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Similarly, Kirsten confronts her alcohol addiction and eventually leaves rehab, only to encounter more problems when she begins business with a con artist.
The other characters look towards college, with Seth and Summer competing for a spot at Brown University.
He also pursues the idea of a post-secondary education, with encouragement from both Sandy and Kirsten to visit Berkeley.
Ryan's life is quickly put on hold when, in the season 3 finale, Ryan decides to drive Marissa to the airport, and they are run off the road by Kevin Volchok, Marissa's most recent love affair gone wrong.
Ryan starts the season in isolation as a broken, grieving man, seeking revenge on Volchok.
With the help of Julie, both she and Ryan are able to track Volchok down in Mexico, and turn him into federal officials.
Ryan's brother, Trey Atwood, gets out of jail and threatens to bring Ryan's old life into his new one.
Season 1 focuses on Ryan Atwood's arrival in Newport Beach to live with Sandy and Kirsten Cohen, who take him in after his mother kicks him out.
In the last few minutes of the episode, Ryan pulls Marissa out from the burning car, only to watch her die in his arms.
The fourth and final season begins five months after Marissa's death in the car accident.
Although coming from very different backgrounds, Ryan soon discovers that he deals with similar issues to his new peers, such as self-identity conflict and familial alienation.
The relationship between Ryan and Marissa flourishes when he supports her through her parents' divorce.