The 15th Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of Days of our Lives 2021

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2021 shaped up to be "The Year of DAYS!" DAYSapalooza!? Either way, the party's been popping since January and ends with a bang known as The Fifteenth Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of DAYS 2021! The glittery gold cyber statuettes are polished. The Champagne has been chilled. And your presence is formally requested as Two Scoopers Laurisa and Tony team up to celebrate all things DAYS!

A merry Mr. Greetings-sized "Hellooooo!" to one and all. It's time to celebrate. Maybe even channel our inner Tripp Johnson and do a little happy dance like nobody's watching. Okay. I think everyone, including Allie and Chanel, enjoyed witnessing Tripp's sidesplitting attempt to bust a move. He gave Seinfeld's Elaine a run for her money. However, while he might not have moves like Gene Kelly or even Jagger, we couldn't help but swoon for the soon-to-be doctor, anyway.

In fact, there was a lot to swoon about in Salem (and beyond) this year! The embarrassment of riches we were offered as DAYS fans in 2021 was deliciously decadent and greatly appreciated. From renewal news to brilliant casting bombshells to spectacular steaming specials, each month seemed to give us more to look forward to along with our wonderful week-daily dose of DAYS.

Like a generous genie, Team DAYS kept granting us wishes, some of which we didn't even know to wish for...

Want to catch up with daytime legend -- and we do mean legend! -- Linda Dano? Poof! She's the new Vivian. Don't worry. Ivan will be there, too. And we've learned Auntie Viv's writing a memoir. Yes, please!

Want to see Eileen Davidson as Kristen again a time or a very shocking two? "Wish granted!" proclaimed Team DAYS.

Wait!? We bet you couldn't bring Jackée Harry and Marla Gibbs to Salem? "Oh, yes, we can!" they triumphantly told us.

Can you get the one and only Alison Sweeney to return for some prolonged visits, thankyouverymuch? "Sure!" was the simple answer, and they even one-upped us by adding in a cameo from Dan Wells, otherwise known as Sami's male alter ego, Stan. That was an unexpected, totally awesome throwback.

BUT! What about some shout-outs to forgotten DiMeras like Peter Blake and Steven Hawk, say, during a famiglia civil war for control of the empire featuring E.J. and Tony and Anna with a side of Li Shin? Done, done, done, dooonnnneee.

Let's get crazy. A streaming special that'll bring together some of DAYS' most beloved actors and characters from the past and present peppered with some exceptional new talent all wrapped up in a retro action-adventure storyline with a "Wilson" and Chad drag bow on top. And Shane Donovan must be there, too! How about that!? As Michelle Tanner would say, "You got it, dude."

So, since you're saying "Yes!" to everything else, Team DAYS, how about a Christmas special!? "It's been gift wrapped and delivered."

Now we're just spoiled rotten, Ron Carlivati and Company, but not so spoiled that we won't wonder -- What do you have in store for 2022!?

Okay, before we get lost wondering about the future, there's a lot more of 2021 to reflect upon, and the above-mentioned surprises barely scratched the surface...

Zach Tinker shined as our new Sonny. We also got an amazing new E.J. An older, maybe not wiser-at-times Johnny came home, too. And two terrific Chanels!

There were charming and hilarious Tony and Anna swoops into town this year (never enough, naturally). Valerie Grant visited! The great Greg Vaughan brought Eric home from Africa to heartbreakingly wrap up "Ericole" (for now). Lisa Rinna's return as Billie showcased that she's still as spunky and spectacular as her first days in Salem. Greg Rikaart as Leo never fails to entertain! Catching up with Carrie and Austin, too!? Again, "Yes, please!"

While a saintly face or two returned to town -- including a spiritual visit from our beloved Lexie -- various villains also arrived in Salem to scare us once again. Some were even zombies. Eek! Yet none was as sinister (or sassy) as Satan, of course.

All those wonderful things plus a Backstreet Boy cameo? Alright!

Yes! We're STILL leaving out some stellar surprises and moments, but we have awards to hand out...

