Welcome to The O.C., where the lives of a group of friends and families have forever been changed by the arrival of an outsider to their affluent oceanside community of Newport Beach in Orange County, California.
When Ryan Atwood was taken in from the streets of Chino by then public defender Sandy Cohen and his wife, Kirsten, the Cohens had no idea how Ryan's arrival would change their lives. Their "adorkable" son, Seth, found a friend and brother in Ryan to share his quirky way of looking at the world and the trials and tribulations of winning the heart of Summer Roberts, Seth's lifelong crush. And Ryan struggles with his on-again, off-again romance with beautiful girl next door Marissa Cooper.
01 - The Distance
The lives of a group of friends and families have been forever changed by the arrival of an outsider to their affluent oceanside community of Newport Beach in Orange County, California. When Ryan Atwood (series star BENJAMIN McKENZIE) was taken in from the streets of Chino by then public defender Sandy Cohen (series star PETER GALLAGHER), the Cohens had no idea how Ryan's arrival would affect them and those around them. Initially resistant, Kirsten (series star KELLY ROWAN) opened her heart to accept the outsider just as she had accepted Sandy, another outsider, into her old-money Newport Beach family. In Ryan, their "adorkable" son, Seth (series star ADAM BRODY), found a friend and brother with whom he could share his quirky way of looking at the world. Seth also struggles with the trials and tribulations of winning the heart of Summer Roberts (series star RACHEL BILSON), his lifelong crush.
Last year, Ryan fell in love with the girl next door, Marissa Cooper (series star MISCHA BARTON), the daughter of Kirsten's high school sweetheart Jimmy Cooper (series star TATE DONOVAN) and his former wife, the notorious Julie Cooper-Nichol (series star MELINDA CLARKE). Ryan and Marissa's romance, however, is constantly tested by the young lovers' inability to escape from their pasts. Embarrassed by her disgraced ex-husband and her daughter's love for the boy from Chino, Julie recovered her standing in Orange County by marrying Caleb Nichol (series star ALAN DALE), Kirsten's father and the wealthiest man in The O.C.
As summer ends, Kirsten's anxiety over Seth reaches a breaking point. His parents know that Seth spent the summer teaching sailing and living in Portland, Oregon, with his former classmate Luke Ward (recurring guest star CHRIS CARMACK) and Luke's father, Carson (recurring guest star BRIAN McNAMARA). But they have so far been unable to convince Seth, who is bitter because Ryan moved away, to return home, even though it is almost time to begin school again.
Both Summer and Marissa try to forget their ex-boyfriends. Summer sadly returns Seth's belongings. Marissa copes with her loneliness and frustration by abusing alcohol and alienating her mother. Nonetheless, Marissa captures the attention of the Coopers' sexy gardener, D.J. (recurring guest star NICHOLAS GONZALEZ). Caleb becomes increasingly paranoid about his business--and Sandy risks getting tangled in Caleb's problems as well. Also, the Cohen house is in disarray as builders renovate. And, living on a boat while he rebuilds his stock market investments, Jimmy seems to be finally improving his situation.
Meanwhile, Ryan lives a suffocating domestic existence with his pregnant girlfriend, Theresa (recurring guest star NAVI RAWAT), in Chino, working on a construction site. After finding Ryan and giving him an airplane ticket to Portland, Sandy travels there but fails to assuage Seth. As Sandy is leaving, however, Ryan arrives, the last hope of bringing Seth home.
02 - The Way We Were
Summer is over, and school is in session. Seth and Ryan hope to win back the attention they once had from Summer and Marissa. With opportunity beckoning, Hailey (recurring guest star AMANDA RIGHETTI) tells Jimmy about her plans to move in order to pursue her unfulfilled fashion ambitions. Hoping to keep her near, Jimmy does something unimaginable. Meanwhile, Sandy explains to Julie that the district attorney is keeping a close watch on Caleb, and without representation, he might be in for a confrontation. Julie threatens Sandy to do something about Caleb's messy situation or face her wrath.
03 - The New Kids on the Block
At the Bait Shop, the new music club on the pier, Seth gets some help from his attractive and tough-talking manager, Alex (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE - "The Girl Next Door," "Skin"), to prove that his friends don't know him as well as they think. Meanwhile, Summer gives some thought to how she really feels about Seth after she learns more information about her new boyfriend, Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY). Marissa is happy to share an evening with Ryan. But at school, Ryan is embarrassed and frustrated after a confrontation with new classmate Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO). Caleb's legal problems threaten to leave both Sandy and Kirsten unemployed as Julie makes sure she stays in power even if Caleb is ruined.
04 - The New Era
Seth, who is now without a girlfriend, and Sandy, who has just been fired from the law firm, embark on new eras in their lives and vow to take the whole family with them. Ryan and Seth go on an awkward double date to see THE KILLERS (themselves) perform at the Bait Shop, with unexpected results. Meanwhile, Julie finds herself overwhelmed by her new role at the Newport Group and, as usual, is forced to turn to Kirsten for help.
