Movie Reviews

The O.C.: Seth And Summers Relationship Timeline, Explained


  • Seth’s long-time crush on Summer blooms into a memorable and deep romance throughout all four seasons of The O.C.
  • The couple faces highs and lows, from their first kiss to a rocky breakup, while always caring deeply about each other.
  • Summer and Seth’s relationship grows as they navigate college life, marriage proposals, and finally tying the knot in the series finale.

On the drama series The O.C., Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) and Seth Cohen’s (Adam Brody) relationship spans all four seasons and features highs, lows, and many memorable moments. Since Summer is cheerful, wealthy, and popular, and Seth is a self-proclaimed nerd who enjoys video games and spending time with his parents, neither character expects the romance to happen. Ryan Atwood’s (Ben McKenzie) arrival in Newport Beach is the catalyst for Seth and Summer sharing their feelings and becoming each other’s soulmates.

Summer and Seth have one of the best relationships on The O.C., and although they experience the problems typical of high school characters, from jealousy to worries about the future, they always care about one another deeply. While The O.C. focuses more on Ryan’s second chance at life through living with the well-to-do Cohens and Marissa Cooper’s (Mischa Barton) struggles, the series never takes the spotlight off Seth and Summer’s compelling long-term love story.

Season 1: Seth’s Crush On Summer Is Revealed

In The O.C. season 1, episode 1, “Premiere,” it becomes clear that Seth has had feelings for Summer since they first met when they were in elementary school. If it wasn’t for Ryan living with the Cohens and becoming interested in dating Summer’s best friend, Marissa, it seems unlikely that Seth and Summer would get the opportunity to forget about their differences and have a real, genuine conversation. Throughout the first few episodes of The O.C., the characters get along well and the sparks between them are evident, although Summer maintains doesn’t admit how she feels yet.

Season 1 Episode

Relationship Milestone

Episode 1 “Premiere”

Seth’s crush on Summer is made obvious

Episode 6 “Girlfriend”

Seth and Summer kiss for the first time

Episode 10 “The Perfect Couple”

Summer realizes she likes Seth

Episode 19 “The Heartbreak”

Seth and Summer sleep together for the first time

Episode 20 “The Telenovela”

Seth and Summer make their relationship public

Episode 26 “The Ties That Bind”

Seth leaves on his boat, which Summer takes as them breaking up

In The O.C. season 1, episode 6, “The Girlfriend,” Seth and Summer kiss after she asks him to attend his grandfather Caleb’s (Alan Dale) party. Seth proves he sees her for who she is and talks about a poem she wrote when they were children. This is a turning point for Summer’s arc, as she seems flaky and superficial at first, but through her scenes with Seth, it’s clear she has been afraid to be vulnerable or show her intelligence. The fan-favorite O.C. couple doesn’t begin dating yet, which is a clever way to keep some tension.

While Seth and Summer become friends in season 1, they are clearly in love with each other, and when Anna Stern (Samaire Armstrong) moves to Newport, she tells Seth that she will give him dating advice. As is typical in young adult dramas, the plan becomes chaotic because Anna likes Seth, and Summer can’t ignore her envy.

Seth shows his youth and inexperience when he thinks that he can date both characters, and they prove their strength when they tell him that they’re hurt by his behavior. Anna’s arrival is the perfect way to create conflict and force Seth and Summer to talk about their feelings.


10 Moments From The O.C. That Define The Show

Premiering 20 years ago, The O.C. features key moments throughout the series that have stuck with audiences and defined the staple teen-drama series.

The O.C. delved into serious subjects, such as near the end of season 1 when Seth and Summer sleep together. Instead of a corny storyline with a lesson or message, the series depicts this realistically. Since things don’t go smoothly, they feel awkward and aren’t sure how to move forward. This is one of the first major problems that the couple faces, and while they are unsure how to talk to each other at the moment, they soon realize that they can be open with each other and admit when something is wrong.

