Unhappy Days are Here Again

Hope everyone enjoyed that ray of sunshine, because it’s gone, gone, gone.

Steve and Marcus, Jack and Kayla

All right, this isn’t too bad. But it marks the beginning of the next angstful story, because we see Kayla obviously feeling guilty and hiding something. (Kayla thinks she might have killed Marina, because Marina collapsed and hit her head when Kayla was struggling with her that night. Marina got up again, but Kayla is worried she might have collapsed again after she left. This is all a bit strange because Marina died months ago and we’re only just starting to see Kayla worry about this.)

But that’s not what makes this scene worthy of a blog post. It is, of course, Jack and Kayla. I say it every time I talk about the two of them, but I really love the physical and verbal awkwardness Mary Beth and Matt always play when they share a scene. The history of these two characters is always there between them, preventing them from ever feeling at ease with each other. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel strange that Kayla chooses to confide in Jack here, regarding her doubts about remarrying Steve. He was her only confidant during the worst of the Marina mess, and is the best position to know how hard it was for her.

Matt brings an interesting vibe to Jack this scene. I really love the line about Steve being a knight of the round table in a past life. I think Jack is not only comparing himself to his hero brother, but remembering all the times that Steve rode to his rescue—and those are painful memories for many reasons. He also sounds a little wistful, maybe for what he wanted to be for Kayla but wasn’t, maybe because he’s written off ever getting a happy ending for himself.

I also like the way Jack is a little put out that Kayla is hesitating to marry Steve. He’s been working for their reunion for months, so he’s earned this reaction. Matt does a great reading when Jack says, “I thought you loved the guy.” It’s a little fillip of irony, like Jack is thinking that if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that she loves Steve. He banged his head against it all through their marriage, he got his heart stomped on because of it, he changed into a horrible person because of it. If he doesn’t know that she loves Steve, then he knows nothing. It’s a great layer.

Mary Beth’s best moment is at the very end, after Jack says he wants her to be happy and he was just trying to help it along. Kayla really knows that’s true, and I love the way Mary Beth says “I know,” so softly. Her manner totally changes for that final line. This is where the constant awkwardness and instinctive defensiveness pays off, when we see it drop away, just a moment, before she leaves.

14 thoughts on “Unhappy Days are Here Again

  1. I have to agree – I love the Jack/Kayla scenes. So many layers and understanded acting in them. A complete joy to watch.

    I love the catch in Jack’s voice when he asks ‘so when’s the big day’. Part of that is – can never measure up to big brother emotion – and some of it is – look at what I could have had if only she loved me.

    I also find it hilarious when Jack mentions that when the going gets tough – it’s better to work through problems together than apart. Kettle/Pot/Black much? *grin*

  2. I really love the layers to these scenes as well. I think it’s wonderful that for all the awkwardness, it somehow makes perfect sense that Kayla could talk to Jack about her hesitance to marry Steve again. I think the moment when he says “it’s been a long time” after she says she was looking for him or wanted to talk to him is played so well by MA. Somehow, just the way the plays that line sums up almost 2 years worth of history between them.

    But, my favorite touch from MA is the the wistfulness/”what might have been” layer that he plays to all of this. I don’t think he’s jealous of Steve about Kayla anymore, but I think there is just this touch of jealousy/regret that he couldn’t be that white knight for Kayla like he wanted to be. As much as all of this is about Jack earning his redemption from Steve and Kayla, I think a little of it is also about Jack finally letting Kayla go. But it’s all very subtle and subtextual and that makes it even more wonderful.

    And I totally agree that MBE plays her little moments very well, too. It’s so much more meaningful when she acknowledges that she knows that Jack really does want her to be happy when we’ve seen the awkwardness and distance all along the way.

  3. I agree there is an element of “what might have been” to Jack in this scene. I love how important it is to him that Steve and Kayla have a happy ending, because it’s what he’s been working for, and it’s such an important part of his redemption. But at the same time, there’s a wistful tone to some of the things Jack says, and I think he’s remembering when he married Kayla and what he wanted, and how it turned out.

    I just love how they play off one another.

  4. There is also frustration on Jack’s part and a desperation for Steve and Kayla to be together and happy. After all, if they fall apart, there would be absolutely no positive ending or point to all the hurt they’ve all put each other through. Jack brings that point to the forefront in his conversation with Kayla before they go to Italy.

