MORE LIKE ISOSCELES
SOAP OPERA DIGEST readers voted ONE LIFE TO LIVE’S Natalie/John/Evangeline the best triangle of 2004. Their fan bases reverberate this honor with often dishonorable intentions. And still, I’m not quite enamored.
An isosceles is an unfair triangle, two sides are equal but the third can be longer or shorter, depending. That about describes ONE LIFE TO LIVE’S Jolie vs. JoVan in my book.
I don’t side with one or the other. I can’t. I’m still hung up on each couple’s faulty bumps along the way.
With John and Natalie, they had their chance and, based on a flimsy excuse – John’s murdered fiancée Caitlin – blew it, blew it because of Kathryn, Caitlin’s surviving sister, that pouty Fed gone corrupt. Within seconds of rejecting Natalie, a rejection the fiery redhead endured time and time again before, John turns around and jams his tongue down Kathryn’s throat. Without any prelude or conclusion, save for those pouty smoldering glances, John’s suddenly into Kathryn?
Maybe I could do the writers’ jobs for them by assuming that damaged goods John feels freer to be physical with the sister of his dead fiancée, someone he cares about but cares little to pursue a relationship with, less hassle, no strings. Maybe John and Kathryn even had a fling behind Caitlin’s back, John being John, he won’t ever mention it to anyone, it’s his personal business, mouth shut.
But then, John turns around and does the same thing with Evangeline, the kiss turns into a romp in a locked basement, and next thing I know, the cop and the lawyer for the people are committed in a relationship fraught with emotional blackmail (her) and passive-aggressive silence (him).
Poor Natalie mentioned this anomaly to John once, in a tipsy declaration of her own unrequited love, before tipping into Rodi’s Bar, but more as an apology, a desperate plea to him to please return her feelings, any scraps appreciated.
Again, I could assume the writers’ unwritten intent, call this merely John’s all-consuming guilt over causing Cristian to be kidnapped and presumed murdered, only to resurface as a faux-Cris brainwashed by an unknown somebody in the shadows to kill loved ones, only to be the real Cris after all but John’s sworn to secrecy by Cris. Too much baggage, John can’t risk hurting Natalie after all he feels he’s already done to her, and with him feeling guilty about himself and Caitlin, the damage would be too extreme. So might as well start with a clean slate, with some other woman whom he doesn’t feel so indebted to, Evangeline.
Evangeline is a tougher nut to crack. She strings R.J. along, waiting for an opportunity to drop him, subconsciously. I guess, I don’t know, the writers never explore this, or why she suddenly plants a wet one on John, a perfect stranger in the middle of the Palace Grill, or why she later lets this perfect stranger rip her clothes off in the heat of a locked basement to have his way with her.
The driven, ambitious perfectionist is drawn to dangerous, intense men, it’s clear. R.J. fits the bill, until he pushes too hard into her world, because it’s also clear that Evangeline is as private and standoffish with her personal info as John. Much of Evangeline’s aversion to letting R.J. in has to be pure conjecture, as her character has not benefited from motivation in the same way as John.
The aversion to being pushed subconsciously pushes Evangeline into a willing stranger’s arms, and it doesn’t take much for her to cut ties with R.J. on any flimsy excuse like, You mistrusted me, had me followed, it’s over, (even though, she earned that distrust with the first stray kiss), now I’m free to rationalize my cheating and move on.
The actors in this isosceles don’t even seem like they know what’s going on with their own characters either. They’ve gone on record in admitting that as it stands now, the lengthy pause and the wishy-washy characterization, primarily John’s, need help immediately. Michael Easton (John), who doesn’t normally do press, did press in the April 12th issue of SOAP OPERA DIGEST with his co-stars, Melissa Archer (Natalie) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Evangeline) to clear the air with fans, give notice to the handful of extremist fanatics and generally reassure all fans that they get along off-screen and are as committed as ever to portraying this triangle with respect and realism.
Easton said they all have gone to THE POWERS THAT BE (TPTB) to ask that their love story move along. He wishes too that his own character not appear so “fickle.”
Archer thinks the story can move forward without John picking Natalie or Evangeline right off. It’s about raising “the stakes. We just want to see that because it would be more exciting … and give something new. … we want more because the fans want more.”
Currently there’s a rumor out there that Archer will soon leave the role of Natalie, only to be replaced. If the inexplicable happens, forget about raising the stakes, because it’ll be all over.
Even the attacks mean victory for TPTB trying to find gold in a dead pan. For OLTL, that’s practically a miracle.
Both Easton and Archer, interestingly enough, have separately told the soap press that their characters were and are friends, and often, friends never consummate that curiosity, so it still burns.
