Note: this is the second in a series. The story starts here: Steve & Kayla—Steve Stalks Kayla
The Frankie and Max storyline is the first major one featuring Steve and Kayla together. It’s purpose is to showcase Steve’s softer side, which we’ve only seen in tantalizing flashes up until now. This storyline runs concurrently with the return of Britta, and the brief Britta/Steve/Kayla triangle. So it’s the battle of lightside Steve and darkside Steve.
Frankie and Max are two homeless boys that Steve and Kayla try to help. Kayla wants to call social services, Steve doesn’t. He says the system doesn’t work, and that the boys will be separated.
This gives us the opportunity to start to delve into Steve’s past. When Kayla presses him about why he’s so set against social workers, he finally breaks down and tells her about the brother he hasn’t seen since he was a baby. We learn that Steve grew up in an orphanage, and that his brother was adopted but he was not. This scene marks the first time that Steve willingly opens up to Kayla. One of my favorite moments is when he’s upset and almost crying, Kayla tentatively reaches out to touch him. He isn’t looking at her, but he senses the gesture and lifts his arm to ward her off. We see that he’s barely holding himself together, and if he lets himself accept any comfort he’ll completely fall to pieces. Meet Steve Johnson, walking bruise.
Kayla is sympathetic—and we see that she truly is—but it doesn’t change her mind. She calls social services. Watching this the first time, I really, really wanted Steve to be right just to validate his passionate certainty, and the show obliged me. The boys are separated. The coldest, grimmest social worker in the Western Hemisphere comes to take Max and place him in a foster home. Frankie is distraught, Steve is furious. And he blames Kayla.
In a nice “everybody wins” moment, though, it is Kayla who ends up being vindicated. For all his blustering, Steve doesn’t really know what to do to help Frankie and Max. He can help them only in small ways. In what will be a theme in their relationship, Steve demonstrates how the system is broken and Kayla works from inside to fix it. In this case she gets her parents to take in the boys. And Steve is forced to acknowledge that Kayla is not the complacent hypocrite he accuses her of being.
After this is over, they all gather at the Brady Fish Market to celebrate the happy ending. As Steve gets ready to go, Kayla thanks him and kisses his cheek. Ah, but it’s more than that. Significantly, she kisses him on his patch side. As she goes in for the kiss, Steve reflexively backs away and raises his hand protectively in front of his face. Kayla gently moves his hand away and kisses him anyway. On his scar. I melted.