In the middle of some not-so-good stuff, I really like this arc regarding whether Kayla can keep Stephanie with her in prison. It’s full of angst and suffering, but somehow it’s the good kind.
There are a lot of great moments in this arc: Kayla’s initial desperate urgency to keep Stephanie with her at all costs, Steve’s invocation of his own childhood and his resulting certainty that a baby’s proper place is with her mother, Kayla turning to Jo for advice.
But I think this scene is one of the best:
I love how Mary Beth plays Kayla’s joy at hearing she will be able to keep Stephanie with her, and then her smile immediately fading as she looks at Steve and realizes what this means for him.
Stephen and Mary Beth play off one another perfectly as they struggle to say goodbye. Steve’s reassurances that he’s going to get Kayla out of jail take on a new urgency. He’s been saying that all along, but here he seems to be saying it because he couldn’t bear to say goodbye otherwise. For Kayla, she’s been worrying about Stephanie so much it’s almost a shock to have to suddenly say goodbye to Steve. And Mary Beth plays Kayla’s distress so well, but also a tinge of guilt and worry, knowing she’s taking Stephanie away from her father. (It’s amazing how well they do with the baby crying through the whole scene. I think it adds to the angst of the whole thing.)
The scene ends perfectly, with Steve alone, holding the baby’s ID bracelet. It emphasizes that even with the outcome they were hoping for, there really is no good option.
After Kayla gets to prison, she begins to doubt whether this is the right choice after all. Kayla doesn’t get to keep Stephanie with her in her cell; the baby spends most of her time in the jail nursery. Then the other inmates set a fire in the jail somewhere, and Kayla doesn’t know whether Stephanie is in danger or not.
This leads her to make a heartbreaking decision:
I just really enjoy (in a masochistic way, of course) watching the process Kayla goes through, from her desperate insistence on keeping Stephanie with her (it’s her first thought after she gets convicted) to her determination to give her up. Here she actually has to convince Steve to take Stephanie home, and we see both the horrible pain it causes her and her growing conviction that it is the right thing.* The moment when Kayla gives Steve to Stephanie and says goodbye is incredibly painful and moving. It’s a much more powerful moment, too, than it would have been if the social worker had simply denied Kayla’s request to keep Stephanie. By having Kayla choose to do this, to put her daughter’s needs first, no matter what cost to herself, it makes it more about Kayla and who she is, instead of just a generic “heroine suffers” moment.
(For Steve, seeing Kayla go through this gives him some insight into Jo’s decision from so long ago, and paves the way for a wonderful upcoming scene with Steve and Jo, which I will post soon.)
The pair of scenes that close off this arc emphasize that cost, and how alone Kayla is, as we see her wondering how she is going to make it without Stephanie. And then a note of hope, showing Steve with the baby (and that adorable yellow-rose baby rattle) vowing to get her mother home soon.
*Of course, after all this agonizing about what’s best for Stephanie and where she will be safest, Stephanie ends up being kidnapped. D’oh!