Episode 611: The Love Object

“Now I understand why I have the urge to kill Adam.”

So here’s the latest: Eve, the Bride of Frankenstein monster who used to be a French psychopath named Danielle Roget, is in love with Jeff Clark, the amnesiac who used to be an 18th-century lawyer named Peter Bradford, and she killed her lover to be with him, only to have him reject her and fall in love with a time traveling governess who’s on trial for witchcraft.

Now, I adore the absurdity of this plot point, but it’s only been around for three episodes so far, and already I’m checking the episode guide to see how often I’m going to have to explain it. The answer, fortunately, is not very often, so I’m not sure why I’m even bringing it up.

Because it’s not exactly one of the great romances of our time, is it? It’s soap opera mate-matching at its most cynical — just taking two random characters and saying, “This one is desperately in love with that one,” even though they have nothing in common and it doesn’t seem like it’s in character.

611 dark shadows jeff smoking

Today’s exploration of make-believe love opens with the perplexing sight of Jeff lying on his bed and pretending to smoke. He takes an ersatz drag off his cigarette, and either he’s a super-early adopter of some kind of low carbon emissions iCig, or he’s noticed that Joe is getting a bunch of shirtless scenes and he’s determined to make himself look like less of a nerd.

He’s got his legs spread open, with an unbuttoned collar and his shirt sleeves rolled up, which for 1968 daytime television is fairly thrilling. I’ll be monitoring this situation closely as it develops.

611 dark shadows jeff eve stalking

Jeff’s quiet evening at home is interrupted when Eve comes over to give him a good stalking-to. She’s just had a very productive session of hypnotic past-life regression, where she remembered that she killed her boyfriend in the 1790s, so she could run off with Jeff. This is not the kind of breaking news that you should bring up early in a relationship. You want to pace yourself with that level of crazy.

So the discussion basically goes like this:

Jeff:  If I let you say what you have to say, will you go away and leave me alone?

Eve:  No.

And that’s that. She keeps nattering on about Peter Bradford, and says things like “Now that we’re together, I’ll never leave you.” It’s the kind of conversation where you pick up a book and pretend to start reading in the middle of it. This doesn’t work. Nothing works.

611 dark shadows eve jeff reading

So it’s hard to figure out what she ever saw in the guy. Eve has been walking around for the last couple weeks complaining that the mate that she’s been assigned is boring and stupid, while she longs for excitement and knife play. The last person she should be interested in is an earnest young lawyer.

That being said, they could pull this scene off if Jeff played it properly. I don’t want to jump in the middle of someone’s process, but the obvious thing to do here is to play a faint spark of recognition that you have to suppress. There should be some chemistry between them, even if he’s denying it, so that there’s some reason for us to take this seriously.

But Roger Davis isn’t skilled with subtext. Really, all he knows how to do is touch his head when he wants to indicate that he’s experiencing stress, a technique that doesn’t give the other actor a lot of places to go.

611 dark shadows nicholas maggie skirt afghan

And that’s not the only randomly-assigned romance today. We’ve also got demonic mastermind Nicholas Blair inviting himself over to Maggie’s house to propose to her, even though she’s wearing that skirt and sitting on that couch.

This is another postulated relationship that they sprang on us in a hurry. Nicholas is supposed to be operating on a cosmic scale, maneuvering people into position to facilitate the birth of a new species devoted to serving Satan. But he fell in love at first sight with Maggie, who’s young and pretty and not very much else.

She’s a lot of fun when she’s in a bind, like when she’s clawing her way out of a vampire’s dungeon, but Nicholas hasn’t seen that side of her. So it’s another one of those mixed marriages between kaiju and non-kaiju, and it came out of nowhere because they’re not sure what else to do with Nicholas.

611 dark shadows maggie nicholas skirt afghan 2

It’s a weird thing to say about a soap opera, but I don’t think the Dark Shadows writers are very interested in romance these days. They’re mostly interested in revenge, and one-sided obsession.

Since we came back from 1795, the only character that we’ve seen gradually falling in love with someone is Adam, the newborn Frankenstein monster, who’s developed a burning Beauty-and-the-Beast passion for Carolyn. There were a couple of flickers where she could have been developing feelings for Adam, but she decided that she really wanted to date Tony, who kissed her once and then left the show forever.

Until recently, Maggie and Joe were one of the two romantic couples on the show, and that relationship got so little attention that they just kind of drifted into being engaged off screen, while we weren’t looking. One day, she introduced him to somebody as her fiancee, and that was it. Now, that couple has been split up, to throw some more one-way relationships on the pile.

