The Secret

Keeping a secret from someone you love is a time-honored Salem tradition:

Sweetie—about this baby I just had. Actually I miscarried weeks ago and I stole a baby from your ex-wife. And, funny thing, this baby is actually yours. She decided not to tell you she was pregnant. So, really, from your point of view it all comes out in the wash, don’t you think?

Um, I started having an affair before we were even married, but I thought the best thing to do would be to go ahead and marry you after all.

You know that guy you’re dating? He’s your brother, actually. I guess I should have told you that before you fell in love with him, but I thought my vague clues and hints to stay away from him would do the trick. My bad.

Sorry, honey, my first wife isn’t dead after all. Our marriage? Invalid. Sorry about that. Oh, by the way, I’ve been married before.

Is it any wonder Salem couples put off having The Talk? It’s all just so awkward and hard to explain. So what happens, naturally, is that the secret comes out in the worst way possible, leaving the deceived one to screech, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The reasons usually alternate between some variation on “I was afraid of losing you” and “I was afraid of hurting you.” And it usually seems insufficient.

For all that, however, I don’t mind this storyline. It happens so often on soaps that it’s one of those things you just have to accept or go crazy, like love triangles. I ask that the show at least give me some reason for the secret keeper to keep his secret, and to do something interesting with the secret while it is kept. Don’t make every scene about the secret, for one thing, and tease us fifty million times the The Secret is About to Come Out. And, ideally, use it in different ways along the way to the big reveal.

My last example above, of course, is for Steve, putting off The Talk with Kayla about Marina’s return from her watery grave. And I’m happy to say that Steve’s keeping of the secret is surprisingly well done, much better than I remember. First, the first clues of Marina’s reappearance are just vague hints. Steve has no reason to believe that she is actually alive. He doesn’t feel the need to open up a big can of worms for the sake of what amounts to a disturbing memory. Also, Steve’s feelings of guilt over Marina’s death are wrapped up with his feelings of responsibility for Shane’s “death” during the Daniel Lucas storyline. This is Steve in reactive mode, falling back on his old instincts, bottling everything up, and keeping anything from his past as far away from Kayla as possible. All the other times his past came back to haunt them factor into this as well. There’s a sense of “how much can I expect her to take?” (And when Steve does find out later that Marina is actually alive, Kayla gets into an accident and is of course counseled to have “absolutely no stress,” which gives him another reason to keep holding back.)

And there’s another thing. Kayla knows there is something up. Granted, there are a lot of scenes in the way of standard soap secret keeping: Steve acts suspicious, Kayla asks him what’s going on, he covers, she backs off. But Kayla, early on, is trying to give him space to deal with whatever is bothering him. This, by the way, shows Kayla’s growth, that she isn’t pushing and pushing him anymore to open up. She is angry and frustrated at times, concerned and supportive at others, and sometimes they seem almost back to normal. But, as the secret keeping stretches out longer and longer, a sense of unease is introduced into their relationship, which all comes to flower here:

This isn’t the big reveal. But it’s almost as good. The timing is perfect. We’ve seen Steve acting worried and suspicious and Kayla trying to respond to that in different ways. And at the same time her frustration is building, ours is too. If Kayla didn’t confront him, or if Steve didn’t pay in some way for what he’s been doing, it would feel too much like Kayla was a bit of a doormat. Her suspicion that he might be having an affair is perfect. The show used to be so good at this back and forth dance.

Of course, there is an element of “just tell her, dammit!” to this scene, but overall I think we can see where Steve is coming from. I think that what comes through is his anger that she doesn’t trust him enough to let him handle all of this. So while Kayla is hurt because she feels like Steve doesn’t trust her enough to tell her what is going on, Steve is upset because he feels like Kayla doesn’t trust him to deal with it. It is a breakdown in trust that never gets fully resolved. This scene is part of the groundwork of the slow alienation of Steve and Kayla from each other, so that when the big reveal actually happens, it’s enough to drive them apart.

18 thoughts on “The Secret

  1. I love that scene at the Salem Inn. It’s just such great work between SN and MBE and it really is necessary after watching Steve bumbling around acting weird and suspicious for weeks. It’s great to see Kayla finally get to release her anger and hurt over the whole thing. Yet, the show does a good enough job setting up Steve’s motivations (and uncertainties about what is going on) to make it somewhat understandable as to why he’s keeping this secret.