While Seth has relatable moments of insecurity and low self-esteem, he bravely and boldly talks to Summer at the school coffee cart in season 1, episode 20, and says, “Acknowledge me now, or you will lose me forever… I’m a big dork and I listen to emo, and I’m dating her.” It’s one of the most memorable scenes on The O.C., and the couple officially begins a serious relationship from this point forward. Summer shows growth when she realizes that she shouldn’t be embarrassed about dating someone who is part of a different social group, and they kiss.

Seth leaves Newport on his boat in The O.C.‘s season 1 finale when Ryan goes back home to help his friend and sometime love interest Theresa Diaz (Navi Rawat), who is pregnant. This leads to Seth and Summer splitting up, though that’s not initially Seth’s plan. He isn’t comfortable in Newport without Ryan there, and he decides to leave, temporarily, to deal with his own unhappiness and insecurities. He expects Summer to wait for him, even though he doesn’t even attempt to contact her for months, so she takes his leaving as a breakup.

Season 2: Seth And Summer Date Other People And Eventually Get Back Together

Summer and Seth smiling and dressed up at a dance on The O.C.

Throughout season 2, the former couple explores other relationships, with Summer dating Zach Stevens (Michael Cassidy) and Seth drawn to Alex Kelly (Olivia Wilde). However, it’s evident that the characters still love each other, and their new relationships don’t compare to the bond that they share.

After Seth and Zach work on a comic book together, Zach knows that the former couple shouldn’t stay broken up. They’re one of the best teen TV couples because they truly understand each other. It’s only a matter of time before they start their relationship again, and they have a serious conversation about how they shouldn’t ignore their connection. Seth and Summer eventually get back together in episode 24, “The Dearly Beloved,” and that’s the only major milestone for the two in the second season after exploring different character dynamics.

Similar to other romances on young adult series, it’s never obvious that the couple will go down an easy road, but this is one of the most peaceful and content periods of their long relationship.


Why It’s The Perfect Time For A Reboot Of The O.C.

Dust off your iPod and decorate for Chrismukkah, now is the best time for a reboot of The O.C, the still-beloved 2000s teen drama.

Season 3: The Couple Is Happy With A Few Minor Bumps In Their Relationship

Summer touching Seth's nose and smiling on The O.C.

Throughout the first part of The O.C. season 3, Marissa is told to leave the private school Harbor because she shot Trey Atwood (Bradley Stryker), and Ryan is expelled when he assaults the dean. Taylor (Autumn Reeser) is also introduced in season 3. While she and Summer are initially at odds, she becomes an integral member of the friend group and helps Seth and Summer through some of their big relationship milestones.

Seth and Summer are in a positive, stable place and ensure that their friends can continue attending their school. This isn’t the most compelling time in the couple’s love story, however, since they’re happy and have nothing to worry about. There are, however, a few minor incidents during the season that provide conflict and help them grow as a couple.

Season 3 Episode

Relationship Milestone

Episode 7 “The Anger Management”

New character Taylor causes tension between Seth and Summer

Episode 9 “The Disconnect”

Summer does better on her SATs than Seth and his insecurities resurface

Episode 18 “The Undertow”

Taylor counsels Seth and Summer on their sex life

Episode 20 “The Day After Tomorrow”

Seth doesn’t get into college and lies to Summer about it

Episode 21 “The Dawn Patrol”

Summer refuses to let Seth break up with her when she doesn’t understand why

Episode 22 “The College Try”

Seth runs into Anna while visiting Brown, who convinces him to talk to Summer

Episode 23 “The Party Favor”

Seth and Summer get back together

Episode 24 “The Man Of The Year”

Seth burns down his dad’s office while smoking, complicating his relationships

One of the worst The O.C. storylines is when, in season 3, Seth begins smoking pot, lights Sandy’s (Peter Gallagher) office on fire, and doesn’t open up to Summer about making mistakes in an interview with Brown. He even says that he was accepted when he wasn’t.

Seth’s behavior proves that he is too immature for a serious relationship right now, but his fears over the future make sense as he’s at a crucial point in his young life. Summer shows her passion and determination when Seth splits up with her, and she tells him that they are going to stay together.

