Episode 838: Just Shoot Me

“Had it not been for me, you would have been prowling the woods last night.”

A man died that night. He died on schedule, surrounded by the people who loved him, and hated him, and killed him.

836 dark shadows beth quentin the end

So here we are, ladies and gentlemen: the big dance. We waited for six months to find out how dissolute sinner Quentin Collins finally dissolved, and now that we know, we’ve got twenty-two minutes to undo it.

A mentally cockeyed Cockney mentalist predicted that Quentin would die on September 10th, 1897, and when anybody bothers to get that specific about a prediction, it’s basically guaranteed to come true. You don’t have characters walking around for a week saying “September 10th” in a gloomy voice unless you’ve got something in mind.

That’s especially true in this case, because we already saw how it all happened two days ago. In a flash-forward to 1969, we saw Julia talking to the ghost of Beth, who had a ringside seat to the momentous event, on account of she’s the one who pulled the trigger.

Beth narrated a string of scenes leading up to Quentin’s death, which happened as follows:

  • Beth asks Quentin why he’s been so distant lately; he snaps at her and walks away. This is what we in the not-getting-murdered business call mistake #1.
  • Witch-vixen Angelique breaks the news that the Quentin/Beth engagement is scuttled, to be replaced by a Quentin/Angelique engagement. This is due to complicated spell-breaking negotiations that so far have not been adequately explained.
  • Beth dashes to the servants’ quarters, and grabs a bottle of poison from the enormous cache of murder weapons she keeps handy. Allowing the domestic staff to stockpile WMDs is mistake #2.
  • Jamison finds Beth on the verge, and she explains that she’s going to commit suicide because Quentin broke her heart, and she’s not very good at coping with disappointment. Quentin has also made out with pretty much every adult woman within city limits, including several in this house over the last couple weeks, but this appears to be the moment when Beth catches up with reality.
  • Jamison confronts Quentin, who says some jibber jabber about how kids can’t understand the adult world. This is condescending and amounts to mistake #3. Jamison tells Quentin to go to hell, which I’m pretty sure he’s about to.
  • Beth burrows into the arsenal in her sock drawer, selecting a loaded revolver as her weapon of choice. The hatchet, the garrote, the rocket launcher and the box of scorpions will have to wait until next time.
  • Quentin tries to explain things to Beth, but to be honest, he doesn’t try very hard. This is mistake #4. He should have been halfway to Mexico by now.
  • Beth shoots Quentin in the breadbasket, laughing and ranting in an unhinged manner. As a fifth and final mistake, the buckshot Quentin makes for the tower room, rather than the first aid kit or the nearest coast guard station.

So that was Monday, phew! That’s a lot of action for a television show that used to fill up a day with a couple conversations, a glass of sherry, and an assortment of facial expressions.

838 dark shadows quentin destiny

Today, they go ahead and repeat that whole sequence — this time for real, rather than a flashback. It’s six full scenes, taking up almost all of act one and the entire act two, and they’re pretty much exactly the same as the scenes that we saw two days ago.

This is an interesting choice to make, because it relies on the audience’s innate televisual literacy. If we didn’t understand how television works, then this would be staggeringly dull, just watching the scenes play out exactly as we saw them.

Luckily, we know some important things about how this kind of story works, which signal to us that something’s going to intervene. For one thing, this is Quentin, the gorgeous new star of the show, and nobody in the audience wants him to die. That possibility is not on the table, and everyone knows it. Also, we’ve spent six months watching Barnabas struggling to stop this exact event, and if Quentin dies here, then it’s an epic fail that would make us feel like we’d wasted half a year on nothing.

But the most important signal that it’s not going to play out the same way is that they already showed this to us, two episodes ago. We know instinctively that a story that repeats itself every two days will be cancelled. We know that there are producers and writers, who are in charge of making sure that doesn’t happen. And what we’re worried about is that after five and a half scenes, our patience is wearing thin. We know that something has to make this worthwhile, and time is running out.

That’s what makes this suspenseful — not that the character might die and the protagonist will fail, but that our patience might run out, and the story will fail. The audience is never really worried about a character’s welfare. The thing we’re worried about is that we love this never-ending serialized story, and if it gets boring — by repeating itself, or by killing off a great character, or both — then that means we’ll lose interest, and the thing that we love will be gone. We don’t love the character, as if he’s a real person. We love the show.

838 dark shadows beth quentin petofi interrupts

So the actual resolution of the story is unbelievably satisfying, because they do the opposite of what we expected. The obvious way to pull this off is for Barnabas to rush in at the last second. Julia just traveled back into the past yesterday, at great personal risk, in order to give Barnabas the vital piece of information — that this is the crucial minute where he has to intervene. Barnabas has been talking about this moment non-stop for six months.

