Obstacle smash

If Danicole were the rooting couple, this would be the lamest soap love story ever. Obstacles come up only to scatter like ninepins.

He’s got a son from a previous relationship – but the son loves Nicole and can’t wait for her to move in!

His mother has never liked Nicole – but she congratulates them and plans to throw them an engagement party!

She hooked up with her ex-boyfriend who is still in love with her, but he says he wants her to be happy and will keep quiet about it.

Then, her worst enemy spills the truth anyway. But, Daniel gives her another chance to come clean – and she does! And he forgives her! Hey, that was easy!

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Yes, I know this is a picture of Eric and Nicole, not Daniel and Nicole. Why do you ask?

And – ahem – I just have to take a moment and pat myself on the back. This is what I said three weeks ago:

So here’s my prediction: I think that after much back and forth with Serena, and Nicole trying to keep it secret, Daniel is going to find out about the furnace room almost-sex. Maybe Nicole will even tell him. And here’s the thing:  I think he is going to forgive her. And this will be such a contrast to Eric, she’ll be so grateful, that when Daniel asks her who she really wants to be with, she’ll say him.

(The only thing I was wrong about was that Daniel didn’t ask her who she really wanted to be with. Cue derisive jokes about the ego on this one!)

I have to say I am proud of Nicole. This is the first time she’s ever come clean with a secret, to my knowledge, and it’s a great leap forward for the character. Yes, it would be nice if it was with Eric instead of Daniel. (Though I like to think it was Eric’s noble gesture beforehand that inspired her.) And I am glad that Daniel forgave her. Not because I care about the character of Daniel at all, but what a novel experience for Nicole. We’ve already seen that Daniel is offering her, ready-made, what she’s been scheming her whole life to get: a family and a man who loves her. His forgiveness gives her another reason to stay with him.

I can’t express how much much I appreciate the show going in a different direction with “Nicole’s got a secret.” Not just with Daniel, but with Eric too. I honestly thought, after it became clear Nicole wanted to keep the almost-sex a secret, that Eric was going to judge her for that. It would have been easy to write it that way, have him preaching to her about the TRUTH, and I’m so glad they didn’t go that direction. I loved his lines on Tuesday (7/28) when he said he realized all his reasons for wanting to tell Daniel boiled down to the the hope that it would give him a chance with Nicole.

I think Daniel’s forgiveness is going to be the glue that keeps Nicole in this engagement even after her feelings for Eric start to leak out of the box she’s put them in. It is perfectly plausible for Nicole to compare Daniel’s reaction today to Eric’s reaction last year to Shredgate, and decide that Daniel is more tolerant, more human, less saintly – the one she has more in common with, the one who “gets” her. (Ouch, it hurt to type that.) She told Eric a few days ago that “It wouldn’t have worked – I’m not your type,” and I think that aspect could be explored more.

If the show is smart — which they probably won’t be, but hey, it could happen — they’ll use this as a pretext to give Nicole and Eric a big hash-it-out conversation about their breakup last year. I would like Nicole to be able to express her hurt about how everyone deserved forgiveness except her, and how long she hung on hoping he would come around. I was glad to hear Eric say, in their conversation in the crawlspace, that he realized he was punishing her because he couldn’t face the truth about why he didn’t stay in the priesthood – that his feelings for her made it impossible. And we’ve heard him say twice how much he wishes he had married her when he had the chance. But I would love to see — though it would twist a knife in my heart! — the expression on Eric’s face when she expresses her gratitude and joy at the fact that Daniel forgave her, and he has to think about the fact that if he had been able to do the same, he would be with her right now.

So now what? I think — I hope — that the pendulum has swung as far as it’s going to in terms of Eric and Nicole’s separation. Not immediately, but soon, we should start to see some hints of the pendulum swinging back. I’m hanging onto a little moment from Tuesday’s show, when Nicole said to Eric with that note of hurt and vulnerability in her voice, “Does this mean you’ve gotten over how you feel about me?” I also remember her face when Eric asked her at the hospital: “Can you take the time we had together, what we were feeling, and just put it in a box like it was meaningless to you?” She never answered that question.

Now, this is where the soapy complications should come in. The failure of Serena’s first salvo will surely drive her to more extreme action, which Eric will no doubt suspect and work to prevent (and God, I hope he finds out she bugged his confessional!). Xander has said that he wants to take revenge on everyone in Salem who worked against him, and Nicole and Eric are at the top of that list.

