Episode 745: Rendezvous at the OK Corral

“What I was is not what I am. What I am is what I will be.”

So let’s say you have an entirely crazy person on your hands, and you need to keep her in your home for an unspecified amount of time. This is a common concern for modern homeowners. According to the experts, you should keep her in a warm room with indirect light, check the top of the soil before watering, and fertilize once a month in the spring and summer. No, wait, that’s ficus trees.

Well, here’s what vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins does, once he’s taken it upon himself to immure Quentin’s crazy wife for the foreseeable. He stashes her in an upstairs bedroom, locks the door from the outside, and then goes down to the basement to sleep in a coffin, leaving a note for the comedy gypsies who serve as his unwilling housekeepers.

I’m not saying that’s the appropriate way to handle it, I’m just telling you what Barnabas does.

744 dark shadows quentin revolver

Oh, and he leaves the front door unlocked, because after all this time he still struggles with basic security protocol. So Quentin walks right in, and he brings his loaded revolver with him. Quentin is in a murderous mood today, because he’s been hunting for Jenny all night and he hasn’t had a wink of sleep.

In the drawing room, Quentin finds the note that Barnabas left for Magda, which says exactly where Jenny is hidden. For Quentin’s purposes, it’s basically a treasure map with a red X on Josette’s room.

I don’t know if he means it this way, but Barnabas makes life awfully easy for trespassing lunatics. He might as well leave a bowl of bullets next to the stairs, so uninvited guests can help themselves.

745 dark shadows quentin beth gun

Quentin’s just about to open the door and exercise his Second Amendment rights, when he’s interrupted by his girlfriend Beth, who walks in the door and marches straight upstairs to Josette’s room. I guess she got a note too.

So they go downstairs together, to have a heated discussion at gunpoint. Now, I know I keep saying this, but actors, please: try to pay attention to where you’re pointing your loaded revolver. The correct answer is anywhere but your scene partner’s breadbasket.

“I’m doing it for you,” says Quentin, keeping her covered in case she starts something. “I swear I am, Beth! You know how I feel about you.”

Then she says please give me the gun, and he says no, get your own gun, and it looks like pretty soon the Republicans will be talking about absent fathers and mental health care again.

745 dark shadows quentin beth proposal

Beth points out that if she leaves, she’ll be an accomplice to murder. Quentin’s badass rejoinder: “You’ll forget that — when we’re married.” He waggles a couple of eyebrows. “I haven’t mentioned marriage before, have I?”

She turns around and walks into the drawing room, and he follows, grinning and still aiming straight at the abdomen. This is an opportune time for this conversation, in Quentin’s universe.

You know, it’s always hard to decide whether you should propose marriage before you murder your previous wife, or after. The etiquette books are undecided on this point.

745 dark shadows beth quentin lips

Beth is still complaining about whatever, so Quentin gets frustrated and starts absently waving the gun around. At one point, he reaches up to scratch his lip with his gun hand. Honestly, actors, every goddamn time. One of these days, Stanislavski is going to get hit with a class action suit that’ll make his head spin, if it’s still attached.

745 dark shadows quentin annoyed

Beth moans, “Oh, Quentin. If you honestly want to marry me –”

He whirls around, still brandishing, and says, “I’m not so sure I do, if this is how you’re going to act!”

Which is wonderful. Quentin is seriously just a little boy playing dress-up, isn’t he? This is a major priority for him, that his wife doesn’t get in the way of his crime sprees.

But I have to admit, Beth is being kind of a wet blanket about this. He says, “Beth, she tried to kill me!” and Beth cries, “Once, yes!” as if everybody’s allowed one practice swing.

Jenny’s still upstairs, by the way, locked up in Josette’s room. She’s been up all night, and nobody’s even thrown her a granola bar or anything. What kind of bed and breakfast is this, anyway?

745 dark shadows magda sandor locket

Magda and Sandor finally come home, and chase Quentin and Beth out of the house. They don’t realize that Crazy Jenny is hidden upstairs, so this situation is obviously a setup for the gypsies to do a little ethnic comedy sequence, where they hear noises and they think it’s ghosts or something.

But this is Dark Shadows, which means the obvious is the one thing that they shouldn’t do. Today, they live up to that promise.

