I don't know about you, but when the powers that be revealed that Susan Flannery's exit from The Bold and the Beautiful would be dealt with realistically, as Stephanie Forrester's lung cancer would return, I suspected that it was going to be heartwrenching. Well, after just a couple of weeks -- maybe six episodes or so -- I'm awash in tears. This is really sad stuff, no matter how well written it is and sensitively it's handled. The fact is that a beloved character, one who's also been a hellacious villain at times, is departing.
With every flashback and all the longing looks between her and Brooke, Steffy, Taylor, Pam, or Eric, I cannot help but feel like I'm losing Stephanie, too. I've watched Susan Flannery as Stephanie since the very start of this soap. Back then, B&B was considered the glamour and gloss show, the one with the prettiest actors and nothing as gritty and truthful as the stories being depicted on Guiding Light or As The World Turns.
But B&B had one legitimate soap icon on the show from day one: Susan Flannery. As Stephanie, it was Susan that brought the grit and truth to B&B. She was the character who carried those early years and drew viewers in -- and she succeeded magnificently!
It helped that Susan had a track record on Days of our Lives, where, as Dr. Laura Horton, she was riveting. I'd grown up watching Laura falling in love with Mickey, getting date raped by his brother Bill, then having a baby and letting Mickey think it was his child and not Bill's! That was great stuff, and it had been written by Bill Bell, the man who created B&B. He knew that Susan was a dynamic actress and putting her on his new CBS show was a stroke of genius. Susan Flannery lived up to his every wish for Stephanie Forrester. She made the show something special...something you had to watch.
I can vividly recall that my curiosity about B&B was based on my allegiance to Susan Flannery. I'd loved her on Days, and that convinced me to give B&B a try. It wasn't the pretty young stars or even the allure of the fashion industry or location shoots. No, it was the chance to see Flannery attack a new role.
Now, all these years later, it's hard to conceive of B&B without the strong, dominating Stephanie Forrester at the heart of the storytelling. She's been a character who's made up her own rules, done what she's wanted, and often forced her family into impossible dilemmas. But she was never boring or unwatchable. Vexing, maddening, frustrating...yes. Her all-consuming involvement with Ridge's love life, forever casting out Brooke while always embracing Taylor, was a trope you could count on. And when she was bad, like bribing Thomas to lie about what happened on the island with Brooke, she was downright evil.
But time is moving on, and Brad Bell has chosen to give Stephanie -- and Susan -- a great send-off. It's her choice to move off-camera, perhaps to concentrate on her directing more. But these last episodes are pure gold. Mark my words, friends, these shows will be in the Emmy reel. They're that good. And it's not just Susan. Alley Mills as Pam, John McCook as Eric, and Katherine Kelly Lang as Brooke are all rising to the occasion, as are Winsor Harmon and Hunter Tylo. They're all feeling it, and as a result, so are we.
I do have one complaint/observation that I feel I must share. Including Sally Spectra -- the late Darlene Conley -- in the Stephanie wayback tour, was sweet. It was a wonderful way to showcase some of the more outrageous and comical scenes over the years. But the fact that the show wrote off Sally when Darlene died by having the character go off on a never-ending journey of fun and frivolity, meant there was no way to show Sally's reaction to Stephanie's invitation. So that brought in Fabio (yeah, he's still around!) to be Sally's current boy toy, with him relaying Sally's message to Stephanie. Okay, it was harmless, somewhat enjoyable, but it felt false to me.
It also made me wonder about the choices being made by Brad Bell.
After weeks and weeks and weeks -- okay, let's be real, it was months -- of the juvenile junk between Liam, Steffy, and Hope, this past week was a revelation. I was so happy, even as I was crying about Stephanie. It was wonderful to see great acting and true emotional trauma on the show. However, since I brought up the kids, let me say that even though I feel Hope was deceived and manipulated into ending her relationship with Liam by the likes of Bill, Rick, and Steffy, she's probably better off without him. And Liam is better off with Steffy.
Steffy and Liam just fit together. Of course, that's how it's being written, but her character has become freewheeling and fun, and Liam needs her to pull him out of his shell. The way I see it, she's the dominant partner in their relationship, and Liam needs a strong woman. I don't think he's cut out to be the alpha dog, no matter how much Bill wants him to be all man. With Hope, Liam has always faked it as the man in charge. He's pretended to be a grown-up. The truth, however, is that neither Liam nor Hope were ever mature enough to be married. It was a stupid, ridiculous plot from the start.
But now that I see Liam and Steffy together, taking it slowly and not rushing to the altar, I'm very much turning into a fan of this pair. They should be allowed to explore their relationship and contemplate a future together. I would, however, offer this advice: Steffy needs to let Liam chase her for a while. She has fallen into the trap of living to please this man, and that's the recipe for an imbalanced love life. Liam should be more of the pursuer and less of the pursued.
