The 13th Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2019

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The 13th Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2019
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It's lucky thirteen time! That's right, it's time to celebrate the Thirteenth Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2019 with Two Scoopers, Laurisa and Tony. Hold that sleigh! Or is it the Fourteenth Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2020!? Let's down some 'nog, figure out the Space-Time Continuum, and pass out some glittery gold cyber statuettes in this week's Two Scoops!

THE WORST OF 2019: To read part two of our Best and Worst of DAYS 2019, The Alex North Memorial Awards, click here.

Thirteen might be a number that spooks some superstitious souls like Susan Banks or Celeste, but not us. That ominous digit merely means we've been celebrating the Golden Donut Awards for -- you guessed it -- thirteen years! It's hard to believe how quickly time flies in Two Scoops Land as well as in Salem, USA. *exaggerated stage wink*

When looking back at 2019, it's been like a blur of brilliance. There's been one perfect performance after another from the dazzling cast of DAYS. From hair and makeup to fashion to the sets, the show looks sharp. The dialogue's been sharp, too! Storylines have kept us on the edge of our seats. We were cliffhung nearly every week, causing us to eagerly count down until Monday. Moments ranged from enthusiastic outpours of, "Oh. My. God! Did you see DAYS today!?" to bewildered bellows of "What the hourglass just happened!?" Yes, super scribe Ron Carlivati certainly got us chitchatting about DAYS, and that's an amazing thing. He also knows how to write a wickedly entertaining Halloween episode, too!

Now, while we cyberly hand out our shimmery Golden Donut trophies as a gesture to standout characters, storylines, moments, and actors, we honestly could award every cast and crew member on the show. Their contributions and dedication to our collective entertainment is staggering. The hardest part at times is grumbling about the less than perfect aspects of the show. We have an award for that, too, which we'll get to next week, but even when we do our jobs and give constructive criticism or, perhaps, sometimes get a little snarky as we vent about things that don't personally shake our Gabitini, we do it out of love for DAYS. We always want it to be the best and, like, totally stay on the air forever. With that...

It's time to celebrate! As there is much love to share, we attempt not to overlap winners when possible. It's a grueling task your Two Scoopers take on to make this happen. There are phone chats and texts and games of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to get the honor of gushing about certain Salemites and handing them a Golden Donut statuette. There's also wine. Lots and lots of wine. And Scotch. Which brings us to say, "Grab a glass of something festive and thank you all for joining us as we unleash The Thirteenth Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2019!"

Best Debut
New to the show or newly returned, we were thrilled to see them

Laurisa: Philip Kiriakis
Do you know the feeling of making an old recipe you forgot you had? As soon as you taste the dish, you think, "Man, why isn't this in my regular rotation anymore?" That. That was the feeling I got one second after Jay Kenneth Johnson's Philip walked into that Last Blast reunion. There have been three actors who played adult Philip, but Jay Ken Doll is my favorite. I clapped and was aghast when he appeared on-screen. Immediately, I saw the places he was needed in Salem. What would he think of Xander? How about Brady? Out of his love for Bo, would he believe Ciara when it came to Ben? Man, how great would Chloe be with him? Since Maggie is his stepmother, does he know the secret of her lemon squares?

Tony: Steve Johnson/Stefano DiMera
Hearing Clyde's spine-chilling voice calling Ben before we saw Papa Weston nearly nabbed this award, as did Eve and Jack's baller entrance on New Year's Eve, but the buildup to "Stefano's return" was just far too intriguing not to win. I mean, it's the Phoenix, after all. How could we not get excited, or simply wonder how in the world this is going to happen. Well! Let me tell you...

Princess Gina was painting a portrait of "Steffie" while having a one-sided conversation with him (and Kristian Alfonso was royally amusing in those scenes. Bravo, bellisima!). For all we knew, Gina G was gabbing to Dr. Rolf, who threw on an ascot and was sipping on some Limoncello. Maybe it was Andre! Peter Blake, perhaps!? Oh, oh, maybe -- oh, hell -- it could have been anybody, but I doubt many of us predicted it would be the Patch Man, Steve Johnson, transformed into the "Fauxnix!" THAT was certainly one shocking reentrance into Salem. So, if anybody has ever wondered what it would be like for one legendary character's legendary portrayer to portray a legendary character previously portrayed by one of the most legendary men of them all, well, DAYS presented us with "Steveano" to find out. Salut!

