The campus rapist story is shaping up to be very engaging. Who woulda thought?
It all boils down to one thing: good execution. This is one story that actually has followed a standard story structure of setup/conflict/climax (the resolution is yet to come, of course). Setup: there’s a rapist on campus. He rapes Cordy, tries to rape Morgan, and rapes Stephanie. Conflict: they try to bring him to justice through the system, and fail. They try various other techniques to fight back. Climax: one of their schemes result in his death.
Okay, that shouldn’t be hard. But Days has demonstrated over the past several years that it is hard, for them.
And the strong execution of this story doesn’t stop with having a good structure (so far). We have the nice attention-to-detail of having Billie’s extra surveillance cameras, installed to stop the rapist, instead tripping up the rapist-killers by complicating how to get rid of the body. The fear that Ford isn’t really dead was creepy and well-handled (and, given that this is Salem, extremely well-founded)—especially when we weren’t sure if Chelsea was having a nightmare about him, or if he really was upstairs raping her while Stephanie and Max dithered about going to look at the body. Having that arc of suspense, even for just a few scenes, reminded us how dangerous Ford is and added a frisson of tension to Stephanie and Max’s scenes.
It’s been a long time since Days has kept a secret from the audience for any length of time. Stephanie’s rape has been revealed to us in stages, and much as I dislike rape stories in general, I appreciate how they’re handling this one. Because she was drugged, she wasn’t sure what happened that night, so it was appropriate that we didn’t know either. In fact, we’re still not sure. She told Kayla she was making out with a guy that night—was she, before she was raped? Was it Ford? Another guy? We don’t know yet. But her secret has added another layer to her motivations through this whole thing, illuminating both her reluctance to go after Ford and her utter lack of regret over his death.
The motivation to hide the body was particularly well done. People on soaps are always making bad decisions. It’s amazing what a difference it makes if the characters actually consider and reject the “sane” option, and if the show takes the time to make their bad decision palatable. If they hadn’t papered the campus with flyers, if they hadn’t tried to go the legitimate route, their decision to hide the body would feel stupid and unrealistic. Now, it’s still misguided, but understandable.
But most importantly, they have used this basic story to spin off other tiny stories and to transform relationships. This is something crucial to soap writing, with their ensemble casts and focus on relationships. Stephanie and Chelsea’s conflict on how to combat Ford was a perfect example of conflict between good guys, where you could see both points of view. Chelsea and Nick’s little adventure spying on Ford gave them some nice couple moments. Chelsea’s desire to take the law into her own hands was both admirable and a little misguided. Bo and Steve’s smackdown of Ford was fun.
By far my favorite of the mini-storylines accompanying this big story was Stephanie’s pregnancy scare. It went nowhere in the plot, because Stephanie wasn’t really pregnant (THANK GOD), but it highlighted the closeness of mother and daughter, and the distance that still exists between father and daughter. It allowed Steve and Kayla to have an interesting conversation about having a baby of their own (NO NO NO).
There have also been some couple moments, for the potential new couple Stephanie and Max. I’m still iffy on them. I actually think Max and Morgan would be a perfect rich girl/poor boy “B” couple. But regardless, I did enjoy the scenes at the Cheating Heart this week where Stephanie and Max closed the bar together and shared a dance. The initial shying away from Max’s touch was a nice touch (much better than Sami early this year!). And now they have a shared secret. Nothing like burying a body together to bring a couple closer.
I did have to laugh, because I’m not sure what it means, at Caroline’s conversation with Max before Steph called for his help. She said he should be careful not to get involved with women who need rescuing, that he shouldn’t be like his brothers. I’m not sure if it applies to Hope that well, but this is a wonderful indirect slam of Marlena, whose kidnapping count must be in the double digits. At any rate, the juxtaposition of this conversation right before Steph’s call cannot be a coincidence, though it might have been the writers just having a little fun.
Anyway, I am optimistic about this story. I want Nick to get involved somehow, preferably as the voice of reason. I want some good internal angst for Chick. I want Chelsea’s past attempts at cover-up (Zack’s death, the hairbrush) to be acknowledged. I want Stephanie’s secret to come out in an interesting way. I want to see protective!Steve. I want to see Steve and Stephanie’s relationship explored. I want there to be twists and turns and real consequences for all involved. I’m sure I won’t get all I want, but I’m hopeful.
Of course, once the scabs come in, it will probably ruin our best chance for a decent payoff so far! We just can’t win!