Forklift

If I had a plan for going through the Steve and Kayla clips this time, it was to focus more on smaller moments, the things you can only notice on repeat viewings. But how can I resist talking about the Greatest Forklift Story Ever Told?

So much good stuff: shirtless Steve! Steve to the rescue! Kayla seeing Steve’s good side for the first time! Shirtless Steve! (Did I already say that?)

On this viewing, some new things did jump out at me. One is the way Kayla is resting her hand so familiarly on Steve’s chest when he is being examined by the doctor. This feels different than the way she catches him, or cradles his head, when he faints — that is more like a nurse with a patient. This is more casual and intimate — I might almost say possessive. Their bodies knew what was going on between them before they did.

The other is the matter-of-fact way that Bo explains that Steve saved his life. Bo might be downplaying it on purpose, so Kayla won’t have any reason to think anything good about this guy who is Bad News, but I don’t think he’s there yet. I think it’s just the press of events — he’s got other things on his mind. I love it, though, because it keeps the focus on Kayla’s reaction to this information, not on Bo’s. I really, really like the fact that in these early days, neither Hope nor Bo (the two people in town who know the most about Steve) share any insights with Kayla. For example, in a later scene, Kayla tells Hope, “I just can’t figure him out.” This could be an invitation for Hope to tell more — in fact I think it is — but Hope obviously has her mind on other things. She just says, “Yeah, don’t even try,” and changes the subject. This means that Kayla’s insight into Steve is entirely her own, based on her own observations, her own interactions with him.

I had to slice off the end of my clip above, because the song “Somewhere Tonight” is playing and the record company blocked it. Grr. The end of this scene is terrific, though, the way Steve says “Bye, Kayla” (love his expression, the way the mask drops), and then he and Kayla share a long look. The beginning of a bond between them.

 

 

Gift

Hope it won’t be too jarring if I jump back and forth between the two different time streams I’m watching. I wanted to share this nice little scene. This is Christmas 1990, when Kayla receives a posthumous Christmas present from Steve. This is as much a gift to Steve and Kayla fans as to Kayla herself.

I think my favorite line here is when Kayla says “It’s just so unlike him to plan ahead like this.” It’s so cute, so wifely.

Shane’s presence here is as a supportive friend (and nothing was going on between them yet). We can see that support when he offers to leave before she opens the first gift, and she asks him to stay. And Mary Beth just breaks my heart with her body language as she sits and holds the present on her lap, preparing herself before she opens it. And the gift itself is lovely, a stocking that says “Baby’s First Christmas.” So bittersweet, given that Steve isn’t there to share in it.

The second gift, Emily’s teapot, is also well chosen by the show. I don’t really care for Emily and Gideon myself, but I still like that they did this, used the real history of Steve and Kayla instead of choosing something nice but generic, like jewelery, that would work for any couple.

The line on the card, “100 years from now our love will be a legend too,” isn’t far off. We’re at 25 years and counting! Hee!

Snapshot

When Kayla arrives in Salem, the show doesn’t throw her immediately into Steve’s orbit. Instead, it takes a little time to let us get to know her first. The Brady family’s various crises (Kim just had her baby, John Black was revealed to be Roman Brady, and Bo revealed to be Victor’s son — this is right after May sweeps, after all!) provide the perfect pretext for Kayla to interact with all kinds of different people. I would say that the first moment that really shows the Kayla we come to know and love — active, determined, idealistic, maybe a little naive — is when she decides to call Victor and ask him, just ask him, if he’ll leave their family alone. Maybe no one has given him a chance!

While Kayla is running around dealing with all these family crises, she runs into Steve maybe four or five times. I was looking for two things in these early interactions. First, I wanted to see when Steve first showed regret, or that famous Steve Johnson self-loathing, about the way he treats Kayla. Second, I wanted to see the first time Kayla actively engages with Steve. Since she is the one who drives their early love story, when she decides to pursue him, I wanted to see the very first spark of that — a moment where she isn’t just reacting to him, she’s trying to engage, in however small a way.