Best Special Guest Star/Recurring Character

Laurisa: Carrie Brady
Officially, she returned for Caroline's funeral. Unofficially, her return helped tie up some long-standing loose ends as well as usher in some fun storylines. Ridiculous ice cube scene aside, I loved Carrie and Rafe the first time around. Thanks to her separation from Austin (which may have had something to do with Austin visiting Abigail in Paris -- there are two sides to every story) this what-might-have-been pair finally got to seal the to speak. Throw in some awkward, yet funny, Roman and Eric scenes, and Carrie's return was a smashing success.

Tony: Doug Williams
There's an optimistic sparkle in Bill Hayes's eyes and a soothing quality to his voice, and Doug seemed to show up just when we needed his enchanting brand of comfort the most. He was our secure anchor. He also brought humanity with him to wild plots and over-the-top antics. No matter how far things went, Doug managed to make things feel right, even when his own heart was breaking as he encouraged the love of his life to keep fighting for her life. His compassionate conversation with Gabi was also a pure showing of his elegance and grace. Doug definitely has the Midas touch, and Bill's poignant performances were impeccable. It's easy to see why Julie adores this stylish songster so much. We do, too, Jules. We. Do. Too.

Most Improved
It's not always doom and gloom in Salem! What's taken a turn for the better?

Laurisa: Julie Williams
It's not that Julie hasn't always had an edge. But the racial insults toward Gabi were just lazy for a character that's always seemed a little smarter than that. So, that's why, when she slipped into a coma, she became the most improved. Ah, the blissful silence of... Kidding. Kidding. While the coma did give National Treasure Bill Hayes a chance to shine, Julie really won me over when she woke up and played nice with Gabi. It's to Susan Seaforth Hayes's everlasting credit that she can go from a bulldog to someone who's genuinely sweet and thankful. Of course, it won't last. Of course, Julie will have a point when she's angry with Gabi. But for now, I think the new and improved Jules is a gem.

Tony: Abigail Deveraux
I've said it before recently, and I'll say it again -- I'm sending Paris a "Thank You" card for returning Abigail to Salem as a feisty, bold investigative reporter! She's no longer a victim or "Poor Abby" who gets to skate on things because she was *insert reason Abigail gets away with murder.* Her princess tiara is off. She's unapologetic. She isn't feigning forgiveness. She'll stand her ground. She's hardworking and wiser. Abigail's finally the daughter of Jack and Jennifer I'd always hoped for, and Kate Mansi is on fire with her performances.

Bonus! Abigail and Chad's relationship has vastly improved, which is a great look for them together and individually. They're certainly more open and honest with one another. They have each other's backs. They're a solid unit who can still disagree but also remain supportive and open to communication. They're adulting, and it's wonderful!

Best Villain

Laurisa: Princess Gina
I don't want to see her stay extended too much longer. But you have to give her credit for what she has accomplished. She fooled an entire town -- including her bestie/professional P.I. roommate and an entire police department into thinking she was a completely different person. She did it all while maintaining two residences and a separate group of friends. It's kind of impressive when you consider the scope of it all.

Tony: Eve Deveraux
There aren't enough adjectives of adoration I could use to shower the magical Kassie DePaiva with. She's just amazing on another level, plain and simple. Eve, on the other hand, well, hardly any Salemite would call her "amazing," unless it's amazingly wicked. You see, a vengeance-fueled Wile Eve Coyote brought her bag full of Acme wrecking balls and dynamite with her when she waltzed back into town with Jack. Jack. OMG, it's Jack! *sigh* and I digress. Even when this storyline got, umm, let's go with taxing, it was Kassie's performances that saved the day while Eve ruined everyone else's.

