At the police station, Gina continued pretending to be Hope while demanding Rafe's gun and badge.
"I am sick and tired of you undermining my authority at every single turn -- [plus, you've been] talking about me behind my back to Roman!" Gina stressed as a way of explaining why Rafe was being fired. "I wasn't talking about you behind your back; [I was just saying that] I'm worried about you," Rafe clarified, shrugging unapologetically. "You should focus on the little boy you have at home instead of on your ex-wife...and now you'll have time to do just that!" Gina snapped before again demanding Rafe's gun and badge.
"As you know, there's a process [to the termination of an employee]. First of all, I have a union, and they are gonna find your reasons for termination...well, 'unfounded'...and then, after that, you're gonna have to create a case file for HR -- uh, like this one," Rafe warned while holding up the file that contained a log of every questionable action that the police commissioner had committed since stepping back into the role. "This is outrageous! How dare you!" Gina spat. "I am worried about you," Rafe reiterated, offering another unapologetic shrug.
"Now, if you're still determined to see through my termination, go for it -- [but that's] only gonna make me even more determined to find out what the hell's really going on with you," Rafe continued. "There is nothing going on with me! Understood? I am fine! In fact, I have never, ever, ever been better! The only problem I am having, Rafael, is with you!" Gina insisted. "Yeah, I can see that... [Well], hopefully, one day, you will tell me [the truth, but] until then, I'm gonna take this file [and] go on home and see David for lunch...unless, of course, you want to fire me for that, too," Rafe countered before walking away.
At the Kiriakis mansion, Ciara discreetly produced a cell phone and started its recording app while admitting to still being involved with Ben, having realized that there was no reason to lie about the matter any longer because Victor had ways of finding out about everything that happened at Statesville. "I have [already] told you I had nothing to do with Jordan Ridgeway's death! I can't believe you're still beating that dead horse!" Victor grumbled. "And I can't believe you [once] dragged Ben into this room and nearly strangled him to death!" Ciara countered, surprising Victor.
"Yeah, I know what you tried to do [to Ben back then], Grandpa...and I also know that Ben threatened to tell me [but] promised to forgive and forget if you just took care of Jordan -- and that's exactly what you did, but [then] you double-crossed him; you sent Xander to kill Jordan, and then [you] framed Ben for her murder!" Ciara continued. "That is complete and utter nonsense!" Victor insisted. "It's the truth!" Ciara maintained. "Based on what evidence?" Victor wondered. "I've been spying on you and Xander, [and] I overheard you [saying] 'we sent an innocent man to prison'!" Ciara revealed, surprising Victor again.
"You were obviously talking about Ben, [so] just admit it!" Ciara challenged Victor. "You're wrong, young lady! You've obviously mis-misheard! You -- you have...no idea what you're talking about!" Victor insisted. "No, Grandpa, I know exactly what I heard -- and I have proof! [See], when Mickey was kidnapped, Xander wrote a confession in order to get her back, [and] after we found Mickey, I watched Xander burn his confession right here in that fireplace, and after he left, I went back, and I took it out of the fire. [Now], all that was left were the words 'and that's the whole sordid story of what we did' --" Ciara countered.
"Then you have 'proof' of absolutely nothing!" Victor concluded, waving a hand dismissively. "I don't need to see [the rest of] that piece of paper in order to know what Xander was confessing to! [Now], please, Grandpa...I've looked up to you my entire life, [and] you've always, always been there for me, especially after I lost my dad, and I need you there for me right now, [because] if you don't tell me the truth about what Xander did, then they're gonna kill an innocent man -- an innocent man who has worked so hard and so long to put his life back together!" Ciara stressed.
"I know [that], in your own twisted way, you thought that you were trying to protect me, [but] this is not the way to do it, [and] there's still time -- you can still fix this!" Ciara continued. "'Twisted'? 'Twisted'! My own granddaughter, who I...I have done...done nothing but...but love, and...and you come with...with this..." Victor laboriously countered before suddenly passing out, leaving Ciara horrified.
At the Evans-Black townhouse, Stefano continued pretending to be Steve while trying to convince Kayla that a new woman had entered the picture.
"We're divorced, [and] you're in love with Justin Kiriakis, [so] what difference does it make [if] I'm in love with [someone else, too]?" Stefano reasoned. "We may be divorced [now, but] we spent so many years together, [and] we raised two children together, [and] I supported your son Tripp while you were away, [so] I think that I deserve for you to tell me who you are in love with!" Kayla countered.
"You really want to know?" Stefano teasingly wondered -- just as Marlena entered the living room, with John close behind. "Sorry to interrupt, but we thought we heard raised voices," Marlena began. "Everything okay here?" John added. "I'm sorry for disturbing you -- it's my fault," Kayla admitted before explaining what was being discussed, leaving Marlena and John just as curious about the identity of the new woman in Steve's life. "I really don't see the point in sharing my lover's name --" Stefano argued. "Well, I do -- and I'm not leaving 'til I get it!" Kayla stressed.
"I'll tell you this much -- she's beautiful, intelligent, captivating... That's all you need to know!" Stefano declared. "Well, I hope the two of you are very happy," Kayla replied before rushing out of the townhouse in tears.
Marlena chased after Kayla, leaving Stefano alone with John, who was quick to question the claim that another woman had entered Steve's life. "All right, you got me -- there is no other woman; it was just simpler this way," Stefano explained with a shrug. "Oh, come on, man -- we don't do 'simple,' [and] there's nothing 'simple' about this, [anyway]. You shared a lifetime together -- you sure you want to throw that away?" John protested. "I already have. [And] now she's in love with Justin, [so] what kind of a man would I be if I came back to town and destroyed [that]? That's why it was easier for me to let her believe there's another woman," Stefano reasoned.
"Can I count on you to keep my secret?" Stefano asked. "I won't say anything to Kayla...[but] I don't keep secrets from Doc," John replied, irritating Stefano -- who didn't get a chance to argue because Gina arrived just then.
Marlena followed Kayla to the hospital and started to offer some words of comfort -- but Victor soon arrived in an ambulance, cutting the conversation short. "The patient was unconscious but breathing -- signs of a possible stroke," an EMT informed Kayla, who sprang into action. "He's in good hands," Marlena assured Ciara before contacting John, knowing that Brady would want to hear about what had happened to Victor.
"Oh, my God. How horrible," Gina stiffly declared when John reported that Victor had apparently just suffered a stroke. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," Stefano insisted after John rushed off in search of Brady. "How deliciously cold of you! But right now, we must worry only about ourselves -- I am afraid the walls are starting to close in on us," Gina replied before telling Stefano about what had just happened with Rafe.
Sonny went to the Hernandez house to talk to Evan, who tried to act cool but was clearly thrilled to see Sonny. "I just wanted to come by and apologize for the way that Ari behaved on Christmas -- you know, refusing to go sledding with you and David, [and] insisting that she would, you know, wait for Will... [Anyway], I just wanted to say I'm sorry," Sonny explained. "Eh, it's all good -- I mean, losing her father to prison has got to be a pretty traumatic experience for a little girl, [so it] makes sense [that] she'd act out...and, uh, be extra protective of her other daddy," Evan reasoned with a shrug.
"Thanks for understanding... You know, I could use some of that wisdom of yours [on another matter, too] -- I just really don't know how I'm gonna tell Ari that Will and I are getting a divorce. [I mean], I can't keep it a secret for much longer, [because] she's at that age where she's aware of everything that's around her..." Sonny continued. "It can be tricky, yeah -- [dealing with], um, all those questions, you know... It's -- I have to say, it's, uh...it's truly a blessing that poor little David can't ask any questions -- I mean, how do you explain to a child that his uncle killed his mother?" Evan replied.
"I just read that Ben Weston's facing his last appeal [and has] hired a new lawyer in hopes of a different outcome," Evan continued. "Yeah -- his 'new lawyer' is my dad," Sonny revealed. "How do you feel about that?" Evan wondered. "I mean, I'm conflicted, for sure... [My dad] always says that everyone is entitled to a good defense, [and] I get that...but when it comes to Ben Weston...[well, he once] tried to murder my husband, [so] I just don't have sympathy for the guy," Sonny admitted with a scowl. "I do," Evan blurted out, surprising Sonny.
"[Look], I'm not condoning what [Ben] did -- it was awful -- but...from what Rafe's told me about Jordan, she was completely unhinged," Evan continued. "[Well]...yeah, that's the truth...[but still], for Ben to take [matters into] his own hands [and] strangle Jordan --" Sonny began to argue. "I know this may sound weird, but...[well], it's kind of a relief that Jordan's out of the picture -- [I mean], in some ways, maybe [Ben] did his nephew a favor," Evan reasoned. "So, you're a fan of vigilante justice?" Sonny incredulously summarized.
"No...I'm just...saying that...it's probably for the best that Jordan's out of David's life -- I mean, I can't imagine a woman with her emotional and mental issues raising a child," Evan carefully clarified. "Parenting is hard enough for the sane among us," Sonny conceded. "And now that she's no longer amongst the living, there's zero possibility that she'll come back into David's life and mess everything up," Evan continued.
