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:
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:
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.