Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Auf Wiedersehen, Restaurant Linderhof!

last night in original location

last night in original location
The first time my husband suggested we dine at Farragut's Restaurant Linderhof, almost ten years ago, I was incredibly dubious. I was going through a no beef, chicken or pork phase at the time and the idea of heavy German cuisine was not particularly appealing to me. When I first laid eyes on the exterior of the restaurant, a drab, tiny storefront inside a strip mall, I was underwhelmed, to say the least. Imagine my surprise when we stepped inside: half the walls were painted royal blue, the other half were wallpapered in gold. The itsy-bitsy space so was cram-packed with tables and lilac-colored chairs that you were practically dining on the laps of your fellow customers. And the whole place was covered in cherubs. Our host was an old man wearing a tuxedo. When he approached us and then showed us to our table all I could think was that we'd wandered into some sort of Kubrickian parallel universe. 

last night in original location

auction day
The waitresses at Restaurant Linderhof were usually clad in lederhosen. The owner's wife, Anita, was mostly behind the bar but every so often she'd venture out to the tables and try and entice the diners to "have a little Schnapps," like some fantastic character out of a folk tale. On very special occasions, such as New Year's Eve, party hats and noisemakers were brought out and there would be live accordion music. The atmosphere was always strange and magical and the food was always exceptional.

auction day

auction day
Linderhof changed hands a few years back but the quality of the food never wavered and the eccentric atmosphere remained the same.  The doors to the original location closed this past weekend but, fortunately, the restaurant is not saying goodbye, just moving a few miles down the road to a larger space (which includes an outdoor area for a beer garden). I am very excited to check out the new Linderhof when it opens next month but it was bittersweet to dine for the last time in the original Linderhof, a space that holds so many fond memories for my husband and me. I am sure the new location will not disappoint, though, and I look forward to the new memories we will have a chance to make there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall is in the Air

Once summer starts to cool its heels and autumn approaches everybody seems to clamor for pumpkin-flavored treats. At least everybody I know, cause my facebook, twitter and instagram feeds are inundated at present with references to pumpkin bars, pumpkin cakes and the ubiquitous Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. Look, I love all things pumpkin, too, but I think of very early fall as apple season. Apple cakes and spiced cider are what I start to crave this time of year. I don't want the apple to get sidelined by the pumpkin the way that Thanksgiving gets short-changed by the Christmas season. So let's welcome this weekend's Autumnal Equinox with a bit of apple-flavored childhood nostalgia. If you can hunt down a copy of Disney's Johnny Appleseed, I highly recommend checking it out. It's like my early fall precursor to watching Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hollow on Halloween night. I saw both these shorts when I was in Montessori school and they have always delighted me with their storytelling and gorgeous animation.

The Omen

This is my first contribution to the Final Girl Film Club. If you like horror movies and sass and you aren't reading Stacie Ponder's awesome blog you are missing out on a lot of fun. You should definitely check it out after you hear what I have to say about Richard Donner's baby antichrist masterpiece The Omen.

This has to be the definitive son of Satan flick, right? Why else would so many people (myself included) associate the name Damien with devil spawn? Speaking of spawn this movie was followed by two theatrically-released sequels (neither of which I've seen) that focus on Damien as an older adolescent and as a charming young adult who eventually, as per scripture, attempts to rise up through the political world and assert his unholy authority over the earth. But this first movie focuses on the early years of the wee beastie and his parents, Robert and Katherine Thorn. Technically, they are his adopted parents but only Robert knows about that. On the night that Katherine gives birth her own baby dies (we will later discover, to no one's surprise, that he was murdered) but her husband keeps this information to himself and conspires with the hospital chaplain to adopt another baby born that same night whose mother, conveniently enough, has died in childbirth. Kinda hinky, I know, but people do strange things when they're emotionally distraught and mourning the loss of their first born. Besides, an orphaned baby gets a home, Katherine is spared the grief of knowing she's lost her child. Win-win, yeah? What could possibly go wrong?