"The kid really lucked out when he landed with a guy like Rafe," Evan declared. "He got lucky to have you, too," Sonny argued. "Oh, I'm no Mary Poppins..." Evan insisted. "I'm serious -- [I mean], you're a great role model, [and you] make David feel safe and loved," Sonny maintained. "Well, I'm trying... When I was a kid, my, uh...my dad, he wasn't really around...and when he was...[well, he was a] total jerk...so...maybe that's why I gravitated towards taking care of kids -- I want to give them some of the kindness and stability I never had," Evan explained. "Well, you're a natural, [and] you're gonna be a great dad someday," Sonny stressed.
Sonny and Evan locked eyes and started inching closer to each other -- but Rafe entered the house just then, ruining the moment. "Sorry -- did not mean to interrupt," Rafe stressed. "You're not -- not at all," Evan insisted. "Yeah, I just stopped by to say hello," Sonny added before starting to rush off. "If you're gonna see your dad [later]...any chance you could give [this] to him?" Rafe asked Sonny while producing a stuffed envelope. "Sure...[but] I'm not sure if I'm gonna see him until tonight, [so if it's] time-sensitive..." Sonny replied. "No -- no rush," Rafe insisted.
"Although I am kind of excited about [this] -- I am formally adopting David as my son," Rafe continued. "That is great news!" Sonny raved. "The best! I didn't realize you were even planning it!" Evan added, looking more surprised than excited. "Well, yeah -- I've been his legal guardian for over a year, [so] it's past time to make it official, right?" Rafe reasoned before rushing off to another room to see David.
"[This] is great!" Sonny repeated. "Isn't it?" Sonny continued when Evan didn't immediately respond. "Yeah..." Evan hesitantly agreed, apparently still recovering from the shock of Rafe's news.
"Are you okay? What is it?" Sonny asked curiously. "It's fine... It's nothing... It's just...before Rafe came in, I...sorta...kinda...thought we were about to kiss...but I guess it was just in my head..." Evan carefully replied. "[No], it wasn't," Sonny assured Evan. "You're still married --" Evan acknowledged. "I am...but, um...I mean, I'm getting divorced, and we're, like, in the process, so...technically, it wouldn't be cheating..." Sonny argued. "[And besides], since I'm the one who would be kissing you, you'd still be the innocent party," Evan added. "But you, um...haven't kissed me," Sonny pointed out. "Not yet..." Evan agreed before kissing Sonny.
At Statesville, Ben denied being involved with Ciara then sidestepped Xander and tried to leave the visitor's lounge -- only to discover that the door was locked. "You paid off the guard?" Ben realized. "Oh, you mean Jerry? He's a great guy once you get to know him -- comes pretty cheap, too... [Remember], I spent a little time in this joint, [and] I know who all my friends are -- for the right price, [anyway]..." Xander replied.
"[Now], your girlfriend has become a right pain in my ass -- investigating me, lurking at doors, sticking her nose where it doesn't belong, drilling into my lockbox -- [and] I want to know why, [so]...you can be smart and enlighten me...or you can be stupid, [in which case,] things could get very ugly for a certain young lady," Xander continued. "Keep your damn hands off Ciara!" Ben demanded. "Just like I thought -- you are still involved with her," Xander countered. "She's innocent!" Ben insisted. "Not so much...but don't worry about her -- Victor told me to stay away from his granddaughter, so I will," Xander stressed.
"But he didn't say anything about you," Xander continued, glaring at Ben. "Is that supposed to scare me, Xander? You couldn't possibly do a damn thing to me that hasn't happened already!" Ben countered, returning the glare. "Oh, you do not want to challenge me, mate -- [I mean, you may] think you're safe here, [but] a shiv could so easily find its way into your gut..." Xander warned. "Wouldn't be the first time," Ben coolly admitted. "Well, it would certainly be the last...and it would solve so many problems -- Victor would be happy, your Little Bo-Peep wouldn't have a reason to come around here anymore..." Xander mused.
"The messy part could be so easily avoided if you would just tell her to back the hell off...[but if you don't], I will have you killed -- and her," Xander continued. "Like hell you will -- you just said that Victor told you to stay away from Ciara," Ben countered. "Oh, he did...but, just like you could so easily be shivved [while] stepping into the shower, Ciara could be cut off on her motorcycle and end up dead [in] a ditch...and none of it would ever be traced back to me," Xander warned with a wicked grin, prompting Ben to lunge forward in anger.
"You son of a bitch -- [if] you lay one finger on her, [then] you are a dead man!" Ben snapped while grabbing Xander by the shirt collar -- just as Will entered the visitor's lounge. "[This] doesn't concern you, Will, [so] just walk away," Ben advised. "I'm afraid I can't do that, [because] I don't want you to do something stupid -- and if Xander is involved, it's probably stupid," Will countered while pulling Ben away from Xander, who didn't appreciate the dig. "Whatever this is about, don't let Xander get to you, okay? Don't sink to his level, [because] you're better than that, [and] it's not worth it," Will continued.
"Look at you, playing advocate for the man who strangled you -- you're practically besties!" Xander observed, eyeing Will curiously. "[But, then again], you did join the Killer Club when you wiped out your mother-in-law..." Xander tauntingly continued, prompting Ben to lunge forward in anger again, ready to defend Will -- who again stopped things from escalating further. "You need to relax, okay? If you get into it with Xander, [that] could mess up things for your appeal, and you might never see Ciara again! Don't let this piece of trash ruin that for you!" Will advised Ben.
"You're right -- he isn't worth it," Ben conceded, calming down a bit. "Maybe not...but your girlfriend is, so get that bitch on a leash -- now," Xander countered before leaving the visitor's lounge.
Ben filled Will in on what had prompted the altercation with Xander. "I have to warn [Ciara] right now," Ben fretted while dialing Ciara's cell phone number on the pay phone.
Ciara answered the call and tearfully filled Ben in on what had just happened with Victor. "Don't blame yourself," Ben advised. "[But] it's all my fault -- [I mean], I pushed him too hard, [and] he was so upset, and now..." Ciara fretted. "I'm sorry -- I really am -- but you need to listen to me... Xander was here, [and] he knows what you're trying to do, [and] the guy's in a rage, [so] I need you to stay the hell away from him, okay? [Look], he threatened to hurt you, [and] I know Victor would do everything in his power to try and protect you, but right now, it doesn't seem like he's in any shape to try and stop him," Ben warned.
"As much as I dislike Victor, I know Sonny loves him, and he's gotta be devastated..." Will mused with a sigh after Ben ended the call. "Ciara definitely is -- she's blaming herself," Ben reported. "She shouldn't -- Victor's had health issues for a long time," Will stressed. "I hope he makes it...because, right now, he is the only one protecting Ciara from Xander," Ben fretted -- just as Xander approached Ciara at the hospital.
Kristen makes a deal with Gabi
From the DiMera mansion, Gabi called Lani at the Salem Inn and ordered her to leave town or else Gabi would crank up the volume on Julie's pacemaker. "I'm going to send that bitch straight to hell!" Gabi warned Lani. Eli walked into the library and overheard Gabi's threat. As Gabi ended her call, Eli asked about the woman. Gabi lied and said that she had referred to Kristen.
At the Salem Inn, Kristen asked Lani about her phone call. When Lani told Kristen about Gabi's threat, Kristen laughed. "Take it from me, threatening to kill someone and actually doing it are two separate things," Kristen said. Kristen added that she did not believe that Gabi would murder her boyfriend's grandmother. Lani said she was too scared to call Gabi's bluff.
Lani begged Kristen again for her shares of stock, but Kristen refused. "I have my own problems," Kristen explained. Resigned to give in to Gabi's threat, Lani told Kristen she would pack her bag. Kristen advised Lani to make Gabi believe she had left town but instead lay low with someone Lani trusted. "I will bring [Gabi] to her knees. We both will," Kristen promised.
When Kristen arrived at the DiMera mansion, she overheard the tail end of a conversation between Gabi and Eli about her. "I know exactly where my place is," Kristen announced. When Eli growled about the broken window of Gabi's storefront, Kristen informed Eli that Lani had thrown the potted plant, not her. Kristen encouraged Eli to confirm the story with Lani, and he stomped out of the house.
"He seemed a little anxious to spend time with his ex. You think he is still hung up on her?" Kristen asked Gabi. Gabi hit back by needling Kristen about the closeness between Nicole and Brady. "Do you want my shares of stock or not?" Kristen grumbled. When Gabi argued that Kristen was in cahoots with Chad, Kristen countered that Chad had made a deal with Stefano. Kristen announced that she was willing to make a deal with Gabi instead.
After Kristen told Gabi the plan, Gabi told Kristen that she could not help her win back Brady. Kristen dangled her shares in front of Gabi, and she assured Gabi that she would take care of winning back Brady's affections on her own. Gabi was suspicious, but she agreed to work with Kristen. "You better remember who is in charge here," Gabi said. "Oh, I will," Kristen agreed.
