Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Episode 297: The Honest Truth

“You’ll have to forgive me just now. My memory isn’t what it should be.”

Okay, settle down. I looked into it, and it turns out that hypnosis is actually a real thing.

I mean, there’s stage hypnosis, which is silly — that’s the magic show kind where they bring you up on stage and make you cluck like a chicken. That’s not real hypnosis. It’s just saying things, and then picking someone from the audience who looks like the kind of person who probably clucks like a chicken anyway.

Then there’s hypnotherapy, which is a legitimate technique that can help a patient to relax and focus. It’s helpful for relieving chronic pain, anxiety, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, bulimia, and other disorders that are amenable to a change in mood or outlook. The term was coined in the 1840s by a Scottish surgeon named James Braid, who developed the Eye-Fixation Hypnotic Induction Method that Julia used when she hypnotized Maggie at Windcliff Sanitarium.

But it turns out you don’t need to wave a watch or a light at somebody. It’s possible to get the same effect just by helping them relax and focus. Braid was actually a very interesting and thoughtful guy, who studied and wrote about hypnotism as a helpful complementary therapy that could be used in conjunction with other conventional forms of medical care.

Oh, and P.S.: It’s also possible to use hypnosis to record over a person’s memory, like it’s a cassette tape. That totally happens ALL THE TIME.

Continue reading Episode 297: The Honest Truth

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Episode 296: United Stakes

“Is this really happening, or am I imagining it?”

We’re not good people, I think is the main thing. Every few years, somebody notices that there are a lot of popular TV shows where the protagonist isn’t a very nice person. The current list includes Don Draper, Walter White, Dexter Morgan, Jax Teller and assorted Bluths. In earlier days, it was Tony Soprano, Amanda Woodward, Bart Simpson, J.R. Ewing and Basil Fawlty, in a fictional rogues’ gallery that stretches all the way back to Falstaff and Tom Jones. (From the Henry Fielding novel, not the guy who sang “What’s New Pussycat”. Well, maybe him too.)

The disturbing thing — or, at least, the thing that disturbs people who are disturbed by things like this — is that after a while, you find yourself rooting for the bad guy. You want them to evade the police, to get away with murder, to swindle and seduce and blackmail and crush the opposition.

So, apparently, we’re not good people, at least as far as our television loyalties go. There’s a very short list of things that a fictional character can do that would make the audience actually turn against them. The only ones that I can think of are hurting a young child, or being cruel to cute and/or endangered animals.

Amazingly, in the female-focused world of the soap opera, a popular protagonist can even bounce back from committing rape, as fans of General Hospital’s Luke Spencer and One Life to Live’s Todd Manning know. That also applies to fantasy-metaphor rape, see also: Angel and Spike and Eric Northman and Damon Salvatore and every other sexy vampire in fiction.

Which brings us to Maggie Evans, who was fantasy-metaphor raped in a fairly comprehensive way, and now we’re rooting for the monsters who are trying to conceal their crimes.

Continue reading Episode 296: United Stakes

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Episode 295: Nothing But Lies

“He’s some kind of a creature from the world of the dead!”

We pick up today at a pivotal plot point, as Maggie Evans — vampire abduction survivor and mental health facility refugee — stumbles into the Blue Whale, looks at Barnabas, and collapses onto the floor.

This comes as something of a shock to the Collinsport nightlife community, and especially to Barnabas, because he knows that at any moment she could expose him, and then…

Hold on, wait. Has that woman been wearing that orange dress this whole time?

Continue reading Episode 295: Nothing But Lies

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Episode 294: House Party

“He said you were dead, but I knew you weren’t. And I was right!”

Today’s episode starts at Windcliff Sanitarium, where Maggie is clutching the bars on the window and wishing she could go home. And no wonder she’s restless — she was kidnapped three months ago, and she’s been confined in one room or another ever since. She’s missed practically the entire summer.

Happily, Maggie gets a visitation from Sarah, the ghost of a little girl who she met in lockup.

Sarah apologizes for taking so long: “I didn’t know where to find you. I just kept looking. I just kept listening very hard, and I began to hear you. And I found you at last!  And I’ll help you go home!”

Which brings up some questions: First, does Sarah operate with some kind of ghost radar? And second: what does she want, exactly?

Continue reading Episode 294: House Party

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Episode 293: Untouched

“This house isn’t empty. Not with the secret it holds.”

Willie and Barnabas are having another staff meeting today, and that’s always worth watching. I’m glad they’re still investing screen time in these two, because it’s the most complex relationship on the show.

The subject of today’s meeting is Barnabas’ plans for Vicki. Willie, ever the optimist, seems to think that he can talk his boss out of whatever cockamamie plan he’s hatching to win Vicki’s love and turn her into his dead girlfriend.