For the most part, a calculating Eve was in control and reveling in her newfound power as she climbed the social scene all the way to becoming the First Lady of Salem then commissioner (a position she certainly didn't abuse her said newfound power in. Well, maybe a little. Okay. A lot). She manipulated Jack like a Manchurian Candidate and used her new pawn to slice through the town like a woman scorned, especially basking in Jennifer's misery. Mayoral-minded Eve could have easily quoted the Penguin from Batman Returns by stating, "You gotta admit I played this stinkin' city like a harp from hell," or "Just relax. I'll take care of the squealing, wretched, pinhead puppets of Gotham!" You know. Just exchange "Gotham" for "Salem."

Yep. Eve had a super-villain-like plan and almost succeeded. Still, once her plans again blew up in her face and things turned ugly with Jack, she attempted to raze his chances for happiness by destroying the serum, the formula, and anything that gave him hope. Nope. She didn't give up and even tried to infiltrate DiMera, receiving the stamp of approval and a schemer pep talk from le Grande Dame of Revenge herself, Vivian Alamain. Those were entertaining scenes with some nice nods to fallen soap One Life to Live.

Manipulating Jack wasn't Eve's only sin. I don't doubt that she had a soft spot for Claire, but Eve certainly wasn't above ignoring Claire's mentally fragile state, penchant for pyromania, and incriminating evidence if it meant holding onto what she had or framing Ben. The scenes between Eve and Claire (played to absolute perfection by Kassie DePaiva and Olivia Rose Keegan) were as heartbreaking as they were infuriating. Claire deserved better, Eve. You're the worst. So, congratulations!

Best Hero

Laurisa: Ben Weston
This is a rough pick. I get it. And in no way, shape, or form do I consider Ben Weston a traditional hero. He's not even a traditional anti-hero. But, when I'm thinking about drafting a team of people who can do hero things, 2019 Ben is on top of the list. He's always there for Ciara. He saved Will's life. He literally pulled people from burning buildings. And he successfully assembled a piece of furniture per the written directions without the aid of any alcohol or swear words! Some will argue this is all character propping, and that's totally fair. I can't disagree. I also can't say that I wouldn't want to have Ben's number in a life-or-death emergency. Maybe it's his survival skills he learned growing up on the run. The guy's instincts were right on in 2019.

Tony: Jennifer Horton-Deveraux
When Ms. Horton shows up to save her man, she does so wearing a first responder's uniform, thankyouverymuch. She's legit like that. It was a great dip into Jack and Jen's history book as well as a splendid showing of just how far Jennifer would go to save Jack, not just from Eve, but from himself. She was not going to let him remain the jackass he'd become. No. No. No. She wanted him to remember the man he was for his own sake just as much as she wanted the love of her life back. The father of her children. Her best friend. Her mentor and partner. Yes, she wanted the real Jack back as much as we did, and she was going to fight the good fight until that happened.

Yet while she championed for Jack 1.0 and their life together, she did so without desperately pining after him. Sure, he frustrated her to no end, but that's pretty much classic Jack and Jennifer -- a constant push and pull while their everlasting chemistry kept them in each other's orbits and us viewers hanging on because Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves are THAT enthralling together. Through the entire storyline (including Jennifer being impressively stoic and smart as she faced off against Dr. Shah), Melissa was merely magnificent. Her eyes seemed to playfully twinkle in wonderment acting opposite Matthew, too. That fun was contagious. You can tell how much they love working together, and we all win because of that!

Best Brawl
Me-ouch! Be it catty comments or full-fledged fist fights, the best battle of 2019!

Laurisa: Wilson Breakup
Perhaps it's the recency bias, but putting Will in jail is giving Chandler Massey room to shine. I loved Will and Justin's scene. But the scene where Will told Sonny that if you truly love something, you set it free, was downright heartbreaking. Freddie Smith perfectly embodied the audience avatar. No, of course we don't want these two to split. Ugh, but yes, we get why Will is doing this bittersweet, beautiful thing. There's a reason why there are four Emmys between these guys. It's a different type of brawl, for sure. But this battle of Wilson heart vs. Wilson reality was one that was shockingly effective.

Tony: Jack Deveraux vs. Eve Deveraux
What do you get when you pit Matthew Ashford and Kassie DePaiva against one another? Perfection. That's what. These two acting juggernauts brought it. I mean -- Brought. It. As they fought "a few" times, especially after the revelations of Eve's duplicity came to light, I'm lumping all their tussles together, as each one became more brutal than the last. Their closeness meant the cuts were deeper, and both actors dove deep into the ugliness that was left when things finally fell apart between Jack and Eve.

