Bad Tripp

Mixed bag this week.

I thought the hospital scenes with Abby were well done. Missy Reeves was particularly good, and I teared up when she mentioned holding Abby’s fingers as a baby. I appreciated how we saw most characters in town being told the news of the accident and expressing their concern — think about how Dena handled Kayla’s brain surgery as a sad contrast.

I am still a little fuzzy on Chad’s reaction and what it means for the Chabby/Chabi relationships.

He is clearly overcome with grief and guilt for Abby, and feels keenly that the last words he said to her where “stay dead” (Billy Flynn is hitting all the beats there), but I’m not getting (yet) a sense of “It’s really you I’ve loved all along” — the dialogue feels a little more ambiguous. Even when he said tearfully to Abby “I love you,” it still didn’t come across as an epiphany, at least to me, and the camera went to Gabi’s reaction. I really don’t want to see more of him being torn between the two women — it is damaging the character. However, I might be reading this all wrong. I’m content to watch for now and see how it goes.

I am very curious what they are planning with Eric, Nicole, and Brady. They’ve cleared turned a page here and I’m waiting to see how it all shakes out.

I’ve seen some complaints that Nicole keeping her forgiveness of Eric a secret doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t bother me. People often put off uncomfortable conversations, and that’s the kind of secret I think this is — though taken to an extreme. Also, her instinct to keep this a secret could be telling, that she knows deep down that her forgiveness of Eric means other walls are coming down between them too. All I know is that the scene of them together in Eric’s room was played by both Greg and Ari with a lot of sexual tension, and the moment when she said, “Of course there is nothing between us,” as she turned away, was Soap Denial 101.

From a character (not just shipper) perspective, it was a lovely scene. We saw how much it meant to Eric that she had forgiven him, when he was worried that she had changed her mind. That gave him a reason to go along with her wishes, even though he knows it’s not a good idea. I loved that he tried to talk her out of keeping this a secret by quoting scripture, and the touch of sarcasm with “And you think this is a good idea?” was perfect.

Why is Brady suddenly gripped with irrational jealousy regarding Nicole? Who knows? They could give us any number of reasons that connected with his history with women, but they haven’t. Brady as a character has suffered from bad, or nonexistent, characterization, but he has certainly jumped from woman to woman, convinced each time that this is True Love. This could be explored, or even acknowledged, by the show, but instead the show presents each relationship with a straight face — including his current one. It would be fascinating for Brady to realize that he and Nicole have a similar history of jumping from relationship to relationship, which could give him a reason to doubt what they have now … especially in contrast to Eric’s steady constancy.

Speaking of whom, they need to do more with the fact that this is Brady’s brother he’s jealous of, who he has always been close to, and who has recently been to hell and back…. and who he was recently urging Nicole to forgive.

That brings me to Steve and Kayla. I talked last time about how this story didn’t have to be so crummy, but the fact is that it was, and Ron didn’t really do anything to fix it before heading to this big showdown. I have no sense of Tripp as a person; his characterization is so paper-thin, his reasons for blaming Kayla so laughable, that it sucked a lot of the drama out of the scenes on Friday. I know the Dena portion of the story cannot be unwritten, but how hard would it be to have Tripp overhear Kayla saying to Steve, “I just hope Tripp never finds out the truth about how his mother died” or something else to send him over the edge right now?

Kayla was written well during the scenes themselves — I liked how, after her initial shock, she went to compassion first, and then (finally!) anger when the extent of Tripp’s hatred and delusion became clear. (I’m assuming Ron knows that Steve didn’t actually “leave” Kayla for Ava.) And Steve and Joey talking about Tripp at the same time and putting the pieces together was reasonably well put together.

But, I have to admit the whole thing depressed me, and it’s going to take some pretty damn amazing writing for me to accept Tripp as a viable character after this. Also (and it really pains me to say this), but I feel a little bit like that with Joey as well. Having Joey kill Ava was a major, major mistake, and no matter how many times Steve tries to say it was “sort of” self-defense, that’s not what happened. I don’t know how Joey is exiting the canvas, but I hope it’s something that redeems him a little and gives the character some strength and independence (but doesn’t kill him off). Then, down the road, maybe we can get a recast and a fresh start for him.

