The patch removal scene is, without a doubt, the most famous and iconic scene in Steve and Kayla’s history.
Which is why I was stunned, on rewatching in 2006, at how early it happens in their story. I remembered it as a far bigger breakthrough than it actually is. Its power is symbolic, mostly obvious in retrospect, in the way it foreshadows that Kayla will break down Steve’s walls, just as she takes off his patch.
The way it is filmed, it is the first moment that could honestly be called a flashing neon sign that these two are slated to be a couple. The closing overhead shot of the two of them, with the credits scrolling over it, in particular screams Big Moment.
But that is at the level of the production, signaling to the viewer. At the level of the story, in terms of the characters, what happens is far more subtle. I would say the upshot of it all is Steve starts to trust Kayla, a little. That’s about it.
But, that’s everything. I would argue that for Steve, “falling in trust” is more momentous, more life-altering, than falling in love. Falling in love, that’s what he did with Britta. And as he says to Britta when he hallucinates her presence: “you weren’t here, were you?” Kayla is. And she is made of strong stuff. Stronger than he realizes, though he gets a hint of it here: “she didn’t even flinch.”
But what about Kayla? Yes, she helps him, but wouldn’t she have helped anyone? Yes, she sees him vulnerable, and that touches her. But again, any wounded animal would inspire compassion. So is Kayla just some Lady Bountiful helping Steve from on high? That’s the danger, of not showing a relationship of equals, but nurse and patient, charity case and charity giver. There are a couple of things that show that is not all that is going on here.
In the scenes after the forklift accident, I noticed that Kayla was resting her hand possessively on Steve’s chest. Take a look at where her left hand is now:
Also, there’s the way she talks to him, as an equal, not as a stray dog she’s picked up. I like the little prod she gives him in this exchange:
K: People don’t always do things to get something out of it, do they?
S: I do.
K: Maybe that’s why there’s no one I can call to stay with you tonight.
This is a challenge. It shows her attitude is different from Chris’s, who points out rather reasonably that Patch hasn’t done anything to make people be friends with him. Kayla isn’t content to just leave it at that, to dismiss Steve as a hopeless case.
But as I said at the beginning, this isn’t a huge leap forward. It’s a tentative step. The next morning, the walls are back up — Kayla’s walls. Steve actually has a bit of a moment watching her sleep, and touching her hand. She is the one who wakes up, leaps up, and withdraws. This causes Mr. Sleazebag to come out again, and we see there is only so much she will put up with, even when he’s hurt:
The night before, when he was feverish and helpless, she tolerated his jibes, but now she is having none of it. I love this unimpressed look after she tries to leave and he is trying to get her to stay:
This forces Steve into an adorable stuttering apology, ending with, almost in desperation: I’m sorry — all right, I’M SORRY! Clearly not something he is used to saying.
Next, when Steve makes his comment about “Mr. Chris Kositchek, that fine upstanding citizen,” and what would he say if he knew about last night, the natural response is surely “he already knows.” That’s what I expected Kayla to say, since it’s true, and would shoot down Steve and his overly familiar insinuations. Instead, she points out that she and Chris have been over for a long time.
Interesting that she wants him to know that.
But then she rips off his bandage when he gets too mouthy, and ends up stomping off in a huff. Step forward, step back. I love it.