The Past is Present

It feels like kismet that they are doing this JJ storyline on Days, where he finds out that his dad raped Kayla, right as I am watching Jennifer’s rape storyline on my DVDs.


Screencap NBC

I’ve actually gotten hundreds of hits on my blog over the last week, from people googling for information on this storyline.  Mostly these were some variation of “days of our lives what did jack do to kayla,” but there were a couple of gems like “after Jack raped Kayla on days of our lives, how did they turn him into a good guy?”

It’s a good question!

Anyway, we fans are always saying that we want them to use the history of the show, and I think this story is a good example of how to do it well (though I really, really miss Matt Ashford here!  He should be a part of this!)  Too often the show uses the past lazily, by having some veteran shuffle out and say “you know, this same thing happened to me once!” and then shuffle away again.  Rarely is there an attempt to emotionally engage with the past, especially in ways that affect the veteran as well as the younger player.

This story clears that hurdle easily.  It is mostly about JJ, of course, and I don’t have a problem with that.  I really liked JJ’s comment that he “doesn’t feel like a blessing right now,” followed immediately by “am I like him [Jack]?”   They are clearly using this as an opportunity to make JJ question his own character, by making him question the character of the father he’s always admired.  They also showed him on Tuesday’s show bitterly railing against his family (excepting Kayla — I appreciated that!) for keeping him in the dark and — interestingly — implicitly letting him feel that he’s the only screwup in the family.

One thing I appreciated, though, was the way we got to see Kayla at work, obviously upset, snapping at Jeannie — I mean, Teresa — after her first conversation with JJ.  Remembering the past was clearly weighing on her, and Teresa’s mention of JJ didn’t help.  I also appreciated that JJ came back to talk to her after finding out the truth.  That scene is probably my favorite of this whole arc:

(The scene starts at 9:50 )  I really like seeing Mary Beth Evans have something with some depth to play, and I think Casey Moss does well too.  I like how JJ starts off saying “I already know but I need to hear from you” then moves to the last ditch “He was just saying that to get Alamain, right?” then softens for a moment as he seems to recognize this is hard on her, then shouting “we’re not okay!” and stomping out.

I like that Kayla doesn’t go into detail about the circumstances, and certainly doesn’t excuse or justify him, but she clearly does want to convey a little bit of the complexity of it:  “I did something to hurt your dad … ”

I also like that it doesn’t help, because it wouldn’t.

The other danger for the show in using the past, especially the past from 25 years ago, is the high likelihood of getting something wrong.  When Steve and Kayla came back in 2006, there were a couple of references to the past that they got wrong.  At a dinner when Steve still had amnesia, they made a big deal about how he didn’t like the fancy food that Kayla cooked for him, and he referred to himself as a “meat and potatoes” guy.  They were trying to show the distance between them, which was great, but one of the details about Steve that I always particularly liked was that he was a gourmand.  It’s similar to the fact that Kayla, of the two of them, was the sexual aggressor:  these character traits helped to mix up the stereotypes of the good girl/bad boy storyline, and make each character unique.  Another mistake I remember is when Adrienne visited Steve in the psych ward during the “crazy Steve” story, she referred to his past with Duke and Jo, and said that Duke “beat you and your baby brother Billy.”  Actually Duke only abused Jo, and that was key to the whole story.  It gave credence to Steve’s feeling that she gave up Steve because she chose Duke over him and Billy, and not that she was protecting them from Duke.  It was also an important aspect of Steve’s character that he tried to kill Duke for Jo’s sake, not his own.

You can argue that these are minor, and they are.  And if I had been confident in between times that my characters were in good hands, I think I would have brushed them off more easily.

That kind of mistake doesn’t happen here, at least not that I could tell.  I liked how they weaved a mention of Lawrence into the reveal.  I’m not sure I believe that Jen would keep a transcript from Lawrence’s trial laying around, and even more that JJ would know it and know exactly where it was.  But I still liked it.  It’s a great way to string out the reveal for JJ, and isolate him when he finds out the truth.  Plus it adds richness to the use of the past.  (I also take it as a personal shout out to me, given what I’m watching now!)

