Episode 679: The Not Happening

“We just pretend things, that’s all.”

Let’s review the current state of affairs. The children have been spending time with an older relative, playing a mysterious game. The kids were excited when this began, but now they’re scared and confused. What they do with the older man is a secret, and they know that he’ll hurt them if they tell anyone about it.

So what we’ve got is a surprisingly intense storyline about fantasy-metaphor child sexual abuse. If these characters had feelings, I’d be really worried about them.

678 dark shadows quentin kids ghost

It’s been two months since David and Amy found that old telephone in the west wing, and established communication with Quentin Collins, the angry ancestor with a heart of stone. He’s been possessing them, on and off, and getting them to do unsavory things.

At the beginning of this plotline, David and Amy were swapping Executive Child responsibilities back and forth, each of them having a turn at saying “Quentin won’t like that,” and “You know we have to do what Quentin says.” But now they’ve settled into an actual conflict to focus on, which puts David in that role full-time.

Quentin — for some dark-matter reason that even the writers don’t understand yet — has decided to put all of his resources into killing Amy’s brother Chris. Naturally, this is upsetting to Amy — or supernaturally, if you want to get technical about it — and she wants to call the whole thing off.

679 dark shadows amy david executive

So Amy’s going to go tell a responsible adult, if she can find one, and it’s up to David to talk her out of it. He opens negotiations by twisting her arm behind her back and putting his hand over her mouth, as she struggles and tries to scream for help.

This is what we’re broadcasting on daytime television these days, full-contact girl-wrestling. It’s not often that you see the cycle of abuse perpetuate itself with this kind of turnaround time.

679 dark shadows liz amy david scold

But at Collinwood, you can only get away with this kind of thing for maybe eight weeks tops, nine at the outside. Eventually, somebody’s bound to notice.

David’s aunt Elizabeth comes charging out of the drawing room, rescues Amy, and sends David upstairs to his room, to go be angry or scared or puzzled or however he’s supposed to be feeling right now.

679 dark shadows amy liz couch

Liz brings Amy into the drawing room for a heart-to-heart, and Amy finally gets the chance to blow the whistle on the whole sordid affair. She does this exceptionally badly, even by the low standards of a soap opera child.

Amy:  It’s just since we started playing the game.

Liz:  What game?

Amy:  I mean, the game isn’t really bad, except last night — well, after my dream — I knew why David wouldn’t let me play the game any more. It was because of Chris.

Liz:  What has Chris got to do with it?

Amy:  Oh, a lot! He was in the dream! I never knew he would be.

So this is getting off to a rough start, but you never know, Amy might be able to pull this together if she really buckles down to it.

679 dark shadows quentin liz amy drawing room

But then who should show up but the sinister specter himself, apparating quietly in the corner and sending Amy into new freak-out iterations.

Now, on the one hand, you could see this as an exciting development. We’ve seen Quentin in the abandoned west wing, and in the caretaker’s cottage, but this is the first time he’s just shown up in the drawing room like a regular person. This is a real violation of the ancient truce between the living and the dead, so credit is due.

679 dark shadows quentin stare

On the other hand, the reason why he’s here is to shut down a potential plot point, and maintain the status quo. Amy takes the hint and clams up, Liz remains as befogged as before, and we’re back where we started.

A glimpse of Quentin is still exciting — he’s gorgeous and weird-looking, with dark eye makeup and an icy stare — but you either contribute to story progression, or you don’t. Dumping strychnine into Chris’ cocktail the other day was a step forward; this intervention just slows things down. The worst thing that could happen to Quentin is for him to become a storyline speed bump.

679 dark shadows liz david phone

And then something even more upsetting happens. Liz heads up to David’s room, and demands to know what kind of games he’s been playing with Amy. David, still in Executive Child mode, dissembles.

David:  Did I ever tell you about my friend Lars? He’s a giant, who lives in the house by the sea.

Liz:  No, you didn’t, and you’re too old to believe in giants!

David:  He calls me on this phone. He’s being held captive by a wicked old witch.

Liz:  David, I’m surprised that a boy of your age would depend on imaginary people to keep amused.

