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My name is jwsel and <small voice> I'm a Shayla fan.

Wait!  Don't stop reading!  Please hear me out and try to keep an open mind.

Okay, maybe "fan" is an overstatement, but let me explain.  I had stopped watching Days of Our Lives regularly before the infamous pairing of Shane and Kayla aka "Shayla."  However, I heard about it and, like most viewers, was appalled.  Kayla was Kim's sister.  How could Shane even consider a relationship with her?  And then, when I found out that the show had a Kim-Shane-Kayla triangle and Shane picked Kayla over Kim, well that couldn't be true -- could it?  The writers had just spent years hitting us over the head with the notion that Shane and Kim were soulmates who were destined to be together because their true love would overcome any obstacle.  (The show said the same about Kayla and her husband Steve.)  Yet that did not happen.  Shane rejected Kim for her sister.

Utterly horrid, I thought.  Nor was I the only one.  The Shayla storyline is still one of the most reviled storylines of all time.  Even today in the Days thread on Television Without Pity, anyone mentioning "Shayla" puts it in spoiler tags.  And, of course, citing the Shayla storyline, both Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and Charles Shaughnessy (Shane) wound up leaving the show.

When I began working on this story, I knew that I would have to address the Shane/Kayla relationship, The first significant discussion of it comes a few scenes from now, as Shane starts reflecting on his mistakes and regrets.  But before I could write those scenes, I had to figure out my own opinion of the storyline.  Was Shane just an awful jerk?  Or was there a reasonable way of looking at the Shane/Kayla relationship that could reconcile that history with the possibility that Shane and Kim could still reconcile.  After all, if Shane was so insensitive and cruelly pushed Kim aside, why would Kim ever want him again?

So I watched the video clips available online -- most of which were from the period of the Kim/Shane/Kayla triangle -- and read discussions about the relationship.  From that I came away with several preconceptions before I was able to view more of it.  Those were: (1) Shane began pursuing Kayla immediately after Steve died (more on Steve's death in a bit); (2) Shane used Kayla to get back at Kim because he was angry, was passive/aggressive toward her, and acted completely out-of-character; (3) Kayla turned into a mass of insecurity; (4) Kim was the victim of Shane's and Kayla's actions; (5) Shane and Kayla didn't really love each other, but were just using one another; (6) ultimately, Kayla got some of her own medicine when Shane cruelly rejected her; and (7) all of the above occurred because of terrible writing that made the characters act very out-of-character.

Addressing number 7 first, as someone who is trying to deal with 2010 Kim and Shane (and Kayla), I can't just say "the writing sucked, so let's ignore the pairing."  The writing did really suck at times, and there certainly was an effort to break up the supercouples of the 1980s in the early 1990s, but I can't simply dismiss nearly three years of the characters' lives when writing this fic.  Nope, I needed a different conclusion.

Therefore, I tried to find all of the online videos of Shane and Kayla from the time period.  Unfortunately, because of the hostility toward the pairing, very few videos were on YouTube.  In fact, videos from Shane and Kim fans would often have "Shayla warnings" or would declare that the "Shayla stuff" was edited out.  However, I did find a few here and there, and also in edits on a website devoted to Jack & Jennifer.  I also read the archived summaries that described the events of those years.

And that research began to raise some questions about the prevailing viewpoints.

For example, number 1 -- Shane began pursuing Kayla immediately after Steve died.  That's not really true.  While they certainly were paired together in storylines from the time of Steve's death, there originally was no romantic inkling.  Actually, the time-line goes like this:

August 13, 1990: Kim leaves Salem < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2QHzmcJGTk >
October 22, 1990: Steve dies
October 24, 1990: After Jencon thugs terrorize Kayla, she moves into Shane's house for protection
November 7, 1990-December 3, 1990: Shane, Kayla and other Salemites go to Alamainia
December 3, 1990: Shane signs the divorce papers, finalizing Kim's and Shane's divorce < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzR8m2IWVfI >
Early February 1990: Shane shows signs that he has feelings for Kayla
February 19, 1990: Shane and Kayla kiss for the first time, at the moment Kim returns to the Donovan Mansion in Salem
April 3, 1990: Shane tells Kayla he loves her; she says she is open to a possible relationship
November 19, 1990: Shane and Kayla make love for the first time

So there you have it.  Steve dies in October and Shane and Kayla don't even kiss until February, four months later.  They don't actually make love for another nine months, more than a year after Steve's death.  Remember we're talking soap opera time here.  A month in a soap opera is almost like a dog year -- every month for us equals a lot longer in soap time.  For comparison purposes, during the Shane's death/amnesia storyline in 1989, Shane "died" on August 16 and Kim slept with Cal on November 27, three months later.  I'm not using that to suggest that Kim is a slut.  I'm just pointing out that people on soap operas usually move on pretty quickly.  The Shane/Kayla relationship was the exact opposite; it moved at a snail's pace.  There was one preconception out the window.

