- Retro Recaps -A Dog Ate A Human Heart On 'One Tree Hill' 13 Years Ago, And We Don’t Talk About It Enough
Welcome to Retro Recaps, where we revisit your favorite old shows and give them the modern recap treatment that they always deserved. We've done Buffy's silent episode, Friends' 18-page letter, Sex and the City's Fleet Week episode, Gossip Girl's Snowflake Ball episode, The O.C.'s Chrismukkah episode, Lost's "The Constant," and Gilmore Girls' dance marathon episode. (Check out all our Retro Recaps here.) Today, we dive into One Tree Hill. Caution: snark ahead.
I have watched many shows, known and new to me, while writing these Retro Recaps. And those I never previously saw were at least popular enough for me to know what they were about, the names of some of the characters, and the general plot. But since I was not a teenage girl in the early '00s (though I did behave like one), I don’t even remember One Tree Hill being on. I don’t know what it’s about and the only reason I know Chad Michael Murray, its star, is because he played a ripped cult leader on Riverdale.
A friend told me I had to watch this classic episode of the show in which a dog eats a heart and I was like, “Excuse me, ma’am. We do not allow fake news here. This is not Hunklethorpe Times. This is a mature and very serious journalistic endeavor.” But no, she was right. A dog does eat a heart, and it happens in like the first five minutes of the show.
The episode begins in what looks like some sort of The Sims video game, or at least an episode of ReBoot, the cartoon within a computer. There is a man walking into the hospital, and it could be the Lawnmower Man, but he is not tending to anyone’s turf. No, it is a guy named Dan who, just by looking at him and his striped button-down shirt, you can tell is a pile of turds scooped out into human form. There is a song playing on the soundtrack and I think it’s just background music, but then we cut to a recording studio, and there is a woman who looks like an Avril Lavigne knock-off in a cheap leather jacket singing the song. Then it cuts away to a helicopter landing with an organ being rushed into an ambulance. Is this some kind of music video dreamed up by Canadians on too much ketamine and not enough poutine? What is going on here?
It turns out that Dan is there to get a long-awaited heart transplant. There’s a weird errant shot of this stoner guy who looks like a cheap Cheech and Chong impersonator who only charges $2.75 to do a Cameo, and he tells the nurse that his dog just ate a whole bunch of hash and doesn’t know what to do. Letting your dog eat all of your drugs? In this economy? I couldn’t be bothered, and neither could the nurse on duty.
It turns out that Dan’s son Lucas, a frosted tip that grew into a person, is also at the hospital with his pregnant wife, Peyton. Dan says to him, “I’m going to get a heart,” and Lucas says, “About time.” Oh, so he’s the show’s villain. Got it. We bounce around to a few different storylines: we’re in a recording studio, we’re in a movie production office, we’re at a children’s basketball game, and this doesn’t seem so much a show as it does a collection of ideas that a little kid would have about what adult life is like. It’s The Lego Movie as a prime-time soap opera.
Then we’re back in the hospital and so much happens in 30 seconds, it’s absolutely staggering. Dan is in a wheelchair dressed for surgery and the stoner dog — who is Air Bud’s brother, Smoke Bud — jumps into his lap for some belly scritches. This happens just as the EMT is running from the ambulance with Dan’s new heart in a cooler. But as he’s trying to rush by (in the… waiting room?), he trips on the dog’s leash, which is stretched across the corridor. The cooler lands on the floor and the fakest looking heart outside of a Target Valentine’s card falls onto the floor with, like, six pellets of hotel ice machine ice as if that is how they transport organs. Before anyone can do anything, the dog walks right up to the heart, which now looks like a chicken cutlet with some gummy worms attached to it, and starts chomping down on it. The dog then runs down the hallway and no one does anything. They don’t scream. They don’t move. They don’t even holler, “Hey, get back here with my heart.” They just sit there in stunned silence and then… shrug emoji. Also, no one even mentions that this is the world’s worst case of the munchies.
The rest of Dan’s story gets told in a few scenes throughout the rest of the hour. He’s so mad about losing the heart that he goes to the beach and walks into the water while ranting to god about how he’s not going to apologize or start praying or something. Is this a sneaky Jesus show? Is this like 7th Heaven with fewer pedophiles? Later, he goes to see his grandson, Jamie, one of the kids playing basketball, but his ex-wife, Deb, doesn’t want him to see him. Something about framing her for the murder of his brother. Um, what? It’s like that old saying, "Frame me once for murder, shame on you." Actually, "Frame me once for murder, and I will rip your dick off with a garlic press if you ever step foot in my house."
Dan admits to the murder when little Jamie asks him and then he gets ready to leave town, finding Lucas and his brother Nathan playing basketball on a court in the park. He tells them he’ll miss him and then goes to the graveyard and stands in front of a grave that just says Scott. Is that a first name? Is that a last name? Is that the name of a gay diva that only needs one name, like Cher, Madonna, or Britney? And why is everyone always at this cemetery? Deb was there earlier this episode, as were Luke and Peyton with little Jamie. One of the graves is next to a tree — is that the one tree? Is this the hill? Is that what this show is about? Cemeteries? I have never seen as many grave stones on television, and I watched every episode of Six Feet Under.
