“I’ve never seen anyone possessed quite like that.”
The Devil tells the truth, because he has nothing to lose. He’s not trying to protect your feelings, or your friendship. He doesn’t care. He sees you clearly, and he tells you what he sees.
Now, I’m not saying that everything the Devil says is true. He’s the Prince of Lies, after all, and misleading people is part of his job description. I’m just saying that the Devil is the only one who respects you enough to tell you the truth. Everybody else lies to you 24/7.
So here’s mad god Count Petofi — currently embodied as a young boy, for mythological reasons — and suddenly he’s doing battle with the Collins family’s hereditary mendacity.
“How eagerly you believe your own lies,” Petofi said, as he left Collinwood. “It will be fascinating to see which of you will be able to live, and face the truth… and which of you will die. Already, one by one, the lies are falling away.”
But he left Quentin with a special tribute. “You, at least, admit what you are,” he said. “Because you are closer to the truth than the others, I’m leaving you a very surprising, rather interesting present. You won’t like it at first. But you will thank me for it, in time.”
Mad gods say that kind of thing all the time. That’s why you shouldn’t invite them into your home, and then annoy them. Well, it’s one of the reasons.
Now Petofi’s using a fiendish weapon to spread his madness — the kiss of a young child. He’s infected young Jamison’s operating system, installing a malicious Trojan horse inside Collinwood that spreads his crackpot idea of justice by kissing each resident on the cheek.
To get close enough to plant the poison kiss, the Petofi-infused boy pretends that he’s still Jamison for a moment, presenting a picture of the frightened child who needs comfort. This gets him within smooching range — and as soon as he hits the target, he returns to supervillain mode, smiling archly as the madness takes hold. This is a chilling bit of scenecraft that they can do as many times as they like. I can’t get enough of it.
Naturally, like all the best Dark Shadows plot points, this is one hundred percent baffling horseradish, but we go along with it, because the results are surprising and entertaining. Petofi kisses his first customer, and Quentin comes home to find an elder brother who suddenly believes that he’s Edward, Lord Hampshire’s valet.
Quentin sits Edward down, and has the first of what is bound to be an endless number of headache-inducing conversations. It looks like Quentin is going to end up as the only rational member of the Collins family, which was not a role he ever expected to fill.
Quentin: Edward, when I told you there was something wrong with Jamison, you wouldn’t listen to me. But now you must!
Edward: I’m listening, sir.
Quentin: Oh, for heaven’s sakes, don’t call me sir!
Edward: Oh, but I must call you sir. If anything, I know my place, sir.
Quentin: But — this is your place! Look, you are Edward Collins. You live here, this is your home. Now, you tell me who you are.
Edward: I am Edward Collins.
Quentin sighs with relief.
Edward: The Earl of Hampshire’s gentleman, Edward!
And then he gets up and moves to the drinks cabinet.
Quentin asks, “What are you doing?” and Edward responds with a happy and utterly subservient smile. “Oh, it is the mark of a well-trained gentleman’s gentleman to anticipate his master’s wish!”
Suddenly, Count Petofi is in the room with them. “He is a gem, isn’t he?” the young man beams. This is what Quentin’s life is like now.
Quentin storms over to the pint-sized Petofi, and snaps, “Why are you doing this to us?”
Jamison gives his uncle an appreciative once-over. “My first instincts about you were right, weren’t they?” he declares. “Yes, you are that man — that rare man, who faces the truth! You don’t try to pretend that I’m Jamison gone mad — because you, of course, know better.”
And now that becomes the official position of the show — that Quentin is special, the man who understands the kind of story that he’s in. Of course, Quentin’s always been special, as of the first day he dropped the stoic ghost persona and really let loose. But he used to be the trickster rogue, lying and stealing and manipulating his way towards what he hoped would be a relaxing and prosperous ruin.
But now that’s changed. Now Quentin has learned that Jenny had two children, a son and a daughter, and that his son has died, another victim of the werewolf curse. Everyone was keeping that information from him — to protect him, maybe, or the children, or the family name, or just to protect the tolerable status quo. Learning about it, and accepting it, has done something very dangerous to Quentin. It’s made him grow up.
So here he is, the young rebel — not tamed, but burdened. He may be growing up, but that just makes him realize that he lives in a world of children.
For example: With Charity’s help, Quentin bundles Edward upstairs and locks him in the tower room, just because what the hell else can he do. Once the door’s shut, Quentin tries to explain what’s happening.
