The Retcon

Where would soaps be without the retcon?

This is the act of changing, or reinterpreting, previously-established details in a work of fiction. This differs from continuity errors in that a retcon is generally considered to be deliberate. Any work of fiction with multiple writers coupled with long running characters—comic books, movie franchises, soap operas—is ripe for retcons and continuity problems. Nowadays, Days has to have one of the worst track records regarding retcons, due to a succession of writers who, frankly, just didn’t care. They were happy, nay, eager, to bring multiple characters back from the dead, or change the parentage of babies (or adults, why not?), multiple times. Backstories, of course, are ripe for being rewritten again and again. The character of John Black is one retcon, wrapped in another retcon, inside a bigger retcon. It’s impossible to be a Days viewer these days and not accept retcons—all I ask now is that they at least do something interesting with it—but back in the 80’s I was more of a purist.

What makes a retcon a retcon as opposed to just “filling in backstory” is how much it contradicts what we’ve seen so far. But the line gets blurry very quickly. My general feeling is that retcons that violate lines of dialogue are acceptable, but if they violate whole plotlines or things we saw transpire on screen, they are not. Technically, Steve’s past with Duke and Jo Johnson is a retcon, because at one point, when he’s teasing Bo about being a Kiriakis, he says, “My mother wasn’t married to my father either.” This was obviously before Steve’s backstory was fully fleshed out, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the story of Jo and Duke and Steve’s childhood should have been scrapped in order to preserve the integrity of that one line of dialogue.

On the other hand, the appearance of Drew, Shane’s twin brother, technically was NOT a retcon, because we knew nothing about Shane’s family. But, it stretched our credulity to the max to think that Shane would never mention the fact that he once had a twin. In a similar vein, we have the introduction of Marina, Steve’s back from the dead wife. Marina’s existence doesn’t explicitly violate any previously known version of Steve’s past. They sandwich her into his Merchant Marine days, right before his known history with Bo and Britta. In the standards of today’s Days, this is a very mild retcon, but when this storyline first aired back in 1989, I was utterly unable to get past it. (This might also have had to do with Steve’s interminable secret keeping, but I’ll address that in another post.) Around Steve and Kayla’s wedding Steve has mulitiple lines of dialogue that indicate that he’s never been married before and this is all new to him. Even without that, it seemed strange to think Steve would never happen to mention that he had been married once before.

The other source of my issue is that it jarred my conception of early Steve. As the Marina story unfolds, the show teases us with fauxbacks (TM esp13) of Steve and Marina together that play up the idea that they had a Great Love. It just seemed wrong to me that right before he fell in love with Britta and loved her for seven years, even when he thought she was dead, he also had another Great Love who betrayed him and died. What a coincidence!

I think they could have sold this to me, though, if they had addressed this issue, and given us a reason for the marriage that related to what we already knew about Steve. Maybe Steve was very young, and lonely, after getting out of the orphanage, and latched onto his first crush and built it up into some kind of “great love.” He was leaping at his first chance to have a family. Or she loved him, or was dependent on him in some way, and that made him feel protective of her. Just to give it a little more grounding in the past that we already know about Steve. And they needed to address the silliness of the similarity between the Marina story and the Britta story by having Steve say something like, “And after that, when I met Britta, I thought I was being given a second chance …” and leave it at that.

On a brighter note, Steve is looking a little bit more like his old self after losing the horrible light blonde hair, with roots. I’m still trying to decide if they needed to give him the patch back, or if I would have gotten used to it, in time.

stevenopatch
Please don’t hate me. The retcon made me do it.

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25 thoughts on “The Retcon

  1. It always bothered me that Steve was married before and never told Kayla because it seemed a violation of their trust — which was the point of the plot line, I suppose, for Kayla to feel betrayed by his secret. But I also just didn’t want him to have that kind of relationship. I was fine with him being involved with other women in his past — that was part of his persona. And even his love for Britta was okay, because her lies and deceptions made her the anti-Kayla. But his relationship with Kayla should have been unique in his life. She should be the only woman he married. And why did he have to be married to her? They could have been past lovers. Being Steve, he still would feel responsible and have to help her and Kayla could still have felt betrayed and hurt. There wasn’t any need for the retcon.

  2. I kind of feel the same way, Flaco. And, in the past, I’ve felt that way even more strongly. But, watching the set-up for this storyline again, it’s kind of a chicken/egg thing. Without the marriage to Marina and what that means to he and Kayla’s marriage, then Steve doesn’t have quite as much motivation to keep his relationship with Marina a secret, even in the beginning before he knows she’s alive.