    To varying degrees, all parties involved in the J/K/S triangle were wrong to some extent. Jack had his entitlement; Kayla, her self-sacrificing lies; and Steve had his God-complex. It makes sense and has a poetic feel to it that they be the ones to put each others’ pieces back together. Steve and Kayla went from being the thing that destryed Jack in the first place to being that which built him back up again, to be even better than he was before.

  5. Wow RileyKay… that is incredibly insightful and completely blows my mind!!

    I think you are absolutely right. Jennifer is considered the main factor for Jack’s redemption – and yes she is the catalyst. But without Kayla and Steve moving along side him in the positive direction – forgiving his mistakes and respecting his desire for change he would never have been able to give of himself to someone else.

  6. I think that even before Jennifer enters the picture, the show set it up as Jack viewing Steve and Kayla as the key to his redemption. From the moment he first starts taking tiny steps forward (around February 1989), he’s keying on Steve and Kayla. And, as things progress, I think he knows that if he doesn’t make things right with them, he’ll never make it right for himself. That leads him to work so hard during the Marina storyline to get them back together.

    And, in the end, he’s right. Pushing to do the right thing even in the face of hostility and skepticism, and even when things go wrong despite his good motives, does go a long way towards redeeming him – not just in Steve and Kayla’s eyes, but, I think, in his own.

  7. I’ve noticed something strange (and a little bit sad). We’re all originally here because we love Steve and Kayla. MP has also been covering the Jennifer/Jack story. But even in the entries focusing on Steve and Kayla, we often end up talking about Jack or Jack and Jennifer. MP has said before that the Steve/Kayla story was really defined by their coming together so, in some ways, it was really over once they got together. I’ve been reluctant to admit it, but she’s probably right — there were always good moments along the way but S&K were much more compelling in the early parts of the story.

    Or is it an inherent problem in soaps with happy couples — that they’re just not that interesting. This idea is always used as an excuse for the often ridiculous story lines where supposedly happy couples are torn apart again and again until finally nobody really cares anymore. I’ve been very resistant to that idea because it seems to me there should be good story possibilities without constantly breaking people up. But maybe I’m wrong.

    Or is it a problem inherent in supercouples — we loved them for the characters as first established and resisted any change in those characters.

    Or is it just that Matthew Ashford made Jack such a compelling character that we can’t help getting more and more invested in his redemption — even if it’s distracting us from Steve and Kayla?

    Sorry for another thesis length entry. But it was inspired by your thoughts.

  8. Well, Flaco, it’s an interesting question. I might amend your statement a little. I think during this stage we often end up talking about not necessarily Jack and Jennifer but about the Steve/Kayla/Jack storyline, and how it continues to affect those three characters. There is just so much going on with that story, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving. There’s a reason it’s my favorite storyline of all time.

    I think there is an inherent difference between a story/relationship that’s changing and moving toward something, and one that is not. Jack’s redemption, Jack and Jennifer’s falling in love story, Steve and Jack’s relationship, Kayla and Jack’s relationship. These are all currently changing, and that just makes it more fun to discuss. I think that’s the “established couple problem” in a nutshell: there’s no movement to the story. That’s why writers keep tearing couples apart and putting them back together, to create some movement (or, usually, the illusion of movement).

    For myself, I have different standards for what I expect from a story for an established couple versus a newer couple. Back when I was watching this stuff in 1988-90, I didn’t make that distinction, and it upset me that Jack was getting all the “good” story. I wanted Steve and Kayla to have the same level of material that they had when they were falling in love. Now, I just have different expectations. I accept a certain level of “soapy plot stuff” for an established couple and look for nuances of character and callbacks to old issues within that plot. Rather than having whole plots based on character development, it’s more scenes and moments.

    That’s not to say I don’t have issues with some of their later stuff—I don’t care for Daniel Lucas at all, I think they overdomesticate both Steve and Kayla, I think they miss opportunities to keep more of an edge to the characters. But overall, given the inherent “supercouple problem” (which I do think is a genuine problem for writers, no matter how creative and wonderful they are), I feel pretty grateful for the material Steve and Kayla get. For example, I think Steve and Kayla got a good version of the “wife back from the dead” plot with the Marina storyline. It could be better, sure, but given the cliche’d nature of that plot in general, the show did a good job reaching back to character issues for each of them—for Steve, his worry about his past coming back to haunt Kayla and his tendency to play God and keep Kayla in the dark, and for Kayla what happens when her “unshakeable” faith in Steve is shaken. I’m really glad they didn’t stick around for more go-rounds on the “split up, get back together” carousel, but I think the one version they got is a good one.

