When Great Acting Happens to Bad Storylines
Sometimes a storyline I hate has scenes that I love. That’s the case with “All My Children’s” latest baby switch storyline. I hate, hate, hate that Jesse and Angie’s baby was stillborn. Given that she sacrificed her eyesight to have this child, it crosses the line from tragic to tragedy porn. But the acting on Tuesday and Wednesday’s episodes was superlative. Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan were every bit as brilliant as “General Hospital’s” Tony Geary and Jonathan Jackson were last week. J.R. Martinez (Brot) was excellent in a supporting role. Who could have imagined that when AMC cast a wounded war veteran with no previous acting experience for a short term role that he would grow into such a skilled performer?
Unfortunately, in addition to being mean spirited, the story was dependent on a ridiculous number of contrived coincidences. First, Angie started having such severe contractions that Jesse had to deliver the baby himself because there was not time to get to the hospital. Then Angie passed out. At the exact same time, a young women left a baby, in a cardboard box, in Brot’s unoccupied police car, which happened to be unlocked. Brot happened to be the only person to respond to Jesse’s distress call. So much for the Pine Valley Fire Department, the world’s slowest first responders. He happened to show up, baby in hand, just after Jesse delivered a stillborn baby. Williams played Jesse’s devastation and anguish to such perfection that I broke down right along with him.
Then, Angie woke up just as the abandoned baby began to cry. Because she is blind, she did not see her stillborn child and assumed her daughter was crying. I did like that Jesse did not immediately decide to pass off the abandoned baby as his child. It was Angie’s insistence on holding her baby, and his own grief that made it impossible to explain what really happened that led him to hand her the baby, and then he was trapped into sticking with his lie. There were no bad guys here, unlike most baby switch storylines. But it sure was convenient that the abandoned baby was a girl who appears to be African American even though her mother is Latina. Even more convenient, at the hospital we learned that the baby has the same blood type as Angie. What are the odds?
My anger at the the contrivances did not stop me from bawling when Jesse buried his own child in an unmarked grave and lamented that he did not have any flowers. Then I cried some more as I realized that Wednesday’s and Thursday’s powerful episodes were going to lead to months of Jesse and Brot lying to Angie and scheming to cover up the secret while Cara (Lindsay Hartley), who is already suspicious, works to figure out the truth. I suspect I am going to grow to hate characters that I currently love, all because AMC did not think that there was enough drama in the show’s supercouple raising their own baby.