    And, once he does know she’s alive and then Kayla finds out about her, without the retcon the only way they create enough reason for Kayla to actually leave Steve is to either have Steve have an affair or find out about his marriage to Marina and just how much his secret effects their lives. After all, Kayla was back home even after finding out he had lied about who Marina was.

    So, all in all, I’d much prefer that they used the reveal of the marriage to Marina (retcon and all) as the final blow for Kayla that pushes her out the door, then having Steve actually have an affair. Now, maybe it wasn’t necessary to have the separation, but since that is my favorite part of the storyline, I wouldn’t want that changed.

    I don’t like the retcon, but I can buy that it doesn’t change the specialness of his relationship with Kayla because that wasn’t just about the wedding anyway. It was about Kayla being the one woman that loved him without ulterior motives and betrayals. That’s what made her different from Marina (and Britta) and that was what he loved about her from the beginning anyway.

  3. I could just never get over how contrived this lost wife idea was, given the importance placed on Britta during the early storyline. After Britta’s murder, Steve said more than once that she was the only person who had ever loved him. The only way the Marina thing would have worked for me was as a drunken shore leave marriage, not some great love story. Now, the discovery of a lost wife after he returned from his missing years would have made perfect sense!

    Speaking of marriages, just this week I have been rewatching Steve and Kayla’s original wedding. I recall at the time being a bit annoyed by the hokeyness of having her regain her voice during the ceremony, but I must say that overall the event holds up very well. I can see why SOD chose it as “Best Wedding of 1988.” The whole celebration was joyous and a perfect culmination of all they had been through to get together, with no last-second threats to interrupt the ceremony (Jack’s moping aside) or anything like that. Days did weddings better than any soap in the ’80s and S&K’s was the best. Too bad the whole Marina thing made it invalid.

    And just to state for the record, it still chaps me that Days didn’t take the opportunity to have S&K renew their vows after his return in 2006. They let Bo and Hope renew their vows, for Pete’s sake, when there was really no reason for it at the time!

  4. My problem with Kayla just thinking he was having an affair when he wasn’t is that then it’s her not trusting him without a valid reason. Then it’s more her fault for not believing him and that, in my opinion, doesn’t work nearly as well.

    Plus, Kayla truly believing that he was unfaithful somehow does more damage (for me) to the uniqueness of their love than some retconned prior marriage. I can’t really articulate it, I guess, but that’s how I feel.

    It’s not that I don’t understand people hating the retcon because I don’t like it myself. I just love so much about the storyline that, in my opinion, would not have worked without the retcon that I’ve come to accept it, I guess.

  5. I don’t have the psychic scars of sitting through this live, which makes a big difference, I think. *g* I never think of this retcon when I’m watching the early stuff with Britta or the wedding. It’s just… separate somehow.

    Steve has definitely hit the lifetime limit for great-loves-that-aren’t-the-greatest, though. I would love to have found out that Kayla had a secret great love while she was living in Cleveland, or something.

  6. I agree with that lifetime limit. Before Kayla, it seemed Steve was quite the player. In that respect, his admission that “there were a lot of women” during his missing years seemed in character with bad-boy Steve, including his admission that he liked to “keep everything loose and in the moment.” So basically, Steve without Kayla turns into a man-whore desperately seeking love, or at least sex, wherever he can get it. So I could buy into a quicky marriage. Even the engagement to Ava seemed more like a “okay, she’s cool, her dad’s wealthy, why not?” kind of thing. With Della, with whom “Nick Stockton” lived for quite awhile, Nick didn’t seem in love or particularly committed. It was just easy and comfortable.

    However, Steve with Kayla is a different story, hence the disappointment that she would believe he was cheating. One telling thing during their build-up story was how Steve scaled back his womanizing ways after meeting Kayla (especially after Britta died). The turning point seemed to be after that first failed date, when he was kissing the prostitute, then backed out before sealing the deal. You definitely got the feeling that pre-Kayla Steve would have paid for full service. After that, he never had eyes for another woman. When Gabrielle was first brought on the scene (in the middle of the “Kayla Marries Jack” storyline), it seemed TPTB were chem testing her as a potential interest for Steve. Yet he totally blew her off (which, in hindsight, I find funny, given all the trouble she later caused for Kim and Shane; take that, Gabby!). It was clear that he was and always would be totally devoted to Kayla, even if they weren’t together.

  7. Back then I wasn’t feeling that great about the show in general, so I was less inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.

    My feeling now is what I said above, that if they’re going to foist a retcon on me, they need to do something interesting with it. And by those standards I think it works. I am enjoying the Marina story so far—this time around. After watching the badly done angst of the Ava story, this is great.