They did make use of a retcon, when Adrienne says that Jack grew up with every privilege, except love.  But it is a retcon dating back to 1989, so I won’t really complain on that score.  I didn’t like it back then  because it seemed a cheap, and unnecessary, way to try to gain sympathy for Jack.  Here, too, some fans may bristle at the suggestion that an unloving childhood in any way justifies committing rape, which it certainly doesn’t.  However, I think it’s believable that Adrienne would try to put things in context and try to mitigate the harshness of the news for JJ. And just like with Kayla, I’m glad it doesn’t work.

I did have to crack up a little at the line, “Jack deeply regretted his actions, until the day he died.”  Should that be the days he died?  What was it, five different times?

10 thoughts on “The Past is Present

  1. I was thinking the same thing about the timeliness of the revisit. And I agree that Matt Ashford could have added to it. But, I’m going to be contrarian and say that something is added by his absence. Since this is about JJ and was always going to be about JJ, there is an added layer of angst for him because Jack is dead. Jack can’t talk to him or even stand there and take his anger. And JJ has to deal with now being angry at a dead man. So, from that angle, I think there is a benefit to Jack’s death in this story.

    Beyond that, I think they have done well with the revisit. The transcript was a little convenient as was JJ’s casual reference to Lawrence, but I can live with it because they did good with the rest. We thankfully got a few little moments to see how this affected Kayla (both the rape and the reveal) and I though JJ’s apology to her for what Jack did was really emotional. I’m hoping that maybe there will be a little follow up with JJ and Kayla, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Oh, and I agrees about the retcon of Jack’s childhood. It bugged me in 1989 and it bugs me now because it takes away an interesting layer from Jack. But it is what it is, I guess.

    The only line I took issue with is that Jack “always” regretted it or “always” took responsibility” whichever it was. In either case, it’s not exactly true since it took Jack over a year to finally start admitting some guilt. Maybe he always felt it, but the words imply he always showed it and that definitely wasn’t true. But that’s a minor thing given how good the rest has been handled.

    • Hey, Erica, I posted before I saw your post. I do agree that though we’re not getting what we could have gotten with Jack there, instead we are getting something else, and it does have some value. That is true, but I imagine it like putting the story with Jack dead or with Jack alive on scales. I feel like both scenarios are worth something, but Jack there vs. not there is like me putting a watermelon (Jack being there) on one side and an apple (Jack not being there) on the other. I think both are yummy, but one’s heavier and has got a lot more juice. Yes, JJ is dealing with not being able to confront Jack, and that’s worth something, but to me at, it just doesn’t come near being worth getting to see that confrontation, you know?

      Also, interesting point about Jack “always” regretting it. Now I feel like I should go watch again and find out what Adrienne’s exact words were (how strange for me to care about anything on DAYS right now enough to want exact words!). Jack didn’t “always” “take responsibility.” He straight up denied to everyone and to a court of law that he’d been in the wrong for a long time while he continued to torment Steve and Kayla. But he did “regret” it immediately. We saw that in that first wonderful scene between Jack and Kayla after the rape. He was broken. So was she, and it was his fault. Love that scene! But then he couldn’t deal with that and moved into denial. However, I don’t think I can fault Adrienne saying “always took responsibility” either, because though it took him some time to come to grips with the fact that he’d done what he’d done, once he looked it in the face, he always took responsibility for it, and at this point, that’s been a very long time.

      • I agree that Jack being there outweighs Jack not being there. I was just saying that, given realities, there is a positive aspect in terms of the emotions of the story. But that doesn’t mean it’s my preferred telling. My preferred telling would involve both Stephanie and Abby and have a lot more Kayla in it.🙂

        And I’m not holding Adrienne’s vast oversimplification of things against her. It was a long time ago and not the time or place for detailed explanations. But I guess I react to it because it does seem that so many people forget that Jack didn’t do just one bad thing, immediately become a self-loathing antihero, then get healed by Jen’s love. He spent a full year doing many bad things, taunting Kayla at every turn, and even being willing to allow her to be killed (during Harper’s botched escape). That regret he had in the immediate aftermath turned to something more than denial and it is a disservice to Jack and Kayla, and to the story, when it gets oversimplified by writers and fans alike. Yes, he did ultimately take responsibility, but it was a long road to get there and I’m not sure that should be so easily forgotten.