    The set up for the big reveal in this storyline, much like the set-up for Kayla marrying Jack, is something I didn’t fully appreciate the first time around, or even in the first rewatching. Because of how that impacts S&K, it’s easy, I think, to skip over the setup and focus on the big stuff. But, it’s the setup that makes the big stuff believable. And, for all the criticism this storyline receives from shippers, I think the setup is sufficient to make the retcon believable and to make Steve (and Kayla’s) actions within the storyline understandable.

    So, for me, this story really works. I don’t love every scene and there are some soap rage inducing moments, but overall I think it works really well. And SN and MBE shine as usual.

  2. Having the Ava story to compare it to really made me notice what they did well with this one. In that one, they gave Steve a reason to keep Ava’s presence from Kayla, but it was very simplistically presented, and Kayla had nothing to do other than cramp up at key moments.

    With the Marina story, what I love most of all is how they manage to connect Steve’s stereotypical soapy behavior (keeping a secret forever) back to things that we know about him as a character. And I love how they use the secret along the way toward the big reveal, to open up tensions and conflicts that pave the way for their separation, so it feels earned when it arrives.

    So despite its general unpopularity, I’m with you—I really like this story and I think it works. 🙂

  3. I’ve been waiting for this post because I’ve been watching this storyline and it’s been driving me crazy! I feel like throttling Steve most of the time. But, upon reflection, I think you’re right. We had to have all these things pulling them apart — the time Steve spent as Daniel, Shane’s death, the mysterious hints about Marina. And, in fact, he didn’t know what was happening at first. He wasn’t sure who was pulling his chain, so why get Kayla all upset? And it does make for a better story. Having them blissfully as one all the time could get deadly dull. (In fact, it did at times.)

    I’m still not crazy about the Marina storyline because I don’t like having Steve fall in love with one deceptive woman after another. I mean, can’t he learn from his mistakes? (I guess the answer is no, because he’s always making the same mistake over and over again — such as keeping secrets.) And I’m looking forward to all the angst.

  4. Re: Steve making the same mistake. As we established in a previous discussion thread, until Kayla came along, Steve had a pretty lousy track record in choosing women (which he reverted to during his lost years, if Ava is any indication), so the fact that Marina turned out to be another Britta-type shouldn’t surprise anyone.
    One thing I like about this storyline, though, is that while his mistakes and doubts compound his problems with Kayla, it is clear to viewers that he remains devoted to her. The angst works, but their reunion is never really in doubt.

  5. >One thing I like about this storyline, though, is that while his mistakes and doubts compound his problems with Kayla, it is clear to viewers that he remains devoted to her. The angst works, but their reunion is never really in doubt.

    I like this as well, and I think it disproves what a lot of folks say on the boards these days, that there is no interesting story if you know a couple is ‘endgame’. (A word that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end, I hate it so.) You have to be willing to tell slightly more subtle stories, is all. It seems like there were a couple times for S&K that the tension was coming from a different place than simply whether they would be together or not.

    It is kind of nice, how the Ava story has rehabilitated the Marina story in a lot of people’s eyes. Small favors!

  6. lska, I agree that a triangle can still be interesting if you know which couple is “endgame.” In fact, I prefer it. Not because I’m a shipper (though obviously I am of S&K), but because I think in order for a story to work emotionally, we have to know who the one in the middle cares for. Being torn can work for a little while, but if you stretch it out too long you get Belle. Actors on today’s Days often talk about the difficulty of trying to find a “through line” for the character, to know how to behave from week to week. If the writers act like Chloe is madly in love with Lucas one week and then madly in love with Daniel the next week, then back to Lucas, etc., that’s not a story, to my mind.

    I think you can take some time to decide where to go, like the show is doing with Jen, Jack, and Emilio right now. But not knowing who the endgame couple is, in my opinion, like writing a murder mystery where you don’t know who the murderer is. That means that the only tension comes from not knowing, because not knowing means that you can’t build in any layers or subtext. [/rant]

    ETA, sorry, got a little carried away there and I forgot I had something else to respond to. I’m not crazy about the “making the same mistakes over and over” aspect of the story either, Flaco, though Melaraus makes a good point in return that you can read it as a pattern of behavior for Steve (especially when you add Ava into the mix). For me, personally, being a former Steve/Britta shipper—as I’ve confessed before on this blog—I don’t really like it. My reading of Steve’s early days on the show was of someone who was very guarded, and that Bo and Britta were a big exception in his life. And when that all blew up in his face, he became even more guarded than before. I liked to think of his taking a chance on Britta as an exception to his usual rule—not just part of a pattern of getting involved with deceiving women—which made the betrayal more painful. I want to preserve that in my mind not so much for Britta’s sake, but to preserve my reading of early Steve.

