Episode 748: The Misunderstanding

“I’m not going to jail for anything I didn’t mean to do!”

Well, it’s all fun and games until you throttle someone to death, isn’t it?

Poor little rich boy Quentin Collins has been all wound up lately, because he learned that the wife he’d thought he discarded was still living in his house, jilted and angry and mad as a moonfly. So he did what any high-spirited guy would do, namely carry a garrote around in his pocket and tell absolutely everyone that he sees that he’s planning to murder Jenny the first chance he gets.

748 dark shadows quentin jenny chokes

So guess what? Jenny sees him kissing another woman and comes at him with a knife, and he disarms her and then chokes her to death. There’s definitely an element of self-defense in there somewhere, but it’s excessive use of force at best.

And considering how he’s been telling everybody that he wants to kill her, it’s not going to be easy to convince a jury that it was an accident. Luckily, law enforcement basically doesn’t exist on this show anymore, so it probably won’t come up.

748 dark shadows quentin hand

This is a delicate moment in the continuing story of how Dark Shadows gets the audience excited about this new character. We’ve spent months falling desperately in love with Quentin, and he just murdered a woman in front of our eyes.

Now, that’s not uncommon for this show — practically every character is guilty of at least attempted murder at one time or another. That’s just the cost of doing business. But this is a particularly brutal, non-supernatural, on camera choke-a-lady type murder, broadcast to an audience of children at four o’clock in the afternoon.

So they do something interesting here, to soften the blow: they turn Quentin into a child.

748 dark shadows quentin sneaking

He runs away. He sits and looks at his hands. He packs a bag and tries to sneak out of the house. And his defense is “I didn’t mean to do it,” which is the most childish possible response short of putting his fingers in his ears and hiding under the table.

He’s been joking about killing Jenny for a week, but he stops joking now. He’s a scared little boy, who’s never actually had to face the consequences of anything that he’s ever done.

I mean, let’s look at his record. He marries an entirely unsuitable girl, and doesn’t tell anybody about it until it’s already happened. He has multiple affairs, using the cottage as his bachelor pad. He runs off with his brother’s wife, on an all-expense-paid trip to Egypt. While he’s there, he betrays her to some kind of fire cult, and leaves her for dead. And then he comes back home, still smiling, and expects everybody else to deal with it.

And they do, other people just take care of everything. His wife gives birth to twins and then goes insane, so his brother and sister lock her away, give the kids to a woman in town, and tell everyone to keep quiet about it. By the time Quentin comes home, it’s all cleaned up. Jenny’s gone, and he doesn’t even know about the children.

He moves on to a new set of sins — choking his grandmother, stealing her will, practicing voodoo, sexually harassing the domestic staff, and wearing fake muttonchops. People snark at him and give him the hairy eyeball now and again, but he keeps smiling, and he gets away with everything. For all his swagger, he’s never had to actually deal with anything difficult.

748 dark shadows edward quentin beth

And the show continues to enable that behavior, by displacing all of the responsibility onto his brother. Edward looks over the crime scene, and instantly organizes a cover-up — destroying evidence, contaminating the crime scene, inventing alibis, and dictating a cover story that everybody has to learn.

Edward is taking on the adult role here, except obviously not the part about taking responsibility for your own actions and following the law. But he’s got a loud voice and acts paternal, which means Quentin gets to stay the confused little boy.

The cover story is tissue-thin — Jenny tripped and fell down the stairs, and then walked into Beth’s room and died. But Edward insists that they can make everyone believe this, because in his world there’s no such thing as an autopsy and police officers don’t have eyes.

Really, for all his grand speeches, Edward is just as irresponsible and selfish as Quentin is. He thinks he can tell the police anything he likes, and they’ll have no choice but to believe it, and protect the family from scandal. He’s the one who decided to take Jenny’s children away and lock her up in the first place, so he’s not big on facing consequences either.

