Lies, betrayal, and murder are part of soaps.
Viewers often enjoy seeing their favorite characters do things that they only fantasize about doing in real life, and often the most obnoxious characters are the most popular.
But in order for it to work, there has to be heart behind the stories. Characters have to have deep emotions and act badly for what seems to them to be good reasons.
During the week of 1-22-18, Days of Our Lives had a huge murder mystery and a frontburner story involving a paternity lie, but it was missing the heart that makes these stories worth watching.
This awful Lani pregnancy storyline is the worst offender.
DAYS has done stories like this in the past. There's been plenty of fake pregnancies and lies about who the father of a baby is.
Usually, though, the liar is an obsessed woman who we are not supposed to root for. At most, she is a love-to-hate character like Kristen or a character that viewers may pity at the same time as they despise what she is doing like Jan Spears.
But Lani is not being written as a villain. Even though what she is doing is disgusting, it's written as if she is some sort of heroine!
Nobody in Salem suspects she is anything but genuine except Eli and his mother, and Kayla's talk with her indicated that she thinks lying about this is misguided, not evil.
Her character would work much better if the writers would commit to making her a villain instead of having her do villainous things while having all of Salem treat her like she's a paragon of virtue.
Eli: I'm first getting to know Gabi. I don't know if she could handle something like this.
Lani: What woman could?
Eli: And I don't want to cause trouble for you and JJ either. But as you know, I grew up without knowing my dad and now I'll never get that chance. So if this is my baby, I don't want my kid growing up going through the same thing.
Lani's behavior is the perfect setup for a story about a good person having an evil child.
From the moment she first set foot in Salem, Lani has done nothing but stalk one man after another.
I don't need to keep rehashing all the horrible things she's done to try to keep JJ, but this baby lie is just the latest in a long list of sins.
This could easily be a powerful story if written correctly, where JJ's friends and family try to warn him away from Lani but JJ doesn't listen because he's too brokenhearted after the loss of Paige and believes himself responsible for the drunken tryst with Lani.
Eric could even be brought into it properly, not as a pseudo counselor who really just wants to use JJ to get closer to Jennifer, but as a male rape survivor who tries to counsel JJ about this train wreck of a relationship, but who JJ doesn't listen to because he thinks his experiences are biasing him.
Instead, we get some sort of bizarre story where we're supposed to feel sorry for Lani and root for her relationship with her victim because she's crying a lot.
Jennifer's reaction to the news that Lani is pregnant was especially bizarre.
Jennifer is pretty strict in terms of her morality, and tends to hold JJ to higher standards than his sister, so it really makes no sense for her to be purely happy that she is going to be a grandmother again.
Her only concern seemed to be that JJ told Eric before her -- which was just more proof that Eric has no business counseling JJ whatsoever because he's too close to his mom.
The Jennifer I know would have more mixed feelings.
She'd be happy to be a grandmother, but she'd be concerned that JJ was not ready to be a father given his recent emotional distress and worried that he was only staying with Lani out of obligation.
And she would have no compunction about sharing those opinions.
This over-the-top happiness makes Lani seem more cruel and doesn't fit Jennifer's character at all. It's almost as if the writers have decided that we should hope that Kayla was wrong and the baby is JJ's because he and his mother are so happy.
The sad thing is that the drama would be so much stronger if JJ and Jennifer were written true to character and Lani was treated as a villain.
Jennifer trying too hard to protect her emotionally fragile son from a woman who she instinctively knows is up to no good while Lani doesn't care about anything but holding onto JJ would be a strong story.
This is a weak one and the only thing I'm rooting for is for it to be over sooner rather than later and for the writers to not somehow twist things around so JJ is seen as the bad guy when he's the victim.
So you think I bashed his head in with an urn full of Tony's ashes? What?Gabi
Across town, Andre's murder resulted in the kind of chaos that Andre would have reveled in.
I'm still not convinced Andre hasn't faked his own death. I know Thaao Penghlis is not currently taping, but that doesn't mean that we won't see a final shot of Andre laughing it up on some island at some future date.