In the meantime, give us a Stephanie.

Screencaps Joanie

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Forgiveness

Ron’s second week was solid soap. I appreciate how each episode zips along — there is momentum, and energy, and suspense. I appreciate good plotting, and the suspense surrounding Dario’s arrest and attempt at blackmail, plus the multiple-character maneuvering over Theo’s laptop, was particularly well constructed. I am liking Marci Miller and Chabby 3.0 more and more. Friday’s cliffhangers — three of them! — were all terrific and have me looking forward to next week.

But, I need to talk about Tuesday’s Ericole scenes. First, can we take a moment to appreciate Greg Vaughan as one of the best male criers in the business:

I loved that Eric was touchy and angry when Nicole first found the letters, and snapped at her for snooping in his desk. For all that I love Eric’s tortured, against-all-reason love for Nicole, that doesn’t mean I want to see him being a spineless noodle — in fact, the pride and anger makes the suppressed longing all the more appealing.

That’s why I can’t get enthusiastic about Jeneric, even though I get why people would, for the character Eric’s sake — hey, we even saw him smile again on Monday! But Greg Vaughan plays intense, bottled-up emotion so well, and I can’t see a Jeneric relationship being anything but cute. As I said last week about Chad, one of my favorite things about soaps is the intense, tortured loyal man in love. And what could be more tortured than being intensely in love with a woman whose fiancé you killed?

Of course, Days has failed immensely in the characterization of Nicole this past year. She is not naturally a suffering heroine type. Even though Arianne Zucker can do suffering and angst, it is best when it is layered with some zip and some spunk and some snark. Tuesday went a little ways toward repairing the damage done — at least, it fixed the hypocrisy of her withholding forgiveness from Eric when she has been forgiven of at least equal crimes. In fact, I would say the dialogue would have been better if it had emphasized that aspect, rather than how Saint Daniel would want her to forgive.

In the end, perhaps the crucial question is not whether Nicole can forgive Eric but whether the viewers can forgive Nicole. I really have no idea if Ron will go for it with Ericole or how he would even approach it, given that Ari is leaving … but, for me anyway, the heart wants what the heart wants, lol.

Turning to Steve and Kayla — I have mixed feelings. It was a fantastic coincidence that Steve and Kayla’s yacht wedding anniversary happened to fall in Ron’s first full week, and kudos to him and his team for taking advantage of it. Seeing Steve give Kayla a yellow rose, sign “Happy Anniversary, Sweetness,” give her a bracelet with an anchor charm, and then swoop her into a slow dance … well, my Stayla shipper cup runneth over. All this shows a lovely the attention to history (the sign language particularly made me swoon) and besides, it fits with the character of Steve — he was always given to outsized romantic gestures.

I could be churlish and point out that these little details cost a writer nothing and are no substitute for a actual frontburner story, but I won’t do that. Instead I’ll give Ron (or Sheri) full credit for this … and still go on to complain about the Tripp story.

Looking back on it, it is truly pitiful how badly it has been executed. I would just like to point out that even though I would have always been against the idea of ANOTHER Ava-themed story, this one could have been actually good. Imagine if Tripp had come to town as a street kid with a rough, hardscrabble past. He knows Ava is his mother, but he doesn’t know who his father is.

He has some early, negative interaction with Steve — maybe he is caught stealing and Steve catches him. He is arrested and gets community service — he doesn’t know Steve actually helped him by talking down the charges and getting him out of jail time.

Tripp tracks down Angelo, who takes him in and gives him a home (first one he’s had that’s not foster care). Angelo feeds him a lot of lies about how the newspaper stories about his mother are wrong; she was demonized to justify her killer: Steve.

Tripp could also interact with the teens in various ways; for our purposes, he gets to know Joey. Say Tripp truly is bright and has a lot of potential, and he expresses so much interest in medicine that Joey introduces him to Kayla.

In the meantime Steve has caught wind of possible child with Ava, and he is chasing around trying to find him. Kayla goes with him on some of these adventures. She has mixed feelings (which are shown to the audience and respected by Steve) about a child with Ava, but her mentoring of the street kid Tripp helps her reconcile herself to the idea a bit.