And let us tell you, selecting winners was a daunting task, maybe more so than any other year. It was a labor of love to narrow down each category to just one winner apiece. As always, we attempted not to overlap and tried our best to spread our admiration as best we could, but let it be crystal clear that each and every cast and crew member of Team DAYS is a winner in our books. We couldn't adore them more. We're deeply grateful for their dedication to their craft and magically bringing Salem alive for our entertainment each weekday (and on streaming, too)!

So, without further ado, refill whatever bubbly, festive drink you're enjoying, and welcome! Welcome to the Fifteenth Annual Golden Donut Awards: The Best of 2021. And the winners are...

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

Laurisa: Zach Tinker as Sonny Kiriakis
A recast of a legacy character is one thing. A recast of half a supercouple is another. A recast of both is the highest level of difficulty. But Zach Tinker accomplished this feat. His great chemistry with Chandler Massey made sure Wilson didn't miss a beat. And his rapport with Billy Flynn kept the friendship between Chad and Sonny going strong. I completely respect Freddie Smith's decision not to resume the role, due to his family obligations. And while there hasn't been official word if Sonny will make it back to Salem proper, I hope Zach is given the shot to play the role.

Tony: Jackée Harry as Paulina Price
Auntie P might not be atop her loved ones' Christmas card list this year, but Jackée Harry was gift-wrapped gold for DAYS! While nostalgia might have made me excited upon hearing the casting news, Jackée's timeless talents kept me glued to my screen all over again. She was superb at showcasing Paulina's chutzpah but also great at giving us those glimpses of the vulnerable young woman she once was and vowed to never be again. The kid sister who visited "Tammy" at university and was in awe of a collage-aged Marlena Evans. The victim who was abused and had to make difficult sacrifices to ensure her future and that of her daughters, and the daughter herself who feared and respected Big Mama's iron-fisted matriarchy.

In fact, the more we got to know Paulina, the more quickly we realized she was more than a flashy, fabulous, self-made millionaire -- which is impressive on its own -- but she was also a "mama bear" who wasn't afraid to use some tough love to teach lessons. Yet she also cherished the little moments of life, such as baking pies with Chanel and throwing shade at a loud, jet-skiing Rose O'Donnell. Ha! Sure, we still want to have drinks with her and her pal Gloria on Star Island, but powerhouse Paulina was a breath of fresh air who kept us guessing, and we're sure she still has plenty of secrets to shock us with in 2022. More, please!

Best Special Guest Star/Recurring Character

Laurisa: Martha Madison and Brandon Beemer as "Shelle"
Shawn and Belle are classics on their own. But DAYS has managed to make them a true supercouple in that they show up when we need them and save the day. He's one of the (the only?) Salem cops who actually solves crimes. She wins cases and deliciously puts D.A. Trask in her place. I feel Salem is a safer, saner place when they're around!

Tony: Greg Vaughan as Eric Brady
Nicole's Eric-limbo for the greater part of a year after their marriage was hard to watch. "Ericole" was a celebrated couple with decades-long history. We wanted more for the match. Months came and went. We were as desperate to see Eric as Nicole was, and eventually, it all started to fall further apart. We couldn't take the disappointments any longer, either! Mercifully, Greg Vaughan's guest stint gave us the *gulp* closure Nicole and fans needed.

Granted, we should have been issued a warning to get tissues, pints of ice cream, and a snuggle pillow before watching "Eric and Nicole: The End," but I digress.

First and foremost, Greg and Arianne Zucker's pitch-perfect performances were brutally beautiful. Haunting, even. Anyone who has ever experienced a breakup knew exactly how both Eric and Nicole felt in the moments they had to accept their relationship was over. That desperate wish to change the past, yet the helpless, soul-crushing knowledge that what was broken can't be mended. The shared blame and regrets. Simply saying goodbye to your best friend and lover whom you've hurt deeper than anyone could. Yep. Those types of feelings that were all conveyed in top-ten career-worthy showings by Greg and Ari, who really deserve yet another cyber standing ovation.

In the end, we even got the best of both worlds -- the lavish soapy drama of the reveal as well as the intimate, heartbreaking peeks behind the curtain of two characters desperately in love, but knowing their dream was doomed by the reality of their choices.