So much goes wrong. Robert has just been appointed US ambassador to Great Britain. The family Thorn moves into a posh English estate and, for a time, lives a very charmed life. Things eventually take a turn for the worse, though, beginning with the celebration for Damien's fifth birthday, where his nanny hangs herself in spectacular fashion in front of all the young partygoers. After that the family is plagued by an endless string of odd, unsettling occurances. A new nanny, Mrs. Baylock, appears and seems like a godsend but neither Robert nor Katherine can quite account for how quickly and mysteriously she arrived on the scene to take the previous nanny's place. When Robert and Katherine attempt to bring Damien with them to a wedding the boy throws a violent, hysterical fit as soon as he catches sight of the church where the ceremony will take place. When Katherine takes Damien on a driving tour through a wild animal park their car is attacked by a mob of irate baboons. 

Robert is contacted by Father Brennan, a catholic priest who adamantly insists that Damien is not human. Furthermore, he tells Robert his wife is pregnant but that Damien will never allow the child to be born. Father Brennan meets his own grim end shortly after he delivers this news to Robert. Then Damien goes all road rage with his big wheel, causing Katherine to take a terrible fall which does, indeed, result in a miscarriage. Shortly after that Mrs. Baylock defenestrates poor Katherine and the newly widowed Robert begins, at last, to seriously suspect that there may be something very, very wrong with this changeling he's brought into his home. He partners with a phototographer, Keith Jennings, who has begun to suspect the same and they set out to uncover the truth about Damien's origins.

For the most part The Omen is a restrained, melancholy movie (it's not quite as heartbreaking or elegant as Don't Look Now but I couldn't help but be reminded of the beautiful, unfortunate parents in that movie while I re-watched this one). That's one of the reasons the deaths, when they occur, feel so powerful and shocking. The most effective one for me is definitely the young nanny's, the only death where the victim is forced to die by her own hand. This scene is so magnificently staged and executed (sorry, I had to say it) that it gobsmacks me every time I see it. It's an entirely perfect, chilling bit of filmmaking. I think Katherine's death is powerful, too, but that's mostly because I love Lee Remick in this role and I feel so much sympathy for her character. Hers is one of a handful of horror movie deaths that actually brings me to tears. 

The rest of the performances in The Omen are solid as well, though I will confess that Gregory Peck seems a little awkward and stiff to me in the beginning. I know he's supposed to be a bit removed and aloof but it comes across more like Peck is out of place in the world of the movie. I appreciate him much more during the second half; as the horror and tragedy escalates and Robert's cool, composed facade begins to crumble I think Peck is much more convincing. David Warner and Patrick Troughton do marvelous supporting work as Jennings and Father Brennan and Billie Whitelaw is entirely entertaining and all kinds of creepy as the diabolical Mrs. Baylock. Harvey Stephens, who plays Damien, has very little dialogue but his reaction shots are priceless.

There are nifty little moments in The Omen that stand out for me, too, like the part where Jennings realizes that the mysterious, shadowy markings on his photographs of the nanny and Father Brennan serve as harbingers for their deaths. And I love the scene where Robert discovers the mark of the beast on his sleeping son's scalp, confirming his worst fears about the boy. The movie's score (which earned Jerry Goldsmith a much-deserved Academy Award) is frightfully atmospheric and memorable. This is an exceptionally well-made movie that's aged very well. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle

gatlinburg trail gatlinburg trail gatlinburg trail We have really slacked off with our hiking this summer. The rainy, humid weekends made it easier to fall into a pattern of sleeping late and binge-watching shows on Netflix each weekend. Saturday was our first visit to the Smokies in two months so we started with an incredibly easy hike, the Gatlinburg Trail. This is more like a walk on a Greenway than an actual hike but we probably couldn't have managed anything that was much more demanding on this first outing. I'm hoping for nice weekends throughout the fall and many more visits to the park. I've missed it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Five Awesome Movies Made More Awesome Thanks to Joseph Cotten

I follow a movie blog called Pretty Clever Films on twitter. A couple weeks back this Brandy Dean-penned list popped up on my timeline. It would be pointless to argue that Ms. Dean is wrong about Mr. Cotten. We're all entitled to our opinions of the tall, handsome Virginian with the wavy hair and the deep, melodic voice. I happen to love his contribution to cinema while Ms. Dean, most definitely, does not. Scroll through the comments below her little diatribe you'll see that many people agree with her that Jo (I sometimes to refer to him as "Uncle Jo." That's right. I like to pretend I'm very distantly related to Joseph Cotten. It could be true. It mostly likely isn't but, y'know, anything is possible . . .) was a "vacuum of screen presence" and that his smug, bland "Cotten face" ruined potentially great movies like Duel in the Sun and Under Capricorn