Luckily for me, these two things happen for the first time in the same little mini-story — three scenes. When Steve drops Britta’s picture in Kayla’s Cleveland apartment, and when she returns it to him in Salem.

In the first scene, we see Steve acting in what has become his pattern — crowding her, making jokes, acting sleazy. But I hear a little bit of an extra edge when he says, “I know what the problem is — your feelings are hurt I wasn’t here to see you.” He says this thinking — knowing — that this could never be true, that she would never feel that way in a million years. And it rankles. And then when he leaves, outside the door, we see that reaction shot for the first time, the one I was looking for: he’s upset, maybe a little ashamed. Stephen often uses this gesture, where Steve adjusts his patch, to signal I hate what I’ve become.

On Kayla’s side, in the Cleveland scenes, we see her fear and wariness, and also a suggestion that she is aware of him physically. When he tucks the dollar into her arm “for her time,” she brushes it away and then touches the spot on her arm that he touched. Again this is the pattern that we’ve seen develop over their early scenes.

But back in Salem, there is a shift: she’s not as afraid of him. Maybe it was seeing the picture of Britta — knowing there is someone he cares about, that the women in his life aren’t all “Christys.” I also think he’s gotten to her enough that she has something to prove to him, a little. She wants him to know he can’t intimidate her, she doesn’t scare so easily. When he asks if she’s afraid of him (I love that he asks her twice, with extra intensity the second time), she says no. She’s not being entirely truthful, but it is starting to be true. This is the first scene, as I said above, where she spars with him instead of just shying away. I especially love the moment when she pulls out the picture to give back to him. It turns the tables on him, takes the wind out of his sails — Stephen shows that perfectly in his reaction. It proves that he’s underestimated her.

(By the way, does anyone know when Patsy Pease’s return scenes will air? I heard she shot some episodes that would be on in April.)

50th Anniversary

You’ve probably all heard the news by now that Stephen will be joining Mary Beth on the show for the 50th anniversary coming up, along with a SORASed Joey.  Part of me is excited and hoping against hope for a real, angsty reunion story — and part of me is expecting a tired triangle with — I don’t know, Eve? Ugh. Likely the reality will be somewhere between the two.

In any case, I’ll definitely be tuning in! So this has inspired me to try to shake the dust off this blog. I’m not ready to jump back into the current show — I’ll do it when we get closer to the anniversary — but this is a perfect opportunity to check back in with the past, in preparation for the future. But can I just be posting about Jack and Jennifer and Shayla with S&K coming back? No! So I’m going to break out of my current timeline for a bit and go way back, back to the beginning ….

I have to say, my favorite way to watch these scenes is to think about them from a storytelling perspective, how carefully this was planned. It’s important to remember they had already started adding depth and layers to bad-guy Patch at this point in the story: we saw he genuinely loved Britta, we saw him starting to help Bo. Hope already likes him. However, he is still mostly a bad guy, and it would have been perfectly plausible for Steve to work for Emma simply because he was a thug-for-hire. It adds a little something to his character that he initially refuses her offer (and calls her “the wicked witch of the west” — love it!) and says he is “selective” in who he works for. But his anger at Bo over Britta gives him a personal, more understandable motive to scare Bo’s sister.

At the same time, though, the show isn’t pulling its punches — let’s face it, it’s not really that great of a reason to stalk and scare someone. And it shouldn’t be. If this is a true redemption story, and it is, we need to see that Steve has something to be redeemed from. Steve’s line to Bo and Hope above frames the issue perfectly: “Don’t give me this ‘Steven’ crap. I’m Patch — that’s all I’ll ever be.”

