Episode 950: Flappy Bat for the Win

“You killed Paul, you killed the sheriff, and now this!”

But enough with the fancy writing tricks. Who feels like watching Dark Shadows today?

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There’s a lot going on right now — so much that I need to do an old-fashioned stream of consciousness post today, making observations as I go. You’ll have to take care of the thematic coherence on your end.

Because today is Friday, and it’s the kind of Friday that we haven’t seen in a while, where big things happen to loud people. Now, it’s not actually Friday for me, and there’s only a one out of seven chance that it’s Friday for you, but this is Friday for the folks at home in February 1970, and they’re the ones who count.

So this is how Thursday’s episode ended: Quentin told Carolyn that her father was killed by her new boyfriend, Jeb Hawkes. Confused and angry, she demanded to know what evidence Quentin had, and he declared, “All right. I’ll tell you everything!” But before he could say any more, the door opened, and Jeb ran in, announcing that Inspector Guthrie’s been murdered. They have the murderer in custody now, and it’s the same man who killed her father — Philip Todd, who’s just confessed.

By my count, that’s four different Friday-grade cliffhangers, all in a row. They could have stopped at any one of those points, and gone straight into the weekend — but they piled all four on top of each other and ran it on a Thursday, because they have even more bonkers plot points to unleash today. On several occasions during the Leviathan storyline, I’ve had cause for complaint about the story’s leisurely pace, but so far this week we’ve had werewolf attacks, gunshots, multiple double-cross betrayals, graveyard rituals, a seance, a tearful farewell, a dead policeman and now a murder confession, and we haven’t even cracked the seal on Friday yet.

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So now we have a scheming outer space octopus in the Collinwood drawing room, executing on a plan that he apparently came up with all on his own. This is a real turn for the character — ever since he grew up into his adult body, he’s just been stomping through town, sneering at Barnabas’ complex schemes. He thinks that he can just take what he wants; screw the rules and the master plans.

But interacting with Carolyn over the last couple weeks has helped him to understand that he can’t just order the world to be the way he wants to. Sometimes he has to be sneaky, and tell lies. This makes him even more dangerous.

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And then Quentin starts shouting, a promising development.

Quentin:  Paul Stoddard died as a result of something he had seen — something so horrid that his heart gave out. I don’t think that something was Philip Todd!

Jeb:  (no answer)

Quentin:  The clothing in the two murders was disintegrated by a substance that no one could identify. Is that true this time, Jeb?

Jeb:  Yes.

Quentin:  What’s the substance?

Jeb:  (no answer)

Quentin:  Did this man die of a heart attack too? Now, I wonder why, what’s the reason? And just how did Philip Todd murder these two men?

They’ve had a lot of trouble lately figuring out Quentin’s place in this storyline, because he doesn’t have a natural connection to anything in particular. He’s just time-walked himself through the better part of the 20th century, and now he’s pretending to be his own long-lost descendant, like Barnabas. Quentin currently has no job, he lives nowhere, he’s related to no one, and he has no organic opportunities for story development.

So the writers have considered this problem, and decided that they couldn’t care less. They’re just going to stick Quentin into the middle of a scene and have him act like an important member of the family, whether it makes sense or not. It’s working out pretty well, actually.

Meanwhile, Jeb’s lack of impulse control is interfering with his own sneaky plans. He really didn’t need to kill Inspector Guthrie yesterday; he just did it because he felt like it. Now he’s got a third body that’s covered in substances, which is hard to handwave.

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Carolyn leaves the room to call the police, leaving our two beautiful alpha males to square off against each other.

Jeb narrows his eyes. “I think we’ve met before Collinsport. Where, Mr. Collins? When?”

“Well,” says Quentin, “the only place we could have met is the one place I’ve ever been, Jeb — Hell.”

Oh, and he delivers it so well, with a twinkle in his eye, and a blend of sarcasm and steel. All of a sudden, we have Quentin back on the show.

But Jeb’s got a new trick too. He tosses out a light threat, and Quentin deflects, saying, “I’ve learned to take care of myself.”

“For quite a long time, I imagine,” says Jeb, and how does he know that? He didn’t really know who Quentin was, as far as I can figure. But he’s a supervillain, and they always know everything about everybody.

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Jeb pours himself a passive-aggressive cocktail, just to antagonize Quentin.

Jeb:  You don’t believe the sad story of Philip Todd, do you?

Quentin:  Never.

Jeb:  Why don’t you try and clear him?

Quentin:  I’m going to.

