Settling for less

My favorite aspect of the Shayla relationship is the family conflict it creates. But there is another interesting facet that the show touches on but doesn’t fully explore. And that is that this is a “second choice” relationship for both Shane and Kayla. For Kayla, this is straightforward: Steve is dead, so she doesn’t have a first choice. But for Shane, his “true love” relationship is still a possibility. So why does he choose Kayla? The suggestion is that Kim has just hurt Shane too many times, and he’s not willing to go down the road with her again. A quieter relationship is just what he needs right now.

Here is a great scene where they play on the appeal, and the limits, of a quiet relationship:

Lawrence’s press conference

Kayla’s insecurity makes perfect sense, after hearing Lawrence talk snidely about their relationship and refer to Kim as “the most passionate woman he’s ever known.” I like how Kayla tells Shane that doesn’t want him to “settle for less.” I also think there is more than insecurity talking here. I think Kayla knows if Steve were to come back, there is no way she would “settle” for Shane. So how is it fair for her to expect Shane to settle for her?

I like that Shane’s reassures her that what they have is passionate. (By the way, they haven’t slept together yet.) It would probably be a little much for him to say, “I’ve had enough with getting my heart broken again and again with a grand passion. I’d rather be with someone who lets me keep my walls up.” But I do think there is some truth to that assessment, though Shane might not be fully aware of it.

This is a way to keep their options open. As I talked about here, I think the show always wanted to be able to reunite Kim and Shane down the line. Now that I’ve finished watching the whole Shayla relationship, I think there is a point where that was the plan.

Here’s what happens: Cal Winters comes back to town, fully off his rocker (and played by a really bad recast). He plans to kidnap Kim and his “daughter” Jeannie. (Who is really Shane’s daughter; Cal blackmailed the doctor … of course). Through a mistake, he nabs Kayla instead. While she is captured, Cal is ranting and raving to her and refers to Jeannie as “Shane’s daughter.” Kayla confronts him on his slip, but he denies it.

Then, after the big complicated plot has been resolved and everyone is home safe, Kayla has to tell everyone what she heard, right? Well, take a look:

Kayla and Jeannie

It’s clear what they were setting up, don’t you think? Kayla is afraid of losing Shane, so she keeps the secret of Jeannie’s paternity. Meanwhile, Kim and Shane grow closer because Kim has moved in with Shane (for safety reasons). Kayla would now be the interloper, and the reveal of her secret keeping, plus Jeannie’s true paternity, would push Kim and Shane back together.

kaylakim

But, that’s not what happens. Kayla keeps the secret for a couple of weeks, and then she tells the truth. Kim and Shane are mad at first, but then they get over it. Shane and Kayla stay together.

Kim leaves the show right after this, so I think it’s pretty obvious the story was changed because Patsy Pease decided to leave. And all I can about that is — whew. I would not have enjoyed watching Kayla play the bad guy in this triangle. And yet — I’m also a little intrigued. It is fascinating to hear Kayla in the clip above, in the scene with Caroline, passionately defending her right to be selfish:

“Am I supposed to stand on the sideline and be a martyr? I used to be really good at that, but I’m not anymore, Mom. Not after I had my husband taken away from me, and my whole life just ripped from underneath me. And nobody, not even you, knows what I went through. It was only Shane, because Kimberly was doing that to him. And he knew how lonely it was for me, and how empty the days were, and how endless it all seemed. I felt that I would never be happy again. And that I would never, ever in my life, find love. But I did. Shane gave me that. He gave me back my life, and I’m just not willing to give that up so easily.”

I love how she connects her grief about Steve with the right to hang onto any happiness she can find now. It shows how much Steve’s death shook her to her core. Sometimes, when you settle for less, it’s because it’s all you have.

