Y&R's Adam back. (Soaps.com)

Not Dead Yet.

When are you dead in a soap opera? I mean dead dead really truly dead dead for sure dead. Not coming back ever dead. Is it even possible? People have been burned alive, drowned, stomped on, crashed in cars and planes and trains, dropped from cliffs into active volcanoes and they still came back to life. Some people in the real world stumble and fall and die in minor freak accidents but people on soap operas can be eaten by wild lions and somehow manage to be back two years later. When I hear someone died on a soap opera I never believe it. Almost always they are back within a month or two… usually a tad different from their former selves. It works nicely as a plot device since death usually has a “life changing” impact on a person.

These “thought to be dead” people are “changed” because generally when you come back from the dead you have also had amnesia and led a foreign life for awhile before you came back to your senses or you were found by family or friends. If you didn’t have amnesia and instead faked your death then you usually come across like a jerk. When you’ve staged your death and then reveal that you are still alive, a lot of people get upset; mainly your parents and your wife and kids. If your wife has remarried she might be extra upset. On The Young and The Restless Phillip Chancellor III (Thom Bierdz) staged his own death because he said he didn’t want to deal with the stress anymore of hiding his homosexuality. So he faked his death for 25 years and when he revealed he was really alive… a lot of people weren’t very happy. They were happy he wasn’t dead but now that he wasn’t they wanted to kill him for keeping it a secret for so long. But they can’t kill him because (as we are discussing) it is pretty much impossible to kill a soap opera character.

How would you do it if you were a writer and wanted to make absolutely certain the character you are killing stays dead? Gunshot to the head? Pretty sure – no; even in real life a lot of people survive a gunshot to the head. By fire? Nope. Several people have escaped fires, gotten amnesia and then reappeared later on that year or sometime during the next year. Crash in a plane or a car or being run down by a train? Most likely all done and survived by someone somewhere. I’d have to say the most convinced I’ve ever been is when Y&R’s Brad Carlton (Don Diamont) was found under the ice, very dead from drowning after saving Noah (Kevin Schmidt). Jack (Peter Bergman) later referred to him as the “Bradsicle”. Brad seemed really dead. I don’t think he’s coming back.

Besides, he’s on a new soap now. It’s not a “for sure” sign but a solid sign your favorite soap character is truly dead (or at the very least not coming back) when they show up on another soap on another network. Sure, they can recast the role but in general when the actor shows up on another soap; that does seem to mean your character is truly dead or that vacation they are taking is going to be a really long one. Sometimes the fate of your character can be easily deduced by reading what is going on with the actor. Days of Our Lives’ Joe Mascolo (Stefano DiMera) is the exception to this rule. It was looking pretty rough for Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) last fall but one renegotiation later for the actor and Victor’s right at the front of plotting and terrorizing again; or possibly being terrorized now by his dead son. Who is not actually dead either, even though he was stabbed, beaten and set on fire…