At the Salem Inn, Eli demanded to talk to Lani about the broken window. When Eli complained that Gabi had never done anything to Lani to merit the vandalism, Lani lost her temper. "You have no idea what Gabi has done!" Lani yelled. Eli demanded to know what Gabi had done to Lani. Lani told Eli that Gabi had made her get on her knees and beg Gabi for Stefan's heart. Eli argued that Gabi had been deep in grief back then.
"She enjoyed every minute of it," Lani said. Lani warned Eli that Gabi was not a nice person and that she would end up breaking Eli's heart. Annoyed, Eli countered that no one could break his heart worse than Lani had done. Eli warned Lani to stop harassing Gabi. With a nod, Lani informed Eli that she was leaving town. "Live your life, and I'll go live mine," Lani said.
When Eli returned to the DiMera mansion, he told Gabi that Lani had told him the truth about what Gabi had made Lani do. "That bitch is lying!" Gabi protested before hearing any details.
At Basic Black, Nicole yelled at a distracted Brady about work. Brady blamed the late night, but Nicole argued that Brady could not blame his attitude on a lack of sleep. "You can't stop thinking about Kristen, right?" Nicole asked. Brady denied the accusation, and he argued that he hated that Kristen had attacked Nicole. With a chuckle, Nicole said, "you doth protest too much." Brady was adamant that "the only feeling I have for Kristen is contempt." Nicole stifled a laugh.
John entered the office, and he informed Brady about Victor's stroke. Brady reminded John that he was still furious at Victor for tossing him aside and naming Xander as CEO of Titan. Nicole and John both encouraged Brady to swallow his pride and make peace with Victor.
"This may be your last chance to see him alive," John said. John added that Maggie needed Brady. With a nod, Brady said he would go to the hospital to support Maggie. When John offered to accompany Brady, Brady declined.
After Brady left, John expressed his concerns about Nicole and Brady's friendship. Nicole swore that she and Brady were only close friends and nothing more. With a sigh of relief, John told Nicole that Brady would need a good friend to keep Brady away from Kristen.
At the Horton house, Julie lamented to J.J. that troublemakers had crashed her party. "Same old rodeo. Different cowboys," Julie joked. J.J. noted that when his father had crashed the party two years earlier, he had not expected things would work out with his mother. J.J. said he was hopeful that things would work out for Steve and Kayla like they had for Jack and Jennifer. Julie was not so optimistic.
Julie told J.J. about the vandalism outside of her restaurant and that Kristen had been the vandal. J.J. was shocked to hear that Kristen had returned to Salem. Julie reminded J.J. that he was clear of drugs and had not shot Kristen, but J.J. was quick to give Lani the credit for saving Kristen's life. With a sigh, Julie said she still had not forgiven Lani for breaking Eli's heart. When J.J. noted that Julie had "done a 180" on Gabi, Julie pointed out that she was alive because of Gabi.
In the hospital waiting area, Xander yelled at Ciara, "What did you do to [Victor]?" Ciara thought about her conversation with Victor and the accusation she had leveled at him over Ben before Victor had collapsed.
"That man loves you. He doesn't trust anyone, but he trusts you, and you've been nothing but a sneaky, ungrateful little bitch to him. If [Victor] dies, it will be on your head," Xander grumbled. Ciara blamed Xander for Victor's ill health. Before Xander could protest, Kayla interrupted to inform Xander and Ciara that Victor had a major blood clot that might require surgery. When Kayla asked about Maggie, Xander was furious to learn that Ciara had failed to call Maggie.
At the Horton house, Maggie arrived to check on J.J. Maggie offered her support to J.J., and she promised to go with him to a meeting when he was feeling up to it. J.J. told Maggie that he was interested in going to a meeting with her. Maggie explained how the meetings had helped her through the years, and she added that J.J. could call her anytime he needed someone to talk to about his struggles. Maggie's phone rang. It was Xander. Maggie gasped as she learned the news about Victor.
In Victor's hospital room, Ciara sat at his bedside and fought back tears as he remained unconscious. "Sorry for all the things I said to you. I love you so much, and I don't want anything bad to happen to you, but I love Ben, too," Ciara said. Ciara told Victor that she had only pushed him so hard because Ben's life was at stake. In the hallway outside the room, Maggie arrived and was greeted by Xander.
As Ciara wondered aloud what Victor and Xander had done, Xander escorted Maggie into the room. Xander encouraged Ciara to leave so that Maggie could spend time alone with Victor. Reluctantly, Ciara left with Xander. In the hallway, Xander grabbed Ciara's arm. Brady arrived at the hospital and ordered Xander to let go of Ciara. Kayla walked over and confirmed to Brady, Ciara, and Xander that Victor needed surgery.
Brady took Ciara aside to talk. "No matter how much we love [Victor], he still has a way to make you angry," Brady said. Brady stressed that Victor tended to push his loved ones away, and he cautioned Ciara not to blame herself.
In Victor's room, Maggie pleaded with Victor to be his usual stubborn self and fight to survive. Xander returned and handed Maggie a handkerchief to dry her eyes. With a sigh, Maggie announced that she needed to go sign consent forms for surgery, and she asked Xander to stay with Victor so that he was not alone. After Maggie left, Xander leaned close to Victor.
"You don't have to worry. No one will ever find out what we did. I'll make sure of it," Xander promised Victor. When the orderlies returned for Victor, they wheeled him into the hallway. Brady stopped the gurney to tell Victor that he was there, and he asked Victor to fight.
As J.J. and Julie walked through the park, they ran into Lani as she walked with a packed suitcase. Still angry with Lani, Julie excused herself to go get coffee in the square. J.J. and Lani discussed Eli. "I really wish I could explain," Lani said. J.J. thanked Lani for talking him out of shooting Kristen. Lani asked J.J. for a favor.
At Basic Black, Nicole called Brady on the phone to leave a voicemail. Kristen overheard as she crept into the office and sat down. Nicole ordered Kristen to leave, but Kristen refused. Kristen explained that she had a right to be there because she was Nicole's new coworker. "Aren't you going to welcome me to the company?" Kristen asked.
Lani confides in J.J. about Gabi
John went to the hospital to check on Brady, who worriedly reported that Victor's surgery was still in progress.
John offered words of comfort and support then carefully changed the subject, revealing that Nicole had mentioned earlier that Kristen was back in town. "Yeah -- like malaria, she never really goes away... God, I -- I -- I love my life right now -- I really do!" Brady dryly replied before giving John a quick recap of what had happened on New Year's Eve.
"Given the history between you and Nicole, is it really all that crazy [of Kristen to think that you two are back together again]?" John asked Brady at the end of the recap. "Nicole and I are just friends," Brady insisted. "No man has ever been -- or will ever be -- 'just good friends' with Nicole...and it's not like the two of you don't have a history," John countered.
"[Okay] -- something almost did happen between us...[but] we stopped it because we knew it would be a mistake," Brady admitted. "[Good, because] I don't think Kristen would take to that very well," John warned. "That's a real polite way of saying that Kristen would probably gun Nicole down," Brady summarized. "Well, she's not known for her restraint," John reasoned.
"That's exactly why I made it very clear to Kristen [that] Nicole and I are just friends. I just hope she got the message..." Brady declared.
At Basic Black, Kristen bragged to Nicole that, thanks to Gabi, the company suddenly had a new co-CEO.
"Where's Brady?" Kristen wondered. "He's at the hospital -- Victor had a stroke," Nicole revealed. "Oh? And a good day just got better! Life-threatening, I hope?" Kristen excitedly replied.
"I guess your relationship [with Brady is already] on shaky ground, if you're so easily threatened by me [being here]," Kristen mused. "Brady and I are just friends," Nicole tiredly reiterated. "Yeah -- [that's why] I caught the two of you making out on more than one occasion," Kristen sarcastically agreed. "You are just pathetic -- [I mean], the way you throw yourself at him..." Kristen continued. "Oh, I'm pathetic? You're the one who had to wear a mask of my face just to get Brady in bed with you! At least I didn't have to don a disguise when I 'threw myself' at him!" Nicole countered.
"You have no idea what you're talking about! [Look], Brady is a man --" Kristen defensively began to argue. "I've noticed," Nicole dryly interjected. "And, as such, has his needs, and I am sure [that] when he is desperate, you meet all his physical needs, but he [also] has a mind and a soul, and you will never know the part of him that is perfect for us, [or] share what we share! [You know], if you had any pride, you would bow out right now -- before, once again, you're humiliated! And I know this seems harsh, but I'm just being honest," Kristen continued.
"You know, since you're 'just being honest'...I guess I [can be, too -- and] tell you [that] Brady and I are together, [and] we are happily, permanently in love," Nicole tauntingly countered after some thought. "I knew it -- somehow, you got your claws back into Brady again!" Kristen grumbled. "And I didn't have to dress up as someone else to do it," Nicole stressed.