A special shoutout to Linda Dano, another spectacular "Special Guest Star!" In an article, she voiced concerns about playing Vivian Alamain. Ms. Dano, your fears were unwarranted. You were marvelous, madam! You hit the bull's-eye, creating Aunt Viv's special blend of sophisticated psychoticness. We can only wish for more of that wonderful wickedness next year!

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

Laurisa: Brady Black
He did it, you guys. He finally did it. After years of Kristen leading him around by his ear, the Bradster finally wised up and didn't look the other way! When Brady caught Kristen trying to take Rachel out of the house in the middle of the night, I was sure she'd wring her hands out of this one, too. But Brady stood firm and sent her right back to jail -- do not collect $200. This is progress, Bradster. Let's build on this.

Tony: Chanel Dupree
While both versions of Chanel brought much-needed new LGBTQIA+ representation to Salem, in less than a year, Ms. Dupree grew from a painfully privileged, exasperating brat to a fabulously flawed, hard-working young person. The latter proving that the apple may not have fallen as far from the fabulous tree as we first thought. I genuinely applaud Precious Way's perfect panache while originating the role, but when Raven Bowens burst onto the screen, she brilliantly brought Chanel into a new phase with nuanced performances and redefined purpose.

Chanel wanted to prove people wrong about her and embraced her dream (and hard work) to do so. She opened a bakery with her bestie. She also did her best at navigating her complex feelings for said bestie, Allie, and when she started having feelings for her bestie's twin, Johnny, she wasn't afraid to put him in his place and make him work hard for her favor. From avoiding work to now working hard, Ms. Dupree, the winners' circle welcomes the new and improved you! Now, about some Tasty Bits samples for the Two Scoops offices...

Best Villain

Laurisa: The Devil
For starters, the Devil's very debut in Salem meant Doug didn't have dementia, and we would not be sitting through another one of those painful storylines. I know some people aren't a fan of the possession, but I'll take it over dementia any day. But beyond that gift, the Devil as a villain just gives DAYS so much more territory to play with. The Rosemary's Baby angle with the Cin-a-bun is very interesting. The form-shifting and hell-raising holidays allowed for some awesome guest stars. And it got to throw grown men across the room. Finding out how exactly to fight this villain is still unsolved...which is shocking because I thought John's sign of the cross followed by a "hi-yah!" worked every time.

Tony: Jan Spears
Even in a year that the devil is on the docket, Ms. Spears still stuck out as one of Salem's significant scoundrels! Played to absolute psychotic perfection by Heather Lindell, Jan jolted the town with a "whodunnit!?" that hardly left anyone unscathed. In fact, Jan created a trail of destruction before anyone even realized she'd woken from her latest coma. Afterward, Jan went on a spree! Sure. She was thrice coma-ed by the end of the storyline, but Jan -- like Cher, cockroaches, and CIN's cabin -- will always be around when the smoke clears. Viva la Spears!

Best Hero

Laurisa: Steve Johnson
He started off the year navigating the tough journey of believing his son but supporting his wife's feelings and her actually accurate DNA test surrounding baby Henry. Somewhere mid-year, he was able to locate and return Kristen to Salem in the time it took to take approximately one commercial break. And he ended the year figuring out Marlena was possessed and rescuing John and Susan. Keep this guy's number on speed dial, folks. It comes in handy!

Tony: John Black
There's a laundry list a mile long as to why Agent Black deserves an award for heroism, but John exclaiming, "In the name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost!" while doing the sign of the cross then putting up his dukes to the devil is enough. Epic. Simply epic.

Best Brawl: Me-ouch! Be it catty comments or full-fledged fist fights, the best battle of 2021!

Laurisa: DiMera Boardroom Battle
Many times, brawls come at the end of storylines -- the culmination of some drama we'd been waiting to see for months. But this one was special because it kicked off a bunch of storylines. The battle for the top spot at DiMera happened because we finally had a group of DiMeras (welcome back, E.J., Tony, and Anna!) in one place. Thanks to Gabi's super informative whiteboard presentation, we also got updates on ones we hadn't heard from in a while. (Hi there, Peter and Sonja!) And, of course, the garnish in this martini was Kate -- looking Jake right in the eye -- because she could see the whole time -- and voting against him. Gah! What a cool brawl!

