Days of Our Lives can be compelling when it wants to be.
I first fell in love with this soap years ago because of strong women like Jennifer and Hope dealing with serious problems and doing important, exciting things with their lives.
In recent times, it's fallen heartbreakingly short of the show I remember.
But every once in a while, there's a glimmer of what this show could and should be.
The way Ciara's rape was handled on Days of Our Lives during the week of 5-21-18 was an example of that, even though the writing for Abigail's rape during the same time period was deplorable.
When Ciara's rape originally occurred, I hated it.
Sweet, shy Chase seemed an unlikely rapist, and the writers seemed to have an agenda to demonize him and his father Aiden in order to justify writing them out instead of exiting them from the canvas in any reasonable manner.
Plus the rape, like so much of the writing during that era, seemed to be nothing more than a plot point and was never addressed in any meaningful manner after it occurred.
But I have to admit, Ciara's struggle with it now that she is dating Tripp is everything I wanted a rape storyline to be.
It was annoying that it took two years for Ciara to have much of a reaction to what had happened to her, but the writers did the best they could with it. Plus, it is realistic for a rape survivor to believe she has put it all behind her until something triggers her a few years later.
Her conversation with Julie was awkward. I like to think of myself as a sex-positive person, but I wouldn't be comfortable discussing my sex life with my grandmother and Julie was awfully direct.
At the same time, Julie's concerns were valid, and her use of history was perfect. Larry Atwood raping Julie was before my time and I had to look it up to find out what she was talking about, but it makes sense that she would be concerned because of her own experience with this.
Julie's pushiness was in character and created just enough ambiguity for viewers to wonder whether Ciara was correct that her grandmother had put ideas in her head when she got triggered by Tripp wanting to make out with her or whether she was having a PTSD reaction.
And Ciara's shame and refusal to tell Tripp the truth was consistent with what many survivors of sexual assault feel, even though Hope was right that Tripp would be nothing but empathetic if he knew.
I would have rather Tripp talked to his cousin JJ, who had similar feelings of guilt once when he didn't hear Paige say STOP until she screamed it and worried that meant he had inherited a tendency towards rape from his father..
That would have been a more meaningful conversation than the one Tripp had with Will, whose amnesia made him clueless about pretty much everything, and would have given JJ something to do besides run into Lani all the time.
Either way, though, Tripp's confusion and misplaced guilt makes sense and this is a far more relatable and realistic conflict for this young couple than arguing over who Tripp should have voted for in a beauty contest.
Now if only the rest of the show could get on board with the way this storyline is being written, DAYS would be a top-notch serial again.
This mess of a storyline with Abigail is one of the worst offenders. Abigail decided not to press charges against Stefan for raping her because he threatened to move forward with the case against Chad for assault if she did.
That was bad enough, but then Abigail miraculously remembered how her alters had behaved and declared loudly that she wasn't raped after all because she remembered consenting.
I was afraid DAYS was going to backpedal on calling this rape what it was, but I didn't think it would be quite this bad.
It's unrealistic for Abigail to remember anything she did when any of her alters were in control, and making her remember just lends credence to the myth that Dissociative Identity Disorder is a made-up illness that people use to get out of taking responsibility for bad behavior.
Leaving that aside, and ignoring the fact that there is legal precedent for the claim that people with DID cannot consent to sex and that having sex with an alter is statutory rape at best, there's also the issue of Abigail having very clearly told Stefan NO and ordered him to get away from her minutes before her Gabby alter took control.
Regardless of whether an alter -- who cannot consent to sex -- said Yes, Abigail herself said NO and Stefan deliberately triggered her dissociation to try to undo it.
Any suggestion that that is not rape is a suggestion that a woman's NO is not NO and that it's okay for a man to do whatever it takes to convert it to a YES.
The writers might have been trying to show that Abigail's mental illness is interfering with her understanding what happened to her, but since Stefan is facing zero consequences for the rape and Abigail is suddenly remembering consenting as Gabby, that doesn't really work.
Instead, it comes off as if we're supposed to agree with Abigail that she was mistaken to call it rape and that Chad and Jennifer are making excuses for her behavior by calling it mental illness.
Two other stories also treated sexual harassment and abuse as entertainment, further undermining the message of the Ciara story.
The Mexico story was problematic from the beginning, since Theresa was being treated as a sex slave, yet the sexual aspect of her problems was never addressed.
The original story was written by different writers, so the current regime was stuck with it, but they could have handled the resolution of it better than they did.
Instead, Mateo took Chloe as an additional sex slave and viewers were treated to a scene of her being forced to wear the dress her captor wanted her to wear and sing and dance for him, while Theresa was sold to Xander, who set her free in exchange for a promise that she would put in a good word with him for Victor.
If this story is supposed to show the horrors of sex trafficking, it's doing a poor job, since all of that happened without anyone feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable about being exploited.
And now, Theresa called Mateo to give him a heads-up that the authorities were coming for him, in addition to keeping her knowledge that Chloe was still being held prisoner to herself.
