October 31, 2005 12:00 PM

Could this season’s run of Laguna Beach be coming to an end? Since its ’04 debut, the reality soap has become a sensation: Alpha Girl Kristin Cavallari, 18, made the cover of Seventeen, rival Lauren “L.C.” Conrad, 19, is rumored to be developing her own show, and bad boy Jason Wahler, 18, speaks of “chilling” with Paris Hilton. Most of the cast graduates from Laguna High in the Nov. 14 season ender, but many questions about the comely cast remain unanswered. Not this one: Producers say the show will be back for at least one more season.

1 How has it affected the real town?

“It’s made Laguna a household name,” says Mayor Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider. Not everybody is happy about it. The streets of the ritzy community have been flooded by fans, and Laguna High has had to keep out interlopers. “We have kids I pay minimum wage, and people come in asking for autographs because they were in a shot,” says Josh Thomson, acting manager of Gina’s Pizza and Pastaria. “It’s hard to get them to clean a countertop when they’re signing.”

2 What’s the latest on the Kristin/L.C./Stephen love triangle?

“Kristin flipped when the show started airing,” says Stephen, who two-timed her with Lauren “L.C.” Conrad while the pair were dating. “She locked herself in rooms and wouldn’t talk to me.” Now both girls say they’re over Laguna’s heartthrob—but bad blood remains. “Kristin’s not a nice person, and I don’t want to be friends,” says L.C. Retorts Kristin: “There are just some people that you don’t care for.”

3 Is Jessica really a doormat?

Portrayed as perhaps the only resident of Laguna Beach with self-esteem issues, Jessica Smith, 18, held on to party animal Jason Wahler despite his alleged cheating ways—then got dumped. “She was kind of psycho,” says Wahler, “possessive and always calling.” Smith insists it’s all in the editing. “I came across as a very naive, stupid, whiny crybaby—I’m not like that.” she says. “I can hold my own.” To wit, her words on Jason: “I don’t even talk to him anymore. I don’t have any interest in talking to him either.”

4 Why do girls fight over Jason?

Despite a vocabulary of grunts and circa ’96 frosted hair, Wahler seems to hold irresistible power over Laguna‘s women—hooking up with Smith, tough girl Alex Murrel and, in a season shocker, Laguna princess Conrad. His secret? “He’s a bad boy,” says creator Liz Gateley, 38. “And a hottie—a lethal combination.” Conrad insists there’s more to Jason than meets the lens. “He has a great personality—he just gets shy in front of the camera,” she says. And yes, she’s drawn to his dark side: “All of my boyfriends are trouble.”

5 Is it scripted?

“I’ve never been handed a script,” says Conrad. “But sometimes they’ll suggest things, like, ‘Why don’t you talk about that fight?’ “Still, rumors that MTV tweaks reality persist. “They pay for everything and make it look like parents pay for it,” says one local teen not on the show. Not so, says Gateley, who says the network only covers permit costs. Besides, says the native of Palos Verdes, Calif., “it makes me laugh when people ask if this stuff actually happens—because I lived it.”

6 Why does Kristin diss Taylor?

Perhaps the mother of all Laguna mysteries is the friction between Cavallari and Taylor Cole, 18. What’s the deal? Kristin hit on Taylor-chasing quarterback Talan Torriero, 18, this season, but Taylor’s pal Murrel says the animosity has no incident behind it. “There’s really no reason,” she says. “They’ve just never gotten along.”

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