Soap Rage

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.


16 thoughts on “Soap Rage

  1. Hee, not a lot of takers yet on this subject.

    I agree with your take on how this undercuts Kayla’s role as the sexual aggressor in their relationship. It also bothers me that this story simplifies the idea of safety and danger in Steve’s life. It should never be as simple as Kayla’s domestic haven representing safety and Marina the bad girl representing danger. IMO, there should always be an element of the wild life being comfortable for Steve, so that taking on the responsibilities of domesticity is really riskier for him, walking an unknown road. I didn’t like how that was flattened out in this story. There are a few interesting scenes closer to the end that seem to mitigate it somewhat (and that maybe you’re already planning to talk about).

  2. A most excellent analysis as always, MP. I agree that the show walked a very fine line and with two notable exceptions, walked it really well. As much as those two exceptions induce soap rage, I can forgive them because of the things those scenes set up and the fact that, these days, they’d be lucky to get two things right.

    My preferred reading is essentially the same as yours. Steve, a man who has never dealt with this emotions well, buried anything about Marina a long time ago and it stayed there until she showed back up. Once she did, it took him a while to get his equilibrium back and face the issue head on. It’s during this off-balance period that Marina can most easily affect him and does on occassion.

    I hate the aspect of Marina has the sexual threat because of the impact that has on our understanding of Steve and Kayla and because it’s simply insulting to Kayla. But, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t like the aspect of Steve making a conscious choice that everything he has with Kayla is more important than anything Marina had or has to offer. And if there isn’t some real emotion between Steve and Marina, then he never has to make that choice. So, I can live with the fact that Steve has to deal with his past and that it causes some uncomfortable moments as a S&K shipper, because the payoff is worth it — at least for me.

    The other part that you mentioned that I think often gets missed is the way all of this sets up Kayla’s motivations for not telling Steve she’s pregnant and for sending him to Italy with Marina. Without scenes that give her a valid reason to have some doubts, those decisions (particularly the secret keeping) could be damaging to her character. So, from that aspect, I think it’s important that there is enough real emotion between Steve and Marina to make her doubts understandable and not just the result of not trusting Steve or a bunch of soapy misunderstandings.

  3. Kayla perceiving Marina as a sexual threat undermines the one thing she’s never had to doubt, even through the Jack times: even when they weren’t always on the same page emotionally or mentally, she and Steve have always had an amazing sexual connection.

    Though it broke my heart to see, I actually liked that the show took the (emotionally) hard road and tied that in to Kayla’s pregnancy. Here she is, getting what is supposed to be the happiest news in her and Steve’s life, and she has to doubt whether or not she’s even going to have a life with her baby’s father by the time it arrives? She has to fight for her marriage when all of her energy is being consumed growing a new human being? She has to compete on a sexual level (with a woman who looks like Hunter Tylo!) when she’s gaining pregnancy weight? Harsh.

    There are two scenes in particular that underline this for me: 1) right before Marina’s death when she’s taunting Kayla about “getting all fat” and 2) after their reconciliation, Kayla turns away from Steve in bed and asks him if she’s “too much woman” for him.

    From the beginning, Kayla was always the fighter *for* their relationship (as opposed to Steve fighting *against* it). The main thing I noticed throughout the entire Toscano Key/Kayla’s pregnancy storyline was an all-encompassing sense of exhaustion from Kayla. The poor girl got beat down so many times that now, at her most physically vulnerable, she simply couldn’t do it anymore. The fact that it took *Jack* (of all people) to push her back toward Steve says a lot.

  4. I also liked the way they used the pregnancy to add to Kayla’s vulnerability. All the things that really do happen during pregnancy—hormonally charged emotionalism, exhaustion, concerns about getting fat—make some of Kayla’s doubts more believable. That aspect of the story worked better than this early period of the madonna/whore conflict.

    Although we haven’t gotten to it yet, I also love Steve’s reaction when he finally discovers the pregnancy. After all his doubts about having a family, he is elated about the news. And in that scene when Kayla turns away from him in bed, he reassures her that she is still as desirable as ever and you know he means it. So in the end, the writers do redeem the soap rage with a quality payoff.

  5. I hate the idea of Kayla as the sweet good girl versus Marina the sexual volcano, but I think there was that element in this storyline. I feel like they had kind of backed off from the Steve/Kayla sexuality and were emphasizing sweetness and mutual support in their relationship even before the Marina story. It’s a small point but they were dressing Kayla in a lot more pastels instead of the red and other strong colors she often wore earlier, her hair was softer. She looked beautiful but very sweet. I didn’t like that very much because I really liked the electricity of their sexual connection, but I suppose it is more realistic for a long term, steady relationship. So, much as I didn’t like it, maybe the Marina storyline actually served a purpose in S&K’s relationship — sort of reminding them of what they had by threatening their connection.

    As a side note, I’ve got to say that I’ve really hated the “love” scenes between Steve and Marina. They actually make me wince. Maybe it’s because we don’t see their whole relationship, as we did with Steve and Kayla, but the sexuality seems so contrived and put on. I feel like I’m being hit over the head with a hammer — “okay, now we’re going to be really, really sexy!” Hunter Tylo was a gorgeous woman, it can’t be denied. But what was great about Kayla as a character was that she was sweet and good, but she was also capable of being strong and sexually aggressive.

    Emotionally, many things about the story do make sense. Steve does bury things and when they surface, he can’t deal with them. When his family reentered his life, he was pretty much out of control for a while. It was amazing that Kayla hung in there at all. And Kayla’s emotional state also works well. She has always had this doubt that she was enough woman for Steve and she’s pregnant — with all the emotional and physical side effects. Her pregnancy actually makes the story more believable and tolerable and also more poignant. So I guess I’m coming round to feeling the pay off made it worth while.