05 - The SnO.C.
The winter season finally comes to Newport, and Seth, Ryan, Summer and Marissa attend the annual SnO.C. Winter Ball. Julie and Jimmy spend some quality time together as the chairs of the host committee, and Sandy gets closer to the truth Caleb has been hiding. Meanwhile, Julie discovers Marissa's secret when Marissa leaves school at lunch and goes home to meet D.J. (recurring guest star NICHOLAS GONZALEZ).
06 - The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn't
The whole gang is invited to Chrismukkah at the Cohens' house, but Seth's favourite holiday is nearly ruined as secrets are revealed that will change the Cohen family forever. Summer, Marissa and Ryan make a plan to save Chrismukkah.
07 - The Family Ties
Ryan tries to come to terms with his feelings for Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO). Now that she may become a member of the Cohen family, their attraction is rather awkward. Although Sandy knows they're dating, Ryan and Lindsay keep the relationship hidden from Kirsten. Meanwhile, Caleb learns that the criminal charges against him have been dismissed. And in an effort to impress Alex (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE), Seth tries to cultivate a "bad boy" image by dressing like Ryan, getting drunk and stealing Caleb's prized sports car. Marissa sees Jimmy and Julie kissing aboard his boat and is hurt and angry with her father. Jimmy finally realizes that after all the trouble and heartache he's caused, the best thing he can do for himself and his daughter is to leave Newport and move to Maui. but not before a big going away party at the Cohens' house. Devastated by the situation with her parents, Marissa comes to the party intoxicated and yells at both of them. Later, Jimmy and Marissa reconcile on the beach. And the following morning, Marissa goes to her new surrogate family the Cohens for support. Rock group MODEST MOUSE (themselves) performs "Paper Thin Walls" at the Bait Shop.
08 - The Power of Love
Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO) and Ryan grapple with their new relationship: Is Lindsay Ryan's step-aunt or his girlfriend? Meanwhile, Summer meets Zach's (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY) family, and it doesn't go so well. In the end it's an anniversary to remember as Sandy surprises Kirsten with a serenade at the Bait Shop. But Marissa ends up alone as D.J. (recurring guest star NICHOLAS GONZALEZ) leaves Newport Beach.
09 - The Ex-Factor
It's girls against boys when Marissa and Summer decide to plan a girls' night out and include Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO) in the festivities. Left to their own devices Ryan, Seth and Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY), have a bonding session over video games and pizza but find it hard to stay away from their female counterparts. Julie and Kirsten collaborate on an idea to help the image of the Newport Group while Sandy and Caleb try to convince them there may be a better way.
10 - The Accomplice
Seth and Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY) decide to create a comic book based on their lives in Newport Beach. While browsing through the sketches, Summer wonders why she's been left out. Sandy decides to help an old friend, Professor Max Bloom (recurring guest star BARRY NEWMAN - "40 Days and 40 Nights," "Petrocelli"), find his daughter, Rebecca (recurring guest star KIM DELANEY - "CSI: Miami," "NYPD Blue"), but the search leads to even more questions. While Julie is away, Marissa's contempt for Caleb grows as she looks for new ways to rebel. Meanwhile, Ryan tries to help Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO) satisfy her curiosity about Caleb.
11 - The Second Chance
Summer decides to take an active role in creating the comic book, but Seth doesn't know if he can handle spending that much time alone with her. Sandy and Rebecca (recurring guest star KIM DELANEY) reminisce about days gone by as Kirsten tries to convince Caleb that he could have a familial relationship with Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO). Meanwhile, Caleb decides what kind of future he wants to have with his daughters. And Alex (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE) asks Marissa where their friendship is going. Chicago singer/songwriter RACHEL YAMAGATA performs.
12 - The Lonely Hearts Club
Sandy tries to make amends with Kirsten for keeping Rebecca's (recurring guest star KIM DELANEY) return a secret by showering his wife with Valentine's Day gifts. Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY), Summer and Seth drive to San Diego to pitch their comic book idea, and Seth is determined to use the trip to get Summer back. Julie returns from her European vacation and has decided to reconnect with Marissa. Meanwhile, Ryan wants to spend Valentine's Day with Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO), but her loyalty to Caleb gets in the way.
13 - The Father Knows Best
While Rebecca (recurring guest star KIM DELANEY) pays her last respects to her father, Kirsten grows impatient with Sandy's long absences from home and decides to visit Rebecca. Alex (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE) invites Marissa to hang out with her friends. Meanwhile, Caleb decides to remove all doubt that Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO) is his daughter.
14 - The Rainy Day Women
It's raining in Newport. Marissa tells Julie that she and Alex (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE) are dating and decides she has to get out of Caleb's house. Summer is faced with a big decision as she prepares to go to Italy with Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY). Ryan convinces Lindsay (recurring guest star SHANNON LUCIO) to take the paternity test, and everyone anxiously awaits the results. Meanwhile, Sandy is stranded in a motel room with nothing but a few snacks, champagne and Rebecca (recurring guest star KIM DELANEY).
