Nouveau Deveraux

Technically, that should be “nouvelle,” but that didn’t rhyme.

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(Look at that picture of Jack! Jack, who I met last weekend!!!)

I was quite favorably impressed with Marci Miller as the new Abby. I thought her scenes with Jen were very good. She connected very naturally with Jen and they gave off a nice mother/daughter vibe. She also really sold the whole “I faked my death so you could all move on” thing — not the easiest sell for one of your first scenes. And, family resemblance isn’t everything (see Brady, Ciara), but Marci’s striking resemblance to Melissa Reeves is a nice bonus.

She’s also got the “blink and let one tear fall down your cheek” thing down pat — always a good skill for a soap actress!

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The big test will be seeing her with Chad.  They seem to be banking a lot on nuChabby, based on the general buzz, the frequent behind-the-scenes photos, and the constant cutesy tweeting between Billy and Marci. I worried that it was all being built up too much, because for me anyway, I won’t automatically ship a couple I like if there’s a recast — quite the opposite, actually.  Now, I’m not a Chabby shipper per se — I like them, but I was open to seeing Chad paired with someone else. I didn’t want to see Billy Flynn wasted just because Kate Mansi left the show. At any rate, I’m excited to see how it plays out.

Seeing Steve and Adrienne together is always something special, and this was a particularly good scene:

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I loved the banter about “the blues” being her “something blue” and Steve saying he was the “something old” and Adrienne cracking up and saying “at least you didn’t say me!” Such a cute sibilng vibe to these scenes.

At the (pitifully attended) wedding itself, the highlight for me was Steve and Kayla making googoo eyes at each other:

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I was on board for Justin’s big entrance, because it’s so soapy, but this is the kind of thing that calls for more than a couple of scenes (not even episodes) of preparation. I heard there was a cut scene where Adrienne was talking about the wedding and accidentally said Justin’s name instead of Lucas. That seems like a scene we should have seen, don’t you think? And a better writer would also have made more of Sonny being torn between encouraging his father to interrupt the wedding and the fact that he’s Lucas’s best man, his former father-in-law, and Lucas has endured so much loss in his life recently (as has Sonny). But instead it was just “Oh, by the way, Dad, you should totes interrupt the wedding.

Then there was Theresa’s exit this week. I actually have been drawn into this little arc against my will.

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I was so annoyed at the whole Mateo retcon, and I still don’t believe in a million years that Shane and Kim would help Theresa leave her son and go off with a dangerous man, no matter how powerful he was. But, I must admit it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a decent “I have to pretend to be a horrible person” storyline (a story which can be good soapy angst if done well), and this one actually gave Jen Lilley and Eric Martsolf some surprisingly good material to work with. I haven’t liked Thrady that much since Theresa’s redemption. But they had an interesting dynamic when Theresa was bad and Brady was a drug addict, and the angst they got to play this week reminded me of when I liked them.

And, I’m glad they gave a little hint that Shane might have another plan in mind, and he’s not letting Theresa go off with Mateo after all, in his last scene on Friday.

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Now can we get some scenes with Kim and Shane with Kayla and the rest of the cast, pretty please?

Screencaps Joanie

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Jo the first

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: Brothers under the skin

Now that we finally got to meet Joe Johnson (16 year old version), let’s spend a little time with his namesake, shall we?

After Jo is arrested for killing Nick, she accepts a plea deal that allows her to serve her time at Bayview. Here, Jack and Jennifer come over to say goodbye to her:

Jo leaves for Bayview

First, the setup. Jack is at the Spectator in manic mode, babbling about everything he has to do to get Lawrence. I love how Jennifer banters and argues with him, gets him to admit (sort of) that he wants to help Jo, then points out quietly that the way to help her today is to go see her. And without saying anything, Jack acknowledges she’s right, by going with her.

Watching this scene, I realized something: that even if she had returned his feelings, Jack and Kayla would never have made a good match. She’s so direct and straightforward, and I think she would have been frustrated by his indirection, his tendency to talk around things. What can’t he just say what he means? Jennifer, in contrast, seems to be charmed by it, and is usually ready to join in. She understands that this is his way of saying what he means.

