GENOA CITY ELITE: The Best of Y&R in 2023

For the Week of December 25, 2023
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Happy Holidays! This week, our Y&R Two Scoopers Tamilu and Vance are joining forces for the first time to spread some holiday cheer as they celebrate everything great about Y&R in 2023. Read on to find out which couples, storylines, villains, and other favorites made their list of "Genoa City's Elite" this year!

We've come to the end of another roller coaster year in Genoa City -- and that means it's time to look back at the highs, the lows, and everything in between. But this year, we're doing things a little differently. Rather than making us read individually from Tamilu and Vance, they've teamed up on two special columns -- think of it as Victor Newman and Jack Abbott getting together for drinks at Society and then dishing everything they loved and everything they hated about everyone else is Genoa City.

The process by which this column was created was like scrapbooking and a game of darts colliding. Coming up with the categories was pretty easy, but we tried to make it so that each columnist picked something different in each category. When they both picked the same thing, Tamilu and Vance came up with fun ways to break the tie. Think of it as a much kinder and gentler Squid Game.

First up, it's a look back at the things that our columnists thought were the best of the year -- the best surprises, the best couples, the best storylines, and a whole lot more. They'll be back next week to hand out some coal with their Worst of 2023 column, so be sure to check back for that!

BEST RETURN

Tamilu: Michael Damian (Danny Romalotti)
Danny Romalotti returned! My very favorite soap rock star. It's easy to see why Phyllis and Christine ("The Bug") have been bickering over this honey for decades. I mean, he's downright dreamy. He can sing and play piano. He has that megawatt smile. He has a generosity of spirit that is extremely rare. Danny is miraculously able to keep those two she-devils from ripping each other's hair out. I can't put my finger on what it is about Michael Damian, but as soon as he walks on-screen, I feel safe and warm. He has a very Zen aura. I know that sounds crazy and new age-y -- and my Baptist Sunday School teacher would condemn me to hell -- but that's how his presence makes me feel, nonetheless. I am thrilled that he is back.

PS: If you didn't see his Christmas movie, A Paris Christmas Waltz, you should track it down. A beautiful holiday film with romance, dancing, Paris, Christmas, beautiful soap goddess Jen Lilley, and Matthew Morrison (Mr. Shue on Glee).

Vance: Haley Erin (Claire Howard; ex-Abby Newman)
Words can't express how happy I was when I found out Haley Erin was returning to Y&R! I will be the first to admit, though, that I was not sad to see her recast all those years ago when she first debuted on the show as Abby Newman. But she has grown a lot as an actress since those early days in her daytime career, and I absolutely fell in love with the character she portrayed over on General Hospital (she was an absolute powerhouse on GH). I do wish there had been a little bit more of a slow burn in regard to Claire's debut storyline as we got to know this new character of hers more (you know, before things escalated to kidnapping and attempted murder). Overall, though, her acting and story arc have been the best thing to come out of the wild storyline that she was thrust into upon her return. And I'm so thrilled that we learned she truly is Victoria and Cole's daughter in this past week's episodes. I hope this twist, which brings the actress full circle in her daytime career as she returns to Y&R in the role of a different member of the Newman family, means that she will be sticking around for a long time!

SCENE STEALER

Tamilu: Audra Charles
Audra is an old-time scheming soap vixen. I love her. She is stunningly gorgeous, uses people for her own amusement, sleeps with anyone who will get her ahead in her career, is ambitious without apology, and has the kind of confidence I dreamed of having but never did. Zuleka Silver is someone to watch. She's one of those people that I feel like Hollywood will catch wind of and steal away from Daytime. She has Tucker and Kyle eating out of her hand, she has Nate intrigued, and she won Victor's respect by coming to him with Adam's blackmail attempt. Now, with Nikki hitting the sauce and Claire out of the picture, I expect that Nikki will need to lean on Audra more and more until Audra's secretly running the place.

Vance: Tucker McCall
I must admit that Tamilu picked who was probably my top choice for the Scene Stealer award in 2023, but I have loved Tucker this year almost as much as Audra, so I'm happy to take a moment to gush about him instead! Tucker and Audra's scenes are always a fun treat (especially because you almost never know what you are going to get between those two), but you could probably also say that about every other character that Tucker has shared scenes with at any given time this past year. No offense to the previous actors that portrayed Tucker McCall (Stephen Nichols was especially great), but Trevor St. John breathed new life into this anti-hero and made him Must See TV again! Don't even get me started on the chemistry between him and Eileen Davidson, because they have been my favorite couple this past year. I am still very upset that the show took the direction they did by ending their characters' marriage just as quickly as it started. Here's to hoping that Tucker gets a good redemption arc in 2024 -- but not so much that he loses his edge and/or charm! That's not so much to ask for, right? I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the powers that be at Y&R will keep Trevor St. John around as Tucker for years to come. Not only has he breathed new life into the character, but also the show itself.

