“What would her spirit be doing wearing a glove?”
At the end of yesterday’s episode, Barnabas finally drew a line in the sand.
“YOU have the will, Quentin!” he said to Quentin, who did.
“I will leave you now,” he continued, raising several eyebrows. “There’s only one thing that you have to decide in the next hour — how to give it back. Because if you don’t — I will have to do something about it. Something drastic!” And then he walked out the door.
So David can suck it, I guess, is the current attitude of the program.
Because Barnabas should not be getting involved in local politics like this. He’s a time traveller, here on a specific mission that he has no idea how to complete. In 1969, Collinwood is being haunted by Quentin’s malignant spirit, who’s trying to turn David into his beloved nephew Jamison. Barnabas is supposed to stop Quentin from doing that somehow, but he hasn’t really gotten his hands around it as a problem space.
Besides, his own intrusion here in this time is a much bigger threat to the 1960s family than anything Quentin’s ghost could possibly do. Jamison — the little boy who screamed and ran away from Barnabas earlier this evening — is Elizabeth and Roger’s father. If Barnabas makes the wrong move, the family he knows won’t even exist anymore. This has probably already happened.
And it’s pretty obvious that Barnabas is taking exactly the wrong stance on the Edith’s will issue. In 1969, Quentin’s ghost is furious with the family because he was angry and disenfranchised when he died. If Quentin is poor and alone, then it’s more likely that he’ll die upstairs in the west wing, and start planning his post-mortem revenge. Giving him a bunch of money might encourage him to cheer up, and go die in somebody else’s house.
But Barnabas never has a plan, except for when he decides to kill somebody, which in this case would be one hundred and eighty degrees counterproductive.
But you could say the same thing about the writers, who are two weeks into this storyline and have already lost track of what their protagonist is trying to accomplish.
Today’s episode opens with Barnabas accompanying Judith into the study to view her grandmother’s body, so I guess after his big dramatic exit yesterday he just swiveled around and came right back in. I’m assuming this is still part of the hour that he gave Quentin to bring the will back, although this might be a different hour. It’s hard to say.
According to Edith’s letter, her will was hidden in the lining of her coffin, but when the family looked for it, it was gone. Now Judith is asking Barnabas if he thinks that someone stole the will.
His response: “Well, your grandmother, certainly, from what I’ve heard, was not the sort of woman who said, when she was going to do something, that she didn’t do it. She certainly wouldn’t have placed the will in a special place in her coffin, and then… and then forget to have it put there.” So that clears up everything.
But the real question is: Why is Barnabas concerned about this? Isn’t this settled history for him?
Barnabas was supposed to be this big history buff who knows everything about the Collins family, but he doesn’t know anything about these people. Maybe by “history” he just meant his generation. He certainly doesn’t seem to know the events that he’s insinuated himself into now.
But even if he can’t remember the details, he knows that it all works out, doesn’t he? The Collins family fortune passes down to Jamison and then to Elizabeth. Barnabas can stay entirely out of this hidden-will malarkey, just keep his head down and try not to interfere. Although now that I think about it, the sequence of events that gives the money to Jamison also ends with Quentin’s skeleton sealed up in his room. So is Barnabas trying to change things, or not? No wonder the Fridspeak is getting out of hand.
But that’s nothing compared to what happens next. In the next scene, Barnabas knocks on Quentin’s door, and Quentin lets him in with a friendly, “Come in, won’t you?”
Once he’s in, Quentin muses, “You’re a very odd man, Mr. Collins. I find it hard to figure out exactly what you want in this house.”
Yeah, me too. I’m also wondering why neither of you remembers the “one hour” thing from yesterday. Am I the only one who cares about this?
Barnabas asks, “Did you ask me to your room just to have me explain myself, or are you interested to find out why I have accused you of stealing Mrs. Collins’ will?”
And then Quentin chuckles. “Oh, that,” he grins. “Well, I’m used to being accused of everything that happens. Everything bad, that is. Won’t you come in?”
Now, technically, Barnabas already came in, but now he’s coming even more in. Quentin has two rooms now — the one that we’ve been thinking of as “the storage room” is Quentin’s front parlor, and this one I guess is supposed to be his sitting room, or something. My architectural vocabulary is not what it once was. The point is that Quentin has two front doors, which makes him twice as important as anybody else on the show.
As soon as Barnabas gets in the room, he spots the I Ching wands, and snatches them up, gasping, “I Ching wands!” Now, you’d think that he would try to avoid mentioning the method he used to transcend the boundaries of time, but again, Barnabas and planning.
Quentin says, “I picked them up in the Far East. One of my trips when my family and I thought it best for all concerned if I saw more of the world. I know nothing about them, of course.”
“Don’t you,” Barnabas says, peering at him closely, and it’s a good thing Quentin changes the subject, because otherwise Barnabas was about to give a demonstration, and they’d probably both end up in the 17th century somewhere.