"Just this morning, [when we were] lying in bed, our naked bodies intertwined...he told me no one has ever satisfied him the way I do --" Nicole bragged. "Shut your filthy mouth!" Kristen demanded. "Or what -- you'll kill me, the way you killed Haley Chen? I'd like to see you try!" Nicole countered. "[That] was an accident, and I felt terrible about that!" Kristen stressed. "Because you have such a gentle soul," Nicole sarcastically summarized. "[We both know] you like to threaten people, but I'm not afraid of you --" Nicole continued. "Well, you should be -- [and that's just] a statement of fact!" Kristen insisted.
"Stay out of my way, or someone will get hurt!" Kristen warned Nicole with a scowl.
At the DiMera mansion, Gabi preemptively insisted that there was a reasonable explanation for everything Lani had told Eli earlier.
"You have to believe me, okay? I am not an evil person!" Gabi stressed. "Who said anything about 'evil'? I mean, look, I don't like what you did, but I understand why you did it," Eli countered. "You do?" Gabi asked incredulously. "You were grieving for Stefan, and you blamed Lani for his death, [so] making [her] kneel and beg for [his] heart...[well], it was a bit much, but it wasn't 'evil,'" Eli soothingly replied. "That's what she told you..." Gabi realized with a sigh of relief. "It's the truth, right?" Eli wondered. "Yes -- yes, it is the truth..." Gabi confirmed.
"And I really regret it now -- I was a completely different person back then..." Gabi stressed. "Grief can do that," Eli acknowledged. "Yeah...and, you know, it's actually really good that this is out -- I'm glad, [because] I don't want any secrets between us..." Gabi concluded before trying to change the subject. "Hold on -- if Lani was telling the truth, then why did you say she was lying before?" Eli wondered. "Because...I was so ashamed of what I did, [and] I didn't want you to know that I did something so awful," Gabi explained.
"[Well, look -- this] doesn't matter anymore, [because Lani's] getting ready to leave town...[and] good riddance!" Eli declared, pleasing Gabi.
Changing the subject, Eli asked for a recap of Gabi's earlier meeting with Kristen. "[I don't] see this ending up in anything but a disaster for Basic Black," Eli warned after hearing everything. "Basic Black is expendable -- I don't care what happens to it, as long as I get what I deserve!" Gabi stressed, waving a hand dismissively.
At the park, Lani asked to stay at J.J.'s place for a while. "Sure -- no problem," J.J. agreed without hesitation. "Maybe there is [a problem -- see, the] thing is, J.J., you can't tell anyone," Lani stressed.
"I get it -- I mean, I guess [that] a nun wouldn't want people to know that she's living with a guy," J.J. acknowledged. "I'm not a nun," Lani admitted. "But...you're dressed like one, and you -- you just told Julie you took your vows..." J.J. pointed out. "I lied," Lani clarified. "Why would you lie about not taking your vows? [I mean], it's not like anyone would hold it against you [if] you didn't..." J.J. argued. "Kristen and I felt that it was the best way for people not to see us as a threat," Lani explained. "Who would think you were? [Look], I gotta admit, this is -- this isn't making much sense to me," J.J. countered.
"Promise to keep what I am about to tell you a secret?" Lani asked. "Okay," J.J. replied. "Before I left Salem...someone set out to destroy my life...and, for the past year, I've been letting her get away with it," Lani revealed.
"But not anymore. I am getting back what is mine, and I am gonna let the world know what kind of a monster she really is," Lani stressed. "Who?" J.J. wondered. "Gabi DiMera," Lani clarified with a scowl.
"She blamed me for Stefan's death, [so] she decided to be my judge and jury -- [first], I tried to persuade her to let Julie have Stefan's heart, [and] she made me get down on my knees and beg her; otherwise, she would [have] just let Julie die. [And] she didn't stop there -- she couldn't stand that Eli and I were happy [and] about to be married, so she decided [that], since I took Stefan away from her, she would take Eli away from me. [Dumping Eli during our wedding] was the hardest thing that I ever had to do -- [I mean], it was hard enough that I had to let him go, [but then], to do it so brutally, in front of everyone --" Lani continued.
"Okay, wait a minute -- uh, how could...how could she make you do that?" J.J. interjected. "[She] has something over me," Lani explained. "She's blackmailing you?" J.J. assumed. "Worse," Lani insisted.
"[But] I can't explain [everything] to you, [because if she] found out that I told you anything, someone's life could be in danger, [so]...all you need to know is that [she] told me I had to leave town, [because] she knows I'm a threat to her...but I can't just leave [again] and let her get away with everything that she is doing, [so] I need to lie low [and take] some time [to figure out how] to get Eli away from [her]," Lani continued. "[After] all the things she's done to my sister...[well], I thought -- hoped -- that she had changed --" J.J. began to respond. "No, she hasn't changed -- at all," Lani maintained.
"Then I'll help you -- in any way I can," J.J. assured Lani, who breathed a sigh of relief and offered a hug of gratitude.
At the Hernandez house, Sonny and Evan continued kissing in the living room while moving over to the couch.
"Is something wrong?" Sonny asked when Evan suddenly pulled away. "No -- it's just...this is getting a little intense, [and] I want to make sure you're comfortable with...what's happening here," Evan replied. "Well, I don't know if 'comfortable' is, uh, what I was feeling..." Sonny joked. "Look, I just -- I...I know that...things aren't settled between you and Will, so...I have to ask...are you really ready to move on?" Evan continued. "Actually...just now, I wasn't thinking whether I wanted to be moving on or not; [in fact], I wasn't thinking anything except...'That was pretty nice,'" Sonny admitted. "I thought so, too," Evan agreed.
"But...since I made the first move, I just wanted to make sure that it was okay," Evan reiterated. "Well, yeah -- I wouldn't have kissed you back if it wasn't," Sonny stressed. "But you have to have some mixed emotions about this," Evan argued. "[Okay] -- it was kind of...like, a little weird for me..." Sonny admitted. "'Cause I'm not Will," Evan concluded for Sonny with a sigh.
"It's nothing personal; it's just that I haven't been with anyone like this in a very long time...[and] it did kind of feel a bit like cheating -- you know, 'cause Will and I aren't, technically [speaking], divorced yet," Sonny clarified. "[So], you want to pump the brakes until you are," Evan guessed, sighing again. "I get it -- [and] it's totally up to you," Evan quickly added.
"This just doesn't -- it doesn't feel right, [and] I don't know why it bothers me so much..." Sonny fretted. "Maybe because you really did love him...[and] maybe you still do..." Evan suggested, sighing yet again. "I should be talking to a therapist about this [instead of] the guy that I just made out with..." Sonny joked. "No, this is on me, [because] I'm the one that stopped kissing you and started talking. [But I did that because] I think a part of me wants this to, uh...you know, be...more than just sex -- as nice as that would be..." Evan replied. "Yeah -- I mean, it would...it would be, uh...be 'nice'..." Sonny agreed.
"Yeah...[but] I think if we go too far too soon, this just...it won't work...[so] I think we should wait until the divorce is final -- [you know], I'll wait and see if I can play for the big deal of the day," Evan continued. "That is flattering...[but] are you sure?" Sonny asked. "Yeah -- I'm not going anywhere," Evan replied.
"Well, I'm gonna get going -- um, Ari has her recital tonight..." Sonny somewhat awkwardly declared before starting to exit the house, producing a cell phone in the process. "You turned your phone off," Evan suggestively observed with a cocky laugh, as if that proved something about the original intention of Sonny's visit. "Well, yeah -- yeah, I mean...you never know..." Sonny explained with a shrug -- just as a flood of text messages about Victor's stroke popped up on the device. Sonny gasped at the content of the text messages then rushed off to the hospital.
Shortly after Sonny rushed off, Rafe emerged from David's bedroom, prompting Evan to apologetically reveal that dinner was going to be a bit late that evening. "I keep telling you [that] you don't have to cook -- it is not in the job description," Rafe stressed. "Eh, I like to cook...[but] I got busy --" Evan began to explain. "With Sonny?" Rafe knowingly concluded for Evan, smirking suggestively.
"Are you guys dating?" Rafe asked. "Not yet -- we're, uh...we're gonna wait until the divorce goes through," Evan replied. "Seems like a good idea," Rafe declared. "You still think I'm asking for trouble," Evan guessed. "I just know Will and Sonny," Rafe explained with a shrug. "They're getting a divorce!" Evan stressed. "Right -- [so], legally, they will not be together anymore...but emotionally, it's different," Rafe warned.
At Statesville, Will received a visit from Kate, who was clearly frustrated. "I don't even know why I keep bothering -- [I mean], I can't seem to get anything to penetrate that thick skull of yours!" Kate began. "It's nice to see you, too, Grammy," Will sarcastically replied. "Don't call me that -- [and] don't play cute, please! [Look], the whole reason I told you about this pretty-boy babysitter going after your husband [was] because I wanted to inspire you to fight for your marriage! [But] what do you do [instead]? You ask him for a divorce! I mean, why are you driving your husband into another man's arms?" Kate continued.
