One Tree Hill was many things: a story about brothers, an intense love of basketball, and surviving high school. At times it was far too earnest for its own good, but fans kept coming back for the enduring characters and undeniably over-the-top drama.
Even the biggest OTH fan can admit that the series went on several seasons past its expiration date. Once Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton left at the end of season 6, the show completely lost focus. At points, it meandered, was painfully boring, and only occasionally returned to glorious, albeit ridiculous form. Still, most viewers hung on until the bitter end.
Despite OTH’s flaws, it was impossibly addictive. Fans became so invested in these characters that no plotline was enough to drive them away - and in a show where someone’s transplant heart was eaten by a dog, that’s saying something.
Like many teen dramas, one of the most compelling aspects of the series was its romances. Whether you were a staunch Brucas fan, an ardent Layton supporter or a lover of Naley, chances are you were majorly rooting for at least one couple.
Not every pair is going to have everlasting love and in certain cases, fans are thankful for that. Some relationships are certainly best left forgotten. However, there were other couples that viewers simply couldn’t get enough of.
Regardless of the obstacles that came between them, from psycho stalkers to crazy nannies, these romances found a way to make it work.
Here are 10 Couples That Hurt One Tree Hill (And 10 Who Saved It).
20 Saved: Haley and Nathan
Few things were ever certain in the world of One Tree Hill, especially when it came to the romances. Viewers hung on for every twist and turn, often with differing hopes of outcome. The sole exception to this was the relationship between Haley James and Nathan Scott. Nevermind that they were married teenagers who had a baby right before graduation.
Those two crazy kids were going to make it work no matter what.
Although Nathan began as a more villainous character, fans watched his relationship with Haley completely transform him. This couple served as the emotional anchor for a series in desperate need of one.
From Haley’s music career to Nathan’s injury to Nanny Carrie, they weathered every possible storm. There was no love on OTH that fans were more invested in than this one.
19 Hurt: Quinn and Clay
Season 7 was a rough outing for One Tree Hill. Peyton and Lucas had driven off into the sunset and the show never quite regained its footing.
Quinn James and Clay Evans were serviceable enough, but coupling them up almost immediately never gave either the chance to become interesting in their own right, especially Quinn. Clay, at least, got a backstory that gave him more depth, but Haley’s sister was twelve shades of bland.
Fans had grown used to OTH’s oft ridiculous plot lines, but regardless of what these two went through, it was difficult to care. Watching them wander the afterlife as ghosts was just painful and let’s not even talk about the reveal that Clay had a son he’d forgotten about.
Still, the couple’s greatest sin was how boring it was to watch their love story unfold.
18 Saved: Lucas and Peyton
Despite the fact that Peyton Sawyer began One Tree Hill in a terrible relationship with Nathan, she and Lucas Scott were obviously always the end game. They were drawn to one another and, regardless of what placeholders they found in between, most fans still hoped that they would wind up together.
Sadly, the series expended so much energy keeping them apart, that by the time they were finally united, it seemed a bit contrived - both times. However, none of that changes the fact that theirs was one of the most compelling love stories OTH ever told.
Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton had undeniable chemistry, lighting up the screen every time they shared it.
The palpable longing and enduring friendship between Lucas and Peyton made the moment that they shared at the State Championship one of the show’s most romantic.
17 Hurt: Chase and Mia/Alex
Was it possible to care less about this love triangle? The show struggled to make Chase Adams interesting, but whether he was hiding out as a Clean Teen, managing the bar at Tric, or even rescuing Chuck from an abusive household, he was never a terribly compelling character.
His romance with Mia Catalano felt like unnecessary filler, only highlighting how much more interesting the preceding relationships on the show had been.
Chase’s love affair with Alex Dupré was slightly less terrible, as she was one of the better characters to come out of OTH’s later seasons. Still, in the end, they shipped her off on a music tour for a strange new career path that no one asked for.
This made the love triangle not only boring, but pointless as well.
16 Saved: Peyton and Jake
There are still some fans who feel that Peyton should’ve ended up with Jake Jagielski. She and the young father formed a bond when she helped him out with his daughter, Jenny. However, Jenny’s mom wanted back into her life and made Jake’s miserable in the process. She sent him to jail and then kidnapped Jenny! That’s a whole lot of drama for one relationship to endure.
As adorable as Jake and Peyton were, it was obvious that she still had feelings for Lucas. That’s okay though, because Jake was a good boyfriend to Peyton, ensuring that the character did something other than sit around pining for the guy who was ostensibly in love with her best friend.
15 Hurt: Lucas and Lindsey
While we can see in flashbacks that Lucas and Lindsey Strauss had a decent relationship, everyone was far too busy rooting for him and Peyton to care.
