Emmerdale revisits Maya Stepney's abuse of teenager Jacob Gallagher (Joe-Warren Plant) when news reaches the village that the manipulative ex-teacher has been released from prison – but does this mean actress Louisa Clein is reprising the role of the toxic temptress five months after her last appearance?
David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden) learns on Monday 18th November that his son's abuser (also David's former fiancee) is out of jail halfway through the 12-month custodial sentence she was dealt for sending inappropriate text messages to the schoolboy who she groomed into a sexual relationship.
Jake's mum Leyla Harding (Roxy Shahidi) also reels and she and David fear Maya will try to contact the lad, who was so brainwashed by Maya that he believed their affair was consensual and didn't realise he was a victim, to the point where he refused to report her to the police.
Eventually steeling themselves and deciding to tell Jacob that Maya is out, David and Leyla are surprised and suspicious at his cool reaction. They fear he's gone to track Maya down himself when he briefly disappears, and Jacob lands himself in more trouble later in the week when he sleeps with his tormentor's sassy stepdaughter Leanna Cavanagh.
When her protective dad, and Maya's ex-husband, Liam Cavanagh finds out he punches Jacob, accusing him of taking advantage of his teenager daughter. Liam is arrested and battle lines between the families are drawn, so Maya is causing trouble even when she's not in the village – or is she?
When will we know if Maya is back in the village?
Emmerdale are tight-lipped as to whether Maya herself will actually be on screen or if the impact of her release means her presence is felt from afar. Producer Kate Brooks recently told Inside Soap magazine when asked about a potential comeback for the character: "Maya was so multilayered that it feels as though we only just scratched the surface with her. Louisa is a tremendous actress, but there are no plans as yet…"
Of all the soaps, Emmerdale is particularly adept at hiding big surprises up its sleeve until transmission – the recent reveal of Nate Robinson being Cain Dingle's son an effective example – so the smart money is on Maya making some kind of appearance as part of the storyline, or at least a further twist in the tale.
Whether she's back or not, the show is sticking to its promise of continuing to explore the long-term impact of Maya's grooming on Jacob, and the effect on his family. "David blames himself for inviting Maya to move in and putting her in a situation where she was able to abuse Jacob," says Metcalfe. "He has never blamed Jacob for any of this and spent a long time convincing him that he and Maya can't run away to some desert island together.
"David and Jacob were doing well at rebuilding their relationship as father and son, until they find out Maya is being released…"
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