"'Driving my husband into the arms of another man' -- that's not something you hear every day..." Will dryly mused. "Okay, you know, this isn't funny --" Kate began to protest. "No, it's not...and trust me, it was not 'fun' to ask Sonny for a divorce, [but] I was trying to do the right thing --" Will countered. "Well, it wasn't the 'right' thing; it was the stupid thing!" Kate insisted.
"Grandma, can you try to understand --" Will begged. "What, [that] you're acting like a masochist?" Kate concluded for Will. "You know, I -- I had this exact same conversation with my other grandma, and -- and the funny thing [is that] she actually listened to me..." Will mused. "Oh? Well, that's very nice. Maybe she was coddling you. But I love you enough to tell you when you're an idiot!" Kate stressed. "Oh? Well, thank you for the tough love -- and now that you've given it to me, why don't you go over to the hospital and tell Victor's family to 'buck up'!" Will countered, confusing Kate.
After Will elaborated, Kate contacted Philip, who reported that Victor was undergoing surgery, and it would be a few more hours before any sort of prognosis could be determined. "Poor Sonny..." Will mused with a sigh and a shake of the head. "Exactly -- [and] just when he needs you, you're pushing him away!" Kate stressed, matching Will's expressions of concern with ones of exasperation.
"Look...I probably exaggerated a little bit when I said that Sonny was serious about this [other guy], because he's not -- not yet --" Kate began to clarify. "I know it's not serious -- Sonny told me," Will revealed. "[And you still] asked him for a divorce?" Kate asked incredulously. "Yes -- because I want him to be happy!" Will tiredly replied. "[And] he's not gonna be happy as long as he's tied to me, so if there's even a chance that he could be happy with...with Evan..." Will continued, uttering Evan's name with some difficulty. "Then I am not gonna stand in his way," Will concluded with a sigh and a shrug.
"I [understand] that you don't want to hold Sonny back -- I really do -- but you're just moving too fast; [I mean], you're going to get parole --" Kate began to argue. "We don't know that I'm gonna get parole -- [and] even if I do, that could be years from now," Will countered with a dismissive scoff.
"Let's just not be negative --" Kate protested. "How 'bout I be realistic, then? I'll be realistic -- I. Killed. Sonny's. Mother!" Will stressed. "That was an accident! And Sonny is going to forgive you eventually --" Kate insisted. "Even if he does forgive me, [that] doesn't mean he wants to still be married to me -- [to] the man --" Will countered, getting emotional. "Stop!" Kate shouted, silencing Will.
"When Adrienne had cancer, she and I became really close, [and] the really great thing about her [was that] she didn't have an ounce -- not an ounce -- of self-pity. And because I know that, I know that she would not want you wasting your life beating yourself up about this -- and she would also not want her son to lose the man who truly, deeply loved [him]!" Kate passionately argued. "Asking Sonny for a divorce was not about my 'self-pity,' okay? It was about doing the best for the man that I truly, deeply love," Will defensively stressed.
Kate sighed and discreetly slipped Will a note from Arianna. "She knows that you can't be at the recital, but she wanted you to have [that]," Kate explained. "I'll, uh...I'll read it later," Will decided, getting emotional again.
"You know I only yell at you because I love you," Kate stressed. "Lucky me..." Will dryly muttered. "Honey, you and Sonny love each other so much [that] nothing is impossible [for you] --" Kate argued. "When did you become such a big believer in the power of love?" Will wondered. "I'm not...[but] I know how much you love Sonny, and I don't want you [to] waste that, [and] I don't want you [to not] fight for him [and] your family," Kate explained. "But what about Sonny? [I mean], is he supposed to just wait [and] hope that I get out? Grandma, if he has a shot at being happy...with Evan, [then]...like I said, I'm not standing in his way," Will maintained.
"He's not gonna be happy with Evan, [because] Evan is not the right man for him. [Evan's] gonna hurt him -- I guarantee it," Kate insisted. "Wait a minute -- what do you mean? Is there -- is there something about Evan that I don't know?" Will asked worriedly. "[There's just] this feeling I have about him, [and]...I don't know -- I don't trust him," Kate vaguely replied. "Or is it just that you -- you see him as a threat to me?" Will countered.
"I knew that you wouldn't take my word for it, so I have decided to do a little digging --" Kate revealed. "Don't do that," Will begged with a groan. "Why? [I mean], if there's something not right there, do you really want him around Ari? No! [Which is why] I am gonna get the truth!" Kate maintained. "Well, I mean, it's not like I can stop you..." Will conceded with a sigh of defeat. "[But] can you [at least] promise [you'll] talk to me before you try and poison him? [You know], because that never really works out for you..." Will dryly added, annoying Kate.
Meanwhile, at the Hernandez house, Rafe produced some paperwork and handed it to Evan. "More adoption paperwork -- [see], since you're living with David, I need you to consent to having a full background check," Rafe explained. "That's not gonna be a problem, is it?" Rafe continued as Evan stared at the paperwork. "I've got nothing to hide," Evan hesitantly conceded, forcing a smile.
Satisfied, Rafe rushed off to check on David again -- and as soon as the coast was clear, Evan's smile faded, and a chillingly blank expression took its place.
Jack decides to pay Steve a visit
After learning, during a phone conversation with Shin, that Gabi had given Kristen a job, Chad rushed over to Basic Black to find out what was going on.
"I hope you didn't promise [Gabi] those shares [in exchange for this job]. Do I have to remind you that Father wants me to have them so I can take control of DiMera?" Chad objected. "I don't give a damn what Father thinks or wants. I'm here to get what I want," Kristen countered. "What's that?" Chad wondered. "Brady," Kristen clarified with a shrug and a smile.
"[Fine] -- as long as you don't give Gabi your shares," Chad stressed. "Oh, my God -- you are so obsessed with those stupid shares! [You know], there's more to life than business! Don't you have a child, a wife...?" Kristen argued. "I do, yeah -- [and] Gabi's a threat to them, [too]...and to you. [Look], if she takes control of this company, she's gonna destroy it; she's gonna decimate our family's legacy, [and] everything that Father built --" Chad insisted. "Enough, Chad -- I got it!" Kristen tiredly interjected. "I have no intention of giving Gabi anything. I'm just stringing her along," Kristen admitted.
"Happy now?" Kristen asked. "No, I'm not, 'cause you're doing the same thing to me. [First, you were] waiting for [a] sign from God [to help you decide what to do with your shares, and] now that you're not becoming a nun, I have no idea what the hell you're waiting for [anymore] -- all I know is [that] you can't give Gabi any more power [by letting her have them]," Chad replied. "I already told you [that] I'm not giving Gabi anything! [Look], I just dangled those shares in front of her so I could get this job!" Kristen tiredly reiterated. "You don't need Gabi for that -- once I'm in charge, you're welcome to keep [this] job," Chad countered.
"There's another reason why I'm keeping Gabi on the hook...[but it's] none of your business," Kristen vaguely stressed. "I understand [that] you have a plan...but so does our father, and right now, you're going against his wishes, [because] he wants you on my side of this fight --" Chad began to argue. "If Father wants something from me, he can ask me himself -- to my face!" Kristen dismissively insisted. "I highly doubt Father's gonna agree to meet with you," Chad warned. "Why the hell not? He got in touch with you!" Kristen bitterly countered.
"I haven't seen [or] spoken with him; [we've] just communicated through text messages," Chad clarified. "[Then] the next time that you send one of your messages, you just let him know that I'm not gonna give up my stake in the company based on secondhand communication from you -- [after all], what if you're lying? [And] I'm not interested in having a conversation this important with a screen, so you can tell Father that it's either my way or the highway -- and he knows me well enough to know I mean it," Kristen stressed. "[Fine...but let's] get one thing straight -- I'm the future of this company," Chad declared.
"Really? I'm getting a 'lapdog' vibe from you..." Kristen argued. "Why? Because I have the utmost respect for our father? [Look], he can make whatever decisions he wants behind the scenes, [but] he's in no position to take over -- completely or publicly -- and while you've been hiding out in that little convent of yours, I've been building DiMera Enterprises: Asia, Europe, the entire globe!" Chad countered. "Would you like a gold star?" Kristen offered, laughing mockingly. "I've worked my ass off to bring this company back from the brink, [and] I'm not gonna let Gabi steal it from under me!" Chad continued, ignoring Kristen's interjection.
"And if you let that happen, [then] not only will you have to deal with Father's wrath, you will have to deal with mine, [too]!" Chad concluded before storming off, leaving Kristen even more amused.
At the DiMera mansion, Jennifer joined Abigail in the study after reading Thomas and Charlotte a bedtime story. "I just cannot believe how much they have grown in a year!" Jennifer admitted. "I know! And I really -- I think that Thomas is starting to look like his dad," Abigail replied. "Spitting image," Jennifer agreed. "[Speaking of which]...where is Chad?" Jennifer added while looking around the study, as if expecting Chad to emerge from a hiding place at any moment. "He went to talk to Kristen. [She's] playing mind games with him [and] Gabi, and [he] just wants to put an end to it," Abigail revealed.
