For as much bitching and moaning as I do about how stupid this show is and how we’re just treading water until the new writers’ material kicks in, I have to give credit where credit is due. And there are two setups, albeit slightly abrupt ones, that are really working for me.
No, Nicole’s hair is not one of those things.
However, the current Eric/Nicole/Daniel dynamic absolutely is. I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of commentary about how people are dying to see Eric and Nicole together, how Daniel doesn’t deserve her, how the Nicole/Daniel coupling is bland at best and an absolute suckfest at worst, etc. But, from where I stand, the show is actually doing this correctly. For once, they’ve crafted a story in which they seem to get what viewers want, but instead of just giving it to us, they’re creating suspense by driving us crazy by almost giving it to us, then pulling back so that we want it more.
As much as I want Eric and Nicole together, I’m actually understanding why Nicole is with Daniel at the moment. She wants to be married. She wants a family. (It was incredibly wise to emphasize the Parker angle: marriage to Daniel promises not only a husband, but an insta-child.) And just when I was about to rant that they’d blown it by having Serena spill to Daniel way too soon instead of having it come out at the wedding, they actually did something even smarter and had Daniel confront her, had Nicole be honest, and then had Daniel accept that! Now Nicole will be more convinced than ever that she “should” be with Daniel, because he actually forgave her for something, whereas Eric judged and berated her for months on end about shredding those documents. Meanwhile, Eric’s heartbroken but trying to do the right thing, and Nicole is repressing her genuine passion for Eric in favor of a comfortable life with Daniel. And there’s a real karmic justice in Daniel winding up in, essentially, the same role poor Lucas played in the Daniel/Chloe/Lucas triangle.
Is it perfect? No way. All this would play a lot more smoothly for me if we hadn’t endured months of Daniel basically acting like Eric 2.0 toward Nicole over every little transgression; in some ways, this story might work better if she’d quickly gotten together with Rafe, a nice guy without that same baggage. And Daniel proposing to Nicole was insanely fast. I’ve found that in present-era Days, there’s often one huge leap I have to make in order to buy what turns out to be an eventually worthwhile story — like that insane engagement between Philip and Melanie, who up until that point were in no way “in love,” but it was the foundation for a lot of great stuff with them, Chloe, Carly, Daniel, Nathan, and Stephanie. I’m choosing to regard this version of the Nicole/Daniel coupling in the same way, because I think it’s absolutely worth the longing between Eric and Nicole, as well as the eventual payoff we’re going to get. This is how you sell a soap couple — not by having them spill coffee on each other, snark for two episodes, and then fall into bed together.
The other setup that is really working for me is that of the Chad/Abigail/Ben story. It looks as if someone finally realized that there’s zero rooting value for Abigail and Ben, a perfectly nice, perfectly uninteresting guy. This story has echoes of the Eric/Nicole/Daniel setup, in that Abigail is clinging to Ben because she’s terrified of being with Chad DiMera based on his family history and the ways that he has treated her — but there’s no denying that she wants Chad. Again, we’re getting the longing and the character-based separation, which is such a treat in comparison to Daniel and Jennifer constantly breaking up with one another because they couldn’t be bothered to have a five-minute conversation about how Chloe/JJ/Theresa/Anne were manipulating them and creating ridiculous misunderstandings. Clyde is 100% more interesting to me as Ben’s underhanded daddy, screwing with the paternity test, than when he’s talking vaguely about “moving product” and “the trucking business” and whatever else. And they’ve wisely brought Hope in on Abigail’s secret, which finally adds something concrete to her and Rafe’s nebulous suspicions about Clyde. There’s a real opportunity here to pay off a bunch of lingering threads and to propel Abigail/Chad forward, and even though it’s taking yet another pregnancy to do it, I’m willing to invest if the storytelling stays strong.