Days of Our Lives Review: A Heartbreaking Christmas

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I have to admit I was nervous when I read that JJ was going to contemplate suicide during the Christmas season on Days of Our Lives.

This show has not had a great track record with portraying mental health issues in the past few years, and JJ's problems have never been taken seriously enough.

I'm glad that I was wrong to be worried. During the week of 12-18-17, Days of Our Lives spent three days on JJ's preparation for suicide, his despair, and his ultimate decision to let Gabi talk him into living one more day. It was an authentic, heartbreaking story that viewers who struggle with depression could relate to.

Kudos to Casey Moss for his strong, powerful acting in these scenes! I hope he gets an Emmy nod for these performances.

Jennifer Comforts JJ - Days of Our Lives

One of the things I most liked about JJ's struggle with suicide is that the show had the courage to explore all the emotions surrounding this kind of decision. So often TV gets it wrong, depicting suicide as a dramatic, impulsive decision when nothing could be further from the truth.

The many memories JJ was thinking about as he carefully wrote out his suicide notes and enclosed a possession of his to give to each of his loved ones demonstrated that it wasn't just his guilt over Theo's shooting that was driving him to suicide.

The situation with Theo was just the last straw. JJ had been suffering for years. His depressed feelings and belief that he wasn't good enough started in boarding school and his behavior after Jack died solidified those feelings.

He clearly felt that he'd tried to turn his life around and live up to his parents' expectations for him over and over and over and that he had failed each time and that shooting Theo was just the worst of all of his perceived failures.

Dear Theo, I said I wanted you to have all the things you wanted, and now you have nothing, because of me. I’ve come to see that I can only pay for taking your life by taking my own, so I’m going out to the square, to the same place where I shot you, with the same gun, and maybe, in some small way, it will help balance out the universe,

JJ [writing]

I wasn't surprised by any of this. I was heartbroken that it had come to this and I wanted to jump into the television and hold him, but it just proved what I've been saying since 2013.

Back then, when JJ was arrested for breaking a store window after learning that Jack had once raped Kayla, he needed help, not jail.

Nobody offered him that help.

Nobody even bothered to call Marlena to evaluate him despite behavior that was clearly out of control while he was in custody.

Not even Daniel, who I have always believed was trying to get him to agree to go to the hospital when the cops came along and arrested him instead.

A few months later, after Theresa's overdose, Daniel intervened and gave JJ a chance to stay out of trouble for it if he stayed sober. That was all well and good, but JJ was expected to do this with virtually no support other than a few minutes here and there with Daniel when no one was looking.

When he got drunk several months later, leading to the Eve debacle, again, nobody seemed to think his out of control behavior was a sign he needed help.

Nobody was really there for him after Paige died, and except for Abby encouraging him to go to the funeral, nobody offered him any support when Daniel -- the closest thing to a stepfather he had and his main source of support -- also died a few months later.

Nobody thought that his drinking was a problem when it led to Lani raping him while he was too drunk to consent, either.

It broke my heart that it had to take JJ almost shooting himself for anyone to realize he desperately needs some help, and even then if Gabi hadn't happened to come to the door he wouldn't have made it.

There were so many opportunities for his family to reach out to him with love and support over the last four years and nobody really did.

This really showed that silence and isolation and saying nothing because you don't know what to say when someone you love is suffering can be fatal, and I think that's an important message.

I also really liked the fact that these scenes showed that contrary to popular belief, suicide is not a selfish act done by a person who doesn't care how his death will affect his loved ones.

JJ chose his words carefully in each of the notes he wrote and left behind a meaningful gift for each of his loved ones. It was clear that his behavior was the product of a seriously depressed mind that falsely believed that the most loving thing he could do for his friends and family was permanently remove himself from their lives.

And behind the pain and suffering he shared in his letters, there was regret. It didn't seem as much that he WANTED to die as it did that he felt he had no choice, that this was the best thing he could do to fix what had gone wrong and that he didn't know how he could continue to live.

I thought he was more ambivalent than he let on, which is very common in suicidal people.

He chose the Square as the place to end his life, which had great symbolic meaning for him, but I also thought he was choosing to do it in a public place where I was hoping and praying he would get caught before he could go through with it, just like he did when he broke that window.

Eve Makes a Surprising Offer - Days of Our Lives

And then Gabi showed up.

I was shocked by how supportive she was and how well she was able to get through to JJ.

It has been a long, long time since I've had any respect for Gabi at all.

The horrendous way she treated JJ after Lani raped him was a bitter pill to swallow, she constantly jumps from man to man with no thought of how that will affect her young daughter, and her past behavior contributed to Jack's death.

Plus, it was only a day or two before this that she was asking Sonny to choose between Kate and Eve for her, once again exhibiting an inability to think for herself.

JJ: You saved my life.
Gabi: Because your life is worth living, JJ. You're a special person. Irreplacable. Don't you forget that.

But then she walked in on JJ a second before he was going to head out to shoot himself and she said and did everything she had to to save his life.

She was both empathetic and firm, blocking his exit so that he couldn't leave to carry out his self-destructive plan and telling him that she loved him and knew what he was going through.

By the end of the crisis, she had not only got him to put down the gun but to agree to get professional help in the morning.

Only Paige could have done better, and whatever else I want to say about Gabi, she was there for JJ when he desperately needed a friend.

Ciara Returns to Salem - Days of Our Lives

While JJ was struggling not to end his own life, over at the Hortons, Ciara and Claire caused some ridiculous drama by breaking each other's Christmas ornaments.

