For me, the fun thing about watching a soap opera is seeing people live emotionally charged lives that are close enough to realistic that I can relate to them.
Sure, the main characters are glamorous, act out emotions that most of us try to keep under control, and always have enough money no matter how little they work.
They love hard, get into amazing adventures, and spectacularly self-destruct.
Yet it all seems like something that could happen.
Days of Our Lives has been missing the mark in that regard lately, with stories that are way over the top and which don't really make sense. This crazy murder mystery, Tripp's plot against Kayla, and generally incompetent cops are hard to relate to.
However, during the week of July 9, there was just a little bit of realism mixed in with the nonsense, giving me some hope that things may improve after all.
The most realistic storyline this week involved Theo and Claire and their break-up.
I hate the fact that this break-up began because of Jade secretly taping Theo and Claire having sex. Jade is now leaving town on her own terms and she's never even been asked to pay for what she did, as if taping people having sex without their consent is nothing more than a prank.
Leaving that aside, though, the post breakup scenes are far closer to what I like to see from a soap than most of the rest of what's going on.
I really enjoyed seeing Claire struggle to work at a local restaurant in addition to seeing her reluctance to talk to Theo at all, never mind while she was trying to salvage a bad first day at work. This is a much better storyline for these two teens than any of the previous teen storylines, which all involved rape and murder!
Claire's boss was a stereotypical annoying boss, but most young people have to deal with one of those sooner or later so I didn't mind that. I did think that she and Claire were equally unprofessional.
Claire shouldn't take selfies while on the job or call her boss names while talking to customers, and her boss shouldn't yell at her in front of those customers.
I could have done without Hope and Rafe having lunch together, but if we had to have them I guess Rafe insisting that Claire deal with her problems herself was somewhat of a positive, although Hope surely should know this.
What happened to the Hope who believed in tough love and accountability that used to counsel Nick and didn't let JJ get away with using her for shelter when he ran away from Jennifer in order to manipulate her?
Claire and Theo's awkwardness at home and Claire's realization that Theo had landed a great job while she had to continue to put up with what seemed to her to be a horrible one was also realistic and well done.
Things are going to be hard for these two until one of them moves out, and it was clear that there's still love there that nobody wants to act on because they're both too angry.
Honorable mention goes to the dinner scenes between Kayla, Valerie, Kate, and Marlena. Friendships and scenes where people just hang out and have fun have been sorely lacking on this show, and I really enjoyed seeing these four women support one another.
Kayla even got to take a break from worrying about her job for a few minutes, which was nice. It was unrealistic that she and Valerie were sober enough to help out with the "medical emergency" in the kitchen, but other than that these scenes worked as comic relief and a break from all the tension.
Kayla: Who would fix it so one of my patients dies? I don't have any enemies.
Steve: That you know of. Listen, do you mind if I do a little investigating?
Kayla: Do I get the family discount?
Steve: You get the Sweetness discount.
Too bad Kayla's main storyline isn't as well-done or realistic as her night out was.
I like the idea of Steve helping Kayla investigate who is setting her up now that her license has been suspended, and the scenes between them were cute.
But there is so much that is contrived and silly in this storyline that it's really distracting.
First of all, Tripp shouldn't have had access to Kayla's iPad to change dosages on patients' medications in the first place.
It's just ridiculous that the nurses' station was conveniently empty every time he did it, and even more ridiculous that he's allowed to wander freely around emplyoee-only areas of the hospital when he doesn't work there.
His motives are also dubious and really don't do anything but ruin his character.
It really doesn't make sense that he is so loyal to this mother he never met who he has not heard a single good thing about that he would try to punish Kayla because he thinks she killed her. Plus, patients could have died because of his pranks, and he doesn't seem to have much, if any, concern over that.
He also grabbed Jade by the shoulders and was generally violent towards her when she said she was leaving town, then forced a kiss on her.
Tripp is becoming yet another mindlessly violent man who treats women any way he wants, and there is nothing attractive about that.