As for Hope, it's time to stop moping around. Dry those eyes and remember that "Hope for the Future" is not just a fashion line, but a philosophy for life. There are plenty of fish in the sea, as my grandmother used to say. Hope needs to start fishing for a new man.
Fortunately, that man will not be Thomas. What the hell happened to little man Forrester? You might think after nearly killing Rick by pushing him out a window he'd gain some perspective on things. For instance, maybe he should check his emotions at the door when entering the conference room! Also, mixing business with romance is a foolish idea. He needs to stop trying to win over Caroline with promises of a big boost to her career now that he's interim C.E.O.
I get the rationale that he's taking the job very seriously and wants to prove to Ridge that he was the right man to take his father's place while Ridge was away. But Thomas is really barking up the wrong tree if he thinks that going after Brooke and the Logans will win him brownie points from Ridge. Sure, Ridge is supposedly fed up with Brooke for lying to him -- and how flimsy was thatstory line? -- but Ridge still loves her. And it would behoove Thomas to remember that Brooke has been very good to him as well as an integral part of Forrester Creations.
The way Thomas acted when he started issuing orders was more like a Nazi storm trooper than the acting head of a fashion house. Has he forgotten all the time he toiled in the basement with Uncle Thorne? If he wants to show that he's a real leader, why not give Thorne an executive office and let him share the wisdom he's collected in over 20 years on the job. It irks me that Thorne is treated like a second-class citizen!
If Thomas continues to bully the Logans, here's how I expect the future to play out. Eric will intervene and side with Brooke. Ridge isn't there, and Brooke will need Eric's support. And with Stephanie dying, Eric will need Brooke. Now, while it's unbelievable that Ridge won't be back before Stephanie's demise, I could see something going wrong so he doesn't return until after she's gone. When Ridge does come home, he'll find that Eric and Brooke have reunited.
Don't scream, folks! I never really thought that Eric got over Brooke all those years ago. Without Stephanie to fill Eric's life, Brooke may be just the woman to fill the void. Honestly, what's to keep Eric and Brooke from rekindling the romance?
All the rumors about a new man in Brooke's life seem like bunk. Dr. Meade, the physician with no name, is still not involved in any of the plotlines. I don't see how he's going to suddenly become a player in Brooke's life. The only other man who's been hanging around Brooke is Bill Spencer, and that's just not going to happen for a myriad of reasons.
Bill will be completely focused on Katie for the foreseeable future, which is how it should be. Katie is in a bad way. Postpartum depression is a very real ailment, and so far it's being dramatized very well. It's frustrating to watch, but women who suffer from this condition are truly tortured by their emotions. For Katie, it's been her heart attack, then nearly dying, all that anger at Bill... It's been a conglomeration of emotional and physical problems that resulted in this situation. Kudos to Heather Tom for making this storyline feel like the real thing.
However, was it really appropriate for Taylor to speak with Katie for an hour and deliver a diagnosis? It happened too fast, based on Dr. Caspery's suggestion and Taylor's evaluation. There was no suggestion of medication or how to treat Katie, just identifying the problem. Since it's hormonal, shouldn't there be some drugs to help her cope? Taylor also annoyed me later in the week when she saw that Thomas was being heartless to Brooke and kept quiet. As a mother, Taylor should have taken a moment alone with Thomas and reminded him that part of being a leader is diplomacy and tact. He showed neither when he informed Brooke that she wasn't really family anymore!
Finally, one last thought about Stephanie's storyline and how they're choosing to tell it. Some people might think that the show is sending the wrong message about how to die from cancer. Stephanie has chosen not to fight for every hour of life she can get with special treatments or experimental chemotherapy. Stephanie has decided to live the last weeks of her life without any extraordinary intervention. She's going to enjoy the time she has left, even throwing a celebration of life party.
Perhaps this could be interpreted as glamorizing death, but I don't see it that way. By showing the flashbacks to Pam and Stephanie's mother's death -- those wonderful scenes starring Betty White as Ann Douglas -- I was reminded that Stephanie believes in death with dignity. It was Pam who put her mother back in the hospital at the end of her life when Ann had asked to die in her bed at home.
Ultimately, Stephanie and Pam took their mother to the beach, where she succumbed to death while looking at the Pacific, embraced by her daughters. It was a sanitized death -- even pretty -- but it was also precisely what they were trying to enact, death with dignity. Stephanie deserves nothing less.
So, that's it for me. Please share your thoughts with me about what's going to happen in the weeks ahead... I'm anxious to read what you all have to say. Your comments are always welcome at Soap Central, so stay in touch. All you have to do is click here to send me a message. And keep on reading Two Scoops every week!
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