Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Jennifer’s turn

I never really liked how they turned Jack into a coward and bumbler.  I saw an interview with Matt Ashford once where he said he liked that Jack wasn’t a typical hero, and at the first sign of trouble would faint, or run away, or offer to stay behind with the ladies (this when the ladies were usually clamoring to go along).  I can see his point — I too like that Jack is unique — but when it slips over into slapstick it is usually too far for me.

Plus, I can never quite forget this guy:

Jack and Steve fight

Sure, he tumbled off the roof in the end and needed a new kidney, but until then he was giving as good as he got.  This scene is impressive just from a staging standpoint — all that fighting up and down stairs, including Steve’s great jump/drop kick at one point.  I’m guessing that Matt and Stephen worked hard rehearsing this to make it look real.  Also, I know this scene is Very Serious and I definitely watch it as such, but somehow it is also a bit comical how Kayla keeps trailing after them getting in the way, forcing Steve to constantly stop fighting and grab her and tell her to go inside — which she never does.

At any rate, I recognize that I am attached to evil Jack partly because I am such a Steve and Kayla fan.  In order for the whole Jack/Steve/Kayla storyline to work, we have see evil Jack as a genuine threat.  I also know that the transition to “coward Jack” was, in part, a deliberate reaction to how evil he was before, to counter the memory of his bad deeds and make him acceptable as a leading man.  But sometimes I think they end up undercutting evil Jack a little too much — I want to see the the threat sometimes, to see the monster that Jack is afraid of.

But, I’ll give the show credit.  By setting up Jack as the coward-who-faints, they can turn around and surprise and delight us with a scene like this:


This is great.  What I like particularly about it is that Jack is still Jack — the Jack we know now, anyway.  It makes sense that Jack would know how to fence, given his privileged background.  Besides, if Jack is going to be skilled at any kind of fighting, fencing is just the kind of impractical, semi-esoteric type that it would be. And I just love the surprise of the “I’m not right-handed” moment (bonus points for referencing The Princess Bride!).  I knew Jack was left handed but it didn’t register until he said it.  Perfect.

(The fangirl in me also loves that what that gives him Jack his final impetus to win is that Lawrence taunts him about Steve!)

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Secrets


18 thoughts on “Swordfight

  1. First, my word how I love Jack and Steve.

    I agree that the show ended up taking the bumbling Jack thing too far. The thing is, Jack (at least throughout most of his first *true* run) bumbled, but he usually meant to do so. He was never an idiot, bumbling or otherwise, but he might try to make you think that he was. So I didn’t like them blurring the lines, as they did mainly in the second run, but we do start to see it before Ashford’s first firing too. Through this storyline (and the subsequent train adventure), though, I think the show generally plays Jack well. I love that Jack would rather not be put into situations in which he might be hit or maimed and would in general prefer to be comfortable (and yet, his curiosity continually gets him into uncomfortable situations, about which he duly whines, and I am happily amused). I love the Jack who, dangling from a window and in mortal danger of falling if he can’t pull himself back through the window, laments that maybe he should have gone to the gym more than once every two months or whatever.

    Also, yeah, evil Jack should never be so buried that we forget what he can be—as you say, the monster that Jack himself fears. But I do think Jack, even when being evil, is the sort of guy who doesn’t like to dirty his own hands. He’s more into using his cunning, and if it’s going to be physical, he would rather send a thug. Even in the rooftop fight scene, I think Jack wants Kayla to stick around because he doesn’t want to be left alone with Steve. Though, yeah, when cornered, Jack is capable of giving it back, we can see that Steve has the upper hand throughout this fight.

    Ah, the sword fight. I love that Jack doesn’t relish getting into it, but I love that when he has to, he steps up. He’d just rather not have to. Yes, choosing fencing was a good move on the part of the show, as a form of fighting in which Jack would believably have been trained. Ah, the left hand thing. So clever to use Jack being a lefty here.

