Best & Worst of 2012

2012 was a weird year for Days. The first half of the year was basically the wheels coming off the MarDar regime, with their goodwill blown as we watched John and Hope wander around a hotel in Alamainia, Madison and Ian bicker, and then Stefano “killed” in a contrived and go-nowhere story. The summer was full of the excitement of transition, only to settle into a fall that might as well have been stamped with a big, fat “We are setting up new stories but it will take three months so try not to fall asleep too hard!” So with that, uh, disclaimer out of the way, here goes…


BEST RETURN: Eileen Davidson as Kristen Blake DiMera

I have probably told this story 150 times on this blog, but the period that got me terribly, irreversibly hooked on Days was the culmination of the Marlena/John/Kristen triangle, in which Kristen locked Marlena in a secret room behind the wine cellar, only to be tossed in there herself by Elvis-loving doppelganger Susan, who then assumed Kristen’s life and threw herself and John a Graceland-themed wedding, which unfortunately fell to pieces and resulted in both Susan and Kristen being exposed. Eileen Davidson, portraying both desperate villain Kristen and wacky, sympathetic Susan, was undoubtedly the cornerstone of this story. When she left in 1998, Days had to do some serious refocusing, and the show eventually moved on and evolved, or at least moved on. But I’ve spent 14 years wondering if and when we might see Davidson and, at least, Kristen again.

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Since her return in October, she’s been electric onscreen. Kristen was a much-needed fresh dynamic for Days, and Davidson is clearly relishing the opportunity to play someone so two-faced and nasty and fun. Even in a (much) cheaper, less zany Salem, Kristen pops off the screen, and she has breathed fun new life into the Marlena and John relationship. It’s so much more interesting to watch them get entangled by (and tangle over) an antagonist with such significant history, rather than walking retcon Alex North or that stupid doctor played by Amanda from Another World or whatever. Besides, these days, most of the villains in Salem are integrated members of the community. Kristen is much more of a wild card. Her allegiances and motives are unclear but not befuddling, and the way Davidson plays her, you believe that she maybe wants to have changed more than she has, or thinks she’ll be fine and ready to change once she gets her revenge on Marlena and John. It’s been such a nice departure from people ringing the doorbell of Jennifer’s house and being like, “Hey, I’m back” and then running into Daniel or somebody (literally) and spilling coffee on him and then embarking upon a forced, lifeless romance. Welcome back, Eileen!

WORST RETURN: Bryan Dattilo as Lucas Horton

One of the truly positive things about “MarDar” was their willingness to bring back old faces as the story warranted. I loved that they recast Celeste because they didn’t want to tell Lexie’s death story without her and that they found places for Kayla, Billie, and Shane in some way. I could tell they loved tapping into the history of Days, even if they didn’t always know how to execute that stuff well. And just when Lucas’s absence was starting to feel like a giant hole in Will’s coming-out story, they brought back Bryan Dattilo.

The way Lucas came rushing to Sami’s aid was moving—and then it all got shot to hell. They slept together right away and suddenly were a couple again. They might have even been living together, but no one ever clarified that for us. And Lucas broke up with his offscreen fiancée, Autumn, over the phone and literally never mentioned her again. When the writer switch happened, Lucas/Sami got undone in about a week, and we were back on the EJ/Sami/Rafe train ride to hell. They’ve thrown Lucas some bones as far as opposing the Will/Sonny and Jennifer/Daniel relationships, and those are worthwhile interactions, but they basically eclipsed years’ worth of story for Lucas in a matter of weeks. Where was the phase of him and Sami rediscovering their feelings? Where was Autumn showing up and interfering to keep them apart? Now Lucas is just another person wandering Salem waiting to butt into his relatives’ conversations, hoping for some hint of a storyline that might keep him relevant.