BEST GUEST APPEARANCE

Tamilu: Tricia Cast as Nina Webster
It was a delight to see Tricia Cast as Nina on my TV. She definitely belongs in Genoa City as Y&R celebrates its 50th anniversary. She is a big part of Y&R's past. I was there when Nina first arrived in Genoa City; her history is long and complicated. It was meaningful to have her there to be with her BFF Cricket as her marriage ended, and to support Chance after his gunshot wound. In those scenes of pleading with her son to leave the force before he gets killed, it all came flooding back to me, the power with which Ms. Cast can emote and the way she can reduce me to tears. Tricia Cast is an incredible performer, and I hope she stays in town.

Vance: Barbara Crampton as Leanna Love
How great is Barbara Crampton as Leanna Love?! Does everyone get a kick out of her as much as I do? It was so fun to have her sticking her nose in everyone's business again at the gala during the 50th anniversary episodes earlier this year! The show is really missing an opportunity by not signing Barbara to a contract and giving Leanna the love she deserves.

BEST COUPLE

Tamilu: Daniel and Lily
I watched these two crazy kids run away together when they were teenagers, and I was giddy when they reconnected this year. I always appreciate stories where two old loves find their way back together. But soaps must have tension, so just when it looked like Daniel and Lily were rock solid, Heather and Lucy moved back to town. Now I find myself confused. I am torn. I like Daniel in both couplings, and I can't decide which one to root for. Daniel, who has often judged his mother harshly for her poor romantic decisions, is now in a situation where he's going to have to make a tough choice of his own. Will he stay with his childhood sweetheart or reunite with the wife and child he feels guilty for failing? Either way, he wins, but one beautiful lady loses. Hopefully, he won't string them both along for all of 2024.

Vance: Ashley and Tucker
Eileen Davidson and Trevor St. John are serving us the definition of on-screen chemistry! Ashley and Tucker have been such a joy to watch all year long. I was so ecstatic to see them continually getting closer and closer until Ashley finally gave in and agreed to marry him. I was thinking, "Finally the show is listening to fans and giving us what we want!" However, it turns out we were all being played for fools. What were the writers thinking, having this couple leave town happily married and then return separately with news that their marriage had already fallen apart?! I was not only dumbfounded but also upset as hell! I still hold on for a glimmer of hope whenever they share scenes together, but for some reason unbeknownst to me, the show doesn't seem to be rushing to put these two back together. I hope they are not fated to become the definition of "wasted opportunity" instead!

BEST SCHEMER

Tamilu: Victor Newman
This guy. Can you imagine a dad pretending to have dementia to trick his kids? He's such a scoundrel. For a while, I wasn't sure if he was faking or if he actually had dementia, which made me feel as stupid as Nick, Victoria, and Adam. Victor feels he rooted out a traitor in Nate, but I'm not 100% convinced Nate had ill intentions. Maybe I'm a sucker, but I am starting to believe Nate is trying to be a better man. I am glad he and Victoria broke up, though, because the two of them having sex all day at work was driving me insane. Did it make you wonder if that's what your boss has been doing behind his closed door all day? It did me. Victor was deep into his victory lap and ready to torment his kids with new schemes and head games right before their family was kidnapped and poisoned. That seemed to slow down his schemes for a minute. I am still perplexed as to why no one told Adam that a psycho is after their family. So, Audra knows, and now Nate knows, but Adam is in the dark? So, when Jordan shows up at the bar next to Adam and offers to buy him a drink, he will have no idea that she's dangerous. This proves Adam's point about always being treated differently than his siblings. Will Jordan outscheme Victor, or will Victor outscheme Jordan? Time will tell.

Vance: Audra Charles
Do I really need to explain why Audra is the best schemer around town? The phrase "If you know, you know" seems appropriate here because anyone who has watched Y&R this past year knows that Audra is the top schemer around Genoa City. Like a cat, she always seems to find a way to land on her feet! She has the ability to talk her way out of any situation and use her words (and body) to manipulate just about anyone. Kyle seems to have the upper hand on her and Tucker for now, but I'd bet money that she walks away unscathed once Tucker's plans go up in smoke again.

