“This is my house, and I decide what is legal from now on.”
Let’s begin with the Trojan War. I know, I’m always nattering on about the Trojan War, but bear with me for a second.
It all started with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Peleus was a hero in Greek mythology, but not one of the good ones; he’s mostly known for killing his half-brother and his stepmom in hunting accidents. Thetis was a shape-changing sea nymph, and Peleus got her to marry him after he snuck up on her and tied her up while she was sleeping. They were a terrible couple and shouldn’t be marrying anybody, really, but you know the ancient Greeks, anything for a party.
Anyway, they had the wedding on Mount Pelion, which is amazing, because usually it’s booked, like, two years in advance, and all of the deities were invited, except for Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord.
Irritated by the snub, Eris showed up anyway, probably in a Lady Gaga meat dress, and she tossed a golden apple into the middle of the room, inscribed with the word “Kallisti”, which means “to the fairest”. Pretty soon, the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were all squabbling over who the apple belonged to.
Now, think about that for a moment. Aphrodite was so beautiful that she was literally The Goddess of Beauty, and Hera and Athena still thought they had a shot. That right there tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Greek weddings.
The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide between them, but Zeus mumbled something about a very important phone call that he suddenly needed to make, and he pointed them at Paris, the prince of Troy.
The girls all tried to get on Paris’ good side. Hera offered political power, Athena promised skill in battle, and Aphrodite said she could give him the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite and ran off with the beautiful woman, who happened to be Helen, the queen of Sparta. This started the Trojan War, and a ten-year siege that ended with the destruction of both the Achaeans and the Trojans.
So who triumphs in this tale? Only Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord, who orchestrated the destruction of empires, just to hear the funny sound it made as it all shattered to the ground. Then Eris invented television, and you know the rest.
That brings us to the Collinses of 1897, another mighty family that has elevated the art of squabbling to a new level. Edith Collins died last week, leaving her four grandchildren scrambling around, trying to find her missing will.
The will passed from one hand to another, as screwball comedy props tend to do, but it’s finally come to rest in the possession of sister Judith, loveless spinster and the new queen of Sparta.
Judith was the boring middle child in the family, and she’s been pushed around her whole life by her officious older brother, Edward. He’s been the presumptive future king of this castle since he was born — the Collins destined to carry on the family name, and administer the family fortune. Judith was the also-ran, who didn’t even have the gumption to find some other rich family to marry into.
It’s taken a toll on her, this lonely life. She’s supposed to be in her early thirties, but just look at her. You’d think she was fifty-nine, and spent the last three years working in daytime television.
She’s read the will, and appears to be pleased with the contents, so she gathers her siblings together in the drawing room and lets them stew for a while. This is the 1897 Collins family’s idea of a good time.
So what the Dark Shadows audience gets, for the low admission fee of watching a couple commercials for All Temperature Cheer, is an afternoon matinee of Who’s Afraid of a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There are no vampires on the show today, no witches, ghosts, or werewolves, no tarot-card readings or terrible premonitions, not even an unexpected chill.
What we get instead is twelve minutes of Judith, Edward, Quentin and Carl, sniping at each other like George and Martha playing “Get the Guests”. Here’s a sample:
Quentin: Judith, have you already read Carl the part concerning him?
Judith: I’ve read nothing to anybody.
Quentin: Well, then, what’s the matter with him? He looks like the aftermath of one of his practical jokes. What is it, Carl? Tell Quentin…
Carl: Why don’t you just be quiet — just this one time, keep your mouth shut!
Quentin: Oh-ho-ho! What are we so touchy about?
Edward: Judith, I refuse to wait until Evan Hanley is brought here! There is nothing illegal about reading the will now!
Judith: No, I suppose there isn’t. I just wanted to spare you the shock a bit longer. (She rises from her chair.) Why don’t you all sit down, and let me do the honors?