Tripp is shown growing close to Kayla, but he keeps his distance from Steve and acts weird when he is mentioned. Kayla and Joey attribute this to Steve catching him stealing. He discreetly quizzes Joey and Kayla about Steve and (in his mind, not openly) makes the most of Steve’s past mistakes to justify thinking Steve is really a bad guy. As time goes on, Tripp is torn between his revenge — that Angelo is egging him on about, and he feels a certain loyalty to him — and his genuine growing interest in being a doctor and his friendship with Joey and Kayla.

It all ends with Tripp kidnapping Steve with the intention of killing him, but he dithers. While Steve is missing, a lead comes through on the investigation that shows Kayla the truth: Tripp is Steve’s son. She runs to Angelo, figures out where Tripp is holding Steve, runs in just as Tripp is about to shoot Steve, shouting “Don’t kill him! He’s your father!”

Okay, I got a bit carried away there. The point is that this story did not have to be inherently bad, and so far Ron doesn’t seem to be fixing it. We don’t even know whether Kayla believes she is being framed or if she really made those mistakes. Tripp’s motivation for targeting Kayla is as weak as before, and he remains unsympathetic because of it. I’m delighted to see Steve finally suspicious of Tripp in Friday’s cliffhanger, but I’m worried about the story just being quickly wrapped up rather than fixed.

Screencaps Joanie

I’m baaaaaaaack

Well, we made it.

My hatred of Dena Higley’s writing is of long standing — I actually was driven away from Days during her last stint in 2008, even before Steve and Kayla left the show in 2009. Looking back, however, her second run was positively Shakespearean compared to this stint.

How depressing.

My complaints about her writing are no doubt known to all of you. Event driven stories, thin, cartoonish characterization, lack of payoff, offscreen characters driving story, insufficient attention to character motivation, mix n match couplings … the list could go on and on. When I went on hiatus here three months ago, I HAD to stop watching every day, to avoid getting to the point where I hated everyone and everything in Salem and wanted to blow up the whole town. For instance, I used to like Chad, Abby, and Gabi, but I slowly grew to hate them all in the course of this wretched triangle.

But next week, every character and every story is getting a fresh start with me. I had glimmers of liking Chabby again during the Halo party. I liked Chad/Billy Flynn a lot for all of 2015 and 2016, so I don’t think it will take much to get me back in his camp. And I WANT to like Marci Miller. I was never a diehard Kate Mansi fan — I liked her when the writing was good in the fall of 2015, not so much before or after. So I think Marci and this version of Chabby could win me over too. Anyway, I’m going to give them a chance.

Of course my favorites have remained my favorites: Steve and Kayla, Eric and Nicole. Nicole has certainly tested my patience, but fast-forwarding has been my friend there. As soon as I hear the word “Daniel,” down goes the FF button. Does wonders for my peace of mind!

The show has been improving — slightly — over the last few weeks. I thought the Martin house party was mostly good, by Dena standards. I’ve been enjoying Eric and Nicole since then, too, and I hope we’ll get a little Ericole story before Ari leaves this fall. I’ll talk about them more in my next post.

But for now, let me focus on Steve and Kayla. I wish I could say that I have found redeeming moments in this Tripp story. I recognize that Lucas Adams is a decent actor, and Stephen and Mary Beth have certainly been giving it their all (as they always do), but I have found the whole thing to fairly wretched. Starting from the insertion of Ava YET AGAIN into their story, the lack of buildup to Tripp’s first appearance, the insta-bonding with Steve, then the insta-bonding with Ava’s ghost, the lack of a meaningful point of view for Kayla, Steve and Kayla’s general cluelessness, Jade’s role as wet dishrag/femme fatale … well, need I go on?

But even here — deep breath — I am going to try my hardest to wipe the slate clean and give Ron a chance to redeem it, and especially to redeem Tripp so I can stand the guy even a little bit.

I am mostly unexcited so far by the return of Anjelica in the form of Morgan Fairchild. (If it were Jane Elliot, I think I would feel differently. Just imagining her in these same scenes makes them 1000 x more interesting in my mind.) However, the story has not been terrible. It suffers from the usual lack of buildup, of course, but it has some points in its favor. First of all, it has given Steve and Kayla a chance to interact with characters other than Jade, Tripp, and Joey, which is a major plus. And second, it gave us those delightful scenes on Monday.

