Steve’s death: Jo

First, apologies for my long absence. My mother came for a two week visit (during which I watched current Days with her), and then right after she left we all went to California for a visit with my mother in law! So, in keeping with the mother theme, I’m going to start my series on Steve’s death by talking about Jo Johnson.

Steve’s death, Jo

First, a quick note on the Blue Tunnel of Death. (For those who don’t know, after Steve’s accident he ends up in the hospital in a coma. We see Kayla, and then other members of the family, one by one, talking to Steve in a swirling blue tunnel, trying to talk him back from “going toward the light”—from dying.) I’m generally not a fan of Days when it goes supernatural. I don’t care for Angel Steve, and I don’t care for this either. Many of the things they do with all the characters talking to Steve in the tunnel, they could do in classic “coma bedside” scenes (which we also see). It also unfortunately seems to create the impression that Steve wants to die, because all this arguing against it forces Steve to take the other side. But, there are a couple of benefits to the blue tunnel, and one is that we get to see Steve reacting to the specific things his family says to him, and that turns out to be very important in some cases.

This is especially the case when Jo takes her turn in the blue tunnel. One of Jo’s key traits is her tendency toward self sacrifice, especially on behalf of her children. But, in Steve’s case, her sacrifices have always ended up hurting him in some horrible way. It all goes back to that seminal moment in Steve’s life, when she gave him up for adoption at the age of five, after he tried to kill her abusive husband. From Jo’s point of view, she was sacrificing herself, because she knew she was always Duke’s real target. If she stayed around to be Duke’s punching bag, Steve and Billy would be safe from him. But there is more to being safe than being physically removed from danger, and the consequences of Jo’s sacrifice were borne by Steve as much as by Jo. And that thread has run through their adult relationship as well.

If Jo’s first instinct with any problem is to sacrifice herself, her second has usually been to ask Steve to do so. Putting aside the the perfect storm of circumstance, character, motives and cross-motives that led Jo and Steve to be each others’ enablers in the sacrifice of Kayla for Jack, a simpler example will suffice. Before Jack knew he really was, Jack was hot on the trail of a “Billy Johnson,” who he knew nothing about other than he was somehow connected to something Steve wished to conceal. In order to keep Jack from finding out the truth, Jo thought nothing of asking Steve to fly down to California and break into the orphanage there and steal the adoption records. Kayla at this point was struggling to recover from being attacked by Harper and adjust to her possibly permanent deafness—but hey Steve, why don’t you leave your injured wife and go commit a crime for the man who raped her and is actively working to destroy you? All this, keep in mind, not to save Jack’s life or anything like that, but merely to prevent him from finding out something that might hurt his feelings. Cost/benefit analysis is not Jo’s strong suit.

Given all this history, Jo’s offer in the blue tunnel to go in Steve’s place—to die so that he can live—is both perfectly Jo and perfectly unprecedented. It’s Jo being a mother in the way that she best knows how, but this time, it’s on Steve’s behalf. And in order for us to be able to savor this moment, we need to see Steve’s reaction to it. And Stephen, of course, plays it perfectly, showing how moved Steve is by her offer. I love the slightly wry twist to “you’d really do that, wouldn’t you?” Then, when he goes on to say that his biggest regret he never got to tell her how he felt about her, at first glance it’s hard to know what he means. After all, he’s told her he loves her and they have a good relationship now. But, crucially, it’s always been a relationship of equals, and it’s not just Jo that this dynamic springs from. Steve, as an adult, has determinedly tried to avoid taking anything from her, from counting on her for anything, from being dependent on her. After all, look what happened the last time. But here, at this moment, they are closer to mother and son than they have been since he was five years old.

11 thoughts on “Steve’s death: Jo

  1. You summed it up perfectly. I would like to see the clip(if there is one) where Kayla talks to him in the tunnel as well.
    Thanks again for the great analysis you did and the clip.