Quentin: We’re all going to be exposed for what we really are, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Charity: Yes, there is! We can pray!
Quentin: (laughing) Pray, huh?
Charity: Now you’re laughing at me. That isn’t worthy of the real Quentin Collins. Very few people know him… but I do.
Charity: Yes. I know what you’re really like, Quentin. Sometimes I even know what you’re going to say before you say it.
Quentin: What am I going to say?
Charity: You’re going to say: Charity, let’s go back to the drawing room and have a brandy.
Quentin: Sorry. You’re wrong. I’m going to say thank you, Miss Trask, and good night. I have to go somewhere, right now.
Charity: Where? Who are you going to see?
Quentin: That doesn’t concern you.
Charity: Yes, it does! Anyhow, I know. You’re going into town to see some slut! And I even know why. It’s because I am too much of a lady. Too much of a lady for Quentin Collins!
And then she slaps him across the face, and walks away.
She’s delusional, of course. She knows two Quentins — the romantic Quentin of her fantasies, and the degraded Quentin of her fears — but she doesn’t know the real Quentin, and she doesn’t know herself. Young Petofi takes care of that, with a kiss on the cheek.
And Charity finds what is apparently the essential truth of her life — that really she longs to be free, to sing and dance and drink and have some goddamn fun for once. She accomplishes this in an incredibly unlikely way, namely: taking on the persona of Carl’s insane Cockney showgirl fiancee, who made a brief appearance a couple months ago and then got herself murdered by a vampire.
Pansy and Charity never met, so it’s quite odd to say that this is what Charity really wants to be. It is also amazing, for many reasons which I’m not going to get into right now. We will speak more of Pansy in the coming days.
But there’s one more member of the family we have to attend to today — cousin Barnabas, vampire, time traveler, and formerly the undisputed main character of Dark Shadows. Quentin invites Petofi Jr up to his room, and Barnabas is there, trying to get a handle on the situation.
At first, he speaks to the boy as if he’s Jamison, but Petofi won’t play along. “Oh, Mr. Collins,” the boy sighs, “aren’t you taking a great risk being here now? Even though you have talents of appearing and disappearing at will.”
“I had to be here, didn’t I?” Barnabas sighs. “To meet you, Count Petofi.”
The boy lights up like Christmas. “Another realist!” he beams. “Oh, that does please me.”
Then they get into an argument, of course, about who owns the Hand, and who runs Jamison’s body, and things get a bit bogged down, but the point is: Petofi doesn’t kiss Barnabas. There is no hard truth that Barnabas doesn’t already know.
So Barnabas and Quentin get to stay as they are, while everyone else is destined for recasting. That is actually how the show works from now on — there’s Barnabas, Quentin, Julia and Angelique, and everyone else can come and go and play whatever character is available. There’s even a new Roger Davis character downstairs in the drawing room right now.
But Quentin and Barnabas are special, and we know that, because the serpent speaks the truth. Count Petofi is the master puppeteer now, concocting crises and revolutions on a scene-by-scene basis, but even the puppeteer needs to recognize who are the puppets, and who is the audience. He’s putting on this little show for the “realists”, the people who understand how Dark Shadows works. That means Quentin, and Barnabas, and us.
Now, on with the show! You’ll love it, I know.
Tomorrow: It’s in His Kiss.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Jamison, Quentin and Edward are talking in the drawing room, somebody’s shadow can be seen passing by the foyer mirror.
Tate tells Jamison, “I came the minute Aristede came for me.” Except he pronounces it “Aristeedy”.
In Quentin’s room, we see Barnabas’ reflection in the mirror. Tomorrow, Barnabas tells Evan, “But I cannot look at myself in the mirror, remember that!” They do this kind of flip-flopping on vampire reflections all the time.
Quentin tells Barnabas, “It’s difficult to think of him as a child.” Barnabas’ reply: “We must not lose sight of the fact that — that the mind, is possessed by — by Count Petofi. We must find a way to get that captive mind, and return the body to its rightful owner.”
On the phone, Charity says, “I must reach the Rushmore Sanitarium immediately. It’s an emore — emergency!”
I can’t do it justice in screenshots and text, but Jamison’s line “He is a gem, isn’t he?” is one of the (intentionally) funniest moments of the entire series.
Tomorrow: It’s in His Kiss.
— Danny Horn