But, yeah, a dog ate this dude’s heart, and it just kind of fades away. While Lucas and Nathan are playing basketball, Lucas, who witnessed the heart-eating, tells Nathan about it, and neither of them can believe it happened. Even the show thinks it’s unbelievable. But that is what is crazy about One Tree Hill. From what I can tell, everything happens all at once, but nothing happens at all. It’s sort of like the colonic of TV shows: all the shit comes out but it doesn’t amount to anything, it just leaves you with a feeling of bland emptiness.
The most remarkable thing about the show is that the emo singer-songwriter tunes never stop in the background. This show was keeping Seven Mary Three in business for a decade. You know how every episode of a network drama like This Is Us ends with a musical montage where all of the storylines are wrapped up while an emotional song plays? That is all that One Tree Hill is for an entire episode. It’s just the ending of things.
The stories are as such. Haley has to apologize for publishing some kind of essay in the school newspaper or else she’s going to get fired. She decides to be the bigger person and just apologize against her principles (and her principal) but then, in the end, she can’t do it and quits in a huff. Mia, the fake Avril Lavigne, records a song, but the A&R execs want her to replace the piano with a guitar, even though she hates that. Haley, who is suddenly a music producer (question mark), tells her to just stick with her guns and the piano, even though no one will want it. This is apparently a show about losing your job and not being successful at all.
There is also some craziness with Coach Skills and Deb, who dumps him because he one day wants a family and she doesn’t want kids. When he tells her that’s OK with him she says, “Well, I dump you anyway. Get out.”
There’s a girl named Sam who looks like she has camped in front of the arena every time the Backstreet Boys have come to town, and she saves her friend Jack when he steals hot dogs from a store. Jack later comes to live with her and her mother Brooke in an apartment that looks like it was furnished entirely from the sale section at Home Goods. Jack is also played by Evan Peters, though the wig he’s wearing is scarier than anything he’s done on television, including all eleventeen seasons of American Horror Story.
The biggest story of all though had to do with Lucas and his friend Julian, and the movie they were trying to get made. I must pause to say: I’m not really into any of the dudes on this show, but Julian looks like a warm mug of hot cocoa that I just want to climb in and melt myself like a marshmallow. He’s like Ben Affleck with too much Dunkin’ in his arms — like, pretty sexy, but not really hot, but you want to sleep with him anyway because you know he’s good in the sack and will also feed you afterwards. That’s Julian, and I am here for every inch of that cardigan-encrusted dad bod.
OK, so Julian and Lucas were making some kind of movie based on a book Lucas wrote, possibly about the people of this town. James Van Der Beek (who was once in a regional production of Anything Goes with me where we both played tap-dancing sailors) is set to direct. The production office looks less like something from a movie studio and more like a collection agency in an office park in South Dakota. It turns out that Julian’s dad was the head of the studio and he gets fired, and so that means the movie gets canned.
This is a problem for Julian because he has fallen in love with Brooke, the most Maxxinista person I have ever seen on television down to ill-advised tops with sparkles only on the boob region.
Everything about the James Van Der Beek character has not aged well. When the movie was still happening, we find out he hired one of the prospective actresses to be the office assistant because he wants to sleep with her in a helicopter because he’s never slept with anyone in a helicopter before. OK, Harvey Van Der Beek.
After the movie gets canned, everyone is all moping around, but James keeps celebrating, because he gets paid if the movie gets made or not so now he’s getting rich doing no work at all. Julian and Lucas are sitting in a public park drinking on the cold aluminum bleachers because, I don’t know, the show is too cheap to pay for a location for them to drink inside? They’re talking about whether or not he should stick around to stay with Brooke.
“Maybe Brooke will leave town to find love with you and your big ass forehead,” Lucas tells Julian.
“I like to call it a five-head,” Julian says, and he has to pay $100 to Tyra Banks for using her joke. Then he says, “And Peyton loved it, along with other big things I have.” Wait, you mean Lucas’s wife, Peyton? Did this guy really just say, “I used to fuck your wife with my dick, which is bigger than yours?” Seriously? And Lucas didn’t fuck him up like he tried to frame him for murder, and then pick up his grandson like nothing ever happened? Dude, who are these people and what sort of psychological damage are they perpetrating on each other?
Then James Van Der Beek and his eleven-head show up in the helicopter, and he tells the guys that they can’t be upset that the movie didn’t get made, that the joy is in the attempt and they should just cut their losses and stop, “drinking in the park like a bunch of homos.” So, add casual homophobia to JVB’s #MeToo mix. Oh, but it gets worse. Then he lies to the actress and tells her that the movie is back on and she gets to play the lead just so they can get back in the helicopter and she will fuck him. She might have given her consent, but is that consent? I don’t think so.
After this pep talk from an egomaniac who is surely going to be convicted of sex crimes, Julian decides to go tell Brook that he’s leaving and they should just enjoy the attempt at love that they made together. Just when you think the episode is over, it ends right where it begins, in The Sims. We find out that Jamie has made everyone from the show in his own alternative video game universe. All the characters are there, even Julian with his five-head and Brooke with her bargain separates. Wait, is this thing all a simulation? Is this even a TV show or is it just the computer doodles of a little kid with more coding knowledge than thought? That would explain the dog and the heart. That would explain it all, and I couldn’t even be mad at that twist that we never saw coming.