BEST MYSTERY

Tamilu: Who is Claire Grace?
Who is Claire Grace, and what does she want? The day she showed up, she seemed too polished and perfect. When Audra recommended her, I guessed that perhaps Claire was a pawn for Audra and Tucker in one of their schemes, but I was so far off base with that guess. None of us could have possibly guessed that Claire would end up being the baby that Victoria lost years ago! What a compelling storyline and a fantastic use of YR history. It's a joy to have Hayley Erin back on-screen and in such a mesmerizing and layered character. Is she a victim or a villain? We are still unraveling all those details, but I am excited to see this all unfold. Will Nikki ever let the woman who kidnapped her, drugged her, and took her sobriety call her Granny? It's hard to imagine a happy ending here, but stranger things have happened. Just look at Ava and Nina on GH!

Vance: Mamie Returns to Town with a Secret
How much fun has Mamie's return been? The flashbacks between her and Jill perfectly reminded long-time viewers of the history between the two characters, while at the same time educating newer viewers not familiar with their history. I loved seeing those flashbacks and getting that history lesson! And I thought the mystery of who Victor had sold his stock in Chancellor-Winters to was a lot of fun. It was a nice touch that Lily figured out the connection initially. The bigger surprise, though, was that Mamie was in cahoots with Tucker. That surprised me at first, but I was glad to see she backed out of her deal with him once she learned more about some of his more recent machinations around town. Still, Jill better watch her back. I'm not so sure that her truce with Mamie will last too long; in fact, my fingers are crossed that it won't!

BEST VILLAIN

Tamilu: Cameron Kirsten
Sharon's ex-abusive-fling came roaring back into town with revenge on his mind. Cameron Kirsten returned and kidnapped Faith after torturing Nick and Sharon for weeks. Seeing him again after all these years was a shock to longtime viewers and an opportunity for newer Y&R viewers to experience an intense storyline from the past via classic flashback scenes on Y&R's 50th anniversary. It was the one time all year that Sharon Case got to emote and leave the coffee shop! Cameron Kirsten is the kind of villain you despise but also feel a little sorry for. He loved Sharon so much he left her everything he owned, even though she loathed him and was terrified of him. He's like if the Phantom of the Opera was a construction worker. Linden Ashby returned in the role, which brought great continuity and depth to the storyline, much like having J. Eddie Peck back as Cole is doing now. Fun fact -- did you know that Linden Ashby is the real-life husband of Susan Walters (Diane Jenkins)?

Vance: Jordan Howard
As fantastic as Linden Ashby's return to the role of Cameron Kirsten was, Colleen Zenk has been knocking it out of the park as Claire's Great Aunt (and Cole's Aunt) Jordan these past few weeks! She seems to be having a lot of fun with the role of this crazed woman who is out for revenge against the Newman family for how they treated her dearly departed sister, Eve. I am a little disappointed at how quickly the storyline escalated because I feel like the impact would have been much grander if both Claire and Jordan had ingratiated themselves more within the Newman family before revealing who they were and what their true intentions were. I am thrilled that Claire seems to be sticking around more long-term, but I can't image that Jordan will have much longevity as a character now that her revenge plot is in full swing and she's gone off the deep end. I still feel like Jordan has one more surprise before she bows out, though, and I hope it is revealed that she has a larger connection to Nikki than just being Nikki's granddaughter's great-aunt (see my pick for Hottest Year-End storyline below for more on Jordan's current plot).

BEST LOVE TRIANGLE

Tamilu: Adam/Sally/Nick
I am a Sally fan. If Courtney Hope is in the center of a love triangle, it's going to be juicy. I am rooting for Adam and Sally, but I didn't hate Sally and Nick. Both couples are compelling to watch. The Newman brothers don't agree on much, but they were both smitten with Sally. Sally was torn between two terrific brothers. I think that Sally wants to want Nick. He's the reliable, safe, sane, steady choice. But dear God, she can't resist the passionate pull of Adam. Adam is unpredictable and mercurial. He's not the safe, steady one, but the one who makes her heart pound. Sally and Adam are magnet and steel. If they are in the same room, they are stealing glances at each other, no matter who they are with. Nick was a comfort and rock to Sally through her pregnancy, but unfortunately, Cameron kidnapped Nick's kid on the night that Sally lost her baby. Adam was the man there in that dark moment. Adam's decision to sacrifice their baby to save Sally's life devastated her, but eventually, she realized there was no other choice he could have made. Nick couldn't take the fact that Sally still had feelings for Adam, and he walked away from their relationship, this despite the fact that Nick is still very close to his ex Sharon -- to the point of going into business together. He used to be close to Phyllis, too, before that whole faking her death thing. What will 2024 bring? Will Adam and Sally reunite, or will Nick regret walking away and try to get Sally back?

