> Beauty And The Priest
by Carol Ann Wood
From the moment
that Jack Callahan, previously ‘John Doe’, regained his memory and knew he was
a man of the cloth, viewers recognised that it spelt trouble ahead for him and would-be lover Paige.
The official Neighbours line is that no-one guessed that Jack, played superbly by the excellent
Andrew Morley, was a Catholic Priest, but I’m afraid it’s not strictly true! I nailed it, albeit just one
day before the reveal. And I wasn’t alone, because I had a Twitter conversation about it. Andrew
was included in that Twitter thread, so he knows that I (and a few others) worked it out!
Nevertheless, I think it’s one of the best revelations in the show for some while.
Jack was initially known as Jon Doe, the guy with no memory, who had somehow been caught up
in the boiler explosion at the hotel. Viewers fast became irritated by Paige’s obsession with this tall
dark-haired stranger. Some felt, quite reasonably, that Paige might be using him as a rebound
romance, after her non-wedding drama with former boyfriend Mark Brennan. Paige is an impetuous
creature, who tends to rush into situations without thinking them through. She pushed and pushed to
persuade ‘John’ into a relationship when he repeatedly and painstakingly explained that he couldn’t
date her when he wasn’t even sure who he really was. Paige, however, wasn’t about to give up. Her
headstrong personality served to compel her to push even harder, and she flatly refused to listen to
family and friends’ words of caution.
When ‘John’ was finally about to give in to his physical attraction to Paige – accompanied by
apparently genuine love – we knew something big was about to happen. He’d told her on several
occasions that he had a feeling being with her was somehow ‘wrong’. Was he gay, we wondered at
first? Surely that would be too obvious. Did he have a girlfriend already? Seemingly not. We’d
already seen one woman turn up and claim to be his partner, only to find the writers had led us on a
wild goose chase. The poor woman was just lonely and had latched on to John's story. What else could stand in Paige’s way? John’s potential involvement in the
tampering of the boiler? Whilst viewers may have been bored by Paige’s pursuit of John, they were
now very curious about his identity. Neighbours chat groups on social media were full of it, and
fans were loving the intrigue.
Paige had often said she ‘just knew’
John was a good man, and not someone who would do harm to
others. He wasn’t convinced, as his counselling sessions had given him odd flashbacks of being in
the boiler room. Thankfully though, he was finally absolved of any wrong-doing. He was
apparently heterosexual, so what could stop him from jumping into bed with a beautiful single girl
like Paige? The lightbulb moment for me was in the scene where Paige randomly suggested that he
speak to someone from the church. This had to be it! John still hadn’t remembered everything at
that point, but nevertheless decided to go ahead and spend the night with Paige. He concluded that
he might not fully regain his memory, so he had to build his life anew. We saw Paige prepare for the
‘big night’ – setting the scene for a romantic meal and post-dinner delight. Then came the moment
when ‘John’ discovered the final piece of the jigsaw. No matter how annoyed I felt with Paige for
her relentless pressure, I did feel a little sorry for her when she was summoned to the police station
after John remembered the events leading up to the explosion. And, the truth about his profession.
Neighbours drama at its very best. Kudos to the writers, the production team and cast.
Suddenly, when John became Jack Callahan in that instant, the story turned into one of forbidden
love, a modern-day soap-land Thorn Birds scenario. Father Jack seemed all the more appealing than
plain old John Doe. A good, wholesome man of God who, by the fact of his Catholicism and vow of
celibacy, is unavailable. Thus far. We might have known that Paige wasn’t going to give up easily,
and as it stands, viewers are divided between those wanting to see Father Jack remain in the
priesthood, and those who’d like him give up his dog-collar for the love of a woman. Many people
have remarked that perhaps he could convert from Catholicism to another branch of Christianity
where celibacy is not a requirement. He’d then get to carry on serving his God and love Paige at the
same time. Whilst this sounds very straightforward, I’m not sure that it actually is. The saga,
therefore, continues. Paige initially made a half-hearted attempt to keep her distance from Jack, and
has been doing the ‘friends with benefits’ thing with Tyler Brennan. Rather unfortunately, sleeping
with Tyler has hurt her half-sister Piper. Piper blotted her own copybook by acting immaturely and
going behind her parents’ backs in seeing Tyler in the first place. Tyler’s torn between the girl he
wants and the girl who has made herself available. In short, it’s a bit of a mess, and a typical
Neighbours mess, to boot!
