Episode 747: Die Laughing

“And Barnabas will grab her, and carry her off to a triumphant life behind a locked door!”

Rascal-in-chief Quentin Collins has spent the better part of a week hunting for his lunatic soon-to-be ex-wife Jenny, vowing to kill her before she kills him. But it hasn’t happened yet, and he’s starting to get bored, so he settles in for a quiet evening of drinking sherry, propositioning the domestics, and not giving a shit.

747 dark shadows jenny hide and seek

This comes as something of a relief, because this storyline has been going in circles for a while. Jenny’s locked in the tower, and she escapes, then she’s locked in the basement, and she escapes, then she’s locked in Josette’s room, and she escapes, and she’s currently playing hide and seek in the upstairs hall.

I mean, at a certain point, you need to decide where you’re going to store your lunatic. Moving her around from place to place is tedious, and unsettling for the lunatic.

747 dark shadows quentin beth sherry

Barnabas and Judith are currently searching the mansion, calling Jenny’s name. You’d expect that Quentin would be searching too, but he hasn’t even heard about it. This is one of those times where you have to remind yourself that Collinwood is an enormous mansion, because today all we see is the drawing room and that hallway.

Quentin’s helping himself to the first in a series of sherry shots when his maid/girlfriend Beth enters the room.

Quentin:  Hey, now, don’t look at me so serious.

Beth:  There’s a reason.

Quentin:  I don’t want to hear it. I’ve had enough seriousness for one night. Now, let’s drink some good wine, play some soft music, and forget, hmm?

Beth:  Quentin — Jenny’s in this house!

Quentin:  Well! So Judith succeeded where I failed. Chalk one up for her, she scores again! Have you all put her in some new place? You must be running out of hiding places for my wife.

This is what he does today, stand around and make sarcastic remarks about the storyline. He’s basically doing one of my blog posts for me, live on the scene.

747 dark shadows beth quentin minds

This is an amazing trick that’s become Quentin’s specialty — the ability to shift gears mid-story, if it makes the show better.

Beth:  Judith didn’t bring her back. She escaped.

Quentin:  Oh? That’s happening with frightening regularity.

Beth:  Quentin, be serious. You have to be! She’s after you!

Quentin:  Two minds with but a single thought, Jenny and me. When I’m not after her, she’s after me. Now, why don’t you all simply let us meet?

Beth:  Because we know what would happen.

Quentin:  Yes, you do. You should have let me kill her.

He raises an eyebrow, and punctuates the line by pointing at her with the glass of sherry in his hand. This is flirting for him; “you should have let me kill her” is a Quentin Collins pickup line.

747 dark shadows quentin beth practical

But she insists that he needs to leave the house, and he follows her around the room, giving cute speeches.

Quentin:  You know, you aren’t ideal for me. You’re too practical. You don’t seem to realize that I demand a woman who has no other interests but mine. Having come from a divided family, I want complete attention.

Beth:  What is wrong with you? She’s insane, Quentin! She’ll try to kill you.

Quentin:  All right! Then give me the pistol I gave you tonight!

Beth:  No!

Quentin:  All right, I’ll get another one.

And then he heads for the door, on his way to the family arsenal.

But she grabs his arm, pleading with him to be sensible. “If you won’t do it for your own sake, please do it for me. Let me handle this. Please?”

747 dark shadows beth quentin turn

And then he does this lovely little turn. We get a close-up, while he cycles through frustrated, willful and confused. Then he takes half a second to think, looks at her, and smiles.

He takes her hand. “All right,” he says. “Is there any particular place you want me to go?”

It’s fantastic, just a perfect moment. This is key to maintaining the audience’s affection for Quentin. If you want your new main character to walk around with a murder weapon in each pocket, then you have to give him a moment to relax once in a while, to be sensible, to connect him to someone who cares about him.

There’s three steps to getting your audience to like a character: make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen. Quentin is doing all three right now; it’s an irresistible combination.

