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Friday, November 4, 2022

Days of Our Lives Romance Report Card: Can the Show’s Current Crop of Pairings Pull Off a Passing Grade?

Sometimes, love hurts.

“Love in the afternoon” may have been ABC’s daytime tagline back in the ’80s, but when it comes right down to it, that motto applies to all soaps. Romance and unforgettable couples have always been the lifeblood of daytime TV, and Days of Our Lives has never been an exception to this. In fact, there was a time when Peacock’s soap churned out supercouples with a stunning regularity.

But that was back in the show’s heyday. What about now?

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that there’s some good… and quite a bit of bad. We do, for instance, get flashes of promising couples and triangles like Johnny and Wendy. They’re looking like they could be fun together, but so were Joey and Wendy and Tripp and Wendy and all the triangle variations we thought we were going to get… until both Johnson brothers skipped town.

Then there are the “Chabby” fans. We’re not sure if they’ll ever really forgive the show for killing Abigail, regardless of whether Marci Miller had decided to move on from Days of Our Lives. But on the flip side, we’ve gotten a surprisingly sweet connection between Chad and Stephanie out of it.

The show’s been presenting some of the veteran couples nicely enough, but that was mostly during the damsels in distress storyline that saw Kayla, Marlena and Kate almost die. Ultimately, though, Days of Our Lives seems to be struggling to give us couples to root for. Instead, it’s been taking once-popular couples or pairings that should be popular and making them either frustrating or downright boring. (And when a pairing is both those things… God help us all.)

So before we get to the show’s grade, let’s take a look at couples (or would-be couples) who fall into those two groupings. First off: The snoozefests.

Boring: Xander and Sarah

Let’s be clear: these two shouldn’t be here. When we get to see them, they’re downright fun together. Their little team up to find Abigail’s murderer was a hoot — even if it ultimately was pretty pointless. But Xander and Sarah were built as this big, romantic endgame (or as endgame as it gets on a soap). Xander was so devastated by her supposedly leaving him, he hopped from bed to bed and settled on Gwen. And the only reason he didn’t go running back to Sarah on her return wasn’t because of Gwen, but because his true love didn’t know who she was. But then, Xander and Sarah finally got their reunion… only to become background characters during said reunion.

And now we’re diving straight into Bad Boy Xander returning, which can’t bode well seeing as how Sarah almost left him the day after their wedding because she didn’t like that he ruined Eric and Nicole’s relationship. Just don’t go from boring to broken up, please. We’ve already gotten enough of that with…

Boring: Chloe and Brady

Chloe and Brady have been snoozeville ever since they got together. Any fire they had was lost once Philip left and they were reduced too much to an afterthought couple reacting to Nancy and Craig’s dramas. So by the time Kristen came along to split them up, we weren’t exactly devastated. Sure, Kristen’s a delusional nightmare, but at least she and Brady have some fire in her love/his hate. And there’s an underlying tension in Stefan’s wooing of Chloe with us knowing it’s rooted in brainwashing. It makes their potential at least slightly interesting. Do we want Brady to fall in love with Kristen? No. But that doesn’t mean we’re eager to get him back with Chloe.

Boring: Nicole and Rafe

This isn’t a surprise. We aren’t supposed to root for them… but that’s not how they started out. They weren’t created to be an obstacle couple. Much like Chloe and Brady, Nicole and Rafe began with an edge of excitement and danger when Ava was gunning for them. But that was quickly shuffled down to blah territory with Eric’s return. And that’s all well and good, but Nicole refuses to let Rafe go and he refuses to speak up for himself as she all but throws herself at Eric. Every time Rafe shows a flash of annoyance, he quickly backtracks. They’re both boring and annoying, and that’s not good for anyone. And that brings us to…

Frustrating: Nicole and Eric

We should be cheering for Nicole and Eric, but this has been dragged out to the point that they’re just frustrating. Yes, Nicole’s married and no, she shouldn’t cheat on Rafe. But she also shouldn’t stick with him just because. That’s just cruel when clearly she has little interest in him and only wants Eric. And Eric’s doing the same with Jada. There does seem to be a genuine connection there, but he’s just using her to keep his mind off the woman he loves. If he were still a priest and off-limits, this story would be a bit different. But at this point, Eric and Nicole refuse to reunite out of stubbornness and by the time they do, it may have become too hard to root for them.

Frustrating: Alex and Stephanie

Then there’s Alex and Stephanie. They aren’t a couple yet but were clearly modelled after Justin and Adrienne. Whether or not it ends the same remains to be seen, but it’s supposed to be a classic story of the love of one woman winning a playboy over and convincing him to change. (Note to folks: Don’t do this in real life. It’s not your job to make someone a better person, that’s on them.) Instead, Alex was an arrogant creep who refused to take “No” for an answer and pushed until Stephanie was uncomfortable and seemed to feel unsafe around him. As he finally started backing off and acting like a decent human around her, things are thawing out, but… should they?

Getting Frustrating: Gabi and Stefan

These two can still work out, but they can also very, very easily veer into frustrating territory if things are drawn out too long, much like Nicole and Eric. How many times can we hear Stefan insist that Gabi makes him sick to his stomach before it starts to make us feel nauseous? And Gabi, who is clearly devastated about losing the brainwashed love of her life, plowing forward with her marriage to Li is the definition of a horrible idea. While engaged to Li, she tracked down Rolf just to prove that Stefan really did still love her as much as she loved him. Even if she and Stefan don’t reunite, his return should be showing her that she’s not ready to move on with Li. (Nor does he deserve it, but we’re still waiting for her to catch that one.)

But hey, that’s soap, right?

So where does that leave us? Ultimately, we have to give the show a “D” for its romance lately. It’s not a failing grade… but just barely. Some pairings can still turn around. Xander and Sarah (if they survive his Ava teamup), Gabi and Stefan and even (though we’re loathe to admit it) Alex and Stephanie.

Couples on soaps never have it easy, and really, it’s the hurdles they have to to overcome that separate the normal couples from the super couples. But those hurdles can’t leave us pulling our hair out or falling asleep. They need to give us reasons to root for pairings, not to roll our eyes and want to move on!

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