Watching the baby Hannah story again, I am amazed at how fast things are moving forward for Jack and Jennifer. I think I was unconsciously expecting it to be more like the buildup for Steve and Kayla, which seems to take forever—even watching in lightning fast clip-edit mode. Before the Frankie and Max storyline—which this story resembles in many ways—there were several mini-arcs, including Steve stalking Kayla, the opening of the Emergency Center, the patch removal scenes, and Andrew’s kidnapping.
This is in no way meant as a disparagement of Jack and Jennifer, or the story, which is rather wonderful so far. We’ve watched Jack slowly get sucked into Jennifer’s crusade to help Sally, Hannah’s mother, all the while trying to maintain his cynical attitude and professional distance. Finally, he has taken the plunge and become an active partner. He decides that he and Jennifer should pretend to be married in order to become foster parents to baby Hannah. He has rented the loft to be “their” apartment. (Yeah, it doesn’t make sense that Jack would rent the loft where he lived with [and raped] Kayla, but you gotta use those sets, y’know?) Jen has reluctantly gone along with the scheme. The social worker loves them and everything seems over but the paperwork.
Just when Jack decides to leave cynicism behind and do something good to help someone else, his past actions prevent him from doing so. Soapy irony, my favorite. I also love that this seems to be a small step forward for Jack in how he views the rape. Having a complete stranger bring it up, rather than Steve or Kayla, makes Jack see the horror of it more objectively for a moment. It’s very powerful how he flashes back to the rape itself, as he stands at the scene of the crime, listening to Mrs. Simms say it makes him “totally ineligible” to be a foster parent. After that he’s obviously not done feeling sorry for himself, but it seems to be on more of an objective footing than we’ve ever seen before.
The only thing that, for me, is really missing from this plot point is a step back by Jennifer. This seems to me to be a natural place for a setback, and Jennifer getting freaked out by hearing about the rape would be a logical way to do it. They could have even used the oddness of being at the loft, and have Jennifer say, “You brought me to the place where you lived with Kayla?” and then quickly depart. Instead she reacts with sympathy and understanding—which Matt Ashford and Missy Reeves play very well, but it seems like a missed opportunity. (Or maybe I just love angst.) I do love the line at the end when Jennifer says the rape is hard to forget, once you know.
This next scene takes place later the same day:
I find Matthew Ashford very sexy when Jack is all morose and sardonic like this. And there are some good lines here. I like the banter about “too damn bad” how Jen mocks him by repeating the line back to him. I even believe that she would say she knows he is sorry for what he did to Kayla. And I love his response that he should just give himself a round of applause for that, because it reveals that he is sorry (something he hasn’t acknowledged until now) and also a sense of hopelessness that being sorry will make any kind of difference.
But then I cringe at Jen’s line that she knows what’s going on with him: that he’s afraid to show his good side because he’s afraid of being rejected and hurt. Thanks for that huge anvil, Days. It’s incredibly glib, and pat, and way too early for it. The only thing that saves it is the fact that Jen says she doesn’t have time for this and rushes off right afterwards.
This next scene, though, helps to minimize the “breakthrough” of the previous scene. It’s not the step back by Jen that I wanted, but it’s good:
In fact, it is Jack who wants to step back, to right where they were before. He carefully keeps the conversation about Sally and Hannah, as if to say, “Let’s just forget that whole thing ever happened.” When Jen says, “strictly business” she seems to be poking at Jack, like, “I know what you’re trying to do.” And Jack’s willingness to help Hannah after his humiliation earlier in the day shows he is willing to swallow his pride and accept a secondary role in the plan. (And at the subtextual level, it shows that he doesn’t want to lose Jen). And when Jen touches his hand she seems to be wanting to acknowledge that. But he pulls back. I like to think that all the talk about the rape that day gives Jack a certain skittishness around Jen, maybe even a certain protectiveness on her behalf.