“Would you like to try and resist this hand again, my dear?”
The story so far: Count Andreas Petofi, magical gangster from the Boston Carpathians, is engaged in a tense low-speed chase with a pack of howling vengeance gypsies. For all his bluster, all Petofi really wants to do is run away and hide — in somebody else’s body, living in somebody else’s house, and traveling to somebody else’s time zone. It’s not much to ask, really, and so far it’s been going pretty well.
But as the poet said, the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, and this one is drifting in an agley direction. It turns out he’s not the only mouse in town.
Here he is, the mad Count in the guise and garb of Quentin Collins, and he should be halfway to 1969 by now. Step one of his master plan is to steal Quentin’s body, and he’s done that. Step two is supposed to be: find the I Ching hexagram that will transport him into the future.
But the women have all been acting super weird lately, and they’re distracting Petofi from his evil mission. Julia was up to something secret in the old rectory, and Kitty keeps turning into people, and Angelique goes on mysterious errands, shuttling between the pharmacy and the cove at Shipwreck Point. So Petofi’s “go to the future” plan has been supplanted by the “figure out what the hell is going on” plan.
The problem, really, is that he’s been too successful lately. Petofi was the weird old wizard who lived in the basement, the eccentric outsider who outsmarted everyone. But now he’s on top — wearing Quentin’s body, discrediting all of his enemies, and using his Legendary Hand to do anything he likes. So what’s left to do, except tear him down?
The master strategist has started making stupid mistakes, and mistake number one is tearing down the main characters. The four core characters on Dark Shadows are Barnabas, Julia, Quentin and Angelique, and he’s declared war on all of them at once. Barnabas is dead, shot through the heart and sealed up in a cave. Julia’s been banished to the twentieth century. Quentin is stumbling around in a secondhand body that nobody likes. And now Angelique is a prisoner, trapped and powerless.
For the first time, Count Petofi truly has the upper hand, his enemies scattered and defeated. The only thing that could possibly save them now is some kind of miracle, and what are the odds of that?
“Your powers have been neutralized!” Petofi crows, strutting around and being terribly pleased with himself. On Friday, he got the drop on the wicked witch, and now he’s taken her to the cave where Barnabas was destroyed. Edward had this cave sealed, a process that I’ve never quite understood, and now Petofi thinks it’s a storage facility.
Angelique asks, “How long do you intend to keep me here?”
“Indefinitely,” he grins.
“Does that mean until I regain my powers, and I manage to escape?”
That’s a yes, obviously. What else could possibly happen? You can’t just lock everyone up and walk away clean, because that doesn’t leave us anything to do in tomorrow’s episode.
Count Petofi’s big advantage used to be that he knows what kind of story he’s in. This is a soap opera adventure serial, a mixed genre that values surprise over everything else. Characters are allowed to flourish when they’re story-productive, and Petofi knew how to exploit that rule. His tricks have always made the story more interesting — turning people into butlers and mentalists and magical portraits.
But now he’s walking around neutralizing things, and that’s the worst thing you could possibly do. If Barnabas is dead, and Julia is out of reach, and Quentin is a hapless old codger, and Angelique isn’t a witch anymore, then the only thing the show can do is build them all back up again.
You can’t just lock up the genie in a bottle and throw it out to sea in the middle of the story. Genies escape, that’s the whole point of genies. In a long-running mythological melodrama, you don’t put somebody in a cave unless you want them to break out at an inopportune moment.
Now he’s trying to get information out of her, but it’s one of those adventure-story supervillain interrogations where you tell the other person every single thing that you know, and get nothing in return.
“I want to know about your secret visits to the rectory!” he shouts, and “I had you followed last night to the cove at Shipwreck Point!” Next he’s going to tell her about the Enigma machine.
Petofi: After you returned to Collinwood, I sent someone to the cove. There was definitely another person there, my dear!
Angelique: And didn’t your information tell you who it was?
Petofi: He couldn’t! He was knocked unconscious by whoever it was!
Angelique: Oh. Well, I hope the poor man is all right.
You see? You can raise your eyebrow all you like. Once you’ve neutralized somebody and stuck her in a cave, what else can you do? Nothing. Now you just look like a jerk.
“All right, my dear,” he growls. “You can stay here. I’m going to have the cave re-sealed!” This is one of those adventure-story threats that normal people don’t have access to.
Then he says, “I’m going to put Aristede outside the door to stand guard,” and that’s pretty much the end of his plan.
“Now, let me give you something to think about,” he growls. “I am going to the future very soon. If you don’t tell me what I want to know by then, you can spend the rest of your life here!” And then he turns and walks out of the cave, chuckling, like he hasn’t just assigned his most valuable employee to stand guard for twenty-four hours a day, forever. This is going to be a drain on his resources, and he still has to go out and buy cave re-sealant.
So here’s Angelique, thrown into the briar patch, with nothing except the clothes on her back, an expired vampire, and a second-hand copy of Syd Field’s Foundations of Screenwriting. Obviously, she’s trapped forever, and Count Petofi wins, the end.
Tomorrow: Nothing Up My Sleeve.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Edward tells Kitty, “I must insist that you write your mother another letter, telling you — telling her that you’ve decided to stay.”
When Edward asks Pansy if she feels the same way as she felt last night, Petofi starts to say, “We’re waiting –“. Then Edward finishes his line, and Petofi says “We’re waiting,” again.
In Josette’s room, just as Kitty turns to notice Josette’s portrait, a boom mic is seen overhead.
Tomorrow: Nothing Up My Sleeve.
— Danny Horn