    But I don’t see a strong reason to go back and change my reading of the early stuff. I accept it, but as a retcon. Even though I think you can make it sortof work with the timeline and everything, it doesn’t ADD anything to the early story.

  8. I haven’t started watching the Marina DVDs yet because I’m watching them with my daughter and she hasn’t been available. (Though if she doesn’t get available soon, I’m going ahead without her.) So I’m running on memory here. After reading all the comments, I’m willing to accept that a marriage was a good plot device. I definitely wouldn’t want Steve to have an affair. And I guess the marriage gives him a powerful reason to keep Marina secret.

    Good point, Melarus, about Steve being a Tomcat before he met Kayla. And it works that he reverts to that pattern after his “death”. And, in one way, even the marriage makes sense. Despite his walls and his insistence that he was a loner, Steve is always trying to make a connection for himself. What’s so sad about the scenes of Steve, Bo and Britta in Stockholm is his excitement about having them to count on – to be his “family”. Then, the whole eye-putting-out thing occurs and they both desert him, and he gives up on finding a connection. When Britta disappears from Salem, he seems upset not only at losing her, but at losing the little “family” he and Lars and Britta were going to create for themselves in their new apartment. And once again, he reverts to being a bitter loner.

    Actually, Nick Stockton seems more at peace with himself than pre-Kayla Steve. He just makes the best of what he’s got, though it doesn’t mean much to him. He’s not angry and bitter — he’s just empty. And he’s actually sort of uncomfortable with the idea of reconnecting with his emotions. It’s easier being Nick and not really caring.

  9. I’m remembering that there was even one more semi-serious relationship alluded to during the Daniel Lucas storyline — Danielle from the Merchant Marine days, who was significant enough for ISA to find out about her.

    I really do have trouble making a coherent narrative out of this part of Steve’s life. I never saw him as a manwhore in the first run. I think he got around, but I didn’t see anything out of step with his other issues, where I feel like there have been hints in that direction since he got back. It’s probably just the crappy writing and distorted focus on sex these days that leads me down that road, but that’s all we have. It was nice to hear him call the missing years “wasted time” with such conviction a few weeks ago, because I wasn’t completely sure he would have seen it that way.

    >The turning point seemed to be after that first failed date, when he was kissing the prostitute, then backed out before sealing the deal. You definitely got the feeling that pre-Kayla Steve would have paid for full service.

    Pre-Kayla Steve probably would have sussed out that she was a prostitute earlier, too, lol. The moment where he realizes that she isn’t genuinely interested in him always breaks my heart a little. The older material was so good about always having an emotional arc to pair up with the character’s exploits, so the moment was about so much more than just Kayla seeing Steve kissing another woman.

  10. Re: Steve being a manwhore. I’ve never been sure about this either, lska. I totally get the reading that some people have, that he was a bit of a player. There are lines that suggest it, and there’s certainly been enough women from his past popping up here and there. But it’s never something I’ve fully bought into. I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, it’s just more of a vibe I get from him than anything else. I believe that he never lacked for female companionship—maybe it’s just that I don’t see it as integral to his character like it is for Justin Kiriakis, for example. I get the sense that he can take women or leave them, that he could be a player but he isn’t, not quite, because he just doesn’t think about it that much.

  11. I always thought he liked women and had a healthy sexual appetite, not that he was a man whore. I guess when I say Steve was a Tom cat, that isn’t what I mean. And he was always calling himself a one-eyed tom cat.

  12. Okay, since I introduced the term “manwhore” to the discussion, let me explain what I meant:

    I was thinking more in terms of Steve being rather indiscriminate sexually, with the encounters having little emotional depth. Contrast with Kayla, who ONLY slept with men she loved [to the extent of being celibate for 16 years!]. As far as we know from Days, Kayla has only had 3 lovers her entire life.

    Some people with low self-esteem and a lack of love in their early lives will respond as adults by engaging in meaningless sexual encounters as a misguided way to fill this void and connect to others. This seems to fit early Steve as well as Nick Stockton. I think bad boy Steve, like Nick, probably wasn’t particular about whom he slept with [MY definition of a manwhore]. It also made him prey to bad girls like Marina and Britta. He was more jaded after Britta and the loss of his eye, but given his low self-esteem about his eye and his childhood, I think he responded eagerly to most women who found him sexually attractive.

    But that’s just my reading, albeit probably influenced by the Nick Stockton behavior.

  13. I think what Melarus is saying reinforces the idea that the missed date was the turning point. That was when Steve decided that having time for the ladies wasn’t enough, he wanted something more. And it is the end of his tomcatting around. Though he continues to imply that he’s ready for anything, he’s faithful to what he feels for Kayla from that moment on.

