“It seems that when there is a full moon, legend has it that possessed children are extremely restless.”
On this night, the great house of Collinwood stands deserted, more or less. The Collins family has fled the premises, driven away by the spirit of Quentin Collins, an ancestor with an attitude problem. Now they’re all crashing at Barnabas’ place, as Quentin lures them back to Collinwood one by one, for some hypnotically-enforced steampunk cosplay.
I’ll give you a for instance. Barnabas is currently on a recon mission in the spooky old mansion, looking for young David. He opens up the drawing room doors — and there’s Maggie, the Collins family governess, wearing a complicated Victorian dress and an even more complicated Gibson girl hairstyle. She’s sitting alone in the dark room, posing decoratively on a chair and doing needlepoint, just Gibsoning away.
When she sees Barnabas enter the room, she’s startled, and acts like she doesn’t know who he is. “I know no one named Barnabas,” she says, “now please leave here at once!” He insists, “Maggie, I know what’s happened to you,” which says a lot about how Barnabas’ mind works.
She says that’s not her name, but when she tries to remember who she is, she gets confused, shrieks, and crumples delicately to the floor.
When she regains consciousness, Maggie is herself again, and she has no idea what happened. “These clothes,” she gasps, “where did they come from? And my hair! Barnabas — why don’t I remember?” This must have been a pretty action-packed evening for her; you don’t forget a hairstyle like that in a hurry.
So it turns out that Quentin is really, really good at this. He must have a master’s degree in whatever the hell this is.
And now, at long last, Quentin’s vague Turn of the Screw plan is coming together. T of the S is one of producer Dan Curtis’ favorite stories, but it isn’t much of an inspiration for a soap opera storyline, because essentially nothing happens in the entire book.
The governess in the novel sees sinister spirits hanging around near the children, but the ghosts never speak and they never actually do anything. They don’t have a plan, and they’re not even characters, really; they’re just metaphors for the governess’ fears of a bad influence corrupting the children. At the end of the novel — 1898 spoiler alert — the little boy dies in the governess’ arms, but it’s not clear that the ghosts had anything to do with it.
So this storyline has kind of rambled a bit, as the writers tried to figure out who Quentin is, what his motivations might be, and what he plans to do. Is he trying to kill everyone in the house, or does he just want them to leave? Is it just the family that he hates, or any random person who enters the house? Why is he angry at Chris, who isn’t a Collins and doesn’t live at Collinwood?
But now there’s been a huge change in the status quo, exiling the entire family to the Old House, and the writers are taking the opportunity to rebrand Quentin, and give him a coherent plan.
Barnabas: Did he speak to you?
Maggie: Yes… he called me by another name!
Barnabas: What name?
Maggie: It was a name he chose — a name that made these clothes seem right!
Barnabas: What was the name?
Barnabas is getting frantic, and no wonder, because this used to be his plan. Quentin is stealing his material.
When Barnabas joined the show two years ago, his first arc was about kidnapping Maggie, dressing her up in old-fashioned clothes, and trying to hypnotize her into thinking that she was Josette, his lost love. He’s not doing that kind of thing anymore — at least, not in the last few months — but he’s an expert on the subject of recreating dioramas of the past, using living people as his props. Quentin is playing on Barnabas’ home turf.
But here, he’s at a disadvantage for the first time, encountering a part of the Collins family history that he doesn’t know by heart. All he knows about Quentin is his name and his birthdate, but he doesn’t know who the other ghost is, or who Maggie’s dressed up as. He really has no idea what’s going on.
So far, Quentin has done an excellent job at keeping everybody else in the dark. Barnabas managed to get his hands on one tangible clue — a silver pentagram, which was around the neck of a dead child buried in the woods.
But Quentin stole the necklace almost immediately, and when Barnabas tried to get information about the item from a local silversmith, Quentin killed the guy and destroyed the relevant part of his ledger before Barnabas could see it. The investigators really have almost nothing to go on; they’re just scrabbling around for any little scrap of information.
