Sheri Anderson, headwriter or co-headwriter for Days from 1982-86, enjoys a sterling reputation on message boards, bordering on deification. All would be right with Days, if only Sheri Anderson would come back. This always gives the contrary desire to say be careful what you wish for, but tonight I will join the congregation and worship at the altar of Anderson.
I am in awe of her ability to put together tight, intricate, interweaving, suspenseful plots that touch on interesting character issues. I have been reviewing my Steve and Kayla DVDs from June and July 1986, and I was struck by how well she put together the plot of Andrew’s kidnapping. Keep in mind this isn’t sweeps month, so this is just business as usual for Ms. Anderson:
Emma, Shane’s ex-wife, is determined to ruin his happiness with Kim and their new baby. She finds a doctor in Cleveland who deals in illegal adoptions. One wrinkle: the doctor’s nurse is Kayla, Kim’s sister. So Emma hires Victor’s former henchman, Steve, to scare Kayla out of Cleveland so Emma can drop off the baby.
In the meantime, Bo just found out Victor is his natural father. He decides to get close to Victor with the goal of bringing him down. He tells no one in his family, not even Hope, what his plan is. The family is in an uproar. Kim decides to call the one person who could always get through to Bo: his sister Kayla. Steve has succeeded in scaring her, and she jumps at the chance to leave Cleveland and come to Salem.
Shane and Kim eventually make contact with the Cleveland doctor as a source for illegal adoptions (they don’t know he is Kayla’s boss). The trade-off, money for baby, is fouled up when the doctor’s assistant sees Kayla talking to Kim, and recognizes her.
Kayla meanwhile, not knowing that Steve is the one who stalked her in Cleveland, is a little scared and a little curious about this tough guy, especially after he saves Bo’s life at the plant where they both work for Victor. Victor is paying Steve to keep an eye on this sister who is supposedly so close to Bo. When Steve has a change of heart and tells Victor he won’t follow Kayla anymore, Victor orders him beaten up.
Upset that she fouled up the baby transfer (she doesn’t know how thoroughly), Kayla is out walking on the pier when she finds Steve badly hurt. She takes him back to his place and stays with him. Steve, half-delirious, hears her talking about the kidnapping and puts the pieces together about what Emma was up to. Kayla’s kindness inspires him to want to help, and the next day he leaves her an anonymous note that her former boss has Andrew.
Kayla knows who sent her the note and is furious that Steve might have been involved in the kidnapping. She tells Shane and Kim about the note, and they go to Cleveland to follow the lead. After a few days they haven’t returned, and Kayla, worried, goes to Steve. He says he can’t help, so she goes to Bo and Hope. Bo, Hope, and Kayla go to Cleveland to search for Shane and Kim.
Steve calls Emma and threatens her with exposure until she tells him where the doctor might be. He goes there and finds Shane and Kim locked up inside the house, and the doctor just leaving. Steve is about to follow when Bo, Hope, and Kayla arrive and assume Steve is the criminal. In the ensuing melee they all lose their chance to follow the doctor, and Steve is arrested (Steve is dragged off by the cops screaming, “Kayla! Tell them I didn’t do it!” as the camera zooms in on Kayla’s troubled face. Yowza!). There isn’t enough evidence to charge him, however, and he is freed.
In terms of plot points, nothing much happens: Andrew is kidnapped. Nowadays this would be accomplished by having Emma waltz in, take the baby, and leave. But there’s a wonderful swirl of motivations at work here: Steve blames Bo for his girlfriend Britta leaving town, and that makes him jump at the chance to torment another Brady. Victor’s distrust of his newfound son makes him hire Steve to follow Bo’s favorite sister around. Bo and Hope set aside their conflict over Victor in order to help Kim and Shane when they are in trouble. Kayla’s kindness to Steve makes him want to help, but his past behavior to the Bradys means that no one believes him when he is found at the scene.
This story seamlessly introduces Kayla, newly recast after two years off the canvas. During the stalking scenes we don’t know who she is, but the pieces are there for those who want to figure it out. We have two very popular established couples who are the main focus of the storyline, with a very new potential couple playing a supporting role. In fact, while Shane and Kim are the focus, this story is most transformative for Steve and Kayla. She sees some good in him, so he tries to help. It blows up in his face, and he ends up looking worse than ever. And yet, for Kayla there’s a little core of belief in him that is planted. Step forward, step back.
Anderson also uses this story to wrap up one that’s been percolating for awhile, when Hope uses Victor’s desire to please Bo in order to make him lay off Pete Jannings who he has been forcing to launder money. There are several other stories going on at the same time, also intersecting. There’s the love triangle of Melissa, Pete, and Lars, the teen story with Jen and Glenn, an interfaith love story with Mike and Robin, Savannah scheming to steal Neil Curtis away from Liz, and Marlena in a coma. At the same time, Anderson is laying seeds for the big fall story, as Roman searches for answers about a poster from Stockholm which is connected to a mystery from his past …
Pondering all this made me realize how important it should be for soap headwriters not to drop plots and characters at the drop of a hat. They shouldn’t be afraid to change direction, but do it gradually so there is time to stitch up any plot holes created by the changes. I’m just speculating here, but I think the Steve/Britta relationship is a good example. Steve was a character who had been on the canvas for a year and they felt he was ready for his own love story. Anderson brought on his former girlfriend Britta but then thought Steve could be the star of his own supercouple story. Rather than shuttling Britta off and never mentioning her again, the show used Steve’s pain at her departure to provide his motivation for stalking Kayla, used her return to disrupt Steve and Kayla, used her death to disrupt them even more, but then used the aftermath of her death to bring them closer.
Since I’m always frustrated these days at how no one has jobs, I was very struck by all the job discussion in these scenes! Bo goes to work for Victor at Allied, leaving Hope to run the detective agency by herself. Kayla is offered a job running the new Emergency Center (in a rough part of town) and takes it partly because Steve taunts her that it’s too dangerous for her. The men at Allied resent Bo, the boss’s son, so they arrange the forklift accident that goes too far. This leads to Steve saving Bo’s life and taking him to the Emergency Center, where they are both treated by Kayla. Shane, being an ISA agent, wants to get Andrew back AND nail the kidnappers, which Kim is afraid will jeopardize their chances of a smooth transfer.
Oh, and one more thing. For all those fans of “the vets” who keep clamoring for Sheri’s return, I can’t resist adding this little tidbit: all the characters involved in the Andrew kidnapping are under age 35 except for Victor, and they were all introduced within the last three years.