Best Man

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Thank you

You may have noticed that I have a real fetish for watching stuff in order. It can make what seems to be an ordinary scene exceptional: for instance, a light, humorous scene can seems incandescent in a period of heavy angst. Payoff scenes are better if I’ve suffered through the worry and stress preceding it, and breakthrough scenes are more exciting if I’ve seen the baby steps and the false starts leading up to it. I’ve found that seeing scenes in context almost always makes them better.

This scene is an exception to that rule. A few years back, I violated my going-in-order rule and watched this scene by itself, and I absolutely loved it. It’s the scene where Steve asks Jack to be his best man at his second wedding to Kayla:

Steve asks Jack to be his best man 1

As a stand-alone, this scene really is fantastic. But in context, though I still love it (and I say this with regret), it hasn’t really been earned. Steve has just barely begun to thaw towards his brother. I believe that Steve would relent to the point of inviting Jack to the wedding, and I think they could have done a great scene just with that. (In fact, could have hit a lot of the same notes as this scene does.) But Steve asking Jack to be his best man just seems a step too far, beyond what Steve would be prepared to do at this time. There’s also the issue of Kayla, and whether she should have to stand up next to Jack (her ex-husband, her rapist) on her wedding day. It doesn’t help that the show doesn’t give us a setup scene where Steve clears this with Kayla (though Steve does have a line to that effect, and that helps).

But, Stephen and Matt are wonderful playing all the awkwardness, and also the underlying hope and tentative connection that this move represents. The way they play it sells it to me … ninety percent, at least. They don’t make any of it seem too easy, or wrap all their problems up in a bow. I love how Steve arrives looking a bit grim, like he can’t believe what he’s about to do, and how Jack’s attempts at banter—which stem from Jack’s own nervousness—almost chase him away again. It’s too much like Jack’s mockery from his evil days.

When Steve stops by the door, and mutters that maybe Jack could be the best man, along with all the strangeness and discomfort we see how much Steve is afraid of being rejected. That’s a really nice touch. And Jack’s utter shock and disbelief and pleasure are pretty wonderful too. Steve’s guarded, almost sour look turns into a slight smile as he sees Jack’s reaction.

That thaws them out for the next part of the conversation, but even then the awkwardness remains, especially in the handshake at the end. Steve hold out his hand and Jack slaps it. He’s still trying to put on a jokey manner to cover up how much it means to him. But Steve picks up his hand to shake it for real (with a big brother “quit clowning around” vibe), but then pulls away. It means so much to both of them, but they are both still uneasy about it too.

Then a nice coda:

Steve asks Jack to be his best man 2

This is a good way to show how truly happy Jack is about this, and to give him a moment of connection with Jennifer about it. I love that he actually tells her about it (after some hemming and hawing): it’s a mark of how happy he is that he actually manages to open up about something. Then Jen takes the opportunity to throw out that hint that every relationship has to take a first step, but then she just leaves it at that. She really is happy for him, and she isn’t going to ruin this moment by pushing too hard.

And then a good aftermath scene with Kayla too.

Steve is still trying to play it cool as he tells her about it, but Kayla can see how much this means to him. When he tries to scoff and say “Do I look happy?” I love the way Kayla walks away and says, “You can’t fool me.” Seeing Steve’s happiness about Jack touches a sore spot. The way Mary Beth plays this reminds me of Kayla’s nightmare during the rape storyline, when Jack and Steve were laughing together at her expense. But then Steve asks her if she’s happy, and he does it with such concern and sincerity, it shows that Steve understands that this is difficult for her. This scene helps address the “rapist as the best man” issue, because we see how Kayla feels about it: accepting, happy for Steve, but not necessarily thrilled.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Wedding Day

11 thoughts on “Best Man

  1. These are great scenes for the Johnson boys. I love how the minute Steve leaves Jack pulls out the photo of him and Steve. Reinforcing how much he longs for his brother and maybe, just maybe, he finally has his brother. This is a very shaky moment for both of them but as Jennifer says, “It’s a first step.”

    I also like how Jennifer realizes when she walks out the door that if Jack can maybe reconcile with Steve and develop some kind of a normal life that there is hope for her. Or maybe I’m reading too much into this.

    I don’t remember what is going on at this point as to why Kayla is concerned about the cassette player. Is there a recording of Marina on this? Also, was Kayla still pregnant at this point?

    Love the vids. Thanks so much MP!

  2. You’re very welcome, Kathleen.πŸ™‚

    Kayla is still pregnant at this point, yes. She is concerned about the recorder because someone (Victor, but she doesn’t know that) sent her a recording of her and Marina fighting. She hasn’t told Steve about it. I know with the camerawork it implies Kayla is worried about the tape, but I like to think that SN and MBE are playing it that Kayla is troubled about Jack as well.

    I don’t think you’re reading too much into what Jen is thinking. That’s how I took it, too.

    I love that picture of Steve and Jack. Great use of a prop. I can’t remember if I posted the scene where Jo gives it to him, but that’s a really good scene too.

  3. I had never thought about it, but you’re right that this does work better as a stand alone scene because you don’t realize that it’s a step too far at this point in Jack and Steve’s relationship.

    I love all the wonderful dynamics that go on, but I do wish they had made it about Steve inviting Jack to the wedding, not making him the best man. As much as they try to balance it by showing that it’s not a cure all for their relationship (like Jack’s line to Jen – best man, not best friend), it still just feels like a step too far. Maybe if Steve wasn’t marrying Kayla, it wouldn’t feel that way. But, he is, and my overriding thought is that it just doesn’t seem fair that Kayla should have to walk down the aisle while the man who raped her is standing next to the man she’s going to marry.