Tony: Salem vs. Laura Horton
There were so many "Best Brawl"-worthy battles this year, but nothing was more satisfying than watching Salemites smack the hypocrisy from Laura Horton's face. Sorry. Not sorry.

Matthew Ashford and Jaime Lyn Bauer rocked their scenes. Jack's decimation of Laura was as vicious as it was just. She had it coming. It doesn't matter that Gwen's not exactly a peach. Jack lost a lifetime with his daughter. Yes, "celebrated shrink" Dr. Laura erased a child from her son-in-law's life, which will totally not scar anyone involved. Nah. Not even. Seriously, Laura, that's sinister Stefano and Victor levels of playing God with people's lives. While one could try to claim "at least Laura was doing it for a good reason," she wasn't. It was easier for her to keep the truth hidden. She didn't want to upset her perceived fragility of Jack and Jennifer's most recent reconciled relationship. That's scared selfishness, not sacrifice. You're not the hero here, Laura. Or should I say "Monica." Snap!

Emily O'Brien was also excellent when Gwen confronted Laura, but perhaps the greatest satisfaction came when Laura crossed paths with Kate. Jamie Lyn and Lauren Koslow have always made spectacular sparring partners, and their last round was remarkable! Oh, don't get me wrong. Kate deserves the years of shade thrown by Laura. Ms. Roberts definitely did a number on her life. Yet to think Laura was hiding this scandalous Gwen-sized secret atop Mount Holier Than Thou for decades while finger pointing at others is the definition of hypocrisy. Unlike Laura, Kate never claimed to be perfect, so it was rewarding to watch her take Laura to task and welcome her into the mud with the rest of us sinners.

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

Laurisa: The Roberts Family Dinners
We've watched Kate harp on her kids for years. They did some form of tolerating or co-conspiring with her on her schemes. However, this year, Kate, Lucas, and Philip would reunite for mealtimes that made me laugh out loud. Not only did Lucas and Philip throw up the stop sign any time Kate started to meddle, but Kate's love life was suddenly on the table, too -- meaning the boys could give mom a taste of her own medicine. Of course, this is all made possible thanks to the actors who originated these same three characters decades ago. This kind of easy chemistry is earned and on masterful display each time the Roberts family gets together for a meal.

Tony: Eli Grant
Lamon Archey is one of those amazing people who simply make me cheerfully chuckle when I think of them. His dramatic skills are spot-on, no doubt, but I am here all day for his comedic side. He. Is. Hilarious! From effortless quips that kept me cracking up to snark to general silliness, Eli had it all covered. Even simply his facial expressions to some of the ridiculousness going on around Eli had me in stiches. Many times, Eli actually acted as the audiences' "Greek Chorus." His reactions spoke for us. He was quick to diss Duke the Bear. He wasn't afraid to call out his wife's wacky devotion to Kristen. He never hesitated to throw some side-eye at the absurd. His reactions to the possession? Again, "Hilarious!" So, if Julie's Place were to host an amateur stand-up night, I'd bet my money on Eli Grant to tickle the most funny bones!

Best Tear-Jerker

Laurisa: E.J. becomes a real boy!
This one isn't even much of a joke, as E.J. himself admits that he'd been cold, emotionally abusive, and all-around shut down in the feelings department for years. But when Susan lay in the hospital bed, near death because she was protecting E.J., he broke down. The grief dam broke, and he confessed that he'd never been truly fair to her, and he'd even been dismissive. That scene led to the following one, where he told Nicole that he'd been horrible to Sami for years prior. It was good for us who were E.J. fans and felt he did have a soft side to him. It was even better for Dan Feuerriegel, who got a chance to play a gentler E.J. for a bit.

Tony: Brady and Chloe Discuss His Addiction
While Julie singing "Always" to Doug choked me up, and that heartbreaking second Sal Stower's brought to life Lani's realization that Abe was not her father made me misty, the scenes between Chloe and Brady as they finally discussed the devastating depths his addiction had on their marriage was as refreshing as it was rough to watch.