Vance: Elena/Nate/Victoria
I don't care what anyone else says, the triangle between Elena, Nate, and Victoria was my favorite this past year. I get that some people didn't like that Nate was cheating on Elena, but what would a good love triangle be without some cheating and scandal to keep us on our toes? I love Elena and am sad she hasn't had much of a storyline since then, though. Brytni Sarpy deserves better. And, honestly, so do Nate and Victoria fans. I hope we are gearing up for a Nate/Victoria/Cole triangle in 2024! Fingers crossed that Elena gets her own storyline next year, too! I think Nick and Elena could be a really good couple, should they cross paths again. Just sayin'...

GOOD GRIEF (Saddest Storyline)

Tamilu: Sally loses her baby
If the Daytime Emmys don't recognize the work of Courtney Hope and Mark Grossman next year, I'd doubt the validity of every other award they awarded. The saddest stories lead to the most phenomenal acting! Their gut-wrenching scenes had me in tears for a week. Adam trying to decide whether or not to save his cherished baby or the woman he loved was haunting. How many people have had to make that same awful choice? Gut wrenching. And when Sally woke up and discovered the baby she had been anticipating for months was gone, her wail of grief pierced my soul.

Vance: Nikki Is Pushed Off the Wagon
I have to agree with Tamilu that some of the saddest stories can lead to the most phenomenal performances. Melody Thomas Scott certainly proved that as her character, Nikki, was "pushed off the wagon" by Jordan and Claire and has been unable to avoid alcohol since escaping the house she was being held hostage in. I was hoping her visit to an A.A. meeting might help her get back on track, but it seems Nikki is perpetually headed in the wrong direction (straight toward the bar or her flask) these days. Jordan is out there stalking her still, so Nikki needs to be at the top of her game and be ready to defend herself against whatever Jordan has planned! I'm hoping she will be able to pull herself together and ask for help from the ones she loves before it is too late.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tamilu: Jeremy Stark Is Killed Off
Jeremy was a delicious villain, and he died too soon, in my opinion. James Hyde came roaring into town with a vendetta against Diane. Boy, did he get even with her, framing her for Phyllis' murder. But just when it seemed like Jeremy had more chaos to cause in Genoa City, he was killed off. If he comes back to life next year, I will suspend my disbelief. Phyllis, Victor, Nikki, and Sharon thought J.T. was dead too, and he wasn't, so there is hope.

Vance: Cameron Kills Borgnine (oh, yeah, and he kidnapped Faith, too)!
I certainly didn't have "cat murder" on my Y&R bingo card for 2023! Poor Borgnine! The furry feline from Faith's sorority didn't stand a chance of survival after having the bad fortune to come to town for a visit with Sharon's daughter just as Sharon was being targeted by a psychopath from her past. I remember being absolutely stunned that the cat had actually been killed off, and it certainly raised the stakes in regard to how menacing Cameron was going to be. Sure, he kidnapped Faith, too, but I don't think any viewers thought for even a minute that she would meet the same fate as Borgnine, so the stakes of this storyline sort of peaked at "dead cat."

HOTTEST YEAR-END STORYLINE

Tamilu: Cole and Victoria discover Claire is their presumed-dead baby, Eve
This was a shocker. Imagine if ten years from now, Delia shows up on Chloe and Billy's doorstep? Imagine if baby Ava shows up unscathed in Sheila Carter's arms when she's 25. Imagine that any baby any soap has ever killed off could show up one day, years later! Long after their parents (and we) have grieved their loss, there they are. This revenge scheme is so dark and so drastic, but now the focus has shifted to Claire being revealed as Victoria's daughter. What happens next? Will Claire get the psychiatric help she needs? Will she come out whole and sane, ready to create a fresh new life? Will the rest of the Newman clan ever accept her, or will she always be held outside on the fringes like Adam? Will Victoria finally leave Newman Enterprises, take a year off, and hang with Cole and Claire to bond as a family? This storyline opens so many pathways for so many characters. And it's just beginning. I am excited to see what Hayley Erin does with this role. I am thrilled she is back and that she has such a spectacular storyline. Amelia Heinle as vulnerable Victoria gets to me every time, and J. Eddie Peck is such a welcome sight. He and Victoria were a fabulous couple back in the day -- and here's hoping they will be again!

Vance: Jordan's Vendetta Against Nikki
Jordan continues to target Nikki -- is there a deeper connection between them that ties to Nikki's past as a stripper? That stripper music that she taunted Nikki with over the phone has me convinced she knew Nikki back when she was an exotic dancer. Hopefully, I'm not just psyching myself up for disappointment. In either case, I am looking forward to seeing where all of this is headed now. It was so creepy when Nikki saw Jordan staring at her from outside her living room window. I think Nikki was just hallucinating, but the writers are keeping me guessing with this plot, and I love it! More thrills like this in 2024, please.

