I have mixed feelings about the death of Lani's baby.
The loss of a child is one of the saddest soap stories there is, and many of the scenes surrounding the premature birth and death of this child on Days of Our Lives during the week of 6-18-18 were heartbreaking.
At the same time, it felt like a ploy to get viewers to be sympathetic towards Lani and root for her and JJ to get back together when the show has not done anything to make her or this relationship rootable.
Was I the only one who felt like I'd be even more invested if it was a character I cared about?
When Lani just happened to go into labor five seconds after asking JJ to get back together, I was suspicious.
DAYS isn't often subtle about what it is planning, especially when it comes to relationship drama. JJ had just said that the reason he couldn't reconcile with Lani is that he didn't want to watch her raise a baby with another man that he once thought was his.
So it was clear to me that the trajectory of this story was going to be pregnancy, miscarriage, reconciliation in the throes of grief. And that was not something I wanted to see.
The lead-up to the death of the baby was extraordinarily well done despite how obvious it was where this was going.
One by one, the Hortons arrived to support Eli and offer congratulations, expecting that he would soon be the father of a baby that would need to spend time in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit but would be alive.
Julie did her usual busybody act, demanding to know whether Eli and Lani were going to live together once the baby was born, and for some inexplicable reason, Abe suddenly became paranoid that Eli was going to abandon Lani and the baby once it was no longer inside of her.
I thought it was bizarre that Jennifer and her whole lunch party felt a need to join JJ at the hospital. Lani is no longer dating JJ, and while Eli is a Horton, he rarely interacts with anyone other than Valerie, Abe, or Julie.
Surprisingly, Jennifer not only understood that he might not want everyone there but also gave JJ the space to make his own decision about whether or not he would leave because of Eli's clear jealousy of the role he was playing in taking care of things.
Is this the same woman who threw a giant-sized tantrum about her adult son daring to let a woman share his apartment that she didn't particularly like?
I prefer the sane version of Jennifer, but could the writers please pick one instead of bouncing her back and forth between reasonable and overbearing depending on the story?
Anyway, for once a medical storyline was treated realistically, other than Valerie assisting in her daughter-in-law's emergency surgery. And when Kayla came out to deliver the sad news that the baby didn't make it, it broke my heart.
No one has even told Lani yet. She doesn't even know that our baby's gone.Eli
Afterward, JJ blamed himself for Lani's premature labor and the baby's subsequent death, while her immediate family struggled with the question of who should tell her that her baby was gone.
I knew JJ would find a way to make himself responsible.
That's what JJ does, and he hasn't had any proper therapy, so he is still engaging in the same negative thought patterns that drove him towards suicide after he shot Theo.
It was still upsetting to hear him castigate himself yet again for something that was not his fault, and I was surprised by Theresa's empathy for him.
So far, Theresa has mainly been the selfish, scheming Theresa of 2013, with very few signs that the redeemed Theresa who left Salem in 2016 still exists.
This feels like more manipulation on the part of the writers. Theresa is kind and sweet when around JJ and evil when she's around Brady -- I wonder who we're supposed to root for her to be with here?
That issue is overshadowed by the fact that DAYS still has done nothing to suggest that JJ and Lani were ever anything but a woman taking advantage of a too-drunk-to-consent man and then manipulating her way into a relationship.
While Lani was unconscious during her surgery, viewers were treated to endless fantasies of her and JJ having a happy life together and Eli being viewed as a villain by his overly attentive grandma Julie. Like that would ever happen!
That did little to convince me that she was in love with JJ, though it did show she was delusional and still wished she could find the right trick to manipulate him into taking her back.
And then JJ went on and on about how he didn't know how Lani was going to survive knowing she lost her baby, and his sympathy was clearly supposed to suggest he was still in love with her.
The problem is, it just showed that JJ was too good for her and that the writers stole a story meant for JJ and Paige and gave it to Lani several years after killing Paige off for no reason.
Meanwhile, Eli and Lani were both devastated over the baby's death, but up to this point there have been very few scenes of them together at all, and Eli told Julie that Lani had kept him at arm's length and wouldn't even discuss custody or financial arrangements with him.
We didn't see many scenes of him trying and her rebuffing him, either.
This, too, detracted from the power of these scenes because instead of a story about Eli looking forward to fatherhood and Lani trying to cut him out, other than one token scene a while ago, we got no story at all and were just told about it.
Meanwhile, Ciara's disappearance seems to be a vehicle to get the only couple who is less popular than JJ and Lani back together.
This Ben/Ciara story is making less and less sense every time it airs. Ciara distrusts Ben and thinks he is eventually going to kill her, yet she refused to let her family know she was alive until he insisted on it and then told Hope that she didn't want to come home and didn't want her to know where she was.
I know Ciara is feeling low because of the after-effects of her rape, but this story went from an interesting, somewhat realistic story about a young woman dealing with sexual assault to absolute nonsense.
