“The room will undergo a change.”
And then the door opens, and a wristwatch walks in.
See, there’s this mystery man in town who we’re not sure who it is, but he’s tall and dark-haired and possibly sideburned and it’s supposed to be Quentin. Last week, we saw him — or parts of him, anyway — watching Megan and Carolyn through the antique shop window, and then sneaking into Collinwood to silently check out the furnishings. We got a hint of sideburns when he was looking in the window, but the rest of the time, we just saw his trenchcoat, his shoes and his watch. I can’t explain the watch.
So it’s time-tossed werewolf vagabond Quentin Collins, of course, the reckless idol of American youth, who we last saw three weeks ago, at the tail end of the 1897 time-travel storyline. Quentin left Collinsport to search the world for the magical portrait that keeps him alive and young, and now that Barnabas and Julia are back in the present day, obviously he needs to join them again, and resume his leading role on the show.
When we saw the mystery man last week, they made a big deal about his wristwatch for some reason. He kept putting his wrist next to things — a portrait, a doorknob — and holding it there, while the camera zoomed in for a close-up. Quentin was never particularly attached to timepieces, as far as I recall, but I suppose he’s had seven decades to pick up a new hobby.
In Friday’s episode, the silent mystery man walked into the antique shop, and the first thing he did was hoist his wrist up in an awkward position, and leave it there so the camera could give us another thrilling wristwatch shot. I don’t know, maybe it’s a metaphor for something.
So here’s a true behind-the-scenes story from the making of Dark Shadows Every Day. When I took the screenshot at the top of this post, I couldn’t remember who the stand-in was for David Selby in that scene. So I checked my spreadsheet of Dark Shadows Extras and Supporting Actors — yes, I have a spreadsheet for that, obviously — and I didn’t have anybody listed as a stand-in for Friday’s episode.
I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that last week’s mystery man appearance was Charles Rush, but for this episode, nothing. So I went to the Dark Shadows Wiki, which lists Charles Rush for 902, and nobody for 904. I also double-checked the Dark Shadows Almanac, which says that Charles Rush appeared as an extra in four episodes, and 904 isn’t one of them. So who was the Selby stand-in today?
And then I realized: they had Selby on the set for this scene. He appeared in several scenes, but all you could see was the trenchcoat and the wristwatch. You just got a little glimpse of his face, unconscious, at the very end of the episode.
So David Selby was the stand-in for David Selby on Friday. That is the entire problem that we need to discuss today.
He gets hit by a car, by the way, that’s why he’s unconscious. When he and his watch walked into the antique shop earlier in the day, Carolyn took one look at the handsome stranger and instantly fell in love, just like everybody does when Quentin’s involved. Later, she told Barnabas that she’d met the most remarkable man, and the guy was coming back for a date when the shop closed.
Barnabas had a problem with that scenario, because he’s under the hypnotic sway of the Leviathans, a time-traveling death cult who have some secret world domination scheme that hinges on Carolyn Stoddard working at an antique shop and not currently dating anybody. They’ve got a very specific book of ancient prophecies, and it is apparently red-alert critical for them that Carolyn has no romantic entanglements. The fact that Carolyn never dates anybody for longer than a month or two anyway has not sunk in for the Leviathans. They’re a deeply strange people, even by death cult standards.
So, in one of the sillier moments in the Dark Shadows chronicles, Barnabas lurks nearby in a car until Carolyn’s mystery date starts walking across the street, and then he revs the engine, and knocks the guy off his feet and onto the sidewalk with a sickening thud. It’s a funny moment, because Barnabas won’t even allow electric lights in his house, and we had no idea that he knew how to drive a car. But here he is, his first time behind the wheel, and he nails a moving target. It’s amazing what you can do, when you put your mind to it.
So what we have on our hands is a non-functional Quentin. He kept us waiting for three weeks, and now that he finally shows up on set, he won’t even get out of bed. This is not the appropriate team spirit.
He spends almost the entire day today unconscious, and when he wakes up on Wednesday, he’s going to have amnesia, a condition that will persist for the foreseeable. I’m not giving anything away here, because he’s a soap opera character with a bandage wrapped around his head. Obviously he’s going to have amnesia, that’s the only reason soap operas have hospitals.
His ID says that this is Grant Douglas, a lookalike nobody from Portland, which means that I’m expected to spend the next several weeks calling him Grant. I categorically refuse to participate in this charade, because it is demeaning to us both. Sorry not sorry for the spoiler not spoiler, but I respect you too much to pretend that this guy might turn out to be one of the Portland Douglases.
This is another moment where you rely on your televisual literacy, the basic understanding of how television shows work. You know who this man is, because Quentin Collins has family, friends and history on the show. He’s connected to the werewolf storyline, and his immortal girlfriend is still around, so Quentin Collins is a story-productive thing for this guy to be. Also, we like Quentin, and we want to see him again. The big reveal that this man is actually noted watch enthusiast Grant Douglas would please precisely nobody.
Unfortunately, once you get amnesia, daytime soap character union rules state that you get at least four weeks to fuss around and not recognize things. So that’s a whole other month of not necessarily having Quentin on the show, which is an odd choice to make.
