Howard Wise/JPI (2)

Prepare to hit the roof and swoon. You have been warned.

You’ve probably already read how displeased we are with The Young and the Restless’ handling of Victor and Nikki. And if you have, you might have said to yourself, “Well, if you don’t like it, do better.” So we have. Were it up to us — and, for better or worse, it never is — here’s the story that we’d tell.

Finally realizing how little satisfaction there is in preventing her nearest and dearest from drawing blood anytime they cross paths, Nikki parlays her love of music into a school for the arts, a place where those who can’t afford sky-high tuition can hone their skills, make contacts and build careers. And she knows just the person to serve as her right hand: Carolina Morse, who went by the name Sweet Caroline back when she made Nikki’s acquaintance at Marsino’s Strip Club in the early 2000s.

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Nikki knows what a gifted pianist Carolina is — she could be another Leslie Brooks! — she just needs a chance to perfect her raw talent. Working with Nikki on the running of the academy, Carolina could do exactly that. She could even move into one of the guest houses on the ranch and out of the hovel she calls home. It’s win/win for Carolina, who’d have to be played by an instantly appealing soap vet — think Lindsay Korman (Cara, All My Children), Bree Williamson (ex-Claudette, General Hospital) or Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda, General Hospital).

Above: We can picture, among others, Marcil, Korman or Williamson playing Carolina.

Who’s Schooling Who?

But Carolina doesn’t just bring her meager belongings to the ranch, she also brings temptation. Spending so much time at the main house, she naturally crosses paths often with Victor, who would see in her… well, another Nikki, a diamond in the rough in need of a little polishing. He’s at loose ends, feeling as if there are no mountains left for him to climb, so to speak. So he takes it upon himself to teach Carolina about the finer things.

Nikki is all for it. She wants Carolina to enjoy a better life than she has thus far. And at this point, she trusts her husband. If she doesn’t, if she can’t, she figures, what’s the point? For her part, Carolina is insulted. She makes it clear to Victor that while she appreciates his intentions, she’s not some stray in need of a flea bath and a clean water bowl, thank you very much. Sparks fly. Victor is charmed. In spite of herself, so is Carolina.

Eric Braeden victor "The Young and the Restless" Set CBS television CityLos Angeles09/10/21© Howard Wise/jpistudios.com310-657-9661

Above: Charmed, we’re sure.

That Thin, Thin Line

In no time, a friendship is born between them. And the more time Victor and Carolina spend together, the more she begins to fear that her feelings are going beyond fondness. Victor is old enough to be her father, perhaps. But he sees and accepts her for who she is. He doesn’t, as she initially thought, judge her for her past. In fact, being the self-made man that he is, he admires her perseverance. True survivors like them do whatever it takes, he understands all too well. “We don’t wait to see if opportunity will present itself a second time,” he says. “We can’t afford to. No one can.

“But we, my dear… ” he adds. “We are the ones who really get that.”

More: Nikki Newman’s life and loves [PHOTOS]

Carolina confesses that her feelings for Victor have become… a challenge. She won’t hurt Nikki under any circumstances. Yet she doesn’t know what to do with the stirring in her heart. He’s right in front of her, day and night, there for the taking… yet she won’t. She can’t. “It’s torture,” she says. “And even if it’s the smart thing to do, I don’t want to end it.”

Victor, in turn, shares that he feels more for Carolina than friendship. She doesn’t look at him and see Husband or Father or the Great and Powerful Victor Newman. She sees a man, one who knows a few things that she doesn’t and, he can’t deny, doesn’t know a few things that she does. He loves Nikki. He will not stray from her, he makes it clear. However, Carolina makes him feel alive in a way that no one else does. In a life that has grown comfortable and familiar, she is unpredictable and different. She makes him feel something that he hasn’t in a very long time: afraid. For despite his protestations, he must acknowledge that being with her, being so near to her, is a constant risk.

