How much do I love Steve Johnson? I didn’t realize quite how much I missed him until I saw him emerge from the shell of Nick Stockton last Friday (12/8). The critic in me whispers that Steve and Kayla’s reunion was too sudden and unearned, but the fan in me is too busy going “squeeee!” to listen.
It was an interesting, and probably believable choice to play Steve-without-a-past as something of a blank slate. In fact, except for occasional flashes, Steve seemed to get blanker and blanker the deeper he got involved with Billie. However, it was very frustrating as a fan, to see this shell of a man in Steve Johnson’s place. (It’s unfortunate that with the writing transition this stage got stretched out for a full six months; six weeks would have been better– establish he’s different from Steve, establish that he’s frightened of not measuring up, establish attraction to Billie, plunge right into quarantine storyline.)
If you imagine Steve buried inside Nick, struggling to get out, perhaps the impetus to him finally breaking through was Nick breaking up with Kayla for good. Though he hasn’t exactly been a devoted suitor at Kayla’s side up til now, he never quite broke the tie until they got to the cabin.
All the scenes of Steve’s flashbacks were very well done, the music, the quick cutting, the black and white stills turning to full color “movies.” My favorite part, though, was Steve waking up and thinking he was back in the past, back in 1987, and stumbling to the bathroom and rambling about Kiriakis and the disk. I loved how he reached up to try to light the match under the sprinkler system, and Kayla was pulling on him trying to stop him. That was genius, particularly because Steve was always so active and physical (unlike Nick); it made sense for him to “wake up” and immediately spring into action.
Stephen Nichols’ body language, portraying the two men, is really subtle and well-done. Steve even at his unhappiest, self-hating best, was always fully present in his own body. He had big gestures, mercurial emotions and facial expressions, and his voice was always ready to shout or explode with mocking laughter, or drop to an intense whisper. Nick was timid and unsure of himself, his gestures were small, his face still. He had some of Steve’s swaggery walk, but toned down. When “Steve” would resurface for a moment, I always felt the difference. A lesser actor would not have been able to convey, for example, in the quarantine storyline, that there was still something missing in his interactions with Kayla. Even when he was touching her and calling her “baby” (and I loved how the “baby”s stuck around after that, even though Steve didn’t seem to be aware of it), I could feel that the connection wasn’t quite there.
Nice touch: Steve saying “I’m not just nobody” was an echo and repudiation of his comment at the hospital, “Who am I? I’m no one.”
What I loved most was their conversation on Tuesday (12/12), when we got to see Kayla be happy once again, and they talked about Billie and why Steve was drawn to her. And Kayla was Kayla again, our woman who possesses such depth and capacity for understanding, when she said, “I had my memories.” He hurt her and chased Billie and slept with other women, while she was lonely and missing him, but she reckons his loss was the greater.
I still want to see Steve get angry and interested in who did this to him and why, but that must be coming. They did establish that there are quite a few missing years between Steve being Steve and waking up in that hotel room as Nick. Enquiring minds wanna know.
And, to end on an utterly shallow note, I was very happy to see shirtless Steve once again.