The O.C. season 3, episode 22, “The College Try,” and season 3, episode 23, “The Party Favor,” are crucial for the next part of the couple’s love story. Although Anna leaves The O.C. early on, she and Seth talk at Brown. When she moves past her hurt feelings to tell him that he needs to apologize to Summer, she shows the maturity and growth she has experienced in the years since they last saw each other.

Seth and Summer get back together, and while they properly communicate about honesty and plan to stay a couple throughout their college years, it’s clear that the trouble isn’t over.


Why The O.C. Fans Hated Season 3 So Much

Compared to the other seasons, The O.C. fans seem to really hate season 3 a lot. But is there a particular reason as to why they disliked it so much?

Season 4: Seth And Summer Navigate College Life And Growing Up

Ryan, Seth and Summer smiling on Seth and Summer's wedding day on The O.C.

Summer has a compelling arc in season 4 when she realizes while attending Brown that she cares deeply about the environment. Although the couple broke up and reunited a few times earlier on The O.C., this is a tough and defining moment for her and Seth, as Summer is learning how to live her life after Marissa’s death in season 3.

The couple shows they are becoming better at talking to each other about important topics when Seth shows that he understands that Summer is a new person now, but they still love each other. He explores his love of art at the Rhode Island School of Design. New character Che (Chris Pratt) is also introduced as Summer’s college roommate, and while he seems like he would be a threat to the two ending up together, he actually helps both characters to grow.

Season 4 Episode

Relationship Milestone

Episode 1 “The Avengers”

Summer settles into Brown while Seth works at a comic book store

Episode 4 “The Metamorphosis”

Summer realizes she and Seth are growing apart

Episode 5 “The Sleeping Beauty”

Seth vows not to contact Summer

Episode 6 “The Summer Bummer”

Summer gets kicked out of Brown because of something Che did

Episode 8 “Earth Girls Are Easy”

Summer thinks she’s pregnant and Seth proposes to her

Episode 9 “The My Two Dads”

Seth and Summer both have doubts about getting married

Episode 10 “The French Connection”

Seth wants Summer’s father’s permission to marry her

Episode 13 “The Case Of The Franks”

A fortune-teller makes Seth and Summer doubt their future

Episode 16 “The End’s Not Near, It’s Here”

After a time jump, Seth and Summer get married

When Summer thinks that she is expecting, Seth proposes, and this leads to a difficult time for her. While she isn’t pregnant after all, she wonders what kind of person she wants to be and what she wants her future to look like. When they decide not to get married, The O.C. hints at the characters eventually finding their way to the altar as their connection is strong. It’s just not the right time.

While Summer and Seth have satisfying endings on The O.C., the episodes leading up to the series finale see them experiencing a lackluster rough patch in their relationship. After an earthquake in season 4, episode 14, “The Shake-Up,” they are unsure how to fix the boredom, which is realistic given the years that they have been together. Seth proves that he has grown up when he tells Summer to travel and follow her heart with an environmental group called GEORGE. This is a moving, sweet, and relatable portrait of young love when both partners are still finding themselves.

After a brief time jump for the series, Seth and Summer get married in the series finale, and while season 4 of The O.C. is ranked lowest and not considered as entertaining as the previous three, this wedding makes up for some lackluster episodes. The timing finally works out for the couple as they’re ready for the next part of the journey and know that they will stay together. It’s an emotional conclusion that feels like the only next logical plot point as Seth and Summer never fell out of love.

The OC TV Poster

The O.C.

When troubled teen Ryan (Benjamin McKenzie) is taken in by his public defender (Peter Gallagher), he suddenly finds himself on the right side of the tracks. The O.C. follows as Ryan tries his best to fit into the affluent California community while navigating the relentless drama of teen life, but his new home of Newport Beach is a town filled to the brim with secrets and scandal.

Mischa Barton , Ben McKenzie , Peter Gallagher , Melinda Clarke

Release Date
August 5, 2003


Josh Schwartz

Back to top button