Jordi Vilasuso, Lindsay Hartley"All My Children" Set The Andrita Studios ABC Studios Los Angeles 03/17/11 ©Howard Wise/jpistudios.com 310-657-9661 Episode # 10598 U.S.Airdate 04/13/11

Above: When did Rey start questioning people about affairs of the heart?

Dangerous Liaisons

On and on go the lovers who have never made love, savoring their secret even as the guilt that they bear threatens to crush them. They catch their breath when their hands accidentally touch at the dinner table. They fight to keep their distance on occasions when they find themselves alone — really alone. “I should go,” Carolina tells Victor after Nikki has gone out for the evening.

“Yes,” he answers, “you should.”

And even as he says it, he closes the door with her still inside. They’re so close that one false move — one true move — would put them in one another’s arms. She can’t look him in the eye. He can’t look away. Their hearts beat so loudly, they can barely hear the words when he asks, “Chess… and brandy?”

More: Soaps’ hottest love triangles, ranked [PHOTOS]

Melody Thomas Scott"The Young and the Restless" Set CBS television City Los Angeles 04/29/21 © Howard Wise/jpistudios.com 310-657-9661 Episode # 12123 U.S. Airdate 06/04/21

Above: “A new storyline on a notecard? Sold!”

The Cruelest Lightbulb Moment

When at last Nikki becomes aware of Victor and Carolina’s emotional affair — she may be distracted, but clueless, she’d never, ever be! — she seethes. Privately at first, as she takes stock of all that she’s overlooked. Then she lashes out at her husband, accusing him of having to play the big man to every lost little girl who looks twice at him.

Victor protests that Nikki has no reason to be angry. He and Carolina have crossed no line. They’ve never so much as kissed… at least outside of their imaginations. He made his choice — Nikki — and he has honored that choice. He has honored her.

“While you were eye-[bleeping] the younger model of me?” she spits. “Gee, Victor, I’m touched.”

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She has even less empathy for Carolina. “I tried to give you the world,” Nikki hisses. “I wasn’t trying to give you my world.” Carolina insists that she and Victor are just friends, that they merely understand each other in an unusual way… but neither of them would ever betray Nikki. If she doesn’t know that, Carolina adds, she doesn’t know them. And that, to Carolina, is as heartbreaking as what Nikki imagines.

Shawn Christian"Days of our Lives" SetNBC StudiosBurbank04/23/14© Howard Wise/jpistudios.com310-657-9661Episode # 12427U.S.Airdate 09/22/14

Above: Yes, Shawn Christian (ex-Daniel, Days of Our Lives), the Internet says you’d make a fine European boy toy for Nikki.

Decision Time

Good tactic, Carolina. Yet the morning after, Nikki is gone. She’s taken off for a month abroad. “You decide what I come home to,” reads her note to Victor. “And if I come home.” She won’t play second fiddle to anyone, whether in reality or in his mind. Carolina can continue on in her job and her studies — provided that she moves off the grounds of the ranch.

The question then becomes, what do Victor and Carolina do? Despite Nikki’s rage, neither of them wants to strike back in any way. They understand why she’s hurt. They have something special, something that is only theirs. Do they give it up for the sake of what’s sensible, what’s practical, what they’re sworn to? Or do they throw caution to the wind and find out the answer to the irresistible question of “What if… ?”

Were we writing the story, Victor and Carolina would stop at a breathless kiss… while Nikki licked her wounds by having a torrid affair in Paris, one that would eventually follow her back to Genoa City and explode her marriage. She’d argue that the sex meant less than the connection that her husband forged with another woman, but as you can well predict, it would be a hard, if even possible, sell.

What do you think, Young & Restless fans? Would you rather see Victor and Nikki thrust into a volatile new love quadrangle than cast as spectators to other characters’ romantic imbroglios? On your way to the comments, stop off at the below photo gallery, a collection of gorgeous portraits of the 2022 cast of The Young and the Restless.