The problem is, they’ve never been able to explain WHY to my satisfaction. My guess is, they don’t know, just as they don’t know why this story of theirs has attracted so much fan-based attention and fan-based wars online, just as the writers don’t know anything beyond the next plot device they cook up at the last minute to tack on to the end and think up the consequences – explanation, please – later, or not.
The fans, of both sides, share the same beefs I do, and then some. Every day, they light up the message boards, cramming and jamming and wasting space with their rooting values, often at the rival female character’s expense. Very rarely will I see a consolidated thread generated based on the man, John McBain, his actions, his behavior, his pluses and losses. Usually, there’s one raving about their girl Nat, then the next one’s doing basically the same cheerleading for Vangie. As with any popular couple and triangle, there are also nasty nicknames lobbied about and personal accusations of bias. In this case, literally. Anybody who says a bad word against Vangie must be a racist (overlooking the R.J. factor). And anybody ragging on Nat is a money snob, or reverse-racist.
Anything to obscure the real misfires, the plot holes, the stalling tactics, the stupid uncasting moves (if Archer’s truly out), the lack of relationship(s) development to heighten investment.
It’s gotten so ugly that Easton went public in the first place – at first on his website then SOD – to set the record straight and defend his co-stars’ honor. They all get along, respect, love, a few bad apples shouldn’t have to spoil the bunch. Goldsberry hasn’t received any nasty feedback against her on-screen rival, Archer, and vice versa. If Goldsberry ever did, she’d probably set the fan straight. It’s okay to go after us, character-wise, but don’t attack us personally, any of us, she added.
Even the attacks mean victory for TPTB trying to find gold in a dead pan. For OLTL, that’s practically a miracle. For ABC Daytime, fond of publicizing pre-manufactured couples before they even air, it should be a wake-up call. “None of it was planned. It comes kind of organically,” Easton told SOD’s Mike Bruno in the “Three’s Company” interview. “Daytime has this terrible habit of shoving ‘the next supercouple’ down fans’ throats. They don’t like that. I think they want to see people together. And then they might decide, ‘We want to see more of these people together.’ You can’t fool them. They’re smart.”
If TPTB aren’t smart, they’ll stack the odds in Natalie’s favor, as they are doing now – unbeknownst to the actors involved.
Goldsberry, as Evangeline, firmly believes her character has nothing to fear from Natalie, that her on-screen relationship with John is solid, able to withstand a third party. Yet, on-screen, jealousy is all I see emanating from Evangeline, every time Natalie is inserted into the picture, clearly enjoying a similar down-home, tough Jersey background with John, and a palpable physical chemistry only teasingly glimpsed at in their one or two early bedroom scenes.
No other scene heightens this than last week’s before Nora’s ill-advised wedding to Daniel. Natalie, who barely knows Nora outside of professional means, attends with John, who doesn’t even want to be there locked up in a suit and tie, as Evangeline’s latest boy toy trophy. But they’re there, together, outside Nora’s house as smug outsiders for a reason, to prove a point: They belong together and Evangeline, with her high and mighty, fancy tea party demands, is in the way.
Before any reader jumps down my throat for siding with Natalie (and thus, rendering me as nothing but a racist), I never said I bought the outsider picture.
John and Natalie were a little too forced in their casual sharing of the down and out Boardwalk life. There’s a vibe, often intuitive, between two people who come from similar backgrounds. It’s either there or it ain’t and no actor, big or small, can fake it well. Natalie’s Melissa Archer faked hers, she’s from Texas IRL originally and it shows. No way did I ever believe she understood the ecstatic pleasure of cheesesteaks (ain’t that Philly, not Jersey?). John’s Michael Easton pulled off his East Coast slightly better, but I still couldn’t help but see him tossing back a burger off the streets of L.A.
Every time I run into anybody on- or offline who shares any part of my growing years, as an Army brat on Ft. Dix (“You live on Dix?” Bwahahahaha, that’s right), as a Hawaii ex-patriot, as an IBS-D sufferer, as a stay-at-home mom, there’s just this mind meld, we don’t have to show off or go into details or prove anything to ourselves. We talk in shorthand, key clubhouse words that open up a floodgate of memories, a knowing look, endless laughter.
It’s not there.
As much as Easton singles out his triangle storyline as off the radar of TPTB’s supercouple manufacture, to me, it stinks of it.
The only difference being, TPTB lucked and locked onto a good thing as it accidentally happened before their very eyes. And now, they’re doing everything they can to capitalize on it.
But they’re turning a triangle into an isosceles, made of rotting paper.