When all else fails, bring back the dead spouse.
I’m watching the climax to the Cal Winters story now, where Diana’s wedding plans with Roman are jeopardized when her dead husband from six years ago shows up in town. This story is, frankly, awful, having just about every bad element you ever see with these types of stories. (It also shows a remarkable lack of originality, considering that Roman and Diana have been together less than a year. Is this the best they could come up with, really?)
1) The spouse has never been mentioned before. In Diana’s case, since she’s a relatively new character, this isn’t quite as bad as it could be (see Johnson, Steve, with Marina). But, when Diana was introduced, all we heard about was her Great Love James, who had recently died. It would have made more sense to bring him back from the dead.
But, since they weren’t married, the obstacle would have been merely emotionally complex, instead of the apparently far more interesting “Help! I can’t get married because I’m already married!”
2) Upon discovering Cal is still alive, Diana doesn’t tell Roman about it. Instead, she is evasive and secretive and puts off setting the wedding date. Whenever she resolves to tell Roman the truth, she is either interrupted, or Roman says something like, “I’m so glad there is nothing standing in our way, Diana,” or he reads her a poem Carrie wrote about how much she’s looking forward to being part of a real family again (no joke!).
All this means that when the truth finally comes out, and Roman asks her again and again, “Why didn’t you tell me?”, Diana has no answer. And that’s because the answer is, “To create fake suspense.”
3) Despite the fact that they only knew each other for a few weeks before impulsively eloping, whereupon Cal immediately crashed in a fighter plane and was presumed dead, Cal is psychotically sure that he and Diana are true love forever.
This is always the case. These back from the dead spouses never say, “Damn, I still love you but I see you’ve moved on. Well, best of luck.” They are always impervious to logic. When, finally, they grudgingly face the fact that the new love interest isn’t going anywhere, they turn bitter and vengeful and start wreaking havoc. Many classic Salem villainesses got their start this way, including Anna Brady and Emma Donovan.
This storyline is so common that almost every long term Salem couple has been through its wringer at one time or another. Marlena, Kim, and Kayla could have a cozy coffee klatsch where Kim and Marlena reminisced about having their wedding crashed by Emma and Anna, respectively. And Kayla and Kim could compare notes about what it was like to be unjustly accused of the returned one’s murder. (Considering their long years on the show, it’s amazing that Bo and Hope haven’t been given this story. Unless you count Hope coming back from the dead to disrupt Billie and Bo.)
By the way Out of the Past is a fabulous film noir starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer. Check it out!