When they arrive, Jack tries to stall Jennifer so she doesn’t leave them alone, but she goes anyway. And Joy Garrett does so well showing Jo is scared and worried, but she’s putting on a smile for Jack. And then a lovely scene of Jack and Jo. I love that it’s important to Jack that she understands he isn’t going to forget Steve, that he’s still determined to do something about Lawrence. Jo isn’t so happy about that – she doesn’t want him risking his life too. I love the intensity that comes through when Jack says Lawrence is still walking around, alive, happy, while Steve is … it just isn’t right.

[I have to say it’s a bit surreal to watch this, where Jack is alive and Steve is dead, when now it’s the opposite. Soaps!]

Then, when Jo tells Jack that he sounds like Steve, that Steve would have been proud of him, Matt Ashford kills me with Jack’s reaction. He wants to believe that so much, and maybe he doesn’t quite — but it still means a lot to hear her say it. He’s so overwhelmed he has to change the subject, babbling about Bayview and the meatloaf.

When Jennifer and Neil come back in, and it’s time for Jo to go, I love how she starts tidying up to cover her nervousness and fear. Jennifer serves as a nice buffer for Jack in these final moments. It allows him to say he’ll “tag along” when Jennifer visits Jo, rather than him saying he’ll visit her himself. And when Jo hugs him and says she loves him, and he can’t say it back, Jo just smiles at him in response. She understands him perfectly in that moment.

We see just how perfectly when, on her way out, Jo looks at Jen and points at Jack, signalling her to go comfort him. When Jack berates himself for not being able to tell Jo he loves her, Jennifer says it’s all right, Jo knows. A mother knows.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Speechless

How far would you go?

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: What if I told you I was raped?

Jack has been on the trail of Nick’s killer for months. He learned that Nick had a letter with him when he died, that presumably Nick’s killer now has. This letter is supposed to be damaging to Lawrence somehow, and Jack is determined to bring Lawrence down … to avenge Steve.

On the train, Jack and Jennifer found the gun that was used to kill Nick. They devise a fairly clever plan — by Days standards — throwing a big party and carefully collecting the champagne glasses of all the guests to check their fingerprints against the prints on the gun. Somebody who is NOT a suspect, also at the party, touches April’s glass and leaves her fingerprints on it.

Jo.

Jack confronts Jo

The opening shot of Jack holding the picture of Steve and him as boys is the perfect way to kick off this arc. He is obviously missing his brother, and his guidance, right now.  What would Steve want him to do?

As he is working on her to confess, there is an intensity in Jack’s manner that borders on violence. We don’t often see Jack like this anymore, and I love it. When he grabs her purse to look for the letter, he is nearly out of control. It’s not clear exactly what is driving him, but it feels right. I think it has mostly to do with the letter, that Jack has been pursuing for months. If Jo has it and has been keeping it back, maybe doesn’t care about seeing Steve avenged. She has also tried many times over the last months to talk him out of his pursuit of Lawrence, saying she’s already lost one son, she doesn’t want to lose another. Was that true, or was she just protecting herself at the expense of Steve?

Jo explains why she killed Nick

The way this unfolds is perfect, so we see exactly why Jo was driven to do what she did.  Jo says giving up her babies was the worst mistake of her life. I love the line about how Duke took their childhoods from her — but notice also the selfishness here, she’s thinking of their childhoods being stolen from her, not how much they (well, Steve) suffered. I never felt Jo really understood that. Joy Garrett is incredible here, when she says they all found each other and her dream came true, and then they were destroyed a second time by Nick.

Then the flashback, so we can see exactly what happened. When Jo confronts Nick, he lashes out at her. Badgering her, verbally abusing her, taunting her. He sounds like Duke. I think it’s clear a lot of this is Nick’s bravado, what he’s been telling himself to excuse himself for Steve’s death, and then attacking her for good measure. The best (worst) part is when he taunts her about Steve’s horrible childhood, and when she says she loved Steve, he sneers “too little too late.” It’s a way of getting at Jo like nothing else could.

Then, afterwards, when Roman comes in to arrest her, we see all the driving intensity is gone from Jack’s manner, and he just looks defeated. All his efforts to avenge Steve’s death — finding the gun, finding Nick’s killer — have led him only to hurting someone who wanted to do the same thing.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Pollyanna

Steve’s death: Jack

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: The Missing Heiress

Steve’s death is the best thing that could have happened to Jack.

