Okay, everybody, we can relax again now.
Recently I talked about how the show uses the fact that Steve re-injured his eye to build sympathy for him. Similarly, they also use the fact that Steve refuses to get another eye surgery to enrich the plot:
Other than the lines about “punishing himself,” I really like this scene. First, because Steve is worried Kayla is in danger, he doesn’t want to go into surgery and recovery in case it prevents him from protecting her. Also, I like the way Steve talks about the loss of his eye more symbolically, as something to keep him grounded. If the patch symbolizes how far he has come, and what Kayla’s love and faith means to his life, then getting it back is a reminder of all of that. (This wouldn’t work if they hadn’t set up how much Steve really wants and loves Kayla before he ever lost his eye again.) I also love the way Stephen plays the fact that all this discussion about the surgery is an annoyance and a distraction for Steve. If he has Kayla, the patch doesn’t matter. If he doesn’t have Kayla, not having the patch won’t matter either.
The above scene takes place at the point of maximum estrangement for the two of them. This next scene takes place several weeks later. We can see that things have improved:
This is such a wonderful callback to the first patch removal scene. He grabs her hand as she reaches for the bandage, just like he did then. It shows that this is still not easy for him, and I love that they keep that element. It’s something that made the character who he was when we first met him, and even though he can mostly get over it, it makes sense that he would still be sensitive about it. Then I love how she looks at him with reassurance and love, and he looks at her like he’s pulling his strength from her as he lets her take the bandage off and covers up his bad eye.
I also love the look Mary Beth gives when Steve brings out the patch and gives it to Kayla. It might have been tempting on the writers’ part to put some words in Kayla’s mouth here to suggest that she actually prefers him with the patch (to go along with the fan reaction). I think Mary Beth would have played it fine even if they had, but I’m glad that they didn’t go that way. There would be the danger of coming across as insensitive, especially given his emotion right here. Instead it’s clear that her primary concern is for Steve, and how he’s coping with this, which is just right. But her look as she touches the patch conveys that this is an emotional thing for her as well, just a touch of “I missed this.”
Steve takes a deep breath as he puts it on and Kayla says, “It’s okay.” Then we see the re-patched Steve again and he’s nodding his head saying “okay” and trying to smile as well. He seems to be trying to tell her, “I’m okay with this.” And after she leaves (pausing to lean against the door as she also did back then), he nods again and says, “it’s okay,” reassuring himself too. It’s really a wonderful scene, so much rich subtext played with just their looks and expressions. The patch might not be as big a deal as it once was, but it’s still charged with emotion for both of them, and carries a lot of memories—good and bad..
(As a bonus, I’ve included the scene just before this one, where Kayla refuses to be sent out of town. I love the ways she insists that she won’t be any safer away from her family, and it was Steve keeping things from her—in order to “protect” her—that got them into this mess. When she says if she stays at her folks’ house, Roman “… and you” will be there to keep her safe, represents a big step forward for Kayla. She’s granting him her trust there, to be with her and protect her. And I love the way Steve responds to that, and relents.)