When Steve is still keeping his secret about Marina—which is well-done drama but headed in a fairly predictable direction—the show throws us a curveball by tossing Jack into the mix. Jack sees the connection between Steve and this mysterious woman, and does some digging on his own to find out more about her. Suddenly we don’t know what’s going to happen. The show lets Jack play all this very close to his chest. Is he seeking revenge? Does he want to help? Even if he wants to help, will Steve’s constant suspicion and hostility make Jack lash out after all?
All that tension is very much present in this scene on the pier, where Jack tells Steve he knows that “Donna” is Marina:
On the surface, this is another scene where Jack makes snarky remarks and Steve grabs him by the lapels. But the ground has shifted. It is Steve who is the screwup here, and it has the effect of putting him on a more even footing with Jack. This becomes clear when Steve demands to know why he would need help from a walking disaster like Jack. Jack starts to say they both know he’s made mistakes, and Steve gets angry at his characterization of the rape as a “mistake.” And I love seeing that, on Kayla’s behalf. But, Jack moves right on, asking, “You haven’t made mistakes?” and Steve is completely silenced.
Seeing Steve’s vulnerability makes Jack press his advantage (and open up a little bit himself), when he says that Jo and Steve and Adrienne like to talk about family sticking together, but they want him on the outside. But, he says, if I’m on the outside I can’t help you.
But Steve isn’t ready to accept help from Jack. He sneers at him a little bit and tells him to stay out of this, then adds, “I’m serious, Billy.” Calling him “Billy” softens his rejection slightly and makes his request more a plea than a threat. It shows he heard what Jack was saying, and extends to him a little benefit of the doubt. If Jack’s offer of help was sincere, he’ll respect Steve’s wishes.
Jack’s involvement with the Marina story also affects his relationship with Jen. Though she isn’t 100% sure, she becomes convinced that he has good motives this time, and all his deflection and misdirection just makes her more determined to call him on it:
There are lots of interesting subtleties in this scene. First, Missy Reeves plays the barest hint of, not exactly jealousy, but a sense of exclusion, when it comes to Jack and Kayla. At the very beginning of the scene, when Jack isn’t there to see her, but Kayla, Jen deflates a little bit and we can see the wheels start turning in her head.
And there’s a wonderful moment, when Jen says, “Wouldn’t you be [hurting]? Marrying someone you love more than anything, and then having someone from their past come back and screw it up?” Jack pauses to give a little ironic smile, obviously thinking of his marriage to Kayla, and then he just agrees and moves on.
Jack insists that his research is related to a story he’s working on and won’t admit anything else. At first Jen scolds him that he has hurt Steve and Kayla enough and he needs to leave them alone (showing she still has some doubts about his motives). But when he continues to protest, she changes direction and says he’s a phony and he wants to help his brother. I love the way Jack says, “He hates me, I hate him, end of story,” because even at their worst it is always so much more complicated than that.
Then Jen gives this little speech about Jack’s black heart, and the teeny, tiny nugget that’s in there somewhere, and “someday, you’re going to mine it.” (“Death by metaphor” is Jack’s reaction—hee!) It’s all a little silly, but Missy plays it as silly. This is a great way to introduce the serious theme of Jen having faith in Jack, and seeing that “other side” of him, but it’s played in a light, comic, ironic way that is perfect for where Jack and Jen are right now.