I'm loving Jack Deveraux's return!
Despite the fact that the Eve/Jennifer rivalry is way overplayed and so is the man without a memory trope, this story is still the most engaging and dramatic story Days of Our Lives has had in ages.
And with Jack using his amnesia as a selling point for his mayoral campaign on Days of Our Lives during the week of 1-21-19, it seems possible that we might finally get some commentary on current events that isn't entirely tone-deaf.
The best part of Jack's storyline, of course, is his attempts to get to know his family.
His relationship with JJ is interesting. The two shared a closer-than-average father/son bond before Jack's untimely "death," and JJ's issues stem from both the loss of his father and his teenage belief that the rest of his family didn't understand or love him the way Jack did.
When JJ was suicidal in winter 2017, a lot of the thoughts and memories he pondered as he prepared for death had to do with a deep sense that his dad would be disappointed in him if he were here, and he and Jack seem to share that sense of guilt and low self-esteem.
But now Jack doesn't remember his son at all, and that's doubly painful for JJ to bear. The father he thought was the answer to his problems is back -- but he's not.
Jack and JJ's awkward conversation and JJ's sad demeanor when he returned home afterwards gave us a taste of that pain and I hope there's more to come!
For Jack, JJ is the son he doesn't know at all, and his stilted yet loving interactions with him reflect that.
He's treating JJ the way he would a long-lost son that he first learned existed decades after the fact, wanting to be there for him but having no idea who he is. And that makes sense because for Jack, that's exactly what JJ is.
JJ: Eve's using you to hurt mom just like she used me!
Jack: What, she tried to get you to sleep with her too?
I just wish they could have found a better conversation than the Eve/JJ debacle.
That was a gross storyline that was done mostly for shock value, and Jack was closer to the truth than not when he said that Eve seduced JJ.
JJ was, at the time, an 18-year-old with mental health issues that Eve was thrilled to exploit for her own gain, but it has always been treated on-screen as if JJ was just horny, amoral, and didn't love Paige enough to resist her mother's advances.
Jennifer told Kayla that she wanted to protect Jack from Eve using his weakness against him and was not angry at Jack, and that's exactly what Paige's reaction should have been instead of her dating a drug dealer to get revenge on JJ and then getting murdered for reasons that had nothing to do with that.
In any case, sleeping with Eve is not the core of JJ's identity and doesn't need to be treated like the most important thing anyone can learn about him.
And if we were going to go there, Jack should have been angry at Eve for more than two seconds over it.
Eve engaged in classic deflection and Jack backed off, which was ridiculous. Eve has told him so many lies and half-truths that he can't trust that her claims about his past have anything to do with reality.
Jennifer: I don't care about your platform. I care about you, Jack. You might not remember who you are, but this town does, and if you run things are going to come out. Did Eve tell you any of this?
Jennifer: Of course not. That's because Eve doesn't care about you. Eve is all about Eve and she always has been.
Jack: So you keep trying to tell me.
Jennifer: I'm trying to protect you.
Jack: I might not remember who I am, but do you think I'm not smart enough to see right through Eve?
What a relief it was to hear Jack hint that he just might be playing Eve!
I'm not sure what he thinks he's getting out of this. Does he plan to become Mayor, do great things, and in that way make himself feel worthy of Jennifer's love so he can dump Eve?
Or is he embracing his dark side again and planning to become Mayor out of sheer love of power and then dump Eve just because he can?
Either way, this Mayoral race storyline is promising so far! It's a three-way race between mostly moral Abe (though his approval of Hope's underhanded policing tactics is questionable), totally amoral Trask, and well-meaning amensiac Jack with no memory of his own past or knowledge of the town's history or needs.
I couldn't help wondering if this race doubled as commentary on the current political climate in the United States.
I've often chastised DAYS' tone-deafness about social issues and the show is taped six months in advance, so maybe I'm giving the writers too much credit.
But Eve's comments about how you don't need to be qualified to get into office, Trask's stopping just short of accusing Jennifer of spreading fake news after Jen reported on her campaign and not on Abe's mistakes, and Jack running on a platform of changing the status quo by being a non-politician all have real-world parallels.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, both in terms of social messaging and in terms of story.
Jennifer mentioned Jack's rape of Kayla and his poisoning of the water years ago being issues, and I also couldn't help thinking that Trask might bring up JJ's past to discredit her rival.
When JJ returned to Salem in 2013, he was arrested multiple times for shoplifting, fighting, and other anti-social behavior, culminating in his breaking a store window after learning that Jack had raped Kayla.
I could easily see Trask exploiting that for her own gain, claiming both that Jack was an absentee father whose disappearance contributed to JJ's bad behavior and that he clearly raised his son with poor values or JJ wouldn't have gone down such a bad path.
JJ hasn't acted out in years, not counting being briefly held in contempt of court after punching Eli when the truth about Eli and Lani's affair came out. But that wouldn't stop Trask from painting him as the delinquent son of her rival just to score political points.
Plus, JJ's friendship or whatever this is with Haley could be jeopardized if they each support their relative's candidacy for Mayor even as the two candidates say and do horrible things to each other.
I'm still not 100% behind a JJ/Haley pairing. I think that JJ has been lost, romantically, since Paige's death and Haley is the latest woman he's trying to convince is his lost love.
JJ: Haley, you're in trouble. You need a friend.
Haley: I can't ask you, not after everything you've already done for me.
JJ: Yes, you can. You don't have to do this alone. Let me help.
Haley: You were right the other day. I'm a criminal.
JJ: A criminal? What, unpaid parking tickets?
Haley: I wish. I've already said too much... you can't understand.