Except he doesn’t show. As we saw yesterday, Julia is suffering from the traumatic shock of traveling backwards in time. We left her with Barnabas at the rectory, hidden away so that she has the chance to recover and finally deliver the news bulletin he’s been waiting for. That’s why Barnabas isn’t here right now. He knows that this is Quentin’s last night, and he should be hovering around, trying to avert disaster. Instead, he’s stuck at the rectory, hoping that Julia will snap out of whatever she’s snapped into.

So Julia coming back in time didn’t help Barnabas after all. She actually prevented him from being here. And in the resulting heroism vacuum, the villain steps in and saves the day.

838 dark shadows beth petofi gravitas

Count Petofi — evil wizard, and the weirdest volunteer in the history of the Big Brothers of America — averts the disaster by walking into the room, and telling Beth to put the gun down before she makes a fool of herself. And Petofi has such an amazing sense of gravitas that she does what he says. She hands over the revolver and sits down on the couch, and then he gives her a little lecture about how she ought to handle hurt feelings in the future.

This is the happy ending that we’ve spent six months building up to, and it happens in the most surprising way available. That is what Dark Shadows is for.

So it turns out this wasn’t the story that we thought it was, after all. We imagined that this was a story about Barnabas Collins, pulling some strings in the family history and making things work out the way that he prefers. But that never happens — not this time, and honestly, not ever. Barnabas screws up everything that he ever tries to do. His plans fall apart, or fizzle out, or explode in a spark-shower that sets fire to the house. Barnabas is the Charlie Brown of vampire protagonists.

Instead, this is a story about the mad god of Ozhden, or however you spell it, and his unsurpassed ability to manipulate the events around him. This is a guy who managed to retrieve his magical severed hand and reattach it to his wrist, while he was lying unconscious in a basement. Count Petofi can do anything. He will outlast us all, probably.

838 dark shadows petofi quentin villain

And so we end this amazing day of prophecies unfulfilled with some slap-happy Bond villain dialogue that sets up the next chapter of this never-ending story. It involves yet another Barnabas smackdown.

Petofi:  And now I’ll come directly to my price. I want you to perform a very great service for me.

Quentin:  What do you want from me?

Petofi:  Barnabas Collins is a friend of yours. He will confide in you. I want you to find out from him exactly how he came here from the future, and how he intends to return. He isn’t to know, of course, that you’re doing this for me.

Quentin:  In other words, you want me to become an informer. The answer is no.

Petofi:  You will find, Quentin, that you can refuse me nothing now.

Which is lovely. Petofi’s style of speaking really helps to sell the fairy-tale drama of this storyline.

832 dark shadows quentin werewolf portrait

Petofi explains that he hasn’t just saved Quentin from Beth’s bullets; he’s also curse-blocked the werewolf. The other night, during the full moon, Quentin saw the portrait that Charles Delaware Tate painted, topped with a wolf’s head. He hid the cursed portrait in the closet, but now Petofi drags it out into the light again, with the flourish of a master magician.

838 dark shadows quentin portrait

Petofi:  The portrait changed, Quentin, and you did not. What would you give, if you could always look as that portrait looks now?

Quentin:  I think I’d give anything.

Petofi:  So you shall, and so it shall be. You’ll find the betrayal of a friend is a small price to pay for what I can offer you. You’re impressed, I can see it. You’ve decided to join me, and betray Barnabas Collins — and a very wise decision it is, too. Yes, my dear boy. Now, you belong to Petofi. And who knows? Perhaps to the ages.

A man died that night, and a slave to the will of Petofi was born. I guess we’ll find out what that means as we go along.

RIP Quentin Collins
Born: December 16, 1968
Died: September 10, 1897

Tomorrow: The Gods Laugh Sometimes.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The camera zooms in on a calendar in Quentin’s room, showing Wednesday, September 10th, 1897. That’s a Wednesday in 1969, but September 10th fell on a Friday in 1897. This isn’t really a blooper, just a funny side effect of all the meanwhiling they’ve been doing lately.

When Petofi walks away from Quentin’s door in act 1, there’s the sound of coughing from the studio. As Jamison walks up to the door, you can very clearly hear a man clearing his throat.

Quentin says, “Would you really, Jamison?” — and then Jamison forgets his next line. He murmurs a bit, and Quentin says, “Yes?” — and finally Jamison chokes out, “Something wrong?”

When Beth is staring at the poison bottle at the beginning of act 2, there’s some movement in the bottom right corner — it looks like someone is holding a script that flips open.

When Count Petofi appears in the drawing room to stop Beth from shooting Quentin, the camera zooms back, and reveals a boom mic at top left. (You can see it in one of the screenshots above.)

Beth bursts into tears at the end of the drawing room scene in act 3, and the sound of her sobs bleeds into the beginning of the next scene.

Thayer David is credited as Prof. Stokes, instead of Count Petofi.