611 dark shadows adam eve delighted

So here’s how it shakes out: Nicholas is proposing to Maggie, who’s still in love with Joe, who’s infatuated with Angelique, who’s interested in Barnabas, who’s pining for Vicki. Adam alternates between being in love with Carolyn and Eve, and now Eve has the hots for Jeff.

All of the successful couples on the show right now — and by “successful” I mean that we understand why they ever liked each other — date back to 1795 or before. We’ve seen the spark that united Barnabas and Angelique, and then destroyed everything around them. We also watched Vicki and Peter gradually fall in love with each other while she was on trial for witchcraft. Over the last nine months, the only character we’ve really watched falling in love has been Adam crushing on Carolyn, and now they’re trying to tell us he’s in love with Eve, who doesn’t care.

Soap operas thrive on bringing couples together and splitting them up again, sometimes making such a fetish out of it that they hardly get a moment of peace. But you need to make the audience feel something about that match before you start breaking them apart.

We see three purported couples today — Eve/Jeff, Nicholas/Maggie, and Adam/Eve — and they don’t have an ounce of chemistry between them. I think it’s time to cut our losses, get these people off the show, and start again.

Tomorrow: Reflections on the Golden Eye.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

I don’t know what to do with Jeff pretending to smoke a cigarette; it’s honestly one of the most baffling things I’ve ever seen on the show. The cigarette is clearly not lit. And he’s not just sitting there with it in his mouth — when Eve knocks on the door, he pretends to take a last drag from it, and stubs it out in an ashtray. It can’t be that they’re not allowed to smoke on the set, because we’ve seen Julia do it several times. Maybe Roger Davis doesn’t smoke, but then why don’t you give him something else to do? On Dark Shadows, the default way to open a “knock on the door” scene is to have the person reading a book. Jeff even has a book; he picks it up and pretends to read it in the middle of his conversation with Eve. So why bother with the cigarette pantomime?  I can’t figure it out.

Adam tells Nicholas, “She’s been acting like this all evening — all night! First at Collinswood, then here!”

Jeff gets up from his chair and backs away from Eve, knocking a stool into the set of fireplace tongs with a clank.

Nicholas tells Maggie, “I am going to have to put all other matters aside, until I can get something str — settled with you.”

Tomorrow: Reflections on the Golden Eye.

611 dark shadows jeff eve stress

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

22 thoughts on “Episode 611: The Love Object

  1. All Roger Davis ever does is yell and bump into objects – he was tolerable in the first 1-2 1795 episodes when he had to keep his mouth shut and stand in the background while Addison Powell explained why he couldn’t represent Vicki, who was saying something stupid at the time that would lead her right to the noose. I think this episode is also the one where the skirt (?) that Maggie is wearing is undone in the back and she tries to hide this wardrobe malfunction by sitting down on the couch. It appears as if Humbert Allen Astredo is aware of this situation and is trying to suppress a laughing fit. That would have been a retake (or a classic scene) in the annals of DS onscreen bloopers.

    1. You’re forgetting that Davis also likes to grab people and shove them out of the way. Did we get to the episode yet where he forcibly shoves Marie Wallace? There’s a brief look of surprise and shock on her face? He also shakes poor little David up at some point.

      1. YES – he was also (in his mind) irresistable to the shows starlets and gave them the privledge of a ‘shoulder massage’ during their shared scenes.

      2. Yes, Jeff/ Peter shakes David in episode 609. Shakes him really hard too, looks like he’s actually hurting David Henesy. Later in that same episode, we return to the two of them, still sitting on the bench by the fountain. Jeff/ Peter launches into a disquisition about love, starting with “Love isn’t something you can remember,” and continuing with the claim that if you’re madly in love with a girl when you’re sixteen, and see the same girl at twenty six, you probably won’t even recognize her, and certainly won’t care a thing about her. David listens to this speech with a look on his face that should be in the dictionary to illustrate the phrase “What the **** are you talking about?” Whatever he’s talking about is so obviously wrong for a guy engaged to be married that it makes me wonder if Sam Hall slipped the speech in the script because he believed that the Jeff-Vicki thing was a dead end.