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BEST EXIT: Renee Jones as Lexie Carver

Even though Days films about six years in advance, it’s generally the case that when an actor chooses not to renew his or her contract, it doesn’t get addressed onscreen until the last possible moment—and then, suddenly, it’s a week of everything blowing up and the person making abrupt plans to “leave town” that same damn day, neglecting to have goodbye scenes with several important relatives and friends. But for some reason, when Renee Jones decided to leave, they actually wrote a three-month-long arc in which Lexie was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and had to face saying goodbye to her family, her friends, and her (spotty, malpractice-ridden) career. It wasn’t perfect (especially how they timed it so Stefano never got a goodbye scene with her), but it was by and large touching and compelling and more thoughtful than most of the silliness we get. And the best part: since she couldn’t be the one to pronounce herself dead, she might actually stay that way.

STUPIDEST CASTING DECISION: Firing Matthew Ashford

As soon as the writer switch was announced last spring, I think we all knew who’d be first on the chopping block. And sure enough, they wasted no time announcing that Matthew Ashford (Jack) was one of the actors being cut.

I had a lot of hopes when Jack was brought back in 2011. The character had been so damaged by his offscreen abandonment of Jen, and at least they fixed that by saying that he’d been a POW in Afghanistan. They tapped into Jack’s trauma, got some great episodes out of his PTSD, and then… abruptly ended the Jack/Jennifer/Daniel triangle and slapped Jack and Jen back together on the backburner.

So I wasn’t surprised that he was fired again. But I also don’t understand why it seemed like a good idea. Yes, happy couples are more difficult to write for, and having Jennifer Horton free for romantic storylines is useful. But then they put Jennifer into a story that wasn’t a romantic story and, to be honest, might have worked even better with Jack alive: Imagine if Jennifer kept trying to interfere and “save” Daniel, likely because she wasn’t over her feelings for him, while she was preparing to remarry Jack… who might become sympathetic to Nicole and thus find himself at odds with Jen. This never needed to be a story hinging on the “great love” (LOL) between Jennifer and Daniel, and it could have been a realistic test for her and Jack without another insta-breakup.

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I didn’t dub it Worst Exit because his actual departure was well done. Jack died saving Abigail, his last scenes were moving, and Jennifer’s grief has actually been played. They didn’t even have her jump into bed with Daniel fifteen minutes later. I’m still holding out hope that the wrong body was identified (honestly, it felt like they wanted to leave the door open just in case), but I still don’t understand why killing Jack off again was deemed a smart move in the first place.

WORST TRIANGLE: Sami/EJ/Rafe

You know how sometimes you have a candle that has plenty of wax left to burn, but then you go to light it and the wick is completely burned down so you can’t get the damn thing to light? That is basically this story as it currently exists. There is no wick left. This thing isn’t gonna take off. It isn’t even a story at this point—it’s just a mind-numbing merry-go-round of Sami being drawn to EJ, Rafe being pissed, Sami retreating to the comfort of being with Rafe, Sami turning back to EJ, blah blah blah. This candle is not going to light, Days. AND THE WAX IS ROTTEN SO PLEASE JUST STOP. AT LEAST THE CANDLE DOESN’T MAKE ME WANT TO KILL MYSELF.

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WORST NEW CHARACTER: Cameron Davis

When I set about compiling this list, I began with a list of categories. Then I filled in the “winners.” I’ve been going through and writing the blurbs as inspiration for a particular one comes to me. And guess which one was left for last? Ding ding ding! The character of Cameron is so boring that I can’t even come up with something funny to say about him, especially now that they’ve recast him and taken away my opportunity to make more Black Jay Leno jokes. Schuyler Yancey was likable onscreen and turned in some solid performances, and this new actor is foxy and seems capable at least of speaking English and hitting his mark, but who the hell is this character? The scene where Celeste introduced him to Lexie played like a Saturday Night Live spoof of a soap: “Oh, this is my other son. His father kept him from me all these years. Anyway, how’s that biopsy going?” And nothing else he has said, done, or been involved with has been any more specific or interesting than that. I suspect it’s possible to turn him into something worth caring about, but it’s going to be an uphill battle at this point.