Here’s another awesome thing, again from a storytelling perspective: we aren’t told who Kayla is. We see Steve react to the name on the piece of paper, but we never see the name ourselves. And through all of the scenes in Cleveland, Kayla is never identified. It is not until it is all over and Kayla receives Kim’s call, asking her to come home and help Bo, that we realize who she is. It’s a great way to introduce a new recast, essentially a new character. All through these scenes, we wonder who she is. Why does he say it will be “fun” to scare her? Does he know her? Is it someone from Steve’s past? An alert viewer might remember that Kayla is a nurse, that she moved to Cleveland, but I bet most people didn’t figure it out (ah, the days before spoilers!). It creates interest in a new character from the beginning.

And now for the stalking itself. I am amazed at how scary Steve is, amazed that the show decided to make him that scary (and seeing a yellow rose used this way makes me want to cry). Personally, I don’t see anything in these scenes that hint at the planned love story. This wouldn’t have been inconceivable. We could have seen Steve regret what he was doing, have second thoughts, hesitate. We could have seen him overcome with self-loathing afterwards. We see his attraction to her, sure, but given the context it comes across as, frankly, creepy. But I love that they do it. I think it demonstrates the confidence of a show at the top of its game. They knew they had the patience, the writing ability, and the chops of two amazing actors, to come back from this.

(I am going to try, try, try my very hardest not to let weeks pass between posts as I go through this. I want to spend some time in detail with very early Steve and Kayla, since I feel this time period gets a bit neglected. I’ll also keep posting about Jack and Jennifer and Shayla as I continue to watch those stories. This is going to be fun!)

 

Slap in the face

Note: I’m going to be doing a little long-overdue housekeeping of my blog. Please do not adjust your set! :)

Again, sorry for the long delay. I’ve known that my next post would be on the “rape slap” and breakup for Jack and Jennifer. And it’s quite a topic to take on, so I’ve been dragging my feet.

There is so much good writing and good angst here, both before and after the slap, but let me get one thing out of the way first: the slap itself feels contrived. I don’t like how long Jack holds her while she struggles, but mostly it’s the line itself:  “Don’t touch me, you rapist!” It feels awkward, and it’s a sledgehammer in the scene. I can feel the strings being pulled to generate a specific reaction from Jack. I’ve been racking my brains for a way to stage this better, and my simplest idea was for Jennifer to be asleep, having a nightmare about Lawrence, when Jack kissed her. Perhaps, in her dream, Lawrence would be saying, “I’m your husband,” and when Jen wakes up and pushes Jack away, she cries out, “No, you’re a rapist!”

And, just to get my other criticism out there up front, I think the show needs to pay a little more attention to Jen’s side of the equation here. First, I think they should have given us an extra reason that Jennifer doesn’t tell Jack about her rape afterwards. I’m very willing to concede that this would be a difficult thing to say, and I’m mostly willing to go with it.  But I think it would help if, for instance, Lawrence had specifically threatened Jack’s life if she ever told about the rape. I think it would lessen the feeling of “Argh! Just tell him! Just tell him!” which it is very easy to feel through all of this. That feeling tips the balance of sympathy more towards Jack, which I don’t think is right. I also wish that we felt a little more anger from Jen here: fairly or not, his reaction is making life a lot more difficult for her when she is already dealing with something difficult, and I think she could have lashed out at him because of that. It would also give her another reason not to tell him the truth:  again, fairly or not, why should she confide in him when he’s making it all about him?

All right, now we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s talk about some of the awesomeness of this. I really love Jack’s speech that opens the scene. It shows how far Jack has come since their early days, how much he has let his guard down. It’s agonizing to think how difficult it is for Jack – of all people! – to ask her why she flinches when he touches her. And my favorite line of all, when he says that love and commitment have been nightmares for him. That sums up so much of his relationship with Kayla, all of it, not just when he raped her. His openness and honesty, his plea to let him help her, make what follows extra painful (the show really knew how to up the angst factor then). After the slap, after the initial shock, I love the transition in Matt Ashford’s body language. You can see the difference between Jack’s “you just said it all” followed by “so, you think I’m a rapist,” between those two lines Jack’s walls, and his cynicism, have snapped back into place.

