One of the best things about Days of Our Lives during the week of 7-31-17 was all the nods to history.
Over the past five years or so, characters seemed divorced from their histories, often making decisions that didn't make sense or failing to react to plot points that should have re-traumatized them because of their pasts.
But now the characters seem to have mainly remembered their rich, dramatic histories, and the show itself is richer for it.
One of the best moments this week was when Hope found out that Abigail had been hit by a car. She immediately wanted to rush to the hospital to be by Jennifer's side and explained to Rafe that she didn't want Jen to go through the pain she did when her toddler son, Zach, was run over and killed about a decade ago.
It made sense that Abigail's accident would have triggered Hope's memories of Zach's death and that she'd want to be by her cousin's side.
Jennifer and Hope have been best friends forever, something which has been forgotten in recent years. Comforting her was far more important to Hope than spending time with Rafe, which was as it should be.
This was the first sign that Hope's true character was still in there somewhere that I've seen since she hooked up with Rafe. The old writers made her singularly obsessed with him at the expense of her family, friends, and even her morals.
She was like a Rafe addict who cared about nothing or nobody but spending time with him and it was painful to watch.
I was disappointed that we didn't get to actually see Hope at the hospital. Commissioner Raines insisted she and Rafe investigate who ran Abigail over instead.
But at least she wanted to be there and wasn't entirely thrilled to be stuck with Rafe instead. That was a definite step in the right direction.
That was the nanny. She's trying to get Thomas to go to sleep. I know he misses you and he loves you. We should have been a family again. I know that. I keep trying to think of where it all went wrong and I realize that I ran away from you because I was scared. I am sorry. I am sorry if I made you feel like you weren't wanted, because you were. I have always wanted you from the day that I met you. I need you. My life is no life without you. I love you.Chad
All the scenes in the hospital were the kind of drama that I watch a soap for, too.
I don't watch in order to see the thriller of the week or see whether the writers can beat their own records for gratuitous violence and unnecessary deaths. I watch to see relationships unfold and for the authentic drama that comes from people loving one another through thick and thin.
The hospital scenes gave me all that.
Chad's scenes with Abigail were beautiful and heartbreaking, and I was thrilled when he finally admitted that he loved Abigail and always had.
It also occurred to me how similar he is to JJ. Both Chad and JJ have a self-hating streak and pick up guilt easily, struggling mightily with their perceived sins, and have feared becoming their fathers at their worst in the past.
It saddened me that the writers have never really explored this, instead making JJ lash out at Chad often for no apparent reason.
JJ did that again this week, blaming Chad for Abigail's injuries because he is a Dimera. It made sense in a way; JJ has never dealt with grief in a healthy way and tends to lash out in fury when confronted with loss. But at the same time, this was entirely unnecessary.
Hatred of Chad is not a part of JJ's core character and it would have been fine for the new writers to not go there.
Anyway, that was one of only two flaws in otherwise perfect scenes. Chad, Jennifer, and JJ each had their time alone with Abigail and each in their own way professed deep love for her.
Chad's declaration of love was sweet and romantic, but JJ's was my favorite. I absolutely loved the metaphor of the thunderstorm passing, and the story he told demonstrated how close JJ and ABigail are and how she has always been his protector since he was a little boy.
This is more true to character than Abby not caring how JJ was doing after Paige died, and I'm very glad to have their real relationship back.
I also really liked Jennifer and Eric praying in the chapel. Eric's religious beliefs just disappeared after the Kristen rape debacle and his subsequent resignation from the priesthood, and I was glad to see them back.
Eric and Jen's closeness was touching here, but all I saw was two good friends comforting each other. That's my whole problem with Eric and Jen as a couple; they are exactly the same whether or not they are together romantically, so there's nothing there for me to get excited about.
The other blemish in the hospital storyline, of course, was Lani's inclusion in it. I hated seeing JJ blame himself yet again for Lani having raped him last time he thought Abigail was gone forever while Lani acted like she loved him and wanted to support him.
Lani was saying all the things Paige would have said if she were there, and her usurping of Paige's proper role was painful.
JJ deserves a girlfriend like Paige who genuinely does support him, not a woman who rapes him and then knows the right things to say to make it sound like love.
Jennifer's declaration that Lani is good for JJ was ridiculous and just added insult to injury. Jennifer should have been worried that JJ would drink again over this latest crisis and that Lani would again take advantage of him, not be grateful that her son's rapist was in the waiting room.
While Abigail's family was busy trying to keep it together while waiting to see if she'd ever wake up, Kayla dealt with a crisis of her own, as Tripp lost it altogether after she was reinstated and tried to force her to confess to killing Ava.
I'm not a fan of this storyline at all and I'm glad it's almost over. Joey wasn't the only one who was sick of being reminded about her; if I never hear her name again it'll be too soon.
Anyway, despite the ridiculousness of the story, the Tripp/Kayla confrontation scenes were incredibly powerful. Tripp became more and more unraveled, while Kayla showed her strength in her attempts to negotiate with him so that she could leave the room.
