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Credit: Images: Jill Johnson/JPI

Get ready, because the Salem-set soap is about to break all the rules again.

It’s never a good idea to assume you know how things will play out on Days of Our Lives, if only because headwriter Ron Carlivati and his team love nothing more than to zig when you’re positive they’ll zag. Last fall, the show kicked off November sweeps by jumping forward in time a year and letting us slowly figure out how the characters wound up where they had. And, of course, even before the current regime began playing with our collective heads, legendary scribe James E. Reilly killed off half the cast — including Alice Horton, for the love of donuts! — only to reveal that they were alive and well and living on an island that looked exactly like Salem but with palm trees. (OK, maybe it’s best not to look too closely at that last example.)

This month, Days of Our Lives will once again go where no soap has gone before by crafting a mini-storyline which will be plopped down into the middle of the regularly-scheduled action. Why? Because the show has to create two weeks’ worth of episodes that can fill the space originally set to be occupied by NBC’s coverage of the summer Olympics earlier this year. (Otherwise, Salem would wind up celebrating Santa’s arrival while the rest of us were still trying to digest our Thanksgiving turkey!)

We have our theories about what the self-contained arc might be (which you can read about here), but only time will tell if our “killer” plot comes to life. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at some of the other big stories about to unfold as the sands of the hourglass bring us ever closer to November sweeps.

Xander Could Lose Sarah For Good

After finding out that her beau had schemed with Jan, Sarah made her expectations very clear to Xander: “I need you to know that if you do go back to your old ways,” she warned, “I will not put up with it ever again.” Declaring that he’d seen the error of his ways, the guy promised that the only road he’d be taking in the future was the one marked “high.” But that could all change when he winds up being fired by “Uncle Vic.” Even with Sarah’s words echoing in his ears, it’ll be tough for Xander to ignore the devil on his shoulder urging him to seek revenge against nemesis Philip. But can he do so without crossing an ethical or moral line? Doubtful. Which means he’ll have to try and prevent Sarah from finding out what he’s up to… or risk losing her forever.

Paul Telfer, Linsey Godfrey"Days of our Lives" SetNBC StudiosBurbank02/10/20© XJJohnson/jpistudios.com310-657-9661Episode # 13947U.S.Airdate 09/28/20

Philip, meanwhile, will no doubt delight in his cousin’s dilemma. But will having pushed him out of the co-CEO spot at Titan be enough, or will Philip feel the need to completely and totally destroy Xander’s life? (For the record, yes, that’s a rhetorical question. But one we can’t quite know the answer to is what will happen when Philip puts his plan into motion and manages to push every single one of Xander’s buttons.) Look for Philip to also continue being an unwanted presence in Belle and Shawn’s marriage as they try to keep daughter Claire out of harm’s — by which we mean Jan’s — way.

He Said/She Said

Allie says Tripp is not only the father of her baby but her rapist. Tripp insists neither of those things could possibly be true, because they never actually had sex when they crossed paths in London. Both stories can’t be true, but who are we to believe? That question will tear apart the tight-knit community of Salem as people take sides. Might Steve and Kayla find themselves on opposite ends of the debate, especially given some of the things Tripp did when first he came to town a few years back? How will Allie’s parents, Lucas and Sami, react when they find out about Allie’s claim? (Could this be what brings Alison Sweeney’s Sami back to the canvas later this fall?) And what consequences will there be when one local has a downright shocking reaction upon hearing the accusations being leveled against Tripp? This is a story which will raise difficult questions not only for the characters but viewers as well.

More: What’s up with Days newbie Charlie?

Here Comes Gabi

It was downright shocking how quickly Gabi and Rafe left town after finding out that their entire family was in danger thanks to — who else? — dad Eduardo. But this fall, Gabi and her big brother will return to Salem, with her arriving just in time to create even more chaos in the DiMera household. To say that Gabi has never played particularly well with other women might be an understatement. Yet could she find an unexpected ally in Gwen, given that neither of them is very fond of Abigail? And why, exactly, is Gwen so hellbent on destroying a woman we could have sworn she barely knew?

Brandon Barash, Camila Banus "Days of our Lives" Set NBC Studios Burbank 11/26/19 © XJJohnson/ 310-657-9661 Episode # 13911 U.S.Airdate 08/06/20

Meanwhile, Gabi may just find that in her absence, Jake has become a new man. OK, sure, he’s still rough around the edges, but he’s also starting to figure out his place in the DiMera family. Heck, if they’re not careful, he and Chad might actually find themselves becoming if not true brothers, at least guys who don’t actively hate one another. In other words, the DiMera household will be bursting at the seams with the kind of mischievous fun that can only happen when very rich, very troubled people all wind up living under one roof.

More: Happy 10-year anniversary, Camila Banus (Gabi)!

A New Challenge for Marlena and John

It’s one thing to know that John’s outbursts have been caused by his recent brain aneurysm. But it’s another to figure out how to deal with his over-the-top reactions if they continue. (Pssst: They will definitely continue.) So far, friends and loved ones have been patient and understanding, looking the other way when he hurls the occasional cactus or insults a proffered baked good. But as anyone with an extremely temperamental pal knows, that kind of behavior gets very old, very quick… medical condition or no! Certainly, John and Marlena have been through far worse — demonic possession, anyone? — but the highly relatable nature of this particular problem might prove a far greater challenge than some of the more over-the-top scenarios they’ve had to overcome.

Eli and Lani make up on Days of our Lives

In other relationship news, Eli will find his life extremely complicated thanks to the women in it. Melinda has made it clear that Eli must do her bidding (translation: bring her the metaphorical head of Kristen DiMera!) or risk seeing Lani give birth behind bars. But if he serves Kristen up to the vengeance-seeking district attorney, he could wind up in solitary confinement when his wife walks out on him. Meanwhile, Brady may soon find that he has once again come incredibly close to grabbing the brass ring only to have happiness slip right through his fingers. Could stabbing Victor be the crime which Kristen finally has to pay for committing? If so, will Brady wind up having to raise Rachel on his own? (Hey, Nicole is also raising a coupla kids without much help… )

Finally, on a lighter note, Justin may find himself having to fight his attraction to Bonnie. The kiss she recently planted on her attorney drove him to drink, but did it also stir up within Justin feelings he may not be able to keep from bubbling to the surface? He can try repeating over and over “Bonnie is not Adrienne… Bonnie is not Adrienne… ” but might his late wife’s at-least-slightly-reformed double convince him to open his heart?

So which of this fall’s Days of Our Lives stories are you most excited to see play out? Hit the comments with your thoughts, then visit the photo gallery below to see if you agree with our rankings for the show’s best characters of all time.