    The scene between Steve and Kayla after Steve returns home does help in that we see that Kayla isn’t just blindly thrilled with the whole idea. She’s going along with it because she knows what it means for Steve and because she believes Jack has earned his second chance. But, it still bugs a bit. I really think they could have hit all these same beats with Jack being expressly invited to the wedding (therefore included in the family).

    I think this is one of those situations where the show had good intentions and uses the situation for a lot of wonderful character moments. They just took things a step farther than was necessary.

  4. One thing I noticed is that TPTB don’t seem to place too much significance on the position of Best Man in the first place. In fact, this wedding is missing a lot when it comes to excitement. I think, in many ways, this wedding isn’t anything more than a formality that S&K want to get done before the baby’s born. They had their perfect wedding, and this one is just coming too fast on the tail of so much drama in S&K’s relationship. If Kayla wasn’t so very pregnant, I get the impression that S&K probably would have waited on re-wedding.

    As for Jack being the Best Man, it does, admittedly, seem a little rushed. However, when you think about it, he really is the man that single-handedly got them back together. So, for this wedding (that doesn’t really count all that much), he is the one that worked the hardest to get them to this point, so it is fitting in that way.

    As for Kayla’s feelings on the whole “rapist or redeemed” front, it’s unfortunate, but at this point that’s been put on the backburner. I do believe that Kayla’s rape was one of the best handled in Daytime, but even the gold standard has some flaws. Kayla tends to get lost in her own story sometimes when her quiet pain is overshadowed by the loud and vehement man she loves. The rape was made all the more compelling simply due to the addition of brothers Johnson. They even address this at times via dialogue (the “He didn’t rape you!” scene being a prime example). With Kayla starting to forgive (if not necessarily forget), there’s no one who is truly willing to bring that up as a frontburner issue anymore.

  5. It’s not that I expect it to be a frontburner issue or that I even object to Kayla being able to forgive Jack. The show does a really good job of paving the way for that step and for reconstructing a bit of a friendship (however awkward it might be) between Kayla and Jack throughout the Marina storyline. So, I’m not looking for somebody, even Kayla, to be bringing the rape up again as a frontburner issue. It’s enough for me that the actors play that underlying awkwardness all the way through.

    But, even if it’s not a frontburner issue anymore, I think the writers do a disservice to the story when they take things a step too far. The reason I, as a viewer, am able to forgive Jack is because (a) they set up everything before the rape so well and (b)they earned his redemption but never at the expense of Kayla being allowed her feelings.

    When Jack was trying to help her (like the trip to Italy), Kayla was still allowed to be suspicious and uncomfortable around him. Here, they give Jack his payoff, but it feels (to me) like it’s a little at Kayla’s expense. That’s why this just feels off.

    I do agree that the one thing that mitigates it all is that they don’t treat Best Man as anything super special. He’s not suddenly Steve’s best friend or anything.

  6. This particular example is tough because it’s true that Jack did more work than anyone to get them back together. In some ways, he did earn this. But Steve especially has been so suspicious for so long that it’s a hard sell just from a believability perspective.

    The “rapist as best man” issue would probably be an issue no matter how they handled it. It’s just one of those things, I think. From my point of view as a Kayla fan and a Jack fan, there are very few “off” moments during Jack’s whole redemption—which is really pretty amazing when you think about it. This isn’t even one of them, necessarily, because SN and MA do such a good job selling it to me (ninety percent, like I said). But it just seems a step too far.

    Though I might be coming at it from the wrong perspective, where I actually think being a best man means something.πŸ™‚ Hee!

  7. I watched these scenes recently on my DVDs and they didn’t bother me because I was so taken with the performances. I remember thinking it was weird when Marcus started urging Steve to choose Jack. But you’re absolutely right — it’s too soon. It wasn’t that long ago when Steve was still railing about Jack.

    RileyKay brings up a good point also. This wedding never had much excitement about it. It was just something that had to be done. And Kayla was acting so strangely (because of her guilt), it was hard to be elated about it.

    But I think the reconciliation was necessary to move Jack’s story along. I think the writers wanted him to work out his problems with Steve and Kayla before he could be with Jennifer, so they may have just decided it needed to happen.

  8. The reconciliation was necessary and, in fact, earned. The reconciliation isn’t the problem, at least for me. It’s the way they symbolized that reconciliation with the best man thing. That’s the step too far, not the fact that Steve and Jack are mostly reconciled at this point. That’s why I think all of the important emotional beats could have been hit with it being about inviting Jack to the wedding (thereby showing he is part of the family).

    In the end, it’s not a major thing so I don’t want to sound like it was some fundamtental flaw or anything. SN and MA (and MBE) sell properly and there are other things to balance it. It’s just that for a story that hits so many right notes, it’s always a little jarring when they hit a wrong one.

  9. That was actually what I meant. They needed the reconciliation, but it went a little too fast here. I was mostly commenting on how I was just willing to accept it because they sold it in these scenes. But you’re right — too fast, too soon.

  10. Wonderful comments everyone. During the Johnson family storylines there were never enough scenes between the 2 brothers, so I always enjoyed their interactions. These were great scenes and I remember them well. Jack so rarely smiled during those days that when he did smile out of genuine happiness it was great to watch.

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