The Guy in the Suit

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Emilio returns

It was Sheri Anderson who popularized the Days hero who was a little rough around the edges. She was probably inspired by the success of the blue collar Roman Brady (not to mention anti-hero Luke Spencer over on GH), after decades of professional men like Don Craig, Bill Horton, and Neil Curtis. She introduced Bo Brady, Pete Jannings, and Steve Johnson during her tenure on the show.

Sometimes, as a foil for our anti-hero and to give him some competition, the show would introduce a more conventionally handsome man—a guy in a suit. He was rich, classy, sophisticated, and usually ready to propose. I think Larry Welch, for Bo and Hope, represents the ultimate example of this type. And Jack, when he was first introduced as Steve’s rival for Kayla, was also of this type. The guy in the suit represented security and a conventional marriage. Our anti-hero represented difficulty and danger, but also excitement and true love. (The subtext also wasn’t hard to figure out: good sex vs. boring sex.)

The competition between Emilio and Jack appears, on the surface, to be the same kind of situation. We’ve got the rough around the edges guy who is always strutting around without a shirt, a former gang member with a sweet side. He is clearly cut from the same cloth as Bo, Steve, and especially Pete Jannings. And, as his rival, we have the rich, older, professional man who usually wears a suit.

The show was very aware of this contrast, and in this series of scenes decided to have some fun with it. Here’s the setup: Jack and Jen have bonded a little over Jack winning a newspaper award. She is touched to see that the award means something to him, especially after he talks about how the award belongs to everyone at the paper. So she decides to invite Jack over for dinner with her grandparents:

Jen invites Jack to dinner 1

I love the supercouple step forward/step back dance of all this. When Jen shows up to ask Jack out to dinner, Jack starts talking about his award. When he cynically dismisses it as meaningless, she smiles at first because she knows that’s not how he really feels. But then when he persists, she gets mad, makes a snide remark about his suit, and says she’s just wasting her time with him. Jack’s slightly wistful expression, even as he agrees with her, perfectly shows how he really feels underneath his cynical bluster. That leads nicely into the scenes that follow, as Jen helps Emilio pick out a suit for the dinner (she asked him instead of Jack), and Jack picks out his new look:

Jen invites Jack to dinner 2

The music, and the back and forth cutting between the two men and their new outfits, make this a lot of fun. I love the soapiness of Emilio’s insecurity making him emulate Jack at the same time Jack’s insecurity is making him emulate Emilio. Emilio and Jen are really cute looking at the clothes, and they have a tender moment when Jen is fixing Emilio’s hair (good luck with that, Jen!). I think they do a nice job not making the rooting couple too obvious.

Jack’s leather jacket, complete with chains, is beyond silly, but his self-deprecation makes these scenes work. I particularly like how he’s flexing his pecs in the mirror, because it’s an implicit reference to Emilio’s amazing pecs.

Then, when Jack comes by decked out in his new outfit, with a big bunch of flowers, he sees Jen and Emilio all dressed up for dinner with her grandparents. Jack is the odd man out once again. He covers, badly, by saying he’s on his way to a costume party. Of course, his costume is “a florist who’s into leather.” Hee.

Jen’s amusement, and her look as she watches him go, show how much Jen is softening towards Jack.

The closing scene is a perfect capper to all this. Jack gives the flowers to a homeless woman, and when she tells him he’s nice, Jack mutters “nice guys finish last.” This signals that Jack is pulling back from any direct competition with Emilio.

But more that that, there is a wonderful subtext to this. Jack’s comment ties right back to something he said when he was at his worst, after the rape. He told Steve that nice guys are losers and he was never going to lose again. This connects Jack’s current behavior back to when he was “the guy in the suit” for Kayla and Steve. One thing I’ve always regretted about the Kayla’s rape (as good drama as it was) is that it prevented the show from fully exploring Steve and Kayla’s guilt over what they did to Jack. But here, we can see that damage play out in a different way. Jack’s insecurity and bumbling with Jennifer—behavior he never exhibited with Kayla—is partly a result of his humiliation at Kayla’s (and Steve’s) hands. We can see how being in competition with Emilio would make Jack feel like history was repeating himself, and he was going to lose to the tough, lower class guy all over again.

But, this time, things will be different. I think it’s a testament to Matthew Ashford that this time, when the tough guy went up against the guy in the suit—the guy in the suit won.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: UST


11 thoughts on “The Guy in the Suit

  1. OMGoodness, I haven’t seen those scenes in years! What kind of shirt was Emilio wearing in the beginning of the second video! lol

    The music was so much fun and Jack’s “transformation” into the “bad” looking dude really showed how far he was willling to go for Jennifer.

