I don’t know how to introduce this except to say that I really, really love this scene:
I could go through this line by line, I think, elaborating on every nuance and undertone, but I’ll try to restrain myself. First there’s the scene-setting conversation between Jo and Jack, where she praises him for his actions helping Kayla. But Jo’s approbation is not what Jack is looking for (it’s almost too easy for him to get it). It’s when Steve comes in and says that he believes it too, that we see Jack’s shock—and hope.
I love Jack’s studiedly casual manner as he says, “You actually believe me, huh?” And when Steve falters halfway through his speech, Jack prods him to continue. He wants to hear the words so badly. (There also might be a hint of brotherly rubbing-his-nose-in-it, forcing Steve to say the words even when he doesn’t want to). When Steve continues, saying it’s not going to kill him to admit Jack did a good thing, both his tone and the line reveal that, while it might not kill him, it certainly isn’t easy. I really love the awkwardness here. They each don’t know quite how to reach across the divide, but the attempt is being made.
If the scene had ended there, it would be great enough. But then the show complicates this lovely step forward and shows how tentative it really is. Jack asks about Kayla, and Steve doesn’t like that. All his prickly defenses come back, and that leads nicely into Steve’s suspicious reaction when Jack won’t repeated his muttered statement (about Isabella’s mother’s diary, but that doesn’t really matter). Steve says Jack is the “same old Jack” and Jack just looks resigned and says he guesses he is.
I think that resignation gets to Steve, perhaps because it’s so reminiscent of Steve’s own sense of hopelessness and futility during his bad-guy days. Perhaps he senses he’s being unfair. Or perhaps not, but he doesn’t want to leave this conversation on a note of suspicion and blame. Not when he started out trying to thank Jack.
I love the way Stephen Nichols says, “Jack …” and then, rather helplessly, tells him stay out of trouble. Whether Steve likes it or not, Jack has engaged him again and he cares what he does. Not that he ever stopped caring, of course, but he’s been pulled closer to Jack and his actions again. Whether Jack is up to no good or not, Steve can’t pretend indifference as easily. Then Steve makes an even greater effort and says that Jack really helped him get Kayla back, he appreciates it and he won’t forget it. I love the awkwardness again here, it shows again how hard this is for Steve to say, and that makes it even more meaningful.
Jack doesn’t say anything, but we can see he is moved. I like how Matt plays Jack as very guarded through all this. He doesn’t throw himself sobbing on Steve’s neck. He’s been working to help Steve for months without any encouragement or thanks, and now that it’s finally coming he doesn’t quite know how to respond. But mainly, I think, he’s afraid. He’s afraid to trust this step forward precisely because of how much it means to him. If he were to lose it again now, it would be devastating.