Melissa returns

I always liked Melissa. I didn’t realize until I plunged into the wonderful world of message boards that she was a such a widely disliked character. This is probably more from her later days on the show: Jack’s dupe in the Steve/Kayla/Jack triangle, and then (with a recast) an obstacle for Jack and Jen.

This is where I am now, when Camilla Scott took over the role. As a complication for Jack and Jen, Melissa’s return is soapy genius. With Steve and Kayla softening towards Jack, we need someone else to be a visible reminder that he is Bad, Bad News for women. And that’s exactly what Melissa provides. She hasn’t been around to see that he’s changed, and she’s determined that her little cousin Jennifer won’t be hurt like she was.

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Still, this makes me mourn for Melissa, to see a Days heroine, a character with an honorable history on the show, reduced to badmouthing Jack and being Emilio’s singing partner. (Since when could Melissa sing?)

It also makes me laugh, in the clip above, to hear Melissa refer to herself as a “naive young girl” when she met Jack. Let’s take a look at this poor girl’s sheltered existence before she started working as Jack’s assistant (from soapcentral):

“Pete kidnapped Melissa … Pete and Melissa began dating each other secretly … Pete accidentally shot Mickey Horton … Linda [Melissa’s natural mother] drugged Pete and arranged for Melissa to find Pete and her in bed … Melissa took a job at a flower shop, not knowing it was a front for a drug ring … Barry Reid claimed Melissa was the dealer … Melissa went on the run … Pete married Ivy … Melissa and Pete continued to see each other on the side … Pete and Melissa finally married … while on her honeymoon Melissa was attacked, and almost raped …. Melissa was too guilt ridden to leave Pete, but continued her affair with Lars … Melissa and Pete divorced.”

Come to think of it, in Salem, maybe that counts as sheltered.

Lisa Trusel certainly wasn’t the best actress on the show, but she was a good ensemble player. And she could bring it when the scene called for it, like in this fabulous scene during the “Jack is Billy” storyline (I included the scene of Kayla and Steve beforehand, because it’s a good setup for the scene with Melissa):

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I always loved how the show had Melissa and Steve each learn the secret of Jack’s identity, but never share their knowledge with each other. It would have been easy for the show to do that, as a way to fill airtime if nothing else. But I loved that the only people Steve ever told of Jack’s identity were Marcus and Kayla (and even with them, it had to be torn out of him). But, Steve and Melissa each suspect the other knows, though they never come out and say it—which leads to some wonderfully circular conversations during the time Jack is getting closer to finding out the truth.

In the scene above, though, Melissa breaks through. Trusel is very effective as Melissa emotionally lists all the evidence: that Steve gave up Kayla for Jack, gave Jack his kidney, that the kidney was a perfect match. Steve’s final, feeble attempt at deflection is very poignant: “If Jack were my brother, do you think I’d let him hate me the way he does?” Then he finally admits the truth.

Trusel managed to sell Melissa’s desperate love for Jack, and desire to help him, very well—through three recasts and enough plot twists to make your head spin. Somehow she managed to show that Melissa was so in love with Jack that she was willing to be his spy at the community center, but that she still saw herself as Steve and Kayla’s friend. Even more difficult, she managed to sell the idea that Melissa didn’t believe Kayla was lying about the rape, but she didn’t think Jack was lying either. Trusel managed to convey a level of denial for Melissa so that she could chalk up the whole thing to some big misunderstanding. That’s not an easy line to walk, but she walked it, and managed to somehow retain some audience sympathy through it all (from me, anyway). I don’t care who you are, that’s some mad acting skillz.

Remembering how desperately Melissa was in love with Jack, and how much he used her, lends a lot of credence to the “angry Melissa” scene that I posted first. When I picture that scene (and the many, many “angry Melissa” scenes that follow it) with Trusel instead of Camilla Scott, it lends much more weight to her side of the argument, and her right to hold a grudge. It is cathartic, in fact, to imagine Trusel’s Melissa telling him off. Rather like, oh, something like this:

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This is a extraordinary payoff for months and months of evil Jack getting away with almost everything. After bouncing back from his assault conviction, and Harper’s arrest, he goes on his merry way as a Salem villain mucking up people lives and running for political office. Melissa’s very public rejection is perfect payback. He’s not in love with Melissa, so if she merely left him, it wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. This way, he loses the election, and more importantly, it provides an echo of his rejection and humiliation by Kayla. That’s what provides the more lasting damage.