Even in the 80’s, Stephen and Mary Beth rarely got to do comedy, and it’s a shame, because Mary Beth is a natural comedienne. So scenes like these are a rare treat:

Some good lines here. My favorite was “Do I tell you how to remove a spleen?” Ha!

Mary Beth was giving off a major Lucille Ball vibe in these scenes, in her expression above and in this moment, when Anjelica mentioned smelling “cheap” perfume:

Adorable.

And then they finished it off with a cute, sexy scene at the end, when Kayla rushed them from their meal so they could go home and get it on:

This, to my mind, was a perfect episode arc for an established couple. A little plot, a little comedy, a little romance and sexiness. More please.

I’m not naive enough to think that the glory days of Days are ever coming back, but with Sheri on his side, I can’t help but be a little more hopeful about Ron than I would be with just any writing change. At any rate, I hope I’ll be able to watch my show without wanting to gouge out my eyeballs. So you can see I’m setting a high bar.

Welcome to Days, Ron!

Screencaps I ❤ SnK 

 

 

Glimmers

I swear, this show gives me whiplash. Every week or so, along will come an episode that zips along in an enjoyable fashion, and I think “You know what, these stories are fun. Maybe I’m too hard on Dena.” And then … another episode, same characters, some stories, and it’s back to watching paint dry. Badly.

At any rate, the last few weeks, I have found glimmers to enjoy. The premise to the Orwell story is dumb, but it has provided a framework for some interesting interactions. The writing for Jennifer has been better than it has in years, getting her back to her investigative reporter roots. And, while Drew’s return is the most baffling return since … Hattie, his scenes with Jennifer have been tons of fun.  I’ve also enjoyed Gabi and Abby teaming up, though the supposed triangle with Chad/Abby/Gabi has mostly been underwhelming. Note to Days, it’s not romantic to show Chad “working on his marriage” like it’s a chore. The show is clearly setting up for something to happen with Chabi during this kidnapping, and it just makes Chad look fickle. At the moment I’m not rooting for either Chabi or Chabby — which I often find is the case with Dena’s “romances.”

In Prague, since Anna, Carrie, and Austin’s departure, we’ve had all the excitement that sitting around in the lobby can provide. Whew! But, this masquerade has at least given us some awesome eye candy:

stevekaylamasquerade2

And Marlena throwing shade at Rafe as he fretted about the plan was comedy gold. I also liked the Paul/Sonny scenes — Sonny was adorable with all his spy talk — but I’m waiting for the show to actually give them some kind of conflict, some journey to be together. They are starting to remind me of how JJ/Gabi started — promising chemistry but no story.

As for the other big story, the baby Holly saga — I haven’t been as down on this story as so many people have, but I have to admit the last couple of weeks have been pretty bad. Chloe’s reservations about Deimos were certainly well-founded, but now it seems clear she was only using him as a convenient excuse. Which is fine, and in fact it should make the story better, but it doesn’t. It all feels slapped together for the sake of the plot.”Shit, we’re running out of reasons for Chloe to keep Holly from Nicole, come up with another one, quick!”

The only bright spot (for me, anyway) is Nicole finally getting a clue about Deimos. I know she hasn’t broken up with him yet, but that seems to be where the story is going. In his eagerness to prove he’s the man for her, he rushes out and does something stupid and violent (to the judge, to Chloe) and it ends up rebounding on Nicole. I hope that will inspire a little self-reflection on her part as to how she could be so wrong about him, but we’ll see how it shakes out.

At the moment it’s looking like I might not be getting my Ericole, since they seem to be busy setting up Brady and Nicole (and possibly Eric and Jennifer) instead. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy Eric’s return and take it as it comes. Eric’s scenes with Jennifer were surprisingly bittersweet, especially the moment when she called herself his friend. Greg Vaughan did so well conveying how touched Eric was by that, showing how isolated he has been. This was another bittersweet moment, from today:

ericpicture

I’m ready for him to have scenes with people other than Hope. I’m curious what will bring him back to Salem, if he’ll come back with Hope when she is cleared or if it’s something else. I was intrigued to find out that these Hope/Eric scenes were probably originally planned for a new character – a casting call went out for a former doctor who lived off the grid, who would be interacting with Hope. It will be interesting to see if we can pinpoint when the main story for Eric kicks in.