JJ: I understand that you tried to kill yourself. I understand that you feel all alone, that your sister's abandoned you.
Haley: No, it's not like that! It's... I'm illegal.
Haley: I'm an undocumented immigrant. And if it were to get out, it could hurt my sister's career.
JJ: To hell with your sister. What about what it's doing to you?
JJ is still busy trying to fix Haley's problems as a distraction from his own.
I was thrilled to hear him mention he loved Paige once and to finally pick up his guitar, which has been missing since Paige's death. But those scenes just underscored how badly the writers cheated viewers out of drama by not allowing JJ to grieve for Paige on-screen.
If JJ hadn't been shoved into the background, a story where he dropped out of school, stopped playing his guitar, and insisted he was fine and moving on would have been powerful.
We could have had Jennifer worrying about him and trying to convince him he wasn't okay while he insisted he didn't want to be babied.
And when the storyline culminated in his suicide attempt, he could have slowly begun to face his guilt and pain over what had happened to Paige as he struggled in therapy to create a life worth living for himself.
Instead, JJ was quickly given Gabi as a replacement for Paige and his entire personality evaporated without as much as a raised eyebrow from his overprotective mother.
The first indication that the real JJ was still in there somewhere occurred when he attempted suicide, and then the writers again shoved him into the background, giving him one meeting with Eric before declaring him cured and making the baby he thought was his the answer to all his problems.
Now JJ keeps telling Haley how the support of his family helped get him through his suicidal feelings, and we're supposed to be happy with that when we never saw any of it on screen?
It's great that the writers are finally acting like suicide is a serious issue, but Haley is getting the treatment JJ should have got, and she just came to town while he the son of a supercouple who has had mental health issues for years.
Jennifer very rarely worries about JJ even though his mental health issues are far more realistic than the way his sister's are depicted, and it would have been fascinating to see JJ struggle with mixed feelings towards his mom and sister and resentment of the favorable treatment Abigail gets as part of his recovery.
He might even have been tempted to empathize with Gabi even though he hated what she did to Abby because of her feelings that Abby always gets a free pass and she gets none!
Instead, while JJ was bonding with Haley and encouraging her to put her own needs ahead of her unempathetic sister's, Jennifer tried to convince Abby to give Chad another chance.
I find it irritating when every character in town descends on someone to inform her who she should give her heart to. It doesn't make the couple more rootable when the characters do that! In fact, it makes it feel like the writers are cramming their point of view down our throats.
In real life, it's very rare that everyone agrees 100% on anything, so it always feels contrived when it happens on a soap. And when it comes to couples, overcoming conflicts to be together makes them stronger.
When everyone approves of the couple except one of the people involved in the relationship, that doesn't make for exciting, interesting, or romantic storylines.
I had Abigail locked up in that mental hospital, and she was my best friend. So imagine what I'll do to my worst enemy.Gabi
The Chad/Stefan rivalry for the CEO-ship is also not interesting, so I'm glad we finally moved past that!
Chad and Stefan had the same argument over and over about who was the better man for the job, and it was nothing but irritating. I don't know why the board had the brilliant idea to force them to work together, but I'm glad it fell apart quickly.
Chad's decision to return home to his family rather than continue to work with Stefan surprised no one but Abigail (and maybe Kate, who hasn't had a chance to react yet.) Chad and Abby look like they're on the fast track to reuniting, so what other choice did Chad have?
Of course, that leaves Stefan free rein to butt heads with delusional Gabi.
Gabi is an amateur villainess who only got as far as she did with her plan against Abigail because she managed to manipulate Kate into helping her.
But now she has nothing on Kate and Kate is mostly not interested, so Stefan will quickly make mincemeat out of Gabi.
Meanwhile, all over Salem, a bunch of questionable hookups happened.
I'm not sure what to make out of Sarah and Xander. Sarah keeps calling it a drunk mistake, which is disturbing, but at least we saw it on screen so we know she wasn't incapacitated to the point of blacking out (or passing out)!
Anyway, there are no winners in this storyline.
Xander, on top of being evil, slept with Sarah in an attempt to escape Leo's advances.
Sarah slept with Xander at least in part because she was having a tantrum over Eric refusing to sleep with her just to get back at Rex.
And Rex has been stalking an uninterested Sarah and trying to force Eric to help him!
Plus Eric got all judgy and Sarah got all weepy and then snippy with Xander.
There is absolutely no one to root for in this mess, and I'm finding myself wishing they'd stop using Xander as a random sex object and send the rest of them to time-out to work this out among themselves!
And what the heck is this nonsense with Hope/Ted/Kate?
I've never seen a triangle that involved a man and two women who despise him before.
Plus, if Hope dumped Aiden for being a basically decent lawyer who lied to her about the precise moment Stefano's doppleganger attacked him, there's no reason at all for her to be interested in the far sleazier Ted Laurent.
And despite her protestations, it's clear this is where this is going. Why else would she bother to tell him Rafe was out of town when Rafe was the perfect excuse for Ted to leave her alone?
Are the writers trying to make Hope even more unlikable by having her make a move on Ted to get revenge on Rafe for going to visit Sami or what?
Speaking of which, how come Eric is the only man in Salem who seems capable of saying no to sex he doesn't want?
I was cheering Tripp on when he talked about taking things slow -- until Claire didn't like that and they rushed to the bedroom.
I'm not necessarily against Claire and Tripp as a couple, despite Claire's manipulations not being a good start, but this rush to have sex has to go!
So what did you think, DAYS Fanatics?
Are you excited about the Mayoral race? Who do you want to win?
Is JJ attracted to Haley or is he still trying to replace Paige?
Do you care at all who ends up with Sarah?
Weigh in below, and 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.