“Don’t you ever do that to me, or you’ll find yourself beyond the borderline of death!”
This is how Barnabas’ life is going these days — he walks into the cottage, and finds his ex-wife Angelique standing over Quentin, who’s out cold on the carpet. And Barnabas just sighs, and says, “Is he dead?” in the resigned tone that you use when the puppy’s peed on the rug again.
After all, this is the second time that Quentin’s died, just in the last two weeks. It’s like the Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow, except the aliens are sarcastic women and it all takes place in the same house.
Quentin isn’t dead, as it happens, but he isn’t feeling very well. Earlier in the episode, Angelique laid him out cold with a scream-and-fall-down spell of an indeterminate nature, and now she’s threatening to finish him off unless Barnabas agrees to go on a date with her. “It’s just that I care for you,” she sighs, “so very much, that I would kill anyone to have you.”
So this is what happens when the gods play marbles with the fates of mortals. This is Angelique’s idea of flirting, just killing Barnabas’ relatives one by one. Quentin’s life means nothing to this broad.
To be fair, Barnabas isn’t really sold on Quentin either. He doesn’t object to the guy dying per se, it’s just that he has to die in a specific location — sealed up in his bedroom, and left to starve. This is crucial for some time travel-related reason that I have to admit I can’t make heads or tails of. This is one of those Dark Shadows story points where you just kind of shut up and let them talk, and it usually works out one way or another.
Angelique goes into one of her sales pitches, because in her world, this is a romantic situation. “I’ll be sweet,” she says, “and tender, and gentle, if that’s the kind of woman you want your wife to be.” This offer will apparently take effect after the current hostage situation is resolved.
“I won’t force you to introduce me as your wife immediately,” she says. “For the moment, I’ll just be your fiancee… the woman you love.”
Barnabas croaks, “Will you let Quentin Collins rise?”
“Yes, of course I will,” says the she-devil, as if it’s an entirely straightforward transaction. This is not her first Romeo rodeo.
Then they do a little symposium on advanced time travel theory, which — like all discussions of time travel on Dark Shadows — is both head-poundingly illogical and completely different from everything else they’ve ever said on the subject.
Barnabas: The idea of a life with you…
Angelique: Is it so bad, that you would allow yourself to fail in everything you came here to do? Will you let young David Collins die? The possessor and the possessed are one, Barnabas, you know that! If one dies…
Barnabas: The other dies.
Angelique: Right now, David Collins is in his room, as close to death as Quentin is.
Except that he’s not, because David hasn’t been born yet, and the reason why he’s going to be dying in seventy-two years is because someday he’s going to have been possessed by the unresting spirit of the guy who recently was about to have died on the carpet, seventy-two years earlier, which is now.
This is a terminal case of meanwhiling, a dubious practice where they suggest that moment A in the past is happening at the same time as moment B in the present, no matter what that does to our basic understanding of what the phrase “at the same time” means.
The key to the scene is the phrase “you know that,” a sleight-of-hand misdirection that allows them to get away with saying something that makes exactly no sense. If the audience has a moment to think about “the possessor and the possessed are one”, then the idea just evaporates. But Barnabas instantly accepts it, and backs her up, and therefore it’s true. If one dies, the other dies, whatever that means.
But obviously I’m just splitting hairs here, because the temporal mechanics don’t matter. They sprint through that cockamamie word salad so that we can get to the real point, which is: Angelique is pretending to be engaged to Barnabas! And like the high school mean girl that she is, she wants to rush over to Collinwood and rub it in Rachel’s face.
Rachel and Barnabas have a budding romance going on, and it’s more convincing than most of Barnabas’ romances, so Angelique takes great delight in making Barnabas introduce her as his fiancee. He grimaces when he says the word, as if he’s not sure this is really happening, and then Rachel runs out of the house, and Angelique wins.
This is a perfect Angelique plot point, and an example of what the writers have learned from the zany mess of 1968. Back then, Angelique got into Collinwood by putting on a black wig, calling herself Cassandra and marrying Roger, which was fun for a minute but got old fast, because Cassandra was pretending that she didn’t know who Barnabas was or why he kept calling her Angelique. That meant that they couldn’t do what Barnabas and Angelique are best at, which is standing around and talking about their lunatic relationship.
The “Dream Curse” story was the worst offender, because that was Angelique trying to damage Barnabas at long range, with an endless chain of characters standing between them. The Dream Curse went on for months, and I don’t think Barnabas and Angelique even had a scene together for most of it. That is not what Angelique is designed for.