Jeb:  You won’t make him change his confession.

Quentin:  Do you want to make a bet on that, Mr. Hawkes?

Oh, it’s delicious. The boys are all hopped up on brandy and testosterone.

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Then Barnabas arrives on the scene, and now he has to hear the news, too. And look at this shot! These are the only four characters on the show today, and here they all are, acting away.

I love a good four-shot like this, where everybody has a different attitude about what’s going on. This isn’t soap opera herd behavior, like we used to get back in ’67, when Sam and Joe and Burke and Dr. Woodard would all stand around and agree with each other. These four are bristling with energy.

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Carolyn goes upstairs to tell her mother about Philip — this is what you do on soap operas, you go and update people — and she leaves the guys downstairs for another blockbuster conversation.

Barnabas:  You killed Paul, you killed the sheriff, and now this!

Jeb:  You just love listing my crimes, don’t you? Why don’t I list one of yours — a very serious one. Treason!

(Barnabas’ face falls.)

Jeb:  Yeah, Barnabas — you and I know our true selves. For you are a traitor!

Barnabas:  To a cause I’ve never believed in!

Jeb:  You should’ve believed in it from the beginning!

Barnabas:  Don’t try to threaten me!

Jeb:  We don’t threaten. We act!

Barnabas:  No one will ever stop me from fighting you!

This is another dynamite conversation, with a huge plot development that reverses course on the last three months of storyline. All of a sudden, the masks are off, and Barnabas has openly declared war on the Leviathans. And this is still the middle of act two!

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Then Carolyn comes back, and here’s another gorgeous four-shot. David Selby has made the choice to just glare at Jeb nonstop, no matter what else is happening in the scene. Check out every picture so far; he can’t keep his eyes off the guy.

Carolyn tells the boys that she wants to see Megan. Barnabas urges her to take it easy, but she insists. He keeps pushing, and she puts the kibosh on that.

She says, “You’re not in charge of my life, Barnabas,” which is a soap opera heroine power move, and then she asks Jeb to drive her into town.

Jeb flashes Barnabas and Quentin a triumphant smile on his way out the door. You wouldn’t think you could get this much drama, just by standing around in the drawing room for ten minutes.

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Quentin waits for the door to shut behind them, and then muses, “I’m going to have to kill that man.” Then he starts yelling at Barnabas, for entertainment purposes.

“And what are we going to do?” he shouts, at the top of his lungs. “Wait until Carolyn comes back, and tell her everything then?”

Barnabas says they need to get their hands on the Leviathan box. “If we have that,” he screams, “at least they cannot take over others!”

“You’ll never be able to get it!” Quentin roars.

“It’s in Jeb’s room!” Barnabas exclaims. “It has to be there!”

Quentin howls, “Philip was caught, Barnabas!” and Barnabas bellows, “I WON’T BE!”

There is seriously no reason for them to be hollering their secret plans at top volume like this, except to make the situation even more urgent and thrilling. I am entirely in favor of using Quentin Collins for this purpose.

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And then there’s flappy bat! He’s bouncing around in his wire cage in the Chosen Room, squeaking and knocking himself against the bars while Jeb looks on adoringly. It’s hard to beat flappy bat for pure spectacle; basically, there’s werewolf jumping through a plate glass window, there’s Quentin post-werewolf when he’s all dirty and disheveled with his shirt ripped open, there’s the bug-eyed skeleton waving its arms around, there’s Julia’s mad science apparatus, and there’s flappy bat, and nothing else even comes close.

Then the camera pulls in for a close-up of Jeb’s face, as he opens the cage and lifts the bat up with his hands. This has to happen out of camera view, because physically it makes no sense at all. He gently carries the bat across the room, chuckling, “Not even frightened of me, are you?” This also makes no sense. And then he deposits the bat inside the little wooden Naga box and closes the lid, which continues to make no sense.

They add some rustling sound effects to indicate that, yes, the bat is actually inside this dimensionally transcendental container. Do not be concerned about how this works; it is none of your business. And then Jeb hides the cage in the wardrobe, because that’s what you do with bat cages when you’re done with them.

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Then we go straight to Carolyn, downstairs in the antiques shop, while Jeb hurries over from the Chosen Room set. You can tell it’s a bit of a hike, because he’s out of breath when he gets there; it takes a few lines for him to get back to baseline. That’s what happens in these four-person episodes; the actors need to do some track and field work.

