Tom Stacy, DAYS OF OUR LIVES
DAYS’s Salem Stalker storyline that kicked off in 2003 will always resonate with me as one of daytime’s most shocking stories. Having grown up in the era of the slasher film, this was no mediocre murder mystery. Beloved characters we loved for decades were dropping like flies, which had us on the edge of our seats to see who was next, and how they would die. No one was safe: not even DAYS’s matriarch Alice, the final victim. And, Marlena was the killer! (Well, it looked that way at first.) My jaw couldn’t drop any further. I confess: I’m glad that despite the silliness of the Melaswen reveal that everyone was alive and well so I can overlook all that, but for the length of that storyline, to me, DAYS was the most exciting thing on television.
Devin Owens, AS THE WORLD TURNS
The much-anticipated confirmation on ATWT in 1987 of the identity of Lily Walsh’s biological mom left me positively gobsmacked. Lucinda, the woman, who raised the teen from birth but never bothered to tell her she was adopted (illegally), was receiving anonymous messages from someone warning Ms. Walsh to be a better parent to her daughter. Then-head writer, Douglas Marland, left clever red herrings that subtly pointed to the free-spirited Shannon O’Hara, so it was completely out of the blue when Iva Snyder, who was only 13 when she was raped and gave birth to Lily, revealed herself to Lucinda.
Mara Levinsky, GUIDING LIGHT
I think the soap story that shocked me the most was a nifty GUIDING LIGHT murder mystery, “Who killed Jean Weatherill?”, that ran from 1991-92. Jean was introduced in 1991 with a major ax to grind against the hunky and seemingly upstanding doctor, Daniel St. John, who was wooing Holly — she was convinced that Daniel had killed her sister, to whom he had been engaged. The night that Daniel’s promotion to the head of neurology at Cedars Hospital was feted at the country club, Jean’s lifeless body was found floating in the pool, and an autopsy revealed that blunt force trauma to the head was the cause of her demise. The show effectively established that while Daniel was a viable suspect, so too was Roger, who had been in cahoots with the victim (he’d brought Jean to town to try to bust up Daniel and Holly’s relationship). My girl Harley was the one who solved the crime, by finding the murder weapon: the marble name plate Daniel had received as a gift on the night of the murder, which had been hiding in plain sight for viewers all along! I certainly remembering gasping out loud at that. In an exciting climax, Daniel left Harley for dead in a root cellar (she was rescued by Mallet, and suffering from hypothermia, she blurted out a declaration of love), then whisked Holly up to the Bauer cabin to elope, with Roger hot on their heels. The men struggled over a gun and when an unhinged Daniel trained the weapon on Holly, Roger leaped into action and shot the doc dead.
Lee Meyer, ONE LIFE TO LIVE
For years, ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Rex searched for his real father, and the reveal was definitely shocking, especially since the question had supposedly already been answered twice before. First, viewers were led to believe that supervillain Mitch Lawrence was Rex’s father, but that turned out to be false. Then, Rex was told that his parents were Rick and Lili, two star-crossed lovers the viewers had never met. The disappointing twist was a red herring, though, as Clint had used the Rick and Lili story as a way to throw Rex off from the real truth — he was Rex’s father, and Rex was a long-lost Buchanan. The show also revealed that Echo DiSavoy was Rex’s mother. Nobody could have guessed that. OLTL set up a clever mystery and saw it through to the end.