Poor Lindsey really was nothing more than a placeholder whose character served no purpose other than keeping Lucas and Peyton apart. Aside from the fact that Michaela McManus and Murray had a painful dearth of chemistry, later story developments actually suffered due to this couple.
It was one thing to keep Luke and P. Sawyer from reuniting, but having him declaring his love for Lindsay basically up until the season 5 finale was too much.
The episode ended on a cliffhanger which implied that Lucas could be proposing to Lindsey, Peyton, or Brooke, basically undermining the love story that OTH had spent so much time crafting.
14 Saved: Karen and Keith
Of all of the heartbreaking developments on One Tree Hill, none were quite so gut wrenching as the loss of Keith Scott. A surrogate father to Luke and best friend to his mother, Karen, he was one of the few unquestionably decent adults to be found on this series. When Dan took Keith's life in that hallway, he robbed the show of its moral center.
The most painful aspect of losing Keith was the missed opportunity with him and Karen.
It took them Luke’s entire life to get honest about their feelings and when they finally found happiness, Dan snatched it away - an act that the show would spend every subsequent season trying to redeem him for.
Even though Keith and Karen’s romance ended in tragedy, fans were still overjoyed to see them together, however briefly.
13 Hurt: Peyton and Pete Wentz
This romance was painful to watch, not because of any heartbreaking developments, but because it was just bad writing. It’s one thing for shows bring in bands to play local venues. We can all suspend our disbelief because it’s cool to see the Breeders on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Modest Mouse on The O.C.
However, OTH took things too far by having Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz fall hard for high school student Peyton Sawyer. This was upsetting for reasons extending far beyond their age difference.
Fans were forced to watch the awkward exchanges, from Wentz applying makeup with Peyton and her friends to the musician explaining how great it was for a girl to quote his own lyrics to him. Fans prefer to pretend that this never happened.
12 Saved: Deb and Skills
After the dissolution of her disastrous marriage to Dan Scott, as well as her struggles with substance abuse, we can all agree that Deb deserved some happiness. We won’t judge her for finding it in the arms of one of her son’s friends. They were two consenting adults, so Nathan was the only one with trouble coping and that was definitely on him.
We all knew that Deb and Skills weren’t going to recite vows or anything, but it was certainly fun while it lasted.
They were sweet together and completely there for one another in the end. Skills and Deb proved that there was some true depth to their relationship despite the age difference.
11 Hurt: Grubbs and Miranda
You can all be forgiven for not remembering this bland season 7 storyline. It is best left forgotten. In case you need a recap, Miranda Stone was a record exec, originally attempting to shut down Red Bedroom Records after Peyton left town.
Once she began working with Haley, she and Grubbs the bartender began a brief and boring romance. He was, of course, a great musician, so Miranda was intent on getting him to make a record. Grubbs was intent on getting her to fall for him.
Thankfully, this plot was abandoned when Miranda was deported back to England. It was later revealed that Grubbs went after her and that was the last fans heard of either of these forgettable characters.
10 Saved: Brooke and Julian
OTH may not have done the best job of laying the groundwork for this relationship. However, fans were so overjoyed to see Brooke Davis with a decent guy that no one really questioned Julian saying “I love you” after about five minutes.
Regardless of their romantic beginnings, Brooke and Julian made a great couple.
After watching her kiss so many frogs over the years, it was gratifying to finally see Brooke with someone who actually deserved her.
It was also nice that no one made a big deal out of the fact that Julian and Peyton had a romantic history with one another. Brooke and Peyton had already fractured their friendship once over a guy, so it was a relief that the writers chose not to revisit the subject.
Instead, Brooke finally got everything that she ever wanted.
9 Hurt: Mouth and Shelly
Marvin “Mouth” McFaddin wasn’t terribly lucky in love for OTH’s first several seasons. Although Gigi Silveri or Erica Marsh could also wind up on this list, neither of those relationships did as much harm to Mouth’s character as his romance with Clean Teen, Shelley Simon.
We get it, he was a teenage guy and they’re not exactly known for their patience, but the way that he pressured Shelley was pretty uncool regardless.
Many of Mouth’s romantic pairings managed to elicit sympathy for him, particularly his unrequited love for Rachel Gatina. However, this one turned him into just another whiny jerk trying to guilt his girlfriend into something she wasn’t comfortable with. We all know what it’s like being a hormonal teenager, but we expected more from Mouth.
8 Saved: Karen and Andy
Let’s be real, few people on this show deserved happiness more than Karen Rowe. After the loss of Keith, it seemed that she would never find it. The season 5 reveal that she and her daughter Lily were living with her former sweetie, Andy Hargrove, was a welcome one.
Despite their age difference, it was always easy to root for Andy and Karen.