Jen’s denials, of course, sound pathetic, as they are meant to, and I love how Jack cuts through her stammering excuses with one word:  Kayla. It’s a perfect way to cut through not only the bullshit of the moment, but all the times the show has played coy with who, exactly, Jack raped.  (Another scene around this time has Frankie saying to Jen that “Jack hurt a woman” like that woman wasn’t his adopted sister.)  Jack is in fine sarcastic form as he adds to the list Jen starts making of the reasons she has to be upset right now (always plenty to choose from in Salem), and tells her “it’s always been there, hasn’t it?” It has always been there for Jack, and his belief that it didn’t matter to her has always been shaky.

His anger here is wonderful, as is its cause.  I love the hurt that comes through when he says he can’t count the number of times she told him he had changed, reformed, “and I bought it.” (I also love when he tells her “don’t touch me,” just like she told him.) That sums it up.  He was the chump, the chump who got suckered. No matter what she says now, his self-loathing won’t let him believe her.

But then the show introduces a lovely little seed of doubt. Jen’s best line in this whole scene is when she says that if it were true (that she thought he was a monster), they never would have made love in the first place. Missy Reeves plays the depth of sincerity really well, and Jack’s look of vulnerability in response is perfect. He knows that is true, but when she can’t explain why that has changed (and here is where we are all surely screaming at the TV “Just tell him!”), that is it for him. The storyline he has created – that she sees him as the monster he always knew he was – is too seductive for him to resist.

Tell me how you really feel

I’ve been watching the show very carefully, trying to figure out when TPTB started to lay the groundwork to put Kayla and Shane together.  And despite the fact that they spend nearly every minute together in Alamania, and there may well have been some chem testing going on, I don’t get the sense that anything in particular was in the works.

Here, though, at the very end of their stay in Lawrence’s country, is the first scene where I felt the strings starting to be pulled:

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Personally, I find it very awkward.  Carly’s comment about Kayla being a comfort to Shane sounds forced, especially when she tries to take it back, saying, “I’m sorry, I know he’s married to your sister, I just thought …”  I mean, who says that?

The point of these “call someone on their feelings” scenes is usually to show that there is some truth to them, even as the person denies it.  But Mary Beth Evans doesn’t play it that way.  She shows confusion, certainly, but Kayla comes across to me as feeling uncertain about the state of her friendship with Shane.  She was recently blaming him quite strongly about his role in not preventing Steve’s death, and has accused him of coldly working on his “case” without regard to the feelings of the people involved.  I think that Mary Beth plays Kayla as being quite sincere in what she says here, and she’s not saying it to cover up deeper feelings.  She always thought she and Shane were friends, but never really knew him that well.  Their recent conflicts have called that friendship into question, but at the same time she’s gotten to know him better and might start a friendship on a new basis.

Carly’s response, lavishly complimenting Shane and telling Kayla not to turn her back on him, is again soap boilerplate for setting up a new couple.  The coda to the scene could also be read this way:  Kayla calls Marcus, and stresses to Shane (who comes up in time to overhear the end of their conversation) that she was talking to her “friend” and talking about how she can’t wait to see him.  It’s begging to be read that Kayla, in denial of her feelings for Shane, is latching onto Marcus.  (A few months from now, this will indeed be the case.)  The scene calls for a final awkward exchange of glances between Shane and Kayla, Shane registering a bit of jealousy, Kayla a bit of pique (with a hint of uncertainty underneath).  But Mary Beth and Charles again play against it.  Kayla plays her line pretty straight, and Shane merely smiles, seemingly happy for Kayla that she has a good friend in Marcus.

I’m not implying that Mary Beth and Charles were against the pairing of their characters.  Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t.  I’ve heard mixed things about that.  But here, at least, I think both felt, quite rightly, that it was too soon for this kind of signal to be sent, and played the scene accordingly.

The Couple Who Must Not be Named

Okay, everyone, deep breath.  It’s time to plunge into the dark side.