(And isn’t it funny to see wee little cousin Jennifer dressed up in a her bridesmaid’s outfit in that scene?)

Here’s a little bonus of Pete and Melissa. I honestly have no idea whether I would even like them anymore, but I still thought this little scene, their first kiss, was cute when I rewatched. (They’re so young!)

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Apparently James E. Reilly was not the only one who employed the “flashback to two minutes ago,” hee. And rampaging Maggie at the end there is priceless!


30 thoughts on “Melissa returns

  1. I just have to say that I have been reading your blog for sometime and have been enjoying it tremendously. Your thoughts and observations are so spot on, especially with regards to the jack and jennifer storyline as it is unfolding in the early days.
    Back in the day when I was watching and taping days, the story of Pete and Melissa was quite sweet. A soap opera cliche of the good girl and bad boy with parental opposition but well done.
    Then Melissa meets Jack, i was not a regular viewer at this time so I was not aware of how badly Jack was using Melissa for his own purposes but she really let him have it dumping him at the altar!!! Such irony to see Jennifer with her poofy hair and bridesmaid dress knowing that 3 years later she would be marrying him herself.

    As for the Melissa returns entry, a few thoughts. I think that she exemplified the saying,’the woman scorned’ It seems that she took every oppourtunity to run Jack down to Jennifer and to elevate Emilio as a person of worth. As a device to keep the storyline of Jack and Jennifer’s hidden feelings from going somewhere it was brilliant; as our man Jack always had these feelings of doubt and unworthiness.

    On the Cononator message board on the Devoted to Deveraux website, many have posted their feeling that Melissa was jealous that Jennifer was the catalyst to have Jack change into a better man. Melissa could see that Jack did have deep and true feelings toward Jennifer. I have to agree that this resentment played a big part in her wanting to “protect” Jennifer and push her towards Emilio.

    PS. The clips used are wonderful as they do illustrate the points made so clearly.

  2. Great analysis. I always loved Lisa Trusel’s Melissa and never cared for the recast, though it made sense to bring back the character as a warning/reminder for cousin Jen about Jack’s dark side (but as a singer???). So right about how underrated her performance was during the Jack/Kayla/Steve storyline. And that kiss-off at the alter was perfect. Go Melissa!

  3. Melissa, Melissa, Melissa. You’re spot on as always, MP. It is funny to think of Melissa as some naive, innocent girl who was used and manipulated by Jack given her long history on the show prior to that. But, Lisa Trusel really did carry it off. And, as you say, she somehow managed to be Jack’s biggest supporter and Steve and Kayla’s friend at the same time. I never doubted that she viewed them as friends, but never doubted her loyalty to Jack. And, somehow, I even managed to accept that she didn’t believe Jack raped Kayla without hating her (as long as I didn’t think about it too hard).

    Then Melissa returns from Downtown Europe and it was never quite the same. She really was reduced to a one-note “Jack is evil, Emilio is awesome” role. It works quite well initially because the storyline needs somebody who hasn’t softened on Jack to keep that conflict there. Unfortunately, it seems like that’s the only thing they gave her to do.

    I think oksana’s insight is a good one. There probably is some level of “he wouldn’t change for me, so I refuse to accept he can change for you” to her attitude. She did want to be that person who helped him and wasn’t. So it’s not easy seeing somebody else fill that role.

  4. Thank you, oksana! I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. I appreciate your comments.

    You make a very good point about Melissa not wanting to admit that Jack could change for Jen when he wouldn’t change for her. She does mention to Jen several times how she thought she could help him and change him, but he can’t change—there’s a strong implication there that if she couldn’t change him, Jen sure shouldn’t be able to.

    Melaraus, I’m glad you like Melissa too. 🙂 I really think Lisa Trusel does good work in the Steve/Kayla/Jack storyline, in a pretty thankless role.