  7. That’s the way I’ve always seen it, MP. When I saw some scenes of him with Britta and Bo in the early days, what was really heartrending was his excitement at having this connection to someone. That fits in better with someone who hadn’t had close connections for a long time. And since I watched those scenes knowing how it all turned out, it really made me feel his sense of abandonment and how carefully he guarded himself later with Kayla. If everyone you loved always left you, that’s pretty much what you would expect from life. So Marina really throws a wrench into my image of Steve. But I’m hanging judgment, assuming there will be a payoff that makes it worthwhile.

    Melarus, I also appreciate that there is never any doubt about his commitment to Kayla, even if she is having her doubts. And I do think a constant in their relationship is that just when everything seems fine and she’s trusting in it, he goes nuts about something or other and he withdraws. It must feel like walking down a flight of stairs and finding one step suddenly missing. It’s good to remind us that even when Steve seems domesticated, he’s still a very chancy choice and anything might happen.

    This brings up a totally unrelated point that I want to whine about — the wasted return. It would have been great if after her first elation at getting Steve back, we got to see Kayla coming to grips once again with what it means to have someone like him in her life. It’s always complicated.

  8. I’m with you on the whine, Flaco. There were SO many missed opportunities on the return that you really have to wonder why Corday bothered to bring them back at all (though, as MP pointed out, at least it prevented their story from ending with Steve’s death, and we got cute little Joe).

    It never seemed that any of TPTB post-2006 ever really GOT Steve and Kayla as full-blooded characters. They seemed to be coasting on viewer nostalgia.

    Of course, nothing else on the show has really been well done lately either, so it is probably just as well that Steve and Kayla have disappeared into the hospital corridors/post office along with other DOOL MIAs such as Don Craig and Neil Curtis. 🙂

    Sign of the sad state of Days: With SN and MBE gone, today’s Soap Opera Digest poll lists Allison Sweeney and James Scott as favorite actor and actress, with EJ and Sami as favorite couple! This is what the show that perfected the supercouple has come to!?! Egads!

  9. Corday is always bringing people back and doing nothing with them. It is so frustrating. Stefano’s recent return, Tony and Anna’s before that, Steve and Kayla of course—even John’s recent return. Chloe and Nicole have been used more upon their return, though, I suppose.

    I just look at Marina as a retcon, Flaco, and don’t trouble myself to reassess my reading of early Steve. 🙂 That way I can enjoy this story without any reservations. And I am enjoying it, a few soap rage inducing scenes aside.

  10. I’m probably taking things off subject again, but I had this thought. Clearly one of Steve’s continuing problems is keeping secrets way past the point where it makes any sense. You could probably explain this as a result of his childhood since children from abusive homes learn to be very secretive. But another problem is his habit of yelling and throwing his weight around in any crisis. I was watching the scenes after Kayla’s first car accident (she had so many) and he’s yelling at Mike and everyone else in a clearly unreasonable way. When he first learned about the rape, that was also his reaction — he was going to run out and beat up Jack, even though that wasn’t going to make Kayla feel any better. It was a real learning moment when he realized he needed to stay there and comfort her instead of following his first instinct. Unfortunately, it’s not a lesson he ever learned permanently — to the very end, yelling at any available person is always his first reaction to a crisis.

  11. Marypickford, I’m definitely a subscriber to your school of triangles! Maybe a well balanced show would have room for one of each kind at the same time. But ITA about needing another source of tension for the audience besides the question of the endgame couple. Once the writers decide, the story is more or less over.

    >It would have been great if after her first elation at getting Steve back, we got to see Kayla coming to grips once again with what it means to have someone like him in her life.

    ICAM. The writers played around with it a little at various times, but they rarely went back and touched on Kayla’s perspective in more than one note. (Usually SAD or DETERMINED.) One thing I didn’t like about the “tackle” scenes from 2007 was that the “I wish you had never come back” card was played so soon after Steve remembered. I thought it would have been more natural and had more impact if it came up further down the line, exploring those issues.