Stunned into silence, the boys all take a seat, and Judith closes the drawing room doors. “Brace yourselves, brothers,” she smiles, and begins to read. It’s not quite “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,” but it’s the same general idea.
She gets everything, of course — the house, the money, and all the trimmings. Quentin gets a guaranteed place to live for the rest of his life, and Edward and Carl can basically pound sand.
Once the will is read, each character follows their chosen path. Judith is mocking and vindictive in her triumph, lording it over her former tormentors. Edward postures and blows smoke through his mustache, but he’s basically a broken reed, all his bluster exposed as a smokescreen for his fundamental impotence. Carl just curls up and sobs.
And then there’s Quentin.
Edward: You think this is the way this is going to end? Well, you’re wrong, sister, because I’m going to fight you, and I’m going to —
Judith: You’ll lose, and you’ll go on losing! I am mistress of this house now. It belongs to me. I inherited the Collins fortune. She left you nothing! You’re all dependent on me.
Quentin: Edward, I think she’s trying to tell us something.
Edward: Can’t you ever be serious about anything?
Quentin saunters over to his sister’s side.
Quentin: Judith, I must congratulate you. I haven’t seen him get this worked up in a long time.
Edward: If you’re going to do nothing but make snide remarks, then get out! Get out of this house at once!
Quentin: You have a very short memory. Judith, would you mind re-reading the paragraph concerning me?
Edward: I’d rather not hear it again, if you don’t mind.
Quentin: Oh, but I want you to be clear on it. Financially, grandmother may have given me the back of her hand, but at least she provided me with a permanent home.
Judith: He’s right, Edward. The will states that Quentin can live here as long as he wishes. Not even I have the power to put him out.
Quentin: Oh, I’m sure that saddens you, Judith.
Judith: I inherited the money and the estate, Quentin. I’ll find some way of tolerating you.
Quentin: Yes, I’m sure you will.
Quentin is grinning the whole time, and it’s not a pose or a plan. He is legitimately amused by this situation. The game is over, and he’s lost, and he’s just as delighted as he would have been if he’d won.
After all, even if he doesn’t have the money, he also doesn’t have the responsibility. “Now that I’m firmly in residence here,” he smiles, “I shall devote myself to a life of pleasure, with the available ladies in the house.”
And he really doesn’t mind, because Quentin is a god of Chaos and Discord, and all he wants is the opportunity to hear his siblings scream at each other for the rest of his misspent life.
This is a guy who was willing to kill for the secret, who throttled several people over the last couple weeks, and summoned a vengeance demon from the fireplace to take his nephew’s soul if she could help him get hold of the will. Now his schemes have fallen to pieces, and he’s as relaxed and cheerful as ever.
And for once, this isn’t accidental depth, where the narrative demands of a daily soap opera conspire to turn a hero into a heel. This is actual depth. Quentin is just a really good character.
Yesterday, if you’d asked how Quentin would respond to the will turning up intact, anybody who’s been watching the show would say that he’d be absolutely furious, going on a world-record throttling spree. But here he is, having exactly the opposite reaction, and it still feels authentic.
Quentin is constantly surprising, and on this blog, as you know, “surprising” is the best thing that anyone could ever be. That’s the whole point of television; it’s a surprise delivery service.
“Surprising” is up there on the list of superlatives with “sexy”, “funny” and “inspiration for a hit record,” and pretty soon, Quentin will have all four. This is the soap opera character equivalent of an EGOT.
And so we say: Hail Eris! All hail Discordia! We probably didn’t even need any Trojans in the first place. Fnord.
Tomorrow: The Secret of the Mysterious Clue.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Quentin approaches Edward with his indecent proposal, a boom mic whizzes by overhead.
Behind the Scenes:
Speaking of All Temperature Cheer, while I was writing this entry, I found the following 1969 advertisement, which features Robert Rodan (Adam, from TV’s Dark Shadows) as a laundry-obsessed space alien.
Tomorrow: The Secret of the Mysterious Clue.
