I Dreamed a Dream

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Jennifer’s choice

“These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air.”
—The Tempest

( Days and Shakespeare, why not?)

80’s Days used dreams and fantasy sequences all the time, for different purposes—to fake us out, to fill time, to whet our appetite for seeing a couple get together, as a relief when our couple was estranged, for added romance, and, most importantly, to show us what characters were feeling and thinking. My favorite version of this was when the dream or fantasy connected very explicitly to what was going on in the show at the time, usually an alternate version of reality. This allowed us to see what characters really wanted (compared to what they said they wanted) and who they cared for.

Over the last several episodes on my DVDs, the show has been highlighting Jen’s feelings for Jack and her reactions to him. She has broken up with Emilio, and is plainly jealous of Isabella. This shifts the power away from Jen and balances things out nicely—before Isabella’s appearance, Jen was in the inherently privileged position of the being in the middle of a triangle—and helps to create sympathy for her. It also helps to raise the stakes for the decision that Jen will soon have to make—is she willing to risk being hurt again and again if she decides to go after Jack?

In the following scene, Jen is scared that someone is following her, so she calls Jack for help. While she’s waiting for him to arrive, she has a fantasy about what will happen when he gets there. Then Jack actually shows up:

Jen’s fantasy

First, I find it very touching that Jen sees Jack as her hero in her fantasy. But, what I love most of all is the contrast between Jen’s fantasy and the reality. Jen keeps trying to follow the “script” and make her fantasy come true, but things go off kilter from the start. She throws her arms around Jack when he gets there, just like she did in her fantasy, but while he doesn’t push her away he keeps walking into the room, dragging her along with him. Then she thanks him for coming over, and he says “You know I would,” just like he did in the fantasy. But instead of sounding tender and reassuring, he sounds more like “Well duh.” (The difference is subtle and nicely played by Matt Ashford.)

So things aren’t exactly going the way Jen wanted them to. But, then he does say with some emotion that he wishes he’d never gotten her involved in this, and Jen responds to that by saying he doesn’t need to worry about her. But then he replies that he’s not worried about her, it’s just that she blew their whole cover. What a dash of cold water on Jen! But that moment wouldn’t have nearly the same impact if we hadn’t seen the fantasy beforehand. It neatly raises the emotional stakes so we feel for Jen much more keenly than we would have otherwise.

The scene above made me remember another, similar scenario from early Steve and Kayla, at a time when Kayla is trying to distance herself from Steve (after Britta comes back to town). She’s trying to see Steve like everyone else sees him, as a thug, plain and simple. Of course, it will never be that easy. Steve saves Kayla from a junkie who has broken into the Emergency Center—showing that other side of himself she’s trying to deny exists. He also helps her dress her wound afterward (leading to some very nice UST). Back at the loft, Kayla falls asleep and has a dream:

Kayla’s fantasy

We can tell we’re in a Kayla fantasy because they get down to serious business so quickly on the couch. Steve’s dreams and fantasies were usually much more romantic—which nicely showed the inner romanticism of the character. With Kayla, her dreams and fantasies were a way to show that underneath that good girl exterior beat the heart of a passionate, sensual woman. It was a nice contrast that wasn’t unduly emphasized, just a part of the fabric of their story.

Kayla’s dream serves to remind us that she does indeed have feelings for Steve—in fact we’ve never seen it so explicitly. She’s been mostly freezing Steve out for weeks, ever since she saw Britta half naked in his apartment, so this is a good reminder for us.

Afterward, they use the same trick as they do for Jennifer in the first clip I posted. Steve shows up for real, and for a moment reality mirrors the fantasy, until the two widely diverge. Unlike Jennifer, Kayla is guarded at first (which fits with the distance Kayla is trying to create right now), but when she says “why are you here?” she softens her manner, seeming to invite the possibility of him following the script of her fantasy. When he says he was checking on her, she thanks him for worrying about her.

But, just like his brother Jack, this idea of being caught worrying about someone is just too much to admit. Steve retreats behind his familiar sleazy smile and denies it, then leers that a “sweet thing” like her needs protection. Kayla’s walls snap back into place. But without the earlier dream sequence, we wouldn’t see as clearly that her disgusted reaction is a form of self-protection.