And then we have Daniel himself. How is he going to act toward his “best friend” who almost had sex with his fiancee? How will he act toward Eric and Nicole together? Will he be the big man, magnanimous in victory, sure of Nicole’s love for him? Or … perhaps not?

Kayla decides

Awhile back, I contended that the scene in the barn, when Kayla says she believes Steve about Britta, is the foundation of their relationship. I still maintain that’s true, but I would say that it is about their connection, their relationship, period. If we are talking specifically about their romantic relationship, I think it’s a little different.

Again, we have to look to Kayla. The attraction between them is pretty much immediate, but I think we can agree that if Kayla had not decided to pursue him, there would be no love story. So when does she decide?

Here’s a scene with Kim, where we see her thinking about it, arguably the first time we see it explicitly:

(I love these family scenes! It’s such a great way to show what characters are thinking, and showcases other kinds of relationships, not just romantic ones.)

This is when Steve is still in jail for questioning regarding Britta’s murder. Kim asks Kayla about Chris and talks about how nice it is to have “strong arms around you.” Kayla agrees about the strong arms, but denies any interest in Chris’s. Kim, obviously referring to her own (currently busted-up) relationship with Shane, goes on to say that it’s better to have loved and lost … and Kayla finishes it:  then never to have loved at all.

Inspired, Kayla promptly goes to see Steve — in jail. (Not, probably, what Kim had in mind.) That doesn’t go so well.

Another key scene, perhaps the key scene, takes place in Stockholm. After Kayla has flown to Stockholm to treat Steve, she has this conversation with Hope:

I love Kayla’s simple “Yes,” when Hope asks if she cares about Steve. I love her look of vulnerability. Kayla the fighter is afraid.

It’s such a relief to hear Kayla finally get some encouragement from someone, since Bo and Roman — and Steve! — have been telling her, and will continue to tell her, that she’s out of her mind. And Hope is the perfect person to offer that encouragement.  Not only because she knows Steve, and probably likes him better than anyone else in town besides Kayla and Max, but because of what she went through with Bo. I love that she says it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

When Steve wakes up, we can see Kayla already trying to take those words to heart. She goes over to him and deliberately (and a bit awkwardly) puts her hand on the bed on his other side, so she can lean a little closer. His first words are encouraging, “So I wasn’t dreaming … you’re really here.” Then his protectiveness comes out and he’s trying to get her to leave. This is going to be part of Kayla’s challenge: the more Steve cares, the more he wants to protect her — especially from him.

 

 

 

 

 

Supernatural

When Nicole got “the willies” during Eric’s confession yesterday (7/27), it gave me the willies too – in a good way. And not just because I’m happy for anything that interrupts Daniel and Nicole kissing.

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It reminded me of the times Days used to do that during the supercouple era – show an otherworldly connection between a couple. And it’s funny that I liked this, because actually I usually kind of hate it. I never got into Angel Steve, the Lady in Red “simultaneous fantasy,” or Steve kissing Kayla back to life when she was “dead” (in ’06). I prefer a little more realism in my love stories. Maybe it’s strange to draw the line at supernatural events, when I’m just fine with amnesia, people back from the dead, brainwashing, and crazy soap plots by the score.

I think it’s because for me, soaps are at their best when they give us the crazy soap premise, but follow through with dead serious emotional realism. I don’t love the crackpot plot for its own sake, but for what they do with it. How would you really feel if your spouse came back from the dead with amnesia and a new face?

The supernatural moments don’t usually do that. They are often there to be Romance with a capital R, to signal that these two people really, really love each other. And I’ll accept that, even enjoy it, if the show has earned that moment – rather then trying to use that moment to establish something that hasn’t been earned. When Steve kissed Kayla back to life in ’06, the show hadn’t put in the effort to make the moment work (if you didn’t know Steve and Kayla from the 80’s, you just had to take it on faith). But when Kayla got her voice back just in time to say her wedding vows back in 1988, I rolled my eyes a little, but mostly they were swimming with tears.

Why else would I come?

When Hope, Roman, and Steve get to Stockholm, things immediately go very wrong. Roman is arrested and Steve is shot. Hope, caring for Steve, calls Kayla for advice.