Chad soon returned, prompting Jennifer to rush off. Abigail was quick to ask questions about the meeting with Kristen, so Chad shared everything -- then relayed Kristen's demand to Stefano via text message.
Nicole went to the hospital to see Brady, who was annoyed to learn that Kristen had managed to secure a job at Basic Black.
"If Kristen thinks that this is gonna change anything between [her and me], she is dead wrong, [because] I won't take her back, Nic -- not ever!" Brady insisted. "[And] the crazy part [is that] there's nothing going on between [you and me] -- I mean, we're just friends -- [so] what the hell is she --" Brady continued. "Yeah, well, we know that...but Kristen...[well], she just kept...being Kristen...[and, eventually], I couldn't take it anymore, [so]..." Nicole reluctantly began to admit. "Oh, God -- what did you do?" Brady worriedly wondered. "I told her it was true -- that [you and I are]...kind of...together..." Nicole apologetically revealed.
"Really?" Brady asked with a groan before also managing a slight chuckle. "Yeah... Well, I mean, she just kept pushing my buttons, [and]...it slipped out, and...I don't know -- I guess [that], after everything she did to me, [maybe] I just wanted to punish her... [Anyway, look], I'll go to the office [right now, and] I'll tell her that it's not true, and that I made the whole thing up --" Nicole replied before starting to rush off.
"Don't," Brady protested, stopping Nicole. "Leave it alone. Let her think that we're a couple," Brady decided. "Are you sure?" Nicole wondered, surprised. "Yeah -- I think it's the perfect way to send the message, loud and clear, that I'm not available. [And], hey, maybe she'll give up and just go away [if we do this]," Brady reasoned. "Yeah...or she'll just kill me..." Nicole countered, looking sick. "You don't [really] think Kristen would [do that]...do you?" Brady asked. "Well, I did bait her a little -- I asked her if she was gonna do to me what she did to Haley Chen..." Nicole replied, drawing another groan from Brady.
"And then I told her I wasn't afraid of her, and she said I should be," Nicole continued. "Well, [she's] not gonna mess with you as long as I'm around," Brady promised.
Meanwhile, Justin emerged from a nearby elevator and approached Ciara, who worriedly reported that Victor's surgery was still in progress.
"What happened in court? How did Ben's appeal go?" Ciara asked nervously. "I made the strongest possible argument I could for Ben's exoneration -- I emphasized that he never should have been convicted in the first place because it was all circumstantial evidence -- [and] I don't know [if I got through to the judge], but I'm hopeful," Justin soothingly replied. "I hate that I'm not there with him right now, you know? I mean, the waiting must be torture. [But] I have to stay here and make sure that my grandpa pulls through," Ciara fretted. "[So], was Victor alone when he had the stroke?" Justin wondered. "Uh, no... He was with me..." Ciara admitted.
"You did not cause Victor to have a stroke," Justin insisted after hearing the whole story. "I really think that I did...[and] if Grandpa dies..." Ciara began to argue before breaking down.
Xander went to the chapel to pray for Victor -- and Mackenzie and Sarah, too. "I know I'm pushing my luck, asking you for help when I only ever go to church when I want something for myself, but I really do need [your help right now, God]... I hope and pray that this isn't punishment for what we did," Xander stressed while kneeling at the altar.
"What did you do?" Maggie asked curiously from the chapel doorway, startling Xander. "Uh... I just... I was talking about pretending to be Mickey's father, you know? It was just all my idea, and now, look at everything that's happened since -- Mickey got sick, and Victor had a stroke... I can't help but think I'm being punished," Xander carefully replied. "I don't believe God works that way," Maggie soothingly assured Xander. "I know I came back to Salem as the black sheep of this family, but my uncle has become very important to me --" Xander continued. "And you to him," Maggie stressed. "We can't lose [him] -- we just can't!" Xander concluded.
"My husband has put a lot of trust in you this past year -- which, frankly, surprised me...especially [when] he fired Brady as [Titan's] CEO and replaced him with you, right after Brady lost his child --" Maggie mused. "Well, I've...learned not to question Uncle Vic..." Xander carefully replied. "Yeah... Well, I did, [and] he gave me the same nonanswer that he gave to Brady -- that he had to make a huge decision, and that he hopes [that], someday, [I will] understand," Maggie revealed. "Sounds about right..." Xander carefully replied. "Why don't we go and see if there's any more news?" Xander quickly added, eager to end the conversation.
Shortly after Maggie and Xander joined Brady, Nicole, Justin, and Ciara in one of the waiting areas, Kayla approached the group to provide an update. "Victor pulled through the surgery with flying colors. The embolectomy was a complete success -- we took out the blood clot, and he is not resting comfortably," Kayla reported, drawing sighs of relief and expressions of gratitude from everyone else.
Maggie went with Kayla to see Victor, Justin rushed off in search of Sonny, and Brady and Nicole decided that there was no reason to stick around any longer, leaving Ciara alone with Xander. "If you love Victor as much as you claim, then you won't go anywhere near him -- [after all], just seeing you could give him another stroke," Xander warned Ciara, who stormed off without bothering to respond.
Later, Justin and Kayla reconvened in the same waiting area. After asking Justin for an update on the status of Ben's final appeal, Kayla revealed what had happened with Steve earlier. Justin comforted Kayla with a hug.
At the Evans-Black townhouse, Stefano tried to contact Gina, but the call went to voicemail. "Gina, I know you're worried Detective Hernandez is starting to figure out that you're not Hope, and I agree -- time is of the essence if we're to win John and Marlena before our true identities are discovered. Call me. We need to move ahead with our plan," Stefano said before ending the call -- and realizing that Jack was standing in the townhouse doorway. "Ever hear of knocking?" Stefano -- who was lucky to be wearing Steve's eye patch -- snapped. "If you mean did I hear what you said...the answer's yes," Jack countered, slamming the townhouse door shut.
"So, who were you talking to, Steve -- [and] what's this big plan of yours?" Jack demanded to know. "I was leaving a message for Hope -- we're working together to find Stefano DiMera and Dr. Rolf," Stefano replied. "So I heard," Jack admitted. "I'd think you'd be more pumped about that, since Rolf's the one who pushed your wife off that balcony," Stefano argued. "Yeah, I would be 'pumped' to find out who pushed my wife off the balcony. What I'm not so 'pumped' about is [having to hear] that my brother came back into town [from] a bunch of people at a New Year's Eve party. Why the hell didn't I hear it from you?" Jack countered.
"I was a little bit busy," Stefano explained with a shrug. "Too busy to pick up the phone and call me [to] say you're sorry my wife is in a coma? Too busy to come to your own sister's funeral? You realize, [don't you], what that did to our mother -- that it tore her apart to lose Adrienne so suddenly, and [that having] the number-one son [not] even bother to show up [for the funeral just made it even worse]?" Jack snapped. "I did what I could," Stefano insisted. "You sent a card! A plain little card -- a sympathy card -- with nothing in it [but] your name, scribbled at the bottom like some bar tab!" Jack elaborated.
"It was nothing -- no, it was...it was...it was worse than 'nothing'; 'nothing' is your usual M.O.! [Face it] -- whether it's the ISA, or the Merchant Marines, or whatever 'important' assignment that you're on right now, that always comes first; you always come first, ahead of your family!" Jack spat. "[And] if anyone knows about abandoning their family, it's you, right?" Stefano countered.
"[I mean, back] when your daughter was born, you cut and run...and then, when you got sick, you skulked out of town [and] didn't tell anyone the truth about that...and then, when you 'died' in that elevator accident, well, you didn't even bother to let anyone know that you were actually alive --" Stefano continued. "If you'd been here, you'd know I couldn't do anything about that!" Jack defensively interjected. "Oh? But you could stroll back into town with Eve Donovan on your arm? [You know], Jennifer must have loved that..." Stefano dryly countered. "I had no memories -- I couldn't...I didn't know anything about who I was..." Jack stressed.
"[But] you knew exactly who you are [and] exactly what you were doing when you signed those papers!" Jack continued. "Hey, Kayla sent me those divorce papers, and I only signed them because I thought [that was] what she wanted me to do," Stefano reasoned, shrugging unapologetically. "She wanted to wake you up, you idiot -- she wanted to wake you up [and] make you realize what you had before you lost it; [she wanted to] give you a chance to come back and make things right!" Jack clarified. "I'm not a mind reader," Stefano pointed out, offering another unapologetic shrug.