Any other show that films live-to-tape like this would take it easy on a four-person day, and not do fast-paced Friday plot point spectaculars on five different sets, using fire and fistfights and puppets, but on Dark Shadows, it never occurs to them to do the easy version.

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Carolyn’s upset, naturally, because she just found out that her schizophrenic boss murdered her father, and Jeb comforts her for about thirty seconds before they transition into a super-tight close-up makeout session.

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Then he holds her and kind of mushes her hair around, and sighs, “I don’t want you to be sad, ever.” Releasing her, he looks in her eyes and says, “You do like me a little — don’t you?”

She’s the one who’s out of breath, this time. “I don’t understand you sometimes,” she says, and then she smiles, “Oh, I like you, Jeb.”

Now, I hate to throw cold water on a rare Dark Shadows osculation scene, but I don’t actually understand this relationship. For a soap opera, Dark Shadows spends a shockingly small percentage of screen time on people falling in love with one another, because they’d rather focus on mad science and witch trials, so you have to take the romances more or less on faith.

But even by that standard, I’m not sure about this one. What does Carolyn like about Jeb, exactly? He started out pushy and demanding, and then on their first and possibly only date, he talked her into throwing antiques on the floor, which was interesting but hard to process as seduction. Does she just like tall dudes?

Fortunately, Jeb and Carolyn falling in love is super story-productive, so it works for me anyway, but I’m just going to flag that as potentially problematic and move on.

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There’s a couple brief scenes of Jeb bringing Carolyn back to Collinwood, and Barnabas and Quentin arriving at the antiques shop, and then we’re dropped into a surprise dream sequence. Carolyn heads into the drawing room and falls asleep on a chair, and what she gets is mostly a repeat of the dream she had last week, where Jeb tells her that she also knew him as Michael, Alexander and the baby.

“Why do you keep telling me these things?” Carolyn asks. “You’ve told me this before; I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now.” This is a welcome token of self-awareness on the show’s part; they recognize that they’re spending a minute on reprise material, and they’re going to make sure it’s worth our time.

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Because this time, the dream goes further, as Carolyn opening a door and finds Inspector Guthrie’s mutilated corpse. Three minutes ago, Carolyn and Jeb were kissing; now she’s doing dream forensics.

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“Jeb, you’ve killed someone!” she cries, and he grabs her and shuts the door. But there’s blood on his hands, and blood gushing out from under the door, and it’s just blood everywhere, and she runs away, and that is how you finish date night on Dark Shadows.

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Okay, what else? Well, Barnabas breaks into the antiques shop and steals the Naga box, and then he gives Quentin the following set of extraordinary instructions.

Barnabas:  You stay around here.

Quentin:  Where are you going?

Barnabas:  The only place where I can destroy this.

Quentin:  I’m coming with you!

Barnabas:  No! Once that I’ve destroyed this, I don’t know what will happen. Something may happen, even to — even to Jeb. Stay here and see. When I’ve finished, I’ll go back to the Old House. If he returns here, and then starts to leave here again, it’s because he will know the box is missing. He will start looking for me. He will know where to come.

Then Barnabas walks away, leaving Quentin to stand guard outside the shop for what reason, exactly?

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Barnabas goes to the Leviathan cairn in the woods, where he puts the box down, and then just stands there yelling at it for a while.

“Spirits!” he announces. “If you are listening, know that I no longer need you! Know that my days will be spent ridding my world of the Leviathans!”

So that’s over with. Now he’s going to smash the box with his cane, and then move on with the rest of his busy evening schedule.

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So here’s the windup…

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And the mystery box opens, as mystery boxes so often do…

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And guess who’s inside!

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So, Leviathan story: all is forgiven, as far as I’m concerned, except for the amnesia parts and the antiques shop and locking up Maggie and a lot of the first six weeks when people just talked about the book the whole time. But this is rock solid. You have earned my respect.

Monday: Into Darkness.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Quentin and Jeb come out of the drawing room to speak to Barnabas, there’s a boom mic overhead.

Jeb tells Barnabas that he was in trouble, but he’s not anymore: “You and your friend should realize that.” Then he looks at the teleprompter and says, “You must, uh — realize that you shouldn’t have sent Philip for the box.”

When Carolyn and Jeb leave the drawing room, you can briefly spot a camera on the left.

In the drawing room, Barnabas tells Quentin, “He’ll be — have to bring her back here.”

The clock in the antique shop struck 9:00 in yesterday’s episode, so it must be working — but when we see it in today’s episode, it’s still 9:00.