    Flaco, it’s funny you should mention that about Steve’s tendency to lash out. I’ve been thinking that a big, misdirected, angry Steve outburst was missing from the Ava story. I guess it could be growth that Steve at 50+ wouldn’t react that way. It used to be such a hallmark of his character, though, even through Tinda Lau, that it felt like emasculation more than progress. We got a taste of it in the July scenes, which IMO was as necessary as the talk with Kayla — but just like that conversation, not enough and not soon enough.

    The Stephanie rape reveal was pretty good in this way, though.

  12. No, he still bellowed a lot, Iska. When Hope shot Kayla, he was yelling at everyone in the hospital once again. I found myself thinking — what good does yelling do? Shortly afterward, I saw Kayla’s accident on my DVDs and the same thought crossed my mind.

    I actually thought the “I wish you had never come back” worked well because it was so soon after he remembered. She’d been without him so long and had this brief taste of happiness and then he decides he needs to disappear again. She had been unhappy but resigned — used to him being gone. She would have to go through the same pain all over again. I thought her desperation made perfect sense.

  13. I actually love the way that Steve bellows at everybody when Kayla is hurt. In the accident scene in the Marina storyline, it’s one of my favorite moments, particularly when Mike tells Kayla they have Steve chained up outside. I just love that Steve is often one big ball of emotions, particularly when the health or safety of somebody he loves is at issue. Maybe it doesn’t accomplish anything, but in my mind Steve wouldn’t be Steve without it. And I agree with lska, that was one of the things missing from the Ava storyline.

  14. It is a part of his nature and it’s interesting that it persisted when they screwed up so much else in the return. I haven’t actually watched much of the Ava stuff so I can’t comment on that. I live with a bellowing male so perhaps I’m a little too close to the issue. It’s not that I mind Steve’s bellowing. I think it’s great that the character has consistent traits, even if they’re not necessarily positive ones. Perfection is boring.

  15. I admit I like the bellowing too. I particularly like it when it’s a reaction to Kayla being hurt, because it shows how important she is to him and how helpless he feels about it. In the scenes for the Marina storyline, I think it helps to see Steve so worried about Kayla after how he’s been acting with the secret. It balances things out a bit.

    Also, it’s nice to see Steve and Kayla able to connect and support each other in the hospital despite the problems they are having. The problems come back as soon as Kayla is feeling better, but it’s nice that they can put them aside for a little while. It shows the bond that is still there, and keeps us rooting for them.

  16. I like the yelling, too, but I come from quiet stock. *g* IA, it’s nice to see those consistent traits over the years, even if they’re not always 100% positive.

    >I actually thought the “I wish you had never come back” worked well because it was so soon after he remembered. She’d been without him so long and had this brief taste of happiness and then he decides he needs to disappear again. She had been unhappy but resigned — used to him being gone. She would have to go through the same pain all over again. I thought her desperation made perfect sense.

    I can see that. It felt out of place to me in the overall arc, though. It seems like something that Kayla should say closer to the climax, or at a point where she really does give up on Steve. If Kayla had been fighting for Steve and Steve resisting, it could act as a turning point, after which Steve starts to wake up a little while Kayla withdraws. Instead we went right from the love scene to the tackle to the kidney thing. Kayla is just sort of strong but troubled from there on out, and her emotions could have used a little more shape.

    (Sorry, I know we’re off on a tangent!)

  17. Their return story cried out for a moment when Kayla questioned how good it was for her that he ever came back. I’m not sure when would be the best time for it, but a slow build toward her saying that was necessary, I think. If we could see Kayla’s growing frustration build and build, then the moment when she yelled out that she wished he’d never come back would feel cathartic and earned. As it was it felt like there was too much intensity packed into that one scene. All the buildup for it was on Steve’s side, with his “episodes” and whatnot. But it’s all part of the neglect of Kayla’s point of view in their later run.

  18. >If we could see Kayla’s growing frustration build and build, then the moment when she yelled out that she wished he’d never come back would feel cathartic and earned. As it was it felt like there was too much intensity packed into that one scene. All the buildup for it was on Steve’s side, with his “episodes” and whatnot. But it’s all part of the neglect of Kayla’s point of view in their later run.

    Great point about the build up — it did feel like they were reaching for a moment they hadn’t quite earned yet.

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