Days of Our Lives Review: Missed Opportunities

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I was so excited when I first heard JJ was finally going to have a storyline.

For months and months, he'd been missing in action, which is a shame. Casey Moss is one of the most talented actors on Days of Our Lives and JJ is a complicated, fascinating character: a sweet but troubled young man trying to find his way in the world and fighting against his worst self.

But then Days of Our Lives made the gross misstep of portraying a clearly non-consensual sexual encounter as sexual and the more this storyline drags on, the more offensive it gets.

JJ Confesses to Gabi - Days of Our Lives

The most frustrating thing about this storyline is that it could have been so powerful. JJ's issues are more deep seated than drinking too much when he gets bad news and exploring them would be soap opera gold.

In the hands of talented writers who recognized the abilities of the actors they're working with, the story could have been about JJ's self-image as a person who was able to overcome substance abuse through sheer force of will being shattered and his fear of what could have happened as a result of his drinking that night.

His rape could have been written properly, forcing him to deal with the painful emotions related to being a male survivor of sexual assault, as a secondary storyline while Jennifer and Lucas both encouraged him to go to AA.

JJ could have thought that they didn't understand and that this was a one-time thing, then after several weeks of good behavior been tempted again.

In short, it could have been a vehicle for both serious drama and serious growth on JJ's part.

Instead, this week Lani claimed she didn't know JJ was so drunk he blacked out, she and Gabi both berated him, Gabi rejected him for "cheating", and then Lani invited JJ out for beer and encouraged him to drink.

This was disturbing on so many levels.

Lani did not recognize that JJ was far too impaired to give consent, and that does not excuse her. In fact, it makes it worse because she's supposed to be a cop. How can she possibly deal with drunk suspects if she can't tell when the person sitting next to her is heavily intoxicated?

Lani also has a history of stalking men, so it's not a big stretch to imagine that she encouraged JJ to keep drinking in the hopes he would get drunk enough to allow her to have her way. She seemed to be attempting to do it again when she took him out for drinks.

While JJ is responsible for how much he drinks, he doesn't need extra encouragement to do so, and hoping to get someone drunk so that he loses the ability to say no to sex is unconscionable.

Worse still, this second attempt happened right after JJ got promoted to detective.

I don't trust for one second that Lani's not going to attempt to blackmail him into sleeping with her again if he doesn't want her to tell Lieutenant Raines about their original "affair", which would be another example of forcing him to have sex after she already raped him once.

The problems with this storyline are compounded by the fact that Lani is one of two African-American women on the show, and she's consistently been portrayed as man hungry and amoral.

Not only are these poor traits for a cop to have but when one of the two women has dubious intentions and the other is Lani, that goes a bit too close to comfort to contributing to negative racial stereotyping.

Gabi: It was just weird, hearing someone else tell you how heroic you are when you could have told me.
JJ: Since we're not together anymore, why would I have told you?

The best part of this ridiculous storyline was JJ being promoted to detective. Here, again, the real story was staring the writers in the face, but unfortunately they chose not to go there. JJ helped rescue a little girl from a kidnapper -- off screen, of course -- and both the little girl's mother and Abe told him that he deserved a promotion.

JJ was modest, insisting he was just doing his job, but the more interesting story would have been his struggle to believe that he actually deserved the praise being heaped upon him and seeing whether or not he was going to sabotage his success. Instead, this was a throwaway moment and a vehicle for JJ and Gabi to run into each other.

Gabi, having told JJ three days before that he was a horrible excuse for a human being, now was hurt that JJ didn't tell her himself that he had done something heroic and had earned a promotion.

For once, the writers allowed JJ to have a modicum of self-esteem and he told her that they were broken up, there was no reason for him to be telling her anything, and that he had work to do.

Even Gabi's half-hearted apology was obnoxious, because she apologized for being harsh towards him then reiterated that he was a cheater who kept too many secrets.

It's even more clear than usual that Gabi is not ready for a grown-up relationship. She wants JJ to welcome her with open arms when she feels like being close with him and to shuffle off to the corner in shame when she isn't happy with him.

JJ's ability to stand up for himself is one of his best qualities, and it seems to be one of the things Gabi likes least about him. So it was wonderful to see him give her the cold reception she deserves.

If only that whole Lani thing hadn't happened right afterwards, that would be a moment to celebrate.

Chad: We can't stay holed up in the house forever. You have no reason to hide anymore.
Abby: Except for the fact that I did start that fire at Shady Hills and that cop that questioned me was not exactly sympathetic.
Chad: We're gonna deal with it together and make it go away.

Meanwhile, across town Chad and Abigail had some family time before Chad decided he had to go talk to Gabi and beg her to reconsider giving up on him.

The scenes with Chad and Abby were really nice. Chad promised that he and Abby would face the fallout from her setting Shady Hills on fire and then running away together and then they spent time with baby Thomas.

