Nothing gives me more of a tingle than a good man hiding beneath a cad. AMC lucked onto two, Zachery Slater and Jonathan Lavery. 

Confession: I could not keep my eyes off the TV screen whenever two of ALL MY CHILDREN’S most complex men came on, to twist the souls of Pine Valley’s shallowest of simpletons, from Maria and Ethan, to Ryan and Greenlee. 

You can have GENERAL HOSPITAL’S Sonny Corinthos, his darkening, child-like stares and maddening barware-smashing “Let it bleed,” I’ve found Zachery Slater and Jonathan Lavery to keep me company. 

Not since I nearly came all over myself reading the Victorian novel likes of Heathcliff, have I been this soulfully invested, this helplessly, girlishly enthralled. 

The crazy twist? Zach and Jonathan are two of Pine Valley’s most hated, reviled and misunderstood men. But then, they dwell in a small town peopled mostly by judgmental, ignorant, narrow-minded, superficial village idiots who fancy themselves oh-so clever, fashion forward and morality-conscious in strictly a two-dimensional universe. 

Last week, several of these village idiots sought answers, petulantly, impudently, clearly missing the meaning between the lines, the looks, the pauses and the clever phraseology. 

Zach faced off with Ryan, Greenlee and Maria over whether he really did commit three crimes against nature, trying to shoot Ryan dead, over-medicate Greeenlee insane and shovel Edmund into the ground. Ryan and Greenlee just came from confronting Jonathan, who admitted Braden had been their culprit, and needed Zach to persuade them otherwise. 

In the end, the face-off just became another lame attempt by Greenlee and Ryan to show off who could act more self-righteous, with cutting insults sounding more like high school punch lines, than any insights of depth. Zach wiped the floor with them none the wiser, just Greenlee huffing and puffing out the door and her puppy dog Ryan huffing and puffing after her, thinking they’d been messed with. They had, and they’d never see the scars. 

Maria had been after Zach (in more ways than one) to come clean with her about Edmund’s death in the tack room. In a series of confrontations, Zach made it painfully clear – at least to a non-village idiot like me, who aced her Victorian literature – that he was merely copping to a guilty verdict because she could not bring herself to believe in his word. On top of that, his own son Ethan continued to read his own self-interest into Zach’s selfless actions as a father determined to sacrifice his own happiness for the welfare of his child (the Cambias curse, remember). 

Those scenes pitted an artist (Zach’s Thorsten Kaye) against an amateur (Maria’s Eva LaRue). Toward the end of the week, LaRue almost held her own, forcing herself to explain why she needed closure with Zach, in order to provide the same for Edmund’s and her children, refusing to give in to pitiful tears. But not even that stalwart break could distract from her overwhelmingly cloying, screeching, whining and haranguing. The sign of a great actor is, you never see his emotions coming; it just happens, very little is required to spur on the tears from an emotional outburst. Unfortunately LaRue (and Brooke’s Julia Barr, btw) tends to make herself sound tearful before her character’s ready, which results in a fake, forced bit of waterworks. 

Not so with Kaye, who handled himself admirably, whether he hid his character’s hurt in the face of Ethan’s betrayal, lying about catching Zach pummeling Edmund with a shovel, or Maria’s. . . or laughed in the face of the judgments of several simpletons who wouldn’t know about true sacrifice and relational complexity if Jonathan practically mimed that he could be suffering from more than an abusive personality. 

Zachery, honey, you’re too noble
and decent for Maria.

The only other actor to match wits with Kaye’s Zach was none other than veteran soap actress Eileen Herlie, as Myrtle. She knew right off the bat of Zach’s innocence, because she knows to pay attention to what’s not always spelled out in black and white and trust her carnie instincts. Any other actor, other than Kaye, would’ve given the game away with an obviously shocked, moved expression, ever gratefully relieved. 

Myrtle and Zach, however, held their proverbial cards close, wit and parried, each none the wiser, but the better for having experienced just a touch of human understanding and compassion. She had no idea just why Zach would sacrifice his own freedom, but then Zach had no idea why she would go to the bother. 

Two scenes in particular stood out, showcasing Kaye’s intensity and intelligence as an actor who never accepts the easy, surface interpretation (that he’s turning in the complex with head writer Megan McTavish’s overly simplistic hand is amazing in and of itself). 

In the first, he’s behind bars in jail, fairly begging Maria with his mannerisms, face and body leaning forward, open to her attacks, desperately willing, and with what he omits in his declaration about doing Edmund in, his questioning of her motives in demanding his motives, and his summation, as if rehearsed in his mind as punishment, that Maria would rather hear that he killed her husband for reasons other than to get her in bed, to ease her own guilty conscious. Yet she is too wrapped up in the loss of Edmund, the effect his death will have on his loved ones, and her own selfish need to remain a saint – one of the biggest problems I’ve had with the character, from the beginning – to see any of it. 