    I loved the bit with the homeless woman at the end. He has to resort to a very demanding voice to get her to accept his gift. It just seems to reinforce to Jack that no matter how hard he tries to be nice or giving that he’s always going to be viewed with suspicion.

    Thanks MP

  2. Since I had just watched these scenes recently, I didn’t watch the clips you posted and I was deeply disappointed when you didn’t mention the muscle shirt. But apparently it was there. Or was Emilio wearing some other weird shirt? (He has so many.)

    I think this story is an interesting variation on the bad boy vs. the guy in the suit. In this version, while everyone may have some reservations about the bad boy, it’s the guy in the suit everyone is warning the good girl to avoid. (And with good reason!) I think it is a testament to Matthew Ashford that this story is so different because, by tradition, the guy in the suit is a stiff. Jack is sarcastic, devious and pathetic by turns, but he is not a stiff. When he got into that black leather outfit and headed for the loft, my daughter and I literally groaned in pain for him.

    You raise a great point about Jack feeling history was repeating itself for him. He did see himself as saving Kayla from her mistaken passion for Steve and giving her the happiness she deserved and then she rejected him for her misfit lover. It must have really rankled to see Jennifer making the same choice. I couldn’t see the parallel because I could never equate Emilio to Steve. I’m actually annoyed when someone else does. (Yesterday on Days, Kayla compared Philip to Steve and I was outraged, so clearly this is a blind spot for me.) And I think it helps that the writers may not have really been sure what the end game was at this point.

  3. Kathleen, I believe that is known as a “muscle shirt.” Yes, it is rather frightening, isn’t it? But I think Emilio looks cute in his new suit!

    I like how the homeless woman rejects Jack at first, too. Poor boy can’t win.

    Flaco, I get a little annoyed sometimes at the way the show likes to draw parallels between the older characters and the younger ones, because it’s often a transparent attempt to prop up the younger generation. I remember when Doug, Julie, Bo, and Hope spent the entire 4th of July episode drawing comparisons between Chelsea and Daniel and Bo and Hope. Argh.

    Emilio is more like Pete Jannings than anyone else, but, speaking broadly, Bo, Steve, Pete, Emilio, and Frankie are all the same general archetype. Jack is like Steve as well, of course, in the sense of someone with a lot of walls and a lot of self-loathing, which adds to the irony of all this.

  4. In some ways, the Emilio/Jack rivalry is kind of like Steve vs. Steve. Emilio has the rough and tough guy from the streets but with the heart of gold part, while Jack has the tortured/wounded soul locked inside a lot of walls part.

    Obviously, they aren’t exact replicas nor do I think the show overplays the parallels, but watching this storyline, it’s interesting to see things that remind me of Steve in both Emilio and Jack.

  5. That is a very good point, esp. I think Jack gets more and more like a Johnson as his character evolves.

    And yes, MP, Emilio is like Pete Jannings which may explain why I never liked him.

  6. Steve vs. Steve, what a choice! 🙂

    The walls and the feelings of inferiority really mark Jack as a Johnson, as well as his later tendency to play God. Also the snarkiness, though Jack has this trait much more than Steve does, and uses that verbal dexterity as a defense mechanism to a much greater degree. Jack’s reaction to a sticky situation is to try to talk his way out of it, and Steve is much likely to resort to physical violence (and grab someone by the lapels, of course :p).

  7. My feelings about Emilio just took a turn for the worse. He showed up wearing a hat adorned with the dumbest sunglasses ever, his hair straggling halfway down his back, acting very annoying. Yikes!

    On the other hand, Jack was very cute in Atlantic City. and can I just say how cute Jennifer looks all the time?

  8. Poor Emilio, he just can’t catch a break from you, can he? Hee!

    Are you talking about the scene where he says Jack’s history with women is on file at the police station? Seriously, I loved Emilio in that scene! Yes, he was getting into Jen’s business a bit, but the situation did seem sketchy, and I think what he said had to be said. And he gave his advice but then let her make the decision (about going to Atlantic City) herself.

    Jack and Jennifer are really cute in the Atlantic City scenes. I love the irony of it all, that Jack took her there to show her the “real him” but when he does it’s unintentionally because he’s drunk. And when it really does make her soften towards him (which is what he wanted), he gets freaked out and runs away.

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