Young & Restless’ Phyllis Crosses a Line That Should Change the Way All of Genoa City — *and* the Audience — Sees Her
She can take all the seats.
It takes a lot to turn a Young & Restless viewer against Phyllis. But the CBS soap managed to do it — at least for me — with the September 21 episode. You can read the full recap here, but in a nutshell, she spent the hour taunting Diane, then physically got in her face and pushed and pushed until, as anyone would, the lady Lazarus snapped at her. From there, things only got worse.
Now, before we go on, let me be clear: This isn’t about performance. At all. Michelle Stafford, so well-matched on screen with Susan Walters, played the [bleep] out of the confrontation. It was thrilling to watch. But it was also, from a character perspective, upsetting. When Phyllis finally got a rise out of her nemesis, she gloated. “There it is! That’s the real Diane!”
As if anyone in Diane’s shoes wouldn’t have reached her breaking point after being provoked and provoked and provoked. And I know that Diane is a scheme queen. I know that she’s done awful things and will again. But since the moment that she rose from the grave, Phyllis has been attacking her as if there was no chance that she could have changed her ways. And my question is the same as Diane’s: Where does she get off riding on such a high horse?
Credit: CBS screenshot
Pot, Meet Kettle
As Diane pointed out earlier in the episode, half of Genoa City has committed terrible acts. Victor imprisoned a rival in his basement and fed him rats. Michael tried to rape Christine. Adam plotted to blow up his entire family. And Phyllis… where do we begin? Oh, I know — how about with her attempt to fatally squash “The Bug” with her car?
The only reason Phyllis isn’t serving time for trying to murder Christine is that she wasn’t a federal officer when the crime was committed, and the statute of limitations had run out by the time charges were pressed. But imagine if Christine was on the show more. Imagine if she came at Phyllis as relentlessly as Phyllis has been coming for Diane. You can well imagine Phyllis crying, “But I’ve changed!”
Credit: CBS screenshot
What’s the Difference?
In fact, Phyllis does maintain that she’s a different person than the one who drugged Danny Romalotti to steal him from his wife, then duped him into thinking that son Daniel was his. She’s even laughed about the fact that yep, her past is as checkered as a picnic blanket. But she’s been allowed to start over. She’s been given a pass by all of Genoa City. So shouldn’t she, of all people, be able to wrap her head around the notion that individuals can turn over a new leaf?
Obviously, I get why Phyllis wouldn’t want to give Diane the kind of second chance from which she herself has benefited. The thing is, it just isn’t a good look for her. My impression is that we are supposed to be rooting for Phyllis. But when she’s being written so routinely as less strong than antagonistic, less passionate than bullying, that becomes harder and harder to do.
What do you think? On your way to the comments…
Review the reformed schemer’s life and crimes in the below photo gallery.
<p>When <em>The Young and the Restless</em> introduced the character of conniving Phyllis Summers, she wasn’t supposed to stick around forever. But then Michelle Stafford went and made an impression on the powers that be that was even bigger than her hair back then and… well, the rest is history.</p>
<p>Not content to buy pop star Danny Romalotti’s albums and pin his picture to her wall, superfan Phyllis conned him into marrying her — and, obviously, divorcing wife Christine Williams — by first drugging the object of her obsession, then lying that he’d impregnated her during a night of passion.</p>
<p>Eventually, Phyllis (then Sandra Nelson) learned that some messes were too big for even friend-with-benefits Michael Baldwin to clean up: The scheme queen lost not only Danny but “their” son, Daniel, who it turned out should’ve been named after Brian Hamilton, if anyone.</p>
<p>After leaving Genoa City to lick her wounds, Phyllis (Stafford again) returned and, when not getting it twisted, tied the knot with Jack Abbott. Chagrined, his babymama, Diane Jenkins, decided to remove her rival from the picture by framing her. For arson and stuff, not like in the image above.</p>
<p>Though Phyllis spent less time behind bars than she did at the beauty parlor or gym, her marriage to Jack couldn’t withstand the damage that Diane had done. Which was kinda-sorta just as well, because Phyllis was about to get the mother of all surprises.</p>
<p>Fresh from a bout with Soap-Opera Rapid-Aging Syndrome, Daniel came back to Genoa City, where he and Mom worked through their “complicated” family history and forged a tight connection. In time, she didn’t even worry that he wouldn’t catch her when she fell backwards during trust exercises.</p>
<p>Phyllis had great chemistry with Jabot perfumer Damon Porter. But Daniel wasn’t a fan, and the fragrance finagler was by and large more preoccupied with the past murder of his son than he was with Phyllis. By the time the boy’s killer was killed, the couple’s romance already had one foot in the grave.</p>
<p>Following the death of Nick and Sharon Newman’s daughter, Cassie, the grieving dad coped with the loss by throwing himself into a secret affair with Phyllis… which,<em> The Young and the Restless</em> being a soap and all, didn’t remain a secret. When the truth came out, into Nick’s marriage a fork was stuck.</p>
