MAKE IT OR BREAK IT's Payson, Lauren and Emily find Sasha working in a Budapest, Hungary, pub this week, and he is far from enthusiastic about returning to the Rock with them. Neil Jackson explains how Sasha feels about what happened after Payson kissed Sasha — and how the coach feels about being needed.
Soap Opera Weekly: So what is Sasha really thinking when the girls show up?
Neil Jackson: Shocked and surprised — but also he's a little bit angry! He honestly believes he has damaged them and that his presence ended up making their life worse, and he's annoyed at himself for letting things get to the place where he was in any way detrimental to these girls. All he wanted to do was make them better gymnasts and better people. He thinks it's foolish and naive of them to try to drag him back, because he knows what's best. And what's best for them is him not being in their lives.
Weekly: Isn't he a little impressed that they went to all this trouble to track him down?
Jackson: As much as it shocks him, he's also a bit flattered. But he's more annoyed and frustrated, because they've done exactly what he's been telling them not to do; the message that he's been trying to instill in them is to work as a team and understand the rules.
Weekly: Viewers saw the exiled Sasha boxing; I understand you box in real life?
Jackson: Yeah. I was an amateur boxer for years. I've been off for a few years, but I was an amateur boxer in England; the British Golden Gloves equivalent.
Weekly: Did you ask them to put some boxing in the script?
Jackson: No! One of the assistant writers was given the opportunity to write that scene, and she was one of the ones that suggested putting in boxing. The first I heard of it was when I was handed the scene, but it's fun to have new settings and put the characters in different places.
Weekly: During his time away, did Sasha feel guilty for perhaps sending Payson the wrong message?
Jackson: He did say that he must have obviously given her the wrong messages and made her in some part feel that it was a sexual connection, even though it wasn't for him. But I think schoolgirls get crushes on their teachers without anybody intending it. It's tough when you're a young girl, and if anybody actually shows you compassion when you've got all the hormones racing, you can easily misinterpret that compassion as being passion. Just because somebody cares doesn't mean somebody wants you in that way. As I understand, it's a very common thing for girls to have a crush on a teacher, or the teacher in equivalent.
Weekly: So Sasha is concerned about Payson's feelings amid the controversy over the kiss?
Jackson: He cares more about the way it affected her life than he does about the way it affects his. He can deal with it, but she's a young girl. Everybody found out, and she was teased unmercifully.
Weekly: Does Sasha feel he's the same coach he was, or does he feel different?
Jackson: With the growth of Sasha has come a change in attitude. He used to be demanding, shouting and scary, but in his growth — and this happens this season — he's much more compassionate. The girls trust and understand him, and he's able to speak to them more on their level, so he doesn't need to crack the whip as much. A relationship has developed among everybody, an understanding that definitely grows with this half of the season.
Weekly: Is Sasha a changed man now?
Jackson: I think the changed man thing is interesting. A big issue is the fact that he hasn't had a relationship for a long while. Then he finally meets [Summer], the woman that he wants to commit to, and he gives his all to her, and actually sacrifices a reasonable amount. He says he'll give up his religious beliefs and everything like that, but she actually betrayed him. So he's dealing with a lot of betrayal. Poor Sasha: It seems that every single choice he makes is for the right [reasons], but people tend to take it for the wrong [reason] and he ends up being the butt of all the problems. He's an honorable person who is, unfortunately, in a dishonorable world.