— Danny Horn
25 thoughts on “Episode 714: Inherit the Win”
I wonder if part of the original plan for 1897 (assuming there was an original plan as opposed to throwing things on the wall and seeing what stuck) was that Quentin stayed in Collinwood because of Edith’s “Quentin can stay here as long as he likes” clause in the will. It just seems like an odd clause and does tie in to Quentin being around as a ghost. He had permission after all.
Did Barnabas ensure that Judith inherited everything because he assumed he could manipulate her more easily than Edward? Not only was Barnabas mistaken, he practically offered Judith to Gregory Trask (his implacable foe) on a silver platter.
Quentin’s residency clause was obviously so Barnabas could keep an eye on the irascible rogue. Had it been me dictating to a gypsy calligraphist, Quentin would have been banished from Collinwood altogether, and I would catch the next hexagram back to my own time.
Avuncular, gay Barnabas might have handled 1897 quite differently, but vampire Barnabas isn’t in his right mind.
Percysowner: I think Edith probably did give Quentin that consideration. She knew Edward would exile Quentin for running off with Laura. Actually, Laura ran after Quentin, but they must have slept together.
Danny: your dry martini wit (especially today recounting the Trojan War) reminds me of humorist Will Cuppy. I recommend his observations on world history in The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody.
I originally thought Barnabas had the will altered, but upon reflection, I don’t think that’s the case. Aside from one implied statement he makes to Sandor, there is no evidence that Barnabas has the will forged. There was also no time for him to do it, as Angelique showed up soon afterward. The show makes no mention of Barnabas having altered the will later.Quentin saw the original and didn’t react as if it had changed.
Personally, without conclusive evidence, I prefer to think that Barnabas just had the will returned intact. I like that Edith trusted Judith over the others. It’s more compelling to me. And I like the “permanent home” irony for Quentin.
I suspect that Edward might have made some unwise investments in the past and Edith did not want the money to go to him. Since Judith was a spinster, with no children, the property would go to Jamison and Nora, anyway. As for Quentin, the old lady might have had a soft spot for him. That bad boy charm of his.
That’s funny, I had the same experience. I remembered it as Barnabas altering the will to favor Judith, but rewatching it for this week, I realized that he just took it from Sandor and brought it back to Collinwood. I hadn’t thought about Quentin’s reaction as an extra piece of evidence.
Yes, Will Cuppy is fantastic! I recommend him as well — both The Decline and Fall, and his excellent collections of short pieces on animals like How to Tell Your Friends from the Apes. He’s one of the very funny writers that I steal from as often as I can.
How likely would it have been in 1897 that an estate of that size would be left to a female heir when there were 3 living male heirs available? Granted, Carl’s sanity is in question and Quentin isn’t exactly stable either but, it makes no sense that Edward would have been passed over – unless Barnabas changed the Will to make it so.
Also, why would Edith make special provisions for Quentin, a grandchild she clearly disliked who actually tried to choke her in her sick bed??
That really looks like Barnabas taking a hand in making sure Quentin stayed on site.
Realistically it would be unlikely that an estate that size would be left to a woman in that age. However, it had been run for years by Edith, a woman, who wasn’t even a Collins by birth, she’d married into the family. I’m going with this is yet another AU where women had more power than was actually available at that time in our universe.
Yeah, we’ve been told for weeks that Edith had run the estate and practically raised the family. She even had a clear business relationship with Evan Hanley, the family lawyer, so it wasn’t like she’d passed off all the business affairs to Edward. I think that itself was a clear hint — Edward was “acting” head of the family when Edith was bed ridden but not during the couple decades when he was of age and she was already a senior citizen.
It’s also worth noting that Judith wasn’t technically “left” the estate, despite her euphoria. For all intents and purposes, it went to Jamison, who will inherit everything when he turns 21 — based on Hennessy’s age at the time, that’s just another 8 years.