    2. Oh, I was wondering why it looked like KLS was suppressing a smile in that scene on the couch. I didn’t notice the skirt problem; I’ll have to look at that again. She’s getting the giggles a lot these days. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Wasn’t Danielle Roget supposed to be some kind of aristocrat? And she’s willing to give up everything for a pleb lawyer who has a single room at a boarding house? And once again, in Nicholas and Maggie, they’re trying to pass off a male in his forties with a female in her twenties, no less one who has no significant social standing. Do advanced warlocks from the netherworld often fall for small town waitresses? It’s amusing how when he shows up to propose she’s wearing the bathroom rug. In terms of chemistry, a more interesting pairing would have been Nicholas and Eve, and then Nicholas and Adam would be at odds and this would be a more believable way to create tension regarding Nicholas’ plans for a master race. Eve is created and then Nicholas decides he wants her for himself, so Adam becomes jealous and kills her and then Nicholas must find a way to deal with Adam–by passing her on to Maggie Evans.

    1. The whole Danielle Roget thing is super unclear, at least so far. They say that in the Revolution, “she sent six men to the guillotine” — so probably not an aristocrat, since those were the ones getting axed, although she may have been informing on her friends. But so far there’s no explanation for how she got to Maine, how she got involved with Peter, or how she died.

      I don’t actually need that much more info on Danielle/Peter, because it’s such an obviously bonkers plot twist that trying to justify it would almost cheapen it.

      The couple that I’m disappointed with here is Nicholas/Maggie, which drives a lot of story points in this period despite the fact that it is dull and unwatchable. Maggie has to put on the technicolor dreamcoat just to make sure the audience has something to look at.

  3. Hey Danny, this was very funny today. Loved that first sentence. All of them, really. Love your way with words. And you’re right on the money about Jeff and Eve’s “For Plot Purposes Only” romance. Eve just needs to get in a fast car. Eve’s inner Ann-Margret just want’s to Viva Las Vegas.
    “Today’s exploration of make-believe” that just struck me as funny.
    Dark Shadows had crazy audacity, speaking of which: Yikes! Today is the day Kathryn Leigh Scott has to wear that crazy-colored quilted culottes thing I was talking about. It’s a dress! It’s pants! It’s both! It’s neither! Culottes are usually knee length, this looks like that, only floor length. I don’t really know what this is.
    There were a lot of great fashion ideas around this time, some of which are still around. This wasn’t one of them. This turned out to be a “don’t”. Kind of an polar opposite reaction to the mini skirt, and an early iteration of the “midi” dress of the 1970’s? (midi, as in “mid-length”, not “musical instrument digital interface”)
    Or were they just clown pants? This might be one of those fashion mysteries better left unsolved. And was there a zipper malfunction? Sorry, I used to work in clothing stores on Melrose.
    I enjoy that little scene with Maggie and Nick on the sofa, quite a lot, really. This whole episode has been about how love is making Nicholas Blair into a human, the very thing he blamed Cassandra for. First he apologizes to Adam, and is strangely sincere about it. Where did that come from? As David Lynch would say “Nicholas Blair is a man in trouble.”
    There’s a re-occurring theme used a handful of times on Dark Shadows, where the top supernatural villain of the moment ends up being undone by human love. It happened to Angelique/Cassandra, it’s happening to Nicholas right now, and eventually, Jeb Hawkes.
    Love makes them forget what they came for. They’re all lost in the supermarket.

    1. I like that theme too, and I think it’s done well in the other examples. Jeb’s relationship with Carolyn ends up (mostly) saving the Leviathan storyline for me (kind of). But here, I just don’t believe that Nicholas actually sees something special about Maggie. We know she’s great, because we’ve seen her doing great things under stressful circumstances, but all Nicholas has seen is a sweet girl who blushes a lot. I can’t imagine what he thinks their life would be like together.

      1. That’s just it, he isn’t thinking. He took one look, and was lost.
        “Love, love will tear us apart” -Ian Curtis

  4. Roger Davis makes another friend: When Jeff tries to close the door on Eve he almost smashes Marie Wallace in the face.

    If KLS was trying to cover a wardrobe malfunction I missed it but then the quilted pants have a way of absorbing all my attention whenever they appear.

  5. Jeff just about took Eve’s face off with that door! I wouldn’t be surprised if Marie Wallace shows up in the next episode with more makeup on to cover the bruises.

    I missed the wardrobe malfunction because, like Straker, I was too mesmerized by the quilted mess of the shirt/pants not to mention all the colors of the Afghan behind her. Plus I was very perplexed by Nicholas proposing out of the blue.

    And if Joe ends up dead because of Horrible Harry Johnson I’m gonna be ticked!

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