The Key Kiss

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: A step forward

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:

The key kiss

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:

After the key kiss

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.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: The other siblings

12 thoughts on “The Key Kiss

  1. Amy, it is a great scene, isn’t it? I can see why it’s up there in the pantheon of J&J classics because there’s so much going on. It’s well acted by both of them, plus it’s a turning point, plus it’s the first “real” kiss.

  2. You said: Which I admit jarred me a little—the L word, already? What happened to that soap classic, “he has feelings for you”?

    I think you have to take into account that JnJ had played house with baby Hannah, and been in the never-ending triangle with Emilio for almost a year at this point. Saying Jack loved Jennifer (which he did), and didn’t just use the soap classic is a sign of how long this couple had been around the circuit already. Or at least Jack’s feelings for Jennifer had been around, Jennifer on the other hand only really opened up to her feelings for Jack within the month prior to this. But once she did, as you have said, it was Supercoupledom or bust!

    These are some of my all time favourite JnJ scenes (and I too love how six-foot-plus Matt slides to be level with petite Missy – totally awesome!), so thank you for your take on them. Plus I am learning so much about S&K that I never knew!

    ps – I’ve come over here from D2D the JnJ site, and I have to tell you – I LOVE your blog!! 🙂

  3. I think the difference in perspective is very interesting. For the J&J fans, it probably feels like it took forever to get to the “L” word. But, for me, like MP, it seems sudden. As you say, J&J had been dancing around forever, but they really got stuck in the “friends” mode for a really long time. I know there was always a little more to it, but Jennifer was clearly involved with Emilio and Jack wasn’t willing to even admit any feelings about Jennifer.

    Then, all of the sudden, they zoom forward to the “love” thing and skip right over the “care about” step. I think the scene is wonderful for all the reasons MP mentions. I just always feel like the new headwriter wanted to crank up the J&J story and so hit fast forward to get to the angsty longing portion of the story. Understandable, but a bit jarring for me. But, again, I understand why it might not seem that way to somebody who was a diehard J&J fan. Not that I don’t like them a lot, because I do.

  4. Kris, thanks for visiting my blog and for your kind words.🙂 I am really enjoying watching the Jack and Jennifer story and rediscovering them. I always liked them back in the day but this was a time when I wasn’t watching the show very regularly. It’s been so great to be able to watch their clips in order and enjoy a real, well done falling in love story.

    I totally agree that we’ve been shown Jack’s feelings for Jen for quite some time. It’s not that I didn’t feel “love” was earned from an emotional perspective, but more that “care about” would have been just as much of a revelation for Jen (and given her reason to rush over to see Jack), and then they could have saved “love” for another day. Like esp says, they skipped the “care about” step. I guess what I mean is that I’m looking at it more from a story perspective that they didn’t HAVE to use it.

    But, looking at it another way, I can definitely see what you’re saying: how the long leadup justifies something more dramatic. It really is amazing how long Jack and Jen had been around as a potential couple by this time. I just checked when I made my first “Jack and Jennifer” post (right after their first meeting). Even watching in clips, it’s taken me since September of last year to get to this point! Amazing.

  5. This episode brings back such memories. As i’ve mentioned before I too was a huge JnJ fan. The pivotal scene where they are in the hidden wall ended on a Friday. I remember waiting thru a long weekend and getting back from work on the following Monday praying that my VCR worked OK! Those long seconds where they just stared at each other (and MA sliding down the wall) was so delightful… and then the espisode ended– on a Friday!
    Now that was soap writing at its best. Today you can tune out for a month and miss nothing or a couple would have hooked up and then break up in that amount of time.
    What a shame that soaps forgot how to slow things down and take the time to let a story grow and for couples to develop slowly. Perhaps they feel they need to compete with night-time soaps or heaven forbid– reality shows!

    P.S. Off topic a bit here, but I fell in love with Days solely because of Matt. I was devastated when he was let go in 1993 but I was so sure he would succeed to movies or night-time TV. But he never did. Does anyone know why his career never took off after Days? As far as I am concerned (and I admit to being biased here), he was as good an actor as any of the other soap stars to star in movies or tv.