If folks don't like Joseph Cotten, bully for them. I will cop to having a massive crush on the man and zero objectivity when it comes to him and his work. My loyalty to Mr. Cotten pretty much demands that I share my own little list. These aren't my five favorite Joseph Cotten movies (although if I made that list there'd definitely be some overlap) but they are five films that I think are really great. And I think they are made even better because they are graced with "Cotten face."

5. Gaslight
I admit it's puzzling that a southern gentleman with no real ear for accents was cast as a detective with Scotland Yard. But it in no way detracts from my enjoyment of Cotten in the role of white knight to Ingrid Bergman's tortured heroine. It does drive me crazy that it takes Brian Cameron so long to cotton on to (forgive me, I couldn't resist) the fact that Paula Alquist is being slowly driven mad by her greedy, duplicitous husband Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) but that's one of the reasons Cotten is great in the role. His understated, nonchalant demeanor suits the material perfectly.

4. Citizen Kane
I know that Kane is considered by many filmmakers and movie lovers to be the single greatest achievement in the history of cinema. I don't love it like that but I appreciate its technical and artistic brilliance and I genuinely enjoy watching it. I especially love Cotten's performance at Jed Leland. To me he's the closest thing the story has to a moral compass. He's the wounded, still-beating heart at the center of Charles Foster Kane's cold, unfeeling universe (and I like to think Leland and Kane were, on some level, in love with each other but that's probably just the shipper in me run wild) and Cotten's subtlety as an actor compliments Welles's gregarious performance beautifully.

3. Portrait of Jennie
Swoon! I could watch this supernatural, melancholy romance over and over again and always fall under its spell. Like Gaslight, I guess Cotten is kind of miscast here. Even though he was well into his forties when he made this one he is constantly referred to by Ethel Barrymore's Miss Spinney as a "young" struggling artist. I mean, he's young compared to her but, still, it's a little hinky. Despite the disparity the movie actually works just as well, if not better, with an older actor in the role. Cotten's Eben Adams is burned out and world-weary, convinced he'll never ever achieve success as a painter. When he meets young Jennie for the first time in Central Park he's inspired in a way that he never has been before. Cotten plays down on his luck characters well and here he gets to do that but also be the romantic leading man. He made four movies with the incandescent Jennifer Jones and I love watching them together. I think they had fantastic chemistry.

2. Shadow of a Doubt
This is the movie that made me fall in love with Cotten. It's a more assured character and a showier role than most of his other work, which is probably why it made such a strong impression on me the first time I saw it. I think Cotten's Uncle Charlie is just about the most seductive baddie there's ever been. He scares me to death but I can't help but be charmed by him. 

1. The Third Man
One of my all-time favorites. Fantastically directed by Carol Reed with a brilliant screenplay by Graham Greene. Cotten is in practically every single scene and he fully embodies hapless would-be hero Holly Martins. Everyone around him is more clever and arguably more interesting but Cotten manages to make Martins as endearing as he is dim-witted. I could go on or you could just go here and read all about my love for this movie and Cotten's excellent work in it.

So, that's my take on Joseph Cheshire Cotten. Maybe he's not the most memorable leading man the movies have ever seen. Maybe that's precisely why I like him as much as I do. He was great at bolstering the movies he made without making them all about himself. He was a team player. And, far as I'm concerned, he didn't need to try very hard to be entirely unforgettable.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Fun with YouTube

Both of these have been making the rounds pretty heavily on ye olde social media but I still wanted to post them here. First up, "The Fox" by Ylvis. I saw the link on my facebook feed last week but didn't look close enough to realize it was fox-centric until my dear pal Bess pointed it out to me. Then I watched. And then I fell in love. It's ridiculous and hilarious. And catchy. And it's all about foxes! It's the kind of absurd brilliance I wish I had come up with myself.