Yeah, I’m surprised too; there’s a lot of that going around. What I’m surprised about is that Liz doesn’t react to the mention of a wicked witch.

679 dark shadows carolyn liz witch

Because early last week, Elizabeth was talking about witches too. She’d just emerged from three weeks in a casket, held in suspended animation by a witch’s curse. And when she came out of the trance, she told everybody that she’d been under Cassandra’s spell. She knows that there are wicked witches, real ones, who do terrible things to people in her family. She was literally talking about it the last time that we saw her.

Now, I’m totally okay with your average storyline sleight-of-hand, using some misdirection and a judicious use of the history eraser button to move things along, but the rule is that you can only use that trick if it makes the current story more interesting.

679 dark shadows liz maggie problem

There’s a larger problem here, which is that the four members of the Collins family have become full-time goldfish. Liz knows for a cast-iron fact that Cassandra was the witch who put her under a magical spell, but that experience has had absolutely no effect on her. The dialogue that she says today about David could have been written two years ago, with no problem at all. That means that story events don’t really matter, at least when they happen to a Collins.

This wasn’t a minor thing you could brush off, like Roger does after every seance he attends. If he wants to handwave and say that he still doesn’t believe in ghosts, then fine — you could rationalize a weird evening.

But for Liz, this was a full-on supernatural experience. She was locked up at Windcliff all summer, and then entombed in a casket for three weeks. That would be a monumental moment in a person’s life; you’d always remember things in terms of “before Cassandra” and “after Cassandra”.

So if Liz is shaking that off a week later like it never happened, then that’s our cue to stop thinking of her as a character. I can accept the possessed children exchanging personalities every couple episodes, but the rest of the Collins family is going to need to show up for work and remember what just happened to them. I’m afraid I’m going to have to insist on that.

Tomorrow: The Room.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Liz tells Maggie, “I think David can be as serious — I mean — David can be a very serious problem.” She also says, “Originally, his flights of fancy were very amusing, but now they’re not. Now he’s hurting that — not that he’s hurting that little girl.”

Tomorrow: The Room.

679 dark shadows quentin smile

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

32 thoughts on “Episode 679: The Not Happening

  1. I have to say, I always made fun of how the characters on dark shadows, would go through so many supernatural events so to speak, and continue to disbelieve each new one that they encountered. I could forgive a lot of things that were nonsensical on this amazing show, but that lack of acknowledging past events was really annoying.

  2. About Elizabeth’s green paisley dress: It wasn’t just the under-30 hippies who dabbled in the way-out fashions of the late 60’s.
    Sure, it’s not as eye-scorching as that orange psychedelic number Carolyn wears, but I like the moss green. There’s something so familiar about it.
    Lots of people over 30 gave the new fashion a whirl, in one way, or another. Dad grew sideburns, a bold and daring statement in a conservative small town.

    1. And when it comes to deliberate parodies, there was the great Phyllis Diller with HER trendy dresses.

      1. Phyllis Diller rocked. She was a big favorite at our house. Parody, yes. her look was at the Las Vegas end of the psychedelic spectrum. She always looked like she had just taken a bath with a toaster.

    2. My dad bought a leisure suit. But us kids tried to explain to him that the whole idea was that it was a “leisure” suit–get it? “Leisure”? But he still insisted on wearing a tie with it to church.

    3. Amy wears very cute clothes. The dresses that Maggie, Vicki, Julia, Judith wear are for those with no tits and no ass. I could never wear what they were wearing at that time.

  3. This is a problem with the “modern-day” Collins. They can’t grow or acknowledge the clearly supernatural events that occur around them. Naomi is a very different person at the end of 1795 than when she was the beginning. Same with Judith in 1897.Elizabeth is “strong family matriarch.” Period. End Stop.

    Quentin shutting down Amy is excusable, I think, as a potential storyline speed bump because his actions advance the plot: He’s become more powerful — I still jump when he shows up in the drawing room, and it seems like he’s no longer playing games. The story starts to really pick up from this point on.

