First off, let me just put it out there - on April 1, when the news came down that GL had been cancelled, the best story line, the most compelling story line, the story line that had bloggers, fans, journalists and even actors who weren't involved in it the most excited was Otalia. This is indisputable. It stands to reason, then, that Otalia should have been the centerpiece of the last 5+ months of the show. I'm not talking about Otalia as we see it today. The writers could have easily taken Otalia on a trajectory that would have involved every major member of the Springfield community, on some level, provided drama and angst, allowed for loose ends to be tied up. There are two magic words that could have made this a reality, and given the writers a realistic reason to have Natalia leave Springfield for a time as Jessica Leccia went on maternity leave. Those words? CUSTODY BATTLE.
Mid-May: Olivia and Natalia return from their spa weekend (where, in my version, they kissed after taking that hike...because, for heaven's sake, the timing was right, the setting was perfect and, by that time, it actually looked un-natural for them not to just lean in and shyly kiss one another. I'm true to soap convention and, if ever there was a classic setting for a first soap kiss for a couple, that was it.) Instead of returning to some bullshit murder mystery that ends up going nowhere, they return to Phillip Spaulding who has chosen to share with Olivia the news he's just learned: he's dying. Why does he tell Olivia when there's been such bad blood between them? He tells her because he knows, full well that, once he's gone, he won't be able to protect Emma from winding up in Alan's clutches. He also knows that Olivia is in love with Natalia - a piece of information Alan would happily use against Olivia in a bid to gain custody of Emma - he's made no secret of this. If anything, a disclosure like this about his own impending death would make the emerging friendship between Phillip and Olivia even more believable than it now is. What Phillip and Olivia need is a couple of good lawyers to help them set it up in such a way that Alan can never get his hands on Emma....lawyers they can trust with the information about Phillip, and with the truth about Olivia and Natalia, which is still kept on the DL until there's a legal assurance that Olivia is in no danger of losing custody of Emma. Who are the good, trustworthy lawyers in Springfield? Mel Boudreax and Jeffery O'Neill - both people who Olivia has already blabbed to about her love for Natalia. Are you starting to get the idea that Olivia and Natalia are no longer adrift at sea on their own private island, but interacting with other characters, forming alliances, and acting a little bit more like part of a community? Good. That's the idea. And, you know that there's no way Reva doesn't find out that Jefferey is up to something involving Olivia, and no way is she going to stay uninvolved. The simplest of tweaks to the story line that the writers of Guiding Light already had set up would have allowed for an Otalia kiss and a partial coming out to the community, engaged Olivia and Natalia with Phillip, Jefferey, Mel and Reva, and set up a killer summer story line way back in May.
The whole Phillip-is-dying story line is a good one, and I wouldn't change anything about it except his disclosure to Olivia and the timing. If we place his road trip with Alan in mid-June, it opens up a whole can of worms and gives Alan time to find out, somehow (from Emma?), about Olivia and Natalia, and make a move to get legal custody of Emma - even before Phillip is dead. I know some people will say that Alan would never do such a thing. He would. It's exactly what he would do. And especially if he were in pain over the idea of losing his son. Who does Alan call on to take up his case? Doris Woolf, who he considers to be in his back pocket. This strategy backfires on him, though, as Doris refuses to help him and, instead, is moved to finally come out to Ashley.
By July, Alan has found a lawyer to take up his cause and has filed for custody of Emma, stating that Phillip is mentally unstable and Olivia is a lesbian degenerate. (Remember, Phillip's medical tragedy is a secret from most people - a secret Alan keeps in an effort to avoid facing it, himself. Totally believable for Alan.) Just as the custody case is about to get underway, Natalia leaves town in the hopes that her no longer being in Olivia's life will keep Olivia from losing Emma. And, guess what? She actually leaves Olivia a note explaining why she's gone and telling her where she'll be. Even though Olivia is broken-hearted over Natalia leaving, we don't spend July and most of August with a weepy, crazy, drunken Olivia. We spend it with a kick-ass, keep-your-hands-off-my-kid Olivia as the summer revolves around a super soapy courtroom custody battle where Alan exposes Otalia, and which involves just about everyone in town on some level.
Think about the line-up of character witnesses Olivia would have on her behalf: from the Lewis family: Josh and Bill, both ex-husbands who she gets along with, and who know she's a good mother....from within the Spaulding/Raines families: Phillip, Beth, Lillian. Hell - even Lizzie knows that Alan shouldn't have Emma. Rick Bauer would champion her cause, especially in support of Phillip. Dinah. Blake. Reva. Buzz. This would have been a perfect reason to have Jonathan come back to town - to support his aunt and to rub Alan's face in it. Same for Ava. And the clincher? Frank Cooper. What better way to prove all the "good man" stuff than to have Frank stand up in court and say that, even though he's been hurt by Olivia and Natalia, he knows Olivia is a good parent and that she and Natalia together have only been a good influence on Emma?
With other things happening in Springfield (Fallout from Doris' coming out, Bill and Lizzie's wedding, the Vanessa/Billy, James/Daisy, Shayne/Dinah and Lillian/Buzz romances, Phillip's drama), this courtroom drama would be front-and-center, but not be the only story line as the show nears its end.
Some time in August, as both sides of the custody battle are about to rest their cases, who should show up in court, in typical dramatic soap style? Natalia, who realizes that she can't run away and hope things will take of themselves - she has to fight for what she wants: a life with Olivia and Emma. You want a grand gesture? How about Natalia taking the witness stand and telling all of Springfield that she loves Olivia, and that they want to keep raising Emma together? There is, of course, a happy ending, as Olivia retains custody of Emma and is publicly reunited with Natalia...Alan's evil deeds are finally exposed....Phillip goes into remission...and it's all in time for the show to wrap up with a soap opera double wedding: Billy and Vanessa/ Lillian and Buzz. And non-asshole Rafe being released from jail on Sept 18th.
Every loose end tied up. No Cyrus. No Edmund. No Remy. No insulting crap about adoptive fathers not being real fathers. No baby stroller murders. No bat-crazy Reva. No flat-leaving Natalia. No boozy, irresponsible Olivia. Just a classic soap story.