I tell you, the doctor who hasn't made a single mistake in years suddenly makes the same mistake three times. I have to think that doctor's being set up.Steve
It should be obvious to people other than Steve that something fishy is going on, too. And if Kayla is to be suspended pending an investigation into what's really happening, that suspension should have occurred in private, not in the hallway where patients could hear.
A few years ago, Kayla had to suspend Daniel for a similar reason when Liam drugged him in a bizarre attempt to win back Jennifer, only she talked to him in private, not at the nurses' station! This story would be more compelling if some attention were paid to privacy and if it wasn't more or less a rerun of that one.
It's a shame, because there are some bright spots in this silly storyline.
One, of course, is Steve and Kayla's relationship, which is always fun to watch. These two are the only real supercouple left on a show that is seriously lacking in romance and it's fun to watch them bounce off one another and support each other.
The other is the red herring of Nurse Shelly. This nurse resents all doctors and thinks Kayla should have stayed a nurse instead of (in her mind) rising above her station.
This is a more interesting motivation for this whole thing than Tripp's bizarre revenge plot, and if Nurse Shelly had turned out to be the villain it would give me hope that the era of extreme misogyny on this show was on its way out.
In recent times, there have been too many characters with this nurse's negative attitudes towards women who have been depicted as heroes, so having her be punished for acting on those attitudes would have made me feel a lot better.
But at least Steve suspects her because of her clear resentment of Kayla's status, so I guess that's something.
The Abby/Dario storyline looks like it's turning into a domestic violence story, with Dario's controlling behavior escalating quickly now that he and Abby are married. He was pretty creepy in the scene where he encouraged Abby to quit her job, which is a gigantic red flag that he intends to become abusive towards her.
Spinning this silly fake marriage story in this direction would be effective if Abby hadn't already suffered much, much worse at the hands of psycho Ben a few years ago.
After the abuse Abby already suffered, which was supposedly bad enough to give her PTSD (despite the poor depiction of that illness on screen), she should have been very wary of Dario from the beginning.
Instead, Abby obliviously and naively assumed Dario was a good friend who was just in a jam because of a technicality and decided to help him out with this sham marriage five minutes after divorcing Chad.
There is no way that someone with the experiences and problems Abigail has had would be so trusting and not realize until after she's trapped in this loveless marriage that her new husband is a serious criminal.
The scenes in which Abby spied on Dario and then called Andre had a Hitchcock vibe to them, but they were completely unbelievable because of her history.
In addition, someone like Dario who wants to possess Abigail and who has been nothing but a criminal for years should be a little more suspicious of the fact that his new wife keeps disappearing and that when she's home she constantly questions him about his finances and how well his business is doing.
The biggest story -- and incidentally the most unrealistic -- continued to be this ridiculous murder mystery and some side fallout from it.
Nicole: Eric and I, um... I just remembered this today.
Brady: Just. tell. me.
Nicole: He and I, we kissed.
Brady: Okay, you kissed.
Nicole: We had a good reason for it.
Brady: There's always a good reason for it. That's why people kiss.
Nicole: Brady, I swear... I swear to you I love you so much and it doesn't -
Brady: No, don't. Don't. Get your... get your hands off me.
Nicole and Eric remembered that they kissed at the party, and Brady threw a little bit of a fit when they told him before calming down and forgiving Nicole.
It's nice that he calmed down, but there was nothing to forgive. Nicole and Eric were drugged against their will. This was no more consensual than Kristen's rape of Eric. It's also so similar to Lani's rape of JJ, which he has been endlessly shamed for, that Brady's attack on Nicole made me sick.
The writers seem to have this obsession with people being berated for "cheating" when they have non-consensual sexual encounters. Even though Brady eventually calmed down and apologized, the fact that he granted Nicole forgiveness for something she had no control over is still problematic.
Nicole and Eric were hallucinating because of the drug and Nicole thought she was kissing Daniel's ghost. Regardless of what viewers think of Nicole's feelings for Daniel, it's clear that she did not intend to kiss Eric, nor was she aware at the moment it happened that that's what she was doing.