During a lightning flash as Barnabas is exiting the antique shop, you can clearly see that there’s just a gray flat next to the shop, no real scenery.

In the last shot, when flappy bat is attacking Barnabas, you can very clearly see the wires that make the wings flap.

Monday: Into Darkness.

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Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

41 thoughts on “Episode 950: Flappy Bat for the Win

  1. You know, until I started reading your blog, I didn’t realize how very complacent — in a good way, I think — I was about this show: I just sorta … went along. With nearly (nearly) every plot contrivance, no matter how lunatic. The bat is too big for the box? Well, he’s in there now anyway, isn’t he? Angelique was actually hanging around in 1692? Sure! Of course she was! Who can remember three years back anyway? Barnabas’ body disappeared and then reappeared and then disappeared and he’s in the 18th century, wait, no, the 19th, wait, no, the 20th and he’s human again (or IS he?!?). You betcha!

    I say, yay for lunatic plot contrivances.

    (But seriously, the flappy-bat-in-the-box is amazing.)

      1. It didn’t stop me from making wild speculations about how some of those contrivances were, you know, contrived. (Angelique was sent back in time by the Devil … again! Quent’s ghost was really Petofi! The writers had no plan and were exhausted! Wait; that last one is actually true …)

        1. I thought it would have been interesting if only David and Amy remembered the ghosts. The explanation would have been that since their bodies had been possessed by the ghosts, they might have left some sort of physical traces behind on their brain cells that couldn’t be wiped away even by changing the past. Sure, it’s implausible, but it would have solved the problem of reminding the audience what had happened before 1897. And it would have been interesting seeing the children know something was real while none of the adults believed them. David, of course, would be used to that sort of thing, but we’d see him coaching Amy in the fine art of deceiving the silly grown-ups.

  2. Quentin’s return to Collinwood as that old standby, the Lost Cousin from England without a Trace of a British Accent, isn’t without hiccups.

    I can’t pinpoint the exact episode right now, but David, for one, recognizes him as a ringer for ghostie Quentin and is unnerved. That’s a bit of business that never goes anywhere, but I found it fascinating. Even though events were altered and Quentin’s ghost never existed, David still remembers the original timeline.

    1. There are some scenes in yesterday’s episode with Amy being scared of Quentin. He tries to reassure her that he’s not the evil ghost she knew, but then she goes and tells Jeb that Quentin is a ghost anyway.

      I don’t think there’s any rational way to account for the split timeline. This is explicitly a world in which David and Amy were tormented by Quentin’s ghost, and the Collins family lived in the Old House for some time while Barnabas was downstairs in the I Ching trance. But this is also a world where Quentin was alive from 1897 through 1969, under various aliases. That means that there was a period with Quentin in both states at the same time.

      The only way to resolve this problem is to say hooray, Quentin’s still on the show, and then go and think about something else.

      1. It may safely be tucked under the new category of “Lunatic Plot Contrivances”. Unless there’s one called “What’s The Future Ever Done For Me?” or “Ignore That Man Behind The Curtain”.

      2. It’s interesting, the writers must have thought that explaining that Barnabas changed history and nothing from a year ago ever happened was too complicated for the audience to understand?

        Maybe they didn’t want to lose what ever back story from a year ago they thought they might use?

        If that’s the case, what’s fascinating is that they are about to throw all the backstory away with parallel time.

        1. The general guideline appears to be that the characters remember what the audience remembers. In 1897, Angelique remembers being Cassandra in 1968, because the audience remembers it.

          One recent exception that I noticed is that after his trip to the underworld, Quentin tells Julia that nobody remembers that “Olivia Corey” ever existed, that history has changed and Amanda died when she jumped off the bridge in 1897. But that basically only matters for the 30 seconds of that explanation, because then the Amanda/Olivia story is over and nobody ever mentions it again.

          But if the characters and the audience are in synch, it makes a kind of “gut sense” that overrules rational explanation. I think if Quentin showed up in 1970 and said hi, and David and Amy just said hello, nice to meet you, it would be kind of disappointing and off-putting. I like that there’s a moment for apology and reconciliation.

      3. I think it comes down to a conflict between time travel, which doesn’t exist and is fundamentally impossible, “making sense” or avoiding the trap of a major story “not mattering” (the “It was all a dream” cop-out).

        So, if Barnabas goes back into the past and upon his return, everyone spent the past few months pleasantly playing Boggle, the audience can feel cheated. Better to have “inexplicable time travel” (which again, isn’t possible in the first place) and maintain story potential (David and Amy were possessed, Quentin’s ghost haunted Collinwood, and so on).