Theresa: I just wish I didn't have to leave Chloe behind. God forgive me for what I've done.
Maggie: And what exactly is it you've done, Theresa, that you need God's forgiveness for?
Theresa is supposedly scared that Mateo will come after Brady and Tate if he thinks she told anyone about Chloe's dilemma, but her behavior comes off as selfish.
First of all, Mateo doesn't seem to have nearly the reach she thinks he has. This supposed drug lord spends all day wandering around his house making inappropriate comments to his female prisoners and lashing ot violently when he doesn't get his way.
He doesn't seem to spend much, if any, time actually engaging in the illicit activities that supposedly give him so much power, and he has very few underlings working for him. Instead, he's running his evil empire almost entirely by himself.
That cartoonish aspect of this story makes it hard to believe that he's really dangerous and not just a pervert that Theresa has real reason to fear.
I was left wondering how Mateo would even know if Theresa told anyone anything and how he would carry out his threats after being captured, since he murdered the only person who was helping him with his shady activities.
After gratuitously killing Miguel, whose only crime was allowing Chloe to have a 60 second phone conversation with her young son while being held at gunpoint, Mateo left her alone with the body to find a knife.
So he seems to be stupid in addition to not nearly as powerful as Theresa believes him to be.
Meanwhile, John and Paul's attempt to rescue Chloe was just as silly.
Paul claimed that they had to go in on their own because the place is so heavily guarded the ISA can't touch it, but two private eyes can get in easily.
That made no sense whatsoever. It was right up there with Mateo having a door that's easily unlocked but that his prisoners are too scared to go through.
And once John and Paul entered the compound dressed like cat burglars, they should have expected an ambush when Chloe wasn't where she was supposed to be and they broke in so easily.
Instead, they were surprised by Mateo, who is one guy with a gun faced with two intruders who are both armed. So how exactly is this a threat to John and Paul?
Maggie: This thing with El Fiedo is just part of a pattern. Theresa uses bad judgment. She gets involved with dangerous men.
Eve: So I'm the lesser of two evils, is that what you're saying?
It seems like the craziness in Mexico is just a sideline to the real drama, which is Eve and Theresa's fight over Brady.
I'm surprised I'm enjoying this story as much as I am, since I never bought Eve and Brady as a couple and Theresa has been nothing but obnoxious since her return.
Theresa was so convinced that Brady would just take her back that she ordered Eve twice to just return the ring and step aside. The best part of this story was Eve calling her out on her selfishness.
Theresa: You're being incredibly selfish, Eve, and it needs to stop. Right now.
Eve: I'm being selfish, Theresa? Really? How did you come up with that one?
Eve really had Theresa's number, but Theresa didn't seem to know her half-sister nearly as well.
Her claim that Eve would never let jealousy and anger get in the way of doing the right thing was laughable. I would have paid good money to see Paige's ghost descend from Heaven to straighten her out on that point!
Eve being rewritten as a saint who is suddenly best friends with Jennifer is a weak point in this story. She herself acknowledges that this is the first time in her life that anyone has approved of her, but everyone's support of her would make a lot more sense if her past wasn't glossed over.
Maggie's problems with Eve began some 30 years ago, when a drunk Eve ran over her eight-year-old daughter while driving a stolen car, and her support of Eve now would be more understandable, if that history were acknowledged and she explained why she was putting it aside or if she struggled with wanting Eve with Brady yet knowing that supporting her would hurt her daughter deeply.
Of course, that would require acknowledging that Maggie has a daughter named Sarah who lives elsewhere, which the writers have been allergic to for several years, but still. Igonring this aspect of their hsitory makes her support of Eve seem contrived and confusing.
In addition, Eve schemed to break up JJ and Paige and ultimately took advantage of a drunk JJ to ensure she didn't lose control of her daughter. This, too, has never been acknowledged.
At the very least, Eve should be feeling that some of the things that have happened recently are her karma for what she did to JJ and Paige! And she should be missing her daughter more because of seeing clearly now how she hurt her, thanks to Brady and Theresa doing similar things to her.
Theresa's selfish and obnoxious behavior is enough to turn viewers off of this couple; we don't need the writers trying to force us to root for Eve by rewriting her character and making all of Salem support her.
Meanwhile, Sonny fell for Leo's ridiculous scheme.
I agree with Will that Leo's false claim of sexual harassment only makes it harder for real victims to get justice. I also dislike this as a vehicle for getting Sonny and Will back together.
Paul has been made to play musical boyfriends too much already, and he's going to be left out in the cold yet again when Sonny and Will decide they are each other's true love at the end of this mess.
Adrienne's rant about Leo being a bad name was funny, though.
FInally, if Xander is going to stay on canvas, it would be nice if he found something to do besides wander around town making snide comments.
He keeps showing up everywhere Eric and Jennifer are to make fun of their relationship, which seems like a pointless use of his character.
What are your thoughts on Days of Our Lives during the week of 5-21-18? Whether you loved it, hated it, or were somewhere in between, I want to hear from you!
Don't forget to check back on Sunday for the Days of Our Lives Round Table discussion.
Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.