  14. My point exactly!

    Such past behavior with women also makes Steve’s hesitancy to sleep with Kayla all the more significant. His feelings for her were unlike anything he had ever experienced. He knew that once they went down that road, he would be committed for life (as he illustrated by planning to propose shortly after their first time).

  15. >Okay, since I introduced the term “manwhore” to the discussion, let me explain what I meant:

    Honestly, it’s a term I’ve been kicking around in my head w/r/t Steve, so I’m glad you did. *g*

    >I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, it’s just more of a vibe I get from him than anything else. I believe that he never lacked for female companionship—maybe it’s just that I don’t see it as integral to his character like it is for Justin Kiriakis, for example. I get the sense that he can take women or leave them, that he could be a player but he isn’t, not quite, because he just doesn’t think about it that much.

    That’s my takeaway feeling, too, that it was something that he controlled, at least by the time he came to Salem. (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was different before he lost the eye, or in the aftermath.) He talked a good game — I’m remembering his conversation with Frankie about the belly dancer — but by that point I didn’t get any sense of compulsion. Or even much action. Where with Justin, it always seemed more like it controlled him.

    >That was when Steve decided that having time for the ladies wasn’t enough, he wanted something more. And it is the end of his tomcatting around. Though he continues to imply that he’s ready for anything, he’s faithful to what he feels for Kayla from that moment on.

    I think I see that moment a shade differently, in that it’s as much about wanting to be with someone who values him as deciding to be faithful to Kayla. I guess it’s a fine distinction, but one that makes the question of fidelity not the major issue for Steve. I guess I think love was his stumbling block more than sex.

  16. Iska, that was what I meant — that he wanted something more than sex, he wanted someone who cared about him. And for a long time, he didn’t believe it could work with Kayla so he wasn’t really being faithful to her specifically, he was being faithful to the concept of love vs. casual sex.

  17. re: the comparison between Justin and Steve. I think the main difference in their behavior with women was their attitudes towards the conquests. Justin enjoyed being the playboy. While his conquests were shallow, you at least got the impression that he was having fun, reveling in the hunt and chase. There is a very funny scene during his affair with Angelica when, during a dinner party with her husband, Justin keeps trying to steal kisses from her on the sly, like a teenager playing a game. And he was very young at the time. I always got the impression that Justin was fairly recently out of college when he arrived in Salem. He certainly acted it, indicating that he was just sowing a lot of wild oats before growing up and falling in love for the first time with Adrienne.

    With Steve, there was no joy in shallow affairs because they were rooted in self-loathing and misery.

  18. Melaraus, I get the reading that Steve used shallow encounters to counter his loneliness and essential isolation. I can see the support for it and I think you make a good case. For me, though, I don’t see Steve being that dysfunctional about it or having that kind of compulsion. I certainly believe he wasn’t that particular, but I guess I see sex—not relationships, but just sex—as one area of his life where he didn’t have issues, LOL.

  19. “For me, though, I don’t see Steve being that dysfunctional about it or having that kind of compulsion. I certainly believe he wasn’t that particular, but I guess I see sex—not relationships, but just sex—as one area of his life where he didn’t have issues, LOL.”

    Yeah, I have to agree with this. My take on Steve’s life pre-Kayla is that he was a fairly normal guy who was not above some fairly casual encounters. I think the classic line of “other women I could love and leave, but if I love you, I don’t think I’d be able to leave” kind of speaks to that, for me.

  20. I love the role reversal in that scene, esp. Kayla wants him so much at that moment that she’s almost asking him to treat her like any other woman he would hook up with (even though she does want a relationship with him). But he’s pretty much saying he could never have meaningless sex with her, and implying that if he ever has sex with her, it will be a sign of commitment. Sigh.

  21. Melarus pointed that out earlier — that once they had sex, Steve planned to propose to her. It was a different commitment. I had never thought of that before. He really was kind of an old-fashioned guy when it came to Kayla.

  22. Thanks for the reminder, Flaco. That was an excellent point by Melaraus. It’s so interesting that they kept the through line between this moment (the “wouldn’t be able to leave” line) and that one. Whether or not it was truly intentional, it totally works.

    And, on a sadder note, the speech Steve gives to Kayla when he is breaking up with her for Jack is also a callback to this moment. He says “you gotta admit, baby, you did kinda push yourself on me” and (about their night on the roof) “I’m good in bed, what can I say?” It twists Steve back into that casual sex guy who Kayla asked to stay.

  23. You really have to feel Kayla’s confusion during that period. He was saying all these things about his feelings for her that she knew on some level weren’t true, but this time she couldn’t get him to admit they were lies. And that line about pushing herself on him — ouch!

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