“I specialize in human relations.”
Also, Nicholas is in love with Maggie.
Sorry to spring it on you like that, but it’s that kind of storyline. Nicholas Blair is some kind of evil wizard man, and so far we haven’t had any indication that he’s looking for a girlfriend. In fact, he’s been mocking Angelique relentlessly for having human emotions. And yet, here we are.
It’s not at all clear why Nicholas has chosen Maggie, either. He seems to have fallen in love at first sight, during a chance encounter at Collinwood. Maggie’s very pretty and very nice, but they don’t have anything in common. I’m not even sure that he’s human. He might as well fall in love with a puppy.
But there are four pretty girls on the show, and three of them already have a storyline, which leaves Maggie at a loose end. She’s got a dull job, she’s happily engaged to Joe, her alcoholic father has died, and it’s been a year since she was kidnapped by anybody. If Nicholas needs a human weakness, then it might as well be Maggie, I suppose.
After all, a television audience is willing to accept absolutely any lunatic plot contrivance that comes along, as long as it makes the show more interesting.
“Interesting” can mean a lot of different things — romantic, surprising, thought-provoking, sentimental, heartbreaking — but the most direct route to interesting is funny. I will now demonstrate.
Maggie’s fiancee, Joe, was recently hospitalized after a violent encounter with a rogue Frankenstein. Maggie is expecting him to come home tomorrow, but he’s been released early, and it’s a delightful surprise when he shows up at the door.
But Joe is less delighted to find a random unchaperoned dude making himself at home in Maggie’s house. Nicholas proceeds to do everything in his power to make Joe uncomfortable.
Nicholas: I’m very pleased to meet you, Mr. Haskell. Maggie has told me a great deal about you.
Maggie: Mr. Blair’s been coming here to see some of Pop’s paintings.
Nicholas: Yes, there’s one in particular I’ve been trying to get her to sell me, but I’m afraid she’s reluctant to part with it.
Joe and Maggie try to have their happy reunion scene, but Nicholas insists on butting in.
Maggie: Joe, why didn’t you give me a call to tell me you were leaving the hospital?
Nicholas: Why, yes! I could have driven Maggie to the hospital, and picked you up.
Joe (trying to ignore Nicholas): I wanted it to be a surprise.
Nicholas: Well, you certainly did surprise her.
At this point, you can see that Kathryn Leigh Scott is battling desperately to avoid cracking up. Humbert Allen Astredo is being so smooth and funny that she’s getting the giggles. She tries to disguise it as a smile for Joe, not at all successfully.
Nicholas: If I’d known it was going to be such an occasion, I’d have brought along a bottle of champagne.
Maggie: Well, I have some sherry in the kitchen.
Nicholas: Splendid! I certainly think that this occasion calls for a drink, don’t you, Maggie?
She does. Going for the sherry lets her duck off screen for a minute and get herself back under control.
So now Joe is left to deal with Nicholas on his own. Joe is the straight man in this scene, so to speak, and his job is to look handsome and get annoyed. He does both of those very well.
Nicholas: You look remarkably well for a man who’s just had a severe head injury.
Joe: They tell me I have a hard head.
Nicholas: And a little bit of luck, I gather.
Joe: Yes, I’ve always had that, too, when I’ve needed it.
Nicholas: I’m sure you have. One doesn’t come across young ladies like Maggie every day.
Joe: No, one doesn’t.
Joe tries a more direct approach.
Joe: Tell me, what do you do, Mr. Blair?
Joe: For a living.
Nicholas: Oh, yes, of course.
At this point, Joel Crothers is having trouble suppressing a smile, too. Humbert wins the scene.
Nicholas: Well, you might say I’m… a consultant.
Joe: Oh? What kind of a consultant?
Nicholas: Well, I specialize in human relations.
Joe: That doesn’t tell me very much.
Nicholas: No, it doesn’t, does it?
Maggie comes back in with the sherry, still just barely on this side of stifling a laugh. It’s a good thing they’re thirty seconds away from the commercial break; she wouldn’t be able to make it through a whole scene like this.
But Nicholas is keeping things chill.
Nicholas: I should like to propose a toast — to your future, Joe. May it bring you everything you deserve.
So there you have it — a two-minute scene that absolutely justifies whatever plot contrivance they’re trying to put across. Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Tomorrow: Messing Around with Dead People.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Angelique can be seen reflected in Nicholas’ mirror. Julia discovered a year ago that vampires don’t appear in mirrors. But this is Nicholas’ magic blue Chromakey mirror, so it’s possible that different rules apply.
When Vicki is talking with the disembodied voice of Nicholas, she steps on one of his lines.
After Nicholas leaves, Maggie says to Joe, “Well, isn’t he a nice man. Isn’t he?”
Tomorrow: Messing Around with Dead People.
— Danny Horn