I kid, I kid. But it’s true that Steve’s death forces Jack to realize how much he has been leaning on his older brother. He has counted on Steve to be the hero in the family, and without him he has to find the hero within himself. They set this up nicely by having Jack tell Jennifer he’s going back to Salem to seek Steve’s help, and then be called back instead with news of Steve’s accident. We have these scenes of Jack in the blue tunnel and then at Steve’s bedside:

Steve’s death, Jack

I especially like the reference to how Steve has always been there for him “even when I didn’t want you to.” It’s a great way to reference their crazy history without going into too much detail.

My absolute favorite part of this scene, though, is the way Jack reminds Steve of the promise he made him in the orphanage, that he would always take care of him. The show sets up from very early on how that unkept promise (unkept because Jack was adopted) has haunted Steve. It was a part of what made him give Kayla up for Jack. Here is the scene where Steve first tells Jack about it, right after Jack has found out his true identity:

Steve tells Jack about his promise

This scene is so painful (and wonderful). It’s painful twice over–to watch Steve break down and open up to the man who raped Kayla, and then to see Jack scorn and reject him on top of that. But because we understand just how much Steve loved Billy and how this promise has haunted him—in the heat of the moment of Jack finding out the truth, Steve can’t help leaping to do what he’s probably been waiting to do his entire life: apologize for failing Jack and hope to be forgiven. But Jack, of course, has so many of his own issues crashing down on him that he has no room for Steve’s. But he does see, and finally understands, the love Steve has for him—and he recoils from it. To hear now, two years later, that this moment actually made an impression on Jack, that it became incredibly meaningful to him, is wonderfully redemptive.

Also, it’s one of the first times I think Jack identifies personally with something that happened to baby Billy. Because he was just a baby, he couldn’t remember their relationship as boys the way Steve could. But here, because it connects back to something that Jack does remember vividly—Steve telling him about the promise, not the promise itself—and connects it to how he has always counted on Steve’s bedrock-like presence in his life. That early relationship was so important for Steve, and now we see it is important to Jack as well. The whole arc of Jack’s story could be viewed as Jack and Billy slowly coming together, two people becoming one person. And the sad irony is that it is happening just as he is about to lose Steve for good.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Mock Wedding

Steve’s death: Jo

First, apologies for my long absence. My mother came for a two week visit (during which I watched current Days with her), and then right after she left we all went to California for a visit with my mother in law! So, in keeping with the mother theme, I’m going to start my series on Steve’s death by talking about Jo Johnson.

Steve’s death, Jo

First, a quick note on the Blue Tunnel of Death. (For those who don’t know, after Steve’s accident he ends up in the hospital in a coma. We see Kayla, and then other members of the family, one by one, talking to Steve in a swirling blue tunnel, trying to talk him back from “going toward the light”—from dying.) I’m generally not a fan of Days when it goes supernatural. I don’t care for Angel Steve, and I don’t care for this either. Many of the things they do with all the characters talking to Steve in the tunnel, they could do in classic “coma bedside” scenes (which we also see). It also unfortunately seems to create the impression that Steve wants to die, because all this arguing against it forces Steve to take the other side. But, there are a couple of benefits to the blue tunnel, and one is that we get to see Steve reacting to the specific things his family says to him, and that turns out to be very important in some cases.

This is especially the case when Jo takes her turn in the blue tunnel. One of Jo’s key traits is her tendency toward self sacrifice, especially on behalf of her children. But, in Steve’s case, her sacrifices have always ended up hurting him in some horrible way. It all goes back to that seminal moment in Steve’s life, when she gave him up for adoption at the age of five, after he tried to kill her abusive husband. From Jo’s point of view, she was sacrificing herself, because she knew she was always Duke’s real target. If she stayed around to be Duke’s punching bag, Steve and Billy would be safe from him. But there is more to being safe than being physically removed from danger, and the consequences of Jo’s sacrifice were borne by Steve as much as by Jo. And that thread has run through their adult relationship as well.