  2. Well, MP, if it gives you more hits, that’s at least one good thing.

    I watched JJ’s scenes the past few days, which is more (current) DAYS than I’ve watched in months, and I like him. Once this stuff focusing on Jack wraps up, I don’t think the kid’s enough to continue to hold me when I have so little interest in any of the other stories and characters at this point (sadly, including *sob*Jennifer, for the most part), but JJ’s story might be infusing a little bit of something into the show that’s long been lost: history and character building. We’ll see how carefully the show continues to play JJ, but right now, I think they’re doing some good old fashioned character building, which is something DAYS has failed to do quite miserably for some time now, and which is why I feel so apathetic to most of the current characters. In a way that rather pleases me, I see the beginnings of JJ’s character coming into his own along the same way that Jack started down that road: with Father issues. But there’s the rub. After wanting this story for such a long time, it’s depressing for it to finally come and for Jack not to be a present player. I would so much rather he were present, but my boy Jack, even not present, manages to be a major player, and that gives me some bit of satisfaction. As I have always said, even dead, Jack’s more interesting than Daniel. But I do think they are doing some things right with this tale. Though each time Daniel enters it, I cringe, so far it’s been better than I had expected. We got that great stuff with JJ and Kayla (and MBE continues to show us that she is a fine actress-she’s always managed to convey so much with a look). We got some wonderful JJ and Adrienne too. (P.S. – as to the retcon about Jack growing up without love, that always bothered me a bit too. Jack had things going on that pushed him into some dark places, but they were actually more complicated and more interesting than the pat “lack of love” answer, but oh well.)

    This story is a bit depressing to me also because I think it’s making clear to me that I will not get Jack Comes Back to Life Part Whatever again. I keep holding a little bit of hope that he’ll come back, and I’ll get the story I felt I should have gotten with the last return, but DAYS doing this story without bringing Jack back for it? Look, I think this story could have packed more drama and more angst and more tension ridden scenes in with Jack there, yet they didn’t bring him back to do this. That says something to me. I’d like to be wrong, but then, DAYS has handled Jack so poorly for such a long time anyway. I just keep wanting them to try again and to get it right, dangit, but they’d probably just get it wrong some more, so I guess it’s time to listen to Paul McCartney and let it be.

    One thing I very much hope to get out of this story (but somewhat doubt that I will, based on yesterday’s scenes with Jennifer that touched it but didn’t go deep) is Jennifer defending her relationship with Jack and putting on the table that it was what she wanted, and wanted a lot—that she knew what Jack was, but she loved him anyway. Of course I want to see her talk to JJ about that—about what she saw in Jack, despite what he’d done and to explain to JJ the road Jack went down to become a guy she could love. But I think I could even a enjoy a Dannifer scene (well, maybe) if it was a scene with Jennifer, honestly and true to history, explaining and justifying to Daniel how she came to marry and have two children with Jack. At least Adrienne touched it with “your mother was persistent.”

    So, though I think for this story to play optimally, Jack should be there, and really so should Steve, at least it’s something.

    As always, thanks, MP!

    • Jack has featured so prominently in this story that it almost seems like preparation for his return. I know what you mean about how they keep bringing him back but they never do it right. Here’s hoping that if Jack ever comes to life (yet) again we finally get to see the complexity of the character on display. The irony of them tackling this, and doing such a good job, when Jack is not around, when they never could do justice to Jack when he’s actually around, is astounding. Oh, Days.

  3. Per usual, stellar blog!

    Other than the two aforementioned errors in references to the past, the one that bugged me the most was how Steve’s ‘death’ was attributed to Stefano and not Lawrence. A small mention of how Stefano obtained Steve from Lawrence would have remedied such a glaring oversight, but the writers never bothered to fix that major retcon. I completely understand your fear about them using history. It’s my fear as well.