Goodbye my friend

I will be posting about this week’s Days, but for now I wanted to commemorate the fact that I just finished watching my Shayla DVDs. I have been binge watching over the last few weeks and just finished the last scenes this morning. I posted about Steve’s death back in August of 2011 (here , here,  and here), so it’s taken me five years to watch a year and seven months worth of shows. But I’m so glad I did. It’s really fascinating to see Kayla’s character explored apart from Steve, and to see Mary Beth do some different material.

I’ll be doing some more posts on this late 91/early 92 time period. 1990-1992 was a time of upheaval for the show in general. A lot of cast comings and goings, and churning through different writers. But it’s not until 1992 that it really starts to do some damage — it feels a little more like the show today, choppy and inconsistent. But, for all that, one thing they still knew how to do was give a proper exit:

Kayla leaves Salem

I have heard that Mary Beth had to fight for the “Goodbye My Friend” montage, and I’m so glad she did. I teared up at the first scenes and cried through the whole thing.

But even aside from that, we got to see a real departure, unlike today, where someone will have one scene where they say got an offer to go to Timbuktu. Or they just disappear and someone else casually mentions it later. We get to see Kayla get a job offer from LA, and then decide to take it when she loses her job at University hospital and starts to have problems with Shane. We see her family helping her pack. She has a going away party. She visits Steve’s grave.

kaylastevesgrave2

Doing the “courage” sign. Sob!

Speaking of those problems with Shane … Patsy Pease had departed the show abruptly just a few months before due to personal issues. So they ended the triangle somewhat suddenly, when Patsy Pease left, and suddenly Kayla and Shane were happy and blissful. Then they had to break them up pretty quickly after that, when they decided not to renew Mary Beth’s contract. Shane had recently paralyzed in an explosion (and that, I think, wasn’t part of Kayla’s exit story, it was happening anyway). So the show went with “Shane is impotent and can’t deal with it, so he pushes Kayla away.” Poor Shane! 😀

We don’t know what we don’t know

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.

Shane confronts Kim about sleeping with Lawrence

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.

It all makes sense

I’m going to beat a dead horse again.

One thing I didn’t appreciate about classic Days, until I experienced the modern version, is how well-structured it all was. Sure, there are exceptions, but if you go back and watch stories, even the “bad” ones, you’ll be delighted and amazed that they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Situations were milked for dramatic possibility. Conflicts were presented that naturally arose from different points of view. Suspense was drawn out so we could get invested in things before the Big Drama.

Crazy, huh? Now, I’m not saying things were perfect. The show still tried to sell us character motivations that just didn’t quite make sense. They still pursued couples that didn’t have chemistry. Stories devolved into repetitive rehashing of the same issues. But the storytelling bones of the show were strong, strong enough that the flaws are ones I can live with.

But I digress. As you may guess, I have been watching Shayla again. And I have just seen a very strong climatic arc to the story of Kim and Shane working together to bring down Lawrence, while keeping Kayla in the dark. Three separate story threads come together in a wonderful way. Let’s watch:

Kayla finds out Shane and Kim are working together

So we start out with a very happy Kayla, looking at an emerald ring that Shane has given her. She said she wasn’t ready to wear the ring when he gave it to her, but we can see here that the gift is precious to her and she is obviously getting ready to take the plunge with Shane and tell him she loves him. Then Shawn shows up (who you may remember from my last post is dead set against Kayla and Shane). And Kayla makes the same plea to him now that she did then, that Shane helped her when nothing else could — but this time, Shawn relents.

As I said above, unbeknownst to Kayla, Shane and Kim have been working together for months to bring down Lawrence. While Kayla is rhapsodizing about Shane and what a difference he’s made in her life, Shane and Kim’s secret plans are finally coming to head –they lure Lawrence into attempting to murder Kim with a rare disease he’s been deliberately spreading. At the crucial moment, Shane jumps out and they catch Lawrence red-handed.

This same disease, meanwhile, has infected Bo, which makes him behave erratically and get into a fight at the Cheatin Heart. Roman breaks up the fight and calls Kayla to help with little brother Bo at the police station. This, of course, puts Kayla there conveniently in time to overhear Kim and Shane when they bring Lawrence in. And the big secret is revealed.

