Marland Monday: A Simple Errand

Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
5 min readJul 18, 2022

Oh my, it’s Monday! So that means it’s…

Marland Monday!

It’s time to remember Douglas Marland, one of the GOATS of daytime television. This one is going to be rough to read. Trigger Warning: Rape will be mentioned here, along with AIDS, murder, and violence. If you want to skip this week, okay.

Thirty years ago next month, Margo (Ellen Dolan) and Tom (now being played by Scott Holmes, who played the role for twenty-three years) just arrived home after a lovely vacation on Cape Cod. They’d been working on the Carolyn Crawford murder case (aka the storyline that felt like it was never going to end) and needed a break. Friends Jessica Griffin and Duncan McKechnie (Tamara Tunie and Michael Swan) dropped by. They chatted about Jessica and Duncan’s upcoming wedding, Duncan asking Tom to be his Best Man. Tom said yes. They ran out of Tom’s favorite red wine, so Margo offered to go get another bottle. Jessica commented to Duncan “Tom and Margo look so happy.”

Jessica is an African American woman with long black hair, wearing a beige scarf and tan earrings and pearls. Duncan is Caucasian wearing a red shirt.
“Tom and Margo look so happy.” Jessica, no! Don’t say that!

In soap terms: something terrible going to happen, so brace yourself, kids.

Margo went to the liquor store, chatting with the cashier when two men came in. They had ski masks on to hide their faces and guns. One asked the cashier to dim the lights. Margo held up her hands. The cashier dimmed the lights.

Margo has her hands up. She is wearing a red tank top. The cashier is right behind her wearing a beige shirt. The lights are dimmed.
Stay calm, Margo.

The announcer Dan Region then cautioned graphic depictions were going to be shown. This was when we knew something bad was going to happen. When it came back, Margo then gave the robber her rings, purse, etc. The robber directed them to lie down on the ground as they left.

Since Margo was a police officer, immediately she was back on her feet. She instructed the cashier to go cross the street, and call the police. She went out to get the bad guys. The cashier, frightened, locked the door but hesitated to call the police.

Margo raced out to get the robbers, who just found her badge in her purse. They were in a dark van. “We’re screwed! “ The main robber said. “Margo Hughes, Oakdale Police Department!” The other robber saw Margo in the dark. She ordered them to drop the gun.

Instead, they grabbed her and one robber declared “We’re going to teach this cop a lesson.” Slammed the door. We then heard Margo screaming. What I notice now: how dark the alley is. The bright patterns on the van.

What made this different than other soaps: Usually in soaps, you would see the beginning of the rape. Afterward when a woman is clutching her torn clothes, you knew what happened. This time it was different. In the darkness, we saw Margo fighting one of them. She took off his mask to look at him. We then heard police sirens. “We should kill her!” The other robber said. “We don’t have time!” Scummy rapist said. They shoved her out of the van.

Okay, let’s take a deep breath. I know this is hard to read. It’s hard to write. But I want to write about this storyline. It’s needed. There are still so many misconceptions about sexual assault that it’s frustrating. We’re over the worst part-now, let’s get to the aftermath.

The police finally came. Margo asked for her mother, calling her “Mama.” Just hearing Margo saying the word “Mama” was heartbreaking. They tracked down Lyla Peretti (Anne Sward) who was having dinner with her new boyfriend Cal Strickland (Patrick Tovatt) Lyla called Margo’s dad John (Larry Bryggman) while Cal called Tom.

At the same time, Dr. Samuels was examining Margo and told her she was “very fortunate. There’s no broken bones, no injuries, no vaginal tearing. And also your attacker was frightened by the sirens so he withdrew and ejaculated on your thighs which means the risk of pregnancy is very low…” Margo was fighting back tears, just wanting to take her shower. She wanted, needed some control over the situation. Dr. Samuels said they had to wait until they got the semen report.

Let’s review this: back in 1992, no one said words like vaginal tearing. He withdrew. Ejaculated. Semen. Especially on daytime television. It’s hard to hear it. But what made it especially hard was when Tom came into the exam room. Cal told him about the rape. He knelt down, then put his hand over hers. Then they both cried.

Text: Rape and the HIV virus. After a perfect vacation, Margo went on an errand to get wine for Tom and was raped in an alley. She also found out he was HIV positive. Picture of Margo wearing a hospital gown, crying. Tom is wearing a yellow shirt holding her hand.
From As the World Turns by Julie Poll.

For the rest of the year, ATWT showed Margo dealing with the rape, having to go through the details repeatedly with countless police officers, family members, and friends. Identifying the rapist in a mug shot book. After he was arrested, finding out he was HIV positive. Realizing he too had been raped in prison, then decided to rape as many women as he could. Margo tested her antibodies, celebrating when she tested negative. We then met another woman Dawn who had also been raped and had AIDS.

It was Tom that broke my heart. He blamed himself: Asking Margo to get the wine. Not going with her. It was a simple errand. How could it go so wrong? Trying to make her get counseling, and face what happened. But could he face his own guilt? That was one of the questions the show tackled.

I hate saying this, but I thought the storyline was so utterly dark. I thought it was too much. I wanted Margo to recover more quickly. Now I am so grateful Mr. Marland took his time. Usually, on television, everything gets sped up:two weeks after the rape, she’s getting therapy and speaking at a victim’s rights meeting. Real life isn’t like this. He knew that. He knew audiences needed to know from the moment it happened, that it wasn’t going to be rushed. He knew it had to be Margo to experience it. She was a police officer. Someone who was trained to handle difficult situations. But what happens when the police officer who’s always in control, always holding the victim’s hand, becomes the victim?

I’m still shocked Ellen Dolan and Scott Holmes didn’t win Emmys the next year. Dolan did win a Soap Opera Digest award. The rape storyline got the best social issue storyline. That was the year As the World Turns won the SOD editor’s award. I have a picture of Mr. Marland when he won. He looks delighted, holding the award to his chest. A week later, he died. I still have questions for him: how far did he want to go with Margo’s storyline? Was he scared he was going to offend anyone?

Douglas Marland has brown hair, wearing a tuxedo and a red ribbon on his lapel. He is holding the SOD award to his chest, delighted.

I wish we had answers, not questions.

And how a simple errand can go horribly wrong, yet you can recover.

Tune in next week…