    1. Besides the problem of the modern Collins family not being able to change, there’s also he frustrating aspect that nothing from 1968 is being used as back story. After 1795, we got all this new back story that was used extensively in 1968 to give weight to situations. Now it’s as if the last 9 months didn’t even happen.

      1. There’s a reference to Adam as late as 1970 in a conversation between Barnabas and Julia.

        Also when Julia meets Angelique in 1840 and Angelique discovers that Julia has come from the future, Julia reveals that she first met Angelique at Collinwood in 1968 when she was going under the name of Cassandra Blair.

        There is also the return of Nicholas Blair during the Leviathan storyline and the previous association between Nicholas and Angelique is referenced as they plot against each other once more.

        But overall you are right about the lack of integration between storylines from one year to the next. Others including myself have mentioned this same lack of integration between 1968 and, say, 1966. Perhaps it is that because they were making it up as they went along, at least as of 1967, and several writers came and went, the current group of writers were unwilling to embrace the ideas and directions of previous writers and thought it best to stay with their own revamped ideas, which better served the stories of the moment.

        1. Isn’t there a position (almost always listed on credits of movies and television shows) of ‘script supervisor’ whose responsibility was to ensure some type of coherence and continuity of characters,storylines and timelines? Or maybe Dan Curtis was filling this position..

          1. Kathryn Leigh Scott tells the story of a writers’ meeting one day where they couldn’t recall a particular detail. So they went outside the studio to ask the fans gathered there, and the fans had the info they were after.

          2. On modern soap operas, there’s a huge number of people working on the show — head writer, associate writers, scriptwriters, and script supervisors. There’s probably about 12 full-time people working on writing the show.

            On Dark Shadows, Dan was the part-time head writer, and Sam / Ron / Gordon were everything else. They didn’t have assistants or an office; they mostly wrote at home. It was a spectacularly under-resourced production.

            Plus, they didn’t have access to videotapes on previous shows, even if they had time to watch them. If they wanted to know about something that happened in 1967, they could go through the files and look at the one-page summaries (if the writer had bothered to write one), or ask each other, or go and ask the kids outside.

            I wrote a bit about this in a post called “The Last Days of Ron Sproat” — https://darkshadowseveryday.com/2015/03/09/episode-601/

        2. That sounds right. If I came to the show after Sproat, I would want to distance myself from that kind of writing, and create new ideas.

  4. It doesn’t bother me, because I see Elizabeth’s main role as being one-of-those-people-who-can-never-ever-learn-the-Big-Secret. Just as there are people like Barnabas, Julia, Angelique and Quentin who get to know all the secrets, there’s always somebody that “can’t”. Elizabeth and Roger usually play these parts. Then, there’s people half-way in between, like Professor Stokes and David Collins.

    I just figured, once Cassandra’s inexplicable spell finally ended, the whole experience conveniently faded. She has Fuzzy Memories. When 1968 got wrapped-up, it really got wrapped-up.

    Character development is no problem for a finite set-in-the-past role, but with a character that goes on indefinitely, they had to tread lightly with any actual change. They didn’t want to deal with it, they just wanted to keep things simple and have fun.

    I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to Dark Shadows. Oh, I’d probably let Dark Shadows eat my lunch, write bad checks, drive 100 miles an hour, or party like it’s 1999, when it’s actually 4:17 in the a.m.

  5. Yes, David’s previous ‘flights of fancy’, like trying twice to murder his father, were really quite amusing. Yes I can see Vicki being related to this family.

    1. Art Wallace was hired to develop the story outline of Dan Curtis’ idea so that they could pitch the show to ABC. This outline, in its 91-page published form, is known as the series bible and is titled Shadows on the Wall, one of the originally proposed titles for the show itself. In the story bible, Collinwood is known as Collins House. In fact, in one of the earliest television promos for the show, the announcer refers to the house by this name: “Dark Shadows probes the hidden mysteries of Collins House….”

      Art Wallace wrote the first couple months of episodes on his own, then intermittently with Francis Swann over the next couple of months. Though the idea for the series originated from Dan Curtis, for the series bible Wallace drew on a teleplay he had written called The House that aired on NBC’s Television Playhouse in 1957, set in a New England fishing village and involving a reclusive matriarch (Caroline Barnes) whose husband had disappeared years earlier and who only saw her daughter (Elizabeth) and piano pupils.

