Unlike Jack with Steve or Steve with Adrienne, there is no consistent through line that develops the relationship for the other Johnson sibling pair—at least not one that I can trace. Anyone else find this to be a pity?
Adrienne first found out that Jack was Billy at around the same time he did, and her reaction was to eagerly embrace the relationship. You would think that Adrienne the rape victim would feel some qualms about welcoming a rapist into the family, but she does not. I can (just) understand Jo overlooking Jack’s past misdeeds. But Adrienne?
After that, the show seemed to use the relationship in whatever way was convenient for what they were trying to do at the time. And because Jack and Adrienne’s scenes together are so infrequent, there isn’t much consistency. I don’t want to exaggerate: other than Adrienne’s initial reaction, their scenes don’t come off as inappropriate or wrong, but I think an opportunity was missed. The show already has Jo as Jack’s cheerleader, they don’t need Adrienne for that. And Steve, of course, has his own thicket of dysfunction regarding his little baby brother Billy and the grown-up Jack. Adrienne could have been more neutral, more objective, a middle ground between the other two. She could have tried to temper Jo’s headlong rush to forgive Jack anything when he was still at his worst, and also encourage Steve to give Jack a chance when he starts to change for the better. Also, I can imagine Adrienne representing for Jack, in a concrete, inescapable way, everything that Duke was and that Jack fears he could be.
But, for all that, they have some good individual scene together. This first scene takes place back in 1989, when Jack was still a pretty bad guy. It is part of a mini-arc involving Alexander’s birth (Anjelica’s son), and the reveal that Justin is his father. This is a lovely example of using the same incident in different ways, affecting multiple characters and storylines. Jack has been determinedly avoiding all things Johnson, and with his father in prison, that means Anjelica is the only family he has left. Jack is excited, almost too much so, about his new stepbrother—which reveals to the audience Jack’s essential loneliness. Jo and Steve both register this excitement, at different times, and are hurt by it. I just love the irony of Jack hurting his family, because of his longing for a family.
Adrienne, however, is more upset by Jack’s relationship with Anjelica, when it comes out that Justin is the father of the baby:
(I included, as a bonus, Jack’s scene with Jo beforehand—one of the only times she is less than effusively supportive with him. The best moment here is Jo’s obvious surprise when Jack asks her if Dr. Curtis is okay. “Are you okay?” she replies. She thinks he must not be feeling well, to actually ask her about something in her life!)
When Adrienne says that she’d like to believe Jack has a heart, for her mother’s sake (but from her tone, clearly not believing it), it is the kind of skepticism I’d have liked Adrienne to feel all along. I also love the moment when she mutters to herself that the fact that Anjelica raised Jack should be enough of a lesson for Justin regarding her parenting skills. Jack’s “ouch” shows Adrienne hit a nerve—which might surprise Jack as much as anyone, that he cares what she thinks of him. Maybe the Johnsons matter to him more than he thought.
And now fast-forwarding back to where I am in 1990, here’s another good Jack/Adrienne scene:
Adrienne’s passionate defense of Jack comes a little bit out of the blue, but it’s still pretty great. It fits with Adrienne’s character in general, and it’s nice to see after all the skepticism Jack is getting from Steve. Plus, having Roman there as the voice of doubt and skepticism helps to balance things out, to keep this from feeling like character propping. My favorite part of the scene is Jack’s expression in the background, as Adrienne calls him “my brother” and says she believes him and argues that Roman should give him a chance. It is clearly a novelty for him to have anyone spring to his defense, and he is very surprised, even thrilled. I also love his look as he’s hugging Adrienne afterward, like he can’t believe this is happening. Adrienne and Jack’s relationship may not be consistent, but Jack’s redemption is—and a year later, this whole family thing is still new to him.