Days used to do mini-story arcs, a complete story that lasted an episode or two, rather like they do in weekly nighttime dramas. In this particular arc, Jo wants to invite Jack to dinner, and enlists Steve and Kayla’s help in getting him to come.
I have always had mixed feelings about how the show handled Jo’s feelings for Jack. From the moment she finds out that he is her son, through everything that follows—his rape of Kayla, his treatment of Steve, his rejection of all things Johnson—Jo loves Jack, makes excuses for Jack, and attempts to reach out to Jack. For the most part, this is believable and realistic and a source of complex drama. I love the dynamic it creates when Steve breaks up with Kayla for the ailing Jack, when Jo ends up serving as the devil on Steve’s shoulder, encouraging his worst tendencies toward playing God and shoring up his flagging resolve in moments of weakness. Jo’s guilt over giving Jack up, and her own tendency to play God, make her the perfect partner in crime. No one else would serve that plot purpose so well.
I also love how her unquenchable love and loyalty to Jack allow her to be Steve’s foil when Jack and Steve become enemies. Her constant prodding of Steve to help Jack, for one reason or another, keeps Jack and Steve in one another’s orbits when they are both doing their best to avoid each other. She is often the catalyst for the wonderful scenes in this era that showcase Jack and Steve’s love/hate relationship. The scenes above are a perfect example, first because she sets up the dinner, and even more importantly, because of her hurt at Jack’s cancellation. It brings all of Steve’s protective instincts to the fore and sends him rushing over to Jack’s office at a time when Steve has been doing everything he can to cut Jack out of his life.
However, Jo’s continued loyalty to Jack in the face of how much pain he has caused Steve and Kayla, especially Kayla, sometimes comes across as unjust and callous. Jo never seems to truly comprehend the horror of what Jack did to Kayla, as here, when she says she knows “he has done some horrible things” and then quickly moves on, as if to add, “but I don’t care.” There are countless examples of this, and what hurts the most is Jo still professes to care for Kayla without feeling any apparent contradiction. Kayla, too, never seems to hold it against her.
With Steve, Jo is always playing the guilt card about Jack, laying it on thick about turning his back on his brother, while barely acknowledging the many good reasons Steve has to turn his back. Jo’s protectiveness of her son Jack never seems to extend to her son Steve—which is particularly maddening because Steve, out of her three children, is the one she hurt the most. I admit it’s fun fanwanking the possible reasons for this. One possibility is that Jack (before he turned to the dark side) was the most “whole” of all her children, the only one she didn’t have to feel guilty about, and she was eager to maintain that at all costs. Another is that Jack is a bit like the prodigal son, back after a long absence and therefore more special (though really, that should apply to Steve as well.) My personal favorite fanwank is that she sees Steve as an honorary husband/partner, a fellow co-parent to Adrienne and (especially) Jack—which means their needs come first. And since she knows Steve feels the same protectiveness and longing about Jack, that she herself does—even if those feelings are buried—she can’t help trying to call those emotions forward.
All of these are possibilities. But the truth is that the show never really fully explains why Jo treats her sons so differently, which is too bad, because it could have made great drama even better. The few moments when Steve feels a twinge of sibling rivalry or resentment toward Jack are usually poignant and wonderful. (Hm … I think I better find one and post it to YouTube.)