15 - The Mallpisode
Although she is trying hard to make her new living situation work, Marissa feels she needs a break and agrees to join Summer, Seth and Ryan at the mall. Julie and Kirsten await the arrival of Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL - "Enough," "The Rocketeer"), the new editor of Newport Living, but Julie is distracted when she's visited by Lance (recurring guest star JOHNNY MESSNER - "Spartan," "The Whole Ten Yards"), an opportunistic man from her past. Meanwhile, Sandy and Caleb finally bond over all of their recent experiences.
16 - The Blaze of Glory
Seth is determined to bring back the spirit and fun times of last year and won't stop until his plan is successful. Alex's (recurring guest star OLIVIA WILDE) jealousy is fuelled when Marissa enlists an unlikely partner to help her with the school bonfire. Meanwhile, Kirsten wants Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL) to continue with the magazine despite his reservations, and Sandy helps Julie keep her blackmailer at bay.
17 - The Brothers Grim
When someone from Ryan's past comes for a visit, he worries that nothing good can come of it; while the Cohen family welcomes the Chino visitor with open arms. As Marissa and Ryan continue to explore their newfound friendship, Seth and Summer face some unforeseen news. Meanwhile, Julie admits her mistake to Kirsten and looks to Caleb for help.
18 - The Risky Business
When Sandy becomes the honorary chairman of the Newport Beach charity yard sale, he solicits help from Trey (recurring guest star LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN), who has his first confrontation with the Newpsies. While Sandy auctions off Newport's finest, Kirsten and Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL) share a table. When one of the auction's most expensive pieces goes missing, Ryan and Seth could also use some help. Meanwhile, Trey looks for a more permanent place to live as the Cohens welcome yet another houseguest.
19 - The Rager
Eager to help Trey (recurring guest star LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN) and Ryan repair their relationship, Marissa hosts a birthday party for Trey at Caleb's mansion that quickly gets out of control. After surfing with Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL), Sandy suggests introducing him to a woman friend, to Kirsten's chagrin. When Summer finds out what Seth's potential graphic novel publisher, Reed (recurring guest star MARGUERITE MOREAU), is really like, Seth is in big trouble. And after leaving town in disgrace, Julie returns and surprisingly ends up reminiscing with an old acquaintance.
20 - The O.C. Confidential
After the wild party at Caleb's mansion, Sandy, Seth and Ryan devise a plan to save another Atwood from going to jail. Kirsten and Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL), fulfilling more than their editorial duties, take a trip to the wine country. Meanwhile, Caleb returns from Europe and rebuffs Julie's romantic advances. The band DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE performs.
21 - The Return of the Nana
Sandy, Seth and Ryan travel to Florida to visit Seth's Nana, Sophie (recurring guest star LINDA LAVIN - "Alice"), who is living in Miami Beach. While playing shuffleboard at the coastal retirement community, Seth and Ryan meet Mary-Sue (JAIME KING - "Sin City"), who helps Seth get center stage on the Music Video Nation spring break television special, hosted by Swerve (BRET HARRISON), along with Pixie (KRISTA KALMUS), who is a star of "Sherman Oaks: The Real Valley." Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Carter (recurring guest star BILLY CAMPBELL) packs his bags and leaves Kirsten alone at the offices of Newport Living, and Trey (recurring guest star LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN) misinterprets Marissa's friendship. Also, rapper T.I. (himself) performs his hit single "Bring Em Out."
22 - The Showdown
Since Carter's departure, Kirsten has been drinking more than just tomato juice for breakfast, and when Sandy questions her, he's left to sleep alone in the bedroom. Marissa's nervousness around Ryan leads him to wonder if something has happened between her and Trey (recurring guest star LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN). Summer, tired of Seth and Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY) behaving foolishly, confronts Reed (recurring guest star MARGUERITE MOREAU) about the graphic novel and finds herself center stage at the Atomic County launch party. Meanwhile, Caleb shows Julie that a picture is worth a thousand words.
23 - The O.Sea
Sandy and Caleb confront Kirsten about her behaviour. Ryan heads home to Chino, as he looks for the truth about Trey (recurring guest star LOGAN MARSHALL-GREEN) and Marissa. Meanwhile, Summer refuses to let her three-way relationship with Zach (recurring guest star MICHAEL CASSIDY) and Seth stop her from attending the prom. And, Julie and Caleb toast to their final evening together as husband and wife.
24 - The Dearly Beloved
In the season finale, Sandy must make a life-changing decision to save his marriage to Kirsten. Seth, Summer, Marissa and Ryan are caught in the crossfire at The Bait Shop; and Jimmy Cooper (former series star TATE DONOVAN), worried about Marissa and his family, rushes home to Newport Beach.