Best Comedic Scene Stealer
Sure, drama's nice. But comedy is, too, and this character always managed to tickle the funny bone!

Laurisa: Hattie Adams
She doesn't have the sharp-tongue savagery of Victor Kiriakis nor the loveable goofball schtick of Anna and Tony. But the reason Hattie's the best is because all of her humorous appearances mean something. She's there to teach a lesson of some sort, like using a Thanksgiving dinner to teach Eve that it does pay to be nice. Diedre Hall is strangely effective in this role, and I don't mean strange as in I find it hard to believe she can pull it off. It's strange because I'm so conditioned as a viewer to see Deidre and be ready for some Marlena formality. Yet I always leave Hattie scenes with a bit of a smile and a chuckle. I'd be more than happy to see her pop up from time to time.

Tony: The Redheaded Lady and the Bearded Man
Those two. Those two glorious scene-stealing extras who "oohed" and "aahed" while witnessing a steaming Sarah striving to smack the stupid out of Rex for stepping out on her with her sister, Noelle. Yes, them. Oh-to-the-my-to-the-God. I'm still cracking up over them a year later, which is two years in Salem time or eight in Cocker Spaniel. Overreact much, you two? Yes. Yes, they do, and I love them all the more for that. I also enjoyed their second cameo a few months later in the town square! One more time, and we have a trifecta. Just saying. I'm also going to put this out there, but I'd totally follow them on Twitter.

Best Tear-Jerker

Laurisa: Eric and Real Nicole's Reunion
This couple started as barely more than teenagers. They were teeny-bop cute and a My Fair Lady-esque storyline. But then they grew up and discovered a longing and angst only possible when you store a blend for the exact right amount of years. This is the adult version of Ericole, and it's aged well. That one scene on the couch, where he said that he couldn't believe she was here, brought me to tears. Okay, sure, I know this couple overcame a lot before. But this time she came back from the dead to be with him. Their résumé of hardships is up there with some of the greats. That's why this moment drew more tears than usual. It's also why I can't/won't believe they're truly done.

Tony: Caroline Brady's Farewell
There was a lot of competition for the boo-hoos this year. Even just a few weeks ago, Justin and Will had that heart-tugging "I love you like a son" scene. That caused me to break out the industrial strength tissues, but the big bawling came in June when we had to say goodbye to Caroline. Josh Taylor's performance when Roman simply told Kayla, "Ma's gone," was so genuine and heartbreaking. I wanted to reach through the television and give him a hug. Luckily, Kayla was there to do so, and Mary Beth Evans was equally as earnest and shattering. Yep. The waterworks started then and lasted several days.

Okay, I could go on and on about how wonderfully crafted the storyline was and how moving the sincere showings were by the cast, whose hearts were obviously as broken over Peggy McCay's passing as the characters they portray were over Caroline's death. I could. Yet simply the fact that Caroline got such a poignant send-off (that included sending a comatose Will back to us) was a true gift, as the character had been in California for some time. It would have been convenient for the writers to pen a plot where she died and characters mourned off-screen, but we got everything -- from "the call" to the Irish wake. Sure, we didn't see the funeral, but, as she had devoted much of her time to the church, knowing Caroline is resting at St. Luke's cemetery is enough for this fan, especially because the wake more than made up for it. The touching tales of Ma Brady, the laughter, the tears, and the homecomings of Carrie, Sami, and Shawn-Douglas were all beautiful. Simply seeing Christie Clark, Alison Sweeney, Brandon Beemer, and, eventually, Martha Madison was like a group hug we all needed.

The scenes between Victor and Hope also struck me right in the heart. His love for Caroline was true. Victor attempted to be stoic, but Hope reminded him how much he's loved and that he's family, and he eventually reached for Hope's hand and, well, I lost it...again. John Aniston and Kristian Alfonso were brilliant.