"No -- [and] what you've become is a guy who finalizes a divorce without a word of communication, without a hint of compassion or respect for the woman that you've been with for 30 years --" Jack summarized. "Kayla has moved on!" Stefano tiredly stressed. "You hurt her! [And] you treated her like dirt!" Jack continued. "Who are you to lecture me about what I did to Kayla? Didn't you rape her?" Stefano bluntly countered, silencing Jack. "You're gonna throw that in my face, after all these years?" Jack eventually replied. "[Well], it's true, isn't it?" Stefano reasoned with yet another unapologetic shrug.
"Yeah, I did -- I did rape her...and Kayla and I worked through that together years ago. I guess you weren't here [then, either]. But this -- [I mean], what's this all about [from you now], huh? What, you want to throw me off another roof?" Jack continued. "It's not like you didn't deserve it...[but then], after everything you did, what happened?" Stefano countered. "You gave me your kidney," Jack acknowledged, realizing the point. "Thank you very much -- I think of you often. [But] the fact is, [that] never would have happened if our mother hadn't gotten down on her hands and knees and begged you!" Jack stressed.
"So, it still comes back to you -- what you want, what you need -- because whatever Steve wants is the most important, and the hell with the rest of us, including Kayla -- 'Sweetness,' the love of your life!" Jack concluded. "You have to stop idealizing what Kayla and I had. We had plenty of problems over the years -- you know, we fought, we broke up, we were with other people..." Stefano pointed out. "[But] you always managed to come back together somehow, [so] you could have come back [again after receiving the divorce papers, and at least] given her the decency of --" Jack tried to argue.
"What happens between me and Kayla is none of your damn business!" Stefano insisted. "[Besides], she's with somebody else right now, and she seems really happy with him -- our brother-in-law! And I'm fine with that!" Stefano continued. "Unbelievable!" Jack declared. "Believe it, Jack! We're divorced, it's over, and the only connection we have left is our three kids!" Stefano concluded with finality. "You and Kayla [only] have two kids -- Joey and Stephanie," Jack pointed out, confused. "What about Tripp?" Stefano countered, squirming a bit. "Kayla's not Tripp's mother; Ava was," Jack stressed.
"I know that...but [Ava's] dead, and Kayla and Tripp are close now... She thinks of him as ours, [and] so do I," Stefano explained. "[Then]...you keep in touch -- [you know], with Tripp? [I mean], does he know you're here, [or] how you're treating his beloved stepmother?" Jack asked pointedly. "Stop with the inquisition, Jack!" Stefano tiredly replied. "[That's right] -- you're a busy man [who's] got a lot of stuff to do. I'm sorry for asking too many questions!" Jack sarcastically declared. "Hey, if you don't care if I find the man who's responsible for putting your wife in a coma, [then] fine -- we can chat all day," Stefano countered.
"Maybe you just don't care if I catch Stefano DiMera...[but] there's a whole lot of other people in this town who do," Stefano stressed. "You may think that this big plan of yours to catch the bad guy is gonna make you a hero again, [but] it's not gonna make up for the fact that you haven't been here for anybody [in a long time]," Jack warned. "I haven't seen you for years...[but] I guess I, um...am better off without you. Maybe I always was. Maybe we all were," Jack concluded before storming off. "Good riddance, Deveraux!" Stefano derisively muttered once the coast was clear.
Jack met up with Jennifer at the Brady Pub and recapped the earlier encounter with Steve. "I know I have memory problems, but to not remember that he and Kayla had two kids -- it was bizarre!" Jack declared. "How did he even explain all that?" Jennifer asked. "He claimed that he was talking about Tripp...[but] I feel like maybe he was [actually] thrown somehow -- [like] he was covering up a slip," Jack replied. "Wait -- so...you think that Steve is hiding something?" Jennifer incredulously summarized -- just as Kayla entered the pub.
After Kayla offered an update on Victor's condition, Jack admitted to having seen Steve earlier. "I think you're better off without him -- [he] doesn't seem to be the same man anymore," Jack warned Kayla.
Meanwhile, at the hospital, Justin found Ciara in the chapel and announced that a judge had just made a decision about Ben's final appeal.
While passing through Horton Town Square, Kristen ran into Brady and Nicole, who made a point of acting like a couple. "Do not mess with [Nicole]...or you'll answer to me," Brady warned Kristen, who scowled then stormed into the nearby Salem Inn. Satisfied, Brady and Nicole headed over to Eric's apartment -- but after entering it, Nicole immediately secured two locks on the door. "Did you see the way Kristen was looking at me? I mean, I could feel the hatred oozing out of her! [Look], rubbing our relationship in her face [was fun]...but I also know from experience that it's not a good idea to push Kristen too far," Nicole fretted to Brady.
Stefano read Chad's text message then rushed off to Kristen's room at the Salem Inn. "Steve Johnson? What -- what the hell are you doing here?" Kristen, who had been busy trashing the room in response to what had happened with Brady and Nicole earlier, demanded to know.
Stefano reveals himself to Kristen
Kayla was eating in the pub when Marlena walked in. "Did Victor's surgery go okay?" Marlena asked. Kayla assured Marlena that Victor had done well. Kayla told Marlena about Jack's run-in with Steve and that Jack had expressed a negative opinion about the new Steve.
"[Jack said] that [Steve] is cold and almost cruel," Kayla explained. "You know, John and I were taken aback by the way he treated you," Marlena said. Marlena said she agreed that Kayla deserved answers from Steve. When Kayla mentioned the woman that Steve loved, Marlena suggested that they might have misinterpreted Steve's focus on his mission for not caring. Kayla turned the conversation to Justin and how happy she was to have him in her life.
"You don't seem happy," Marlena noted. Kayla said she was angry with herself for not being able to let go of Steve when she already had a wonderful man in her life. "People change. I've changed. I just have to let [Steve] live his life," Kayla said. Kayla wished aloud that Steve could move on without being so obnoxious to her. "I can't explain why Steve is behaving the way he is. I'm sorry it is so terribly upsetting to you," Marlena said. Marlena added that Kayla's bond with Steve was a strong one because of all they had shared.
"I'm so glad you have Justin, but I do understand why you are having a hard time letting go," Marlena said. With a shrug, Kayla countered that Steve did not appear to have difficulty letting go. Kayla noted that in the past when Steve had pushed her away, it had been to protect her, but his attitude was different this time.
"There's no love. There's only emptiness," Kayla said. Marlena told Kayla that she and John agreed that Steve had been unnecessarily cruel to Kayla. "Why'd he have to come back, anyway?" Kayla wondered aloud. Marlena said she did not understand why Hope had escorted Steve back to town and that Hope had been behaving poorly. Marlena told Kayla that Hope had made multiple passes at John. Kayla was confused.
"It just doesn't sound like her," Kayla said. Marlena told Kayla about when she had walked in on Hope with her blouse off. Kayla was taken aback. Marlena informed Kayla that John had firmly set Hope straight. "But you're still unhappy about it," Kayla noted. Marlena said she was not threatened by Hope's attraction to John because her marriage to John was strong. Marlena added that the only threat to her marriage was Stefano.
"I am glad that Steve is back for that. When he and John team up, not even Stefano is a match for them," Kayla said. Before Kayla left, Marlena asked if she would consider reuniting with Steve if he asked to be with her again. "As Jack said, he's not the man I knew. And I'm happy with the man I'm with," Kayla said.
At the Salem Inn, Kristen was surprised to find "Steve Johnson" in her doorway. "What are you staring at?" Kristen asked. "I'm here because of your father. Stefano DiMera," "Steve" said. "Steve" asked Kristen about her father.
"I know that he hasn't made an effort to see me. That he has deigned to only communicate with his son. Although he refuses to show himself to Chad, so who knows if he really is our father or not," Kristen complained. Kristen noted that Stefano had sent Chad over to demand that she hand over her stock.
"Obviously that stock is the only thing the Phoenix gives a damn about, so I don't give a damn about him," Kristen said. "Maybe I can convince you to help me catch him," "Steve" suggested. Kristen scoffed at the idea. "There is no way in hell I'm going to work with you to expose him," Kristen protested. "Steve" asked about Kristen's plans for her stock shares. Kristen said she had plans, but her immediate concern was to break up Brady and Nicole.
"Ah, love. That's what has you so upset," "Steve" said. "Well how would you like it if you came back and your beloved Kayla was with someone else?" Kristen asked. "Steve" smirked. "Funny you should say that. When I came back to town, Kayla had indeed taken up with somebody else. Justin Kiriakis," "Steve" said. "So, you understand how much it hurts," Kristen countered. "Steve" said he was not as bothered by the news as everyone expected him to be. Confused, Kristen asked how "Steve" had moved on so easily.
"If she is happy with Justin, I have to respect that," "Steve" said. "I will only be happy with Brady," Kristen announced. With a nod, "Steve" noted that Kristen always pursued what she wanted, and that was a trait that Stefano had always loved about her. "How the hell do you know that?" Kristen asked. "Steve" said he had spent a large portion of his life studying Stefano.
"No matter his faults, I have no doubt that [Stefano] loves his children very much," "Steve" said. "Some more than others," Kristen said bitterly. Kristen argued that if her father had cared about her, he would have contacted her first. "I've been nothing but loyal to him. So, what do I get? I get silence. Not a word," Kristen yelled. "Steve" suggested that Stefano had to have had his reasons not to contact Kristen directly.