<p>Maybe she’d been impressed by Phyllis’ past as a homewrecking hit-and-run driver. But for whatever reason, when Lauren Fenmore’s longtime tormentor, Sheila Carter, decided to embark on a new reign of terror, she did so having had her face plastic-surgery’d to be the mirror image of Phyllis’. In the end, Lauren was forced to guess which lookalike was her friend and which was her enemy, and… well, you know, give it her best shot.</p>
<p>When not having wedding after wedding, Phyllis and Nick welcomed into the world their Supergirl, Summer. And OK, maybe the kid looks a wee bit terrified, but she <em>really</em> needn’t have. That <em>was</em> Phyllis, not Sheila. We think. On top of that, it had been years (<em>and</em> years!) since Mommy had tried to make roadkill of nemesis Christine and her fiancé, Paul Williams.</p>
<p>While Phyllis was with Nick, and her ex-husband, Jack, was with Nick’s ex-wife, Sharon, the lot of them somehow got it in their heads that it would be a great idea to run a magazine. <em>Restless Style</em>? Maybe you’ve heard of it? Anyway, it was <em>not</em> a great idea. As you’ll see in 3, 2…</p>
<p>Phyllis and Sharon were about as likely to tolerate one another as Katherine Chancellor and Jill Abbott back in the glory days of their epic feud. And if Nick and Jack’s wives weren’t squabbling over Nick and/or Jack, it was dessert. Though we can’t say as we blame ’em. That [bleep] looks as good as it does messy!</p>
<p>If there was ever anyone with whom Phyllis sparred more fiercely than the women whose husbands she stole, it was Drucilla Winters, who plunged to her “death” during a dustup with the redhead, thinking as she hit the water, “If only this psycho’d been busted for running down Christine and Paul… ”</p>
<p>Speaking of the stab that Phyllis took at vehicular manslaughter back in the 1990s… she was finally charged with the crime in 2012. But, although she was as guilty as sin of trying to squash Paul and the Bug, as she likes to call the erstwhile Cricket, Ms. Hell on Wheels remained a free woman.</p>
<p>After her blackmailing ex-shrink, Tim Reid, kicked the bucket in her apartment — the nerve! — Phyllis did what any sensible gal would do and called in the sexiest back-up she could: in this case, Ronan Malloy. And she might’ve gotten away with it, too, had she not insisted on, ahem, tucking him in, a no-no that cost her her marriage to Nick.</p>
<p>Phyllis <em>tried</em> to take it in stride when kid sis Avery Clark got not just mixed up with but engaged to Nick. But “in stride” has never really been the way that Phyllis tends to take things, now has it? When the dust settled, Avery gravitated back toward her lost love — Nick’s surprise half brother, Dylan McAvoy — and Phyllis climbed right back on the marry-go-’round with her ex.</p>
<p>Determined to keep Nick from learning from Phyllis that she’d tampered with Summer’s paternity test, Sharon sent her longtime rival tumbling down a flight of stairs and right into a coma… from which she emerged looking like Gina Tognoni (formerly Kelly on <em>One Life to Live</em> and Dinah on <em>Guiding Light</em>).</p>
<p>Though Phyllis and Jack picked up pretty much where they left off pre-coma, going so far as to remarry, she eventually found herself so livid that he let slide Victor Newman’s replacement of him with a doppelgänger — including <em>in! her! bed!</em> — that she embarked on a torrid affair with brother-in-law Billy.</p>
<p>Even after Phyllis moved on with Billy, she couldn’t resist that magnetic pull that she’d always felt toward Nick. As you can see, the feeling was so mutual that he cheated on Sharon right before they were to remarry. Side note: Um, does Nick — or anyone — really eat <em>that</em> many apples?</p>
<p>When Billy learned that Phyllis had two-timed him, he turned right around and one-shtupped her — by sleeping with her and Nick’s daughter. Everyone involved knew, of course, that Billy was a playboy cut from the same cloth as Jack, but neither Phyllis nor Summer realized that Billy was <em>that</em> brash and <em>that</em> sassy.</p>
<p>Oh, don’t look so shocked, you two. Everybody and their mother expected Phyllis (Stafford once more) to get back together with Nick at some point. And then break up with him again and then reunite again. By now, it’s pretty much their brand. Their hot, hot brand.</p>
<p>Complicating matters for “Phick” in 2021 was Jack’s revelation that he considered “Red” the one that got away — <em>and</em> the one that he most wished he <em>hadn’t</em> let get away. Could the exes keep their distance as well as they were in this image? TBD.</p>
<p>Although Diane hoped that Genoa City might roll out the welcome wagon upon discovering that she wasn’t actually dead, Phyllis and Jack instead united to fight over which of them would get to drive the bus they wanted to throw her under. In doing so, the exes began inching their way back toward one another. </p>
<p>Having come so far and experienced so much, would Jack and Phyllis finally be able to learn from the mistakes of the past to carve out a future with one another? Only time would tell… </p>
<p>Although Jack elected to give Diane a chance to prove that she’d turned over a new leaf, Phyllis couldn’t. Despite how many of <em>her</em> sins had been forgiven and forgotten, she just couldn’t. So every time she aimed a finger at Diane, it was as if she was pointing Jack toward the nearest exit.</p>
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