I have to wonder if Ciara suffered some sort of brain injury in her accident because her behavior makes no sense whatsoever.
I understand her feeling like she doesn't want to face Tripp and Claire, but there's no reason for her to think that her mom -- who has been super supportive of her struggle -- doesn't care about her or her fate.
And even if she did think that, why would she rather be holed up in the middle of nowhere with a stranger that she thinks may be trying to kill her?
Ciara's behavior makes her look both erratic and selfish and is a rehash of JJ running away to live in the park several years ago, minus character motivations that make any sense.
Her scenes with Ben are reminiscent of Criminal Minds, if not Stephen King's Misery, and her apparent attraction to Ben makes Melissa Horton's obsession with gang member Pete Jannings in the 1980s look like a match made in heaven!
But I guess it doesn't have to make sense since Ciara's story is beside the point and the real purpose is to get Hope and Rafe back together.
The aftermath of Hope and Rafe's break-up has made as little sense as their relationship. Hope randomly chose to cancel the annulment of her marriage even though she wasn't sure she wanted to be with Rafe. Staying married to someone while she decides whether she wants even to date him seems logical to her.
Anyway, once Ciara disappeared, there were a ton of scenes of Rafe comforting, supporting, and encouraging Hope, and they held hands and hugged several times.
Granted, Rafe telling Hope she's the strongest woman he knows and admitting he doesn't have the right to tell her what to do is far less obnoxious than how he treated her when they were actually dating, but that doesn't make this couple anything approaching rootable!
There's still zero chemistry, and a ton of obnoxious scenes, plus the whole thing is still a giant smear campaign against the characters of Aiden and his son, who were both twisted all out of shape and turned into villains just to clear the way for Rafe and Hope to couple up.
Maggie: Go give Mommy a hug.
Ari: No, Mommy. I hate you.
I was relieved that Gabi is finally home from prison, though her story was wrapped up neatly through dialogue and was hard to believe even for this show.
Apparently, another inmate hated Dianne so much that she disabled the security cameras when she found out that Dianne had choked Gabi to the point that she passed out, just to frame her for her own murder of Dianne. Then the woman was so proud of what she'd done that she told on herself and was forced to confess.
This violent inmate had the forethought to plan out a crime of opportunity, complete with hacking into technology to frame Gabi but not to keep her mouth shut to get away with it.
Anyway, Gabi's homecoming resulted in little Ari telling her that she hated her and refusing to stay in the room, after which Gabi decided the thing to do was go storm off to confront Stefan after blaming Abby for her rape.
So all this sympathy was built up for poor victim Gabi for what? So that she can become completely unlikeable the second, she finally comes home and commits atrocities of her own that will likely land her right back in jail?
It's a shame because a story about Ari dealing with her mom having been falsely imprisoned could have been interesting, but clearly, Gabi's plight was nothing more than a plot point to help transition her into an evil character.
Meanwhile, far more fans want Gabi with JJ than want to see him reunite with his rapist, yet the show kept these two apart in favor of endless scenes of Gabi and Chad while working on finding a reason for JJ to take Lani back.
One of the biggest disappointments was Chad choosing to listen to Kate and keep it secret that she's behind Leo's lies about Sonny.
I don't understand what the writers' obsession is with best friends betraying one another, but I don't like it.
Chad has long been judged for his Dimera name even though he's the one Dimera that plays by the rules, so seeing him decide he needs to be just like Stefano is frustrating.
Chad: Maybe I should have done more. Maybe I should have got rid of him [Ben] altogether. That's what my father would have done.
Sonny: You're not your father. And thank God for that.
Besides, it seems like a set-up for Chad and Gabi to be the new evil couple in town, and I don't want to see that.
It's bad enough that Steve and Kayla are getting destroyed by this nonsense with Kayla doing Stefan's bidding and not telling Steve about it without Chad and Abigail again being sacrificed for the ridiculous pairing of Chad and Gabi.
And to complete the trifecta of character-ruining moments, Theresa filed for full custody of Tate just to get revenge on Brady and Eve.
Theresa's re-entry story should have fixed her awful exit, not ruined her character further.
She supposedly left to protect Brady and Tate, but now she is more than willing to use Tate as a pawn to get Brady to dump Eve.
To be fair, Brady is doing the same thing by trying to keep Tate from Theresa, and since the poor kid seems to spend all his time being babysat by other relatives, it hardly matters who has custody.
But still, this makes Theresa look even worse than before. How can this be the same woman who was so supportive of JJ earlier in the hour, never mind the woman who sacrificed everything to keep her family safe?
What do you think? Was the death of Lani's baby moving, irritating, or something in between the two? Does Ciara's story make any sense to anybody? Which character has fallen the furthest from grace in your mind?
Jack Ori is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.