      For Dark Shadows, the name Elizabeth is used for the mother instead and she heads the family business rather than being a piano teacher. But this character aspect from the teleplay of The House is the reason why there is a piano in the drawing room and why also Elizabeth is seen playing the piano in some early episodes, beginning in episode 2 when Vicki walks in on her and then Liz slumps forward in despair and then Vicki steps out. Liz was playing a Prelude by Chopin, which suggests an accomplished background in music.

  6. Throw me in with the crowd that gets annoyed when they are so quick to dismiss the new supernatural even as a dream or someone’s imagination.

    You’d think after the seance where Phyllis Wick took Vicki’s place, which was witnessed and remembered by Elizabeth, Carolyn and Roger, that they’d be pretty well open to anything.

  7. I’m inclined to cut Liz a bit of slack. David’s got plenty of form for making stuff up. In fact he spends most of his time ‘making stuff up’ through his teeth!
    So after digesting the giant named Lars I doubt Liz put much worry into the ‘wicked witch’!

  8. The assault on my ears is becoming critical. Between that hideous song of Quentin’s and Amy’s baby voice. I can’t take it much longer!!!! Please send Julia to my house with sedatives right away.

    1. …lol…Piece I was wondering if anyone else felt like that. I cannot stand Quentin’s song and it is seriously irritating at best! Maggie’s music box was enough, but I would listen to that all day than Quentin’s music.

  9. David’s room seems kind of sparse – there isn’t nearly as much on the shelves any more.

    But then, if he’s been throwing something every time he gets upset, there’s probably not going to be much of anything left by now.

  10. Collins-Syndrome Amnesia: the refusal to widen one’s mental conception of the “possible universe” even after experiencing related and equally paradigm-challenging preternatural events. For example, after extensive experience with a vampire, subject will immediately scoff at the notion of a werewolf.

  11. Joan Bennett really struggles with her lines in this episode – I think it has something to do with that dress.

    The candlestick phone prop seems different, brighter and shinier that what we’ve seen before.

    This probably won’t be a widely shared opinion but I’m going to give a shout out to David Henesy. They’ve set up a situation where he’s torn between his fear of disobeying Quentin and his own emerging sense of right and wrong. I think Henesy’s doing a pretty good job of portraying that conflict.

    1. David Henesy was an extraordinarily talented young actor. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves on this blog, because he did his best work in the first 200 episodes, but in moments like these he shines.

  12. I find it irritating that Elizabeth wasn’t more believing of David and Amy considering all she’s been through.

    This one really felt like an allegory to child abuse what with the kids saying that they have to keep “the game” a secret from the other adults. Quentin is creepy but cool. I can’t wait for him to speak.

    And is it me or wasn’t Quentin’s phone black in the prior episodes? Seemed rather shiny brass today.

    That evening ABC aired Episode 158: “Samantha the Bard” of Bewitched where Samantha is stricken with a witch illness (primary vocabularyitis) which causes her to speak in rhyme until Dr. Bombay can cure her.

    1. Of course, it is abuse to coerce children into harming their loved ones, so it isn’t just allegorical. It’s realistic to show this form of child abuse working in the same ways as do other forms.

      The Collinses are such a wretched bunch that the children of the family must have been the objects of a great deal of abuse over the centuries, yet the show wimps out of exploring that topic at the climax of the Phoenix story, when Roger and Carolyn stop openly proclaiming their hatred for David. For the next 500 or so episodes, the only abuse inflicted on the few Collins children we see is the occasional attempt to murder one of them. In this fictional universe, being the target of a murder plot is a so routine an experience for so wide a variety of people that it seem odd to describe it specifically as “child abuse.”

      We don’t really have to think about Collins children being abused until the Haunting of Collinwood story. Then we go to 1897, when the show finally takes child abuse seriously and connects it to the Collinses’ addiction to secrecy and their desperate unhappiness.

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