I love the dramatic reversal — Kayla has decided she can trust Shane, she can open up to him. She’s ready to tell him she loves him. Even her father has relented. At the station, she gives Bo a moving speech about the importance of opening up, taking the risk to trust someone … and then, she abruptly discovers that Shane has been keeping a big secret from her for months.  With his ex-wife. Who is, of course, her own sister. And all the pain Kayla has felt watching her sister romance the man who killed Steve has been based on a lie too. Ah, it’s so satisfying!

The little nuances, that add so much, aren’t neglected — Bo’s special relationship with Kayla, which is why Roman calls her to come to talk to him. Roman’s anger at Shane for involving Kim in the plot against Lawrence. And Mary Beth just kills it — the scene with Shawn, the scene with Bo, and the scene with Shane.

It’s all so well done, it honestly kind of breaks my heart that people hate Shayla so much.

Best and brightest

I haven’t been keeping up on my clip watching, since the current show has been giving me so much good stuff to talk about. This is what is known as “a good problem to have.”

But I got into a Twitter discussion about Shayla yesterday, which has inspired me to dust off my DVDs. I have actually long been looking forward to posting about this scene, one of my favorites from this storyline. Shawn asks Kayla to give up Shane for Kim’s sake:

(Kim is actually with Lawrence because she is working with the ISA — and Shane — to try to bring Lawrence down. Neither Kayla nor Shawn is aware of this.)

I love that Shawn has come over in the first place to make peace with Kayla. They fought last time they saw each other (about Kayla’s relationship with Shane), and Shawn is trying to make things right. But then they see Kim on television defending Lawrence, and that all goes to hell. Kayla must give up Shane so Kim will leave Lawrence.

My favorite part of this scene is when Kayla asks Shawn directly if her happiness matters at all. Or is it only Kimberly’s? She explains with such pain in her voice that she thought she lost everything after Steve died, and Shane helped her, he brought her back to life. Is he asking her to give that up? And even in the face of Kayla’s pain, Kayla’s plea for equal consideration to Kim, Shawn says yes.

I’m actually surprised Shawn doesn’t even play lip service to the idea that Kayla’s happiness matters. But I kind of love that the show risks making Shawn this unsympathetic. Frank Parker plays it perfectly, that Shawn just doesn’t get it. He clearly feels that Kayla talking about her own happiness is bringing up something totally irrelevant (“I wasn’t talking about that at all.”)

Then Kayla tells him she is sick of ruining her chance at happiness to win his approval. That line is clearly ripped from old wounds, old family dynamics. I can readily imagine this scene playing out when Kim and Kayla were kids. Kim being in the wrong about something but throwing a fit about it, and Shawn asking Kayla to give way. “Just give her the toy, Kayla, Kimmy wants it so much.” Shawn feeling it’s for the sake of keeping the peace, Kayla feeling pushed aside in favor of his “best and brightest.”

And now, she’s expected to do it when Kim is being callous to her by getting involved with the man who killed Steve – in fact, she expected to do it partly because of that, to save Kim from herself. And what makes this so bittersweet is that Kayla said the same thing to Shane, earlier, that Shawn is saying now. I talked about that scene here.

As angry as I am with Shawn in this scene, I can see his point of view. He genuinely fears for Kim’s life, and the shock of seeing Kim on TV defending Lawrence makes him feel that desperate times call for desperate measures. When Shane arrives, we see what Shawn sees: Kayla with Kim’s husband and Kim’s kids. It’s like Kim is being eliminated from her own family.

I also like Shawn’s attack on Shane. Shane very reasonably points out that it was Kim who left him, but that doesn’t register with Shawn at all. I love that Kayla comes back in just in time to hear Shane declare that he loves her. To have Kim’s ex-husband telling her father — who always favored Kim — that he now prefers Kayla, is probably satisfying on some primal level.  And I like that Kayla isn’t immune to that. She’s not a saint.

