As I mentioned awhile back, watching these DVDs has turned me into a bit of an Emilio fan. I found him annoying when he was first introduced 1988, as a gang member with a bad attitude. But once they reformed him and turned him into a good guy, he actually became more interesting, rather than less—reversing the usual trend. Billy Hufsey is really good (in my opinion at least!) playing the sweet, sincere suitor without being saccharine and irritating.
The Jack/Jennifer/Emilio triangle was also, up to a point, executed very well. You can pretty much break the triangle down into two parts: the early phase, where Jack and Emilio were two points on a fairly balanced triangle—when the show hadn’t quite decided which couple it was going to go with—and the second phase, when Jennifer, hurt and frustrated by Jack, gets engaged to Emilio. I talked about the early phase here, and the later phase here. The first phase was a good example of a noncommital triangle, and the second a good example of a triangle that serves the “endgame” couple.
Up to a point—as I said.
I am convinced that something happened to change the plan for Jack and Jennifer after Jack’s dramatic rescue of Jennifer from her wedding to Emilio. Because that is when the triangle, flawlessly executed up to that point, completely falls apart. The whole arc of Jack’s rescue screamed “Big Moment happening here!” There was the tension of the approaching wedding and the tease that Jack had a plan to stop it. And then when we saw the plan! Jack pretends to be a fireman, pumps fake smoke into the bridal room, and rides off with Jen on the fire engine while the show plays “Rescue Me” by Aretha Franklin.
Then, they have some great conversations at the cabin Jack brings her to, and some great UST, and then … nothing. Lots of plot complications ensue, but the upshot of it all is that when they get back to Salem Jen reaffirms her engagement to Emilio.
Now, I want to make it clear that the reason I’m upset with this plot point is not that Jack and Jennifer don’t get together at the cabin. I’m all for near misses and dramatic reversals of fortune. I love soapy angst, especially of the supercouple variety. No, what bothers me is that the way they do it makes no sense.
It’s hard for me to convey exactly what’s wrong with the time period between the cabin and the Cruise of Deception (which is why it’s taken me so long to write this post!), and there isn’t one scene I can post that illustrates it. But I’ll try to sum it up: Jennifer continues her engagement to Emilio, but is never shown spending any time with him. Unlike the leadup to the interrupted wedding, she hardly seems conscious of being engaged at all—she never talks about him or even seems to think about him. And that becomes a problem because she does spend time with Jack, lots and lots and lots of time. Not only that, she continues to press him to declare his feelings, and even kisses him a couple of times. This could be very sympathetic if Jennifer seemed the least bit conflicted about it, but she doesn’t. These “girl marries the wrong guy” stories have to be carefully presented, so we can understand her reasons for marrying someone she doesn’t love, see who she still truly loves, and yet not make it seem she is callous or unfeeling toward the “wrong” guy. A balance must be maintained, and the show did it beautifully leading up the the interrupted wedding. They they threw it all out the window, and it mystifies me.
Even putting her engagement aside, it seems like there should be a fallout from the way Jack kidnapped her and yet didn’t declare himself … again. There are a few scenes that show Jennifer expressing her very understandable anger and frustration at that (like this one) but they are overwhelmed by the many, many scenes that show them interacting exactly like they did before she ever got engaged to Emilio. There is lots of fun banter and comedy, and a little adventure, but in context it doesn’t make sense—to me at least.
Here’s my wish list for what should have happened: I think they should have used this opportunity to put a lot of distance between Jack and Jennifer and give us a bit of angst. Maybe when Emilio discovers them on that ledge, he sees that kiss they share. After he rescues them anyway, he and Jennifer have a big hash it out conversation back in Salem. Emilio confronts her over her continued feelings for Jack, takes some blame on himself (“I didn’t want to see it”) and they end the engagement. But—and here’s the key for me—Jennifer decides that Jack’s refusal to commit to her at the cabin means it is never going to happen for them, that she needs to move on by herself, concentrating on her career and forgeting about both men.
Then, Jack and Jennifer get thrown together over the mystery of the diary pages. They could both be trying to maintain their distance (not just Jack), but we could see the UST building and the pain and love still there. That would build up and lead nicely into all the things that happen on the cruise.
But let’s bring it back to Emilio. I know that Jennifer’s guilt at betraying her fiance on the cruise is mitigated by the fact that Jack and Jennifer were in a desperate situation they might not survive, and also by the fact that Emilio was falling for Melissa at the same time. And when they get back to Salem, finally, mercifully, they put an end to it:
Billy Hufsey gives the scene what emotional resonance it has with the look on his face when Jennifer gives the ring back. Other than that, the general tone of lightness is appropriate, given everything that has happened. I think perhaps the show knew they had leached all the emotional weight out of this non-engagement engagement and they better not try for any seriousness or angst. Under the circumstances, this scene, at least, ends up working pretty well. But my overall feeling is one of relief, that they finally put this thing out of its misery.