Note: this is the third in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Britta’s return is perfect timing on the part of the writing team, for several reasons. Britta is an ideal foil for Kayla, being devious where Kayla is open, and selfish where Kayla is generous. Her recent departure (she left with no warning in the middle of night) is a source of major angst for Steve, so their scenes together are a good balance to the softer Steve we see with Max and Frankie. The Kayla/Steve/Britta triangle is a variation on the classic good girl vs. bad girl, with an interesting twist. Here, it is the good girl who represents the lure of the forbidden, and the bad girl the comfort of the familiar.
Britta left Salem because Victor threatened her into doing so. When Britta first comes back, she is hiding out at Roman’s house because he’s trying to enlist her help in finding the bonds (the MacGuffin in the Stockholm mystery). Steve finds her and they have it out. We’ve been watching Steve follow Kayla around for several weeks, so this scene is a good reminder that he just got his heart broken by Britta. He knows that Victor threatened her but he’s angry at her for leaving anyway. I think he senses that though she wasn’t precisely to blame for hurting him this time, she’ll always put him second to whatever scheme she’s currently involved in.
And she’s involved in a big scheme here. She is trying to get the bonds herself. Steve, Bo and Britta each have a dagger tattoo, and when she learns these tattoos are crucial to finding the bonds, she happily incorporates attempting to seduce Steve into her plans. Is she using him? Does she love him? Yes and yes. It’s like she’s so devious she’s even using herself, using her own feelings for Steve to accomplish her goals. The show takes care to show us that she really does love Steve. In between lying to Roman and manipulating Steve, she is occasionally shown sitting on Roman’s couch looking at Steve’s picture, crying quietly. (By the way, I love that little snapshot of Steve, no patch, different hair, smiling. It really shows what a different man he was when Britta met him. Nice work by the props department.)
Steve’s existing feelings for Britta, and his growing attraction to Kayla, come to a head on the day of Roman’s wedding. Steve starts off the day helping Kayla get to Roman’s wedding and ends the day falling into bed with Britta. Helping Kayla in her formal finery brings home to Steve the distance between them. She asks him to fasten her necklace clasp, and his body language as he does so (gingerly holding the necklace ends and standing awkwardly far away, then inching closer and closer) perfectly expresses his longing for her. (Kayla clearly feels it, too—one of those great nonverbal moments for both actors.) After he drops Kayla off at the church, we’re given the first of Steve’s fantasy sequences, where a tuxedo’d, de-patched Steve moons around with a dressed-up Kayla.
Britta shows up again, and they find a body in the river. It’s Gregory, Steve’s friend who was involved in the Stockholm mystery (in fact, Britta’s schemes are responsible for his death). Afterwards, he throws the seduction-minded Britta out. The show makes it explicit here that Britta’s star is descending while Kayla’s is rising. He flashes back to Britta running her hand over his chest, and she turns into Kayla in his imagination. But when he goes to look for Kayla, he sees her strolling on the pier with Chris. This, combined with his grief about his friend’s death, is enough to send Steve tumbling into bed with Britta.
However, in that way that soaps do, now that Steve has some recognition of his feelings for Kayla, we get a reversal. And ironically it’s something nice that Steve does that brings about the rupture. He helps Hope when she has a miscarraige by carrying her to the Emergency Center, and comforting her sweetly when Bo is unavailable. Kayla witnesses this, and it leads her to confront him. Why is he so nice to Hope, and Max, and such a jerk to her? That’s way too direct an attack for Steve, and he retreats safely behind his sleazy-guy act.
This conversation, combined with seeing Steve with Britta over and over again, prompts Kayla to take a deliberate step back, to quit trying to get him to open up. She starts calling him on his bullshit instead. She seems to be saying, I’m sick of looking past your defenses and being understanding. You can be nice to Hope? Well, let’s see you be nice to me.
Steve senses the chill, but he doesn’t know how to break down the wall she’s put up. In fact he doesn’t even try, but he still can’t stay away from her. He shows up at the Emergency Center one day and is incensed to find Britta there. And he’s at his threatening, manhandling best when he tells her to stay away from Kayla. Britta is contemptuous and accurately accuses him of having a crush on “little Miss Perfect.” “I know that fantasy world you live in, Steve.” And this is true, but so sad, because the reason she knows about his romanticism is that she was on the receiving end of it. She just wasn’t worthy of it.
After Britta storms out, Kayla lays into him. She calls him out on his interference and tells him she doesn’t need “some thug” coming around and scaring her patients away. Ouch. By attempting to protect Kayla from Britta, Steve is trying to protect her from his darker side. When she throws it back in his face, she’s rejecting the better part of himself. “If you ever need a thug, baby, you know where to find me,” he says.
But Kayla isn’t immune to Steve, though she might like to be. Her subconscious catches up with her, and we get the first of Kayla’s dream sequences about Steve. And what’s interesting is that while Steve’s fantasy was straight out of a Harlequin novel, Kayla’s is much more realistic. Steve looks like Steve, patch, straggly hair, leather jacket. And instead of cooing at each other, they get down to business on the couch.
Kayla seems more mad than anything to have this dream. I get the sense she’s decided to wash her hands of him, and the fact that she’s still attracted to him is driving her a little nuts. He comes to see her later that day to give her his gun (heh). She’s just been attacked by a junkie at the Emergency Center, and he wants her to have it for protection. Kayla won’t take it, and she tells him to take his gun and his stupid sexy self and get out of her sight.
Immediately afterward Britta shows up. I’m not generally fond of watching two women fight over a man, but watching kickass Kayla smack down Britta is very satisfying. Britta blathers on about how Steve is dangerous and Kayla needs to watch herself around him, that she (Britta) knows how to handle herself with Steve because they have a special connection and a history …
Kayla cuts in. “History? Oh, you mean like, in the past?” And she thanks Britta for being concerned about her, but “I never had the least trouble handling Steve.” Go Kayla.
But Kayla isn’t making a claim for Steve here—or rather, maybe she is, but she doesn’t intend to. At this point I think she is equating Steve and Britta in her mind, as two dysfunctional people that she doesn’t want to deal with. This paves the way for Kayla to believe Steve guilty of Britta’s murder.