Again, sorry for the long delay. I’ve known that my next post would be on the “rape slap” and breakup for Jack and Jennifer. And it’s quite a topic to take on, so I’ve been dragging my feet.
There is so much good writing and good angst here, both before and after the slap, but let me get one thing out of the way first: the slap itself feels contrived. I don’t like how long Jack holds her while she struggles, but mostly it’s the line itself: “Don’t touch me, you rapist!” It feels awkward, and it’s a sledgehammer in the scene. I can feel the strings being pulled to generate a specific reaction from Jack. I’ve been racking my brains for a way to stage this better, and my simplest idea was for Jennifer to be asleep, having a nightmare about Lawrence, when Jack kissed her. Perhaps, in her dream, Lawrence would be saying, “I’m your husband,” and when Jen wakes up and pushes Jack away, she cries out, “No, you’re a rapist!”
And, just to get my other criticism out there up front, I think the show needs to pay a little more attention to Jen’s side of the equation here. First, I think they should have given us an extra reason that Jennifer doesn’t tell Jack about her rape afterwards. I’m very willing to concede that this would be a difficult thing to say, and I’m mostly willing to go with it. But I think it would help if, for instance, Lawrence had specifically threatened Jack’s life if she ever told about the rape. I think it would lessen the feeling of “Argh! Just tell him! Just tell him!” which it is very easy to feel through all of this. That feeling tips the balance of sympathy more towards Jack, which I don’t think is right. I also wish that we felt a little more anger from Jen here: fairly or not, his reaction is making life a lot more difficult for her when she is already dealing with something difficult, and I think she could have lashed out at him because of that. It would also give her another reason not to tell him the truth: again, fairly or not, why should she confide in him when he’s making it all about him?
All right, now we’ve gotten that out of the way. Let’s talk about some of the awesomeness of this. I really love Jack’s speech that opens the scene. It shows how far Jack has come since their early days, how much he has let his guard down. It’s agonizing to think how difficult it is for Jack – of all people! – to ask her why she flinches when he touches her. And my favorite line of all, when he says that love and commitment have been nightmares for him. That sums up so much of his relationship with Kayla, all of it, not just when he raped her. His openness and honesty, his plea to let him help her, make what follows extra painful (the show really knew how to up the angst factor then). After the slap, after the initial shock, I love the transition in Matt Ashford’s body language. You can see the difference between Jack’s “you just said it all” followed by “so, you think I’m a rapist,” between those two lines Jack’s walls, and his cynicism, have snapped back into place.
Jen’s denials, of course, sound pathetic, as they are meant to, and I love how Jack cuts through her stammering excuses with one word: Kayla. It’s a perfect way to cut through not only the bullshit of the moment, but all the times the show has played coy with who, exactly, Jack raped. (Another scene around this time has Frankie saying to Jen that “Jack hurt a woman” like that woman wasn’t his adopted sister.) Jack is in fine sarcastic form as he adds to the list Jen starts making of the reasons she has to be upset right now (always plenty to choose from in Salem), and tells her “it’s always been there, hasn’t it?” It has always been there for Jack, and his belief that it didn’t matter to her has always been shaky.
His anger here is wonderful, as is its cause. I love the hurt that comes through when he says he can’t count the number of times she told him he had changed, reformed, “and I bought it.” (I also love when he tells her “don’t touch me,” just like she told him.) That sums it up. He was the chump, the chump who got suckered. No matter what she says now, his self-loathing won’t let him believe her.
But then the show introduces a lovely little seed of doubt. Jen’s best line in this whole scene is when she says that if it were true (that she thought he was a monster), they never would have made love in the first place. Missy Reeves plays the depth of sincerity really well, and Jack’s look of vulnerability in response is perfect. He knows that is true, but when she can’t explain why that has changed (and here is where we are all surely screaming at the TV “Just tell him!”), that is it for him. The storyline he has created – that she sees him as the monster he always knew he was – is too seductive for him to resist.