BEST RECAST: Greg Vaughan as Eric Brady

First of all: yum.

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Additionally, the choice to make Eric Brady a priest is an interesting one. There was a time when St. Luke’s was a significant focal point of the show, and this is a nice way to bring us back there. And it’s been so long since Eric was onscreen (Jensen Ackles last played him in 2000!) that the character was pretty much a blank slate. I like the priest angle, and I like Vaughan’s chemistry with Arianne Zucker (Nicole) and the surprising soulfulness he brings to the role, so while I’m not too engaged with their “story” yet, I’m interested to see more.

BIGGEST WASTE OF TIME: The Infinity Spa

Remember when everyone was running around getting random jobs at former pimp Quinn Hudson’s spa in the Town Square? Remember when people were practicing their kickboxing in the lobby and Maggie was buying the spa to be closer to her granddaughter who was doing Botox injections there? Yeah, I barely do, either. Long before the writer switch, the spa had completely run out of steam. I literally can’t think of anything significant that happened there or involving that place. I would really like someone to explain to me what the point of any of this was, but I have a strong suspicion that none of the people involved with it know, either.

BEST CLIFFHANGER: The Days-aster

You guys. This was so fun. We had the excitement of a writer transition mashed up with the anticipation of a cliffhanger before the two-week Olympic break. And Days pretty much delivered. They got everyone together for a reasonably big party, and at the same time, the story of Melanie’s kidnapping was climaxing in some random tunnels beneath Salem. There were actual explosions, with fireballs onscreen and a set being destroyed. Significant characters (Madison, Jack) perished. Plus we got the hilarity of Marlena hitting herself in the face with a plate. Seriously, this was just so delightful and melodramatic and exciting:

WORST STORY: “Who Killed Stefano?”

I remember watching the episode in which Stefano DiMera was shot to death (or so we thought) in his study and thinking that it was the best episode of Days I’d seen in years. It felt expensive and moody – they even sprung for rain! But that story turned out to be the entire “MarDar” reign in a nutshell: flashy setup, potential for lots of characters to be deeply involved (look at that suspect list!), and the promise of a long-term story that could get twisty and messy. Instead, Will was arrested, he had his name cleared, no one paid attention to any of the other suspects for weeks, and then suspicion shifted to EJ. I won’t even get into the incredibly stupid “EJ is not Stefano’s son” twist that was jammed into the show to set up some kind of motive, or the way that there was no mystery built into this murder mystery – there were no clues to track, so we had to sit around waiting for the characters to give us information. Never for a second did I believe that any of the main characters killed Stefano, and neither did the show, it seemed. Finally we got a rushed conclusion in which Ian admitted to having staged the crime, tricked Stefano and EJ about EJ’s paternity, and then… we barely saw Stefano for months. The only upside of this thing is that it happened as the writer switch was taking place, so they were able to minimize the damage and shuffle this disappointment off the screen.

BEST STORY: Jennifer, Nicole, and that Overly Tanned Guy

This might be even more controversial than the time I picked A Tale of Two Rafes as the best story of 2011, but I’m standing by this choice. Tomlin & Whitesell inherited a pointless, directionless story about Nicole getting pregnant by EJ, having Rafe claim to be the father, and then falling into an affair with Daniel. They turned it into a psychological match-up between desperate Nicole and grieving widow Jennifer. Yes, they were technically at war over walking penis Daniel Jonas, but this was really a story about the two women: Nicole, clinging to what she saw as her last chance to have a family and be happy, and Jennifer, misplacing her guilt over Jack’s death into trying to “rescue” Daniel. It was messy, Jennifer was giving Carly Manning a run for her money in the instability department, and it only got better once Nicole found out her baby was dead and then took that tumble down the stairs.

