For all that I think the Shayla storyline is underrated, Kim’s role in it is probably the weakest link. This was mostly due to the fact that the show couldn’t make up its mind how much Kim was supposed to genuinely care for Lawrence. They wanted to retain sympathy for Kim, so she had to be seen as mostly just trying to get the goods on Lawrence. But they also wanted to show that Shane and Kayla (and later Jack and Jennifer) had reason to distrust her motives. It was all nicely messy, but sometimes it went too far and it was just confusing.
Then, after playing it coy about it for months, they decided they did want Kim to develop feelings for Lawrence, just in time to discover the truth about him during the trial. No doubt they thought it would up the drama quotient, if it wasn’t clear she would bring Lawrence down after all, and then if there was a big dramatic scene where she realizes the truth (which there is). I don’t have all the Lawrence/Kim scenes so maybe there is something in them that makes it work, but Kim falling for Lawrence during his trial for rape is the worst possible timing. Kim has to believe that Jen is lying, because Lawrence explicitly denies raping her. This makes me very, very queasy, given Kim’s own past.
The show also had another ball to juggle. How much does Shane care for Kim? Most of the time, it’s quite clear, to me anyway, that Shane has moved on from Kim and genuinely cares for Kayla, but that Kim can still push his buttons. This is how Charles Shaughnessy plays it, and I think it works best that way. If he was drawn to Kim too, it would make him look bad to be so entangled with two sisters. It would also give more fuel to Shawn’s arguments that if Kayla would step aside, Shane and Kim would get back together.
But, sometimes they couldn’t resist throwing a little curve ball.
Some background: it’s the middle of Lawrence’s trial, and Shane, Kim, Kayla, Jack and Jennifer are all cooperating to try to find more evidence on Lawrence. Kim has been tasked with finding a video that supposedly exists of Jen and Lawrence’s wedding night. Apparently Lawrence has a habit of keeping a camera filming in his bedroom (just like Fynn!). However, Kim sleeps with him instead, taking a moment to block the camera that she knows is there. Shane and Jack later break in and search for the tape, which they find is missing. Shane takes the tape from the night Kim was with Lawrence and sees enough to know they slept together. He doesn’t tell anyone, including Kim, what he saw.
We see Shane’s ruthlessness here, his willingness to use Kim’s feelings for him to get the truth. He touches her face and says “old habits die hard” so he can attach a bug to her earring. This is a callback to how he used her when they first met, and is also consistent with how he used Kayla and her job at the lab, over the course of this case.
When Kim finds the bug and confronts him, it plays like a supercouple confrontation scene. Maybe that’s partly because Charles and Patsy have such killer chemistry and play off one another so well. But he definitely makes it about more than the case when he lists Victor, Cal and Lawrence, and says “Is there anyone you wouldn’t sleep with?” It’s like a punch in the stomach. Does he lash out like this not only because she slept with Lawrence but because he heard her mocking him earlier (“Shane who?”)? It’s not clear, but the juxtaposition is suggestive.
It’s very similar — maybe too similar, Days does love to recycle! — to the fights they had about Victor after Kim slept with him to save Shane’s life. That was a brilliant story for them because it touched on Kim’s insecurity about her past as a prostitute, whether Shane could really get over the fact that she had slept with so many men. And Shane in turn had to confront the same thing, especially after it was revealed Andrew was Victor’s child — which of course he wasn’t really. And of course this is when he still thinks Jeannie (I mean, Theresa) is Cal’s child, so there is that parallel as well.
I suspect that the show was keeping their options open about this, not so much here as for the future. This scene is about as close as it gets to suggesting Shane has real feelings for Kim in this period. After this scene, they use this event for awhile longer to create insecurity for Kayla (as you can see they did here) without suggesting that Shane is genuinely drawn to Kim. But I think they wanted to keep this card in their back pocket to potentially play later. I also suspect that the long term plan, if they had one, was that Shane and Kim would eventually reunite. But the churn going on backstage in 1991 and 92 — the revolving door of headwriters, Patsy Pease’s leaves of absence — makes it difficult to know anything for certain.