As is the norm for Neighbours,
they managed to bring some humour to the whole situation
regarding Jack’s new status. And typically, Sheila provided a comic moment when declaring ‘Oh
God’ before she heard the revelation. By then, others already knew, and she wasn’t best pleased not
to be first to spread the word. But she was thrilled to realise that she’d been landlady to a man of
faith. If Father Jack had lodged with her for much longer, he’d probably be spoilt rotten with
Sheila’s culinary delights, and his girth would have expanded rapidly! Then there was the moment
Paige just ‘accidentally’ appeared poolside in a bikini. Jack tried not to gawp. But failed. Taking a
nervous backwards walk, he managed to crash into the patio chairs in his haste.
Since making the decision to be married to God, Jack has been busily running a group project for
disadvantaged and homeless people. Suddenly Paige has taken a keen interest in volunteering for
the centre and, now, in religion, by joining a Bible Study class. Recently, we saw her smiling and
chatting as she handed out free food and coffee to the homeless at a pop up kiosk, appropriate
background music setting the scene. Not exactly the same Paige who snaps and snarls at the
customer’s in Harold’s, then. Quite the Mother Teresa overnight! Did Lauren really have the Bible
on her bookshelf prior to this Paige-getting-God thing? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an actual
bookshelf in her house, let alone any reading material. I also don’t think viewers buy into Paige’s
transformation from flirtatious tease to Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. She’s still hung up on Jack, and it
isn’t his crucifix she’s interested in. I might be overly cynical, and maybe the girl is really deeply in
love, but at times, it feels as if the more Paige is told she can’t have something/someone, the more
she’ll pursue it. As in her latest plan to become a professional boxer. Er, okay Paige, but it’s only a
short while ago that you were excited about your university course. Remember that?
It would be no surprise if Jack and Paige were somehow to end up
together. I wouldn’t bet against it
being what the writers have planned all along – similarly to the way they brought Lauren and Brad
together. I’m currently enjoying this tale of struggle and angst for Jack and Paige. Jack isn’t dealing
with the situation well, either. He hasn’t exactly pushed Paige away, but rather, encouraged her
curiosity about his beliefs. Whilst he might tell himself (and God) that it’s his duty to spread the
teachings of the Good Book when required, there has to be an element of self-interest going on. He
even admitted as much to Paige from his own confessional box. Paige might similarly convince
herself that she is really interested in Jack’s religious convictions but we all know that, had Jack
been a married physics professor, she’d have been at the front of the class in her skimpiest crop-top
vowing to be enthused by Einstein.
Even putting aside Jack’s strong religious faith, I can’t help but have my doubts whether Jack and
Paige would really make a good couple. Some viewers have recently remarked that Jack and Amy
seem to have a better rapport. However, that may just be because neither has any romantic feelings
towards the other, and so their connection is platonic and uncomplicated. Nevertheless, it’s clear
that Paige isn’t entirely happy about seeing them with their heads together. Jack felt duty-bound to
stick around Erinsborough after the elderly priest, Father Vincent, died. Before his death, Father
Vincent told Jack he wanted him to take over the parish. Is this Jack’s true calling? Moments of
doubt are not, apparently, that unusual. Jack is still young, and he seems especially suited to a role
as some form of youth worker. He’s shown us already that he isn’t perfect – getting wasted on a
night out and fearing that he may have hit Tyler in a jealous rage probably wasn’t the best idea if
you’re behind a pulpit the following Sunday!
So, will we see another
twist to this story, and furthermore, if Jack leaves the Catholic church for
Paige, is it the right decision? I actually like him as Father Jack, and if I’m totally honest, I’m not
sure I want to see the two of them get together. If things turned sour, or even just dull, would Jack
start to resent Paige because of what he’d given up for her? How much do the two actually have in
common? Does Paige acknowledge the enormity of such a decision for Jack? That said, there’s a lot
more women than Paige who would love to tempt Jack away from God and get him hot under the
dog-collar! Andrew, keep on doing what you’re doing – the queue for confession stretches long and
wide, you may be in there some time!
This article originally appeared on Carol's blog, Only In Erinsborough.