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It’s unfortunate that they let the air out of this story early by letting Jen off the hook, legally, before the truth came out, but we still got a dramatic reveal – with all the key players and then some present! – as Nicole was forced to admit the truth in front of everyone in the Horton living room. My other major criticism of this story is, as I said above, that I don’t think Jack needed to be killed off in order to tell it. It’s a shame that the aftermath has devolved into a predictable borefest about the Jen/Daniel relationship, because this was a great setup that gave the show some real momentum, some very powerful scenes, and the feeling of an umbrella story that has been sorely missing in Salem.

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19 Comments on “Best & Worst of 2012”

  1. fluffysmom Says:

    Great list and explanations. I really wish Stefano and Lexie had been able to share a goodbye scene.

    • mykleraus Says:

      Thanks! And yes – that was a BIG hole in an otherwise well done story.

      • Dan Says:

        I had multiple issues with Lexi’s death. The first being the poor start. Lexi and Abe were fighting, fighting, fighting, and then suddenly they are celebrating their anniversary, learn Celeste has a secret son, and Lexi has a tumor in the course of two episodes and then don’t touch on the story for over a week. That’s poor plotting.

        My second gripe with Lexi’s death was the timing. Not only was Stefano ‘dead,’ which is insulting in itself, but while Lexi was slowly coping with her impending death you have half of Salem faking their deaths. That was distasteful and undermined the very real emotions involved in Lexi’s story. The previous regime had worked so hard to move past that Reilly B.S. that I was so disgusted to see the show taking HUGE leaps backwards.

        My final gripe with Lexi’s death is completely superficial. Everyone went on and on about how wonderful it was and how it was better than Alice’s memorial because Higley didn’t write it. Really? Lexi’s funeral was really better than Alice’s? I just can’t with MarDar apologists.

      • mykleraus Says:

        The pacing was soooo wonky back then. They would cram a week’s worth of material for a given story into an episode or two, and then we wouldn’t see those characters for another 10 days. The half-assed way they introduced Cameron was terrible, too.

        I can’t imagine how Lexie’s funeral was somehow “better than Alice’s.” The memorial was really nice, and they hit a lot of wonderful beats, but COME ON. Alice got a two-week retrospective full of returns that was basically a love letter to the Days fans. I wish they could have had Alice’s funeral in the church, but budget issues aside, that was perfect, lovely Days.

      • Dan Says:

        Cameron’s introduction made Quinn’s introduction look like grade-A soap, and even I’ll admit Quinn’s introduction was weak. Why did Cameron have to be Celeste’s son? There was no story milked from it. It might have been interesting if he kept quiet and got to know Lexi while she was dying without revealing who he was.

      • mykleraus Says:

        It was SO random. Lexie even got over the weirdness of it in about 12 hours, and that was coupled with the reveal that she was dying!


  2. Great job! Thank you for this.

  3. fluffysmom Says:

    I really wish they’d give Lucas a storyline and some shirtless scenes.

    • mykleraus Says:

      I would be fine with all of that!

      • Dan Says:

        Shirtless and with a haircut please.

        In spirit of the thread, they could have utilized the Infinity Spa to highlight more shirtless men.

        In regards to the Spa, Quinn was suppose to have a greater purpose. Remember during the reset hype there was talk of how Quinn was suppose to be this major stud like Warren Beatty in “Shampoo” and how they were trying to lure Nadia back? Anyway, I assume we were going to get a Quinn / Chloe / Brady / Madison quad with Kate playing the hooker card at some point to cause drama. Anyway, when it was clear Nadia wasn’t coming back, they dumped Quinn and the spa before they needed to pay Rogers her guarntees and decided she could run the spa. Typical pointless MarDar bull$hit.

      • mykleraus Says:

        Ohhhhh. That makes sense. I’d never really thought about the idea of Quinn/Chloe being integrated with Brady/Madison. Quinn just always felt like such a joke to me — the absolute worst of Higley (reminiscent of her OLTL), just cramming attractive men with “hip” names into the show and magically making them related to existing characters. Then they set up that half-assed quad where he was interested in Melanie for three days. So much wasted screentime on that spa.

