Frankie and Max

(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:

Frankie steals Kayla’s purse

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.

6 thoughts on “Frankie and Max

  1. It is kind of nice to see the early scenes when you have the full backstory of Steve’s childhood. All in all Stephen Nichols does such a good job with a range of emotions when he is speaking with Mrs. Brady – he goes from wareness to anger to hurt when she talks about what a Mother would do for her children.

    The Max and Frankie story is of course overly sentimental and soapy is all the good ways and I loved watching it.

    • It is kind of nice to see the early scenes when you have the full backstory of Steve’s childhood.

      That’s exactly how I feel, watching this. Knowing how well they fleshed it out and how much it added to his character, it’s just so fun to watch the beginning of it all. I love the conversation with Caroline. It’s a combination of his hurt about Kayla and the buttons she pushes with her talk about mothers, that make him open up a little. Stephen is so great.

  2. It’s funny looking back on this story and seeing that Street Kid Frankie ended up being Francois Von Luescher (or however you spell it). No wonder he didn’t do that great of a job as a pickpocket LOL. But I still enjoy the story from the perspective of the start of the story of Steve’s past and knowing the wonderful ride the show takes us on for the next few years.

    • Ha ha, Francois von Leuchner. That just doesn’t make sense for this story. I didn’t hate that they made Frankie and Carly brother and sister, but I think they should have tried harder to make it fit with his introduction. Like maybe he was a bastard son and given up for adoption … I don’t know.

      I tend to use the retcon Wall of Separation when watching this early story. Very handy in many situations.🙂

  3. I like this storyline for all the reasons you mention, including the insight to Steve’s past. But I also like it for how they used it in transitioning Steve and Kayla from B players to A players. Kayla’s been in town for a couple of months and now this is the first storyline she and Steve carry, that is really focused on them. It’s fairly short overall, but it sets them up for future stories and shows they can carry a storyline. Its a great example of how the show used to be so good at gradually introducing new characters and building them up to A story status.

    • Yes! You are right that this is a transitional storyline, it’s relatively minor and doesn’t last too long. But Steve and Kayla carry it themselves. And they’ll get a bigger one next with the Britta storyline.

      And yes, Days used to be so much better at introducing new characters and building them up to major players. Sigh.

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