I mean, the point of making Quentin immortal is so they could keep him on the show, when they go back to the 20th century. Like Barnabas, Julia and Angelique, Quentin is now a permanent fixture — there will never be a storyline that doesn’t have Quentin, in one form or another. So why spend seven weeks intentionally denying the audience this essential ingredient?
There are three prior examples of this trick on Dark Shadows, and the difference between them is instructive.
In early 1968, Roger brought home his new wife Cassandra, who looked like Angelique in a black wig. It turns out she was Angelique in a black wig, for exactly the same reasons that we just discussed. They played the “is she or isn’t she” game for the space of one cliffhanger, and by the end of the next episode, we had confirmation.
There was a similar scenario towards the end of 1897, when there were two concurrent Barnabases — vampire Barnabas, staked in his coffin, and non-vampire Barnabas, who stayed in bed and pretended to be a different person. That mystery only lasted a couple of days; by the end of the week, we knew that the guy on screen was actual Barnabas.
The third example is Jeff Clark, who might or might not have been a reincarnation of Peter Bradford, Vicki’s boyfriend from 1795. Somehow, they managed to spin that mystery out for a full eight months, until they finally decided that nobody cared, and then they wrote Jeff, Peter and Vicki off the show forever.
The real problem with the Jeff/Peter mystery — and this is important, for the Quentin/Grant Douglas conundrum — is that Jeff Clark was just an empty suit of clothes. Jeff had no memories, and he arrived on the scene with no family, and very little in the way of a storyline.
Worst of all, Jeff’s primary characteristic — being in love with Vicki — was also Peter’s primary characteristic, so it was a distinction without a difference. It didn’t really matter whether he was called Jeff or Peter, so they could just let it drift for month after month, with no appreciable impact on story progress.
Here’s how you do the amnesia story: Think of it as two people inhabiting the same body, and create a conflict between those people. If Peter’s in love with Vicki, then “Jeff” should be cold and distant. “Jeff” didn’t experience any of the events that brought Vicki and Peter together, so her clumsy attempts to revive his memory should upset and frustrate him.
At that point, you can take as long as you’d like to bring his memory back, because the longer this goes on, the more damage “Jeff” can do to Peter’s life. The ideal way to end that story is to have “Jeff” fall in love with Vicki’s worst enemy, and news of their engagement makes Vicki turn to someone new for support and understanding.
Then it should be obvious to everyone that his memory comes back on the day of his wedding, during or immediately after the vows. Suddenly, “Jeff” is Peter again, horrified to discover that he’s married to someone that he doesn’t like, and the love of his life is involved with somebody else.
That’s how you do the amnesia story.
So when we’re talking about the oncoming Quentin/Grant confusion, the way that we can tell whether it’s a good story or a bad story is how it measures up to that baseline standard. Is “Grant” a noticeably different person who can mess up Quentin’s life, or is he just going to be Quentin without the friends, relationships and reason for being on the show?
The problem is that Dark Shadows has never been particularly invested in making Quentin internally consistent. I’m not going to go through all the hairpin turns in Quentin’s protean character development, because he switched personas constantly, sometimes in the middle of an episode, and if you don’t remember what that looked like, then you’ll have to go and read the last nine months of the blog over again. He was a villain and a hero and a lover and a monster, a dozen different versions of the role, held together by rock-solid plot points and David Selby’s unbeatable charm.
But if we can’t really say who Quentin is right now — if he’s become a wanderer, unstuck in time, drifting through the decades and checking his watch every five minutes — then what is “Grant” supposed to contrast with?
That’s the problem with mystery men; they can’t live on anticipation forever. This guy needs to get his ass out of bed, and report to work.
Tomorrow: Little Caesar.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Someone in the studio coughs when Chris approaches Julia at the hospital.
In the hospital room, Chris steps on one of Julia’s lines, while she trips over it. He begins, “You mean to say –” as she’s saying, “There is a reason that Quentin — a logical reason that Quentin Collins looks young.”
While Carolyn is dusting in the antique shop, something falls to the floor with a small clatter.
Barnabas mangles his dialogue in the hospital scene with Julia and Quentin. His lines include:
“Obviously, you’ve spent a great deal of time making the man identified, but he is not Quentin!”
“How do you expect me to behave, and react to a tragedy like this?”
“Now, Chris, I would like to tell you that this man in this bed is going to bring hopes to you, but he will not.”
Behind the Scenes:
We see more of the yellow stationery that’s been bulk-purchased by everyone in Collinsport today; this time, it’s the envelope that Julia hands Chris to take to Stokes.
Why does the antique shop have four working ceiling lamps in such a tiny space? I know they’re supposed to be antiques on display, but that’s still a lot of functioning light fixtures.
The pig weasel on the back shelf of the antique shop is now facing in the opposite direction.
Usually, people who don’t have any lines don’t get a credit at the end of the show, but Grant Douglas and Alexander are both credited today.
The backstory for the name Grant Douglas is explored in a 2013 Big Finish audio drama, The Haunted Refrain.
Tomorrow: Little Caesar.
— Danny Horn