Then Quentin says, “Why did you accuse me of taking the will?” which is exactly the question that he said he wasn’t interested in forty seconds ago. Honestly, I don’t know why I worry about them ignoring yesterday’s cliffhanger; these two can’t even remember what they said earlier in the scene. What is going on?
Now, consulting my notes for the rest of the scene, it’s just a list of things that Barnabas says, with the word WHAT?? written next to it.
Barnabas: I believe your grandmother is still on this earth.
Quentin: What do you mean?
Barnabas: Where I come from, there is a theory that when someone dies with business unfinished, their spirit lingers to finish what has been left undone.
Danny: (WHAT?? Why are you explaining to Quentin that a ghost with unfinished business can haunt the house, while you’re standing in the exact room that he’s going to be haunting?)
Quentin: The grandmother I knew would hardly be quiet this long.
Barnabas: The Mrs. Collins I knew wouldn’t let anyone ruin her plans for that will.
Danny: (WHAT?? You knew her for five seconds, and all she did was scream at you.)
Barnabas: She will not rest in peace until it is found. You will discover that, Quentin.
Danny: (WHAT?? You are an impostor and a vampire; why are you openly threatening people with your knowledge of the supernatural?)
And then the very next thing that he does is go downstairs to the drawing room and meet the new governess, who he says looks just like the portrait of Josette Collins at the Old House. (WHAT??)
He gives her a thumbnail sketch of Josette’s life — she came from Martinique to marry his namesake, she married his uncle instead, and Barnabas killed his uncle in a duel. Then they have a little moment, reflecting on this tragic story.
Rachel volunteers that she’s fascinated by the past, and he gets all flustered and choked up about that, and how is this helping David?
But Barnabas can’t help it. He’s getting sucked into these stories, for the same reason that we are: They’re good stories. The characters are funny and sexy and complicated, and they all have secrets which are being slowly revealed to us, scene by scene. We want to know more about these people, and Barnabas is our way in.
At this point, we’ve forgotten David too. Either he’s doing fine or he’s not doing fine, but Barnabas and Quentin are yelling at each other right now, and who is David again?
When you’re in the middle of a story, there is a higher law than common sense. It doesn’t matter whether stirring up an exaggerated conflict between Barnabas and Quentin is logical or not. Barnabas is the main character and Quentin is the antagonist, and they both look fantastic when they’re glaring at each other. Let’s make them fight.
So, as always, Barnabas does not have a plan, because the writers do not have a plan — or if they do, it’s an emergent plan that arises naturally out of the scripts that they’re writing this week.
Sam Hall wrote yesterday’s script, and decided that it would be exciting to end the episode with Barnabas giving Quentin a one-hour deadline and then marching out the door. And he was absolutely correct; it was a fantastic, very Dark Shadowsy moment.
But then Sam started writing today’s script, and realized that there was nothing to do with that one-hour deadline except to have Barnabas walk back into the house an hour later for a progress report, which is not compelling and kind of makes him look silly. So Sam skipped that part, and put Barnabas in a scene with Judith instead.
So I always think it’s funny when Dark Shadows fans get all worried about big-picture contradictions, like whether Edith died in 1840 or 1897. This is a television show that is riddled with contradictions, all the way down to the micro level.
Barnabas and Quentin forget about the one-hour deadline, which means they can’t stay consistent from one episode to the next. Then Quentin flip-flops on whether he cares about Barnabas’ accusations, which means they can’t stay consistent within a single scene. And then Barnabas opens his mouth, and contradictions tumble off his tongue and fill up all the empty spaces with sentence structures that almost, but don’t quite, make sense.
Because, as the man said, your grandmother, certainly, from what I’ve heard, was not the sort of woman who said, when she was going to do something, that she didn’t do it.
I couldn’t agree more.
Tomorrow: Been Caught Stealing.
There wasn’t a place in today’s post to discuss this, but today’s episode introduces Dirk, the estate’s groundskeeper, and he’s played by Roger Davis, an actor who cannot keep his hands to himself if there’s a woman around. He has a scene with Beth where he grabs her and pushes her around like a sack of potatoes. Actually, if you saw a guy doing what he does to a sack of potatoes, you’d still probably tell him to take it easy.
Also, at the start of act 2, Quentin tells his sister Judith, “You always were a scaredy-cat, I remember that. I always hated playing with you.” Joan Bennett was 31 years older than David Selby.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Judith explains to Barnabas, “She didn’t believe in showing emotion. She said we simply had to live through what we had to go through, and hold our heads high.”
Somebody coughs as Barnabas enters Quentin’s room.
When Quentin comes out of the drawing room to surprise Dirk, you can see a studio light at the top of the frame. They’ve been having a hard time keeping boom mics and studio lights out of shots, because David Selby is so tall.
When Dirk tells Quentin that he heard someone in his room, Quentin steps on his line.
Tomorrow: Been Caught Stealing.
— Danny Horn