In the end, we were left with Caroline's spirit looking upon her family through the pub window and, as she did, that plaid-covered arm was placed over her shoulder -- it was Shawn Brady Sr.'s spirit reuniting with her. I was, oh, gosh -- let's be real -- still am -- a blubbering mess over that one. Excellently done, Ron, cast, and crew alike! Now please excuse me a second while I ugly cry behind the Two Scoops refreshment counter and, maybe, have a whiskey. You know, for Caroline.

Best Surprise

Laurisa: Vivian Meets Eve
Truth be told, this run for Vivian was pretty rough. But nestled in all that weirdness was the hope that soap fans would get to see Dame Robin Strasser mix it up again with the Lady Kassie DePaiva, despite the fact there was no real reason for Eve and Vivian to cross paths. But, as fate would have it, they did. The little scene where Vivian urged Eve not to give up was a love note to fans who watched Robin and Kassie perfect their magic on One Life to Live. It was soap comfort food at its best.

Tony: DAYS Gets Digital
Julie's ticker isn't the only thing there's an app for! Sure, DAYS had already delivered an incredible app last year with content like interviews, previews, recaps, fun games, hilarious mock auditions, cooking segments, and, well, it's everything a DAYS fan could want. But wait -- there's more! This year, the app added original digital series to the mix. I did a double take after reading that announcement. Then I cheered...a lot. I was immediately in, and I haven't been disappointed yet, as I love the idea of getting a glimpse of characters who weren't out of mind, just out of sight. That's not the case any longer, though!

First, we got to catch up with Chad and Abigail in Paris. That was très magnifique! More Billy Flynn and Kate Mansi is never, ever a bad thing. Talent and charisma simply drip from these talented thespians. Bonus -- we got some Austin Peck time, too. Oh, no, no, no. That's not all. We got a second installment of "Chabby" in Paris and then -- and then -- a freaking "Last Blast" reunion series! Oh. Hell. Yes. Those are my people. Martha Madison? Oh, hell yes! Brandon Beemer? You better believe there's an, "Oh, hell yes!" coming. Oh, hell, yes, Nadia Bjorlin! And, oh. Hell. Yes -- Jay Kenneth Johnson back as Philip! *sigh* Plus, Craig; Nancy; Susan; a snarky, less whiney Mimi; and other old faces (and original faces via vintage flashbacks)!? Ohhellyess (one word). As I always say, "More, please!"

Best Couple

Laurisa: Sarah Horton and Xander Kiriakis
That whole cliché about being the best version of yourself with the right person fits these two to a tee. Sarah can range from overly self-conscious to screechingly aggressive. The gal covers a lot of ground. But for my money, she's never more at her best than when she's with Xander. She shoots straight with him, and it really gets to him. He stopped strangling people because of her. He forged a special relationship with Maggie because of her. And while I'm sure there are still more nefarious parts to the story, he loves and adores baby Mickey, in no small part, because of her. For the first time ever, we see Xander's obsessive drive to have something as an asset. He loves her so much, he'll settle for being her friend, just because it garners him an audience with her.

Tony: Ciara Brady and Ben Weston
"CIN" faces a daily uphill battle. Whether it's defending their relationship from side-eye thrown by unapproving loved ones or being terrorized by a corrupt commissioner, psychotic sister, and nutso niece, CIN didn't have it easy. Hell. They still don't. Though, while last year we watched Ciara and Ben get together, this year we watched them grow together. Ben's unique experiences led him to reflect and gain insights, especially toward those who have harmed him and those he longed to protect. Ciara blossomed and became more secure, which led her to eventually have compassion for Claire and gave her the strength to fight (even Victor) for what she believes in. Because of their individual growth, they faced their obstacles side by side through thick and thin, despite objections, and in the face of danger. It also doesn't hurt that Victoria Konefal and Robert Scott Wilson are two of the most gifted young actors around and just so happen to have a smoldering yet sweet chemistry together. Sure, "CIN" isn't everyone's cup of tea, but you can certainly pour me a double!

Best Legacy Character
Some love for the next generation who have to carry the banner!