Screencaps Forever_SAFE

Deimonic

When I first started going to message boards in 2006, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me who this “Shelle” person was. I’m embarrassed to say how long it took for the light bulb to go off. When it finally did, I initially thought the whole concept of couple names was overly cutesy and an affront to proper grammar. But, I have since completely reversed my position. Some couple names sound truly lovely (Lumi, Ericole) and the ones that don’t (Bope, EJami) still save a few keystrokes. It’s also fun when fans of a couple will go with one name (Danicole) and non-fans another (Dicole). So it has been with Nicole and Deimos. Neimos is what I see on Twitter as the neutral-to-positive name for this couple, and non-fans have kicked around Nicodeimos and (in a stroke of genius) Deimonic.

I haven’t made a secret of my dislike for this pairing, and as far as I can tell they haven’t caught fire with other fans either. And as Deimos keeps ramping up the villainy and with Eric back on the canvas, I think Deimonic is not long for this world.

I know a lot of people find it difficult to root for Eric to get together with the current version of Nicole, and I get it, I really do. It gives even me pause to imagine her going from loving Daniel, to Deimos, to back in love with Eric without a pause. I’m not bothered by the mere fact that she’s been with two different men, because Nicole has always had a past, and they’ve more or less established Nicole as a character who always wants to be with someone. It’s part of what I enjoy, the contrast between seen-it-all Nicole and priestly Eric, who seems virginal in comparison.

But what’s been missing the past year is the desperate edge that made her “looking for love in all the wrong places” sympathetic. And here I put the blame squarely on the day to day writing. They keep telling us she and Daniel had this once in a lifetime love, but I’ll never believe it. Even if I did believe it, it doesn’t fit her character to have her going on and on like Hope talking about Bo.* Talking about drawing strength from his love even in death, “what would Daniel do?” etc.

The emphasis through all of this should have been on Nicole’s certainty (after Daniel’s death) she could never find love without it all going wrong. (Even better if they made it clear that she wanted marriage and a family more than she wanted Daniel as a person, but that might be too much to hope for.) But, that just makes her more desperate to have love of any kind. That would create a feeling that she has to latch onto anyone who shows an interest. She’ll never have a great love, but she still can’t stand being alone. If a lifetime jailbird with questionable morals is the only option, she’ll take it.

So, I might have to pretend in my head that this is what happened, because I adored the Eric scenes from yesterday that indicated he was still in love with Nicole. There’s nothing I like more than a tortured man hopelessly longing for someone he thinks he can never have.

ericbrooding

And if the story had played out as I illustrated above … she moved on, but not happily; he never moved on … it would preserve the contrast of their two characters that I love so much.

And, of course we had some lovely, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Steve and Kayla scenes yesterday too. I was a little distracted by the fact that Stephen didn’t act at all like he was in pain from his bullet wound. He was moving his arm freely and not wincing at all. Such is the healing power of Kayla!

stevekaylakissshoulder

I loved that Steve mentioned that the most romantic thing to him was that she jumped on a plane and flew across the ocean to nurse him back to health “just like Stockholm.” Sigh. And with Sheri back, in six months it will be just like Stockholm again.**

*Actually Hope never talks about Bo.

**Please don’t expect this.

Screencaps Joanie

 

Welcome back, Eric

ericback

“It’s me, Eric.”

He’s here, he’s finally here!

A few weeks ago, when it was revealed that Eric’s entrance involved Hope, a rumor went around that they were going to be paired off. I didn’t really believe it, but really, can you count anything out on this show?

So imagine my relief when Hope referred to Eric as her nephew today. Do you think the scriptwriter wanted to reassure us because s/he knows how Days usually works? That if you rescue someone, you are fated to be romantically involved with that person?

