It feels like kismet that they are doing this JJ storyline on Days, where he finds out that his dad raped Kayla, right as I am watching Jennifer’s rape storyline on my DVDs.

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Screencap NBC

I’ve actually gotten hundreds of hits on my blog over the last week, from people googling for information on this storyline.  Mostly these were some variation of “days of our lives what did jack do to kayla,” but there were a couple of gems like “after Jack raped Kayla on days of our lives, how did they turn him into a good guy?”

It’s a good question!

Anyway, we fans are always saying that we want them to use the history of the show, and I think this story is a good example of how to do it well (though I really, really miss Matt Ashford here!  He should be a part of this!)  Too often the show uses the past lazily, by having some veteran shuffle out and say “you know, this same thing happened to me once!” and then shuffle away again.  Rarely is there an attempt to emotionally engage with the past, especially in ways that affect the veteran as well as the younger player.

This story clears that hurdle easily.  It is mostly about JJ, of course, and I don’t have a problem with that.  I really liked JJ’s comment that he “doesn’t feel like a blessing right now,” followed immediately by “am I like him [Jack]?”   They are clearly using this as an opportunity to make JJ question his own character, by making him question the character of the father he’s always admired.  They also showed him on Tuesday’s show bitterly railing against his family (excepting Kayla — I appreciated that!) for keeping him in the dark and — interestingly — implicitly letting him feel that he’s the only screwup in the family.

One thing I appreciated, though, was the way we got to see Kayla at work, obviously upset, snapping at Jeannie — I mean, Teresa — after her first conversation with JJ.  Remembering the past was clearly weighing on her, and Teresa’s mention of JJ didn’t help.  I also appreciated that JJ came back to talk to her after finding out the truth.  That scene is probably my favorite of this whole arc:

(The scene starts at 9:50 )  I really like seeing Mary Beth Evans have something with some depth to play, and I think Casey Moss does well too.  I like how JJ starts off saying “I already know but I need to hear from you” then moves to the last ditch “He was just saying that to get Alamain, right?” then softens for a moment as he seems to recognize this is hard on her, then shouting “we’re not okay!” and stomping out.

I like that Kayla doesn’t go into detail about the circumstances, and certainly doesn’t excuse or justify him, but she clearly does want to convey a little bit of the complexity of it:  “I did something to hurt your dad … “

I also like that it doesn’t help, because it wouldn’t.

The other danger for the show in using the past, especially the past from 25 years ago, is the high likelihood of getting something wrong.  When Steve and Kayla came back in 2006, there were a couple of references to the past that they got wrong.  At a dinner when Steve still had amnesia, they made a big deal about how he didn’t like the fancy food that Kayla cooked for him, and he referred to himself as a “meat and potatoes” guy.  They were trying to show the distance between them, which was great, but one of the details about Steve that I always particularly liked was that he was a gourmand.  It’s similar to the fact that Kayla, of the two of them, was the sexual aggressor:  these character traits helped to mix up the stereotypes of the good girl/bad boy storyline, and make each character unique.  Another mistake I remember is when Adrienne visited Steve in the psych ward during the “crazy Steve” story, she referred to his past with Duke and Jo, and said that Duke “beat you and your baby brother Billy.”  Actually Duke only abused Jo, and that was key to the whole story.  It gave credence to Steve’s feeling that she gave up Steve because she chose Duke over him and Billy, and not that she was protecting them from Duke.  It was also an important aspect of Steve’s character that he tried to kill Duke for Jo’s sake, not his own.

You can argue that these are minor, and they are.  And if I had been confident in between times that my characters were in good hands, I think I would have brushed them off more easily.

That kind of mistake doesn’t happen here, at least not that I could tell.  I liked how they weaved a mention of Lawrence into the reveal.  I’m not sure I believe that Jen would keep a transcript from Lawrence’s trial laying around, and even more that JJ would know it and know exactly where it was.  But I still liked it.  It’s a great way to string out the reveal for JJ, and isolate him when he finds out the truth.  Plus it adds richness to the use of the past.  (I also take it as a personal shout out to me, given what I’m watching now!)

They did make use of a retcon, when Adrienne says that Jack grew up with every privilege, except love.  But it is a retcon dating back to 1989, so I won’t really complain on that score.  I didn’t like it back then  because it seemed a cheap, and unnecessary, way to try to gain sympathy for Jack.  Here, too, some fans may bristle at the suggestion that an unloving childhood in any way justifies committing rape, which it certainly doesn’t.  However, I think it’s believable that Adrienne would try to put things in context and try to mitigate the harshness of the news for JJ. And just like with Kayla, I’m glad it doesn’t work.

I did have to crack up a little at the line, “Jack deeply regretted his actions, until the day he died.”  Should that be the days he died?  What was it, five different times?