Laurisa: Ciara Brady
She's half of one of the most popular couples on DAYS, and that's saying a lot, since he's one of the most unpopular characters in Salem. Yet, this take-no-prisoners gal is living up to her DNA by loving fiercely and never stopping until she finds the truth. We can argue over whether or not she's wasting this talent on Ben. But no one can say that she isn't doing her detective parents proud by tenaciously pursuing justice. Furthermore, it would be easy for a lesser actor to hide behind the legacy of being Bo and Hope's kid. But Victoria Konefal goes head-on at it and makes it her own. She doesn't hit cruise control in scenes with Kristian Alfonso or John Aniston just because their respective characters would never challenge Ciara. I appreciate what she brings to the role so much. I can't wait to see what she does next!

Tony: Claire Brady
Claire has had me wrapped around her finger since day one. I'll forever reflect on "The Adventures of Robo-John and 'Lil Claire Bear" with affection. My fondness for her didn't change when she was aged and Olivia Rose Keegan took over the role. I immediately clicked with Olivia's performances. She was my gal. And, wowza, did my gal take us on one hell of a journey this year as Claire went completely off the rails. Olivia's work was spectacular. Her ability to layer Claire's broken psyche with a mix of rage, fragility, and self-loathing was masterfully done. Olivia sincerely kept me glued to my screen.

Hiccups and all, Claire's storyline was deeply heartbreaking at the root of things. This wasn't some "Psycho Du Jour." Nope. This was our Claire Bear, and, while her misdeeds were monstrous and I'm not condoning what she did, the monster she saw reflected in the mirror was nearly as scary as anything she'd done while falling apart. She truly hated herself more than anyone else. So, sure, forgetting Claire's appalling acts might be impossible, but forgiveness is possible, and her loved ones gathered to shower her with support (including moving guest stints from Martha Madison and Brandon Beemer). Her family proved that if it took a village to raise Claire, and that village was finally going to be there for her again as she recovered. It was a bittersweet send-off filled with anguish but also hope that a healthier Claire will return someday.

Best Veteran Character

Laurisa: Abe Carver
The extended family relationship between Abe and Nicole is one of DAYS' most beautiful forgotten secrets. I love it when the two of them play into it. So, when Abe Carver -- the most honest man in the west -- took a job from Stefan O. DiMera just to keep an eye on Nicole, I couldn't help but want to hug him through the TV. He gets extra points for mentioning Celeste and looking up at the sky to talk to Lexie. Plus, I just feel like Salem is a greater place when he's the mayor.

Tony: Roman Brady
Roman running the Brady Pub initially seemed like a placeholder until he eventually returned to police work. I mean. It's Roman. Law enforcement is in his blood. He goes after the bad guys. It's his thing. That's what he does. He'd be back to commissioner status again someday, right? Wrong! This year, Roman really settled in behind the bar and as the Brady's new patriarch, and I couldn't have loved him more. From his wise advice to his wise cracks, there's an ease to Roman that wasn't there before. Josh Taylor has been delightful as we've watched Roman support his family, big brother it up with Kayla, and day-drink with buddies like John, otherwise known as the guy who used to think he was Roman. Additionally, there's the ex-factor aspect! I barely see Roman as the man Marlena soul-crushed anymore. In fact, their friendship has become quite enjoyable. I always love the dynamics between Roman and Kate. And, seriously, who doesn't crack up at Roman's reactions to Anna's antics!? Yes. It's a good time to be Roman.

Best Supporting Performer

Laurisa: Brandan Barash as Stefan DiMera
Thanks to DAYS' taping schedule, casting changes have fallen into a weird time continuum where we hear about them so early, I forget I even knew about them by the time it happens. Then, I'm surprised all over again. Such was the case with the well-publicized news that Brandan Barash would be taking over for Tyler Christopher. Brandon managed the herculean task of presenting Stefan as something mildly resembling a human. No disrespect to Tyler. He did amazing work with what he was given. But what he had was a man in love with a broken piece of someone's brain. Brandon's Stefan had to transition that to be a man who could love with a broken soul. And, boy, did he.

Brandon had sizzling chemistry with all of his leading ladies. He provided a pitch-perfect chaser to Vivian's shot of booze. And he formed a believable (if not downright rootable) friendship with Robert Scott Wilson's Ben. All of a sudden, this monster had depth. Stefan O. wasn't a cheap knockoff of Stefano. He was the DiMera we'd been missing. Stefan always had swagger. But Brandon brought warmth, charisma, and direction to the character without sacrificing an ounce of the power. So very well done, sir.