Based on what we saw of Judith and Edith together, it seems likely that Edith believed Judith would run things during that period as she had and then it would safely pass over to Jamison. Adriana mentioned Edward making some unwise business decisions. That certainly seems probable. Edith might suspect that Edward would do things his way rather than essentially “looking after” things until the estate passed on to Jamsion.
Edith most likely didn’t forsee an obvious fortune hunter pursuing Judith (and again, it’s not likely that one would marry a woman who would then be dependent upon her nephew within a few years). I suppose I can forgive Edith for not imagining a man like Trask.
If Barnabas had altered the will, he might have made sure that it looked like it was witnessed by more than two gypsies (Magda and Sandor). As someone on the alt.tv.dark_shadows group mentioned during the Sci-Fi run: A judge would honor such a “document*” for about eight minutes.
(*I also love that Edward calls it a “document” rather than a will — brilliantly bit of dialogue)
And I don’t see the logic in Barnabas trying to keep Quentin at Collinwood at this point (granted, Barnabas is not known for the logic of his plans). Barnabas knows that Quentin dies sealed up in his room in 1897. If he’s forging the will, just give him enough money to go on a bender overseas for a couple years and you’ve effectively changed history. But giving him no means of leaving Collinwood and providing him with a permanent home there is the last thing you’d want to do.
I never got the notion that Barnabas had altered the will. From the outset his only concern was seeing that it was returned. It’s hard to determine what he could have gained from doing so, since he hasn’t been at 1897 Collinwood long enough to get much knowledge of the people involved, enough so that he could weigh the pros and cons of shifting the balance of power there. He has gone to 1897 to find out why David has been possessed and to see what can be done for Chris Jennings–I don’t see how meddling with family inheritances of people he hardly even knows would come into play.
It’s surprising that Evan Hanley hasn’t seen the will before the others, since he is the family lawyer. Usually when someone prepares a will they would entrust it to a lawyer, who would then intervene when the time comes for it to be read and the estate legally divided.
That is the usual process, unless the person is a crazy old rich lady with a terrible secret to protect. You have to make allowances for people like that.
This is one of my top 5 favorite Dark Shadows episodes. The reading of the will sequence is flawless — densely written, perfectly acted and hilarious in total. It is drawing-room comedy at its best, and a Dark Shadows rarity: It is not spoiled by a missed moment or a bungled cue. It gives four of the series’ best character actors — Joan Bennett, David Selby, John Karlen and Louis Edmonds — exquisite character moments and dialogue. I have to confess: Joan is my favorite actress on the show, though all too often she fouls up her best scenes with a mangled line. Not here — here she is the mistress of Collinwood, triumphant and ready to grind her brothers under her heel. Bravo.
^ Agreed with everything above, Joe. One of the best episodes of the entire series, and one of Joan Bennett’s best performances. I love the way she gave Judith that barely suppressed glee.
A great script by Gordon Russell. Fabulous direction by Lela Swift. And all four siblings in the drawing room totally hit the mark. I also enjoyed the Tower Room scenes.
I wish DS had featured more episodes like this one. I know, the appeal to all of us is with the supernatural. But when it’s ALL MONSTERS ALL THE TIME, it loses something. Shocks are less shocking when they are so frequent.
In terms of the unusual nature of Judith being heir to the estate and fortune, don’t forget that the Collinses seem to do things differently. In 1795, Naomi held the deed to the Old House, which she gifted to Barnabas and Angelique.
Also, I don’t see any indication, in this episode at least, that Jamison will receive the fortune when he turns 21. It is merely stated that he is next in line after Judith. Obviously Edward and Judith are well over 21, and Edith maintained her control over the estate until she died. It did not pass to Edward or anyone else when they turned 21.
I don’t see any particular issue with Edith passing over her male grandchildren in favour of Judith. In the absence of a will, everything absolutely would have gone to Edward, because yes at that point women were barely a consideration (and even now that would be the likely arrangement since, regardless of gender, he’s the oldest).