But what about the others?  It was hard to really know based on the available videos, but then I got a huge gift.  A poster on the Sony board -- SteveandKaylaFan -- began helping me with this fic and then decided it would be easier to just post a bunch of Shane/Kayla clips on YouTube rather than continue to be bombarded by my questions about them.  I also got some DVDs with clips that were not online.  Now, with a relatively complete opportunity to see the relationship develop, I was able to frame my own opinions.  Trying to consider the relationship with an open mind, I actually found myself enjoying some aspects of the Shane/Kayla relationship and understanding how it came about, albeit not without hating other aspects of the storyline.

So here's my take on Shayla.

I'm going to start by focusing on two scenes that come of in the middle of the Shane/Kayla relationship, but which I believe cut to the core of the Shane/Kayla relationship.  Both occur when Shane and Kayla go to the mountains in search of Shane's daughter Eve -- who disappeared right before she was supposed to stand trial for murder -- and several other Salemites.  At this point, Shane had kissed Kayla on the night of Stephanie's first birthday party, only to have Kim walk in on them when she returned to Salem < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BGJRXXKbz0 >; Kayla moved out of Shane's home; and, generally, Kayla is very conflicted about the situation -- torn between her own feelings for Shane and hurting Kim (more on this later).  The scenes I am going to discuss introduce two of the major themes that dominate the Shane/Kayla relationship.

Grab A Little Happiness

The first of the two key scenes occurs during a lull in the search for Eve < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbh30T35hU8 >.  Shane tells Kayla he loves her for the first time and tries to get her to admit her feelings for him.  He then describes what happened after Kim left -- how he was so hurt by her leaving that he shut off his emotions because he thought they left him "weak" and "vulnerable."  I've discussed this aspect of Shane's character in some of the other background posts, but this is one of the only times that Shane himself admits this.  To me, this is an absolutely key Shane scene and one of the best summaries of the cold, emotionless Shane that comes out when he is hurt.  (Well before this scene, when Kayla, Shane and other Salemites go to Alamainia, it is hammered home in several scenes that Shane lacks emotion, including when Kayla and Jack criticize Shane's putting his case above people < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5Jl5EP8oN0 >, Kayla accuses Shane of having no feelings at all < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGxLdUSOktw > and, later, she argues with him about his being objective instead of acting on his feelings < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbDJb-aRIic at 3:24 >.  Interestingly, the only time that Shane does let his emotions show is in a brief exchange with Carly where he warns her not to hurt any of the Salemites, allowing her to respond that "there is a heart under that icy, British facade." < the last clip at 5:48* (That clip is edited to leave out the beginning of a scene where Carly tries to sneak into Lawrence's bedroom to find a hidden elevator.  Shane, who is already searching the room, grabs her and, thinking quickly, kisses her to convince Lawrence's henchmen that they are lovers trying to find some privacy.  If I can find the full clip, I'll post it in the comments below.)

Shane's admission about shutting off his emotions is not the only critical aspect of this scene.  After Shane explains that he has started to change back to someone who can accept emotion because of Kayla, they then discuss their future, with Shane responding to Kayla's hesitation by acknowledging that both of them have been "hurt very badly" and need time to recover. 

This leads to Kayla describing how, after Steve's death, she thought she'd never get over the pain, but over time, she found sometimes she could smile -- and usually those times were with Shane.  He then says he understands: "No matter how badly you've been hurt, it doesn't mean you can't be happy again." 

The "be happy" theme is next echoed in the second key scene I want to discuss, which takes place in the mountains after the rescue of the missing Salemites, but while Eve is in a coma.  In this scene, Kayla gives her own speech about their relationship < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYIB4lOJdnA >.  At one point, she describes how she imagines Steve telling her to "grab as much happiness as you can."  When she discounts that as silly, Shane tells her it's not.

This theme is echoed in other scenes.   For instance, Kayla argues with her father, Shawn, in this scene < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxALCofuwR8 >.  He argues that if Kayla steps aside, it will allow Shane to get back together with Kimberly and they can "be happy again."  Kayla responds by asking, "Don't I deserve a little happiness?"  There is another scene, not online, between Kayla and her mother, where she describes her relationship with Shane as a way she found some happiness after Steve died.  And it comes up over and over.

Equally important is how that theme plays into the very last scene between Shane and Kayla, which takes place just before she leaves Salem.  I'll go more into detail about their break-up, but it takes place after Shane has been paralyzed in an explosion.  Kayla returns a ring that Shane gave her (which also will be discussed below) and they share a heartfelt goodbye in which they both urge the other to "be happy" in life before they end with a farewell kiss < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy0RLRHeVQ8 >.  (This an exceptionally well-acted scene from both Mary Beth Evans and Charles Shaughnessy, and I urge readers to watch this scene even if they watch none of the other linked scenes.  It will be referenced in the upcoming scene in the story.)

In sum, "grab a little happiness" is a dominant theme in the Shane/Kayla relationship.  They are two very wounded people, hurt by the loss of their true loves, who are just trying to find some happiness with one another.  It is likely that the relationship is doomed to fail, but they will do what they can to be happy.

