Welcome to leading man status, Jack.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Isabella’s appearance is the major key (key, get it, get it? Oh, groan.) to Jack’s redemption, and the true beginning of Jack and Jen’s love story. As a new character who has no previous knowledge of Jack’s past, Isabella can form her opinion of Jack solely on what he does now, instead of his past. This allows her to be his cheerleader and his friend like no one else can. Also, one thing about Jack up until now is that Jack has no sounding board. Jo is probably closest, but their relationship is more thorny and difficult. In Isabella, Jack has someone he can talk to, or even when he doesn’t want to open up (which is frequently), she can ask him questions and we can usually see something about how he feels from his reaction. That’s crucial on a soap, where it’s so important to know how the characters feel about each other and what is going on.
But here’s where the fun really begins, when we get to see Jen’s reaction to Jack’s new friend:
There’s a lot of talk about trust in these scenes. When Jack tells Jen that she has to trust him before he can ask for her help, she gets a wry look as she says, “Somehow I always do,” like she can’t quite figure out why. I love that. But Isabella can be perfectly sincere about seeing him as a hero. Jack doesn’t quite know how to respond when she tells him so, as he says no one has trusted him for a long time. Isabella says she doesn’t believe that, and I love Jack’s line, “Believe it.” Jack knows that he’s earned his reputation, but also that he’s trapped by it. (There’s also the sense that he thinks Isabella won’t view him as quite so heroic once she knows the truth.)
Isabella also quickly clues in to Jack’s feelings for Jen, when they get to the loft and see Jen and Emilio kissing, and he isn’t able to completely cover his reaction. But then Jen comes in, and she is taken aback in her turn at Isabella’s appearance.
After months and months of seeing Jen at the center of a triangle with Emilio and Jack, suddenly seeing her wondering about Jack and Isabella is a major shift, and a welcome one. My absolute favorite moment here is after Jen offers Isabella the guest bedroom, and Jack says, “What about me?” Missy Reeves does a great reaction shot to that, her eyes going from Isabella to Jack and her uncertainty written all over her face. It’s wonderful to see her off balance and vulnerable. Then Jack says he’ll take the couch, and Isabella seems to be reassuring Jen a little bit here, when she quickly agrees.
But, when Jen says that Isabella must have meant a lot to Jack in order for him to help her, Isabella just says she’ll have to ask Jack. I love that Isabella chooses not to answer and defers to Jack instead. Later, Isabella is a great cheerleader for both of them, but here it’s an interesting dynamic to see her as Jack’s friend and not Jen’s.
The scene ends with an awkward moment of Jack putting his arms around both of them and talking about how much time they will be spending together. I love the reaction shots of the two women, Isabella’s uncomfortable look, and Jen’s more jealous and suspicious one. Though all the awkwardness, Jack seems to be enjoying himself. I think Jack has picked up on Jen’s jealousy vibe and is liking it, even though he believes that things won’t ever happen with her. In fact, that very certainty might make him more inclined to enjoy these little moments when they come. That lends a bittersweet flavor to the scene.