I doubt she could see it anyway. It’s just not in her nature, a naturally self-centered, self-interested martyr who cannot be bothered with anybody else’s needs but her and her own, and this neurotically habitual need to cling blindly to a reputation of love that had long since died. 

So when Zach informs Maria later, my second favorite scene, in Derek’s interrogation room, that he’s finished (with her), after banging his fist on the table to emphasize his lie about Edmund (shivers!), I believe he also means his love. Perhaps he himself realizes amidst his personal dialogue – for Zach rarely if ever reveals himself outwardly – that he wasted his time on a woman that never existed, merely a pleasant shape, nothing more inside, the minute any conflict tests her soul, she bails, she abandons, she accuses, she hides.


The crazy twist? Zach and Jonathan are two of Pine Valley’s most hated, reviled and misunderstood men. But then, they dwell in a small town peopled mostly by judgmental, ignorant, narrow-minded, superficial village idiots who fancy themselves oh-so clever, fashion forward and morality-conscious in strictly a two-dimensional universe.


I am in love with Jonathan for very different reasons. Unlike Zach, Jonathan has little control over his actions. They might as well be two different men from two different planets. 

But both possess a complexity of spirit that intrigues me and yearns me in deeper. 

Admittedly, Jeff Branson’s debut as Ryan’s younger brother “Hockett” did nothing for me except waste my time. He seemed too goody-goody nice, a vice that would work in his favor when the character went vile, and that could work dramatic magic if TPTB do indeed turn him into a bonafide multiple personality. 

It took a few months, but Jonathan grew legs. He met and fell for Maggie in record time, and yet portrayers Branson and Elizabeth Hendrickson made it work in real time somehow, infusing tenderness, friendship, the missing pieces interlocked in the face of a cold, cruel, unfriendly world. Their moments together, oftentimes just sitting close on the couch, head on shoulder, spoke volumes about the fragility and strength of mere seconds of human connection. 

Then, Jonathan slapped Maggie – a brilliant move on TPTB’s part – introducing a whole other, adult level to an otherwise throwaway side story (the focus had been on Bianca and Babe). Despite their relationship quickly turning into an after-school special designed solely to expedite Eden Riegel’s (Bianca) and Hendrickson’s (Maggie) exits, while playing to their BAM fan base in a hint of lesbian bliss, Jonathan’s Branson shined. 

While the industry and fan buzz has Jonathan out the door not shortly thereafter, deeming his abusive slap and abusive threats too violent for redemption (I beg to differ, er, hello ONE LIFE TO LIVE’S Todd Manning and GH’s Luke Spencer), some of us are speculating that he, with Simone’s help and Braden’s reappearance, will rise above the ashes of his dysfunctional past and become the man Ryan promised he could be. 

Jonathan would benefit more from
a split personality story than say,
OLTL’s Jessica. 

Furthermore, all the signs last week point to Jonathan suffering from multiple personality disorder, perhaps splitting into an alter patterned after his oldest brother Braden. If this happens, and I’m 80 percent sure it will (McTavish seemed too coy about Braden’s return without actually coming right out and saying recast), there’s your redemption, with sugar on top. 

Best of all, it would mean Terri Ivens’ Simone stood half a chance at a romance of her own that constituted more than lap dances in drag and soft-porn booty calls. . . that would, in fact, utilize the actress’s multi talents, mixing pathos with comedy and an unfailing instinct for endearingly awkward and sincere reactions. 

To wit, the scene where Simone crashed into Jonathan’s suite with her Mace on, gawking at “weird . . . boy,” appropriating Dirty Harry’s “Make my day” badly and probably charming the guy in spite of himself and his abject fear of Braden hiding in the back room. She didn’t know whether to flirt with him, as is her inclination, or Mace him into submission to figure out his mystery. 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or bite my nails in suspense. Classic. 

I also don’t quite know whether I’m sick and twisted or merely a victim of some fantastic acting, but I root for Jonathan to succeed, to get some therapy and overcome his abusive habits, make amends, treat a woman with respect and the tenderness I know he felt for Maggie before his late father’s training kicked in. I just can’t dismiss him outright. 

As I see the aw-shucks innocence and yearning to be a normal boy plainly on Jonathan’s open and shut book of a face (it’s eerie how the actor can turn his character’s personalities on and off like a light switch), I am fairly certain my coming around to his side has everything to do with the actor rising above the material and hitting all strides. 

It’s too bad Zach doesn’t have a Simone in his corner, too.