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'Lindsay' recap: Oprah Winfrey injects some drama

Lindsay Lohan attends the

Lindsay Lohan attends the "Just Sing It" app launch event at Pravda on Dec. 16, 2013, in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Robin Marchant

We knew it would happen, that Oprah Winfrey would swoop in to add some life to a show that’s drawn paltry numbers, but it was a question of when. The largely flat third episode benefited from Winfrey's presence as the "Lindsay" matriarch doled out some tough love.

Until about the halfway mark of Sunday’s “Lindsay,” the production follows the reality show convention of substituting actual drama with complaining. Lohan’s personal assistant Matt Harrell gets the gold star for grousing, bellyaching seven separate times about how he needs to speak with his boss. Maybe he'll quit, maybe he won't, and maybe the remaining viewers will change the channel.

More substantive kvetching comes via the “Lindsay” production crew, as Lohan decides she doesn’t feel like filming one day. (This was after being late for seven of 12 scheduled production days, we’re told.) After waiting on the street outside the celebrity's apartment for 90 minutes, director Amy Rice gets a text from Lohan: “I really need a day today just for myself.”

Lohan had let the crew into her new apartment earlier in the week, the cameras panning over crowded shoe racks as the actress' inner circle navigates endless piles of clothes. Sober coach Michael Cormier holds hangers of hot pants, father Michael Lohan deals with a safe, personal assistant No. 2 Hollie Taylor organizes  a closet and Lohan finds a box of awards, including an MTV popcorn bucket for best on-screen team (for "Mean Girls"). The motif is chaos, a mountain of clutter that only seems to move, not dissipate.

Our star is less than two months out of rehab at this point, and, during a meal with wellness coach A.J. Johnson, Lohan questions her decision to do the show right after getting sober. “I'm feeling a little bit like I’m slipping and it’s scaring me,” Lohan says. “Nothing is more important than my sobriety and me being happy and me feeling the way I felt two months ago when I started this.” It’s the most real segment of “Lindsay” so far, these few sentences of reflection.

Lohan notes a conflict between what she perceives as the more exploitative interests of the production company, Pilgrim Studios, and OWN's ambitions of "real and honest" documentation. But the grounding duality of “Lindsay” is her celebrity versus her struggles with addiction. An actress with few prospects needs work, but the job that is this show necessarily puts the spotlight on her recovery.

Coach of all coaches, Winfrey meets with Lohan armed with concerns and a stated resolve to shut the show down if need be. (“I’m not interested in putting on something that is" half-done, Winfrey tells OWN and Harpo Studios president Sheri Salata on the drive to Dina Lohan’s house.) In a sit-down reminiscent of the one the duo had last year, Winfrey cozies up to her subject and tells her they can pull the plug if she wants. Winfrey also asks the question Lohan had resented from others: Has she maintained her sobriety? Yes, Lohan says, crying after Winfrey says, “Let’s celebrate that.”

After Lohan agrees to continue with “Lindsay,” Winfrey’s bad cop side emerges, insisting that the actress honor her commitments to the production. “You need to cut the [expletive]. You really do.” We have five more episodes to see if she [expletive] does.

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