Since I’ve been mostly singing the praises of the Marina storyline (and I really am enjoying it very much), I thought I should devote some space to the moments that give this storyline a bad name.
With the introduction of an interloper, the show has a choice to make—how much of a threat is this person going to be? At one end of the spectrum, the problems are all based on soapy misunderstandings and the interloper’s manipulations, and at the other end the one in the middle is truly torn. In my opinion, the first option is usually boring. Besides, in this case we need to see a reason for Kayla to leave Steve and keep her pregnancy secret from him, and in order to do that we have to be able to understand why Kayla sees Marina as a threat in the present day. If it were all based on misunderstandings and jumping to conclusions, she would seem overly judgmental and unfair. But at the other end of the spectrum, if the person in the middle is truly torn, you run the risk of destroying the rooting value of the couple in question.
Pssst …. I don’t like you anymore.
In this case, the show makes a good choice in having many of the problems stem from how Steve deals with Marina—keeping the secret and running away from the problem—and not from Marina herself. That keeps the story about Steve and Kayla, not about Steve and Marina. But there is some emotion there, which I think is important—to sell the retcon, for one, and to raise the stakes of the storyline, for another. For the most part, the show, especially Stephen Nichols’s performance, walk the line very well. The way that Steve and Marina bicker and throw recriminations at each other really sells the idea that they were intimate at one time, and that some of that intimacy still lingers. We see that Steve probably buried all his feelings about her way back then, after he found out about her betrayal and then he thought he killed her. Seeing her again brings all those feelings back, still fresh. We know he’s an emotional guy and sometimes doesn’t deal with those emotions very well.
And there are moments early on when the show seems to play Marina somewhat sympathetically, where she tells Steve she doesn’t want to screw up his life but she really needs his help. In those moments we see her reaching him, and this again is a consistent character trait for Steve. Back when he was first on the show, he showed nothing but hostility toward Bo and Britta, but went out of his way to help them when the chips were down. And then of course there’s Jack, and everything he’s done for him despite all the reasons he has to hate him.
And in between these scenes there are many scenes that firmly establish Steve’s love for Kayla, his concern for her and desire for her. Keeping all these things balanced is like threading a needle, and for the most part the show does it well. But, there are times when the show puts away the needle and takes out a sledgehammer, when they must have decided that Steve just needing closure for his feelings for Marina wasn’t enough of a threat. There are two scenes in particular that stand out, and both establish the same thing, Marina as a sexual threat. That she and Steve had amazing, hot, unforgettable sex, and by implication that sex with Kayla is somehow less than that. It establishes a madonna/whore contrast that I find enraging.
I’ll just describe one of the two scenes here. It takes place the same day Steve has found out Marina is alive. Steve is still keeping the secret from Kayla, and she is just home from the hospital from the car accident. Steve starts kissing Kayla, and then suddenly flashes to Marina as things get hot and heavy. He freaks out and pulls away. Kayla asks what the matter is, and Steve turns to her and says, “I’m on fire,” and talks about how much he wants her and starts kissing her again. So this is either a deliberate choice by him to be fake, or worse, that remembering Marina has turned him on. Stephen Nichols plays it like it’s the first, but we can’t help thinking of the second regardless. (Both are bad, of course, but the second reading is worse.)
Then Steve sends Kayla upstairs and says he’s going to lock up. He has another flash of kissing Marina. Then we see Marina herself, flashing to the same thing and saying “you can’t have forgotten, Steve.” This puts them on the same page. Keep in mind this is right after Marina’s first appearance. A very, very ominous beginning.
I would post this scene, but I’m reluctant to traumatize my unsuspecting subscribers on YouTube, who I’m guessing are mostly Steve and Kayla fans. Hee! But I hate to talk about it here and then not make it available to see, so if you would like you can download the scene here:
It’s possible the show thought that Marina being sexual threat would be easier for us to take than if she were an emotional threat. And perhaps they are right. But goes against everything we’ve seen about Steve and Kayla’s sex life and it really is an insult to Kayla. One of the things that made Steve and Kayla unique was the way they turned the stereotype of the good girl on its head by making Kayla the sexual aggressor. It kills me to see that undercut.
So my preferred version, which is supported by a lot of what we see onscreen, is that Steve has unresolved feelings, rooted in the past, that he needs to work through. Those feelings make Marina able to needle him and get under his skin, which lends a certain intimacy to their encounters that Kayla can see and wonder about. I think this gives enough heft to Marina as an obstacle without destroying anything I love about Steve and Kayla. I don’t like the idea that Steve could ever be truly torn on any level, sexual or otherwise. But that might be my shipper bias talking. There’s another way to look at this. If Steve has a choice and one option is horrible, that’s not really a choice. It’s over before it starts. The more Marina has something real to offer, the more meaningful it is for Steve to decide that what he has with Kayla is more important.