    Esp, it’s definitely disappointing how Melissa returns after her great sendoff (I love the way she rips up Jack’s ticket for their honeymoon, and then waves hers in his face and says “I always wanted to go to Europe,” hee!). I think her role is a perfect idea for the plot, as that reminder to Jack of what a bad guy he was. And we can root against Melissa in a way that we never could against Kayla, because while it’s true that Jack used Melissa and was horrible to her, she was complicit in it too. But there’s a part of me that thinks that the recast and the writing makes it almost TOO easy to root against Melissa. I think the character deserved better.

  5. While I was never a huge Melissa fan I didn’t hate her either. I accepted her as Mickey’s daughter and part of the Horton clan. I must say I LOVE Maggie in that last clip. When parents were parents! And she grounds Melissa to boot!!! Absolutely wonderful.

    The way Lisa Trusel played Melissa always came off as naive to me. Even though her litany of experience is quite vast, she managed to play it as someone who never really seemed to mature and grow as a result of past experience and relationships. That seemed to change with Jack. Maybe because for the first time it involved pitting her against her family who continued to stand beside her. Yes, she was a friend to Steve and Kayla but kept her eyes shut regarding the rape, living in her own fantasy world.

    When Melissa finally stands up to Jack, during the wedding no less, it was like “Yes, she’s finally grown up!”

    The new Melissa who returned from Europe with the extensive plastic surgery was just too changed for me to accept as Melissa. Besides being a singer, (She couldn’t come back as an accomplished dancer now?), she was just a little too harsh for me.

  6. I think the character did deserve better and it was too easy to root against her as an obstacle in Jack and Jen’s relationship. They took away any layers to her anger and, IMO, I never truly felt like she was trying to protect Jen. It always felt much more like she was trying to punish Jack. If I could have bought that she was truly trying to protect Jen, then I might not have felt quite so harshly about Melissa.

    But, the biggest problem I had with Melissa after she returned is that her anger always felt OTT. I know that Jack hurt her and she has every right not to forgive him for that. But she’s been gone for over a year at this point (18 months or so) and yet she acts like it all happened yesterday. Plus, I can’t ever forget that she bears some responsibility for her own duping. She had plenty of evidence that Jack was a bad guy, but chose not to believe it. I sometimes think maybe Melissa is so angry with Jack just because it’s easier than really looking in the mirror and realizing she made a lot of bad choices herself.

    • Good points about Melissa’s culpability in her own duping. Its too bad the writers didn’t explore those layers during the return. It seemed as if during the Jack dumping that Melissa had finally wised up to her own lack of judgment about men. There’s a great scene during the Jack/Melissa storyline when Mickey recites a litany of her poor choices (Ian, Pete, Lars) to suggest that she is once again making a mistake. Too bad the returned Melissa was portrayed as OTT instead of a wiser person trying to prevent naive Jen from making the same poor choices. (And I agree it would have been much more in character to have had her return in a career related to dancing, perhaps even as a dance teacher.)

      • Oh, Ian! Wasn’t he her parole officer or something? I vaguely remember that. She and Pete were estranged and she got a crush on him. I don’t remember what happened after that, though.

        Oh, just checked soapcentral again and I see that he was the one who tried to rape her on her honeymoon with Pete. Niiiiice.

  7. Yep, “upstanding” parole officer Ian almost succeeded in seducing teenaged Melissa until she found out he was married. Later he turned out to be a serial rapist who blamed his violence on sexual frustration caused by Melissa (he had even raped Maggie!). Reminds me of Bad Jack when he blamed his penchant for hookers on frustration over not sleeping with Melissa (prior to Steve and Kayla’s wedding, when he and Melissa finally did hook up). No, Melissa definitely did NOT have a good track record.

  8. I had to go back and revisit the clips on Devoted to Deveraux to see the prior relatioship between Jack and Melissa when they were first involved. i do think that you do see a naive girl, even with all her prior relationships and experiences. She was much taken with the the dashing young politician and was blind to all the facts which were staring in her face, until the last flirtation/seduction of the gueat of the Kirikias’s, Kristina.