If you remember back to Brady's return (when Eric Martsolf assumed the role), it was a mystery. He went missing in the middle of the night. Soon after, Chloe returned to Salem. It turned out that it was Victor who had him taken to rehab in the most traumatizing way possible. For years, we've heard Victor's Chloe-blaming, not-that-accurate account of the story and watched Brady struggle, but we rarely, if ever, got to hear Chloe explain her harrowing experience until recently.

Almost anyone who has had experience with addicts knew exactly what Chloe was talking about as she shared her account. We could feel her pain. The fears and frustrations. The heartache. The vulnerability and loneliness. The depression. The utter helplessness. All like feeling every excruciating second of a slow-motion train wreck one can't stop. Atop her husband's addiction, Chloe -- a young woman in a foreign country back then -- was traumatized by people breaking into her home and snatching Brady in the middle of the night. That was followed up by being unfairly blamed and branded every name in the book by his grandfather and others. Nope. None of that's a walk in the park for the Chlomeister, and my heart broke for her as she recalled that time.

Bravo to Nadia Bjorlin and Eric Martsolf for knocking their performances out of the park (and giving me a case of the sads in the process)!

Best Surprise

Laurisa: Blake Berris returns as Nick Fallon
The first thing I did was squeal with delight. The second thing I did was text Tony in ALL CAPS that Blake Berris was back!!!!!!!! (Give or take a few exclamation points.) I've been a Blake fan from the original days when Nick Fallon was a dorky nerd. But this man's acting is so great that he covered the bases from broken spirit into full-on psycho. I'm always happy to have his talents back in Salem. As a bonus, Nick's return meant Gabi got a chance to play vulnerable again, which was a welcome break from her usual diva form. Here's hoping we get to see more of Blake in the future.

Tony: Doug Doesn't Have Dementia!
I can't say earnestly enough that I was depressed at the thought of watching Doug slowly succumb to dementia (or a like disease). Sure. We knew the ever-talented Bill Hayes, along with the equally sensational Susan Seaforth-Hayes, could crush this storyline and completely tear our hearts out in the process. But, oh! I've never been so happy about a storyline twist. As it turned out, Doug was just a little possessed by the devil, not dying of a disorder. Sorry, Satan, but I must exclaim, "Hallelujah!"

Best Couple

Laurisa: Roman Brady and Kate Roberts
The fact that Roman has a legit girlfriend right now should be the end of this write-up. Nothing else to say! However, I have to gush for just a minute about how adorable these two are together! I was a fan of the first movie, and I'm here for the sequel. I like how he isn't afraid to beta her alpha female -- a massive difference from many of her previous partners. I love how cheesy yet direct he is with her. I even love that he went for it and put lobster in the chowder! Go on, Roman and Kate! Be that bright spot we constantly enjoy!

Tony: Eli Grant and Lani Price-Grant
Simply put, "Elani" were couple goals this year! They worked wonderfully because they worked together. They were able to listen to one another even in times of trouble, terror, and true frustration, and come to conclusions that worked best for their new family. They understood the importance of seizing moments to keep the passion alive while parenting twin babies and sometimes giving life lessons to Chanel. Eli held her accountable for Kristen while Lani held him accountable for multiple towel slips. From their twins' kidnapping to the simpler of life's moments, these two successfully navigated what life threw at them together, and they were fabulous!

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

Laurisa: Tripp Johnson
I know he's not Kayla's biological kid, but he's the heir apparent to our next-gen Sweetness. Steve's son and Kayla's stepson had quite the year in compassion. It started when he mercifully glossed over the still-regrettable plot point where the evidence pointed to the wrong man as Allie's rapist. It continued when his adorable crush on Allie made him do ridiculous things like take care of a baby at 5:30 a.m. while going through med school! Later, he could have been very ugly toward Chanel, since Chanel did stick him with a hefty bar bill and then, you know, make a play for his girlfriend. Instead, Tripp is shaping up to be the moral center in the newest younger scene. Something tells me Johnny, Allie, Chanel, Claire, Ciara, Ben, etc., are going to need this legacy kid in the future.

Tony: Chad DiMera
Chad certainly messed up a time or Gwen in 2021, but that's what makes Chad, well, Chad. He loves hard. He messes up hard, too, yet he's always willing to learn, to fight for forgiveness and those he believes in, and do the work to get back into good graces with patience, humor, and humility.

