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.
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):
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:
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!)
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!