Credit: Images: NBC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection, John Paschal/JPI, ABC (3)
20. Jill/Frank/Rae, Ryan’s Hope
In this case, the pictures kinda say it all (that is, if you delete the expletives). While aspiring politician Frank was all like, “Whoa, two babes fighting over me? This is awesome!” his true love and the puppetmaster who desperately wanted him to give her that title spent the late 1970s doing their damnedest not to claw one another’s eyes out.
19. Theresa/Ethan/Gwen, Passions
Yes, yes, we know that NBC’s supernatural soap was as silly as it was outlandish (if those aren’t technically the same thing!). But there’s still no discounting the lopsided love triangle that carried it through its early days — not to mention, Energizer Bunny-like, survived the recasts of two of its players to just keep going and going…
18. Karen/Jagger/Brenda, General Hospital
This early-1990s triangle found buff boxer Jagger going nine rounds with indecision. He was drawn on one gloved hand to good girl Karen, who pushed him away to attract a crowd as the headliner at Sonny’s strip club; on the other, to bad girl Brenda, who’d eventually turn out to be the future don’s main attraction (clothed or un-).
17. Steve/Betsy/Craig, As the World Turns
The rooting value was obvious when it came to this trio: Steve was good but tortured, Craig bad… and only too willing to torture. Yet it was really fans of the CBS soap who suffered as the ingenue — played by soon-to-be movie star Meg Ryan — fell for her predatory pursuer’s BS to the point where she said “I do” to the remorseless scoundrel!
16. Ryan/Vicky/Grant, Another World
Cut from the same cloth as the guys in the previous triangle, the Harrison brothers presented the object of their affections with roses… Wait, no. That’s not it at all, despite appearances. What they presented her with was a delightful dilemma: Should the complicated minx choose the sibling to whom her heart belonged… or the one to whom she believed that her wagon might be most lucratively hitched?
15. Travis/Erica/Jackson, All My Children
Credit where it’s due: Fans were majorly #TeamTravis when the ABC soap kicked off this triangle in 1987, yet they eventually warmed — then overheated! — to the idea of her being paired with his brother. Ultimately, time told the tale of the victor: Long after Travis had passed away, Jackson’s feelings for Erica, and vice versa, remained alive and kicking. Heck, they were still squabbling in the show’s 2011 sendoff in a way that suggested that they were anything but over!
14. Carly/Jack/Julia, As the World Turns
Julia seemed perfect for Jack at first — operative words: “at first.” After his tumultuous involvement with Carly, he needed someone simple, solid and trustworthy. But it turned out that his bride was none of those things; she was as mad as a hatter and as formidable a foe as Carly would ever face in getting back to her true north.
13. Reva/Josh/Annie, Guiding Light
When Josh’s late wife came back from the great beyond, we totally understood why his subsequent missus would be pissed. “If you’re gonna die,” we could imagine her hollering, “commit already!” What we didn’t understand was why Annie would shortly thereafter go over the edge. (Turned out she had been closer to it than we imagined!) In no time, she’d taken “crazy in love” to a whole other level in hopes of rendering Reva if not dead again, at least dead to Josh.
12. Rachel/Mac/Iris, Another World
Scandalous, right? This wasn’t a traditional love triangle by any means. However, you can’t say that Mac’s conniving daughter didn’t throw up as many obstacles to his relationship with would-be stepmother Rachel as a competitive romantic interest would’ve. (Fun fact: Frontburner mainstay Rachel is one of only two characters to appear in this countdown twice.)
11. Hope/Bo/Billie, Days of our Lives
When Hope and Bo fell for one another in the 1980s, we were sure that that was it; we were sold. Then again, we also thought back then that Peter Reckell was the only actor we’d ever accept as the hero for whom we were holding out. So color us surprised — and pleasantly so — when in the early ’90s, Robert Kelker-Kelly emerged as a sensational Reckell recast, and Lisa Rinna’s Billie, a tempting alternative to Hope.
10. Evangeline/McBain/Natalie, One Life to Live
Had ABC not pulled the plug on the resurgent soap, we have no doubt that this triangle would have been revisited over and over. Why not? In he mid-2000s, viewers were as conflicted as stoic John about his feelings for feisty Natalie and her rival, Evangeline (played, as if you didn’t know, by Tony-winning Hamilton powerhouse Renee Elise Goldsberry).
9. Cruz/Eden/Robert, Santa Barbara
Cruz and Eden were supposed to be untouchable. Sacrosanct. But when the late Roscoe Born was introduced to the mix in 1989 as a forgotten old flame of hers, it was as if we all took a big honkin’ bite of forbidden fruit. We felt guilty as hell about it, but we were more torn between the heroine’s two lovers than it made any sense to be. That, folks, is the hallmark of a great love triangle!
8. Steffy/Liam/Hope, The Bold and the Beautiful
Bro, no. Even in this picture with Hope (originally Kim Matula), Liam can’t keep his eyes off of Steffy. And that’s pretty much the way that it’s gone since he was introduced to the stepsiblings’ social circle in 2010. If he’s with one, he wants the other; if he’s with the other, then the other is obviously The One!
7. Scotty/Laura/Luke, General Hospital
Look at the couple on the left. The honeymooners can’t believe that the couple on the right could possibly be a threat to their hard-won marriage. And yet… ! Fans don’t often think of Luke and Laura as having had any relationship spoilers, but in the late 1970s, Luke was actually a spoiler — and a wildly successful one — to the romance of Laura and Scotty, the supercouple that saved the show from cancellation.
6. Roman/Marlena/John, Days of our Lives
Fans felt understandably treacherous, falling in line behind John and his Doc. But what could they do? He’d been introduced in 1985 as Roman. (Well, he coulda been!) So when the real McCoy came back from the dead, our allegiances had shifted. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t comfortable, but holy crap, was it ever a great triangle!
5. Sonny/Brenda/Jax, General Hospital
The choice for Brenda was clear: She could stand by her made man, inviting in a life of danger as well as passion… or pledge herself to the Aussie who made koala bears envy his adorability. In other words, the choice was completely and totally unclear, and should she return to General Hospital, we suspect she’d have to make the same impossible decision all over again!
4. Brooke/Ridge/Taylor, The Bold and the Beautiful
Lather, rinse, repeat — that’s the cycle that these three have followed for 30-plus years. And although with Hunter Tylo’s character off the canvas — and Denise Richards’ Shauna, to a degree, filling her void — it would seem that their triangle has been deconstructed, we wouldn’t count out a resurgence any more than we’d eliminate the possibility of Stephanie rising from the dead to bitch-slap Quinn!
3. Elizabeth/Jason/Sam, General Hospital
Compared to others on this list, this triangle hardly got any play. Seriously — when was the last time that Rebecca Herbst and Steve Burton even had a scene together? Despite that, fans remain divided — whether or not Jason does — between his two great loves, earthy Liz and action figure Sam.
2. Rachel/Steve/Alice, Another World
“What the what?” you say. Oh, don’t you dare poo-poo the impact that this triangle had on the NBC soap. Modern viewers may not remember the show, much less the characters, but the push-pull that Steve felt to good girl Alice and bad girl Rachel powered the show through the late 1960s and took it to the top of the ratings in the decade that followed.
1. Ashley/Victor/Nikki, The Young and the Restless
Don’t let the big hair and ’80s gladrags distract you. This on-again/off-again threesome was the real deal, and were it not for Eileen Davidson’s determination to only visit the CBS soap — “I am not coming back full-time!” she has emphasized — we have zero doubt that their merry-go-round would still be spinning.