748 dark shadows quentin magda curse

At this point, the only justice on the show is the justice of the playground — taunting and teasing and giving mean looks. Jenny’s sister instantly figures out that Quentin is responsible, because she’s intelligent enough to look at the crime scene and ask more than one question. But she has no interest in snitching to the police or the principal or whoever’s supposed to be in charge of recess. She has other ways of solving problems.

“I will set a curse on you, Quentin!” she says. “A curse that will last all the days of your life. You will suffer, as she suffered! You will wish that you are as dead as she is! But it will not be possble. It will not be possible!” And then she drops the mic and walks out.

But that doesn’t actually mean anything. Quentin is a rich kid, and nothing bad ever happens to him. According to the law of the schoolyard, sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you. Right? Somebody get him a stick and a stone, just in case.

Tomorrow: The Big Break.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Edward tells Quentin, “Barnabas is a member of this family; he has a sense of family pride! Even if he knew the truth, I’m confident that he would remain secret.”

When Magda says she’ll tell the police, Edward snaps, “I would think tice before saying that, if I were you.”

At the end of the show, when Beth runs out of the drawing room, you can see the camera and teleprompter in the foyer.

Tomorrow: The Big Break.

748 dark shadows beth camera

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 748: The Misunderstanding

  1. Quentin as a child is interesting when you contrast the character with Barnabas. Quentin’s emotional reaction to everything is very much like a child (a child with sex appeal, curiously enough, but there’s an argument that kids have a brief peak of confidence in themselves at 12 or so that puberty crushes for… well, ever). Quentin is frankly Peter Pan — Wendy and Tinkerbell all have a thing for him, while he battles mean old Captain Hook (often in the guise of his brother or later Count Petofi).

    Barnabas, I think, is like a sullen teenager, which might explain his popularity. He thinks he knows everything, but his plans are usually disastrous. He tends to go on at length about how no one loves him and how the world is unfair to him and fate is his enemy… so on and so forth. 1795 is hilarious when you stop and think that you have this 43-year-old man playing a character who is written in almost every way like an 18 year old. (It’s somewhat Shakespearean if you consider how often Romeo and Hamlet are played by middle-aged men.)

      1. But not Sandor.

        Thayer never played a childlike character, but more adult than most anyone, even when that character was less than bright.

        Love Thayer.

        1. Except maybe for Matthew Morgan. I don’t know how far along you are with the 1966 episodes, so I’ll avoid mentioning plot points, but the way he would place Mrs. Stoddard on a pedestal bordered on the naïve, if not immature, and he would go to whatever criminal lengths necessary to defend such blind idolatry. He also didn’t seem to possess the adult capacity for taking responsibility for his own actions, as he told a certain character at one point that “If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have to do this.” Matthew Morgan was the show’s original bad guy/villain.

  2. Maine law says that if someone can retreat safely they are not authorized to use deadly force unless they are inside their home. Case dismissed.

  3. Substitute the name Kennedy for Collins and you’ve got real life examples of grown up rich kids getting away with BAD behavior. A couple of generations of them, actually.

  4. How like Jeremiah Edward is when he takes charge of the murder situation, altering facts in the name of family honor. He only consults with Judith to extract a sum of money to get Quentin to leave.

    There’s an interesting thread running through the centuries regarding the elder gentlemen who reside at Collinwood–their power is increasingly diluted by the women in their midst. Even Joshua cannot succeed in disowning Barnabas, as the deed to the Old House is in Naomi’s name and she can do with it as she wishes. Edward doesn’t even have control of the house in which he lives, though he expected to, as it was he who was in line to inherit knowledge of the family “secret”. And Roger is completely at the mercy of Liz. As the centuries wear on, the Collins men get weaker and the Collins women stronger. Perhaps Dark Shadows was ahead of its time in that regard.

    As far as the character of Mad Jenny is concerned, I wonder how much of an influence Marie Wallace’s portrayal of Jenny had on Nancy Barrett’s later portrayal of Carolyn in parallel time 1995, or the other similarly off the rails character she plays in parallel time 1841. These portrayals have a lot in common with Mad Jenny–one moment they’re sweet, pleasant, and reflective, and the next the voice turns harsh and grinding as they launch into angry and bitter episodes of ranting.