This is the kind of stuff I hunger for as a soap viewer.  Stories about commitment and fighting to overcome problems together are far more romantic and compelling than couples breaking up over stupid problems or a third person constantly interfering and getting away with it.

Other than Doug and Julie and, recently, Steve and Kayla, there are no stable couples in Salem so these scenes were so refreshing.

Unfortunately, then Chad decided to go talk to Gabi and Abigail panicked that he was going to dump her for her friend.

As soon as the writers moved back towards this stupid triangle, I lost interest again.

Abby seemed to think that her life was over if Chad rejected her. But if Chad is going to throw away the wife he just promised to help sort out the mess she made out of her life, then he is not worth her anguish, and Gabi is certainly not much of a friend if she doesn't back off and refuse to allow Chad to change her mind.

Claire: Thank God you're still here.
Ciara: Just text me whatever it is and I'll read it later. I'm, like, totally wiped out.
Claire: No no no, this is way too serious to text. Theo and I just caught.
Ciara: Oh, don't tell me...
Claire: Yeah. Valerie Grant found the bug we planted in her bag and she's on the warpath.
Ciara: Well, Theo never would have spied on Dr. Grant if you hadn't put that lame idea in his head!

Theo, Claire, and Ciara's triangle is a bit more interesting. First of all, they're teenagers, so the intense feelings and beliefs that life is over if someone doesn't love you the way you love them are far more appropriate for them. Secondly, the question of which girl has Theo's best interests at heart with this Valerie thing adds a twist to the whole story.

I didn't have a problem with Claire encouraging Theo to investigate Valerie until she went to Bugs R Us or whatever the name of the store is where everyone in Salem seems to get listening devices.

That really went beyond the pale, and I'm surprised Theo didn't think twice before using the device, since many people with autism have very strong moral compasses and have difficulty deviating from the rules even when there's a good reason to do so.

In addition, Claire consistently differentiated between the way Theo thinks and behaves and the way "normal" people think and behave. Theo called her out on it, sort of, and she substituted the word "regular" for "normal" which didn't really help anything. 

Clearly the writers were trying to address this with Theo not appreciating the way Claire was talking about him, but it was given superficial treatment and it came off as suggesting that people with autism are indeed abnormal. This show is providing enough negative social messages without adding that one to the pile.

Social messaging aside, why is it necessary to suddenly make Claire obnoxious in order to move the story forward?

Any soap story is going to be more watchable if the characters stay true to themselves. When they're changed at the whim of the writers in order to push a story forward, that story ceases to be believable, and DAYS does this a lot.

Claire isn't the only recent victim of this. Jade was suddenly and magically turned from a conniving, manipulative girlfriend to a sweet woman that Kayla was happy to make an honorary Brady just for the sake of Joey and Jade's storyline. This week, Jade suffered a miscarriage and Joey blamed himself.

Joey thought the miscarriage was God's punishment for killing Ava because Jade was in the same hospital room Ava had been in. Steve and Kayla talked him out of confessing to the murder. Joey and Kayla then turned around and convinced Steve he  should run off to Prague in search of Stefano.

This made even less sense than anything else in this story, which is saying a lot.

Joey thinks the death of his son is karmic punishment and is falling apart.

Jade and Joey live with Steve and Kayla, which means that in addition to dealing with Joey's grief and guilt, Steve and Kayla have to decide whether they want that arrangement to continue now that there's no baby.

Kayla is likely going to be working at the hospital at least part of the time, and this is not the time for Joey and Jade to be left to their own devices.

So sending Steve to Prague just makes him look selfish no matter how much he protested ahead of time that he'd rather be at home.

Besides, the drama of Steve feeling like he missed out on an adventure that was calling his heart because his family was a higher priority would beat the drama of this ridiculous search for Stefano any day of the week.

Is Stefano Still Alive - Days of Our Lives

I'm still waiting for an explanation of how Hope shooting someone who wasn't Stefano gets her out of jail. Since when is, "Oops, I shot the wrong guy" a defense to murder, especially when the body was hidden under a pile of rubble, which suggests depraved indifference to human life?

It doesn't seem like DOOL plans to give any explanation other than Stefano being alive. Instead, there was more nonsense at the prison, with Hope refusing to let anyone help her and instead getting stabbed, then not wanting to get the authorities involved after the fact.

It's frustrating watching a show that keeps coming so close to compelling and then veering off into well-worn, predictable and sometimes ridiculous territory.

What missed opportunity frustrates you the most on Days of Our Lives?

Weigh in below, and don't forget to check back on Sunday for the Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.

Review

Editor Rating: 3.8 / 5.0
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Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Days of Our Lives Quotes

I don't want to talk anymore about my psychopathic nephew, not on the day that the psychopathic mother of my great-grandson is moving into my house.

Victor

Chad: You mind telling me what that little show down at the hospital was today?
Kate: What show?
Chad: The one where you got the media to appoint your little hillbilly boyfriend as the patron saint of Salem.