All this provides extra motivation for Kayla to continue to distance herself from Steve. So, ironically, what could have been a step forward—Steve being a hero, Kayla dreaming about Steve—instead is a step backward. That sets up the next story arc, where Kayla (temporarily) believes Steve is guilty of Britta’s murder, very nicely.

But—though this may be getting into too many circles within circles—by highlighting Kayla’s continuing attraction to Steve, whether she wants to feel it or not, it also sets up the next step on down the line.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: A step forward

8 thoughts on “I Dreamed a Dream

  1. I love the similarities between the two brothers in that respect! Two men who were so different on the surface.

    I love the subtlety of it being the mention of just “worrying” about someone that makes each of them back off. You wouldn’t think that would be so much to admit to, but the Johnson boys are skittish that way.

  2. I remember watching that Kayla dream live. (Well, on my VHS tape of it). It was such a revelation. I had known that Kayla was starting to feel connected to Steve, but it was the first concrete proof of that. Wow, remember how subtle the show used to be about relationships?

    One of my favorite things about the dream/fantasy sequences for Steve and Kayla is what you touched on before–how it revealed hidden characteristics that weren’t obvious from the outer trappings of the characters, like Kayla’s sexual passion and Steve’s almost chaste sense of romance. It was an entertaining shorthand and a far cry better than having the characters talk to themselves aloud to reveal their secrets.

  3. I love both of these fantasy sequences and the way the show uses them. With J&J, I find it so endearing that Jen tries so hard to stick to the script, even as it’s falling apart. But, it’s also a great way to see how much Jen’s feelings for Jack have grown and how she sees him as a hero, sort of.

    With the Steve and Kayla bit, the part that always stands out to me is, as others have mentioned, how sexual the whole thing was. And I always love that part of Kayla’s attitude when Steve really does show up is because of her disappointment that he didn’t start kissing her and carry her over to the couch.

  4. I always thought that Kayla’s attitude was the result of embarrassment. She wakes up from this hot dream to find the subject of her dream standing there. Naturally she’s afraid that she will somehow give away her secret thoughts so she acts in a somewhat prickly manner. Steve, as usual, reacts to her defensiveness and there they go again — miles apart.

  5. Paula, it really was a revelation, because although we suspected Kayla’s feelings and attraction for Steve, we’d never seen anything like this from her before.

    I agree that embarrassment definitely played a part, Flaco. But somewhere in there I think is some disappointment, as esp mentions. There’s a moment, after Steve says something similar to the dream, where Kayla seems to soften as she replies, also following the script. When he puts on the sleazy-guy manner again in response, that’s when she really freezes him out.

    Esp, I too find it really endearing that Jen sees Jack as a bit of a hero. It’s so not how he sees himself at this time.

  6. A couple more thoughts. One of the things that was interesting about both these storylines is the way they let things teeter back and forth. You’re right, MP, Kayla did definitely pull back from Steve after the Britta incident and he responded by getting sleazier. After the addict attack, she has him pull up her shirt and bandage her wound, though he clearly has some doubts about that. Kayla is sure she has no feelings for him (or so she pretends) so it’s no big deal. Except she does have feelings and it is a big deal. Very nice.

    One of the things I like about Jack is his acerbic quality, even when he’s rescuing a damsel in distress. It really does put the damper on poor Jennifer’s fantasy. And, as I’ve mentioned, I always liked it when he hauled her around.

  7. One thing I loved about the progression of both of the Johnson brothers romances was how the women slowly but surely began to understand their men. I remember one particularly fun moment in the S & K storyline was when, after taking the boys out to lunch after Max’s award ceremony at the police station, Steve opens his mouth to come out with one of his sleazy comebacks and Kayla just puts her hand over his mouth and smiles, adding, “Don’t say it.” Now she sees through the act and preempts it rather than letting it derail their burgeoning relationship.

    A lovely twist to this is later on, during the Jack saga, Kayla’s intimate understanding of Steve cause serious dissonance when, instead of coming around as he normally does when she calls him on his act, he stubbornly sticks to his rejection of her. It’s part of why it takes her so long to really believe him when he says it’s over (and also, subconsciously, why she never really does believe that he doesn’t love her, because she knows darned well that he does).

    So many layers to the stories back then.

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