Wait, is this a supercouple scenario I see?
After months and months of a baby step after baby step, Days’ team of writers takes the plunge on Jack and Jennifer—with a vengeance. I get the sense that the new headwriter, having finally made the decision about which direction to go, was impatient to get going already. Personally, I would have liked to have seen this absolutely crucial event in the Jack and Jen relationship get a bit more buildup, and maybe take a week or two to play out. Not from an emotional or a believability perspective, but just from a soapy storytelling perspective.
But, what does happen is pretty darn wonderful. Isabella decides she’s going to do Jack a favor, and goes to Jen to tell her that Jack loves her. (Which I admit jarred me a little—the L word, already? What happened to that soap classic, “he has feelings for you”?) This sends Jen rushing over the Steve’s house, where Jack is looking for the key:
Emboldened by Isabella, Jen is pressing Jack further than she ever has before. When she asks him if he really wants her out of his life, Matt Ashford does a nice hesitation where we can see Jack actually contemplating not having Jen in his life at all, and how little he likes the idea. But he just says, “That’s what I said, isn’t it?” (I really, really love how Jack is constantly using these evasions—“we already talked about this,” “that’s what I said,”—instead of repeating that he doesn’t want her or care about her. It nicely shows his reluctance to lie to Jen, his dislike of hurting her, and his distrust of his ability to be convincing.)
Her determination to break through, and his increasingly desperate attempts to fend her off, heightens both of their emotions nicely—just before they have to hide together in the secret tunnel at Steve’s house, leading to the oh-so-soapy situation of being forced to stand up close to each other in an enclosed space.
Unresolved sexual tension ensues … and then the kiss …
… and then the Timely Interruption.
Jen’s determination and forthrightness—“I think we should”—is delightful. So is the way the six foot plus Matt slowly slides down the wall in order to be on mouth level with Missy. Hee! My favorite part of these scenes, though, is in the conversation afterwards. Missy Reeves is absolutely wonderful at showing Jen’s escalating hurt and devastation at every word Jack says. Matt’s best moment is when Jack argues passionately that he is not the type of guy for her to take to a sorority dance or to her grandparents’ house. Unlike his frantic dissembling in the rest of the scene, right there Jack is being absolutely honest. The protectiveness that motivates him to keep her away from the key adventure, makes him want to save her from what he perceives as an even greater danger — himself.
Matt Ashford also does a wonderful longing look at Jen, after Jack has told her calmly, “I don’t want you,” and walked away. But I think Jack’s regret at what he’s doing comes out most clearly in the final scene, after they’ve found the key:
Jen presses one more time to let her go with him to return the key, and Jack refuses. The way he breaks off as he starts to say that he and Isabella will handle it, shows he is losing his stomach for hurting her over and over. Poor Jen, facing this additional rejection, asks if he can’t even stand to be around her now. Jack repeats that they already talked about this (using that trick again), he’s the employer and she’s the employee, and—searching for something to soften the blow—someday she’s going to make a great journalist. I love Jen’s quiet bitterness as she says, “That’s great, that makes my day.” The final reaction shot shows Jen’s complete devastation at how things have turned out, and Jack’s longing and regret.