I posted awhile back that in their current storyline, I was enjoying John and Marlena more than I ever had since I came back to Days, and that is still true. In fact, I will venture even further out onto the limb and say that it is one of the better storylines on the whole show right now.
This is partly because it is a better version of the NickNotSteve storyline from two years ago. And now, with the introduction of Ava into the equation, it resembles that storyline more than ever. Two years ago, when Billie and Nick were making time together, we Steve and Kayla fans were forced to fanwank that that Nick was jealous of “Steve” and Kayla’s feelings for him, and that any feelings Kayla had for him (Nick) were in direct proportion to how much she reminded him of Steve. Consequently, Nick felt more comfortable with Billie, the only person in Salem who didn’t know him before.
I still maintain it could have been a great storyline. Nick would be drawn to Kayla but afraid of measuring up to her memories, Kayla would attempt to put her feelings for Steve aside and get to know Nick, possibly with limited success. Steve would run to Billie, who would be the default, safe choice. Steve and Kayla would be thrown together because of a mystery associated with Steve’s missing years, perhaps. Lots of eyesnogging and sexual tension would ensue.
The John/Marlena/Ava storyline isn’t exactly what I envisioned for Steve/Kayla/Billie, but it’s a lot closer than what we got. The Thursday and Friday scenes were a perfect example. When Marlena showed up with that silly disk, delighted it might contain the secret to unlocking “her” John, John’s reaction was nearly perfect. He was clearly hurt and disappointed that Marlena is only interested in him because the old John is somewhere locked inside. The more she waved that disk around, the more hurt and disappointed, and consequently the more angry, he became.
I think John genuinely likes Ava, but I also think he is using her to get back at Marlena. This was very clear on Friday, with his insistence that Ava stick around and offer her insights into the situation. We were reminded of exactly what he gets from her after Marlena left (which would have been so nice to hear when Steve was with Billie), when Ava said that she doesn’t want the old John back.
But, maybe because I am comparing so much to the NickNotSteve storyline, I can see that Days is making the same mistake with Marlena that it made with Kayla. The whole triangle is presented almost exclusively from John’s point of view. We’re seeing a lot more of Marlena than we ever saw of Kayla then, but she is still basically stuck in reactive mode, as Wife. There have been moments where Marlena seems prepared to let go of the old John and try to accept the new one, but she never follows through. Which could be great, actually—but we have to be shown that Marlena tries and fails to get past seeing the old John. Instead, she just seems to constantly change her mind. And lately, she isn’t even doing that, she just repeatedly points out how great the old John was, so John can be shown reacting to it.
Similarly, there are moments where she seems prepared to renounce him and move on with her life, but that never lasts long either. This storyline is crying out for a big explosion where Marlena calls John out for keeping her dangling on a string—whether intentional or not—and says that she isn’t going to do it anymore. And then of course she has to really move on, and John has to be shown to really miss her. As it is now, no matter how he treats her, no matter what she says she’s going to do, Marlena just keeps hanging around, waiting hopefully in the wings.
All this definitely serves, as I noted last time, to scrub some of the glitter off of Marlena, which is a good thing. But it also weakens the storyline, because it makes it more one-sided than it should be.