His exit from the show was rather sudden and likely just a result of the writers wanting to pair Keith and Karen. It was nice to watch their relationship unfold the first time around. Although Andy could never replace Keith, it was kind of the writers to give her a happily ever after.
7 Hurt: Brooke and Chase
It seems strange that interesting characters like Rachel or Alex were pushed to the sidelines, while far more bland ones, like Quinn or Chase, got increasingly more screen time in later seasons of OTH.
Chase entered the scene as a Clean Teen who Brooke fell for in season 4. This could’ve been an interesting dynamic to explore, playing with assumptions typically made about relationships between men and woman.
Sadly though, that was not the case. There was nothing particularly fascinating about their romance. Part of the issue was that Brooke was one of OTH’s best characters and if she and Lucas weren’t winding up together, then she kind of needed to meet the best guy ever. Chase is nice and all, but in the end he was just a placeholder, and a boring one at that.
6 Saved: Mouth and Millie
It took Mouth quite a while to find true love and once he finally did, he never could quite manage to quit Millicent “Millie” Huxtable. That’s okay, though, because these two were better together than they were apart.
Writers threw some ridiculous storylines at Millie, and although the couple was on-again-off-again, they still found their way back to one another.
Their relationship also gave Mouth a bit of a do-over in terms of dating a woman who wasn’t immediately ready for intimacy - even if he kind of blew it by keeping that photo of Gigi. Mouth and Millie certainly had their fair share of ups and downs, but most fans were happy that they wound up together in the end.
5 Hurt: Lucas and Anna
Season 2 wasn’t awful, but it certainly didn’t live up to what came before or directly after. Much of what disappointed fans was the amount of screen time given to new characters Felix and Anna Taggaro.
Neither were very interesting and although Anna was the first bi character to be featured in the series, she wasn’t really memorable for any reason other than that.
The issue here wasn’t just the complete lack of chemistry between Murray and Daniella Alonso, as that could be explained away by Anna coming to terms with the truth about herself.
This relationship was just kind of pointless and watching it unfold wasn’t fun for anyone.
Thankfully, their romance didn’t last for too long.
4 Saved: Dan and Rachel
Although many fans found this twosome to be incredibly disturbing, it can’t be denied that Rachel Gatina and Dan Scott were perfect for each other.
Season 7 wasn’t as much of a train wreck as 8, but the show was struggling to find its footing without Lucas and Peyton. Much of the season was just boring and this couple was one of very few interesting elements.
Rachel was a great addition to the series, but the writers were not kind to her after graduation. One of the only core characters to not be a success directly after high school, Rachel destroyed her modeling career as her addiction spiraled out of control.
This relationship showcased both Dan’s true desire for redemption and Rachel’s undeniable ambition.
We knew wedding bells weren’t in their future, but it was still fun to watch.
3 Hurt: Brooke and Felix
Anna may have been whiny and annoying, but Felix was just plain mean=spirited. He lied to Brooke, was cruel to Peyton, and had no amount of tolerance whatsoever, even for his own sister. Worse still, his ego was bigger than it had any right to be.
Most girls date at least one bad boy, but viewers were never onboard with this romance.
We all knew that Brooke deserved better. Sadly, she and Mouth both had a hard time facing up to the fact that Felix was just a jerk.
By season’s end, the Taggaro siblings were written off the show, never to return to Tree Hill - a fact that most fans were grateful for.
2 Saved: Clay and Sara
This may seem like a strange choice, considering we only ever see these two in flashbacks or when one of them was a ghost, but we’d argue that their romance was still far more compelling than the one between Clay and Quinn.
Part of what made Quinn so painfully bland was that she had no real flaws and therefore never took shape as a fully formed character. Clay’s heartbreaking backstory was slowly revealed and it explained a lot about him. His marriage with Sara ended in tragedy and he struggled to move on after losing her. His grief can be understood by anyone who has suffered a similar loss.
Sure, it’s great that Clay found love again with Quinn. It just would’ve made for a better story if their relationship had some more substance.
1 Hurt: Lucas and Brooke
The love triangle is not the issue here, but rather the reveal at the end of season 2 that Lucas had feelings for Brooke.
It was obvious that the writers were pairing Brooke and Lucas because Bush and Murray were together in real life, but it didn’t make much narrative sense.
Sadly, by the time Brooke and Lucas were finally a couple, the five month marriage between the actors had ended, leaving their onscreen counterparts together, but sharing little screen time.
Still, the most disappointing consequence here was the destruction of Brooke and Peyton’s friendship. Brooke was so cruel to Peyton that it was just plain out of character. Aside from that, Lucas spent so much time proclaiming his undying love for Brooke that the sudden realization of his true feelings for Peyton rang a bit false.
Which couples do you think were One Tree Hill's best and worst? Sound off in the comments!
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