At the heart of things, Chad is simply a good guy. He's self-aware. He's nice to people and only rude when others are rude to him or his loved ones. He's eager to make Salemites smile and feel better. He truly believes his wife hung the moon. He's a devoted dad who's not afraid to get paint-covered and read fairy tales, yet will fiercely fight anyone to ensure their future. Just ask Theo and Johnny how awesome they think "Uncle Chad" is! His siblings are often forced to admit he's the best of them. He's a family businessman, too. A best friend doesn't get better than Chad, and he will even dress up in drag to support those he loves. Sure, he can be duped and deceived at times, but who hasn't been, especially those who want to believe in the best versions of the people around them.

So, Chad may not be perfect, but damn it, he tries and is perfectly portrayed by the fantastic Billy Flynn, who brings such heart and warmth to the role that it's nearly impossible not to root for Chad. If Chad is the DiMera future, we're in good hands. The best, even!

Best Veteran Character

Laurisa: Abe Carver
Forty years. Salem has been blessed with Abe Carver for 40 years. It's hard to separate him from James Reyonds' performance, and frankly, a crime to do so. The character's gravity and royalty is brought on by Sir Reynolds. Abe isn't old-fashioned. He's classic. Truly. He isn't afraid to learn and evolve, as seen in the conversation with Theo and Chanel, respectively. Even when the literal devil crashes his wedding, Abe still keeps his act together to think about others, as well. The final scene where he told Lani she'd always be his daughter was 100% exactly what we expected from Abe. Good on you, Abraham!

Tony: Julie Williams
Let's start with a short story. Ms. Williams and Satan had a fight. One of them retreated. It wasn't Julie. Mic. Drop.

While one can agree or dare to disagree with Julie at times, one thing is clear -- she is fierce all of the time. You'll want her on your side, or you'll want to stand back as far as you can as she barrels through on her loved ones' behalf. As made evident over the years, and especially in 2021, Julie isn't afraid to stand up against anyone -- or any entity -- she feels is threatening her family and friends. Devil be damned!

Oh, and she's not afraid to hire the daughter of her bully to represent her in court. That's as stealthy as it is savage. Julie also rescued Doug from Bayview and then rescued him from his prescription prison by singing "Always." Was there a dry eye in the house!? I didn't think so.

Is she a bit overprotective of the Hortons' heirloom couch? Perhaps, but she means well. We'll go with that. Though, without that overprotectiveness, we wouldn't have gotten such hilarious scenes between Susan Seaforth Hayes and the remarkable Paul Telfer. Julie versus Xander!? An instant comedy classic.

Overall, Julie's love and "ride or die" spirit is what Salem legends are made of. I especially adore her proudness of Eli and their Stop! Or My (Grand)Mom Will Shoot vibe. May they team up more in 2022!

Best Supporting Performer

Laurisa: Tamara Braun as Ava Vitali
Ava didn't drive any storylines this year, but I swear, the key to success in any ancillary storyline is to throw in some Ava and then just let her cook. Tamara Braun is a beast, and I'd love to think of her as our beast. DAYS created this monster and then needed an actress to play the lengths of her damnation to redemption. In one year alone -- and none of it in a leading role -- Tamara played Ava all over the place. Ava hallucinated her dead son. Said dead son induced horrors on her own mental health by positioning Ava between loving her son and despising her son to her very core. Oh, he also drugged her, which Tamara played to perfection. Throw in the fact that Ava made Rafe seem like an actual, desirable partner, and she's well earned her paycheck. On top of it all, Tamara's chemistry with Ari Zucker's Nicole is the stuff girlfriend sitcoms are made of. Again, if your storyline is at risk -- just add Ava.

Tony: Martha Madison as Belle Brady
One of the most magical things about Martha Madison is her range. It's so effortless and enchanting. Belle's a great partner and best friend to Shawn. A devoted daughter and sister. A trusted confidante to her friends. A dedicated truth-seeking lawyer. A straight-shooting Philip wrangler. The Batman to Jan Spears's Joker. In fact, Belle's scenes at Jan's bedside were a master class in acting by Martha. From "Mama Bear" mode to bedside banter to professional badass to battling Jan, Melinda Trask, and even Satan, Martha brings a believability to Belle. Despite outlandish situations, she remains grounded. We want to root for her, flaws and all. It's Martha's endless talents that make that happen, and I was thrilled we got to spend so much of 2021 watching her performances. It kind of proves the more Martha, the better!

