Last week, we saw Harper’s return leading to Jen passionately declaring her faith in Jack, and a wonderful moment of connection. Now, they use that same story to drive a wedge between them.
Here’s what happens: seeing how Harper is attempting to manipulate Jack into helping him get parole, Jennifer decides to go right to the source. She goes to see Harper and asks him to leave Jack alone, essentially telling him: it’s too late for you, so give up and don’t ruin it for Jack. The only trouble is, Jack had asked her to stay away. When Jack finds out that Jennifer went to see Harper anyway, he is furious:
I love how Matt Ashford plays this. He manages to convey in his quiet, cold seriousness that this isn’t Jack’s usual exasperation at Jennifer butting in. He is genuinely frightened for Jennifer’s safety; he just heard Harper make a veiled threat against her. I also think his reaction stems from the fact that when he asked her to let him handle this, he really did open up to her about Harper. If he had just shut her out and blown her off as usual, maybe he’d write this off as just Jen’s normal inability to stay out of things. But, he did talk to her, did ask her to let him figure it out, and she went behind his back anyway. That’s a betrayal of trust for Jack.
But, Jen’s motives for butting in are understandable too, as is her expectation that Jack won’t really mind that much—after all, that’s usually how things go. Even when she sees that Jack is angrier than usual, I don’t think she quite gets that this time is different. (I love that, actually—it shows that Jen isn’t a saint; she doesn’t always know exactly how much to push and how much to hold back. This misstep I think highlights how often she gets it right.) She stands her ground and says that she’s a part of his life, the good and the bad, and there is not a damn thing he can do to stop her. Then she goes just a little too far, taunting him and scoffing, “What are you going to do, fire me?”
And of course that’s just what Jack does. I love that it takes a perfect storm of events to make Jack do what he has probably felt he should have done a long time ago (in the Daysverse we don’t have to worry about pesky things like wrongful termination laws). In her shock Jen seems about to leave, but then she comes back firing with both barrels.
That leads to one of my favorite Jack and Jen exchanges ever, when Jack brings up Duke and puts him side by side with Harper. This shows so perfectly all the reasons Jack has to believe he’s a bad man. Okay, he tells Jennifer, it’s true that Harper the serial killer isn’t his real father—he only raised him; his real father is a wife-beating, daughter raping maniac. Which do you choose? Column A or column B?
Jack’s own history, left unsaid, hovers over this conversation. That’s what this is really all about. Is he an overall decent guy who did a horrible thing once, or does he always have the potential of turning into a monster? His two fathers are the perfect personifications of what Jack is afraid of, because they both victimized women. Harper is the good man gone wrong, and Duke is the man who would rather hurt a woman than let her go. There is the sense that one of these monsters—or some twisted amalgam of both of them—is inside Jack, waiting for the right situation to bring him out. And Jack knows exactly what that right situation is: when he falls in love. That’s what he has to protect Jen from. And ironically, the more he feels for her, the more danger she is in.
In response, Jen brings up her own family, another great use of history: Jen’s mother is in a mental institution, and she used to worry she would end up like her. This is not something that we have seen onscreen (at least not that I’m aware of), but it still works: we’ve seen her thorny relationship with her father, and know that she originally showed up in Salem because she was a troubled teen. Her intensity here seems to break through to Jack: for a moment at least, Jack is forced to see Jen as something other than an innocent princess he is going to corrupt. Maybe she can understand a little bit about what he’s going through.
But it doesn’t last. Jack pulls himself together (I love that he has to step out of the room and say “1, 2, 3” to do it, though—great detail), and rejects Jen once again. And this time Jen gets angry, bitterly so—this time, the stakes have been raised so high that the rejection stings more than usual (plus, she just lost her job). She says she’s been throwing herself at him as if she wasn’t worth anything. But no more. “Have a nice life, Jack,” she says, ” …. if you can.”