“Can you see the center of the stone? Because beyond that center is another center.”
Take Quentin Collins, please. Take away his wardrobe, take him away from his family, and take him out of context. What do you get?
Well, you get David Selby in a bathrobe, which is still better than most of the available alternatives. But then what?
Quentin’s still alive, that’s the good news, still alive and on the show. Barnabas and Julia returned from their time travel adventure in 1897, and Quentin followed them home — time traveling the slow way, one day at a time. He’s been kept alive and eternally young by a magical portrait, Dorian Graying his way through the years. Soap opera characters come back from the dead all the time, but Quentin’s managed the even bolder trick of coming back from everybody else being dead.
Unfortunately, just at the last minute, Quentin was hit by a car driven by a reckless vampire who apparently can never be charged with any crime, no matter how hard he tries.
Naturally, this gives Quentin amnesia, which is standard procedure for soap opera characters who feel a little run down. He doesn’t recognize anyone, not even his closest friends, and his friend Julia is having a hard time explaining that he’s actually a hundred years old. She could just talk it over with the oil painting, but I guess that hasn’t occurred to her yet.
So Julia and Quentin have a conversation that’s frankly bizarre, even by Dark Shadows standards.
“Don’t you think it’s a little early to be so depressed?” she says.
He shrugs. “Why ask me? I’m the last person to know what kind of guy I am. Usually depressed, usually cheerful? Tell me doctor, what kind of a future is there for a — Mr. Nobody?”
Except he says it with a smile. A wry smile, yes, I will concede the wryness of it, but still, more smile than frown by several lengths. He seems especially tickled with “Mr. Nobody,” which isn’t even that good of a joke.
“Don’t say that,” she tells him. “You are not that.”
“Then who am I?”
“Your identification says you’re Grant Douglas.”
“And who is he?”
“That’s what we’re going to try to find out.”
And I have to say, he’s taking this extremely well. Like, you shouldn’t be taking this so well kind of well. Not only is he smiling, but he actually doesn’t seem super interested in asking those questions. He’s giving every indication that he finds Julia’s interest in his identity curious and vaguely amusing.
Julia pours the contents of an envelope out onto a counter. This is everything that he had in his pockets when he was brought in — a receipt, a matchbook, a little wooden puzzle and a key. He looks them over.
“Well, there’s not much to go on, is there?” he says, as he picks up the receipt. “Now, this tells us that Mr. Grant Douglas pays a rent of $55 a month, so we can safely assume that he’s not a member of the jet set.”
He chuckles, and looks at the matchbook. “And he seems to spend a lot of time in places like the Hi Hat Lounge, which promises that if you go there, you’ll forget all of your troubles.” Another chuckle. “Brother, that’s nothing compared to what you can forget in Collinsport.”
“What is this key to?” Julia asks.
“Do you remember putting anything in a locker?”
“No, I don’t. So wherever it is, and whatever it is, it’ll just have to stay there for a while, won’t it?”
And, again, he really doesn’t seem that put out. Every line is a joke. Usually, that doesn’t bother me at all; I’m a big fan of humor in fiction, wry and otherwise. But you’d think they’d want to hit a different note, this far into the scene. Fun’s fun, but this is actually a desperately frightening experience. He has no idea who he is, where he’s supposed to go, or what’s going to happen to him next. But Julia is way more interested in finding out the answers than he is, by a wide margin.
Also, he apparently doesn’t carry a wallet or a house key, which is puzzling. She said that his identification indicates that he’s Grant Douglas, which I guess could be on the receipt, but he doesn’t appear to have a driver’s license with an address on it, or any money, or a Walgreens rewards card.
How did he get here, and how was he planning on taking Carolyn out on a date? How far can you travel on a rent receipt and a matchbook?
He picks up the puzzle and starts absently pulling it apart, and Julia cocks her head. “Do you often do that when you’re upset?”
He chuckles again. “Oh! Is that the sneaky approach? Trying to catch my subconscious off guard?”
She smiles, which, again, why are you guys in such a good mood right now?
“I don’t know whether I do this often or not,” he says. “I told you, doctor, I still consider myself Mister Nobody.”
This is not a realistic approach to the situation, but I’m not complaining about that. I frankly couldn’t care less about realism, on television in general and Dark Shadows in particular. And making jokes is entirely in character; the second most important thing about Quentin is that he’s funny. They’ve taken everything else away — his home, his friends, his wallet, his storyline — and his sense of humor is the only thing he’s got left. That works for me.
But he’s playing this entire scene as if he doesn’t actually care that much. If Julia just left the room and stopped talking about it, he would mess with the puzzle for another minute, put it down on the counter, and then go wander out into traffic again. Somebody needs to give a shit about Quentin’s identity, and call me old-fashioned, but I think it should be Quentin.
She says, “Grant what happened to you is horrifying” — is it? — “but if you will cooperate with me, there are ways of waking the part of your mind that’s asleep.”
He keeps on screwing around with the puzzle. “Why? So that I can go back to my 55 dollar a month apartment, and my rollicking evenings at the Hi Hat Lounge? Oh, I don’t know, I’m not so sure it would be worth it all.”
“It is, I assure you,” she says, “because your future may be fascinating — once we find out about your past.”
And she finally breaks through. “All right, Doctor,” he smiles. “How do we find out?”
“Well, if it’s all right with you, there’s one way to start — with hypnosis.”
And of course that’s where you start, with Julia Hoffman as your attending physician. It’s either hypnosis or sedatives, and this is one of the rare 5% of cases where a sedative wouldn’t help.
So she puts him under, and the audience too, for a three-minute sequence that does not illuminate anything. Who are you, she says, and what’s the matter, and why are you waiting, and by the way who are you, and the only interesting thing that he says is Frederick Thorn.
She asks who Frederick Thorn is supposed to be, and he doesn’t say. Then she wakes him up and asks who Frederick Thorn is, and he still doesn’t know, so that’s two strikes on that angle.
And, I don’t know, wouldn’t it be nice if he’d said “Judith” or “Amanda” or “the curse” or something? Cause Frederick Thorn is not helping to engage me in this process. I’m trying, honest I am, but there’s only so much I can do from this end.
Monday: Epistemology of the Portrait.
The most important thing about Quentin is that you want to have sex with Quentin.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Julia hands Grant the locker key, and he says, “Locker ni– one ninety-four.”
In the hospital, Chris forgets a line, and Julia helpfully fills in: “It could only have been Mr. Nakamura!”
When Julia and Alexander watch Paul walk to the stairs, you can see power cables on the studio floor.
Behind the Scenes:
The little girl who plays Carolyn is Lisa Ross, in her only episode. She doesn’t have an IMDb page, as far as I can tell, but Dark Shadows Wiki has a great page with pictures and info on the rest of her acting and modeling career.
Monday: Epistemology of the Portrait.
— Danny Horn