If Jo’s first instinct with any problem is to sacrifice herself, her second has usually been to ask Steve to do so. Putting aside the the perfect storm of circumstance, character, motives and cross-motives that led Jo and Steve to be each others’ enablers in the sacrifice of Kayla for Jack, a simpler example will suffice. Before Jack knew he really was, Jack was hot on the trail of a “Billy Johnson,” who he knew nothing about other than he was somehow connected to something Steve wished to conceal. In order to keep Jack from finding out the truth, Jo thought nothing of asking Steve to fly down to California and break into the orphanage there and steal the adoption records. Kayla at this point was struggling to recover from being attacked by Harper and adjust to her possibly permanent deafness—but hey Steve, why don’t you leave your injured wife and go commit a crime for the man who raped her and is actively working to destroy you? All this, keep in mind, not to save Jack’s life or anything like that, but merely to prevent him from finding out something that might hurt his feelings. Cost/benefit analysis is not Jo’s strong suit.

Given all this history, Jo’s offer in the blue tunnel to go in Steve’s place—to die so that he can live—is both perfectly Jo and perfectly unprecedented. It’s Jo being a mother in the way that she best knows how, but this time, it’s on Steve’s behalf. And in order for us to be able to savor this moment, we need to see Steve’s reaction to it. And Stephen, of course, plays it perfectly, showing how moved Steve is by her offer. I love the slightly wry twist to “you’d really do that, wouldn’t you?” Then, when he goes on to say that his biggest regret he never got to tell her how he felt about her, at first glance it’s hard to know what he means. After all, he’s told her he loves her and they have a good relationship now. But, crucially, it’s always been a relationship of equals, and it’s not just Jo that this dynamic springs from. Steve, as an adult, has determinedly tried to avoid taking anything from her, from counting on her for anything, from being dependent on her. After all, look what happened the last time. But here, at this moment, they are closer to mother and son than they have been since he was five years old.

Shades of Shayla

A complaint that I had heard many times among Steve and Kayla fans is that Days was setting up a Shane and Kayla relationship even before Steve died. To be honest, I was bracing myself for something pretty bad. Shane casting soulful looks at Kayla across Steve’s deathbed … Shane holding Kayla in the hospital lounge as she worries about Steve. Things like that.

I have now watched up through a good chunk of Steve’s time in the hospital. And maybe it’s only because I was bracing myself for something much, much worse, but I haven’t seen a thing so far that seems inappropriate between the two characters. I think it’s knowing the future that makes all the difference. (This is why I try to stay as spoiler-free as possible—even with these 20-year old storylines! 🙂 ) If you know what happens later, you can say the show is paving the way for Shayla beforehand. And honestly, they probably were. And I can definitely understand it being upsetting. But, for me personally, if Shane and Kayla aren’t acting out of character, it’s hard for me to get too upset about it. Here is an example of the kind of scene I think you can look back on and see shades of the future Shayla relationship:

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In retrospect, the emotional tenor of the conversation, their conflict over the way Shane treated Kim, and the way Shane confides in Kayla can all add up to a certain intimacy between them. But it’s also a powerful, realistic scene between the sister of the woman Shane hurt badly, and a man who doesn’t have anyone to confide in anymore.

What also gets lost in the focus on Shane and Kayla is that the show also seems to be paving the way for a possible Marcus/Kayla pairing. Check this out:

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This is actually far more overt than anything involving Shane and Kayla. If they had gotten together later, this scene would come across as “ew, he was macking on her before Steve even died!” And I know that Marcus does, in fact, develop feelings for Kayla later, so if you were so inclined, you could read this scene that way anyway. But, although this one skirts closer, this doesn’t cross the line for me either. Instead it seems to be mostly based on the envy we’ve seen all along that Marcus has had for Steve and Kayla’s relationship. But now, faced with the fact that Steve and Kayla are leaving, this adds a slightly different dimension. It’s like he’s realizing he doesn’t just want a deep and abiding relationship like Steve and Kayla have, maybe he wants someone who is well, a lot like Kayla.

There is also a scene where there seems to be some minor chem testing between Kayla and Brian Scofield, of all people. But unfortunately, my choice for post-Steve pairing for Kayla (after a suitably decent interval, of course) had left the show by this time: Michael T. Weiss’s Mike Horton. Here is a great little segment from 1988, when evil Jack sees Kayla and Mike innocently flirting and decides to try to cause some trouble:

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I think there is a nice bantery chemistry between Kayla and Mike. But what I love about this is how stupid Jack looks for thinking it would bother Steve. I think he is comparing his own relationship with Kayla to Steve’s relationship with her, and thinking how he would react. Actually, how he is reacting, because Jack clearly envies the easy give and take between Mike and Kayla, that is such a contrast to how she acts with him. And actually, Mike and Kayla really did have a short relationship (when they were played by two different actors!), so this is great use of history.

