Thinking Fans Holy @#%! Update Aug. 14: Melanie picks Wayne Northrup’s return as Roman on Days … B3 loved Gwyneth as the killer on Loving … Carl recalls five faves from Santa Barbara … and more. See Comments below.
By Patrick Erwin
Soap plots have many twists and turns in them, but we rarely get to see a complete “bombshell” surprise, like the ones we’ve seen in The Sixth Sense, The Crying Game, or The Usual Suspects. The “reveal” of a surprise on soaps usually happens a little bit at a time, with a character or two here or there. And unfortunately, the appetite for news and spoilers has spoiled the element of surprise for many viewers (and that isn’t doing the shows any favors, either).
But there have been moments of complete, utter surprise on the soaps. Here (in no particular order) are five examples of fantastic, goosebump-producing, oh-no-they-didn’t moments.
NOTE: The moments I am talking about, and have listed below, were stories where we the audience, were totally surprised when these scenes played out. There are many, many moments, like Karen Wolek admitting she was a hooker on One Life To Live, where the characters of a show were shocked and surprised by a revealation, but those aren’t listed here, because we, the audience, knew about them beforehand.
1. The (first) return of James Stenbeck, As The World Turns. James started off good but was a bad guy by the time he “died” in 1982. The return of James (and actor Anthony Herrera) in 1986 is the stuff of soap legends, and came from the minds of Douglas Marland and Robert Calhoun. The character of James was given the pseudonym of “Lester Keys” and was cloaked in a monk’s robe when first on camera. The actors were kept in the dark and did not know it was Herrera until he pulled back the hood and uttered the now famous line, “Hello, Barbara.” It was a total surprise that shook up an already-hot ATWT in a great way, and much of the story that was created at that time is STILL playing out now.
2. Brent returns as Marian, Guiding Light. This was undoubtedly a disturbing story, but the return of rapist Brent Lawrence as “Marian Bates” was an astonishing surprise. Brent was believed to be dead, but resurfaced and disguised himself as Marian to get close to his victim, Lucy. The show had Marian in a few scenes as the new Spaulding assistant, and then showed Marian removing her wig and clothes to show Brent underneath. (Ssh! Marian’s look and costuming were based on GL’s then executive producer, Jill Farren Phelps.)
3. Sheila isn’t dead (the first time around), Young and Restless/Bold and Beautiful. This was also a complete surprise, and a clever twist on the back-from-the-dead story idea. Sheila, the Y&R villainess, was believed to be dead. She resurfaced a short time later not on Y&R, but on B&B. The crossover provided a boost to B&B, gave the character of Sheila new mojo (as well as a new group of people to torture) and became a hugely popular story, especially when Lauren Fenmore also crossed over to B&B.
4. Marlena is the killer, Days of Our Lives. This was a surprising twist in a story we all initially believed was a serial murder mystery. The show’s choice to highlight Dr. Evans, the longtime heroine of Salem, as a killer was a bold choice. Even bolder were some of the scenes that played out after the reveal (including a scene of Marlena choking Alice Horton with a doughnut). The show eventually back-pedaled its way out of the murders by showing that it had all been programmed into Marlena’s mind by Andre DiMera.
5. Charlie is really Alistair, Passions. Passions did their own take on the surprising identity reveal by having Charlie, Beth’s friend who supposedly had a crush on her, pull off a mask to reveal herself as … Alistair Crane, Beth’s father. The show later repeated this idea, to a degree, with the Valerie/Vincent story.
What are your favorite stories? What jaw-dropping, shocking surprise do you recall from current shows, or past favorites?
Patrick Erwin blogs regularly at A Thousand Other Worlds …