    1. I think the change in status for Naomi was probably deliberate, as you say, to show that things were different in 1795. There was definitely a deliberate choice to show that servants were treated differently — several people put Vicki, Ben and Angelique in their place in the first couple weeks.

    2. “As the centuries wear on, the Collins men get weaker and the Collins women stronger.” I think the most powerful bilateral relationship in the 1960s timelines on Dark Shadows is that between a bossy big sister and her bratty little brother. That’s what Roger and Liz are, and it’s what Barnabas and Julia become.

      It’s too bad Barnabas didn’t have a bossy big sister in the 1795 storyline. Cavada Humphrey, who played Madame Findley in episodes 647-649, was a sensational actress and looked like she could have been Jonathan Frid’s sister. It would have been interesting to see her alternate between ordering him around and enabling his bad behavior, and hilarious to hear Grayson Hall as the Countess commenting disapprovingly on such conduct.

    1. Really! They should bury her somewhere in one if the numerous secret passages and tell everyone that she ran away years ago. Of course Magda knows better now and she won’t let it rest.

  5. Every once in a while Dark Shadows does something that really impresses me, and this episode was one of those things. Or perhaps I should say that the acting in this episode impressed me. I was completely drawn in, firstly by the way Quentin collapsed into a childish mess, and secondly by Grayson Hall’s turn as Magda.

    1. I’m on board with all those who found this a superior episode. It was dramatic in a way that few episodes on Dark Shadows ever are, thanks in great part to Grayson Hall and the actor who plays Edward. Sorry I can’t think of his name. And I’m hoping that one of the good after effects of Quentin’s crime is that he’ll let up on the sarcasm. That was really working my nerves.

  6. Damn, that was dark. Somehow, this was considered acceptable viewing for children in 1969. I mean, a man just strangled his wife onscreen. Dark Shadows was certainly ahead of its time in focusing on a morally flawed protagonist, long before the Sopranos popularized it.

  7. This is Quentin’s “Dr. Woodard” moment. You can’t dismiss it (it clearly wasn’t an accident and it wasn’t self-defense since he’d already disarmed her) or minimize it. In order to turn Quentin into a hero the writers have to be morally dishonest, as they were with Barnabas and Julia. Of course, it’s just a silly soap opera but still…

    1. Yes.
      Why did they do it?
      Why couldn’t it have been an accident? Jenny could have come at him with the knife at the top of the stairs, they struggled and she fell. Magda would still blame Quentin.
      I never understood why Julia had to be involved in Woodard’s death. Barnabas was a villain. It was totally in character for him. Julia might still feel guilty for not stopping Barnabas without being an active participant in Woodard’s death. Yes, it’s dramatic and puts Barnabas and Julia against each other, but it also changes Julia in the eyes of the viewers. Her choices may have been questionable, but she hadn’t gone over to the dark side. And after Adam it’s never mentioned again. There are no long-term consequences. There is no punishment. They get away with murder.
      Quentin doesn’t. Magda sees to it that he pays.
      Until he doesn’t.
      Quentin is a very popular character. I don’t recall any of my friends hating him for killing Jenny. (She did kill him first.)
      Did they make it murder so that Magda’s curse would seem more justified? Or were they still trying to connect Quentin, the lovable rogue, with evil blackguard ghost Quentin? The Quentin they’ve shown us so far was a scoundrel, but the ghost was at a different level. Do the writers, at this point, still have that image as their endgame?

  8. Beth’s face was cut during the fight with crazy Jenny. There’s blood all over her right cheek. Quentin and Roger keep stealing looks at her face once they’re all in the drawing room together. David Selby even gives a reaction, looking down and shaking his head as if he’s responsible for not controlling Marie Wallace better during the fight scene. They all had to carry on with the show. Terry Crawford’s near hysteria works for the episode.

  9. You know, Terry Crawford provide some of the best fear/screaming from any actress on the show. She deserves some props.

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