  6. smflan, I noticed as I was watching the clips that they ended the episode right before the kiss. Now that’s a cliffhanger! I too remember weeks when it seemed like Saturday and Sunday just draaaagged.

    I agree that soaps seem to have lost the ability to let relationships develop slowly, and I think it’s a real shame.

    As for why Matt’s career never took off after Days, I don’t know. Acting is a tough business, and there is unfortunately a prejudice against actors once they become known as “soap” actors. But I agree that Matt is amazingly talented. He brings so much depth to Jack.

  7. I think one thing to keep in mind in terms of actors making the transition to prime time or movies is that, back in those days, you could still make a really good living on soaps. You work 3 days a week or so and have a very nice income. I know that MBE once said that while she never intended to be a soap opera actress, after she worked on Days, she realized it was a really great career to have while raising children (paraphrasing, of course).

    I think we’ve become used to expecting actors to want to use soaps as stepping stones and certainly many have. But, 20 years ago, I don’t think it was such an automatic thing. So, maybe part of the reason that some of these terrific actors didn’t have big careers in prime-time or movies is in part because it wasn’t the lifestyle they wanted.

  8. I think you’re right that a soap was a pretty good gig back then. A nice income, with steady but not onerous work. I remember reading one of the veteran Days actors, I think it was Joe Gallison (Neil), who said that he loved working on soaps because he loved working. In other genres you just don’t spend as much time actually acting.

    With MA I thought smflan was saying that Matt was actually trying to break into prime time or movies after Days. And I know that it can be hard for a soap actor to make the transition sometimes.

    • I’m sure I read some place, or saw an interview stating Matt indeed tried to pursue prime time or movies .
      He is indeed incredibly thorough and gifted actor – But as mentioned above, acting is a tough and highly competitive profession – having the right look, attitude and the talent is not enough – you need luck and most important – the right connections.

  9. Weighing in on the issue of the use of the “L” word, I like it. I like it a lot. Partly because I kinda hate the soap staples, “I care for you” or “I have feelings for you.” Those phrases always strike me as so lame. Also, the audience has (strongly) suspected Jack of being in love with Jennifer as far back as the revival tent collapse a year ago. Now perhaps the audience could be starting to wonder if his love is shifting toward Isabella (and I do think he “loves” Isabella in a friend way, and as she’s the one person for whom his past doesn’t factor), but Jennifer keeps popping up enough to let us know where Jack’s heart really is, and Isabella can see it too, and I appreciate her not mincing words. (However, were I in Jennifer’s position after Jack so thoroughly pushes her away, I might be annoyed with Isabella for giving me too much confidence and putting me in a position to be so throughly hurt and humiliated.) At this point, Jennifer’s actually already uttered the the word too, “Sorry, Emilio, you’re not the one I love.” Though I understand marypickford’s point about waiting on the “L” word to draw it out from a story perspective, and I miss the days when soaps used to know how to draw things out right, in the case of Jack and Jennifer, I think it’s good that it comes now. The audience has already been on the JnJ train for a very long time, and Jack finally actually speaking the “L” word will be such a long wait that I think giving the audience a sure knowledge that Jack and Jennifer are in love works to compensate for that.

  10. I definitely agree that Jack and Jennifer had been around as a potential couple for a very long time by this point. As I said above, it’s not that I didn’t think “love” was earned from an emotional standpoint, just that they didn’t HAVE to use it. “Care about” could have had the same effect and they could have saved “love” for another big moment. I know what you mean about “care about” and how it’s a soap cliche, but it’s one that doesn’t bother me.

    But maybe it’s kind of cool that Jack and Jennifer got something different for their first “love” moment—it’s nice to shake things up a bit. With Steve and Kayla, they also did something a little different with theirs. The first mention of “love” comes after their first big breakup, and Kayla kind of throws it in his face as he’s trying to reject her.

    Also, I totally agree that Jennifer has reason to be a bit ticked at Isabella for basically setting her up to be rejected and hurt. Isabella is right about how Jack feels, but the way she tells Jen

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