  2. I agree that even bad Jack was never one to get his own hands dirty, but he was also never reluctant to stand up. He never cowed away from Steve’s physical threats and I remember a memorable scene when he pulled a gun on Eddie Reed and was very convincingly menacing.

    I don’t mind the more cowardly/bumbling Jack, but I wish it had been a little more layered like MP suggests. I would have loved to seen some deliberateness to that choice. That he knows what he’s capable of in anger and won’t take that chance anymore. Because, as it is, the change is unexplained (onscreen anyway) and always makes me wonder what happened.

    In any case, the swordfight scene is fantastic. I do love that what finally pushes Jack over the line is the mention of Steve. In fact, now that I think of it, that might be the best scene for showing that Jack does deliberately hold himself back because he is much more forceful when Lawrence pushes that button.

  3. I like the point you’re making about the show needing to give us more of the reason why Jack was so reluctant to allow himself to go certain places and how he was using the bumbling to keep himself in check–a bit of fear of letting himself loose. I agree they could have done more there. But, as you say, we do, in fact, see some of Jack deliberately holding himself back in the sword fight scene. When he says, “Calm down,” is he directing that toward Lawrence or toward himself? I think hints of that deliberateness of choice on Jack’s part are sprinkled throughout. I think of the bell tower break up when he loses control and shakes Jennifer. Jack’s horror at his action is a window into his fear of letting loose and really hurting someone again. In the case of shaking Jennifer at that moment, it’s compounded by his (irrational) feeling that he failed to check himself with Harper and thus did hurt someone again—shoot, he thinks he committed patricide (“Patricides R’ Us”). Still, though his fear of what he might do is there, that aside, I don’t think Jack ever did feel terribly capable physically, and I do think he actually always was somewhat reluctant to stand up when there was a chance of being bested, physically or otherwise. That’s why he always preferred to fight with words (making Emilio look stupid, for example). He had a fair amount of confidence when it came to besting someone with words. As I mentioned, I think reluctance to have to stand up is why he wanted Kayla to stick around when he was faced with Steve’s wrath. You bring up the case of Eddie Reed. I love menacing Jack there. But I think Jack always knows in that instance that he’s got the upper hand with Eddie, so yes, evil Jack did menacing well . . . when he thought he had the upper hand, or when he wanted to cow someone into believing he had it, if he actually didn’t. Adore him I do, but I think Jack was always inclined toward cowardice—a fear of being beaten, which (once he started looking what he’d done to Kayla in the face) was then compounded with a fear of beating someone else. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t. We all know that his reluctance to get involved with Jennifer is largely cowardice. Yes, he wants to protect her from being with a monster such as himself. But, at least equally, he’s afraid he’ll be hurt.

  4. I think the bellflower scene definitely shows the monster Jack is afraid of, especially at the end of the wedding fantasy that he has when Jen runs out on him. But the show never ties that to the bumbling, cowardly Jack very well, mostly because that Jack is played for laughs. They could have done it but they never really do. This scene with Lawrence is probably closest because it starts a bit humorous and then becomes very serious after Lawrence taunts him. Then, afterwards, Jack kind of pulls himself back together. Had they done something similar more often, I think the difference would feel more deliberate and less fanwank-y.

  5. You make a good point that even at his evilest, Jack didn’t like to get his hands dirty. A good example is after the rape, when he called Victor to get some rent-a-thugs to beat Steve up. Other than the rape, he never initiated an act of violence that I can think of. He loved to taunt Steve and Kayla verbally, and he liked to cause trouble for them using his connections and political power, and he would fight when he had to.

    I agree too that the comedy, the bumbling, and the cowardice was a deliberate choice by Matt to counteract the memory of the rape for viewers. But I have seen that mostly outside the story, as a choice by Matt, not Jack. I really like the idea that it is Jack himself insisting that he is a coward because it’s too dangerous otherwise. I’ll be looking for more examples of that.