Before Barnabas locked Jenny upstairs, she showed him her locket. She ended up leaving the trinket behind, and now Magda finds it in the drawing room. She recognizes it, and gets all worked up, asking Sandor what he thinks it means.

“There’s no sense asking me questions I can’t answer,” he says. “Now, get my breakfast for me.”

She clutches Jenny’s locket, and frowns. “You don’t fool me. You can yell as loud as you want to for your food, but you care about this like I do.”

“Magda,” he says, “she is far, far away… and she is better off for it.”

“No, this is a sign,” Magda says, as the audience struggles to keep up. What the hell are they talking about?

745 dark shadows magda jenny door

But the gypsies do finally hear noises upstairs, and they rush to Josette’s room. I think I’m going to shut up for a minute, and let them talk.

Magda:  Oh, Jenny!

Jenny:  How dare you come in here! I told you never to speak to me again!

Magda:  Oh, we were so worried about you, after you disappeared from Collinwood —

Jenny:  Get out! Quentin is coming. You must not see him!

Sandor:  Quentin is at Collinwood.

Jenny:  Why? Why did he go there? Did you tell him? I told you yesterday I would KILL you both if you told him!

Magda:  Yesterday?

Sandor:  That was — years ago.

745 dark shadows jenny collins

Jenny:  No! No, it was not! You’re trying to confuse me! It wasn’t! Where…

Sandor:  Magda…

Jenny:  Quentin and I are married. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be a Collins? I am a Collins! Quentin loves ME!

Magda:  Quentin… look at what he has done to you.

Jenny:  Don’t you DARE talk to me like that! Don’t you say anything about Quentin — you gypsy!

Magda narrows her eyes.

Magda:  You are a gypsy, too.

745 dark shadows magda gypsy

And then there’s that little dun! dun! music cue that they play when somebody’s just said something important. Man, I love that sound.

Jenny:  What I was is not what I am. What I am is what I will be.

Magda:  Jenny, Jenny!

Sandor:  It won’t do no good!

745 dark shadows magda jenny haunted

Jenny:  Oh, why did you ever come here? When I woke up this morning, I looked out my window, and there was your caravan! Go back where you came from!

Magda:  Jenny, don’t you remember anything since then?

Jenny:  My husband Quentin… where is he? He loves me so much! He won’t let anybody see me! No! He locked me up here in this room, you know!

745 dark shadows jenny confused

Jenny:  No — no, he didn’t, that wasn’t Quentin. Quentin loves me! He does lock me in the room, but that’s because he doesn’t want anyone to see me! No! He’s very jealous! Nobody must see me, because he’s too jealous!

745 dark shadows magda cry

Magda cries, “God… She has the devil in her! Go, get the cross! Get the cross!”

745 dark shadows magda jenny sister

Sandor runs off, and Magda approaches the mad woman, who’s wandering off in a daze.

“Oh, Jenny,” Magda whispers. “Jenny… sister…”

745 dark shadows jenny penny

Struck, Jenny turns around, pain everywhere, and she gasps. “Oh, sister…”

745 dark shadows magda jenny cry

Then she collapses into Magda’s arms. “I should never have done it,” she sobs. “I loved him… I thought — if I couldn’t have him…”

So there you go, one of the all-time great surprise twists of the show. This is completely ridiculous and comes out of nowhere, but emotionally, it’s exactly on target — thanks to Grayson Hall, the only actress who could sell this moment.

All along, her performance as Magda has been studded with moments of real feeling — flashes of concern, and pity, and fury, and remorse. She has earned this. The comedy gypsy turns out to be the beating heart of this story.

And this is why Dark Shadows can never be remade, why it’s ridiculous to even try. Imagine if the 1991 revival had attempted this moment, with Barbara Steele all blacked up as Magda. It just wouldn’t happen.

Because in 1967, they didn’t say, hmm, we need an actress who’s going to play an ice queen blood specialist for two years, and then a wacky gypsy who’s secretly related to Quentin’s wife.

I’ve got it! they didn’t say. Let’s cast Grayson Hall!

It’s not just that they weren’t planning ahead, although obviously they weren’t. It’s that the arrow points in the other direction. They were foolish enough, and fortunate enough, to hire this insane, intense, complicated woman, and then events just unfolded.