BEST STORYLINE OF 2023

Tamilu: Phyllis Fakes Her Death
Can you imagine hating someone so much that you'd fake your death and walk away from your life just to frame them for murder? Yeah, me neither. Phyllis is a nut -- but a very entertaining nut. Phyllis was vulnerable and lost, and Jeremy Stark played on her very worst impulses to convince her of this scheme and get her into a "deathbed" wedding. Michele Stafford never gives anything less than 100% -- in her angst, pain, rage, fear, regret, all of it, she held me spellbound. The ripple effects of this storyline, Diane in prison, Kyle and Summer's marriage ending, Phyllis being disowned, Christine having to let go of the case where she finally thought she could nail Phyllis, Jeremy's death, Summer and Chance getting closer as she tried to protect her mom, all of it was perfectly soapalicious.

Vance: 50th Anniversary Gala
The entire month of the 50th anniversary was so much fun on Y&R, but the week of the masquerade gala was especially great! There were a number of fantastic returns (Leanna Love, Amanda, Nina, Jill, Danny, Christine, Mamie, and Malcolm -- to name a few); Lily and Devon mended fences; Diane was caught strangling Phyllis; and Phyllis faked her death!! To say there was a lot going on would be an understatement. Y&R has done a great job in honoring the show's history this past year, and I hope that continues beyond their golden anniversary.

THE CHERRIES ON TOP (Other Favorite Honorable Mentions)

Tamilu: Lucy and Heather Move Back to Genoa City
When Daniel came back to Genoa City, he was depressed, lost, and living with deep regret over his failed marriage and being estranged from his daughter, Lucy. He fought so hard to change his life and become a man they could be proud of again. He did, but they lived across the ocean, and he only had brief moments to spend with them. Until Heather decided to move back to Genoa City to have Daniel in Lucy's orbit full-time. This puts an obstacle in his relationship with Lily, but this move gives Daniel a second chance to make things right with his family. And I can't be mad about that.

Tamilu: Mamie's return
Having Mamie Johnson in Genoa City brought a smile to my face! Her warm relationships with the Abbotts, her loathing of Jill, and her devotion to Devon, Lily, and Nate have made this year especially fun to watch. I love the flashbacks of old catfights between Jill and Mamie, and it made me wish there was a channel where I could start back at day one of all my soaps and watch all 50 years again.

Vance: Zach Tinker Returns as Fenmore Baldwin
I feel that I simply must give a quick shout-out to Zach Tinker for making his brief return to Y&R as Michael and Lauren's son, Fenmore Baldwin. I am a huge fan of the actor and was thrilled to see Fen return to town with a boyfriend! It was sweet that him being gay wasn't a big dramatic endeavor and that it was just casually accepted by everyone as he introduced them to his partner (but if he could have stuck around longer, I absolutely would have been okay with some drama). It must have meant a great deal to his on-screen father, Christian LeBlanc (Michael), who is gay in real life and remained "in the closet" for years publicly. I imagine it was a proud moment for him to see Y&R embracing a gay male character so wholeheartedly like that. But what would be even better than just this one episode is to bring them to town full-time and give them a proper storyline. Same-sex couples have been placed on the backburner far too often on Y&R, so it would be great to have Fenmore back on the show full-time.

Vance: Adam and Sally Reunite!
I know they are currently still "testing the waters" and not officially back together, but it is oh, so sweet to see these two dating again and giving in to their feelings for one another! All those months that Sally spent with Nick were torture for this Adam/Sally fan.

Vance: Mariah and Tessa's Baby Blues
It was so touching seeing Mariah and Tessa navigate the waters of having a hearing-impaired child. The writers did a great job of approaching the subject, and it was nice that this couple finally had some semblance of a storyline. Let's hope this cute new family has more screen time in 2024!

Well, that's all we have for this week, folks! We hope you enjoyed our favorite picks -- and we hope you will share your favorites in the Comments (here on the site and on the social media posts throughout the week). We will be back next week with a look at all of the things we'll be glad to leave behind in The Borgnines: the Worst of The Young and the Restless 2023.

Until next time,
Vance and Tamilu Who

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Two Scoops is an opinion column. The views expressed are not designed to be indicative of the opinions of Soap Central or its advertisers. The Two Scoops section allows our Scoop staff to discuss what might happen and what has happened, and to share their opinions on all of it. They stand by their opinions and do not expect others to share the same point of view.

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