Best Lead Performer

Laurisa: Emily O'Brien as Gwen Rizczech
We'll get to my complete disdain with Gwen in the next column. But, for now, let's bask in the glory that is Lady Emily O'Brien. She's an absolute force. "Lesser" actors need, you know, words to convey emotions. But the way Emily does despair, hope, and completely terrifying sociopath with just a tilt of the head is utterly remarkable. You can tell Emily takes great care to develop different shorthands with each of her co-stars. I suspect you have to when you're paired with tours de force like Matt Ashford, Paul Telfer, Marci "Killer" Miller, and Billy Flynn. Throughout Gwen's journey this year, Emily was a master at anything asked of her.

Tony: Deidre Hall as Dr. Marlena Evans and Satan
From the depths of Marlena's despair to the snarky and sarcastic zingers Satan slayed with, Deidre Hall was a force of everything amazing this year. Undoubtedly, she's a legend. Her timeless talents have entertained us for decades, but her performances were sheer joy throughout 2021.

While Deidre always shines, of course, I love when she gets to showcase her comedic chops. Lady is funny! One could easily tell she was enjoying herself and embracing the absurdities of her storyline with glee. In fact, the fun she was having playing Satan again was simply infectious. As if we couldn't have adored you more, Ms. Hall, you proved us wrong yet again!

Best Storyline

Laurisa & Tony: Beyond Salem
If there's one lesson the past few years have taught us, it's that we should expect the unexpected (in real life and reel life). Still, color us shocked when DAYS announced the five-episode streaming event Beyond Salem! At the very least, a project like this was a wish upon a star. A DAYS mini-series featuring many of our favorites current and past Salemites searching the globe in a throwback action-adventure type storyline!? Yeah, right. Needless to say, we were glad that "Yeah, right," turned into "Right on!" as Beyond Salem's scramble for the Alamainian Peacock's gems was truly, truly, truly outrageous!

Laurisa: Who Killed Charlie Dale!?
This was a rare case where "who done it" mattered as much as "how they done it."

Everyone was a suspect! Remember when John thought it was Belle, thanks to his session with Marlana? Remember when Tripp could have done it? How about when Allie left the scene? We all were worried that our songbird of a Salemite had broken bad.

And it wasn't just viewers. Sami was going to go to jail for her kid. This is not a point that should be overlooked. There's a lot of chatter about Sami being a bad mother, but I've always argued that Sami was an overbearing mother, which is different from bad. In this case, the overprotective mama bear was ready to do 10 to 20 hard time if it meant Allie-Cat could roam free!

Additionally, this was Claire's final turn into redemption territory. She went rogue (her grandpa would be proud!) and tried to record Charlie's confession. She knew the risks and did it, anyway.

Finally, when we got the reveal of Jan as the killer, it was delightful. First, it means that none of our main players would be turned into bad guys -- we'd give that honor to a villain master, thankyouverymuch. Second, we got a spectacular red cloak and a reminder never to take villains in a coma for granted again.

Tony: Re-Possessed
This storyline has DAYS fans coming out of the woodwork. When it began, I literally received so many texts from friends and fellow fans asking me for details that I could barely keep up. There were a few eye-rolls, too, from people who didn't enjoy the first time. Still, I remain firm on my original stance that this storyline is like pineapple on pizza. You enjoy or you don't. There's rarely an in between. I, for one, find pineapple on pizza and possession storylines delicious, so bear with me while I rave...

If there ever was a storyline baton for Ron Carlivati (along with his talented team) to take hold of and run with, it's Marlena's Possession! Or "Repossession," as it is. Either way, it's a perfect match. Ron is brilliant at balancing history, camp, and heart, while crafting a tale. He holds a masters in umbrella storytelling, and this has been one for the ages (again) so far!

