“She called your name, and then she became unconscious again.”
One nice thing about being a soap opera character — and overall the benefits are not numerous — is that every once in a while the writers need you to figure something out in a hurry, so they hand the entire solution to you on a platter, whether it makes sense or not.
For example: the Dark Shadows writers have decided that straight-laced Charity Trask needs to know that Quentin, her prospective fiancé, is a werewolf who murders people on the regular. So they’ve arranged an educational tableau for her to discover, on her morning walk through the woods.
Lying on the turf is the unconscious Quentin, with his shirt all ripped up and decorated with blood spatters. A couple feet away, there’s a young woman who we haven’t seen before and aren’t likely to see again, because she’s sporting the telltale fang and claw marks of a werewolf victim.
Feebly, the girl mutters Quentin’s name, and Charity finds the crucial piece of evidence in his hand — he’s clutching a piece of taffeta, torn from the young lady’s dress. There isn’t a sign that says WEREWOLF with an arrow pointing to Quentin, but Charity’s a bright girl. She can put two and two together, especially if one of the two is currently bleeding out on the green burlap that everybody’s agreed to pretend is the ground.
So I’d like to take a moment to come to grips with this scenario.
Here’s what we know: Quentin turns into a wolf creature at dusk, and back into a man at dawn. Tessie — her name is Tessie, by the way — knows that the creature who attacked her is actually Quentin, which means that she was around for at least one stage of the transformation. And when Quentin changed back to human form, he was clutching the fabric, and he fell to the dirt a few steps away from Tessie.
Scenario A is that Tessie was with Quentin at dusk when he changed into a wolf, although why he would be arranging late afternoon play dates in the woods on the night of the full moon is beyond me. Then he turns into a wolf and brutally almost-murders her, leaving her in a heap on the ground, and then he just runs in circles all night holding his fabric swatch, and at dawn he ends up back here to ask for her phone number.
Scenario B is that this is actually Tessie the Vampire Slayer, and she was just activated this evening with no time for training. She saw Quentin change, and followed him through the woods all night, waiting for her chance to put an end to his lupine murder spree. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have a Watcher yet, so nobody’s given her sensible advice like please don’t follow the werewolf around in your lavender party dress, unless you’re equipped with a pentagram and a couple of wisecracking high school sidekicks.
Obviously, Scenario B is the correct answer. Isn’t it nice when we stop to really think things through?
When Quentin wakes up, Charity temporarily puts aside the question of who murdered who, and tries to focus on helping the wounded girl. She says they have to take Tessie to a doctor, but Quentin wants to know what Charity’s going to say when they ask her what happened.
Charity says she won’t tell them anything, but he doesn’t buy it; they need to have a conversation about this. Charity shouts, “Quentin, she’ll die!” and then Quentin drops the bomb. “You’ll die too, Charity,” he says. “If you tell anyone you saw me here — if you say one word to anyone that links me with this — I’ll kill you.”
He means it, too. He looms over her — a strong, six-foot-three man, towering over a woman who’s five-and-change. And he grabs her and points at her, and gives her instructions. She’s supposed to go back to Collinwood and stay in her room, while he takes care of the wounded.
“But you remember,” he grimaces — still towering, still looming — “how easily you could die.”
He’s the hero of the story now, by the way. We’ve been tracking Quentin’s progress since we met him in early March, and he’s definitely supplanted Barnabas as the core protagonist by now. I think the switchover happened three or four weeks ago, when Barnabas was on the run from a pack of vampire hunters, and then he just hid in a cave and everybody forgot about him for a while. Quentin is the star attraction with his own hit single, soon to be featured on a set of bubble gum cards. And here he is, looming, towering and terrorizing a young woman who is honestly only trying to help.
So Charity scuttles away, and who should turn up but Count Andreas Petofi, the mad god of the northeastern states, who’s currently inhabiting the body of an eleven-year-old because he thinks it’s funny. He and Quentin are supposed to be enemies, kind of — at least, Petofi’s kind of the villain of the show right now and Quentin is kind of the hero, and that usually counts for something.
But Petofi is all charm this morning. “Back from your evening revels, eh, Mr. Collins?” he observes, strolling around the crime scene. “And in need of help again.”
Apparently this mini-Petofi considers himself a member of Murder Club, the social organization for monsters who help cover up each other’s crimes, and he dives right into the problem-solving.
Petofi: Now, what are we to do?
Quentin: I’m going to take her to Magda.
Petofi: No, I don’t think that would be wise. I don’t think Magda is quite ready for another shock.
