It tickles my funny bone that Jack, the man who was introduced as the uncomplicated nice guy foil for Steve, now has a uncomplicated nice guy foil of his own. It’s also amusing that that uncomplicated nice guy is a former gang member. I love soaps.
The nice guy foil usually ends up being either a doormat, or an oblivious prig constantly saying “I know what’s best for you.” (Usually a little bit of both.) But initially, when it’s done right, the nice guy foil is genuinely nice: straightforward where our bad boy is secretive, considerate where our bad boy is moody. He might think the girl should forget about the bad boy, but it’s because he sees how much he hurts her, not because he has a superiority complex.
Jen sees Jack at the hospital visiting Isabella (who is in a coma). From the way Jack is acting, she thinks he has feelings for Isabella. Still upset, she runs into Emilio:
Poor Emilio! I can’t help feeling sorry for him. But there’s a really good dynamic here, that perfectly sets up Emilio as a foil, not a rival. When Jen asks him out, we can see her heart isn’t fully in it. When Emilio agrees, he’s not quite sure what he’s getting into. It’s obvious for these two, even when they’re not talking about him, that Jack is the elephant in the room.
Then on their date, they do talk about Jack. Jen is evasive on her feelings for him, and Emilio’s jealousy comes through, but somehow it doesn’t feel as though Jen is being unfair. She’s been hurt by Jack again and again, and she doesn’t know what else to do but try to move on. She clearly wishes she cared about Emilio, and even hopes that someday she will again. I like the way Melissa Reeves plays the lines about Emilio being her “best friend” (Billy Hufsey does a great reaction shot to that line, showing his disappointment) and how he makes her happy. She sounds like she’s trying to convince herself too. But, it’s also clear that Jen isn’t wholly pretending: she does like being with Emilio, she is happy.
And of course, in perfect soapy timing, Jack comes in just in time to witness this heartwarming exchange. Jack’s decision to suddenly show up with flowers isn’t really explained, but his feelings for her are well enough established that I think it still works. And the “you make me happy” line is perfectly pitched to discourage Jack, because that’s what he wants for her. Jen has tried to tell him that she wants him, not Emilio—but he’s hearing right from her own lips that she could be happy with Emilio.