Picture this: you’ve got a popular new villain, played by a handsome, charismatic, capable actor. He’s got potential as a leading man, but there’s a problem. He’s not just a villain, he’s a rapist. And the woman he raped was one of the most popular leading ladies on the show.
What to do? Well, if you’re a writer on 2000’s Days, you lurch the character from outright villainy to Father of the Year with nary a stop in between, and hope the viewers just forget about that whole “psychotic rapist” thing.
On the other hand, if you’re smart, you might do something like this:
Here’s the setup: Diana has recently gotten the goods on Jack by interviewing a former associate of his. Jack retaliates by blackmailing the man to keep him quiet, but the man stabs him instead. The wounded Jack makes his way to riverfront Emergency Center.
Jack tries to tell Kayla that the stabbing was just a random robbery, and I love how Kayla immediately clues in that that isn’t true: “knowing you, you probably deserved it.” I love the physical awkwardness that Matt Ashford and Mary Beth Evans display in this scene. Kayla has a hard time making herself touch him, and Jack is keenly aware of that fact.
That awkwardness leads perfectly into Jack’s attempt to thank Kayla, and his flash of anger when she is having none of it. She correctly points out that what he wants is to whitewash the past. But Jack has the perfect line, when she says she doesn’t understand him: “Kayla, you never even tried.” It encapsulates how Jack feels about Kayla and their marriage—and it’s also perfectly true. It doesn’t necessarily create sympathy for Jack, but seeing his point of view is the first step in that direction.
We get another peek at Jack’s perspective when he says that it would have been better for both of them if she could have loved him. Everything went wrong for him because she didn’t love him back. This is true, as far as it goes (Kayla could just as easily say, “It would have been better for both of us if you hadn’t loved me.”), but he’s only thinking of himself. That’s why I love Kayla’s response, “Not for me.” There is also the implication that Kayla wouldn’t trade anything if it meant she wouldn’t have Steve. If she had loved Jack, she wouldn’t have been raped or gone through all of the crap Jack put her through, but she wouldn’t love Steve and that’s just not worth it to her. Sigh.
And then, after venturing into Jack’s point of view and sowing the seeds of sympathy for the audience, the show snaps us back to reality with Kayla’s line that people get rejected every day but they don’t do what he did. It puts it all back in perspective. This scene is so important for us to see how Jack feels about Kayla and their marriage, and for us to see him have some regret. But, it’s equally important in showing that Kayla is still angry and has a right to be angry. When Jack is reaching out saying he doesn’t know how to be better, she says flatly, “It’s your problem, Jack.” For Kayla to say that, who can see good in everyone, is a mark of how hurt she is and how much Jack has to make up for. I love that the show comes down on her side in the end, even with all the gray that is introduced in this scene.
As a bonus, the coda at the end with Steve sows a seed for Steve and Jack’s eventual reconciliation. When Kayla tells him Jack was just there, he is angry and dismissive, but all that changes when he hears that Jack was stabbed. All those feelings he’s tried to suppress come rushing back. Kayla sees it too, and she clearly has mixed feelings about it. She means it when she tells him it’s okay he cares about his brother, but that doesn’t mean she’s happy about it. There’s a conflict there between what Kayla wants to feel—that it is okay for Steve to care about Jack—and how she really feels. Mary Beth Evans plays it perfectly.