“I wish you’d leave her alone,” Willie says, still fighting the good fight.

Barnabas arches an eyebrow. “Willie,” he purrs, “you do get to be a bore. No wonder I seek other company.”

You can tell that Barnabas is in a good mood today, because he’s being arch and formal. Barnabas in a bad mood can get kind of strangly.

Continue reading Episode 293: Untouched

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Episode 292: I Know Who’s Dead

“You know about leaves and everything. Well, I know who’s dead, and who isn’t.”

Okay, let’s see where we are. Yesterday, Dr. Julia Hoffman — the noted blood specialist and dangerous lunatic — managed to convince a vampire that she should hang out in his haunted mansion and purge his arterial system. She seems to feel that somehow this will be beneficial for humankind, and who’s going to argue with her?

Well, I guess Dr. Woodard will. It’s been a whole two episodes since the last time he came over and said sensible things to Julia, and here he is again. Apparently he thinks that it’s “unethical” for Julia to abandon her patient, Maggie, in the middle of a very delicate and intense course of treatment.

He’s right, of course. In fact, we learned yesterday that Julia is planning to ensure that Maggie’s amnesia will be permanent, in order to protect the monster who abused her.

Unfortunately, if Woodard succeeds in getting Julia to take more responsibility for Maggie’s treatment, then the story gets less interesting. So, on behalf of the entire audience, I would like to shake his hand, tell him he’s one hundred percent correct, pin a medal on him, and then send him out to play in traffic.

Continue reading Episode 292: I Know Who’s Dead

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Episode 291: The Alchemist

“The basis of your problem is the destructive nature of your blood cells.”

In Friday’s episode, Julia baited Barnabas into coming to her room to strangle her. But she knew he was coming, and waited quietly in the corner. Now she steps into the moonlight, and delivers some absolutely explosive dialogue.

Julia:  I know what you are. You’re Barnabas Collins — the only Barnabas Collins, who died over a hundred and thirty years ago.

Barnabas:  That’s an absurd statement.

Julia:  Don’t try to deny it. I’ve investigated you thoroughly, and I’ve seen you in your coffin.

Barnabas:  You realize that such knowledge puts you in great danger.

Julia:  Well, of course. That’s why I took the precaution of putting a dummy in the bed.

Which is an unbelievably badass thing to say. Whenever someone asks you for an example of why Dark Shadows is the most surprising and therefore the greatest television show of all time, you can direct them to this scene.

(Note: There is a very good chance that nobody will ever ask you this question. But it’s good to be prepared, just in case.)

Continue reading Episode 291: The Alchemist

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Episode 290: The Ancient Truce

Deep within the night, opposing forces stalk each other. And their meeting, when it comes, will shatter the ancient truce between the living and the dead.” 

At the end of the last episode, Julia broke into the Old House, walked downstairs to the basement, and found Barnabas sleeping in a coffin. And just as a measure of how weird this soap opera has become — that’s not a surprise anymore. It’s daytime, the dude sleeps in a coffin. We know. Yawn.

The actual surprise is that Julia survives the experience. We’ve seen this scene three times before — with Willie, Maggie and Jason in the lead role — and none of them walked away happy. But in this case, Barnabas just stays asleep, and it’s like a bomb goes off. What’s Julia up to? What is she going to do?

Dark Shadows is on fire today. I mean, literally — today the show actually catches on fire.

Continue reading Episode 290: The Ancient Truce

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Episode 289: That Hoffman Woman

“I’m all right. Just call me Miss Jitters of 1967.”

Okay, you’re not going to believe this, but today’s episode of Dark Shadows begins with Victoria Winters looking out the window. There’s a storm outside, and when the lightning flashes, she starts, as if she’s seen something upsetting. Then she walks over to her bedside table and opens that damn music box again. Then Carolyn comes in, and they talk about the music box, and the weather, and then we cut to Barnabas standing outside, staring up at Vicki’s window.

In other words: This is a mash-up of the beginning of every episode from the last five days. It’s like they realized during the dress rehearsal that they’d forgotten to write the first act, so they just tore a page out of all the other scripts this week and now we have to watch it.

Continue reading Episode 289: That Hoffman Woman

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Episode 288: The Unreflected

“Even historians have a certain amount of feminine vanity.”

It’s another cloudy day at Collinwood, and occasional governess Victoria Winters is daydreaming at the drawing room window, staring outside at nothing in particular while she listens to Josette’s music box. David walks into the room, and the music fades.

Then we realize that she’s not holding the music box. We were just hearing the music that plays inside Vicki’s head. Apparently we can do that now.

This raises the possibility that all of the incidental music that we hear on the show is actually just happening in the characters’ minds. So when something surprising happens, they turn around and say to themselves, Dunn! Dunn! DUNNNNNN!

Continue reading Episode 288: The Unreflected