In any event, this murder mystery is not particularly interesting. It seems like there was very little build-up. In the space of one week, Andre went from being Kate's partner-in-crime to the betrayer of the company, got blackmailed by Vivian, and then died.
It seems like the main suspects likely killed him because he interfered with their plans for Dimera Enterprises and those motives just do not make for a compelling story.
Gabi appears to be the top suspect. If true, then she killed Andre because he took the company out from under her that we first heard of when this storyline began.
I'd much rather have seen Abigail and Gabi team up to defeat Stefan's sexual harassment of them.
If Gabi was suspected of killing Stefan in a rage over his treatment of her, that would have at least made sense.
After all, she killed Nick when she couldn't take the abuse and harassment he heaped on her, and before that she bashed his head in with a rock when he tried to rape her.
Instead, the fragile alliance between Abigail and Gabi fell apart when the girls accused each other of murdering Andre.
Anna was very quickly identified as the top suspect, which means she has nothing to do with the crime.
The cops' whole case against her is that an urn that looks like the one she carried Tony's ashes in was found near the body and has blood on it.
Rafe mentioned that there were no fingerprints on the urn and no way to make sure the spilled ashes were Tony's, so how do the police even know this is Anna's urn and not one that looks just like it?
Rafe: All I know is if Roman is lying about where Anna was he's gonna be in a lot of trouble.
Hope: I don't want him taking a bullet for Anna.
Roman, who once upon a time was a by-the-book cop, took a break from tending bar at the Brady Pub to create a cover story for Anna.
That's bad enough, but Hope is complaining every two seconds that she doesn't want Roman putting his reputation on the line like this for Anna. Yet she had no problem with him doing it after she killed Stefano.
That hypocrisy is pretty jarring. Whoever thought having Rafe and Hope discuss their concern about Roman's behavior was a good idea needed to think twice.
Meanwhile, the Salem PD seems to be good at finding obvious things to say such as pointing out who the dead person is and that his head was bashed in. I'll be very surprised if they make headway on this murder without a suspect investigating for them.
I know I look ridiculous and I feel like an old man, but it sure beats the headaches and dizziness I was having.Steve
Even more bizarre was the reveal that John is poisoning Steve.
I'm glad to see Steve, Kayla, and John getting significant airtime, but this is a disappointing storyline.
John's behavior makes no sense and I'd rather have seen a realistic story about Steve having to deal with getting older and having health issues he wishes he didn't have.
Those kinds of stories are part of soaps too. People need something to relate to, not just constant violence and negative behavior.
Anyway, John keeps slipping some sort of drug into Steve's drinks and looking guilty when anyone says he's Steve's best friend. I have to admit I'm curious as to his motives even though I dislike this whole thing.
John said he protects those he cares about and he seemed anxious to keep Steve away from the investigation into the letter Anna received.
Could John somehow be trying to protect Steve? Or conversely, is he being mind controlled by Vivian or some other troublemaker?
The best scenes of the week of 1-22-18 were Marlena counseling Will about Paul, not that he listened.
Marlena did such a good job of listening to Will, reflecting his concerns, and gently guiding him to think more deeply about his behavior that I wished she would train Eric in how to counsel properly.
And she was right to discourage Will from moving into Paul's building and try to get him focused on getting a job and getting his life together.
Sadly, Will is more his mother's son than anyone realizes and he's focused almost obsessively on Paul. Him moving into the Martin House is not going to go well.
I hope Paul stays strong and doesn't end up jumping in bed with Will. At this point, Paul deserves better than either Will or Sonny and I'd love to see him move on with someone new.
Finally, Brady and Eve hit a new low by flirting with each other over the murder.
Brady pretended to confess, then laughed about it as soon as Sonny stopped listening at the door. Then Eve asked flirtatiously if she could be the murderer.
Maybe this was supposed to be comic relief, but I didn't find it funny.
Eve's daughter was murdered. Eve should not be joking about murder, period.
I spent these scenes wondering what Paige would say to her mother if only she were still alive to try to straighten her out.
Who do you think killed Andre, and do you care at this point?
Am I the only one confused by the way Lani is written as a non-villain while doing awful things?
Any idea why John is poisoning Steve?
Weigh in below, and don't forget to check back in on Sunday for the Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.