    When she does come back as a re-cast, one can see that she still has scores to settle with Jack who she can now see as having the deep and true but hidden feelings for her cousin, Jennifer. Still great to watch as Jack has to overcome his feelings of unworthiness for the true Horton princess.

  9. It’s very true that Lisa Trusel played Melissa as very naive with regards to Jack. It was really the only way to play it that would explain her willful blindness where Jack was concerned. I just think it’s funny that Melissa could still be naive after all she’d been through! Her childhood was no picnic either—the usual pass-the-baby soap childhood.

    I wish they had better explored her jealousy/ulterior motives when she came back and was so anti-Jack. It would have been hard to care about Melissa as much with the recast, but even so, giving her some explicit motivation would have added depth to the storyline, as well as honoring the character’s history on the show. She could have filled her role in the plot just as well.

  10. It’s funny, I had no idea of Melissa’s history (beyond the very basic Pete and Lars stuff), so I never thought her naivete was that hard to buy. But knowing this (including the fact that Maggie was raped and that she was almost raped) kind of makes me view it in a whole new light. If anything, it goes to show that even back then soaps had short memories when necessary. If I had known that whole history, I really would have had a hard time accepting Melissa’s denial of Jack raping Kayla.

    But, I guess it also shows that the right writing and a decent actress to pull it off can make almost anything work. Because, as I said before, I always bought that Melissa was just in some sort of deliberate denial about the whole thing.

    And I wish they would have brough back Melissa with more depth as well. I’d have loved it if we had seen that much of her motivation was about punishing Jack, not “saving” Jennifer. Just a scene where somebody (Jen!) called her on her motivations would have been great.

  11. Good point about the show ignoring history. I had either forgotten or missed Melissa’s almost-rape by Ian, because I never thought of it back then when I was watching. And it’s true the show never even remotely references it in connection to Kayla’s rape, which does make it harder to take that Melissa is in such denial about it (it’s not an easy sell anyway—though as I said above I think LT does a good job with it). But, they could have thrown in a line by Melissa where she says she could never believe it of Jack because she knew a rapist and knows Jack isn’t like that. That would have helped.

  12. Dang, now I wish I could find that clip I was remembering with the Mickey/Melissa conversation (I think its on OhLookaBird’s site, but I’d have to dig through to find it) to recall exactly how she responded. I came across one (too long to post) in which Maggie refers to “what Jack did to Kayla” and Melissa totally ignores the reference to once again insist that Jack is misunderstood and really is a good person inside. Melissa Anderson = “Queen of Denial.”

  13. I think the “Queen of Denial” things is a Horton trait. Because where Jack was concerned Jennifer certainly had it in spades – in fact she frequently went around saying Jack was a good person, and a lot of the time it was when he certainly didn’t deserve it. I know I’m jumping pretty far ahead in the JnJ storyline here, but Jennifer herself admits that until she herself was raped, she pretended that ‘side’ of Jack didn’t exist. So maybe its a selective thing for these two, Jennifer and Melissa? Because I would say there are a lot of similarities between Melissa and Jennifer (young, pretty naive, the Horton Princess bit, etc). Almost makes me wonder if some of Melissa’s anger at Jack later isn’t part of the whole “why is *she* the one to redeem you? why was I not worthy?” thing that someone else mentioned already. Although sadly the show really didn’t give Melissa in her 2nd version a lot of understandable motivation, she was just MAD at Jack.

  14. I’ll look forward to seeing the part you’re talking about, Kris. I have noticed that sometimes Jen gives Jack more of the benefit of the doubt than he deserves.

    I also wish that there had been someone like Mike or another Horton who could be a voice of warning for Jen. Melissa and Emilio were both so obviously biased. Very, very occasionally Alice or Tom or Maggie will say something, but in the time period I’m watching right now they are all strangely neutral.

