Jen gets a job offer

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Mr. Simple

One thing that can be very difficult, over the long haul of a supercouple story, is keeping the power balanced between the two characters. That is particularly true in a “push her away” type story like the Jack and Jennifer (or Steve and Kayla) story. The show has to be careful that the woman is not a complete doormat, someone willing to put up with anything and keep coming back for more. At the same time we have to see that the man’s repeated attempts to push her away have some cost—we have to see that it hurts.

The show had a way of playing around with this power balance, shifting one way, then shifting the other way. Just when you think “Wow, Jennifer has been putting up with a lot of crap lately,” boom, something happens to shift the power back. It’s part of the whole supercouple dance, this shifting back and forth. (Needless to say, these kinds of subtleties are completely beyond Days’ writing team today.)

Here’s a good example of a “poor Jen” scene:

Jen’s job offer 1

Jen assumes she can come in and tell Jack she got a job offer from another paper (actually, two offers) at a higher salary, and he will match it. Her confidence is not unwarranted—she’s always known that Jack respects her professionally and thinks she’s a good reporter. But, Jack sees an opportunity to let Jen move on and get a fresh start. He encourages to her take the other offer. Naturally, she is hurt by this, and it all adds up to shifting power away from Jen. It’s not what he does—pushing her away is what Jack does, after all—it’s how he does it, acting so convincingly that he couldn’t care less. The mask doesn’t slip at all. And he sees that she’s hurt, but she can’t see what he’s feeling at all.

We can guess that Jack isn’t as indifferent as he appears. But, the show very wisely lets us the viewers actually see it, by giving him a scene with Jo afterward. First we see a nice affirmation of Jack’s professional admiration for Jen, when Jo (in typical Jo fashion) tries to give him credit for Jen’s Ferraro award. He says very definitely that Jen won on her own merits. Then, when she hears about the firing, Jo expresses her (which is also our) outrage at Jack, and we can see from his reaction that this is hurting him. And he tells Jo that this way Jen can make a fresh start and move on.

But Jen doesn’t know this, and she is left to try to make a decision now, about staying or going. More money, more responsibility, her own office … the choice seems clear. There’s a tiny wrinkle in that if she leaves she won’t finish her college degree (her internship at the Spectator is for college credit), but this seems minor compared to everything else. There is really only one thing to explain Jen’s reluctance: her feelings for Jack. And the way this is set up it seems the height of doormat-ness for Jen to stay, to hang around guy who is trying to kick her out the door.

But then there’s a twist:

Jen’s job offer 2

The power starts to shift back right from the outset of this scene, because Jen has gone out to a party with her friends and family to celebrate her award, and we see Jack’s jealousy as he asks her about it. Then, he goes further when he oh-so-casually asks her what she’s decided, and we see how much he is dying to know. I love that Jen is very far, emotionally, from the earlier scenes, when her hurt was so close to the surface. Here she’s steaming mad and isn’t giving anything away. As Jack waits to hear her decision, she calmly hands him his pen (“Binky’s pedicures,” hee!).

Then, in the next scene, Jen announces she’s staying by ripping up her article and saying she wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of leaving. It’s such an unexpected resolution to the arc, and that makes it rather wonderful. Also, it brings up a thread that runs through all of these scenes, that Jack was trying to get rid of her for reasons that had nothing to do with work. He was trying to make her decisions for her—“for her own good,” of course—and she’s telling him she isn’t going to be his little chess piece. And just like that, she turns it around so that leaving would be the “weaker” choice, because it would be playing right into Jack’s manipulations. (I also really like Jack’s involuntary smile at hearing the news, like “I tried to do the right thing, but she isn’t letting me so it’s out of my hands.”)

Emilio’s presence here also helps. Poor Emilio! He’s about to be run over by the Supercouple Love Train. But he is used very well here. Jack tries to be all smirky about him, and even though we know it’s a mask for his jealousy, it’s still a potent weapon against Mr. Sincerity. But Jen turns that around too: she doesn’t get defensive, and she doesn’t rise to the bait. She knows just what is behind Jack’s sarcasm, and she calls him on it: he’s not happy for her, as he claims. Then she goes a step further: Emilio can tell someone how he feels, while Jack is too much of a coward. Zing. And now the power has evened out nicely. Nicely done, Days.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: I believe in you


6 thoughts on “Jen gets a job offer

  1. They really did a good job of keeping things balanced back in the day and they often did it ways that weren’t even noticeable, unless you’re really looking. That balance is something that is so important, but you don’t realize it until it’s not there.

    This scene is a perfect example. By the simple twist of having Jennifer refuse to play Jack’s game and refuse to get defensive about Emilio, Jen goes from being in a powerless position to having all the power by the time she leaves. The balance is restored.

    In a story where one of the characters has more obvious “issues” this balance is, I think, crucial to keeping the story about two individuals and not just about one. The show made the occasional slip here in there in both the S&K and J&J stories. But, they seemed to realize when they’d let things get a little to out of whack and would, usually, do something to shift things back.

    I honestly believe that this inability to understand the importance of this balance (or maybe just unwillingess to care enough to do the little things necessary to keep the balance) is one of the big things missing in today’s soaps.

  2. Esp13,

    ICAM. I couldn’t stand to watch other soaps as Days was just so good back then. Now it’s just another soap.

  3. Happy New Year!!

    I just wanted to say that early Jack and Jennifer working together at the Spectator was just classic soap opera complete with chemistry and great lines. Having Emilio in the mix at this time was great as well as a contrast to Jack who was seething with jealousy whenever he saw Emilio trying to get close to Jennifer. Remeber when he made a big production about the peck on the cheek Jennifer gave Emilio and he was ranting about proper office procedure. This was followed by his fantasy of Jennifer taking off her jacket and coming onto him quite seductively. And this was all early days in their working together. The chemistry between them was off the charts.
    Contrast this with the episode i saw today. where philip kiriakis, a man in his late 20’s, from a wealthy but shady family is now engaged to a 18 year old after maybe 1 date.

  4. Happy new year to everyone!

    I find the Phillip/Melanie thing baffling, love the soaps. He was one of my favorite characters when I was still watching the show. Now when I tune in occasionally I find it very hard to even watch him when he’s with her.

    I remember that scene Jack and Jen scene. It was the first time we saw Jack have a dream/fantasy about Jen, if I recall correctly. And I think after Jack got done scolding Jen about her unprofessionalism she said she was leaving to go make out with the whole football team, and the marching band too. Hee.

    Esp, I totally agree that the show has lost its way with the power balance issue. I think it’s so far gone that if you even broached the topic to Dena, she would just stare at you with a blank expression on her face.

  5. Hee! I’m sure you are right about Dena, MP. I think the kind of balance we used to see in these stories is also a casualty of the inability/unwillingness of soaps to really tell long-term stories. The only way to keep that necessary balance is to be willing to write the little moments that hit the necessary character/emotional beats but that don’t necessarily advance the plot all that much.

    But, to do that you have to trust your audience to commit to the story and that, in turn, means giving the stories enough depth and consistency that the audience has reason to commit. Sadly, that element is most definitely missing these days.

  6. I think you’re definitely right that it’s the lack of long term stories that is the root of the problem. Balance of power issues matter most in relationships that play out over time, and that doesn’t really happen these days. Sigh.

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