    I also draw a distinction between “fun to discuss” and “fun to watch.” I really have been enjoying Steve and Kayla be happy, partly because I know how fleeting it is, and partly because SN and MBE bring such a nice couple-y vibe with lots of little extra nuances that I just find fun to watch.

    That’s my thesis-length response to your thesis again, hee!

  9. And to respond to the other discussion above, I love how Jack starts his redemption, himself, by trying to make things right with Steve and Kayla. The Marina storyline is perfect for that, because when Steve and Kayla are unhappy it kicks that motivation into high gear. (Plus, it just gives him an opportunity to help them in a real way.) That great conversation between Jack and Kayla that RileyKay refers to, before they go to Italy, speaks the importance to Jack that Steve and Kayla be happy. Their happy ending is crucial to Jack to create some meaning for the suffering they all went through. It’s more than him just helping them out, and that what makes it so interesting.

    And as esp points out, it’s wonderful to watch Jack keep trying to help in the face of so much skepticism and doubt. That redeems him in our eyes as well.

  10. This part of the S&K story does lose me a little bit. It’s not because it necessarily had to be less compelling at this point, but because it feels like they’re just slogging away at the angst mines — and I’m an angst fan. The way Kayla’s framing for Marina’s murder is written, Steve and Kayla’s characters don’t get a lot out of it. Isabella gets more, Jack gets more. And it’s such an obvious repeat of Kim going to jail for Emma’s murder that it feels like paint-by-numbers soap. I know I’ve posted before that I sort of wish that Steve had been the one to kill Marina, and the tension here was about his motive. Was it justified, or just to make his life easier? How would Kayla feel about that? I like the way they explored the trust issues that Marina created, but the resolution always feels a little passive. And by the time the story is really over, when Kayla’s out of jail and everyone’s back from Australia, that conflict and resolution is way back in the rearview mirror.

  11. There has to be a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scene that writers/producers have to deal with and this must affect the story writing in ways that we the viewers can’t detect. When a main character gets pregnant, and especially when she is on maternity leave, the writers have to come up with ways to allow the character to temporarily leave the show, but at the same time keep the storyline moving. So the shows write stuff sometimes that we, the audience, may not agree with, but there it is. I am sure the writers know this and try to keep the stories running at a seemless pace, but it doesn’t alway work out. We should keep this in mind when analyzing why a story goes in a direction it sometimes does. Having Kayla ‘kill’ Marina didn’t feel believable to me at all, but I figured they had to come up with a way for Mary Beth to stay off her feet towards the end of her pregnancy, hence being locked up in a cell! Sometimes the story works, sometimes it just looks the writers were lazy.

  12. I do understand that there are behind the scenes motivations for story lines and make allowances. I’m actually not blaming anyone for the lack of compelling story line. I’m just wondering why I’m less compelled by S&K. S&K were the reason I started watching Days and I stopped watching when Steve “died”. So I felt pretty strongly about them. And I think part of the reason might be MA as Jack. I really doubt that Jack #2 could have kept me interested, no matter how compelling his story.

  13. Yes, I’m definitely not trying to take anything away from MA’s Jack. He really is a great character, and I love what he’s going through at this point in time.

    I agree about the uber-angst in the storyline about Kayla’s arrest and trial, lska. I used to think the Jack storyline (the breakup part) was too angst-heavy, but that was GOOD angst. This is just piling on. They do seem to be trying to give us a few happy moments here and there about the baby (Stephanie’s birth, especially), but the overall storyline is just too much.

    smflan, you’re right about MBE’s pregnancy and maternity leave, and it really is a pretty good idea knowing they had to write Kayla out for awhile. But it’s really hard to take right after of the Marina breakup and then the kidnapping—while poor Kayla is pregnant through it all. And it doesn’t help that the trial is pretty much a legal travesty from start to finish.

  14. Yes, I have a definite feeling that they’re just piling it on right now. They really needed some happy time after the whole Marina thing and, as we all know, they’re not going to get it. Frustrating!

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