  15. In terms of warning in the early days when jennifer started becoming involved with jack it was quite obvious that her grandparents were concerned about it. when they appeared as a couple at kim and shanes party and also when she wanted to invite jack to tom’s birthday celebration they had reservations about it. at the opening of wings, alice let her feelings show as she glared at jack when jennifer left.
    Let’s not forget that during the baby hannah story line, alice let jack know that if he ever hurt jennifer , he would have to answer to her. those were the days

  16. You are right about those early scenes. The Alice one is particular is great. There is also an absolutely wonderful scene with Mike where he is clearly not happy with what he sees with Jack and Jen (in fact, I blogged about it here).

    At the point where I’m watching, though, the rest of the family seems to have accepted Jack, or at least they are neutral. Maybe that makes sense because Jack and Jen’s friendship has been established for so long. I think I just really like the “everyone is against them” vibe and wish for more of it!

  17. I don’t have much to add to the discussion, just wanted to say that I loved the scene selections. I’m only really familiar with Melissa through her role in the Steve/Kayla/Jack story, but always enjoyed Lisa Trusel. When thinking of her best scenes, another that jumps to mind is the earlier unsuccessful confrontation with Steve, which the scene above bookends. I’ve seen a little of her romance with Pete and found it less than compelling, but she did great work when they weren’t asking her to be the ingenue.

  18. Good point on the first scene where Melissa comes to see Steve, after she finds out the truth about Jack (during the poisoning storyline, if I remember right.) She puts it together about how Steve pushed Kayla away when Jack was dying and that Steve must know who Jack is. But, Steve manages to keep it from her that time.

    As I said above, I love that the show doesn’t have Steve confide in her. It seems like when there’s a secret to be kept, soaps generally have those “in the know” share their knowledge. But it’s very much in character for Steve to keep it to himself.

    And I agree that Lisa Trusel is great in that scene too.

  19. Do you remember when they paired Melissa with Emelio after awhile? Ugh. What an awful pairing. Poor Melissa, basically she was used as a prop for other storylines on her second return, and not in a good way.

  20. I do remember that. It was a really contrived pairing, obviously for convenience. I didn’t see her push him out the window, but given the way the character of Emilio was presented, it’s hard for me to imagine him attacking her like that.

    And I guess she was going with Brian Scofield before she left town. I saw some discussion somewhere that maybe Brian was Nathan’s father. I have the feeling, though, that we’ll never find out who Nathan’s father is.

  21. Lisa Trusel alert! The buzz is that she will be back for Mickey’s funeral (he died of natural causes on today’s episode). Perhaps her visit will drop some hints about the mystery father of her adult son, Nathan. Interesting tidbit: somewhere along the way Melissa apparently changed her last name to Horton (Nathan’s last name too, further indication she wasn’t married to mystery father). Makes sense. She was first adopted by mom Linda’s umpteenth husband, wealthy Bob Anderson, but he died soon afterward. Her bond with Mickey and Maggie was so strong it always seemed strange that she didn’t take the Horton name sooner.

  22. Wow, that’s interesting news, Melaraus! I will be curious to see what she looks like now. And I’ll definitely be curious to see if they drop some hint as to who Nathan’s father is.

    I could be wrong, but I thought Melissa was going by “Horton” back during her first run. I don’t remember a big moment with her changing it, but I thought I remembered her being referred to that way.

  23. I love Lisa Trusel and her portrayal of Melissa, I stopped watching when she left. Her and Pete were so great together and the pairing of her and Ian was great to. I wish she’d come back permantely!!!

  24. If the rumors are true, it would be wonderful if she could have a scene with Justin. They had such great “just friends” chemistry back in the days when he was pining for Adrienne and she was mooning over Jack. As long as the writers don’t retcon things to make Justin be Nathan’s father! If singing Melissa had never shown up, it would make the most sense for Jack to be the dad; good excuse to bring back JA! Oh, the possibilities! 🙂

  25. Hi Tori! Nice to see another Melissa fan.

    Oh wow, Melaraus, you are absolutely right that if Melissa #2 had never come back, Jack would make perfect sense as the father.

    Then Nathan would be Stephanie’s cousin!

  26. Its confirmed! This week’s Soap Opera Digest is supposed to include an interview with Lisa about her brief return to the Days set. Yeah!

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