stefano victor justin eli jennifer rex jpi days revolving door mashup
Credit: Paul Skipper/JPI, Howard Wise/JPI, Jill Johnson/JPI (4)

Turns out, it’s been underway for quite a while already.

In the history of daytime, it’s no secret that few shows have been around quite as long as Days of Our Lives. Heck, that’s true in the history of television! It first debuted in 1965 and is second only to General Hospital (having been beaten to the airwaves by a scant two years) as one of the oldest soaps airing right now.

Over the years, it’s had to reinvent itself over and over again, introducing new families, new villains, new loves and, most recently, having become the first streaming-only daytime soap! (And hopefully making streaming companies realize there’s big business here and they should launch or revive many more soaps!)

But there’s been a sneakier change happening that we’ve only started catching onto and now that we have, we have to say, it’s kind of brilliant. The show, you see, has become something of a revolving door for characters… and they’ve been easing into it so effortlessly, we now barely even noticed that it’s become something of the norm!

In a way, this isn’t at all new. Stefano, for instance, had been doing this for decades. He became The Phoenix because of how often he “died” and came back, allowing the late, great Joseph Mascolo to weave in and out of the show and Salem as needed.

More: Alison Sweeney gives us a peek of her big comeback

And though we just lost him, John Aniston was much the same as he reached his later years. That was mostly out of necessity, but it still kept him on canvas right up until Aniston passed. Victor could pop in whenever he was needed to screw with his family’s power dynamics, mock Xander or celebrate Christmas with us one final time. (His last episode will be the day after Christmas.)

Over the years, Days of Our Lives seems to have been perfecting and streamlining that idea with a stable of characters who can pop in and out to visit when needed almost effortlessly.

We just reported about Rex, Eli and Jennifer’s returns for the holidays and while this is the time of year for most soaps to bring characters back for a visit, it’s far from unusual for Days of Our Lives. Since leaving full-time, Rex has been back to help clear Sarah’s name, save Kate, Marlena and Kayla with an orchid cure and even just chat on the phone.

Jennifer’s been in and out, having returned for Gwen and Xander’s wedding disaster, come back for poor Abigail’s death and even to get a heartbreaking story of her own as she once again struggled with addiction.

Even Justin is much the same, with Wally Kurth playing double duty both in Salem and as General Hospital’s Ned. With Sonny and Alex both in town and Bonnie’s kidnapping, we’ve been seeing more of him. And while we’d love to see him getting some hard-hitting stories of his own (how dare Sloan make a crack that Justin hasn’t won a case since she was in preschool?!), we’re thrilled that he can weave in and out as he does.

At home, Jennifer turns to Abigail who touches her shoulder

It’s not a foolproof method, of course. Sometimes it can be tricky when Days of Our Lives wants to do a big storyline with a character like Sami who just can’t stay around. The show ends up making excuses as to why she’s off-screen for months at a time in the middle of what should be a huge story.

That’s what happened when Sami and Lucas got back together, traveled the world, came back to get married and we were supposed to care when the wedding blew up and Lucas’ kidnapping came out. Sorry, that’s not going to work.

But it’s perfect for other characters like Nancy. She comes back to visit here and there, while occasionally sticking around a bit for a larger story, like her breakup with Craig or, to a lesser extent, her doomed romance with Clyde. Heck, it even looks like Tripp’s ending up the same — and while we’re still salty over the show teasing a Tripp/Gwen/Joey triangle and then removing two sides of it and turning it into a flat line, it’s been nice to see that he has not been forgotten, whether that’s being kidnapped or trying to help his returned-from-the-dead mom.

Alison Sweeney, Bryan Dattilo sami lucas jpi days

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If the show doesn’t have a lasting storyline for everyone — and let’s face it, the simple fact of daytime is that there’s a limited number of characters and stories you can juggle at once — you can at least bring characters in whenever they’re needed. It’s so frustrating when characters are just forgotten or mentioned in passing as having talked on the phone instead of coming back for some incredibly crucial event.

So we say bring it on. Hopefully at some point, these characters will be able to stick around for a story of their own. But in the meantime, the show’s developed a flexibility that so many soaps seem to lack. And at least we get to know that these characters are still a part of the fabric of Salem and could jump back in for some juicy stories at a moment’s notice!

Trying to keep track of everyone’s returns? Check out our photo gallery of Days of Our Lives comebacks to get the full breakdown!