Tony: Paul Telfer as Xander Kiriakis
One of DAYS' best moves was to give the charismatic Paul Telfer more airtime and flesh out the character of Xander. Paul manages to steadily keep Xanimal's underlying need for approval and belonging right under the surface as he delivers complex performances that range from downright terrifying to tender, all the while interjecting just the right amount of humor. We should never have hesitations like, "I know Xander's wrong -- horrifically wrong, at times -- but I can't help but like the guy or feel for him." Nope. We shouldn't, but I often find myself rooting for him nonetheless, and Paul's talents make that happen. He just makes it seem so effortless. I can't get enough of his inspired performances!

Best Lead Performer

Laurisa: Arianne Zucker as Kristen DiMera
The scene where "Nicole" went to see Brady was a showcase of Arianne Zucker's talents. Perhaps it's the ease Ari has with Eric Martsolf already. Perhaps it's that Nicole and Kristen share some of the same emotional DNA -- child loss, wanting to be loved, etc. -- and Ari's perfectly tuned in to that character motivation. But that scene where "Nicole" slithered around Brady, manipulating him but holding herself back from just breaking into his arms, was absolutely fantastic.

Kristen's a tricky character to play. She must have a strong foundation in something real, otherwise she can get cartoonish rather quickly. (Hello! The woman is wearing a fake face!) Ari realized that so very well and threaded that needle between desperate and sinister. The way she looked like she was almost going to cry when Brady spoke of the children he tried to have with Kristen?! Masterful. The way she caught herself right before going off the deep end about Gabi? Spectacular. Everything Ari did with this role was so subtle and inspired. I already worry it will be lost on Emmy voters who don't get the whole picture. But for those of us DAYS viewers who get those nuances, it was truly a treat. Make no mistake, this totally soapy storyline about face swapping only worked because of Arianne Zucker.

Tony: Camila Banus as Gabi Hernandez-DiMera
From soul-shattering despair to downright sadistic and everything in between, Camila Banus provided performances that can only be described as epic. I'm in constant awe of her fluidness as an actor and her innate chemistry with castmates. There's a bravado she approaches the role with, but also a humbleness that subtly reminds viewers that Camila is always aware of Gabi's journey from teenager to adult and all the hardships and joys the character's experienced. In fact, this year will be remembered as the one in which Camila cemented herself as a "Leading Lady." So, whether you love Gabi, love to hate her, or simply loathe her, Camila's vast talents are the reasons. The grace and candor Camila shows to fans is simply icing on the cake. I don't think I could adore her more or be more amazed by her talents if I tried. Cheers, Camila!

Best Storyline

Laurisa: Gabi Goes DiMera
This started with the fire poker scene between Stefan and Gabi. This was the "Go ahead, you can't make me uglier than I already am" scene, which really should have been laughable, at best, if not totally emotionally unavailable. But, against all odds, it was riveting. There was something there. Stefan wasn't the only one who saw it. He ended up telling Gabi that he almost admired her. I knew what he meant. Despite being firmly not okay with her actions, I felt the same way about her drive.

There's a reason I couldn't pick her as "Best Villain." Despite doing horrible things in the name of revenge, I don't think she's actually misguided in her actions. Does she overshoot her target? Uh, yes. Yes, she does. But I've never had a moment when I didn't understand where Gabi's emotions were coming from. She's never veered into mustache-twirling villain territory for me.

Perhaps that's because Gabi did spend all those years as a "good" person -- a side that's still very much alive. This year, it was Gabi who finally stood up to Leo and gave that bully a taste of his own medicine. She's #TeamWilson, no matter what!

Better yet, Gabi's longing for control -- the one thing that's eluded her for pretty much her whole life -- gave some other characters a chance to shine. Stefan's love for Gabi was miraculous when you think about how unlikely it should have been. Julie and Doug have been criminally sidelined in recent years, but the plot with Gabi put them back in the spotlight. Lani's had storyline crumbs thrown her way over the years, but now she has a chance for some real character development. And Kate hasn't had a chance since the fantastic pairing with Sami to find a scheming protégé on her level.