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It wasn’t until 2006 that I found out that the Shane and Kayla pairing had ever happened.  I was reading my mom’s Days history and there was a one-sentence reference to the relationship.  One of those “For a time, Shane and Kayla became close” sentences you read in soap synopses.  I think I stared at it for several minutes waiting for my eyes to clarify this into something that made sense.  Then I said “That’s so wrong!”, threw the book down, and walked out of the room, like I could erase it from my memory.

I’ve thought about this since then, and I’m not sure why I reacted so strongly.  I know my reaction was not unique, and in fact seems to be shared by many Steve and Kayla fans.  On the TWoP boards, someone jokingly spoiler-tagged “Shayla” (the black bar looked like a CENSORED tag) and then we all started doing it.  I’ve seen Shayla called the Couple Who Must Not be Named, and “the worst storyline of all time.”  This on a show that did Melaswen.

It’s not that shocking of a plot:  two sisters in love with the same man.  In fact, you might call it a soap staple.  So why the hate?  Well, I think it has a little something to do with the fact that we’re talking about two supercouples here.  And supercouples were not broken up and then paired off with each other.  Sure, one might die and a new love interest could be brought on for the surviving one.  But that’s it. 

Tom Langan famously said in 1992 that “the era of supercouple is over.”  I think this story was the first shot across the bow.

I’ve always thought that Shane and Kim were the best example of the so-called “supercouple problem.”  Here’s the problem as I see it:  you have about two years of story between first meeting and making it to the altar.  Then about a year of relative happiness, maybe a baby story.  Then a big breakup, with probably a year of story out of that.  That’s about four (maybe five) good years.  The problem is, what do you do after that?  Too much happiness = back burner.  Too many breakups, and you risk jeopardizing what made the couple work in the first place.  After you break up for the tenth time, is it really true love?

With every other supercouple, something seemed to happen to bail out the show from this problem.  Bo and Hope started in 1983, and they left together in 1987.  For Roman and Marlena, Wayne Northrup left, Drake Hogestyn came in, then Deirdre Hall left, all in the course of four years.  For Steve and Kayla, they started in 1986 and Stephen Nichols left in 1990.  Adrienne and Justin were written out together after about five years.   Jack and Jennifer are a little different because their story started at the end of the supercouple era [1989], so by the time they hit their five year mark the show had drastically changed.

So that leaves Shane and Kim.  Their story started in 1984 and they got married in 1986.  I still have not seen their early story (though I will!); by all accounts it was excellent.  Shane the spy and Kim the prostitute with a damaged past.  Before and after their wedding they did all the soap staples.  They did the dead wife comes back story (Emma!), they did a Who’s-the-Daddy story.  A Kimberly-is-blind story.  They did a baby kidnapping story, an evil-twin story (remember Drew?).  They did the “a child he never knew he had” story.  They did a presumed-dead story and an amnesia story.  By then it was 1990 and it had been six uninterrupted years.  The tank was starting to sputter.  They did a second WTD story.  Now, I know today no one can have a baby without no one knowing who the mother is, let alone the father.  But back then it seemed a little too much.  I have to think that after all of that the writers just threw up their hands and said, “Forget it!  I can’t think of anything else!”

Patsy Pease did take a break from the show, in 1990.  I had always assumed that part of the reason Shayla happened was that the show lost Patsy Pease and Stephen Nichols at the same time and threw Shane and Kayla together as kind of an afterthought.  Some of the scenes during the Alamania storyline seem to bear this out.  Here are two lead players who definitely need to be a part of the story, everyone else is paired off, let’s chem test them.

I still think that was part of it, maybe the initial inspiration.  But Patsy Pease returned to the canvas well before anything significant happened with Shane and Kayla.  It would have been very easy to drop the whole thing.  What is surprising to me (and I have watched up through March of 1991 at this point) is the care and attention that obviously went into this plot.

And it’s got Mary Beth.  So I might not be ordering this sweatshirt anytime soon:

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(something to wear to your next S&K meetup!)

but I’m enjoying the story much more than I ever thought I would.  So if any of you are willing to come along with me, I would love to have you.