Double Trouble: Daytime’s Duplicate Mania

by | May 16, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Deep Soap

Susan Lucci (ABC)

Susan Lucci (ABC)

The Doubles

Two Ericas. Two Rafes. Two Todds. Daytime’s double mania has reached epic proportions. On “Days of Our Lives” Real Rafe and Imposter Rafe (Galen Gering) finally came face-to-face, in scenes that put Sami (Alison Sweeney) and the DOOL audience out of their misery. “One Life to Live” pulled the end of Friday reveal of Roger Howarth as the Man Who Might Be Todd. “All My Children” gave us Erica’s (Susan Lucci) mysterious doppelganger kidnapper “Jane Doe.”

The curious thing, so far, about Knock Off Erica is that so far Lucci is playing her exactly like Erica. Usually the whole point of the doppelganger storylines is to see the actor play the exact opposite of their usual type. The patrician grand dame’s lookalike is usually living in a trailer park, working as a waitress and has a thick accent. Then, once they take over their victim’s life, they’re impression is always a little bit off. When Lucci broke out of the duplicate of her bedroom where she was being held — props to the writers and producers for coming up with a creative way to save money on sets — and came face to face with her double in what would have been a shocking moment if it had not been spoiled, it really was just two Ericas for the price of one. Since we have yet to learn anything about Jane Doe, other than that she is wealthy enough to have henchmen and a headquarters in a quarry, all we have to go on is Lucci’s performance. Presumably, Jane has spent the past few weeks observing Erica 24/7 and learned how to mimic her, but it would be nice to have some sense of who the woman is and what she wants.

I hope this was all direction and that Lucci will give us a distinctive character. I did love that Erica showed enough awareness of the soap universe to wonder if Jane was her long lost twin. Given that she knows Babe’s long lost twin Marissa, and the fetus she aborted in 1973 showed up in town as a full grown man, it’s a reasonable concern. It’s also more probable than someone who is not related to her but happens to be tiny, have an olive complexion, and a similar enough bone structure that a plastic surgeon could turn her into a lookalike.

I am also evil enough to appreciate Lucci taking on the challenge of a double role the same week her former TV daughter and (ALLEGED) one-time enemeny Sarah Michelle Gellar’s pilot, “Ringers,” in which she plays identical twins was picked up. Let their (ALLEGED) rivalry continue!

DOOL’s Sami, who unlike Erica has yet to figure out she is living in a soap town, needed to see both Rafe and Imposter Rafe in the same place at the same time to buy a clue. The scenes where she figured out that the sweet guy who did not remember her was the real Rafe and the jerk who did was the fraud would have been classic soap had the storyline been better executed. All fake Rafe did was be mean to Sami. He did not have any fiendishly clever plan to steal Rafe’s money and career. He did not do anything to wreck Rafe’s relationship with his siblings. He had sex with Sami numerous times, and though she notices it was different it was not the  Also, had DOOL not ended Tuesday’s episode with Sami firing a shot, then not picking up the storyline until Thursday as if no time had elapsed.

That’s just sloppy. Gering, who chose to play the imposter as a one-dimensional goofy dolt, pleasantly surprised me with the scenes where the two Rafes interacted. He managed to give amnesiac Rafe chemistry with Sami unlike faux Rafe. I am also tired of Sami shooting people. This time, she just hit the imposter in the arm, but at this point she has fired more shots than most of the show’s cops.  It’s tedious.

After months of hinting that the Trevor St. John version of Todd might not be the real deal, OLTL finally showed us potential Todd number two. This was one of those times when the soap’s brand of winking, sophisticated camp worked. It started with the most hilarious, least informative supertitle ever, “Undisclosed Location.”

The pseudo “X Files” flavor of this storyline continued as the man who might be Todd was revealed to be held in a secret, probably CIA-affiliated facility.We learned from the hammy unnamed government operative that Howarth’s character has been there for a long time and had not said anything. We have yet to find out why he is there, why the CIA might be interested in him or why Tomas, who is now obviously a government agent, painted a photo of Todd and Blair’s wedding that ended up in Eli’s hands. If Howarth’s character is not Todd, why does he have his signature facial scar?

It’s a clever reversal of the typical doppelganger storylines. If St. John’s character is an imposter, than we have unknowingly watched him stealing Todd’s life for years. He has made all of Todd’s former loves fall back in love with him, raised his children, and had fun with Todd’s inheritance. Instead of one actor playing two roles, it’s two actors playing one role. Instead of the impostor dying or being carted off to prison, and the real character reclaiming his life within a week, both men are going to remain on the canvas. It’s got elements of both “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” If it can manage to live up to its potential, particularly given all of the rewriting that will have to be done to now that the show has been canceled, it will be a fresh spin on the tired double storyline.

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