When Kayla arrives in Salem, the show doesn’t throw her immediately into Steve’s orbit. Instead, it takes a little time to let us get to know her first. The Brady family’s various crises (Kim just had her baby, John Black was revealed to be Roman Brady, and Bo revealed to be Victor’s son — this is right after May sweeps, after all!) provide the perfect pretext for Kayla to interact with all kinds of different people. I would say that the first moment that really shows the Kayla we come to know and love — active, determined, idealistic, maybe a little naive — is when she decides to call Victor and ask him, just ask him, if he’ll leave their family alone. Maybe no one has given him a chance!
While Kayla is running around dealing with all these family crises, she runs into Steve maybe four or five times. I was looking for two things in these early interactions. First, I wanted to see when Steve first showed regret, or that famous Steve Johnson self-loathing, about the way he treats Kayla. Second, I wanted to see the first time Kayla actively engages with Steve. Since she is the one who drives their early love story, when she decides to pursue him, I wanted to see the very first spark of that — a moment where she isn’t just reacting to him, she’s trying to engage, in however small a way.
Luckily for me, these two things happen for the first time in the same little mini-story — three scenes. When Steve drops Britta’s picture in Kayla’s Cleveland apartment, and when she returns it to him in Salem.
In the first scene, we see Steve acting in what has become his pattern — crowding her, making jokes, acting sleazy. But I hear a little bit of an extra edge when he says, “I know what the problem is — your feelings are hurt I wasn’t here to see you.” He says this thinking — knowing — that this could never be true, that she would never feel that way in a million years. And it rankles. And then when he leaves, outside the door, we see that reaction shot for the first time, the one I was looking for: he’s upset, maybe a little ashamed. Stephen often uses this gesture, where Steve adjusts his patch, to signal I hate what I’ve become.
On Kayla’s side, in the Cleveland scenes, we see her fear and wariness, and also a suggestion that she is aware of him physically. When he tucks the dollar into her arm “for her time,” she brushes it away and then touches the spot on her arm that he touched. Again this is the pattern that we’ve seen develop over their early scenes.
But back in Salem, there is a shift: she’s not as afraid of him. Maybe it was seeing the picture of Britta — knowing there is someone he cares about, that the women in his life aren’t all “Christys.” I also think he’s gotten to her enough that she has something to prove to him, a little. She wants him to know he can’t intimidate her, she doesn’t scare so easily. When he asks if she’s afraid of him (I love that he asks her twice, with extra intensity the second time), she says no. She’s not being entirely truthful, but it is starting to be true. This is the first scene, as I said above, where she spars with him instead of just shying away. I especially love the moment when she pulls out the picture to give back to him. It turns the tables on him, takes the wind out of his sails — Stephen shows that perfectly in his reaction. It proves that he’s underestimated her.
(By the way, does anyone know when Patsy Pease’s return scenes will air? I heard she shot some episodes that would be on in April.)