    The biggest issue I’ve had to fanwink is accepting the fact that JJ didn’t have a clue about the rape. It is hard for me to believe that in this day and time, a simple google search wouldn’t have laid it out for JJ to see. Jack had just won the election for State Assemblyman the night he raped Kayla. His ‘father’ Harper was not only a senator, but on a campaign trail for presidency of the United States. No way would this have been covered solely and exclusively by Salem press. When Kayla took Jack to trial, there were reporters and photographers lined against the walls and clogging up the hallways. (That’s a lot of representation from only one newspaper.) It would have been state and national news, especially considering Jack couldn’t even serve his term. Add to that, every.single.person in Salem knew about at the time. But, I digress….

    I am enjoying this storyline basically because it involves MBE, JE, and history. I don’t know if I will continue watching once they fade into the background, but for now, I’m anxious to see how it plays out.

    What I would like to see now is for Steve to return. Of everyone in the family, JJ and Steve would have the most in common. Steve could help JJ come to terms with the truth seeing how he too, had to come to those same terms. JJ is disillusioned about his father, just as Steve was disillusioned about his brother. JJ saw Jack as a hero, whereas Steve saw him as the baby brother he swore to protect and nurture. JJ is going to have to deal with his ‘hate’ for Jack, just as Steve had to deal with his hatred when he found out about the rape. Both lived off their memories of who they thought Jack to be and not who he was. JJ comes off as a hot head, just like Steve was. All things considered, it make sense that of all Jack’s family members, Steve would be the one who could sympathize and relate to JJ the most. JJ wouldn’t see Steve in the same light as he does the others considering Steve wasn’t around to tell him about Jack’s discrepancies. Right now, JJ needs someone sitting beside him and agreeing that Jack was monster, and then lead him down the path to where he can accept the fact that Jack became a good and decent man. It’s not fair to put that weight on Kayla, as she has every right to still feel the anguish from her rape and not be saddled with redeeming Jack in JJ’s eyes. JJ can’t even stand being around his mother or sister, and Adrienne never hated Jack the way Steve did. Justin’s concern was always Adrienne. Heaven forbid it should be Daniel. Now is the perfect time for Steve to return, for JJ and for Kayla.

    I admit, Steve’s return would give me hope that this story would not be just about JJ, but also about Kayla. Now that the reveal is over, I’d like to see her become a major player, and not an afterthought relegated to pimping everyone else. Seeing her deal and struggle yet again with the rape (on a different level) would be epic, as would be her dealing with the return of her (ex)husband yet again (as well as the part he played in her rape). And if life was perfect, Steve could usher in Jack’s return, seeing how if Jack was to return, it would have to be handled with kid gloves. This time, Jack’s absence would need to be someone else’s fault, and not from Jack’s decisions. Jack bought Steve back to Salem, and now Steve can return the favor.

    What I wouldn’t give to see MBE, SN, MA, JE, and WK back together on our screens in a frontline story. It would be heaven… if written correctly, that is.🙂

    • wawame, I love your ideas! I agree Steve would be the perfect person to help JJ right now, because he went on a similar journey — loving Billy/Jack so blindly and then being so disillusioned. Jack really had to earn his way back with Steve and Steve could help JJ see the same thing. He would be able to see it’s not as simple as saying, “oh, Jack changed.”

  4. Six weeks later …

    Despite many viewers’ hopes, it seems this storyline was designed to have no long term consequences other than to make sure J.J. curses his father to hell while deciding to drink the Dannifer Kool-Aid and join the rest of Salem in declaring Daniel the bestest guy who ever lived (how long before he starts calling Dan “dad”?). Look, we all knew it was coming eventually, but that didn’t make it sting any less when it did. Still … these two weeks, and their callback to a time when the show dealt in real drama and complex characterization stands as a reminder why Jack Deveraux still maintains such a loyal fandom, while all the propping in the world will never give Daniel or Dannifer that type of popularity. (Bitter? Moi? Where did you get that idea?)

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