I've refrained from talking much about Breaking Bad on this blog. Mostly because I'm in such awe and I feel so damned unworthy. I may try and post something before the final episode at the end of the month but for now I'll leave you with this: Cranston recites Shelley and it's devastating. I get chills every time I watch it. The next episode of Breaking Bad gets its name from this poem. I have no doubt that it, too, will be devastating.

Monday, September 9, 2013

You're Next

Home invasion is not my preferred sub-genre of horror. Probably because it's much easier to imagine myself as the victim. So many horror movies depend on unlikely scenarios and the poor decision making skills of the intended victims. But home invasion, hell, that could happen to anyone. You could be sitting at home, minding your own business when, out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason, you're beset by sadists intent on getting into your house and doing you great bodily harm. How unpleasant is that? I'd rather see a good haunted house flick or a movie about a ballet school run by a coven of witches. Even teen slasher films are more fun because they're usually so tongue-in-cheek. Home invasion movies just seem grim and joyless by comparison. They're usually grounded in the same true crime drama that inspires Law & Order episodes minus the eccentric, engaging law enforcement officials that make shows like that entertaining. If I want true crime I'll watch true crime. Fictionalized true crime seems redundant. 

While I appreciated Michael Haneke's attempt to push the boundaries of the home invasion film with Funny Games (and I thought both versions were incredibly well done and effective) I also resented the fact that I was being scolded for enjoying horror and thriller films. Yeah, I know, he's trying to get us to examine why we enjoy such unsavory material. But I feel like I have a pretty good handle on why I like that sort of thing. I'm a benign masochist. I enjoy being frightened but I also enjoy being able to overcome my fears, since I was often plagued by a crippling fear of creepy imagery as a child. I appreciate good filmmaking regardless of the genre but I happen to really appreciate the vicarious thrill that comes from well-crafted horror films. Also, I understand that they aren't real. I think it's entirely possible to enjoy the events unfolding in a horror movie but still be able to understand that, in the real world, those events would not be enjoyable or pleasant to experience.

You're Next is a home invasion horror thriller. But unlike the other ones I've seen it's darkly funny and genuinely scary in a zany, haunted house at the fair kind of way. There are lots and lots of jump scares. Effective ones, I thought. I was watching through my fingers on several occasions but the manic, gleeful tone of the thing kept me laughing at the same time. It manages to be more or less plausible but hyper enough to feel detached from real-world terror. And in its more serious moments it employs such obvious horror tropes that it's impossible to forget you're just watching a movie. That sounds like it'd be a bad thing but it wasn't for me. I like horror homage when it's done well. The opening scene with the first two victims is excellent and reminded of the chillingly effective opening scene in the first Scream movie. In fact You're Next kind of does for the home invasion film what Scream did for the slasher flick. By viewing the basic premise through the lens of satire it shakes it up and gives the audience something just different and just entertaining enough to be worth their time. Or worth mine, at least.

So, I Made A Thing . . .


That's right, kiddos, I've made a Nick Fallon fanmixBecause, yes, I am thirty-seven going on twelve and this is one of my favorite ways to display affection for my fictional crushes. Here's the playlist along with commentary and any specific lines that I thought were especially "Nick-ish" in each song. And, yes, I realize I have a problem and, no, I don't plan on doing anything about it. Y'all are just gonna have to bear with until I find something else to obsess over.

All I Want Is You - U2
"All the promises we break / From the cradle to the grave / When all I want is you"
I am not a big fan of U2 but I have always had a weakness for this song. I think the single-mindedness of wanting someone even while the relationship is falling apart is something Nick would understand.

This Tornado Loves You - Neko Case
"I left them motherless, fatherless / Their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths / But it's never enough / I want you"
Being the object of Nick Fallon's affection is probably a bit like being pursued by an amorous tornado. And, if we're gonna get literal, his efforts to secure Melanie's affections did leave her fatherless for a time.

Daredevil - Fiona Apple
"Maybe you let me look out for you / Protect what I found in you / And never let it starve"
One of the things that defined Nick's relationship with Gabi (and Chelsea and Melanie before her) was his protectiveness towards her. He was over-protective, in fact, to the point that he became possessive and controlling. However well intentioned he may be in the beginning, his white knight complex usually tends to devolve into something far more intense and frightening the longer he stays in any given relationship.

