Daytime soaps frequently have problems crossing the line from melodrama to drama. And it's a far rarer event when they almost make it to art. But the weeks surrounding the departure of Susan Marie Snyder's wanton Julie Snyder from "As the World Turns" (weekdays at 2 on CBS) were exceptional, even for daytime's consistently best-written drama. (Snyder left to try for a film career.)

Setting it all off was a drunken night, in which Holden (played by Jon Hensley, whose acting has improved immensely since his return to the show) slept with his sister-in-law, Julie. Holden, smitten once again with star-crossed former love Lily (played by Heather Rattray), was heart-broken that his wife, Angel (played by Alice Haining), wouldn't give him a divorce, so all night he kept calling Julie "Lily." Julie's husband, Caleb (played by Michael David Morrison), later beat his brother Holden when he learned of the betrayal.

All these characters (save for Lily) live at the Snyder farm together, along with mother confessor Emma Snyder (played by Kathleen Widdoes).

It sounds soapy and convoluted, doesn't it? But the series of scenes in which the characters confronted one another with their betrayals, played out against the stark simplicity of the Snyder farm, seemed more like something from playwright Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" or "A View From the Bridge" than an afternoon soap.

The determining factors of excellence were mature writing and superior acting. Most soaps settle for contrived circumstances instead of concentrating on their crux -- they're supposed to be dramas.

It was a fitting farewell for Julie. In her year in Oakdale, she slept with Andy Dixon (played by Scott DeFreitas), Tonio Reyes (played by Snyder's real-life husband, Peter Boynton), Caleb and Holden. On any other soap, she would have been branded a slut. But actress Snyder always played Julie with spirit, and the character was written as an immature, flawed woman who slept with all those men not in search of thrills but in search of love.

Julie always seemed more a downtrodden heroine with a heart than a soap villainess. Before she left, even Andy, the boy/man whose heart she broke (sending him into a spiral of alcoholism), forgave her.

"I forgive you, Julie, because you didn't know what you were doing," he said. "You never meant to hurt anyone."