And the “plot point” step explains why we don’t really care that he’s trying to murder the mentally unstable. Quentin with a murder weapon is exciting; it’s a promise of imminent story advancement. He’s actually still got the garrote that he had yesterday in his pocket; he’ll take it out and play with it in a few minutes. He can do all of these things simultaneously.

Since they introduced Quentin a couple months ago, I’ve been tracking how he manages to rise up so quickly to the top tier of characters, joining Barnabas, Julia and Angelique. But he’s actually becoming a richer and deeper character than the other three. All of a sudden, they have to hurry and catch up to him.

747 dark shadows quentin judith barnabas

Then Barnabas and Judith come in, a pair of wet blankets trying to spoil everybody’s fun. Quentin was having a sincere moment with Beth, but seeing one of his elder siblings always engages his sarcasm subroutine.

Quentin:  I was just leaving. But I’m glad I have the opportunity of congratulating you, Judith — and you too, cousin Barnabas!

Barnabas:  On what, may I ask?

Quentin:  Well, for the way both of you handled this situation — Mad Jenny is free again. You know, if I were ever a prisoner, I’d want you both as jailers. Good evening, all.

Oh, it’s lovely. He can murder anyone he likes.

747 dark shadows quentin judith barnabas sherry

But Barnabas and Judith have a stupid plan — this is Dark Shadows, somebody always has a stupid plan — which they patiently explain, as Quentin pours himself another glass of sherry.

Barnabas:  If she knows where you are, she will come to you.

Quentin:  With a knife in each hand! No thank you.

Barnabas:  Quentin, please, at least listen to our plan.

Quentin:  (smirks) You mean where I’m going to stand.

Then he struts around the room, declaiming. “Now, let’s see,” he says. “Did you choose the middle of the foyer? Am I to be talking loudly — shouting, perhaps! Begging Jenny to come back to me, while you lurk behind some door.”

He whirls around to face Barnabas. “Cousin — you’re making this into a comedy.”

747 dark shadows quentin barnabas foolproof

And he’s right; they’re playing this as a comedy, and it’s exactly the right tone. Barnabas is pretending to be an expert in the art of securing madwomen, which is incredibly silly, and Quentin is actively lampshading — pointing out a flaw in the story, in order to hang a lampshade on it and signal to the audience that it’s okay to forget about it.

Barnabas:  Now, you and I will be in the drawing room.

Quentin:  (sipping his sherry) More comfortable, certainly.

Barnabas:  You will be playing your gramophone.

Judith:  She will hear the music, and come here.

Quentin:  Well, then you don’t need me, do you, sister? Poor Jenny will be trapped by her memories!

Judith:  No! The doors will be open. She will see you, and come in.

Quentin:  And Barnabas will grab her, and carry her off to a triumphant life behind a locked door!

He’s right, of course; this scenario is pure Wile E. Coyote. Everybody keeps barking at Quentin to be serious, and this is what they come up with.

This is what Dark Shadows is — a cocktail of soap opera, melodrama, wit and Warner Brothers cartoon. We know that Quentin is making fun of everybody because he’s scared; deep down, he really is taking this seriously. But he also recognizes the absurdity, just like we do. He’s on our side.

Barnabas gives Quentin a grave look, and says, “I’ll be hiding behind the draperies.” And we laugh, and we sigh, and we don’t touch that dial.

Tomorrow: The Misunderstanding.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas tells Quentin the plan: “You will be playing your gramophone. It seems that one of the melodies — which you play, is — is very much to her liking.”

Jenny keeps moving around in act 2 in ways that don’t make sense, and don’t add up to anything. First, she’s upstairs in a corridor, hiding from Beth. Then, while Quentin, Barnabas and Judith are talking in the drawing room, she’s outside in the foyer listening. At this point, she knows where Quentin is, because she’s hearing him speak. A few moments later, Judith leaves the drawing room, and Jenny isn’t in the foyer anymore. Once they start playing the gramophone in the drawing room, we see her upstairs in the corridor again, murmuring “Quentin… Quentin…” as she moves towards the drawing room — except she already knows that he’s there.