"You came here asking me about my father, but it seems to me you know a whole lot more about his current state of mind than I do, so what is it you are not telling me?" Kristen asked. "Steve" reminded Kristen that Stefano was a wanted man and wanted to keep hidden.
"I lost my child! I lost Brady! I lost everything! And where was my father then when I was broken and alone? When I needed him the most? His only living daughter, destroyed, and he chose to stay beneath whatever rock he crawled under! God! I don't even know why I'm telling you this," Kristen yelled. "Because you and I have more of a connection than you realize," "Steve" said. Incensed, Kristen asked "Steve" what connection there was between them.
"A familial one. Kristen, I am your father," Stefano said. "You really want me to believe that you are my birth father?" Kristen asked. Kristen called "Steve" pathetic, and she ordered him to leave. "Listen to me! I am not Steve Johnson!" Stefano bellowed. "I am Stefano DiMera," Stefano said as he grabbed Kristen by the shoulders and stared into her eyes.
In the loft, Gina called out Stefano's name as she entered. John appeared from a back room of the loft. "Why are you expecting to find him here?" John asked. "Hope" lied and said she had noticed the front door lock had been tampered with, and she had wondered if Stefano was inside. John held up a wine cork and noted, "He has definitely been here." John pointed out that the police had swept the loft, and the cork was new evidence. "Hope" reasoned aloud that the police had overlooked the evidence, and she said she would reprimand the appropriate party. When "Hope" asked for the evidence, John pulled his arm back.
"Don't you want to put it in a bag?" John asked. "It's been a long day," "Hope" said as she pulled a tissue out of her pocket to wrap up the cork. "Last time I checked, I didn't give you permission to enter. Or, more accurately, break and enter. You're lucky I didn't mistake you for someone else and shoot you," "Hope" said. John apologized. John explained that he had wanted to get inside Stefano's head.
"Just how exactly did you manage to track [Steve] down and bring him back to Salem?" John asked "Hope." John noted that Steve was a trained agent and would be difficult to find if he did not want to be found. "You found him, and he agreed just like that. To come back to a town he has been avoiding and a wife he divorced," John said. "Hope" asked John if he was accusing her of something.
"It's Steve. He's distant. He's been downright rude to Kayla. The more I look at it, he's been cool to me, too. A little standoffish. In fact, the only person he is halfway nice to is Marlena," John said.
"They're old friends. Like you and I," "Hope" said. "Exactly. Friends," John stressed as he took a step back from "Hope." Confused, "Hope" asked John why he was distant. John said he wanted to reaffirm that they were on the same page "with where we stand with one another."
"The feelings I developed for you, they weren't something I was planning on. Now, let's put all that aside. We're professionals, and we have a job to do. And with Stefano returning, it presents a threat to all of us," "Hope" said. John agreed. "Hope" said she needed the very best people on the case, like John and Steve.
"I know that Steve wants the same thing I do," "Hope" said. "Hope" apologized again for crossing a boundary with John, and she explained that she had told John about her feelings because she had believed that John had felt the same way. "I clearly misread the signals," "Hope" said. John blamed himself for any mixed signals. "Hope" asked John to be honest with her.
"I'm really worried that I'm gonna lose your friendship. That it's gonna cost me. Please, just tell me I'm wrong," "Hope" said. John assured "Hope" that their friendship would survive. "As long as we are both clear that Doc is the only woman for me, everything is cool," John said. "Hope" said she understood. Before John left, he told "Hope" that any man would be lucky to be with a woman like her. With a nod, John left.
"I'm glad to hear you say that, John. 'Cause your luck is about to change," Gina whispered. Gina looked at the portrait of Stefano on the wall. "I obviously have no chance with John as long as your Queen of the Night is around," Gina said. "I have no choice. Marlena must die," Gina muttered.
John walked over to the pub to meet up with Marlena for a drink. "I'm glad to see you drinking a beer. Not that fine wine that Hope tried to introduce you to," Marlena said. John changed the subject and made a toast to Marlena. "To the most beautiful and brilliant woman I've ever known. And to our love, which, like a fine wine -- well, it gets better with age," John said.
In the hospital chapel, Justin told Ciara that the court had reached a decision on Ben's last appeal. Down the hallway in Victor's hospital room, a pale Victor looked at Xander.
"I thought I was a goner," Victor said. When Victor noted that he had expected to wake up to a prettier face, Xander explained that he had sent Maggie home. "We have to talk about Ciara," Xander said. Victor told Xander that Ciara had confronted him about Jordan's murder, and he had collapsed.
"It's just like you said. She thinks that Ben is innocent and that you and I are responsible for Jordan's murder," Victor said. "Is she right about that?" Justin asked as he entered the room. Xander jumped to his feet and insisted that Victor needed to rest. "I can never decide if you're his guard dog or his lap dog," Justin mused. Xander accused Justin of encouraging Ciara to turn on the family in favor of a delusional theory.
"I don't think it is delusional," Justin countered. Xander called Justin reckless. "Ciara is lovestruck. She's obviously incapable of rational thought, but here you are, encouraging her absurd theory that her own grandfather is guilty of murdering Jordan Ridgeway. So, what does she do? She hounds the poor man till he has a stroke," Xander yelled. Justin told Victor that he was sorry for his illness, but it would not keep him from looking for the truth. Xander reminded Justin that Ben had "had his day in court."
"In America, every person has a right to justice! And that includes a right to appeal his conviction. A conviction that is based solely on circumstantial evidence, with more than enough reasonable doubt," Justin argued. Justin said that Ben did not deserve the death penalty. "Justice is done," Xander noted. Justin sat next to Victor and said, "We both know he did not [murder Jordan]. Xander is right about something. Ciara is deeply in love with Ben. So, are you prepared to accept the fact that she will never, ever forgive you for this?"
At the prison, Ciara met with Ben and told him that Victor would be fine. "That's not why I'm here," Ciara said. Ciara told Ben that the court had decided not to overturn his conviction. "Not that much of a surprise, right? No new evidence," Ben noted. Ben asked about Justin's request to commute his sentence to life. "It was denied," Ciara confirmed. Fighting tears, Ben noted that he was out of appeals.
"After all the horrible things I've done in my life, I'm going to die for something I didn't do," Ben whispered. "I'm so scared," Ciara admitted as she cried. "I'm not gonna let you die. That can't happen, but how? How can we stop this?" Ciara asked. "This is over," Ben said calmly. Ben asked Ciara to leave. "I need you to forget about me, and I need you not to come back here ever," Ben said.
"There is no way in hell that I am walking away from you right now, Ben," Ciara said. Ben again asked Ciara to leave. Overwhelmed with emotion, Ciara grabbed Ben and hugged him. The guard intervened and ordered Ciara and Ben to step back. Ben calmly told the guard that he had lost his last appeal. Ben added that if the guard touched Ciara, he should know that Ben had nothing left to lose. The guard stepped back and let the lovers embrace.
"I'm not giving up on you. You have to believe me. I'm going to find a way to keep you alive. That's a promise," Ciara said. After Ciara left, Ben sat down at the table and let his head rest on his arms. Clyde walked in. "I heard you lost your last appeal," Clyde said. Ben wiped his eyes before he turned to face his father. "Did you come to rub it in my face? That you told me so?" Ben asked indignantly. Clyde shook his head no, and he said he was genuinely upset for Ben. Clyde asked Ben to let him help.
"You going to go after little Mickey Horton again? You do that, I will go straight to the warden," Ben stressed. Clyde urged Ben to calm down and listen to him. "What I'm talking about is busting us both out of here," Clyde said.
At the hospital, Ciara marched into Victor's room. Xander rose to stand between Ciara and Victor. "The last time you saw him, you almost killed him. You here to finish the job?" Xander asked. Ciara started to brush past Xander, but he stopped her. Xander growled that he did not want Ciara anywhere near Victor. Ciara barked that she did not take orders from Xander and that she would not leave until she got answers from her grandfather.
"Justin just told us that your homicidal boyfriend just lost his last appeal, so the subject is closed," Xander said. "Ciara," Victor said weakly. Ciara rushed to Victor's side. "I love you. I love you so much, you know that, but I love Ben, too. And he is going to be executed, and we both know that he did not kill his sister, and we both know that Ben is the innocent man that you guys sent to jail," Ciara said. Ciara begged Victor to help her because he was the only person that could. Xander grabbed Ciara by the arm to drag her out of the room.
"Fine! I'll tell Maggie everything. I'll tell her how I saw you burning your confession, and how I overheard the both of you saying that you sent an innocent man to prison," Ciara threatened. Xander warned Ciara she could not tell Maggie anything, but Ciara refused to back down. "She will get the both of you to admit what you have done," Ciara said. As Ciara turned to leave, Victor called out her name. "We have to tell her the truth," Victor said weakly.