March 6, 2006
I wrote in a column quite some time ago in which I commented that I have never really cared for characters who are promoted by the show as altogether good or altogether bad. Too often, it feels as though the power that be all but give the characters T-shirts to wear that say, "Bad guy" or "Good Guy."
I enjoy the inner conflict of a character and the struggle that comes not from trying to decide how to manipulate and use others, but from what to do about yourself. Jessica was one of the characters who, to me, always seemed to be portrayed as a good girl, even though she did some pretty terrible things. Getting drunk and giving up her virginity to Will Rappaport, stalking and terrorizing Dorian Lord for accidentally causing her miscarriage and endless sanctimonious lectures at top volume, spittle flying, are the tip of the ice berg.
My opinion changed very little in the transfer of the character from Eric Torpey to Bree Williamson and for that reason, I did not greet the Tess/Jessica story with any marked degree of interest. As it progressed, I gave it only cursory attention until I suddenly realized that I was completely sucked in. I like Tess. I am still surprised to hear myself say it. I like Tess! I think the turning point for me was an emotional moment between Natalie and Jessica where Natalie almost felt sympathy for Tess. I think anyone who can make Natalie take a second to stop thinking about herself impresses me.
Slowly, but surely, Bree Williamson and the writers have created Tess as a true entity in her own right in a way that Niki Smith never really managed. We see Tess' fear, her anger and her confusion and she makes it real. I can completely understand that Tess has strong emotions, she has memories, she feels like a human being, yet people treat her as if she is a fictional character (within the story, I really do realize that she IS a fictional character). What she wants or needs always and forever comes secondary to Jessica even when she is the one standing right in front of her "parents" as a thinking, breathing, talking and hurting person. Tess' pain is no less real to her than Jessica's is to her, yet Tess is a gal without a country. Her only port in the storm until now has been Nash and thanks to Niki's careful machinations, the seed of distrust has grown and now she doesn't even have him.
Tess' trust in Nash was fragile because it was all she had to hold on to. When she feels that everything around her is at risk of going away because SHE is at risk of going away, her relationship with Nash would be just as tenuous. She never knows when Jessica manages to take over if it will be the last time she is ever herself. I can't imagine how frightening that would be. When she was just Tess, the party girl, and her existence was not yet known, she knew that when she was in control, she could play and relax and enjoy the time. There was no threat of integration because no one knew there was anything to integrate. If Jessica took control, she always knew she could get back eventually. Now, her time is only as long as the time it takes for the secret that created her to be exposed.
Viki, who I thought would be sympathetic and understanding of Tess' plight, has done little to assure Tess of her own worth. The majority of the time, she has mourned the loss of "her" Jessica and as much as told Tess that she's devastated that when Jessica is integrated, she'll be the worse for wear by having Tess as part of her personality. No wonder Tess doesn't want to be relegated to just a personality aspect!
Admittedly, Viki is starting to show some concern and support for Tess, although not to the degree that Clint has done. Opening his arms and telling her, "You may not think of me as your father, but you'll always be my little girl" made my heart melt.
I do enjoy how well Nash fits in with the Buchanans and I dearly hope that he will be around for quite a while. Since I have a fairly strong dislike for Antonio (I dunno, I think chronic violence and arrogance just turns me off), it would suit me fine if Jessica became the personality aspect and Tess turned out to be the real deal.