    But since a lot of the story (and the reason for pushing Jen away) has to do with how Jack still thinks of himself as having the potential for violence, I feel like we need to see it more. Matt could show us this more than he does — I think we could see more menace in Jack sometimes, just physically and through line delivery. I agree about the shaking of Jen in bell tower, and the shooting of Harper, and I love both of those moments (and what follows from them). But we could see him deliberately trying to control himself, more often than we do.

  6. Hey, heads up, marypickford!

    Days is addressing a very sticky episode from the past, with regard to Jack and Kayla during the week of September 30, 2013. Yes…the rape’s coming out again. JJ (Jack, Jr.) is going to find out what happened.

    Promo here:

    I’m for it, but cautiously so…because with these writers, who knows? If Melissa Salmons gets the script, it might play out well. The promo makes use of a big flashback, too. We’ll see…

    Hopefully it’s about Jack and Kayla and JJ’s response to what happened. If it’s gonna be about Daniel…well, let’s not go there til we have to.

    • Oh wow, thanks for the heads-up, Kris! I will have to watch that.

      Funny story: I read your comment just before bed last night and dreamed that JJ found out about the rape and it turned him into a Dannifer supporter. So let’s hope you’re right and they make better use of it than that. 🙂

  7. I wonder though, Mary, if we don’t see Jack holding back the violence more often because it really isn’t as much in his character as (because of the one time that he totally lost it) he believes that it is. But for some time in the aftermath of the rape, Jack did clearly have a lot of menace to him, though not physical, so yeah, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more menace from him sometimes, but that’s mainly because I enjoyed menacing Jack so much.

    Man, I hope they don’t hose this current story of Jack’s kids learning of his awful past. I guess I’m not interested enough in the current show to watch it anyway, and yet it’s something I so wanted to have happen, but I wanted it to happen with Jack around, dangit! So I’m already annoyed about it for that reason, but even if I don’t watch it, still I do so hope they don’t just waste it and use it for lame garbage.

    • “I wonder though, Mary, if we don’t see Jack holding back the violence more often because it really isn’t as much in his character as (because of the one time that he totally lost it) he believes that it is.”

      Angie, you’ve really given me something to think about with this! I’ve thought before that maybe I’m too attached to the Jack that was part of the Steve/Kayla story. So maybe I’m looking at this the wrong way round.

      Days has a habit of over-redeeming their bad guys, I’ve always thought. I’ve said the same thing about Steve that I’m saying here about Jack. But you can legitimately say that “redeemed Steve” is the “real” Steve, and I can’t really argue with that. I have to think more about this …

  8. I think there is a difference, though. Namely that Steve never totally loses that edge. Even when he is “redeemed” he’s still rough around the edges and has that “thuggishness” (for complete lack of a better term) underneath. It pops up in the scenes with Marina, for example. Or, better yet, in the scenes with the waitress in Australia when he knows she’s withholding information about Stephanie. He’s not the outwardly tough guy anymore, but it’s still a part of him, when necessary (or when he’s stressed out).

    With Jack, that part of him just disappears. Granted, it’s harder because of the recasts and, certainly, Jack’s #1&2 didn’t have any kind of underlying malice to them that I can recall. But, they also weren’t afraid of physical confrontations. I mean Jack #1 was a surfer and at least hinted at being a bit outdoorsy (in a upper class kind of way). MA’s Jack couldn’t even swim. And Jack #2 got in at least one fight with Steve without cowering away. So I think it’s easier to see the changes as complete alterations of the character rather than the character evolving as Steve did.

    Nonetheless, I agree that violence isn’t really a part of Jack’s character. It’s just that he didn’t run away from it as he does later. I want to attribute that to a deliberate choice based on knowing the consequences that can occur if he allows himself to lose himself in that violence. I just think it needed to be spelled out more, if for no other reason than the lack of continuity with the recasts. And, had he just avoided the physical confrontations, I could see that. But they also have him become unable to swim, completely oblivious about guns, and generally bumbling around. That doesn’t fit any characterization of Jack that I know of prior to the redemption.