Then, a scene for the ages:

The moment when Kayla walks through the door, and Steve smiles involuntarily and says her name, has to be one of the greatest soap moments of all time.

Kayla has just made a big move by showing up in Stockholm unannounced, and it’s an elephant in the room through the scene. They’re both thinking about it, but they don’t know what to say or how to talk about it. She feels defensive because she feels she’s put herself out there, and he wants to find out why she’s here without revealing too much himself. These undercurrents turn their conversation into something of a fencing match. I love when Stephen and Mary Beth get a nice long scene like this one, where they can play out a whole dynamic of advance, retreat, advance, retreat.

They each retreat into familiar roles – Steve the sleazy guy, Kayla the exasperated nurse. But I think Steve is so happy that she’s there that his attempt at his sleazy-guy routine sounds more like lighthearted banter. Some great lines: “I got no heart, baby.” “It’s bad blood, anyway.”

Then Steve tries to break through this delicate fencing with a blunt maneuver, when he grabs her by the hair and asks why she came. But she throws it right back at him by saying it’s for Roman, and “Why else would I come?” She’s challenging Steve to meet her halfway, to acknowledge there’s something between them. I also love the way they are touching each other here: he’s holding her hair, she’s holding his arm, almost caressing it.

Hope’s entrance interrupts that moment, but they pick up again when she leaves. More sparring, each trying to find a way to get the other to make a move. When she says she’ll try not to hurt him, he says “you do that.” Later, when he says, jokingly, “Don’t you trust me?” she says “Should I?”

Then, finally, after she’s given him a sedative, he thanks her for being there. She strokes his hair and cheek as he drifts off to sleep.

Swoon.

Confession(s)

I love family and friends scenes so much. This is part of why I love watching soaps, because they have time to show these kinds of interactions. The scenes with Brady, Eric, and Daniel yesterday (7/24) were great.

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When Eric told Brady, “I’ve fallen in love with Nicole again,” Brady’s reaction shot, which you can see above, was priceless. I loved the exasperation and ruefulness in Eric’s tone, too, which said clearly, okay, little brother, tell me I’m an idiot. I know I am.

Daniel’s arrival was perfectly timed, right after Eric said that Nicole was in love with him, not Eric. And I’ll give Shawn Christian credit. He played it perfectly, wearing that clueless, shit-eating grin while Greg Vaughan and Eric Martsolf played all the undercurrents.

Another great reaction shot from Eric Martsolf, when he hears Daniel is engaged to Nicole:

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And then, finally, can anyone do the “I’m suffering but I’m smiling through it” look better than Greg Vaughan??

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Serena is turning out to be quite the bitch, isn’t she? If she has even a spark of affection for Eric, I can’t see how she could listen to him pouring out his heart in his confession and having any other reaction but sympathy. But of course all she’s going to see is how she can use it to hurt Nicole. I actually like it, though. I never thought she had any romantic chemistry with Eric (though it’s possible I’m a bit biased), but she’s kind of fun as the woman scorned, giving everyone in town the death stare.

I could do a screenshot of that death stare, but I’d rather leave you with this one:

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I’m dying here.

 

You figure it out

If you’re a Steve and Kayla fan, the mere mention of the city of Stockholm can run a shiver up your spine.

First I want to take a little time to marvel at the setup to this umbrella-story-to-end-all-umbrella-stories. There is actually another story that takes place in Stockholm in 1985-86, but I would say what most people call “the Stockholm story” is kicked off with Marlena’s kidnapping in late summer 1986. We also learn around this time of some missing treasury bonds that everyone and their brother wants to get. Many threads from current stories will come into play:

Bo, recently revealed to be Victor’s son, is working with Shane to bring Victor down. (Victor, naturally is after the bonds too.) Hope, unaware of this, has recently left Bo.

Prior to the kidnapping, there was a mysterious person tracking and targeting Marlena – later revealed to be Orpheus, Roman’s former ISA partner who holds a grudge against Roman for killing his wife (accidentally).

It is the ISA, not Orpheus, that is secretly holding Marlena (to motivate Roman to find the bonds), and Shane’s new partner is in on it.

The tattoos (I could weep, it’s such genius):  Bo, Steve, and Britta all got matching tattoos that, all together, provide clues to the location of the bonds (still not sure how, but who cares?).

