It’s a cold, dark, rainy Monday here, so here we go …
We start in the blue tunnel: when a teenage Stephanie (played by Stephen’s real life daughter) shows up and tells Steve that she has a boyfriend from the Riverfront who everyone says is bad news. I find this maybe just a little pat and convenient, but what saves it is the small smile that Kayla has on her face as Stephanie describes him; she knows just how Stephanie feels. Steve’s protectiveness and indignation is well played, as is his moment of shock when Stephanie tells him he can’t protect her: he won’t be there.
And this, of course, is what pushes Steve over the edge to fight his way back, out of the tunnel, and wake up. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, as a parent I understand that it’s not just love for your children that could be stronger than death, but the driving need to make sure they are safe. But on the other hand, as an S&K shipper I don’t like the implication that coming back for Kayla isn’t enough. The implication is no doubt unintentional—this is supercouple-era Days, after all!—but it is there.
But, Stephen does away with that implication by the way his eyes go right to Kayla, like she is his lifeline. I love that they gave Steve this hero moment by having him struggle back from death. It also gives Steve to interact with his family, outside the tunnel, before he is killed (again).
I had a hard time deciding what moment I wanted to showcase for Kayla around Steve’s death. Mary Beth is so incredibly excellent all through. But it all comes together in the final moments, when Steve actually dies. When she lays down on his chest and tells him to take his strength from her, it’s perfect because it’s emblematic of their relationship. There has always been a wonderful contradiction inherent in their love story. Steve, so tough on the outside, was emotional, vulnerable, and full of love on the inside. And Kayla, her apparent sweetness and gentleness were wrapped around a core of steel.
But there is more to it than that. When Steve thanks Kayla “for my life,” I love how Mary Beth plays Kayla’s reaction, surprised and a little puzzled. Why should he be thanking her, what has she done to deserve thanks? All through their relationship, Mary Beth never played that Kayla as some kind of saint, taking on a charity case. She was scared and wary of Steve, and attracted to him, and fell in love with him—and through all of it, saw him as her equal. Kayla has always depended on Steve too, and drawn strength from him, and he’s maybe the only one she can truly let her guard down with.
And when we come to the final moment when the camera focuses on Kayla as the doctor is yelling and she’s pleading please don’t do this, please don’t take him, with all of those tears streaming down her face. And I can never watch this without tears streaming down mine as well.