I Need You Back - Ben Kweller
"You're gone but not forever"
I'm sure whenever Nick loses the girl he tells himself this. Failure is not an option.

Sugar - Tori Amos
"Not enough, just not enough"
I've talked on here before about Sugar and how it reminds me of Nick and Chelsea's relationship. And I know, I know Tori says it's about her crush on a gay guy but the live version has so much anguish in it and the lyrics suggest, to me at least, a damaged young man with secrets who's dealing with all kinds of personal pain. So, naturally, it makes me think of Nick and all his demons.

A Place Called Home - PJ Harvey
"Walk tight, one line / You're wanted this time / There's no one to blame / Just hold on to me"
This one really reminds me of Nick and Gabi and the way they tried to build a perfect life for themselves on the shakiest foundation imaginable. Given all the bad things they'd done (and continued to do) I still wanted to root for them, even moreso when it became clear that their happily-ever-after was doomed.

Hardest of Hearts - Florence + The Machine
"There is love in our bodies and it holds us together / But pulls us apart when we're holding each other / We all want something to hold in the night / We don't care if it hurts or we're holding too tight"
I love this song. I could listen to it over and over again. So much intensity tempered with so much loss and regret. The bit about holding something too tight really works given how desperate Nick becomes when things aren't going his way.

Play Dead - Bjork
"I have to go through this / I belong to here / Where no one cares / And no one loves"
Nick and the big prison rape reveal. I love the scenes where Nick comes clean to Maggie and Gabi about what Jensen did to him. It was incredible to watch a character who excels at lying to himself and everyone around him come face to face with his demons. Such honest writing and acting. I only wish it hadn't been so short-lived.

Ocean of Noise - Arcade Fire
"But all the reasons I gave were just lies to buy myself some time"
Any time Nick owns his actions and promises to be a better man I think of this song. 

Use Somebody [Lo-Fi] - Bat for Lashes
"I hope it's gonna make you notice / Someone like me"
This one is pretty obvious. I like that it's about "using" somebody as opposed to "needing" or "wanting" somebody. To me the word choice suggests someone who isn't interested in what the other person wants, only what he can get out of the relationship himself. 

Strange Currencies - R.E.M.
"I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance / A word, a signal, a nod, a little breath / Just to fool myself, to catch myself, to make it real, real"
How many times has Nick had to ask for another chance? How many more times will he misstep and have to ask for forgiveness?

I'm Your Man - Nick Cave
"I've been running through these promises to you / That I made and I could not keep / But a man never got a woman back / Not by begging on his knees"
I usually prefer Cohen's versions of his songs to cover versions but I made an exception for the brilliant Mr. Cave, whose seedy, boozy, over-the-top desperation seemed more suited to Nick Fallon than Mr. Cohen's cool and understated delivery of the same material.

Prove My Love - Violent Femmes
"Just last night / I was reminded of / Just how bad / It had gotten and / Just how sick / I had become"
I'm not really sure how often Nick realizes he's in the wrong. Probably more than he lets on but that certainly doesn't stop him from trying, again and again, to get what he wants.

Where Is My Mind? - Pixies
"Way out in the water / See it swimmin'"
Mental instability and it's a kickass song. That's really all there is to this choice.

I Want You - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
"I want you / Go on and hurt me then we'll let it drop / I want you / I'm afraid I won't know where to stop"
I wanted this to be the darker bookend to the U2 song that opens the mix. We've rarely seen Nick go quite this dark and obsessive but I think there's a chance it will happen again, given the right set of circumstances.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

If I Wrote for Days of Our Lives

Oh, Days of Our Lives. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me three or four times and I will have to concede that I'm an idiot. Back in 2008, then-headwriter Dena Higley teased that there was "good stuff" coming for Nick Fallon. Clearly, her definition of "good stuff" differed wildly from my own. I didn't mind when my boy jumped the rails, got himself addicted to pain pills, killed a man, set a beloved Salem matriarch up to take the fall for his crime, then later convinced the girl he was obsessed with that she had committed the crime, all in the hopes that she'd skip town with him so they could get hitched in Vegas. Actually, that was a pretty entertaining ride. What I couldn't forgive was the show sending Nick to prison for four years, instead of institutionalizing him and giving Blake Berris a kick-ass "Boy, Interrupted" storyline. Nick leaving the canvas is not "good stuff," Dena, no matter how you spin it. 

