This is surely one of the greatest breakthrough scenes of all time. I wore out my VCR watching this over and over again back in the day.
Let’s take a look at the setup:
I love that Kayla gets to express her anger. After all, Steve did stand her up, even if she doesn’t know the full story. Her anger here is a thing of beauty. When she realizes it is him standing there, her body language clearly says, I can’t believe you have the nerve to show your face. And then when he says he wants to explain what happened (and I always wonder what he was planning to say), Kayla is having none of it. That slap!
Stephen also does well showing Steve’s dawning awareness that this time is different. Kayla isn’t just exasperated with him, this is something far more serious. Being Steve, he can’t break through and try to fix it. But I love that he sticks around as long as he does, he doesn’t run away immediately. This is part of the subtlety that makes their early story so good. Yes, the overall dynamic is that Kayla is the active, determined one, and Steve is the one who is ready to run away and give up. But the way he lingers here even after it’s clear that he is not welcome — it shows how much he wants this, how he doesn’t want to let it go. Even when she slaps him, he grabs her hand and doesn’t let go.
After he does leave, finally, the prostitute comes in. I think she lays it on a little thick, but it gets the job done. I do think Kayla is a little too willing to forgive him after this. After all, he still stood her up. But I could see two things factoring into her reaction: the fact that she knows he did show up (because of the flowers), and the fact that he came by the next day and actually wanted to explain.
There are so many classic elements here. The water, of course. Kayla coming over soaking wet is a sign from the beginning that this is going to be a key scene for them. It gives Steve a chance to say about five times that she needs to “get out of those wet clothes.” Hee! He’s very concerned about that.
Before she gets there, though, we get a “Steve in the mirror” scene. This shows how much her anger has affected him, and how he has internalized it as self-loathing. We also see that he believes Kayla has rejected him forever, and his reaction is to pack up and leave town. Good thing Kayla shows up when she does.
I really love the moment when Kayla explains that she saw him with the prostitute, his reaction, his anger at that. He is remembering how humiliated he felt the night before, and the fact that Kayla saw him adds to that humiliation. I think he’s even more touchy about not sleeping with the prostitute. He knows that Kayla knows, or guesses, that he sent the hooker away because of how he feels for her. That makes him even more vulnerable, so he lashes out.
But, when Kayla tries to leave after that, he can’t let her go. He has no clue how to fix anything between them, but he can’t let her leave like that. So he makes it about the rain, and her getting out of her wet clothes. And when she sees his bag, she puts it all together.
Stephen and Mary Beth clearly rehearsed and prepared for the scene that follows, their body language, the way they are talking over each other. Here is where Steve and Kayla both lay it out on the table, all the issues that have been percolating. I think my favorite line is when Kayla says Steve is the one who made a big deal about the dinner party by not showing up. Not that she didn’t care about it, but he was the one who turned it into (with some help from Bo and Chris) The Great Defilement.
I love the way Kayla says so passionately, “I have seen you do good things!” And Steve asking if she thinks there’s a knight in shining armor in here just dying to get out. When he grabs her and says “look at me, Kayla!” it is a perfect echo of the earlier “Steve in the mirror” moment. What does she see when she looks at him, and how it is different than what he sees? Who is the real Steve? This is what their argument is really about.
Then, Kayla’s declaration, that she has a heart of her own and will give it to whoever she wants. I love the look on Kayla’s face when she realizes what she just said. I think she’s every bit as shocked as Steve. For one of the few times, Kayla actually turns away from Steve. And Steve’s body language in response, his whole body seems to be yearning for her as she turns away – and the look in his eye, so open and vulnerable. When Kayla says, “Don’t you know what I’m trying to say?” her slight dodge there shows her vulnerability too. The walls have come down for both of them.
And then, Bo comes in and spoils it. The first of many timely interruptions.
And, the aftermath back at the loft is pretty wonderful too:
I love how Kayla rips into Bo when she hears that he was the one who turned Steve away last night. And Steve’s facial expression as Kayla does it is absolutely priceless.