Kayla: What do you mean, you know what I did?
Tripp: Oh, come on.
Kayla: N-no. I mean, I can see that you're upset. I want to help you -
Tripp: Oh, knock it off. Look, you always do that, you know? Playing innocent, making everyone in this stupid town think you're such a saint. Steve and Joey, they're like your little cheerleaders, but you don't have me fooled for one minute.
Kayla: I really don't understand -
Tripp: I tried to get this entire hospital to see what I see. But everyone's just too much into the myth of Saint Kayla.
Meanwhile, Steve talked with Joey, who was shocked that Tripp was so calculating and evil and felt guilty for causing this situation by killing Ava in the first place.
I found it interesting that Joey recalled Tripp snapping that Kayla wasn't a saint, because that was exactly what Kayla had let slip about Jack to JJ years ago, starting JJ's descent into severe mental illness that culminated in him breaking a window. Tripp's nervous breakdown was similar, but different enough that it felt original.
The similarity proved my theory that JJ and Tripp could bond over their pasts if the writers would let them, and I hope that happens. I'm thrilled that JJ had some emotional stuff to do this week, but I'm always open to new ways for him to be integrated into the canvas more, as he should be.
I appreciated that the writers let Steve quickly check in with Jennifer before going off to find Kayla for this reason. It has been driving me nuts for months that the old writers didn't seem to be aware that Steve was related to Jennifer's kids.
I just wish JJ had been there instead of walking with Lani for no reason so we could finally get a genuine Steve/JJ scene.
Anyway, Steve walked in just as Tripp grabbed Kayla's scalpel and ordered her to confess on tape to killing Ava. Steve undoubtedly knows what to do, but this was still one of the best cliffhangers I've seen in a very long time.
Brady: I came back from my call to watch the movie and you were gone. Where did you go?
Nicole: I... Honey, I didn't want to watch the movie myself so I... I paused it and I went for a walk.
My least favorite storyline this week was the Nicole/Brady/Eric mess.
This has gone into the realm of the purely stupid at this point.
Brady is skulking around overhearing snippets of conversation that feed into his paranoia that Nicole and Eric are having an affair, while Nicole is keeping utterly ridiculous secrets to help move this story along.
The whole thing could be solved by the two of them having an honest conversation. Instead, Brady continually dropped hints that he'd like Nicole to divulge her secret to him while Nicole told lie after lie for no good reason.
NIcole had given up sabotaging relationships through unnecessary lies way back when she kissed Eric in the furnace and then confessed it to Daniel. I don't want to see her repeating this mistake now.
Nor do I like jealous, brooding, moody Brady who seems like he's half a step away from punching Nicole in the face.
I realize misunderstandings and jealousy are soap staples, but this is all contrived, character-ruining drama that has been done a thousand times before on this show.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Having every man Nicole ever loves turn abusive towards her over some non-consequential secret she keeps is not entertaining. Nicole deserves better and so do viewers.
Brady and Nicole were both far stronger while apart from each other.
I'm not quite sure why Paul and Brady had this urgent, private conversation in the middle of the Square where anybody could hear them, but I'll overlook that because I actually enjoyed Brady during these scenes.
He used his strength appropriately, throwing around his weight to find out what he needed to know, and then went to confront Victor.
This was a far better use of Brady than this jealous lover bit, and I can't wait to see him confront Victor next week.
And while he was gone, Nicole and Victor exchanged history-laced barbs.
I really loved Nicole pointing out that she took a bullet for Victor and sacrificed her ability to bear children as a result. I wish she'd also pointed out that she saved Victor's life recently when Deimos was ignoring him having a heart attack in order to have sex with Kate.
I have no idea why Victor thinks Nicole always cheats on her lovers with other men because that sounds more like Chloe's MO, but he made up for it by admitting he was taking out his fear for Sonny on Nicole. Nicole not buying his Victor 2.0 act was also a high point of these scenes.
I'm ready for this whole mess of a murder mystery story to be over with, though. The fact is that whoever killed Deimos was high on a drug he or she did not choose to ingest and I don't see how anyone can be found criminally responsible. So no one should really be sitting in jail for this and I wish we could just move on.
Finally, there was some more silliness on the Hattie/Marlena front. I find Hattie's scenes with Anjelica amusing, but her putting Marlena in a mental hospital was just ridiculous.
I had a hard time believing that this doctor who knows Marlena very well couldn't tell who was who, especially with Hattie stumbling over her psychiatric terms and using unprofessional language like "totally unhinged."
After all the storylines that didn't depict mental illness with the seriousness it deserved, I'm also not sure that I like the idea of a psychiatrist being mistakenly committed to a mental hospital and confined to a straitjacket.
I'm willing to see where this story goes, though, because Hattie has such comic potential. Plus, if Hattie breaks up with John, that leaves him free to move on with Kate, and I prefer that pairing.
What'd you think of this week's Days of Our Lives? What was your favorite nod to history, and which storylines can you do without?
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 senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.