  9. I don’t think Jack would have ever thought he could have been so violent as to hurt someone he loved (Kayla) then when it happened he went spiraling into denial.
    He had been so spoiled by Harper, he (Jack) could only blame others for his problems. At this point, he was unable to see how Kayla could prefer Steve to him. He was just angry and vengeful. Even though he had survived cancer,the women he loved, loved his worst enemy. Then further truths are revealed and his life unravels even more. The worst enemy turned out to be his brother. He lost his entire identity after finding out he was adopted. His bio father was a wife beating, drunk, daughter rapist, and his adoptive father was a psycho serial killer.
    He was a walking Greek tragedy, he went from what seemed to be the perfect life to being brought, in his mind, as low as he could go. He could not escape the the fate the gods had planned for him. But as he started to emerge from the denial he tried to make up for things. Almost everything he did, from then on, was to make up for his crimes and mistakes. But also to keep people from getting to close, because he didn’t feel like he deserved any love or good things in his life.
    I see that as, one of, the consistent pieces of Jack’s character. Maybe, at one point, that was the way the writers indented it. But it seems to be more from the point of view MA played Jack. That even though intellectually (and at some level in his heart) he knew Jennifer, Abby, Steve, Jo, Adrienne loved him, he never felt worthy or deserving. So for the rest of his life he continually was his own worst enemy and set himself up for punishment and failure.

    Also on this point, he and Steve were very similar. Steve never truly felt deserving or worthy of Kayla. In fact, when he lost his glass eye, he felt the patch was some kind of deserved penance for the things he had done wrong in his life. Adrienne also had her own issues with feeling unworthy. The Johnson family had it rough, but (and not excusing the rape) I see Jack as being the most tragic.

  10. Ooh, gotta disagree with Jack being the most tragic. He was a baby when put in the orphanage and got adopted by a wealthy, connected family. Nothing in canon suggest that Jack’s childhood was anything but happy and privileged. Yes, he got hit with a lot as an adult, but I don’t think that compares with Steve or Adrienne, particularly when part of Jack’s “tragedy” was his own making. He chose to emotionally blackmail Kayla into marriage and he chose to turn a blind eye to what was obvious about her feelings for him. But he got through that and married, had kids, and was generally around for their lives with the exception of 4 or 5 “deaths.”

    On the other hand, Steve tries to kill Duke to save his mother and end up in an orphanage (punished for it). Has his baby brother taken away. Spends his whole childhood there. Goes to the merchant marines and gets taken in by Marina. Then gets involved with Britta and loses an eye. Then, eventually, starts getting a life going in Salem and his mother, sister, and abusive father show up. Can’t protect his sister from being raped or from having to be the one to kill their father. Gives up the woman he loves to save his brother only to have that brother rape the woman. Finally gets through all that crap and gets “killed” and is brainwashed and tortured for 16 years missing out on his daughter’s entire childhood.

    They all had their difficulties, but I can’t see how any of them had it worse, overall, then Steve.