Accepting Less Than True Love

The second of the key scenes I linked above < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYIB4lOJdnA > also raises another issue that I think is fundamental to the Shane/Kayla relationship.  Kayla begins talking about Steve and then acts embarrassed about doing that in front of Shane.  But he is not critical.  Instead, he tells her that he knows she will always love Steve and, just as importantly, he is not trying to compete with Steve.  In other words, he accepts that he will never be her true love, but will be there if she is willing to settle for his lesser love.

Now it is easy to understand Kayla's situation because Steve had "died" (he would not reappear for 16 years), but what about Shane settling when he could have sought to get back together with Kim?  I think it is unstated, but equally true, that Kayla will not compete with Kim in Shane's heart.  That also means that Shane, who has shut off his emotions for so many months, can get away with opening up less of himself to Kayla than he did with Kim.  And that provides some protection from the type of emotional pain he experienced when Kim walked out on him.  If there is any doubt about that pain, Shane tells Kim that he never experienced pain like he did the day she left and never thought he would get over it <
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTJ1KR2mH7Q >.  (In that exchange, Shane also reiterates the happiness theme, saying that he knew, until he was able to let go of Kim, he could never be happy and would continue to feel that pain.)

This is a very important step in the relationship and one of the reasons why I think Shane and Kayla gravitated toward each other.  Both had been with their true loves for many years, only to lose them in extremely painful ways.  This shared experience allows them to come together, recognizing that what they might have will never be what they had with their true loves.  Also, implicit is that if the relationship ends, the pain will not be as great.  In effect, they are settling for less than true love, but for some happiness together.

I also find it hard to imagine either of them finding such a relationship with anyone else.  Most lovers would struggle with having to compete with a ghost or ex.  As Kayla states, one of her great fears about another relationship is that she will feel compelled to stop loving Steve as a condition of the relationship.  That is something she will never be able to do, and it is probably only someone else who has lost their soulmate that would understand her need to continue loving Steve.  And Shane fits that bill.

Next up:  Part 2: How Shayla Began and Kim's Reaction


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
I had to blow dust off this ancient account... I'm on the same page as much of this. (I've joked in the past about being part of the Shayla Rehabilitation Committee, lol.) The observation that "This shared experience allows them to come together, recognizing that what they might have will never be what they had with their true loves," is what has made me wonder if they ever met up again during the years that both were off canvas, while Kim was married to Philip and Kayla was supposedly being a nun. Looking forward to reading the next parts and watching the clips, and seeing if that makes any sense in the context of your take on the whole thing.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
Thank you, Iska.

I really hope you raise this point again after I post the Kayla scene, because I will feel more comfortable discussing it then. I don't want to say too much about my thoughts on the post-Salem period, because some of that -- not just Kayla -- is going to be the subject of a series of "Shane reflects on his life and regrets" scenes that I intend to post. Kayla is the subject of the first, his daughters are the subject of the second, and the third, which I have yet to write, will focus on Kim.

The Kayla scene will be posted on Saturday. (I have one more intervening scene before that one.)

I do hope that people who hate the Shayla storyline join in the discussion. I am very open to hearing opposing viewpoints.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 12:02 pm (UTC)
Great article-
Thought I would share a shayla vid with you

Dec. 3rd, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I've viewed that clip a few times and laughed myself silly watching it.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
Love the essay and can't wait for the rest. You've captured several things that I've always felt about the Shayla storyline - namely that it can be reconciled with the Shane/Kim and Steve/Kayla relationships in a way that doesn't "ruin" any of the characters.

I think it's way too easy (if tempting sometimes) to chalk it up as bad writing and pretend it "never happened." It did happen and does inform the characters in different ways - some good, some not so good but very human. Messy and complicated is the essence of good soap drama and this was full of both. You have three people, all wounded in their own ways, and all trying to figure out where to go when their worlds fall apart. And, for me, you ultimately have three people doing the best they can, making mistakes along the way, but never with evil or hurtful intentions.

I don't know, call me crazy, but there is a lot to like about digging through all that messiness.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 08:43 pm (UTC)
I think your statement that the situation is "very human" is a perfect summation. For a soap opera, especially Days in the late-80s and early-90s, viewers would not accept characters settling for less than "true love." JoRoman and Bo were able to move onto other partners because their original true loves had died and they were able to find something akin to "true love" with their new partners, Isabella and Carly, respectively. Shane and Kayla couldn't work because Kim was still around and it was impossible for a member of a supercouple to "settle" for less than true love.

At the same time, it is very human for people who have been hurt to gravitate to one another and it is equally human for someone who has been terribly hurt to do what they can to avoid being hurt in the future. That latter trait has always been part of Shane, going back to his first mention of Emma and how he avoided attachments after she died. Therefore, I think it is consistent with his character that he would have been afraid of opening himself to another relationship with Kim after she left him twice (in 1988 and 1992). Kayla offered a safer, though less fulfilling relationship. I will add that this side of Shane will be addressed a lot more in the story, and already was criticized by John, who called Shane a coward for purposefully avoiding true love.
Nov. 2nd, 2011 04:41 pm (UTC)
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