And now we can see what Angelique should have been doing all along, which is running a long-con blackmail hostage undercover impostor type scam, with comedy gypsies. I don’t know why it took them so long to figure that out, but I suppose nobody’s perfect.
This is also a nice example of why Dark Shadows has to be a soap opera, rather than a monster movie or a Charlotte Brontë adaptation. Blackmailing somebody into saying you’re engaged is a classic soap vixen storyline; I can think of at least three women who did that to Asa Buchanan on One Life to Live. In a feature film reboot, it would never occur to them to spend time on fluffy nonsense like this, but for daytime soap operas, this delicious plot point comes standard on all models.
But I suppose we’d better get back to Quentin, while we still have one. Angelique returns to the cottage, and she asks the boys and girls in the audience to clap their hands if they believe in Quentin, and we do. And here he is, vertical again, and good as new.
Quentin says that Laura Collins knocked him flat on the carpet, but Angelique chuckles and tells him the truth, because she’s a badass.
“I did it, Quentin,” she says, “but I was forced to do it, by my feelings for Barnabas Collins.” He asks what Barnabas has to do with it, and she answers, “A great deal. You see, Barnabas and I are engaged.”
Quentin’s reaction is also pure soap opera. He looks at her, stunned, and says, “But aren’t you a rather odd choice for cousin Barnabas’ bride-to-be?”
This is the woman who came from the fireplace, and she just admitted to his face that she tortured him and left him to die, just to score a point with her ex-boyfriend. And instead of screaming, or running away, or finding a stick to hit her with, he stands there and has a conversation about her love life.
Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique are basically perfect soap opera characters; they will say and do the most ridiculous things, as long as it moves the story forward. The natural selection process of five-days-a-week television production weeds out the weaker specimens — your Sams and Burkes and Harrys and Adams — slowly edging them off the canvas until you hardly even notice they’ve gone.
But Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique are the fittest, as in the survival of, because they can shake off an attempted murder, and jump right back into gossiping and scheming.
Angelique starts to walk out, but Quentin says, “Wait a minute,” and grabs her arm. She pulls away, and shoots him a furious glare. “Don’t you ever do that to me,” she growls, “or you’ll find yourself beyond the borderline of death!”
And Quentin hardly even notices, bless him. This is normal conversation for these two.
The discussion that follows is pure soap dynamite.
Quentin: I only wanted to ask you a small favor.
Angelique: Yes, what is it?
Quentin: I want you to get rid of Laura. It’s the last thing I’ll ask!
Angelique: Get rid of Laura? Surely someone of your talents —
Quentin: Kill her? Of course, if that was all there was to it.
Angelique: What do you mean?
Quentin: I’m not quite sure… but maybe you can tell me.
Angelique concentrates, just for a moment.
Angelique: Fire in Alexandria… No one could have survived that. Could she?
Quentin: I don’t think so.
Angelique: And yet she’s here, now?
Quentin: She’s here, she’s here. Now, please, Angelique — help me find the answer!
And she does! They fire up the theremin and she puts a hand to her temple, to indicate that she’s downloading backstory. That is what these people bring to the table.
This moment is Quentin’s initiation into Murder Club, the social network for serial killers who cover up for each other’s crimes. A few weeks ago, he probably would have been furious with Angelique, and vowed revenge against her. Now, he sees her as a colleague.
Quentin doesn’t want to fight with Angelique, because he recognizes that it’s way more fun to team up with her and fight somebody else. This is the point where Quentin’s desires are fully in synch with the audience’s desires. He doesn’t even want money or power or anything in particular. His only goal is to make me happy.
Barnabas, Quentin and Angelique — three monsters, joined in holy matrimony and holy cow. What could possibly go wrong?
Tomorrow: Pretty People are the Devil’s Playthings.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Rachel flubs a line when she’s telling Barnabas her story: “Then Reverend Trask would scream at me: Rachel Drummond, you are destroying that child’s soul with your overindulgence! If I must, I will destroy their souls, to sa– their bodies, to save their souls!”
A moment later, she asks, “Barnabas, do you think I have any trance — chance against the Trasks?”
Angelique hiccups when she and Barnabas leave the cottage together.
When Laura falls unconscious in her chair, a fly lands on her face, and then moves to her hair.
Tomorrow: Pretty People are the Devil’s Playthings.
— Danny Horn