Another great little arc for Steve and Jack. I swear, you can’t put these two characters (and actors) together without something wonderful happening.
Steve is upset about a sensationalistic article that appeared in the Chronicle about Kayla. He decides to go to Jack for help printing something positive about her:
I love how things fall apart immediately. Steve is stressed out about Kayla, feeling uncomfortable being the one seeking a favor, and Jack’s slightly condescending tone makes him turn right around and walk out again. It highlights how fragile their bond is at this point.
This arc also very nicely brings in the presumed death of Anjelica and baby Alexander in a plane crash, which is a plot point going on in another story. Steve hears about it from Jo and goes back to see Jack. First he hears Jack reading aloud from the article he has written about Kayla in the meantime, so he knows right away that Jack is going to help Kayla after all. Then he offers his condolences about the crash. Then a masterful job by the writing team, with this exchange:
Jack: I tried to treat Alexander like a little brother, that’s why it was so hard …. and Anjelica, I thought she’d outlive us all, at least out of spite.
Steve: I’m sorry about your little brother. I know what that’s like.
This references so much history. I like how he talks rather lightly about Anjelica, or at least tries to, since he knows Steve doesn’t have any reason to think kindly of her. It’s like he expects Steve to make some snarky remark about her, and he’s forestalling that. The reference to Alexander is even more interesting. It goes back to something semi-evil-Jack did when he was just starting his redemption story—-make a big fuss about Alexander after he was born and how he was going to be his family. I find the use of the word “tried” in the line above be very interesting, because it implies he didn’t succeed in treating Alexander like a brother. It’s possible Jack is remembering how he was overcompensating at the time—running as far away from the Johnsons as possible, and putting all of his longing for a family onto Alexander. Maybe he feels guilty that he didn’t spend more time with Alexander. Or maybe he feels sheepish referring to Alexander as his brother, talking to his actual brother. In any case, Steve’s response is lovely: he honors the relationship Jack had with Alexander, and then draws the parallel with his own loss of his baby brother: which was Jack, of course. In addition to showing that he really does understand, he might be bringing this up to make Jack realize a little of what Steve felt when Billy was taken away and, therefore, why Steve did all the things he did for—and to—Jack. This is a real moment of connection and understanding, perhaps the first real one they’ve ever had.
Then another step forward, building nicely from this one:
Very nice big brother/little brother vibe here, where we can see how much Jack is seeking Steve’s approval, and how much his praise means to him. Ironically, that very eagerness is what makes him keep making those half-defensive remarks like “that’s the name of the game in the newspaper business,” that annoy Steve so much. But that annoyance just adds to the brotherly tone of this whole scene, I think. When he starts offering Jack advice about his life, this is really the first time he’s told Jack that he can make up for the past. I love that Steve mentions his own past, that he knows a little something about that himself. It’s something that creates an extra bond between them, but it’s never been acknowledged before.
Jack of course feels the need to deflect the idea that he can get past his past like Steve did, and he says that Harper is as much a part of him as …. (love the pause, showing Jack knows he’s venturing into touchy territory) the orphanage is a part of Steve. Another first—the first time the difference in their childhoods has been mentioned between them.
[In fact, this makes me wish for a more in-depth conversation between them about this. There is so much interesting complexity they could bring out. Steve has suggested before that if Jack had stayed with him, he wouldn’t have turned out the way he did. I think it would be interesting to see Jack’s reaction to that. Steve could tell him he wishes he could have kept his promise to him in the orphanage, when he said he would always take care of him—because that would have kept him away from Harper, kept him away from being raised by an evil man. The last time they talked about that promise was back when Jack first found out he was Steve’s brother, so it would be interesting to bring it up now when their relationship has changed so much. Something that has always been implicit in Steve’s guilt about Billy is that it was Steve’s actions (in trying to kill Duke) that led to Billy being given up for adoption. Jack could say that he really got the better end of the deal (privileged upbringing vs. orphanage), and while he was at it say that growing up with Duke likely wouldn’t have been a picnic either. More importantly, he could tell Steve that he was only a child back then, that he did his best but none of this was his fault. I think it would be very powerful for Steve to hear that from Jack specifically—hear from little baby Billy.
Even more than that, the issue resonates with what Jack is struggling with now, how much responsibility he has for his own life and choices. Jack would naturally reject the idea of Steve’s responsibility, and point out that he has made his own mistakes. And would lead nicely into Steve reiterating the point that if Jack made his own choices when he made his mistakes, then he can makes his own choices now and make better ones.]
I love how this is Steve telling Jack the same thing Jennifer did—that he isn’t doomed to be like either of his two fathers. It’s something Steve can understand more than anyone. But this isn’t a touchy-feely scene. Steve actually starts to sound a little annoyed that Jack isn’t immediately taking his words to heart. Apparently he thinks Jack should be able to get past his history a lot faster than he did, hee! After he leaves, we get a last shot of Jack—not really believing what Steve was telling him, but wanting to believe it, and very moved that Steve cared enough and thought enough of him to tell him.
(I find it hard to admit that this is the kind of scene I couldn’t appreciate back in the day, when I resented Jack taking Steve’s place as the self-hating anti-hero. I’m glad I’m more mature now!)