  2. I want you to know that I really do appreciate what you are doing with all this. I have to say I’ve read every post on these characters, and I totally enjoy them. They are my bedtime reading source. I hope you will continue doing these because I always look forward to reading these every day.
    Keep up the great work! =)

  3. Hi! I stumbled across your blog a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed reading all your posts on Steve & Kayla and Jack & Jennifer. I was the hardest of the hardcore J&J shippers in my misspent(?) youth, but I always enjoyed S&K as well. I stopped watching Days in 1993 after MA was fired and slowly forgot all about my love for J&J. After many, many years of dormancy, my obsession came back in full force when I discovered You Tube clips (never knew they were there!) and now I’m even going to try to watch the show again in the fall when MA returns (boy, was I surprised to discover he was coming back).

    So, thank you for all your hard work. It is much appreciated.

    And on topic: I loved Joy Garrett so much.

  4. Thank you, voyager! My love for S&K was dormant too, until they came back in 2006. I hesitated to watch the older stuff, even after I found out clips were available, because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. When I finally did watch, it was even better than I remembered! And I missed most of J&J the first time around, so it’s been lots of fun discovering a new love story.

    Thanks for visiting!

  5. it is once again great to read another of your interesting blogs. the death of steve was an example of great writing and acting that we have not seen on days for many a year. i wasn’t really watching the botched return of steve in 2006 so just have to comment on what you have written about. i found the character of jo johnson to be a unique character not seen on soaps today, a proud woman, uneducated but with a shining love for her family. did she favour jack?, i can’t really comment on this as i wasn’t watching days before the reveal that jack was Billy but in the scenes i have seen drm 1989-1991, she was seen as a fount of unconditinal love and support which jack seemed to always struggle against, even when he longed for her love.
    Joy garret, who passed much too soon was an instinctive actor who played so well with steve nichols , matt ashford and judi evans, all excellent actors. It was uncanny to see how much joy and judi resembled each other, you could truly believe that they were mother and daughter. This is in stark contrast to Carly’s new found daughter, the resident reigning princess of salem., melanie who does not resemble either one one of her parents. Sorry to go off the tangent but it just goes to show how rich the acting was back in the days.

    Hope you are enjoying this wonderful summer. it has been so lovely.

  6. Jo’s favoring of Jack is most noticeable early on, during the Steve/Kayla/Jack triangle. I think it starts because at first (before Jack knows he is Billy) she sees Jack as the only child she didn’t screw up in some way, and she’s determined to protect that at all costs. I think everything flows from that—even after it becomes clear that Jack is, indeed, pretty screwed up himself.

    Jo is my favorite Days mom because she seems so real—well intentioned but flawed, with blind spots and mistakes she keeps making. But she obviously loves her three children very much. I think part of it is that she was brought on AS a mom, not as a leading lady who had her children on the show. The writers could concentrate on her story as a mother, and they did an excellent job (as did Joy Garrett).

  7. Concerning the notion that Jo favored Jack, my opinion is incomplete because I haven’t yet seen part of the story, as I have watched the story since Matthew Ashford took the role as Jack, and therefore, I haven’t seen Steve and Jo’s earlier interactions. (But I am slowly making my way through Steve and Kayla’s story from the beginning, and Adrienne has appeared, so I’m getting there.) Anyway, I had this discussion with a Steve/Kayla fan, and I wondered if it simply has to do with Jack being the youngest and Steve and Jack sort of staying in her mind as aged one and five on some level. Certainly five-year-olds still need plenty of parenting, but Jack’s “the baby” if you see what I mean. And I would guess Steve was quite independent and capable for a five-year-old It’s not that Jo loves Jack more, but she babies him more. I do see her depending on Steve and leaning on Steve but coddling Jack—I’m thinking of the scene when Steve and Jack have dinner with her (just the three of them, fairly early on for Jack/Jo), for example.

  8. Excellent point, Angie, that Jo “babied” Jack because he was always something of a baby to her. And I agree that Steve was probably a very independent 5 year old. His behavior from the time certainly confirms that—-trying to protect his mother by killing his father, and promising to take care of Billy in the orphanage.

    I envy you going through the Steve and Kayla story for the first time! I would love to hear your thoughts about it. My favorite storyline of theirs is still coming up for you—as might be obvious, it’s the Steve/Kayla/Jack triangle. I’ll be curious what you think of the first Jack. I quite liked him! But Jack #2 is terrible. Anyway, it’s lots of angst, angst, angst, but I love it.

    New blog post coming this week!🙂

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