It's been a fun ride to be on. You can tell Camila Banus is having the time of her career in this role. Love Gabi or love-to-hate Gabi, it's hard to say she was boring in 2019. Then again, true DiMeras rarely are.

Tony: Salem Springs into 2020!
2019? That was so last year. DAYS didn't even wait the extra few months to begin a new decade. Nope. Just in time for the 54th anniversary in November, the "Time Jump" catapulted us into 2020 with a dose of adrenaline that rejuvenated the show! It's really returned to, "Miss a day, miss a lot" status, and I couldn't be happier to be aboard the DAYS fan bus. Though buckling up is advised, as this storyline -- excuse me -- storylines have been a roller-coaster ride so far, and we're only a few months in.

For starters, performances have been captivating. The cast seems refreshed, and they appear to be having a blast with the material. I'm sure it's an exciting challenge for them to depart from the norm, as many characters have gone through profound changes over the year. Still, due to the flashbacks, the actors must also go back in time to where their characters were in 2019. With the "then and now" aspect of things, it's a true testament to the cast's talents that they're making two versions of their characters so distinctively flawless. Also, with characters being mixed and matched, it's probably just fun for castmates who don't normally get the chance to work with one another to get the opportunity to do so. I know I'm digging all the random pairings.

When it breaks down to it, the "Time Jump" really is about getting reacquainted with the characters we love. It's navigating unfamiliar territory with familiar faces holding our hands. And said "unfamiliar territory" is crazy in the best way possible. It's been almost two months, and we still don't know what's what with most of our pals in Salem. How did Adrienne die? Who killed Jordan? How did a nurse and a baby end up dead? Who's taking care of Jordan's cat, Arthur, now that she's gone!? Oh, my gosh, the list of questions could go on and on, and that's amazing. The heightened sense of mystery has caused us to play connect the dots and get reinvested in what's happening. Like I mentioned, "miss a day, miss a lot," and I plan to keep on Aerosmith-ing the hell out of this storyline as "I don't want to miss a thing."

Plus, the storyline itself really began with supercouple Jack and Jennifer. I mean, if you're going to start somewhere, putting Matthew Ashford and Melissa Reeves in the driver's seat is a safe bet. We watched Jen's horrific fall, and we witnessed the depths of Jack's love will her back from the brink. He even got the coveted "Jarlena" hourglass to drive home the fact that, yep, this is major, folks. And it took a year, but Jennifer awoke to a new Salem, and Melissa's performances as Jennifer did so and got reacclimated were wonderful. And speaking of wonders...

Let's take a quick detour to gush about Matthew Ashford for another second. I've gone on about him already a few times, but he's easily one of the most dynamic actors in show business. I feel so fortunate that he returned to DAYS this year and that we've gotten to witness his talents in action once again. From waltzing in with Eve on New Year's Eve to all the mayoral madness to finally reemerging as Jack 1.0, Matthew's really taken us on a ride this year, and I'm eager to remain on the fan bus as we watch Jack continue to steer us (and Jennifer) through Salem 2020!

All in all, we're lucky to have a head writer who isn't afraid to take chances. I like this bold move into the future. It's gutsy. It's fun. Sure, so far, some landings have scored a perfect ten and some are a bit wobbly, but I admire Ron for taking a risk for the show he (and we) loves. And even if you don't love-love the time jump, I bet you're discussing it, and that's a victory right there -- a story that got us sharing and debating and bickering and bonding -- that's entertainment. That's what we're here for. So, bravo, Team DAYS. Bravo one and all!

Parting Thoughts...
Thank you again for joining us for the Golden Donut Awards! Now that you know our opinions on what we thought was the best, we want to hear yours! Be sure to share your favorites below in the Comment section, on the Soap Central message boards, and on Twitter. And like we always say, raise a glass of something bubbly to Team DAYS -- may the sands continue through the hourglass all the days of our lives!

Happy Holidays, one and all, and we'll see you next week for the Thirteenth Annual Alex North Memorial Awards!
Laurisa and Tony

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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of Soap Central or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen and what has happened, and to share their opinions on all of it. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same point of view.

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