  11. I can’t argue over who’s more tragic. Depends on how and what you’re measuring. I guess Jack’s in the lead at the moment, being the one who is currently dead, having been sent down an elevator shaft, only to have his wife and daughter immediately basically forget his existence. 🙂 But I don’t really accept any of that as Jack’s *real* story anyway. I’m just being bitter. Kidding aside, yeah, Steve had it rough, but Jack had different struggles. Both create some of their own problems because of self worth issues, though I think Jack is the guiltier of the two there. And he rather deserves to be, as he sunk much lower than Steve ever did. I agree about DAYS over redeeming characters. I have never liked that Steve became a cop. I don’t like Steve working for The Man and going that far into becoming part of the establishment. Even though I don’t think Bo was ever anything more shady than a rebel with a heart, I never liked him becoming a cop either. I think Bo and Steve are too much rebels at heart for that. As to Jack, though I do often enjoy his silliness, particularly when we know he’s using it to avoid other things, Jack not knowing which way is up with a gun and not being able to swim is just unrealistically silly. I’ve had to accept that there are some things I have to ignore with regard to stuff like that, because overall, MA’s Jack is such a wonderfully complicated and well crafted character, with a personality that I simply adore. The essence of Jack (sounds like a cologne), I think, basically holds from MA taking the role through the regime change when Al Rabin left. I do, however, wish certain things had been handled more carefully, and I do agree that too much of Jack’s edge gets lost, but for the most part, I don’t really feel that way until at least around the time of Jack and Jennifer’s first marriage. I think we keep seeing enough of Jack’s edge (which is a different kind of edge than Steve’s) popping up during his breakup with Jennifer after Harper’s death, during his reaction to her reaction to him after the rape before he knows about it, and in the way he reacts when he learns of the rape—particularly in those scenes right after Jennifer tells him. But maybe what is meant by Jack’s “edge” is different to me than to others. I suppose I do sometimes wish he’d pull out the conniving menace a bit more with people who cross him. I very much hoped that the show would use what Jack went through and came home to find to bring back more edge with his latest return, but alas. Also, when I speak of Jack and continuity, I am really just going with MA’s Jack, because I can’t quite draw a through line with Jack 1 and 2. I wish that I could, but those guys just aren’t the same character, other than that my Jack does have their history, with regard to his upbringing and marrying Kayla and such. I think avoiding physical hardship and/or being bested is always in Jack’s nature, so I don’t have a problem with it, though I do wish, as Erica suggests, that there had been more focus on Jack’s avoidance of violent situations not just being his fear for his own safety but fear about where he might be capable of going if he is pulled in. At any rate, I can psychoanalyze the guy till the cows come home, and I love that.

      • Likewise. 🙂 It’s nice that there are people out there to talk to about this stuff that aired on a soap 25 years ago. I think it rather unfortunate that such wonderful storytelling is largely buried and lost to the general public.

  12. Hey all, sorry I haven’t gotten a new post up yet this week, but I see you are all having a very interesting discussion without me. 🙂

    Quick comment on the Johnson family: one thing I like is how they are actually a coherent group, a family in the real sense, because they escaped the “who’s the daddy,” and “surprise!” children of the Bradys and the Hortons. The four original Bradys are also an anaylzable group, of course, but the next generation is pretty splintered, and for the Hortons it’s even worse.

    The Johnsons are/were splintered too, but it’s in a way that creates interesting dynamics and opportunities for plots. You have Jo and Duke as clearly defined characters and their three children each having inherited something from them. Speaking simplistically, Adrienne and Steve are most identified with Jo, and Jack with Duke. But you have interesting crossovers, like with Jack and Steve sharing Jo’s tendency to play God, Jo favoring Jack over her other two children, and Steve’s tendency to violence. I think they could have explored Steve’s connection to Duke a little more, in fact, like doing an alcoholism story for Steve (which Stephen Nichols apparently wanted). Like Erica says above, Steve never quite loses his tendency to use physical force to solve problems, though later on the side of “right,” and I think they could have done a little more with that.

    And speaking of alcohol, Steve and Jack both are seen seriously “drowning their sorrows” at different times in the plot. For Steve after the breakup with Kayla for Jack, and for Jack after the “rape slap” breakup — notably both times when the past comes back to haunt them, each somewhat connected to Johnson family/Duke. Anyway, they missed an opportunity when they have Jo warning Jack not to use alcohol to solve problems, because she is an alcoholic, a dry one. Um, hello? Why not use Duke, and have Jo say, “I’ve seen the damage alcohol can do to a person, because of Duke …” and trail off, and the implication of comparison of Duke to Jack could add to his angst. It’s a perfect time to do it because the rape has just come back to haunt him, and it would confirm in his mind his connection to Duke.

    They use this comparison with Steve, by having Jo tell him, when he’s railing at her for staying with Duke, that Duke was a lot like Steve when she met him. She’s trying to defend herself by comparing Duke to Steve and thus elevating herself for choosing him/staying with him, but of course he takes it as meaning he’s a lot like Duke and could end up like him. Causing lots of angst. Yum. And all this is right before Jack shows up in town ….

    Guess that wasn’t so “quick.” 🙂

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