Unlike the JJ/Lani situation, both people were incapacitated by a drug here, so there was no sexual assault. But Brady's behavior was insulting to Eric, who was raped in the past, as well as yet another example of a man berating Nicole for no good reason while she begged for forgiveness she shouldn't have to get.
That whole thing also demonstrates why prosecuting anyone at the party for Deimos' murder is ridiculous. Everyone was hallucinating and doing things they can't remember doing and had no control over. Not that it matters, but no one took that drug on purpose, either.
So the DA should be throwing the case out, not agreeing to prosecute on the flimsiest of evidence.
This week, JJ was finally released from jail, which meant that he wasn't confined to investigating the case from the interrogation room at the police station. Commissioner Raines was forced to let him go when he didn't want to because Sonny confessed to the murder and a waiter claimed to have seen him standing over the body.
There was no real evidence against either Sonny or JJ, but Raines immediately took Sonny into custody and warned JJ not to leave town and not to assist in finding the real murderer, since he still thinks he killed Deimos.
Raines' vendetta against JJ is silly and senseless, and Lani had a good point for once when she told Hope that Raines stopped investigating once he decided JJ did it. I was also glad that JJ acted true to character and refused to listen to nonsensical instructions about staying away from the case.
Instead, he joined all the other murder suspects who were working the case.
Lani found a hotel key from the Salem Inn that belonged to a man named Sam Reynolds that no one can identify. It sounded like Sam Reynolds was Deimos, but then it turned out the mystery man had a pornographic magazine that Xander had had when he was captured in Greece.
This was as silly as any of the other non-evidence in this case. But it was almost worth it to see Hope and Rafe digging through trash in the dumpster behind the Martin House.
Rafe spent the entire time whining that this isn't what he became a cop for. I thought it was karma. After all, he had no problem digging through trash to throw over Stefano's body.
He seems to want JJ to be guilty so that he can feel like Hope isn't the only dirty cop in town. Apparently he's forgotten how he gently questioned JJ after JJ found Paige's body and reassured him that he knew he was not capable of murder.
Equally annoying was Hope assuming that JJ had plans to beat up the hotel manager because he said he wasn't calling it a night after the dumpster dive accomplished nothing.
JJ said or did nothing to indicate he was planning on being violent towards anyone, and other than when he had a nervous breakdown and smashed a window he has never indiscriminately beat people up. That's more Rafe's MO than his, and I wish he'd called Hope out on projecting her fears about her fiance onto him.
Rafe didn't help either with his pronouncement that JJ was selfish and wanted to get Hope and Lani in trouble because he was willing to risk his own career to prove his cousin was innocent.
These kinds of stupid opinions of JJ were bad enough when Paige's teenage friends held them. Rafe and Hope, who have done far worse things than JJ has ever done, have no business expressing them.
Similarly, I was annoyed that Sonny got the big, dramatic arrest and JJ got nothing.
When JJ was arrested it didn't even seem like an arrest. He was never cuffed or put into a cell and just seemed to be working the case from the interrogation room. Jennifer came to see him a couple of times, but for the most part the focus in the Deveraux household was on Abby marrying Dario.
Sonny, however, was cuffed because "it's procedure" and we got to see a montage of him being fingerprinted, forced to turn over his possessions, and getting his mug shot taken. During his arrest, his mom was by his side and was crying hysterically and afterwards he broke down and cried in Paul's arms.
By making these choices, the writers once again demonstrated how unimportant JJ is to them as a character. They paid lip service to giving him a storyline, but his arrest was just filler until they could get Sonny to the center of this story.
JJ isn't even trying to prove his own innocence. He's only trying to prove Sonny's.
Meanwhile, Gabi lost interest in whether or not JJ was free once she returned to Chad's arms, though she loudly proclaimed she and JJ were just friends, while Lani acted super concerned about JJ, which I didn't buy at all because she's never once demonstrated love towards him.
What did you think of this week's Days of Our Lives? Which storylines are holding your attention, and which ones can you do without?
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Jack Ori is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.