When Nick came back last year I was over the moon. When I learned Blake Berris had been shooting scenes with Chandler Massey, who plays Will Horton, I was thrilled. I loved that Days had finally gotten with the program and written themselves some homosexual characters. It was long overdue. I was sure that cousins Will and Nick would have this fantastic friend chemistry and be all kinds of adorable together. Never in a million years would I have imagined that the show would make Nick a homophobe who would try to blackmail Will into waiving his paternal rights so that he could raise his cousin's baby as his own. Like I've said on here before I bailed for just a little bit of this story. I couldn't bear to watch Nick because I couldn't handle being that angry with my favorite. But I gotta say the show delivered, eventually, with this storyline. The prison rape reveal, while not surprising, was so well played by Blake Berris and was so emotionally devastating and effective. Suddenly, many of the viewers who had grown to hate bigoted, hate-mongering Nick began to feel sympathy for him. Nick admitted he was wrong, abandoned his horrific plan to take Will's baby away from him and apologized to his cousin. And Will forgave him. It was a beautiful thing and some of the best writing and acting I've ever seen on Days. I snark on the show a lot but I maintain that when the show is good . . . I mean really, really good it makes all those shortcomings and missed opportunities we have to suffer through worth it.

Finally, I thought. Finally! After all these years, Nick is gonna get the help he needs. Because even though he keeps screwing up and hurting people Days still seems to go out of its way, at times, to make him sympathetic. Surely they wouldn't go to all that effort simply to pull the rug out from under us again. Surely, surely, Nick will grow and change and once again be a little more like that sweet, geeky guy that charmed me back in '06. All hail the return of the Fallonator! Hooray!

Or not. Ken Corday has just released the fall spoilers for the show. Nick is supposed to "take on a more significant role" than he has had for the past few months. Which, in theory, sounds awesome but what does it really mean? For all I know Days will kill him off and set up half the town as suspects. That would technically put Nick at the center of a major storyline, he just wouldn't actually be around for it. I should know better than to even type something so horrific. If Nick Fallon gets killed off I don't know what I'll do. I mean, I know that no one is ever really, most sincerely dead in Soap Land but, still, I can't handle a Nick death storyline. I'd just fall apart. It's possible that the Blake Berris look-alike the show was hiring a few months back could come into play in a story like that. The look-alike could die, Nick could be presumed dead, only to return, alive and well, at a later date. I'm still holding out hope that the look-alike means Nick's going to develop Dissociative Identity Disorder. Do you know how badly I want this to happen? How long I've hoped it would happen? They have the perfect set up for it. His mother Jessica's history. Nick's former addiction. The fact that he still hasn't really dealt with what happened to him in prison. If the show isn't going to truly redeem him any time soon then I want them to send him all the way down the rabbit hole. Don't just make him obsessed with Gabi and kinda creepy. Give him a serious psychological break. And then, after that's run it's course, put him in therapy and fix him!

I'll be honest, there are times when I want Nick to just be a good guy. It's emotionally draining to love the town pariah. It's also been hard these past few days to see him acting so delusional about Gabi. I loved that Nick was mature and level-headed during their breakup, telling her they could try again later but, for the time being, it would be best, for both of them, if they ended things. So, the other day, when Nick went all moony over Gabi after they'd slept together and he started babbling about how being with her was like attaining Nirvana, I actually had to look away out of embarrassment for him. Will he never learn anything from his mistakes? But then I think about it a little more and I realize that his flaws are what make me love him. Well, not the homophobia. I could never love the homophobia. Just, the rest of it. And I have to ask myself, honestly, what is it that I want for this character? If I were writing for Days of Our Lives (and by "writing for Days of Our Lives" I obviously mean "writing for Nick Fallon") how would I write Nick?