  6. I can’t say that I ever felt that Kayla had doubts about being enough woman for Steve, but I agree with pretty much everything else you said, Flaco. As much as I don’t like, or at least are uncomfortable with, the implications of some things in the storyline, it was done fairly believable, and with a lot more depth and layers than I think the story gets credit for.

    It’s funny, but when Steve and Kayla got their happy ever after wedding, they still had a lot of unresolved questions. Not about them, per se but about what they wanted in the future. We see that in the conversations about having kids, in Steve’s search for a job that fits him, and in conversations surrounding the Emily and Gideon storyline. In this storyline, a lot of those unresolved issues come home to roost a bit and that’s not a bad thing.

  7. I can’t comment on the later stuff that many of you are referencing, because I haven’t got there yet and I don’t trust my memory. But I am very excited to get to the “Steve and Kayla work their way back together” section as opposed to the “Steve and Kayla are ripped apart” section. I have enjoyed this section more than I ever thought I could, don’t get me wrong, but it will be nice to move forward.

    I really like how there are some threads from after their wedding that come together in this storyline, like Steve not wanting kids, or maybe wanting adventure like Gideon—these things add weight to Kayla’s doubts.

    It is disturbing how much Kayla represents “home and hearth” in this storyline, and it is a flattening from some of the fun role reversals we got during their falling in love story. When Kayla has her flashback, after the big confrontation where she finds out about Marina, I was grateful that the show chose the “first time on the roof” scenes. It was like a little white flag to us shippers, “Sorry, we know Steve and Kayla can be sexy too!”

  8. I must say one thing in defense of Steve and the idea that he didn’t want kids: I never got the impression that he didn’t want kids at all. In fact, based on his encounter with “Angel Steve,” he fully expected it someday. He just didn’t think he was ready for it until he figured out what he wanted to be when he grew up (typical of many guys). He told Kayla this flat out, and also that he wanted to be more confident that he would be a good father before they had a baby. He still had fears of turning out like Duke in some ways.

    PLUS – and my biggest reason for sympathizing with Steve regarding his reluctance to start a family: the poor guy just wanted a little more honeymoon time with his wife! After going through hell to finally get married, they took on the responsibility of Benji on their honeymoon. Kayla was ready to adopt the kid. Instant family! Not what Steve was expecting, much as he loved Benji. When that fell through, she was eager to start a family of their own, but Steve told her he needed a little more time. This all came to a head when he mistakenly thought she was pregnant and was very relieved to find she wasn’t (funny scene that contained a lot of tension as well). Personally, I thought Kayla was a little hard on Steve regarding his attitude. He was being honest and, given his background, it should have been understandable. He just wanted some more “couple” time before adding kids. Perfectly reasonable to me. Their timing on the biological clock was just off–a very realistic situation and one that adds to Kayla’s insecurities during the Marina situation. But I think Kayla was misreading Steve’s “let’s wait” as a “never.”

  9. I don’t think Kayla ever misread Steve’s “let’s wait” as a “never.” She understood his fears and respected his need for time and after that little bit around the time Benjy left, she never brought it up again.

    But, even though I think she knew he wanted kids eventually, it doesn’t change the fact that she can’t be sure how he’ll take the news of her pregnancy with everything going on. Is he still not ready? Will he feel like he has to stay with her out of obligation now? Will he feel trapped? I don’t think any of those fears are related to the idea that Kayla thought Steve never wanted kids, I think they are all about the doubts and insecurities she has about his commitment to her and to their future with everything that has happened with Marina.

  10. There was an element of irrationality, for awhile, for Kayla back when she was pressing Steve about kids. I always found it rather cute, since she was normally so level headed. I think even though she intellectually understood where Steve was coming from, whenever she was confronted with Steve’s hesitation, in the back of her mind a little voice would say, “What if he never changes his mind?” I think she even says that Caroline at one point.

    But in the end, she really did back off, and trusted that Steve would let her know when he was ready. It was just something she had to arrive at, instead of understanding it immediately.

    In any case, the important thing is that last Kayla heard, he wasn’t ready, and if he wasn’t ready when they were happy and stable, how could be possibly be ready now?

  11. That’s a fair point, MP and you’re right that in the midst of Kayla’s intense babyjones period, she was a bit irrational about things and probably was hearing “maybe never” instead of “maybe someday.” I was just thinking more of the end of that period when I felt she had clearly accepted that Steve meant it when he said he wanted kids “someday.”

    And I agree the important thing is that at the time Kayla becomes pregnant, she doesn’t have any reassurances that Steve has reached his “someday” point. And given how freaked he was when he thought she was pregnant when things were good, how is he going to react now?

  12. Steve is also the one who spins out a fantasy of their future together during the wedding in the snow episode, and I think kids were a big part of his vision.

    It was interesting to see some of this revisited quite directly in 2007, with Steve at 55 still not ready, so maybe Kayla’s fears were justified. :p

  13. Given his age and recently scrambled brains, I’d say his reluctance in 2007 was even more understandable! Good thing Kayla was able to “ahem” persuade him otherwise both times. 🙂

    I do like that Angel Steve’s predictions that they would have more than one child came true. LOL

  14. It’s the whole retcon thing that’s the problem. Steve was the guy who never married because he was brought up by a man who abused his wife. Families were not safe havens in his mind. He was close to Britta and she betrayed him. Sure he had lovers in the past, but at the time of the Marina Story I never bought that Steve had ever been married before Kayla.

  15. I tend to agree with you, katester, that the retcon is hard to swallow, given what we know about Steve. But I think they could have sold it to us if they had tried to work in some explanation that connected with what we knew about his past. I did write about this issue a few weeks ago, if you’d like to read it. 🙂

    Here’s the link:

    The Retcon

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