She’s also very stubborn. After Shawn leaves, Kayla says she’s not going to let Shawn come between them. I love that Shawn’s “request” has had exactly the reverse effect of what he wanted. It also shows she and Shawn have something in common, which is a nice ironic touch considering what just happened.

 

 

Never forget

This is a really wonderful scene for Shane and Kayla (no, really!).

Here’s the setup. The train car that Jack, Jennifer, Eve, Frankie, Brian and Melissa were on derails in the wilderness. Shane goes to look for his daughter, and Kayla comes with him. This shared experience brings them closer after Kayla has vowed to stay away from Shane, and eventually Shane tells her he loves her. This is the next day:

I love that Kayla talks about Steve so joyfully, obviously treasuring their lives together. She gets carried away as she says that they got married, had Stephanie, all their dreams came true — but that it wasn’t easy, they had a lot of things to work through (did they ever!) … then she breaks off and says she’s sorry. She clearly thinks it’s a faux pas to talk so glowingly of Steve to someone who just told her he loves her, and she is thinking of starting a relationship with.

Then Shane says he’s glad she opened up to him, it’s the first time she’s heard her talk about Steve, that he doesn’t want her to forget him.  Sounding a little like a skork from the S&K forum, he says that she and Steve shared the deepest kind of love that two people can share, and that doesn’t stop when one person dies. When Kayla says that she thought she could never move on with someone else, because that would mean she would to give up loving Steve, Shane says he doesn’t want her to. He could never compete with Steve for her love.

Wow. This is a lot to take in. First of all, Mary Beth and Charles Shaughnessy are both fantastic. We see Kayla’s love and grief for Steve, her fear of moving on and what that means. And Shane is so sweet and tender, he really wins me over here. Shane openly acknowledges that whatever he and Kayla may have can’t compete with what she had with Steve. Because Shane knew Steve and Kayla, knows what they went through, how much they loved each other — and, crucially, he had that same kind of great love with Kim. So, he’s the perfect person to be able to accept and understand Kayla’s love for Steve without feeling like he’s competing with a dead man. It shows that he and Kayla are in similar places emotionally, ready to share a corner of their hearts – an important corner, but just a corner. And that makes them actually … kind of perfect for each other.

 

Fired up

When do we ever get to see Kayla this pissed off?

Here’s the situation: Kim and Shane are working together through the ISA to get the goods on Lawrence, who they think is poisoning ISA agents with a deadly virus. Shane also started a research lab to find a cure for the virus, and appointed Kayla its medical director.

Kayla doesn’t know any of this. Kim tells Shane that it’s too dangerous for Kayla to work at the lab, that she should be fired. Shane lets Kim talk him into it – not winning any points with me in the process. Here, Kayla finds out they colluded to fire her – but not the reason.

I love the family conflict here. Kayla tries to keep quiet when her parents first ask her about the firing – we can see she doesn’t want to put them in the middle. When Shawn pushes her, though, she blurts out that it was Kimberly. And Shawn’s reaction is so, so Shawn. He defends Kim, demeans what the job meant to Kayla, and blames Kayla for keeping Kim and Shane apart. That clearly hurts.

And then Kim comes in. If Shawn hadn’t just been defending Kim, Kayla might have given her the benefit of the doubt. But Shawn favoring Kim has just poured fuel on the fire. And Kim’s attempts at deflection just sound like weak excuses and lies. And then, Shane arrives – to see Kim. Perfect soapy timing.

That’s when she really lets them have it. Since she doesn’t know about the case, it makes sense that Kayla thinks Shane and Kim are getting back together. I love her sarcasm as she calls Shane Kim’s “knight in shining armor” and asks him how many women he has on a string. It’s so fun to see Kayla, who always gives everyone a chance, being so caustic and dismissive. I love it.