Quentin: What do you mean?
Petofi: I mean that we should look at the other possibilities. Perhaps we both could make use of this unfortunate occurrence.
Now, as it turns out, I don’t know what the hell he’s referring to. His cunning plan is to tell Reverend Trask that there’s a wounded girl in the woods, and she’s carried to Collinwood, where she can gasp Quentin’s name a couple more times before succumbing to her injuries. I’m not sure how that serves their interests more than just leaving her in the woods, but the details don’t matter. The point of this scene is to establish that somehow, without any effort on his part, Quentin has become Petofi’s ally.
Later on, Petofi has a moment alone with Quentin, to scheme another scheme. “There’s a paper in this room,” he teases. “A very important paper. You’re going to need it soon, ‘Uncle Quentin’. Honest, you will.”
Quentin asks him what he’s talking about, and Jamison gives him a clue: “Twice burned, once torn — but still intact, and fear is born!” They don’t really have time for games at the moment, and Quentin isn’t very good at them anyway, so eventually Petofi just points at the desk drawer and tells Quentin to help himself.
The item he’s after is that confession that Reverend Trask was tricked into signing the other day, admitting that he arranged his wife’s murder. Quentin can use the paper to blackmail Charity into silence; she doesn’t believe that her father killed Minerva, but she doesn’t want Quentin to drag this out into the open. None of this has anything to do with how they disposed of Tessie, but I guess that’s how life works sometimes. It doesn’t always add up.
The important thing is that they’re establishing the fact that Count Petofi is now in charge of the show. This is the beginning of a long streak for Petofi, which is unusual for Dark Shadows. Characters usually come and go, even if they’re important to the storyline, because the actors need a break once in a while. Also, every cast member is guaranteed a certain number of episodes per month, so it’s best to keep them circulating. They only do a long streak like this with the same character when they’re trying to make a point.
Julia had a 21-episode streak leading up to 1795, when she and Carolyn and Barnabas were all chasing each other around the foyer looking for Julia’s notebook, because the only way to move the story forward was to kill Julia, and they were damned if they were going to lose the most interesting character on the show just because it made logical sense.
They also gave Quentin a 16-episode streak early on in the 1897 storyline, when they were establishing him as a major player. That’s the period when he’s killed by Jenny and then raised from the dead as a zombie, only to be revived by Angelique, and then he goes straight into a battle with Laura.
But the most relevant example is those extraordinary first six weeks of 1795, when Angelique was in 25 out of 30 episodes. She was a brand-new character who we’d never even heard of before, and at that crucial moment in the show’s development, they basically handed her the entire show and told her to go nuts. Which she did, quite spectacularly.
And what’s happening now with Count Petofi is exactly the same. Starting with episode 800, Petofi appears in 24 out of 30 episodes, including an unbroken 12-episode run in the middle. Like Angelique at the opening of 1795, Petofi blows into town like an oncoming storm. The 1897 storyline has been held over by popular demand, way past its intended expiration date — so here comes the Hurricane of Hungary to shake the world like an Etch A Sketch.
Like Angelique, and like Julia and Barnabas before them, Count Petofi has come to once again bring the Collins family to their knees. Then the next three months is everybody trying to piece together the shattered remains of their lives.
Tomorrow: The Most Dangerous Game.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of the episode, Charity is walking through the woods, when she stops, clearly just a step away from Quentin’s body. Then she gets a close-up as she looks around, and she’s startled as she suddenly sees the body that she couldn’t possibly have missed. They did this at the end of yesterday’s episode too, but the timing was better so it didn’t look as pantomime-silly as it does here.
When Petofi says, “Back from your evening revels, eh, Mr. Collins?” he walks around Tessie’s body. The camera pulls back to keep him in shot, but goes back a little too far, so you can see a playback monitor beyond the edge of the forest. Check the screenshot below.
When Quentin approaches Charity on the stairs, the camera can’t seem to get a clear close-up of him.
They’ve turned off the lights in the drawing room set too early, and apparently they can’t get them back on, so Trask, Charity and Quentin perform the last scene in mostly-darkness.
Behind the Scenes:
Tessie is played by Deborah Loomis for 3 episodes — yesterday’s, today’s and then a return visit as a ghost a few weeks from now. She has a few other credits, but the only notable one is a prominent role in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1970 film debut, Hercules in New York. Loomis played Helen, Hercules’ love interest.
Tomorrow: The Most Dangerous Game.
— Danny Horn