Dark Shadows is a story that can only be told once. That isn’t a problem, or a disadvantage, because we already have the best possible version.

Oh, and then Jenny hits Magda over the head with something heavy — Pa-TWANG! — and we’re off to the races.

Monday: The Love Lives of Unhappy People.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Magda finds Beth in the Old House drawing room, a music cue begins, and then suddenly cuts off. Five seconds later, it continues.

Sandor is late delivering one of his lines, and Magda jumps ahead. She hands him the locket and says, “It was here!” and then Sandor just stands there for seven seconds, looking at it. Magda says, “It was, it was here, Sandor! What does it mean?” Halfway through her line, Sandor finally delivers his: “Impossible.”

When Jenny is talking to Magda, she gets up and says, “Run away?” Then she takes a step forward and stumbles against the bedpost.

When Magda falls to the carpet, she grabs onto her wig to make sure it doesn’t fall off.

Monday: The Love Lives of Unhappy People.

745 dark shadows magda jenny heavy

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

15 thoughts on “Episode 745: Rendezvous at the OK Corral

  1. You know who was able to successfully recreate Dark Shadows? Joss Whedon with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. Angel’s character is so influenced by Barnabas Collins, and in the second season of Buffy, they had gypsy’s and curses and werewolves, and It worked.

  2. Watching Quentin read that note and go lurking about with his pistol, and skulking up the stairs with a sneer, I couldn’t help but wonder if his eventual curse just reveals something that was already there.
    It seems he’s already the Big Bad Wolf, but able to disguise it. Maybe the full moon just shows him as he really is, stripping away all the pretense of not being a monster.

  3. If DS was set down South, Jenny would never have been locked away in the attic – she’d have been kept on full display in the parlor. We Southerners do love our crazy relatives. You just have to keep the knife drawer locked.
    I completely agree about Grayson being the heart of Dark shadows. We should all thank the Maker that we were blessed with her inimitable performance as Julia Hoffman. There is no one who can compare to Grayson – then or now.

      1. Yes, the harpoon was fun.

        Speaking of attempted murder weapons, I can’t wait to hear what Danny will have to say on that most practical and handy of everyday household attempted murder weapons, the pendulum, as administered by sartorial sociopath, our good friend and trusted servant, Aristede.
        Sorry for getting ahead, but the pendulum is one of my favorite attempted murder weapons. I especially appreciate its practicality.

  4. I found another blooper, sort of. After Jenny whacks Magda on the head, she runs out of Josette’s room and heads presumably downstairs while the camera stays on Magda.. Except, we know the bedroom set was really on the same level as all the other sets. So when the camera cuts to the foyer, you can see Marie Wallace running from the living room set to her mark at the bottom of the stairs to make it appear that she just “walked down the stairs”..

  5. Close in, Jenny looks perfectly okay with her hair brushed and her little curls; so why is it that in the long shots she looks like a man in drag? Specifically, she looks like Kevin Kline’s Artemis Gordon dolled up in that wretched ‘Wild Wild West’ retread.

  6. Well this is just nonsense. Everybody knows that Magda’s sisters are Zsa Zsa and Eva.

    Poor Terry Crawford is caught in an episode with a bunch of people who can really act and the contrast is not pretty. No wonder she spent the rest of her career playing Nurse # 2.

  7. Marie Wallace’s frenetic and oddly moving performance in this episode is something I never forgot. But watching it again now, years later, I’m realising that Beth’s acting also seems better; less wooden, more emotional, but without overdoing it.

  8. I definitely remember this episode, even over 50 years later.
    What?! I wasn’t sure how it could be true–half-sisters? stepsisters?–but I believed it.
    Grayson and Marie are wonderful here.
    Meanwhile, Quentin is a beast.

  9. I love it when one character has to physically hit another character on this show. The camera is always moved to a view of the attacker so you can’t see that there is nobody there to hit because they’ve stepped to the side or already laid down. In this episode, Jenny clearly attacks empty air with the book and follows through with the swing. But wait, in the next shot, Magda is still standing! The hit hasn’t even landed yet! Gotta love it. I really really do love it. Where’s the afghan and lamp? 😊

  10. Marie Wallace deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the big scene with Magda as well — for once Grayson Hall seems to be content to let someone else be the most attention-grabbing person on the screen, while she works on finding the heart in the madness.

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