But the estate is Edith’s, and a legal will trumped any kind of standard social convention. The people of Collinsport may have been shooketh to the core to hear that the house on the hill had gone to a woman, but it was Edith’s to do with as she liked, so everyone would just have to lump it. It’s not like a lawyer would interrupt the reading of a will to say “oh no, this won’t do at all”, and toss the whole thing out.
Besides, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest Barnabas had it altered. He expressed no interest in doing so when he’d worked out Quentin had stolen it – he just insisted that it be returned. There’s no scene where he instructs Sandor to change it. There’s no dialogue implying such an intention. And when finally revealed, the will doesn’t benefit him in the slightest, plot-wise.
The drawing room scene is so, so brilliant. Everyone gets good character stuff to do, the dialogue sings, and even the blocking is great – starting with Judith and Edward and Quentin managing to bicker while they all stare out front, and the way they and the camera all swirl around each other as various characters take prominence in the scene. I know Bennett was a good deal older than Judith was meant to be, but her performance – especially her triumphant little bounce as she closes the doors, and her smile as she trounces them all – really does make her seem like a much younger woman. She’s fantastic.
Joan Bennett was clearly having a ball. This is the first episode I can recall where she really looks like she’s enjoying herself.
This is easily my favorite episode of 1897 thus far and one of my favoriteepisodes of the series as a whole. That entire sequence in the drawing was just brilliant. As someone mentioned above, Joan Bennett was clearly enjoying herself as Judith in that sequence. Also, when you mentioned Eris, I was reminded of the character of the same name in the Cartoon Network series the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, which I used to watch when I was a kid and still periodically.
Had Edith died intestate in 1897, the estate would not have gone in its entirety to Edward. Primogeniture was abolished in the USA starting before the Revolution, and was long gone by the time Maine became a state in 1820. By that time, the default in all states was to divide the estate evenly among the surviving children. Married daughters would have been an exception in Maine until the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1844 and 1847, but even prior to those the passage of those laws an unmarried daughter such as Judith would have inherited on an equal footing with her brothers.
Danny, from the moment you mentioned Eris I wondered if you would make a Discordian reference. Thanks for not disappointing.
This episode was awesome! Judith is BAD ASS! She’s not taking anyone’s shit and I love it!
It was quite nefarious of Quentin to suggest that Edward kill Judith.
I thought Beth’s actress (I can’t recall her name now) was much better in this episode.
I thought Quentin was thisclose to asking Rachel to join him and Beth in a ménage a trois!
This same evening ABC aired Bewitched episode #165: “Samantha’s Power Failure” where Samantha, Tabitha, Uncle Arthur, and Serena all those their powers as the Witches’ Council had had it with Samantha’s mortal marriage. Now that Serena and Arthur are effectively mortals they get jobs at an ice cream factory and do a hilarious recreation of the I Love Lucy candy factory episode.
Joan Bennett is wonderful. She’s tiny against the male actors, but she’s in charge. It reminded me of “The Little Foxes”, though less vicious–at least until Quentin suggested Edward murder Judith. What are we to make of that? Is he serious? Is it a joke? Is he just stirring the pot? Are the writers trying to signal that he’s worse than a womanizing rogue, that there’s a cold-bloodedness about him? Not only could he kill a medium, but maybe also his own sister? I wonder how evil they had originally planned to make Quentin?
Quentin possessed and almost killed David, took over David and Amy’s life and drove the family from Collinwood. I think he was supposed to be pretty evil, but became so popular that they changed the entire story to keep him on. This wasn’t even a Barnabas origin story where we found out what happened and any differences between written history were explained by Joshua telling fibs about how it went down. This is actually changing history.
I’m watching the entire series for the first time (started over a year ago—one episode a night on DVD). And this is one of the best ones yet. Sparkling dialogue—especially the drawing room/will reading scenes. You can tell that Selby, Karlan, Edmonds, and especially Joan Bennet are having an absolute ball. Sinking their acting chops into something really substantial.