This immature behavior irritated me, and I didn't think Ciara should have been allowed anywhere near the tree after instigating this destructive nonsense with the ornaments. But I thought it made the suicide scenes even more powerful. 

While JJ was crying and asking Gabi how he was supposed to go on living, Ciara and Claire were having a silly and meaningless argument and for some inexplicable reason, Rafe was getting an ornament even though he's not officially part of the family yet (and hopefully never!)

Jennifer: Would you sit down, please?
Abe: Say what you have to say. I need to get back to Theo.
Jennifer: I would have reached out sooner, but I stayed away out of respect for what you and your family are going through with Theo. But my family is going through something too, Abe, and like you I am a parent who would move heaven and earth to help my son. I am in no way comparing JJ's situation to Theo's, but would you at least hear me out?

Jennifer left the party early to try to talk some sense into Abe once again. When she took off, I thought she was going to head over to JJ's to try to cheer up her son.

I don't know what might have happened then. Jennifer certainly would have freaked out if she knew how close JJ was to taking his own life. Maybe that would have made him think twice and maybe it would have made him more determined to do it.

Anyway, Jennifer's scenes with Abe were powerful in their own right.

At first I wished that Gabi would take JJ to the hospital while Abe was standing there so that Abe could see how deeply his cruelty towards JJ had wounded him. But I think Jennifer might have actually got through to him.

Abe's face seemed to soften for the first time in months and even though he was still angry and insisting that JJ was to blame for what had happened, he wasn't as volatile as he had been.

I think that JJ's new therapist, whoever that might be, needs to work with him on letting go of what Abe thinks and forgiving himself no matter what. But I do think that forgiveness from Abe may be on its way at last and that can only help the situation.

Eli and Abe - Days of Our Lives

Two people who did not help the situation and need to do some serious thinking are Lani and Eli.

Lani spent most of the week in the hospital sulking that Abe doesn't want her to try to reconcile with JJ. Then Valerie convinced her to try to talk to JJ.

Instead of knocking on the door like a normal person, Lani decided since it was open a crack it was an invitation to walk in.

She saw JJ and Gabi hugging on his bed. They were, from what she could see, fully clothed, yet it never occurred to her that maybe they were sitting on the bed because there was no other place to sit together and not because they were in the middle of having sex.

But Lani's stupidity didn't end there. She immediately ran to Eli, who was all too happy to tell her that JJ -- who he has conveniently forgotten is his cousin -- is a monster who destroyed her family and should realize how wonderful she is.

After a lot of drinking, they had sex even though Eli thought maybe this wasn't a great idea.

So to recap:

In September 2016, JJ did some drinking after he believed Abigail had died and instead of offering him any support whatsoever, Lani chose to take advantage of him at a vulnerable moment and have sex he could not consent to and realized he did not want when he was sober.

In December 2016, Lani returned to Salem and was rude to JJ for daring not to remember the sex she had initiated without his consent. As a result of her revealing herself to be his rapist, Gabi broke up with him and for some reason JJ and Lani started dating.

In December 2017, Gabi shows up and gives JJ some actual support and comfort when he wants to kill himself, and Lani gets jealous of them hugging and decides the thing to do is get drunk with Gabi's current boyfriend and have sex with him.

There's a pattern here, and one that does not make Lani sympathetic or attractive in the slightest. For some reason she enjoys getting drunk with Gabi's boyfriends and having sexual encounters with them where consent is dubious.

Abe should have been worried about this wayward daughter of his all along, not JJ who is ten thousand times a better human being than her even at his worst.

Eve One Ups Brady - Days of Our Lives

A few other things happened in Salem that were not related to JJ's mental health issues.

Brady and Victor staged an argument so that Eve would think she could turn Brady against Victor. Brady kissed Eve as part of this plan. 

I'm not exactly sure what he's up to, but I have no doubt he will screw it up.

This is Brady we're talking about. The idea of tricking Eve in the first place must have come from Victor, because all Brady knows how to do is get drunk and decide whatever woman pays attention to him is the love of his life.

Will Kisses Paul - Days of Our Lives

Paul's heart was broken when he found out Sonny was moving in with Will. I really tip my hat to Christopher Sean. I hate the idea of Paul and Sonny as a couple, but his performance brought tears to my eyes.

I'm still not convinced Will really has lost his memory. I have a feeling he may be faking for his own purposes. He is Sami's son, after all, and he seems awfully eager to re-establish things with Paul.

Anyway, he moved into the mansion with Sonny and the two ended up kissing despite Will not remembering anything of their past. This looks like a recipe for disaster.

Paul said he didn't want Will/Sonny/Paul round 2, which means that in some shape or fashion that will happen. I'm hoping to see Will move on with Paul, but only if it's genuine and not Will using Paul for some reason or other again.

What did you think of Days of Our Lives during the week of 12-18-17?

Did JJ's plight bring tears to your eyes?

What do you hope happens next for him and the rest of Salem's residents?

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

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 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

Getting older is not for sissies.

Victor

Shawn-Douglas Brady: You know what? For the first time in my life, I'm glad that my dad is biologically a Kiriakis.
Belle Black Kiriakis: Why would you say that?
Shawn-Douglas Brady: Because, otherwise, we would be related. Your grandmother is a Brady, remember?
Belle Black Kiriakis: Oh, my god. I never even thought about that. Actually, that makes me more of a Brady than you.