      • Dan Says:

        I’ll defend Quinn until the end because Higley’s work was trunucated by the arrival of MarDar. It was clear we were going to get Quinn / Carly, but I think we were also going to get more Stefano / Vivian / Kate as a result. E.J. sold the drug operation to Quinn, and suddenly we were having Carly / Stefano scenes. I think Quinn’s drug operation was going to connect Vivian / Stefano and Kate / Quinn’s plot involving Chloe would have drawn Vivian in. Ultimately, I believe Quinn was going to make things very messy for Kate / Vivian / Stefano.

      • mykleraus Says:

        I could see that. It makes sense on an intellectual level. I really liked where they were going with Quinn and Carly, too, and I’m sorry that got cut short — it was a fresh way to explore Carly/Vivian some more.

        I found Quinn’s existence to be really problematic, though. In no way did I believe that Vivian Alamain would have ever just given up on knowing her son if she knew he was out there. If they’d had her believe that he was dead (and tied that to why she was so possessive of Lawrence and Nicholas), I might have bought it more. Also, the lack of exploration or explanation of who the hell his father was — granted, they ran out of time — really bugged me. It just felt lazy and underdeveloped.

  4. Dan Says:

    I love this list. I agree with a lot of it. I think Nick’s return was well executed and the show did a good job shifting gears once they realized Molly Burnett wasn’t sticking around by incorporating Nick into the remaining canvas. The involvement of Jessica, the Maggie / Julie sparring, remembering Nicole was Trent’s widow (when I had forgot), and Caroline’s decision to forgive Nick for letting her take the fall for Trent’s murder.

    May I suggest Brian, the pre-med student sniffing around Sonny, as best new character even if he amounted to nothing? It was a crappy year for new characters.

    Lisa Rinna’s return deserves mention here somewhere. They’ve brouht her back and done nothing with her.

    If Jackifer extremists would tolerate stories that had Jack and Jen apart, maybe Ashford could have stayed. I wonder if the decision to drop the supercouples was to help alleviate the budget. Maybe they can cut down on security now that they’ve run off most of the supercouple extremists and cut down on the number of staffers sorting through the mail and packages.

    I loved the Dan / Jennifer / Nicole story. I just wish they had gone through with the trial and pitted E.J. against the Hortons. This would have played nicely in the current baby story.

    Great choices.

    • mykleraus Says:

      Nick’s return was VERY well done. I just love Davidson and think she’s been a wonderful shot in the arm for the show, but the Horton-centric story around Nick’s parole was great, too.

      I also thought Brian had potential, though there wasn’t much to go on besides an attractive actor who seemed capable of playing more than he was ever given. One thing I did like about MarDar was how they fleshed out the “gay scene” in Salem a little so it wasn’t just Sonny and Will. I didn’t always love the execution, but I enjoyed how there were other people around and you could believe that Sonny had an offscreen life.

      • Dan Says:

        I thought Brian was a bit more developed. He seemed to be overly proud of his sexuality, sexually confident, and a bit manipulative. If he had stayed on, I think he would have been a valuable asset to the hospital set, which needs some development.

        I thought MarDar’s gay dayplayers (gayplayers) were insulting. The show didn’t develop any individual character just brought in any random to play a part in the storyline. Hell, Will’s first kiss was with some random dayplayer. It was all underdeveloped and showed a lack of commitment to any sort of longterm story.

      • mykleraus Says:

        I didn’t mind the dayplayer gays or find them insulting. To me, they were just there to populate the scene. I kind of hated the emphasis on the Last Blast crowd, too, but I liked that it wasn’t just the four main teens at Salem High in a vacuum. This was sort of the same. I would’ve loved for Neil to be more relevant, but that was more of a pacing/focus issue than anything.

        Integrating Brian with the hospital stuff would have been cool, though! Great idea.

  5. fluffysmom Says:

    The spa was the perfect excuse for shirtless men. Maggie should let Lucas run it.


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