After half an hour of playing the record, Jenny never actually gets to the drawing room. When they turn off the music, Judith and Beth rush downstairs, and they don’t see Jenny on the way. Where has she been? The only explanation I can think of is that she has a faulty Portal gun.

Tomorrow: The Misunderstanding.

747 dark shadows barnabas quentin coyote

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

10 thoughts on “Episode 747: Die Laughing

  1. Quentin is just too much of a charmer to do anything that would make him really appear despicable..yet put Barnabas in his place and all bets are off. I just watched the episode where Barnabas and Julia killed Dr Woodard and I thought they became iredeemable at that point, no matter how much they tried to rehabilitate the characters later, the night the windex filled syringe went into Woodards heart the moral consciousness of Julia and Barnabas was destroyed as well, never to return in any genuinely believable way.

    1. Yeah, I think basically everyone on the show is morally dubious. Even Liz and David are guilty of attempted murder, and Vicki shot a guy. The thing that’s interesting for me is that we know these are terrible, selfish people, and yet we like them and root for them anyway. It turns out those are totally separate questions.

      1. Watching back at the beginning, the first of David’s two patricide attempts….was quite understandable…..Roger was quite the asshole then, not somebody to even root for.

        But I could easily root for “the little monster”.

        It is a wonder that Roger evolved into a nice guy.

        When we get to 1970PT, he gets to play a delightful asshole, and be ever so much fun…….

      2. Yes, arguably, the only truly good character on the show was Bill Malloy, and he got killed–for being a truly good character. But he was kind of a bore after all, always proclaiming endlessly about doing right by people and so on.

        You know, Danny, in light of this, there’s actually a fourth–unspoken–step in getting the audience to like a character, and this fits especially and exclusively for Dark Shadows: make a joke, make a friend, make a plot point happen, and try to kill someone or at least cover up for someone else who has.

  2. Love your advice on “How to Sequester Your Lunatic.” It reminds me of that old joke about teaching a pig to sing.

  3. I’ve only just noticed that Barnabas pronounces ‘foyer’ like a proper English gent (foy-ay). It’s a nice touch. Not quite as good as, say, consistently maintaining an English accent, but still – nice.

    1. The accents are interesting. In the early episodes, there are several actors in the cast who really sound like New Englanders, if not exactly like they’re from central Maine. But none of them lasts very long. The cast member with the most convincing Down East voice and manner, George Mitchell (Matthew Morgan #1,) was quickly replaced with Thayer David, who was in fact from Massachusetts, but sounded more like a Southerner. Frank Schofield (Bill Malloy) and a little later John Lasell (Dr Guthrie) both get killed off in fairly short order.

      By the time Barnabas is introduced, the idea that an accent should suggest the show’s setting or a character’s place of origin has been lost. Jason McGuire’s music hall Oyrish brogue and early Willie’s Southern drawl are just part of the sound design. They have a variety of accents the same way they have a variety of instruments in the incidental music. Mid-Atlantic accents like those of Joan Bennett, Louis Edmonds, and Jonathan Frid were always supposed to be placeless. None of the French characters in 1795 even attempts a French accent. And when we come to 1897, no one bats an eye at the fact that Quentin, a ranking member of one of the oldest and loftiest families in Maine, speaks with the voice of a man from West Virginia.

  4. I know they like to say Collinwood is an enormous mansion, but the thing is… it’s not. It has 40 rooms, which SOUNDS like a lot, but I live in a house with four bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a den, a kitchen and a TV room–in other words, nine rooms, plus bathrooms. My house is a standard ranch with a finished basement, so it’s not big. And Collinwood has only four times as many rooms–it’s four of my house, stacked or sitting next to each other. If they REALLY wanted us to see Collinwood as massive, they should have chosen a much higher number than 40, because I can look for missing items in all nine rooms of my house in about a minute. That means looking for someone in the entire Collinwood should take four or five minutes, tops. They didn’t think that through.

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