Behind the Scenes:

There are a number of scenes in Monday’s episode (as Beth’s memories/predictions) that are repeated here. They were actually restaged for today’s show, although they’re so close that most of the time you can’t really tell, unless you pay attention to the exact sequence of shots. One difference between them is that on Monday, Jamison told Beth that he’d traced all the “figures” in the puzzle, and in today’s episode he says “objects”. Also, the Quentin/Beth gunshot scene begins in today’s episode with the clock striking twelve.

Tomorrow: The Gods Laugh Sometimes.

838 dark shadows quentin face

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

18 thoughts on “Episode 838: Just Shoot Me

  1. This review has two of the best lines so far, “Barnabas is the Charlie Brown of vampire protagonists” and of course “A mentally cockeyed Cockney mentalist.”

    1. The most frigthening moments are when Barnabas announces he has a plan. As bad as when the Three Stooges announce that they “soitanly” can handle whatever is asked of them.

      Is Barnabas the Fourth Stooge?

  2. You know, if never occurred to me until now, reading these comments, but I think you’re all quite correct: Barnabas never was the brightest bulb in the tree, was he? In fact, the entire Collins clan now strikes me as a pretty dim lot, when you get right down to it. But endlessly entertaining nonetheless.

    1. That should be “on the tree.” I originally wrote “the sharpest knife in the drawer,” but decided to change metaphors/clichés, but neglecting to adjust the preposition in the process. Now who’s the one who looks dim? 😉

      1. “In the tree” is just fine with me – speaking as a person who has been all up IN the tree, tryin to string lights on it.
        Let’s face it – if any of the DS headliners had any real problem solving abilities there wouldn’t be a show.

  3. Danny, I know this “we don’t like the characters we like the show” is one of your major points in this blog. You’ve convinced me of it terms of “Dark Shadows,” but this time when I read it it really struck me how much I don’t think it’s true of other soaps. I think you fail to take in account the fact that 99% of the characters on “Dark Shadows” are evil in terms that they’ve deliberately murdered at least one person (often a family member or friend) and the 1% who are nice are stupider than a bag of rocks. Of course you don’t care what happens to those kind of characters as long as it’s interesting.

    On other soaps, of course you want something interesting and you really don’t want James Stenbeck dead forever because he’s interesting and does interesting things, but I do care about characters on soaps and a lot of the soap fans I talk to either do or they give do a good job of faking it. In fact, I’d say most supercouples on other soaps start because you like one character or the other and you want them to be happy and they think they will be happy is to be with a certain person so you want them to be together.

    Also, I’d say that a lot of soap fans talk about characters as if they were family members, even though of course know they are no such thing. For instance, I must admit I still refer to the “Guiding Light” character of Bert Bauer as Grandma Bert, mostly because Rick did and I associated myself with the Four Musketeers when I was a kid.

    So I’d have to say while I think it’s true of “Dark Shadows” I don’t think it can really be generalized at least not to all fans.

    1. Let me also say that mostly I want James Stenbeck to do interesting things to Barbara and Emily because I never really liked either of them and not to people I do like for example Tom and Margo. As the World Turns

      1. Oh, “interesting” isn’t my word for being evil, or doing villainous things. I actually mean “interesting”, as in: I like watching this character do this kind of thing, whether that’s being heroic or nasty or romantic or funny, or any other combination of traits.

        So you want (let’s say) Sam and Diane to end up together, because they have great on-screen chemistry, and a scene with the two of them is more romantic or more fun to watch than a scene with either of them paired with somebody else.

        I think the feeling that we experience as “I care about this couple” is actually “I love watching these characters together, on a show that I love.”

        It’s always frustrating when a soap splits a good couple apart, and then brings them together for two episodes before they move out of town and off the show. Yeah, it’s nice, in a vaguely sentimental and nostalgic way, that OLTL’s Michael and Marcie were “together” when they left Llanview, but that’s not what I wanted. I don’t want them happily “together” offscreen, I want them to have scenes together on my show.

        1. I’m on a number of Facebook DS pages, and I’m often astonished at how many folks there actually do “like” many of the characters in the traditional soap opera way, not just because they do interesting things. People are often swooning about how much in love they are with Barnabas (seems even more so than with Quentin), and all they want to see is for Barnabas and Julia, or Barnabas and Angelique to live happily ever after. They often go to great pains to explain away the various murders and betrayals, usually claiming that the characters are just misunderstood or somehow justified in what they’ve done.

  4. Omg, that paper job with the chick with the wolfs head cane is just around the corner.

    A mentally cockeyed Cockneyed mentalist would have been fanfodder/stardom all over it, years ago.

    You are our hero.

  5. So I really couldn’t get into this. 1897 falls apart for me here. The Beth/Quentin showdown rang way too false and contrived.

  6. I know what Quentin meant when he reminisced with Jamison about how they used to pretend to be different people, but I chuckled at the thought of them pretending not to be one and the same person.

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