I’ve had scraps of this post saved in my drafts for quite a while, but WHIS reader Dylan‘s comment on yesterday’s The Hit List post inspired me to dig it up and finish it for publication. The comment reads:
I LOVED Eric’s original story with Nicole – with her working with him in the church, and her blossoming feelings for him.. That was really cool. And tying in Kristen and Brady made that storyline very compelling. But then the drugging/rape thing happened and I would not have minded, except that was dragged on for months (Eric flashing back, not really remembering, soap staring constantly), and then we had him accusing Nicole of the rape which was horrifying but brought out some great acting.. But then we had Taniel and Nicole hunting down Chyka, and then her hiding the evidence which totally trashed the story in my opinion. I guess it would have been OK if it didn’t end with Eric yelling at Nicole all the time and saying how he hated her.. It just didn’t work. There was nowhere to go.
The build to Eric and Nicole getting together was terrific. Yes, they’d technically been together years ago, but so much had changed: Nicole had become a serious vixen and been through the ringer; Eric had joined the priesthood; a decade and a half had passed; and there was a new actor in the role of Eric. It really felt like a reboot on a pairing that had some history to play on. And it was one of the best romantic builds this show has done in years. There was no rush to have them decide they were in love just to plow ahead with outside obstacles (see: Brady/Melanie).
It still blows my mind that the show effed that up so badly. And that’s where the WTF of this post comes in for me: what was the plan here? What was anyone thinking? The story worked until a very specific point, and then it went completely off-the-rails. As much as I thought Kristen raping Eric was insane and kind of contrived, I felt it was worth it for the fallout. They handled Eric leaving the priesthood really well, and it didn’t feel perfunctory or obvious. Even Nicole destroying the evidence could’ve worked, if they had made it a minor obstacle overall. At that point, it still seemed like this was an Eric-and-Nicole story. But then it just devolved into months of him screaming at her, insisting he couldn’t forgive her, saying he hated her, etc. They not only trashed an incredibly promising couple, but they rendered a really likable recast horribly unpleasant.
I still do not understand how they had Kristen leave after having sex with TWO male leads and didn’t have her return pregnant or with a baby (especially if they were going to do this wacko sci-fi embryo-stealing story months later, anyway!). There was obviously potential in the baby being Brady’s, but there was SO MUCH in it being a Kristen/Eric baby, too. Marlena would have been the grandmother of Kristen’s son or daughter. That alone is story for years. Add in the fact that the baby was the product of rape. Have Eric be torn because, as much as he hates how the child was conceived, it also is his kid, and he can’t very well have it raised as a DiMera. Make Nicole work — perhaps using her journalism tools, I dunno — to get Kristen declared an unfit mother. This redeems her from destroying the evidence, and Eric forgives her. They get back together. Nicole immediately bonds with the baby, which allows the show to pick back up the thread of Nicole’s need to be a mother, but as much as Eric wants to be a happy family, he cannot stop resenting this child for how s/he came to be — to the point that even being around the baby reminds him vividly of his rape. Nicole tries to make him see the bright side: if Kristen hadn’t done something so vile, he wouldn’t have found this new family unit. And even though Eric wants to see it that way, it’s difficult. The tensions continue to grow, and it seems that Nicole might have to choose being a mother to this child over being with Eric.
There. A story! A story that plays on their histories, contains conflict, tests their loyalties, and yet doesn’t require Eric acting like an asshole or Nicole being absurdly self-destructive or involve Daniel and Serena in any way. Actually, this wouldn’t have been a bad juncture to bring in a Serena-type character, a lover from Eric’s past who could represent a new beginning, free of the Kristen/rape baggage. And Nicole wouldn’t have to spend all her screentime apologizing to everyone!
So what the hell happened? Why did this incredibly promising love story get blown to smithereens? Was Serena the plan all along, or was this some kind of ‘save’ after they realized that they’d bungled the Eric/Nicole pairing and needed to redirect? I doubt we’ll ever have answers, but I need to know.