Anyway, now that I don’t have to worry about an aunt/nephew hookup, I think this could be a good reintroduction for Eric. Saving Hope’s life gives him a hero moment right off the bat. More importantly, Hope killed someone, and went to prison, just as Eric did. I really loved their wry exchange, when she said “I thought you were in prison,” and he replied, “I thought you were too.” She might be the best, or really the only, person who can help him right now, because she feels guilty for what she did, but has still accepted the help of her family and friends (ALL of her family and ALL of her friends …).  She is in a unique position to reassure Eric that he shouldn’t hide himself away, that he can be forgiven too.

I also loved that Eric referred to his time as a priest in the Congo. One thing I really, really want to see is that Days is aware of what made Eric such a unique character. He had a gentleness about him that was different than the cops and spies and big business dealers on the rest of the show. Don’t get me wrong, I love my cops and spies, but he brought a very different male energy to the show and I don’t want to lose that. He’s not a standard-issue tough guy. That said, I know he is in a different place now because of his experiences in jail, and I expect him to be darker and I welcome it. Today, Greg played his lines with a quiet intensity, suggesting strong emotions roiling beneath the surface. I’m intrigued to see where this goes. But I do hope we’ll that sweetness and gentleness again … someday.

In other news, Anna continues to be a highlight for me in the Prague adventure. They gave her the best lines: “I only have one gun.” “Do you have any cashews?” Ha! But what really made it all work were Austin and Carrie’s reactions to her, like this exchange of looks after Carrie realized she was giving her mother advice on how to shoot people:

carrieaustinanna

It was fun seeing Steve ranting and raving at Marlena today, too; it reminded me of old school Steve, always flying off the handle.  And then when he got shot, and Kayla decided to go off to Prague to make sure he was all right … well, I know we all remember this:

Steve shot in Stockholm

Sigh. I’d love to think it’s an intentional callback by the writers, but it’s delightful either way.

All in all, an excellent episode. Good job, Days.

 

Christmas cheer

Maybe it’s the Christmas spirit. Maybe it’s that Steve and Kayla are happy, and I’m looking forward to Greg’s return. Maybe I’m just beaten down at this point. Whatever it is, I don’t think the show is any better, but I’ve been enjoying it more.

Depth, consistency, characterization, slow burn romance … we’ll never get these things with Dena, but occasionally she will hit on a soap plot that has a interlocking geometry to it that is satisfying. The first babyswitch story was like that, and this new one is starting to shape up and cohere a little bit.

I always wanted to like the story, because it’s the one that Eric will probably be involved in, and I’m still hoping Eric will somehow turn out to be the father.  But I also appreciate how much the show is focusing on Chloe and Nicole’s friendship. Female friendships aren’t often the focus on soaps, so this is refreshing.

nicolechloe

Some of the dialogue today was genuinely cute and clever, like when Chloe said ruefully she hoped this time she could have her baby in a hospital, and when Nicole reassured her that she’s done this before, delivering Grace is what started her on her fabulous babyswitching career.

I actually teared up a little when Nicole held her baby. I’m delighted that the baby is a girl, and I’m even more delighted that Nicole didn’t name the baby Danielle, or Danipalooza, or whatever.

nicoleholly

Now that I feel more (cautiously) hopeful that Deimos and Nicole aren’t going to be the rooting couple, I’ve even been enjoying Deimos again. His blase attitude with Brady regarding Phillip was kind of amusing: “yeah, I kidnapped Phillip and drugged him, what?” I could get on board with this characterization of Deimos: he genuinely cares for (some) people, but if you’re not one of those people, he’ll squash you like a bug if it helps him reach his goals.

Still, it’s annoying that no one calls him on it for more than a minute or two, so I really enjoyed Phillip’s parting rant, which also included Victor (another character who never gets called on anything).

deimosphillip

Phillip’s sendoff was actually good. It was a little abrupt, but his scenes with Chloe, the Kiriakises, and Kate actually hit some emotional beats. I really liked John Paul Lavoisier. I love Jay Kenneth Johnson, but John Paul fit well in the role. I can’t figure out why they got rid of him just when they finally got him away from Belle and gave him something more interesting to do. (And yet we keep Dario and Deimos …) I suspect the departure of Jen Lilley had something to do with it — Brady is at loose ends now, and I think they might try pairing him with Chloe. But they definitely left the door wide open for Phillip’s return, and if Jay Kenneth Johnson isn’t interested, I would welcome John Paul back with open arms.

Screencaps Joanie