Britta’s murder, of course, is properly part of the Stockholm story too. What I also really like is how they use not only Steve’s tattoo but his relationship with people in Stockholm to bring him into the plot (on the good guy’s side) in a very believable way. Lana, the wife of the owner of the tattoo parlor, won’t agree to meet with them until Steve talks her into it.

This all sounds so complicated, doesn’t it? But it’s incredible how smoothly and effortlessly it unfolds onscreen. I love how intricate it all is, but all of it would mean nothing without the emotional and character moments within the plot. And this is what this storyline has in spades. Steve and Kayla fans probably love this storyline the most, but Roman and Marlena have some really nice, if brief, reunion moments within the plot, before she is “killed” by Orpheus at the end. Bo tells Hope, right before she goes to Stockholm the first time, about his secret plot to bring down Victor, and they spend the next several months publicly estranged but secretly reunited (this is one my favorite “established couple” stories, one that, in my opinion, they don’t use enough!).

But let’s get back to Steve and Kayla. Right before Steve, Roman, and Hope head off to Stockholm to track down a copy of Britta’s tattoo, Victor pays Steve a visit and tries to get Steve to do a job for him. Kayla overhears that Steve was being paid by Victor to spy on her and Bo. She is, naturally, angry and upset:

Later, Steve tries to explain and try to get her to understand. I really like this because this is one time Steve doesn’t react to Kayla’s anger by blaming her for having faith in him in the first place. She’s pissed, he’s reaching out, and I love that.

It drives him into this very revealing statement – I can’t lie to you anymore. I love this because it’s almost purely in the way Stephen plays it that makes it the big moment that it is. The way he breaks off, and turns away and gives that derisive chuckle, show that Steve revealed more than he intended. It’s amazing how almost all of Steve and Kayla’s early breakthrough moments have to do with trust and belief, honesty and dishonesty. As I said back during my discussion of the patch removal scenes, for Steve, “falling in trust” is more important, and unprecedented, than falling in love.

At the airport, Kayla is quizzing him about what he meant, and he refuses to answer. But then:

“You’re a smart girl, you figure it out. ”

And she does. I love that they give them this moment, because it gives Kayla a little extra encouragement right before she makes the decision to fly out to Stockholm when Steve is shot — which I’ll talk about next time.

Anvils dropping everywhere

Wow, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to spot the edits!

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How funny was that closing shot today? “Look, Hope, it’s going to be the Salem bicentennial! In an unrelated fact, that is the same day as the 50th anniversary of Days of Our Lives!”

I’m still laughing about it.

I think we can surmise that the Hope and Kayla scenes with Aiden were also new. I think I heard about 50 anvils dropping when Kayla said she was so happy she was wrong in her doubts about Aiden.

And Kayla really looked beautiful. A red dress instead of that doctor coat! Hurray!

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I also was squealing with glee during the second installment of Daniel’s proposal today. I haven’t been as confident as everyone else that Ericole were the rooting couple here — until today. First, Nicole had a flashback to kissing Eric during the proposal scene itself. That’s one anvil. Then, when Nicole said she had to go home and make lists, so that she couldn’t even eat a meal with the man she just agreed to marry, that was another one. From a story perspective, that was obviously so she could be home to have the final scenes with Eric. And then another anvil is that Nicole is obviously more excited about getting married than she is about being married — at least to Daniel. So I think I can relax and enjoy this story a little bit more now.

And the Ericole scenes were great too, brief as they were. Greg Vaughan did the same thing I commented on yesterday, where there was this underlying note of happiness in his performance. I got a sense from Eric that “You are woman I love and it makes me happy to see you,” even if they are apart.

I saw some speculation that the John/Marlena/Doug/Julie scenes were also an added reshoot.

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I’m not as sure about that. It was almost comical, though, how the scenes (a bit awkwardly, in my opinion) addressed all the complaints I’ve been seeing about John and Marlena’s storyline, or lack thereof – especially the moment when Julie asked Marlena, “But how are you feeling about all of these events in John’s life?” Marlena’s point of view has been almost completely neglected, so this was a long overdue question to ask. But it did feel like too little, too late.

Marlena’s answer made me realize, though, why I’m so little invested in the idea of Paul being John’s son. There’s no conflict. John seems fine with it, Paul seems fine with it, and Marlena says she’s fine with it. So, congratulations all around, I guess?