“She travels with a certain Timothy Shaw, a man who for a short time had the use of my hand.”
If you remember yesterday’s episode, and there’s no particular reason why you should, then you’ll recall that Quentin Collins is currently engaged in a medium-stakes game of chicken with the legendary Count Petofi. Quentin wants the mad Count to free his buddy Barnabas, who’s currently encased in a carbonite coffin with nothing but a dated copy of Ladies’ Home Journal for company.
To understand Quentin’s plan, you need to keep in mind the location of the following characters: a) Johnny Romana — King of the Gypsies! — who’s searching in the woods for b) Magda Rakosi, gypsy fugitive, who’s being sheltered by c) Beth Chavez, Collinwood domestic. If d) Count Petofi doesn’t release e) Barnabas Collins into f) Quentin’s custody by 12:45am, then f) Quentin has instructed c) Beth to bring a note to a) King Johnny, explaining the whereabouts of d) Petofi. But to make sure that d) Petofi doesn’t mess with c) Beth, f) Quentin has lied to d) Petofi, claiming that the note is actually in the possession of g) Angelique, who doesn’t actually have anything to do with this whatsoever.
Oh, and Charity Trask — now inhabited by the spirit of psychotic showgirl Pansy Faye — gave Beth a shot of poisoned brandy, because she’s suddenly in love with Quentin, and she wants to knock out the competition.
As this is one of several simultaneous active crime scenes, let’s take a second to walk through the forensics. At the end of yesterday’s episode, Charity — let’s call her Charity for now, we can come back to that issue later, if there’s time — was eagerly watching Beth gulp down some after-dinner toxins.
It’s now some time later, and Magda strolls into the drawing room to find Beth flat on her back on the floor. Charity is not among those present; she must have remembered a previous engagement somewhere.
Naturally, after taking a pulse or two, Magda makes a beeline for the empty brandy snifters, and sticks her nose in for a sniff. She raises her head for a moment — this is the gypsy equivalent of sending a sample to the lab for testing — and then leans in for a verifying whiff. Completing the analysis, she puts down the glass and heads for Beth’s room, which is stocked with antidotes.
So — obviously Magda can identify poisons with her nose, because she is part police dog and part Julia Hoffman; that’s obvious and can be accepted without question. It’s also perfectly natural for Charity to murder someone and then just leave the room, with the body and the poisoned glassware strewn about, because Charity is not the maid, and she’s not responsible for tidying up the common areas. We already have a maid, and just because she’s currently expiring on the hardwood does not mean that other people have to fill in for her. She needs to talk to her supervisor.
But there are a couple of lingering questions. First, Magda cures Beth with magical detoxifying gypsy herbs, which were where, exactly? She left the drawing room in a very purposeful way, and she specifically mentions “gypsy herbs” a couple scenes later, so where is her Collinwood stockpile?
Also: once Beth has revived, they start worrying about Quentin and Petofi, and nobody ever gives a thought about reporting the attempted murder. They don’t even scold Charity; everyone just goes on with their evening. Beth didn’t die, so apparently there are no consequences for anybody.
I’m sorry, I hate to hammer on these things, but seriously these two episodes are driving me out of my mind. The problem, really, is that they keep drawing our attention to specific details — especially the current time — but then they backtrack and decide that it’s not important anyway.
Yesterday, Quentin set a very clear schedule for the evening’s entertainment. He came over to Petofi’s place at 11:45, and told Petofi that he had until 12:45 to deliver the vampire. Quentin needs to walk out of the room at 12:45 precisely, so that he can get back to Collinwood by 1:00am, in time to stop Beth/Angelique from contacting King Johnny and the gypsies.
But Quentin and Petofi do a clock-ticking countdown scene, where Quentin gives Petofi updates at one minute, and then at ten seconds and five seconds, and they make a big deal about Petofi cracking under the pressure, and agreeing to let Barnabas go. And then we see the clock — and it’s 1:00. Beth should already be on her way to King Johnny with Quentin’s note.
And then Petofi has to go and get the keys to the padlocks on Barnabas’ coffin, and Quentin has to open all the padlocks, and take the cross off Barnabas’ chest, and then Petofi has an awkward little post-hostage exit interview with Barnabas, where he says they’ll cross paths again. Petofi asks Quentin not to tell King Johnny where he is, and Quentin says, “You can rely on my word.”
So, all in all, it’s got to be at least a quarter after by the time they leave Petofi’s place, and maybe 1:30 when they get to Collinwood, which means that if Beth hadn’t been knocked out with poison brandy, she’d be halfway to King Johnny’s, not that she has any way of knowing where he is.
I mean, Quentin does claim that Angelique is psychically monitoring the situation remotely, and she’ll know if Petofi has blown the deadline, but Quentin knows that’s a lie, and that he told Beth to head out at 1:00 sharp. So what the hell?
Ugh, I’m sorry, I know that I’m nitpicking, but either the time matters or it doesn’t. If it does, then Petofi should be anxious to speed things along; the guy who cracks at the chime of 1:00 should be pushing Quentin out the door. If the time doesn’t matter, then why did we do anything that we’ve done for the last episode and a half?
But obviously this is not actually a problem. It’s actually that the show has been so good lately, offering really emotionally charged, character-led conflicts, and unexpected plot twists. So a couple days of aimless time-shifting stands out, and feels like a problem. When we were in 1969 six months ago, this kind of thing would have been absolutely electrifying.
There are big moments here — Magda escaping from King Johnny, Charity poisoning Beth, Quentin rescuing Barnabas from Count Petofi. They just don’t happen to feel like big moments, because each one ends with a little shrug.
Charity poisoned Beth, but then Magda cured her, and everything’s fine. Petofi kept Barnabas chained up in a coffin for a couple weeks, but now Quentin’s negotiated his release, and they all end up nodding goodbye to each other. And yes, Magda was on the run from King Johnny, but she’s spent the last couple episodes hanging out in the Collinwood drawing room, and everything is fine.
Except who’s that lurking in the hallway outside Beth’s room? It’s none other than Istvan and his magic trousers, and suddenly life is worth living after all.
So, yeah, I suppose we’re back where we were three days ago, and nobody has said anything sensible all day. But when did we get all hung up on plot logic like this? Give me a big man and some tight pants, and all is forgiven. After all, it’s Christmas. Isn’t it? It’s got to be Christmas somewhere in the world.
Monday: Hungarian Crime Story.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Quentin jumps the gun on his line:
Petofi: It is impossible. Even if I were to offer to cure you tonight, to go through some ridiculous contrived ceremony —
Petofi: — would you believe me?
When Istvan ties a gag around Magda’s mouth, he shifts position and the green burlap on the floor moves. He also loses one end of the gag, and Magda has to hold it between her teeth to keep it from falling off completely.
Beth isn’t listed in the end credits.
Monday: Hungarian Crime Story.
— Danny Horn