and Kirsten to go out so she can have a raging party in their house for a few friends. As the clock ticks closer to midnight, Ryan hopes that he can make it to Marissa in time for their first New Year's kiss together. As of this episode, MELINDA CLARKE as Julie Cooper and RACHEL BILSON as Summer Roberts are series stars.
15 - The Third Wheel
Kirsten's unemployed sister, Hailey (recurring guest star AMANDA RIGHETTI), moves in with the Cohens and disrupts the entire family when she behaves as the houseguest from hell. Hailey depletes the refrigerator, controls the television, disrespects Kirsten and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon. Desiring some time alone with his wife, Sandy urges Kirsten to resolve the problem with her sister. When Kirsten can't confront Hailey, Sandy angrily tells Hailey that everyone is tired of tolerating her rude behaviour. Meanwhile, Seth and Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG) struggle with telling Summer the truth that they are now a couple. Ryan feels jealous about Marissa's new friend, Oliver (recurring guest star TAYLOR HANDLEY), a neglected, drug-abusing teen she met in therapy who always seems to show up when Ryan wants some privacy with Marissa. Later, Ryan helps Oliver by asking Sandy to intervene when Oliver is arrested for trying to buy drugs from an undercover cop.
16 - The Links
Ryan, Seth, Marissa, Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG), Luke and Summer head to Palm Springs for a parent-free weekend at the home of Marissa's new, troubled friend Oliver (recurring guest star TAYLOR HANDLEY). Hoping to spend some time alone with Marissa, Ryan, who is neither interested in golf nor spas, reluctantly agrees to make the road trip with Luke. Oliver quickly irritates Ryan by flirting with Marissa and deliberately keeping the couple apart. And Summer uses every method she can to annoy Seth and Anna. The weekend goes from bad to worse when Oliver angrily leaves the house only to later phone Marissa with news that he's taken a handful of drugs to commit suicide. Marissa and Ryan race to a hotel where Oliver seems to be shaken but in no apparent danger of overdosing. Ryan is unconvinced that Oliver even attempted to take his life, and much to Ryan's dismay, Marissa insists on staying the night alone with Oliver.
Meanwhile, Kirsten talks to Caleb (recurring guest star ALAN DALE) about Hailey's (recurring guest star AMANDA RIGHETTI) ongoing financial problems and her lack of independence. Hailey is outraged that Kirsten has interfered with her plans of getting money from their father and decides to move out of Kirsten and Sandy's home. In Orange County, Jimmy has no job prospects, but after dinner at The Lighthouse, Jimmy and Sandy reach a tentative agreement to go into business together and buy the restaurant.
17 - The Rivals
Sandy and Jimmy begin a new business partnership when they buy The Lighthouse, a beloved Newport restaurant. Meanwhile, Kirsten and Julie become workmates when Julie is hired as Newport Group's new model-home designer. Also, Seth's jealousy of Summer's new boyfriend causes Seth to doubt his relationship with Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG). And Ryan loses control while trying to prove that Marissa's troubled friend Oliver (recurring guest star TAYLOR HANDLEY) is a fraud, leaving Seth and the Cohens concerned and afraid for Ryan.
18 - The Truth
Caleb (recurring guest star ALAN DALE) once again puts Kirsten in a difficult situation when he forces her to terminate Julie. After yet another crisis with Ryan, Sandy and Kirsten question their decision to bring him into their home. Meanwhile, Ryan and Luke become allies in their quest to protect Marissa from Oliver (recurring guest star TAYLOR HANDLEY). When Marissa discovers the truth about Oliver, a tense showdown ensues and Sandy and Ryan must come to the rescue.
19 - The Heartbreak
Marissa tries to mend her relationship with Ryan, but he can't forgive her for the situation with Oliver. Things become even more complicated when Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT), Ryan's ex-girlfriend from Chino, arrives to waitress at Kirsten's Valentine's Day dance. Meanwhile, Seth and Summer decide to take their friendship to a new level, and Jimmy finds out he has a secret admirer.
20 - The Telenovela
Marissa and Ryan try to start over as friends, but it's not as easy as they had hoped. As Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT), Ryan's ex-girlfriend from Chino, begins spending more time in Newport, Ryan discovers that she hasn't been honest about why she's there. Seth believes his relationship with Summer is great, but when she refuses to acknowledge him at school, he feels he has to teach her a lesson. Meanwhile, Sandy finds himself embroiled in another mess created by Caleb (recurring guest star ALAN DALE). And Jimmy begins to suspect something is going on between Julie and Luke.
21 - The Goodbye Girl
When Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT) decides to stay in Newport, Ryan is glad, but he feels obligated to help her find a job and a place to live. Julie and Luke's affair continues to flourish, but their secret is threatened when Jimmy witnesses an intimate moment between them. Meanwhile, Anna (recurring guest star SAMAIRE ARMSTRONG) announces that she is moving back to Pittsburgh. Convinced that her leaving is his fault, Seth races to the airport to stop her.
22 - The L.A.
When actor Grady Bridges (COLIN HANKS - "Orange County," "Roswell") invites Summer and Marissa to his birthday party, the girls take Ryan and Seth to Los Angeles to join in the festivities. At the party, Summer is thrilled to spend time with Grady, but Seth is not as happy. The situation is reversed when Seth meets sexy Kate (PARIS HILTON - "The Simple Life"), and it's Summer's turn to be jealous. Afterwards, the gang heads back to Orange County, where Ryan has a hard time keeping Luke and Julie's affair a secret from Marissa.
23 - The Nana
The Cohen family prepares for a visit from Sandy's mother, Sophie (LINDA LAVIN - "Alice"), for Passover dinner. Fearing that his grandmother will not approve of Summer, Seth tries to keep the two from encountering each other--but Summer sets out to prove him wrong. Meanwhile, Ryan desperately searches for Marissa, who disappeared when she found out about Luke and Julie's affair.
24 - The Proposal
Marissa isn't ready to speak to Luke or her mother, Julie, following her discovery that the two have been having an affair. Luke is desperate to explain himself. When he gets into a near-fatal accident, however, both Marissa and Ryan decide to listen to what he has to say. Meanwhile, it's opening night for new restaurant The Lighthouse. Just prior to opening, Jimmy and Sandy are shocked to find out that their liquor license has been denied, and Sandy is faced with the choice of getting the license or keeping Jimmy as his partner. Also, Caleb (recurring guest star ALAN DALE) uses the occasion to surprise everyone by proposing marriage to Julie.
25 - The Shower
Every bride-to-be must have a wedding shower, and Julie is going to have one to remember, thanks to Marissa. Meanwhile, Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT) returns to Newport Beach. When Ryan finds out why she came back, he is shocked. And Seth gets the chance to meet Summer's father, but it doesn't go as well as anyone would have liked.
26 - The Strip
These are Caleb's (recurring guest star ALAN DALE) last days as a bachelor, and he's spending them in Las Vegas. Seth and Ryan join him in "Sin City" for the celebration while a reluctant Kristen plans a bachelorette party for Julie back home in Newport Beach. Meanwhile, Marissa and Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT) are learning more about each other, but what Marissa finds out about Teresa could have big consequences.
27 - The Ties That Bind
It's Julie Cooper's wedding day, and it will be a day to remember for more people than just the blushing bride. Recording artist JEM performs Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" during the ceremony. But the wedding is only the beginning of a series of events that will change many lives in Orange County forever.