A lot of viewers have pointed out that Nick is one of the show's few true gray hats. Capable of both good and evil. He certainly doesn't get the screentime that some of the major players get and, as a result, there are sometimes gaps in the storytelling but Blake is such a strong, emotive actor that the character feels believable even when the writing misses crucial beats. I like that Nick keeps us guessing. I like that he's more than just a stock hero or villain. I like that my heart sometimes breaks for him even when he's doing something reprehensible. He's more real to me than anyone else on the canvas and that's definitely what keeps me interested. I don't want to see him robbed of that complexity. But I don't want him to get stuck in a rut, either. So, what can the show do with this fabulous, obsessive outsider? What kind of story could they write that would really make him shine? How about . . .

- Dissociative Identity Disorder. Blake's already so good at playing both dark and light. Why not let him truly do both simultaneously? I'm sure there have been male soap characters who've suffered from multiple personalities but I've only ever seen this storyline play out with a female. Nick has endured enough physical and psychological trauma to warrant a fractured personality. My one caveat would be that the show has to fix him, eventually, after they break him. 

- Therapy. Nick has needed help for a long time. The fact that he's too stubborn or scared to seek it out doesn't change the fact that he's damaged and incapable of fixing himself. Trying to make a second fresh start with Gabi won't make him better. He needs to truly confront the awful things that he's done as well as the awful things that have been done to him. I imagine the show would make Marlena his therapist if they ever go this route but wouldn't it be fun if they brought in a new character to treat Nick? Maybe a lovely young female therapist? I wouldn't even object to an entirely inappropriate Suddenly, Last Summer-style doctor/patient relationship.

- Turn the Tables. Nick always becomes obsessed with his lady loves. Even though Gabi initially returned his feelings and truly loved him it's becoming apparent that, this time around, she's not feeling it the way he does. I don't really want a rehash of the Melanie obsession storyline. Partly because it's been done and partly because I'm scared it will land Nick back in jail. Why not introduce a female character who's obsessed with Nick for a change. Let him meet his match. Or, better still, give him a lady who truly loves him but has to fight to make him see that they belong together. I had hoped that woman might be Gabi but I'm not holding my breath at this point.

- Nickole. Ever since I saw the idea suggested on the TWOP forums during his first stint on the show I've loved the idea of Nick and Nicole together. He's the most interesting male character to me, she's the most interesting female. Like Nick, Nicole's a character that can elicit great sympathy from me even when she's screwing up and doing bad things. Nicole's actually been behaving herself the last few months but it's kind of boring to watch. It feels like she's holding back. Like Blake, Arianne Zucker is a powerhouse performer. To the best of my knowledge these two have never, ever shared a scene together. But just look at them. Aren't they pretty together? Wouldn't they be fun? Even if they don't involve them romantically just put the characters in each others orbit and see what happens!

- Kick. Nick slept with Chelsea. He slept with her mother Billie before that. Why not go three for three and pair him up with Kate? Blake and Lauren Koslow have always clicked. Their snarky chemistry is a delight to watch. I'm mostly kidding here but I can't say I wouldn't find a brief fling between these two entertaining.

- Family and friends. I love Nick's scenes with Aunt Maggie. There is some genuine affection there and she's the only one who really tells it to Nick straight and tries, as best she can, to help him with his many problems. When Nick first came to town I also loved his friendship with his cousin Abigail. I'd like to see Nick and Abigail rekindle that. And I'd like it if Nick had at least one friend in Salem. Not a family member, not a girlfriend, just an honest to goodness friend. Plutonic relationships often take a backseat to romance on soaps but they are some of my favorite exchanges to watch. I like it when Jennifer and Kristen share scenes. I love Will's friendship with T. I thought Nicole and Chloe made great pals. Nick has burned a lot of bridges but there's got to be someone in town who would enjoy hanging out with him.

In addition, there a handful of options I hope the Days writers steer clear of when it comes to my fella:

- While I can accept that Nick will never be friendly with Will and Sonny I hope the show does not intend to revisit the homophobia storyline. Nothing about Nick the first time around suggested that kind of narrow mindedness and intolerance. I can accept that he was, by his own account, twisted by what happened to him in prison and that he knew all along that he should not have mistreated Will and Sonny because they're gay. Please, please, please show, don't go back on that. Please.

- Also, don't ever write Nick as a rapist. Nick has done some awful stuff to try and secure the affections of the women he's loved. Don't let him resort to physical violence. Don't even think about it. 

- And, for the love of Pete, don't ever kill him off. My heart couldn't handle it.