One scenario that has become very familiar over the last few months is Jennifer helping Jack, Emilio getting mad about it, Jen getting defensive and saying Emilio has nothing to worry about, and Emilio being doubtful but accepting her reassurance.
So here we think we’re in familiar territory:
But then there is a shift: they both calm down, and Emiio says they’ve been tap dancing around this long enough and he wants to know how much she cares about Jack. This isn’t an accusation anymore, and Jen responds to that sincerity and finally comes out with, “I don’t know.” This is a big step forward for Jen (and for the storyline). After that, I like that Emilio gets to keep some dignity by telling her to let him know when she figures it out, and walking away.
After this admission, the next scene starts with Jen sitting quietly at the loft, hearing Jack and Isabella come up the stairs together bantering and laughing as they bring up a Christmas tree. She’s never seen Jack act that way with anyone but her, and so she feels left out before the scene even starts. Then, her concern about Victor (he stopped by pretending to be interested in buying the loft) makes Jack turn to Isabella to reassure her. That might factor into Jen’s desire to “get some air” right then. Then Missy Reeves gives a great look as she leaves, registering how Jack is fussing over Isabella, teasing her about her cold hands, and touching her. Jen has finally admitted she has feelings for Jack, and she might have lost Emilio as a result. And now suddenly Jack seems very far away, not at all interested in her … and in fact seeming very much interested in someone else. I love the irony, soapy and perfect.
All this sets up perfectly Jen’s eventual pursuit of Jack. As I’ve discussed, up until now, while Jen was shown to be conflicted about Jack, we usually saw Jack’s buried emotions more. Generally, any angsty longing belonged to him. But now things are changing. Because we’re about to see Jen make a choice, it makes sense to concentrate on her emotions for awhile. And, just as Jen’s emotions are coming closer to the surface, Jack is burying his deeper and deeper. This is clear in the next scene, when Isabella says with a significant look that “Jen was scared, too” (of Victor), and Jack says dismissively that “she’ll be okay.”
I think what’s going on here is that Jack has clued in to the fact that Isabella suspects he has feelings for Jen, and he is trying hard not to give her any more material to make her talk to him about it. Believing as he does that Jen has chosen Emilio, I think he is overcompensating, desperately trying to avoid anything close to his inability to let go of Kayla. This isn’t his only motivation for keeping those feelings buried, but I think it intensifies it.
That subtext leads nicely into the wonderful scene that follows, where Jack explains to Isabella why people in Salem don’t trust him. (Isabella just saw Jack talking to Marcus, and Marcus was very suspicious of Jack.) I love the sad finality of his answer to her question: “Yeah, I did something.” It says so much about Jack’s acceptance now of what he did, and his acceptance of how people treat him because of it.
Then he goes on to tell Isabella the story—it’s a little vague on the exact details but it’s much more than we expect Jack to share. So we not only get to see Jack’s regret and sorrow, but we respect him for telling Isabella this at all. It’s like Jack doesn’t want Isabella to be his friend based on false pretenses. I think when he was visiting her in the sanitarium he was content to just bask in the idea that he could have a fresh start with someone who didn’t know him, but now that she is part of his real life he thinks she has a right to know before the friendship gets too far.
I love the way Matt Ashford plays this scene, he doesn’t have that frenetic quality as he’s speaking that Jack sometimes gets–that I think is part of how he covers up his feelings and vulnerabilities. Here he speaks in measured tones and I think that shows Jack really comfortable with Isabella, not only talking but wanting to talk. After that it’s nice to see Isabella so quickly understand what he is trying to do with his current actions, his determination to do something about the future.
This is a wonderful scene on its own for Jack and Isabella and their friendship, but it also fits into the shift in Jack and Jennifer’s story. It shows that Jennifer’s jealousy is based on something real. She’s not crazy to think that there is something going on between them, because there is: a real and meaningful friendship. Jack really does feel closer to Isabella in some ways than he does with Jen right now, and his feelings for Jen really are buried under layers of denial. This means Jack and Jennifer have a real journey ahead of them, and not just a clearing up of a misunderstanding (“Oh, you like me? Well, I like you!”)
I can’t wait.