Things have gotten so bad that Roger’s deputized himself as a new member of the Junior Detectives League. Last week, Roger didn’t believe that ghosts were responsible for the children’s behavior, but now he’s homeless, and his son is missing, presumed playing dress-up.
Roger tried calling the police to search for David, but they’ve found nothing, of course, because they’re the Collinsport police. Failing at something off-screen is their specialty. Now he needs a new strategy.
“I telephoned Professor Stokes before I left Collinwood,” Roger says. “He said that he would meet me there. He may have some ideas, he must have! He does have a most curious theory, one that I dislike even thinking about. It seems that when there is a full moon, legend has it that possessed children are extremely restless.”
Barnabas looks surprised, and gasps, “Will there be a full moon tonight?”
So that’s how out of touch Barnabas has become. Roger and Stokes are about to have an off-screen seance, because Barnabas has to scurry off and deal with his werewolf friend. Apparently, he’s been so busy worrying about the ghosts that he’s let another full moon sneak up on him while he wasn’t paying attention.
Barnabas rushes over to Chris’ place and locks him up before the transformation, and then he’s got to go to see the guy who may be on the verge of learning Chris’ dark secret. He doesn’t have a plan for that either; he’s just going to show up, and hope for the best.
That leaves Roger as the lead investigator, and he comes back from another scouting trip with another worthless clue — part of the dress that Maggie was wearing when she had her Gibson girl makeover, burned in the fireplace in Elizabeth’s room. Roger tries to reach for a deduction.
Maggie: Who would burn it?
Roger: I don’t know. But whoever did it wants to erase Maggie Evans, as she exists.
Roger: He wants you as you were dressed when Barnabas found you.
Maggie frowns. “Yes, I guess you could be right, Edward,” she says, “but what kind of power does this man have?”
Startled, Roger asks why she called him “Edward,” but she doesn’t know.
And like a good Junior Detective, Roger figures out what it all means. He declares, “Edward Collins was my grandfather. Quentin Collins was his brother! Maggie, Quentin is trying to bring you back to his time! He’s failed with you — but has he succeeded with David?”
Now, I wouldn’t be so quick to label Quentin’s plans for Maggie as a failure. She’s still got some post-hypnotic problems going on, and Quentin’s got an excellent track record so far.
So this point in the storyline really is thrilling. This feels like the worst trouble the Collins family has ever seen. When the problem was Cassandra, or Adam, or the ghost of Reverend Trask, the protagonists had somewhere to start. If they didn’t know the full extent of whatever nefarious plan was hatching, then at least they knew who the suspects were, and they could come over and have a conversation about it. Quentin is playing with the inhabitants of Collinwood like they’re dolls, and he’s even remote-controlling them now, all the way over at the Old House.
This is bad. If Barnabas, Julia and Stokes are going to pull this together, they need to try something rash and desperate. And thank goodness, that’s exactly what they’re going to do.
Tomorrow: Sister Act.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas has a noticeable suntan; he must have gone somewhere sunny for a vacation. This isn’t as big a gaffe as it might be — Barnabas isn’t a vampire anymore, so it’s okay for him to get some sun — but the show takes place in Maine, and it’s February.
Barnabas gets kind of mixed up when he’s questioning Maggie in act 1 — it’s a long list of questions, and she just says “No” and “I don’t remember,” so after a while it seems like he’s just firing off questions at random.
When Roger sees Maggie in the dress, a boom mic can be seen overhead.
Maggie says, “Roger, don’t stay here! Something terrible may happen to you, if you stay here alone!” Barnabas responds, “Come, Maggie. Something may happen, uh, to you, later, if we let you stay.”
Barnabas tells Chris, “Oh, if we could only find out the curse — find out a way to end it.” Later in the conversation, he says, “I’ll talk to Stuart. I believe that — I will try to get them to leave town.”
Tomorrow: Sister Act.
— Danny Horn