Though Ron and his team are successfully doing what many -- maybe too many -- TV shows and movies are attempting to do these days. That is, while others are revisiting the past and hoping nostalgia will carry a project, Team DAYS used the past as a launching pad to create a storyline that is reminiscent, but not redundant. "Repossessed" is very much its own storyline while paying homage to the original.

A lot of it, actually, is tearing apart the old tale. Like, neither John nor Gabriel was the hero they thought. Satan slunk away, but not forever. It regrouped. John's disappointment of not having saved Doc's soul or being able to do so again is giving Drake Hogestyn meaty material to work with. Though, priest or not, he's still our hero and will surely kick Satan's red rump, right? It's John "Put 'Em Up" Black, after all.

The injections of modern technology, more humor, and embracing the storyline for the wild ride it is work perfectly. Those who try to deeply dissect it are missing the entire point. That point? Fun! Don't overthink it. Just enjoy.

That seems exactly what the cast is doing with the material -- enjoying it! As mentioned above about Deidre's infectious fun, the rest of Team DAYS seems to be taken with it, as well. Performances have been inspired. I'm sure the wardrobe, hair, and makeup teams are enjoying their tasks to create zombies and Satan itself. The spooky sets and special effects have been on-point. I mean, some lucky crew member got to transform Susan into a cat! Creative people love doing creative things, and it surely shows.

Let's not forget, this entire storyline started with an outstanding showing by Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes! They deserve all the accolades that come their way. Their talents and enthusiasm are unmatched, and we are lucky they call DAYS home.

This storyline also surprised us with Eileen Davidson as "John's Kristen." Amazing! THAT shocker at an episode's end nearly nabbed my "BEST SURPRISE" award earlier on, but Doug not having dementia inched it out, as my heart was relieved we didn't have to say goodbye to our charming Mr. Williams.

Plus, my phone kind of blew up with texts like, "Did you watch DAYS yet!?" "Eileen's back!" and "OMG, you have to watch DAYS now!" I was at work, so, while spoiled, I at least I had something special to look forward when I got home that night. Still, is there ever enough Eileen? The answer is "No. Never." And neither of these shockers would be true if DAYS hadn't gotten repossessed. So, I'm fine and dandy with the devil being back in town.

Generally speaking, SO many characters have gotten time in the spotlight, and I love it! Ben's devotion to Marlena is believable, but so was Ciara's skepticism. Belle and Shawn as staples makes me do that Tripp-like happy dance mentioned earlier. So does the inclusion of the Patch Man and Sweetness, who missed the craziness the first time around. And if a little birdy is to be believed, Satan is getting a new naughty little helper for the Christmas season. Un-coma all ye faithful? Okay, I apologize for that one.

Finally, thanks to this storyline and Laurisa, "CIN-o-bun" was added to our DAYS vocabulary in 2021. Again, "I love it!"

Of course, we're still unsure of the umbrella-like span of this saga, as it isn't over yet! Is Philip under Satan's spell, too? John isn't exactly a priest anymore (not that he ever was), so who exactly will save Marlena's soul? Can we get Jewel to sing, "Who Will Save Your Soul?" in Horton Town Square as John jumps into action next? Is Belle right about showering Satan with love being the way to get Marlena back!? Will Mar's loved ones join hands and sing The Partridge Family theme song? "A whole lotta lovin' is what we'll be bringin'." I don't know, but I'm eager to keep watching and find out! Bravo, Team DAYS!

Parting Thoughts...

So, friends and fellow DAYS fans, those are your 2021 Golden Donut Awards winners! Thank you again for reading. A decade and a half later, we're still humbled and happy that you join us week after week, month after month, and year after year, and we can't wait for more DAYS fun together in 2022!

First, though, we have some 2021 troubles to tackle. Those exasperating Salemites who've made our naughty list. Those concerning storylines that made us see red. Those moments that made not only Roman but also us exclaim, "Whud da' hell!?" That's right, next week, we present the Fifteenth Annual Alex North Memorial Awards: The Worst of DAYS 2021. This year's ANMAs will be brought to you by Price Town: Where Everything's a Steal!

While you wait for those, um, "winners" to be announced, be sure to keep the party going by sharing your "Best Of" selections in the comment section below, on the Soap Central message board, and Twitter.

Cheers,
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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