The man who came to dinner

Previous Jack and Jennifer post: The Invitation

Bring on the green noodle casserole!

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The moment when Jack arrives is so well played by all the actors. We see Jo and Adrienne so eager to see Jack, and Steve teasing them about it and trying to play it cool—both for his own sake and for Jack’s, I think, to take the pressure off. We see Jack is very keyed-up and nervous too, by the way he’s having Jennifer fix his tie as the door opens. Steve then needles Jack about his supposed “busy schedule,” a dig at his refusal earlier, but it’s in a teasing, big brother-ish way, a way to keep everything casual. And then the moment when Kayla walks quickly out, in a vivid contrast to the others, which casts a momentary chill over the scene. It reminds us of what’s at stake here, how there are no easy answers.

Then, a wonderful scene for Jo and Jack. The way Jo is looking at him so emotionally I think leads well into Jack’s little tirade about “what are you sorry for?”—he sees how big her expectations are. It makes sense that he works himself up and then kind of melts and gives her that hug—he sees the love and the expectations. I always both hate it and love it whenever Jo calls him “Billy,” as she does here. It demonstrates what Jack told Jennifer earlier—Jo wants him to be a Johnson. But it’s more than that, she wants him to be “Billy,” the long lost son. I think Jack is justified in feeling ambivalent about that, because in a way, that means Jack Deveraux isn’t enough for her. This is a lovely way to make Jack’s conflict with Jo different from Steve’s, because for all that Steve was only five when Jo gave him up, he didn’t become a different person, with different parents, the way Jack did. Steve always had much more reason to be angry at Jo for what she did in the past and how he suffered for it, but Jack has more reason to be ambivalent about how Jo treats him now, today.

I like the Adrienne and Jack scene too, and it’s a great use of history that Adrienne mentions the way she shot Duke and the parallel with what Jack just went through with Harper. She doesn’t press it too hard, just saying she can’t pretend to know how he’s feeling, but that she could probably come closer than anyone else. That lets Jack open up just a little, when he says that he needs time to get over it too—and I love the hint of hope in that statement, that he thinks it’s even possible to get over. To me, though, this suffers from being just a tad too simplistic. “I got over it and so will you,” when you’re talking about killing your own father, just makes it all sound a little bit easy, and also neglects the big differences in the two relationships. But, it is still a good scene (I never feel we get enough Jack and Adrienne), and a wonderful use of history.

Lastly, I love Steve’s look as they all go into dinner. I think he’s marveling at his dream coming true, his brother being part of the family, something that he never thought could happen. Steve isn’t immune to the same fantasy that Jo has—baby Billy back at last.

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I love the moment when Kayla decides to sit next to Jack. Mary Beth shows how much Kayla is forcing herself to do this, but trying to sound casual about it at the same time. Jack’s vulnerable look in reaction is wonderful, glancing at her and glancing away, it’s like he can’t bear to look at her, it’s so painful to think of how he hurt her and see her trying to overcome her discomfort—thinking how he doesn’t deserve it, but also wanting it so much.

The “holding hands round the dinner table moment” is something I mostly love but also hate, a little. I hate that Jo obviously doesn’t think for a moment about the fact that Kayla is sitting next to Jack. But, I can’t say it’s out of character, and in fact is very much in character—she has never really gotten why Kayla would be uncomfortable around Jack. But I wish that had been balanced by a shot of someone, probably Steve, looking concerned and conflicted when he realizes this means Kayla has to hold Jack’s hand. Stephen could have shown that perfectly, I think. But, it’s hard to quibble when Mary Beth and Matt play the moment so beautifully—a touch a fear in Kayla’s face, but then taking his hand anyway. And Jack again showing how he doesn’t feel he deserves this, but wanting it so much. And then the overhead shot of all of them holding hands, closing out the episode. Lovely.

Next Jack and Jennifer post: Ask not for whom the bell tolls