(I have a lot to say about this storyline, so I’m going to spread my discussion of it over several posts.)
It was during the Frankie and Max storyline that I started taping Days and saving it. I guess it’s when I first knew that Steve and Kayla’s story was going to be something I would watch again and again. For Steve and Kayla, it is genius. It is a way to introduce Steve’s childhood and softer side, both to the viewers and to Kayla. And, it is an organic source of conflict for Steve and Kayla, as they fight over the best way to help the boys.
I actually usually dislike storylines involving children. This is for several reasons. One, it’s rare to find a good child actor on a soap, and the awkward acting takes me out of the story. Two, child-centered stories on soaps usually mean the child is hurt, sick, or kidnapped, and I don’t like to see that in my entertainment. (I get enough of it on the news.) Three, they can often be overly sentimental.
This story doesn’t escape any of these failings. Little Max is no actor (though I do think he has a lot of natural personality, not matched by any of the children who played him later — except maybe Darin Brooks, hee!). However, the show wisely mitigates that by having the child be mute. Brilliant. It’s also mitigated by having Billy Warlock in the role of the troubled teen Frankie. Bad teen actors on soaps are almost as common as bad child actors, and this story wouldn’t work nearly as well without Billy selling us on Frankie’s love for little Max, and his anger and defensiveness — and, deep down, gratitude and hope — at having his life meddled with by Steve and Kayla.
And yes, we’ve got a child in jeopardy – Max nearly drowns, he has burn scars on his arms, he is torn from Frankie’s arms by a social worker, and he runs away from his foster home and is missing for a few days. But none of these things lasts very long, and to me, anyway, don’t feel as sadistic as the events in some children-in-jeopardy storylines. As to being overly sentimental, I think the story avoids this for the most part. The only thing I could have done without is the flashbacks to Steve’s childhood. I’m sorry to say that Aaron Nichols is not the actor his father is (hee), and overall they seem just a little bit too much. I think Stephen conveys the pain of Steve’s childhood much more effectively through his performance, and there is nothing in the flashbacks that I think we can’t do without.
All right, let’s get to it. Remember the last thing that happened is that Kayla decided Steve was guilty of something in Andrew’s kidnapping. So we’re starting at a point of maximum distance:
My favorite moment of this clip is after Steve sends Frankie away — he is so obviously waiting to be thanked by Kayla for rescuing her. Her line, uncharacteristically judgmental for Kayla, is perfect: “He’s just a punk and you know it.” I think what she really means is “you’re just a punk,” and it’s what she’s been trying to convince herself. Steve’s semi-sleazy come-on after that, when he asks her for a kiss, is obviously in reaction, but we see Kayla’s (unwilling) attraction to him in the moment when she reaches up to push his hands away from her face. When her mother comes out, they both jump like teenagers who have been caught.
I love the scene with Steve and Caroline, too. When Steve hears that Kayla has told her mother of his guilt about Andrew, his hurt is unmistakable, and that hurt permeates all that follows. His line, “If there is anything in this world I wouldn’t do, it’s take a kid from its mother,” nicely introduces the facts of his own childhood, which we are to learn about shortly.
Then, when she says, “As a mother, I would do anything to protect my family,” he is so overwhelmed he cannot respond. It’s clear he’s thinking about his own mother, and how she failed to protect him. We won’t learn the details of that until next year (and I doubt the show had fully fleshed it out yet), but his obviously genuine emotion is enough to convince Caroline he is telling the truth. And though Kayla never refers to it directly, I think her mother’s belief factors into her willingness to give Steve another chance.