        Of course, in typical DARK SHADOWS fashion, other than some references right now, the haunting of Collinwood might as well have never happened. Even when suspiciously similar events begin to take place again, no one mentions the previous haunting. And dramatically, Quentin’s past begins to have no bearing on the story. He’s written as a “normal” ridiculously attractive guy. He basically just replaces Chris Jennings on the show, except he dresses better, lives at Collinwood, and knows Barnabas’s secret.

        1. Actually it would make more sense that when Barnabas comes back, it is in the middle of the Leviathan storyline, and since he and Julia are the ONLY ones who remember the previous time sequence, they have a tough time understanding what is now going on. Something HAS happened, but they have no inkling what it is…

          (The way they did it in “Eureka”)

  3. I killed the Sheriff,
    But I did not kill the Flappy Bat.
    I killed the Sheriff,
    But I did not dissolve his clothes with my substance.

    Maybe Jeb has a natural animosity for Quentin because he can smell his inactive werewolf glands.

    From what I can glean from the romantic literature of the time, and from my parents’ cautionary tale of a marriage, apparently being a raging a****** was considered a super-desirable trait in potential husbands of the 1970’s. I guess everybody was high back then or something?

    1. It’s funny because before I read the blog today I was reading an article about “consent”, in which a guy talks about how watching movies growing up totally failed to teach him this concept. And I have to agree that so many movies do still play the old trope that if a guy forces himself on a girl, she will like it/him. It’s not just a 1970 thing at all. Carolyn of course couldn’t resist Jeb’s manliness for long, it’s what she really wants, and it’s a compliment to her that he wants her, right? Ugh. So many screenwriters seem to think this way. I am only left wondering if this was played out here to highlight its ridiculousness and general ickiness, or did the DS writers also think this way?

  4. It’s a bit to do with the onboarding, as well – your friends tell you about this spook soap opera, perhaps a few specifics, so newcomers are expecting the witch and the werewolf, and the vampire and perhaps even the evil cult, but have no idea about 1795, or the Dream Curse; someone might mention that someone named Victoria Winters used to be on – but the story, the current story, is all that the writers can be concerned with. Past stories were generalised, old plots were thrown out for the sake of bigger stories. More, MORE, MORE!

    Add in that all of this was never really intended to be seen again – like the start of the film industry, product was created, released, and forgotten, unless there were those who thought ahead enough to preserve the product. Even then, vast amounts of it did not survive because of archival expenses. That attitude was the same with television, so much of which was sacrificed to the expedience of budget, trading history for the reuse of videotape to save money. NOBODY thought that fifty years ahead, someone might want to see this or that old daytime drama, even the ones that lasted (never mind the ones that got cancelled)!

    1. Good points, John. Agnes Nixon (creator/head writer of One Life to Live and All My Children) talked about the importance of “lopping off” storylines from the past after a number of years. The purpose was just what you stated, referring back to incidents from the distant past would only confuse new viewers who weren’t watching back in those days.

      I’ll bet there were some new viewers who started watching DS with the 1897 storyline who must have been totally confused when the story took Barnabas back to 1795 at the very end of the 1897 story. I’m sure there were quite a few new viewers asking, “Who are these people?”

    2. Great point! I was really thinking about Dallas and Bobbys death of one year, just being a dream of his wife Pam. It wasn’t until this particular comment section that I realized, soaps were always reinventing the future, probably way before DS, but surely not LIKE DS, and viewers just viewed, and stayed with the story and the characters, until they didn’t. Every show has a jump the shark moment, usually it involves the introduction of a new precocious child, but as we see, sometimes it’s a dream, again meaning Dallas, DS has a ways to go.

      1. Instead of a dream plotline (Dream Curse?), DS had Parallel Time, essentially a reset button, where they could use the same sets, toss out the tangled or waning plot, and make new characters and stories for the actors. Kind of like ‘The Past’, without the need for fancy dress and petticoats. Easy onboard for new viewers, but kind of a jump if you had been watching and had missed that few days when they switched!

        On the other hand, I wouldn’t have minded if Maggie woke up, went in her bathroom, and found Joe hadn’t gone crazy and was in her shower…or an unstaked Tom Jennings…or Chris (well, he’d be taking a flea bath, but I’m not gonna be picky).

        1. Parallel Time offers them a chance to almost wipe the slate clean, and tell a completely different story. It’s same setting, same chess pieces ( characters), but in a new game, a new configuration. It’s easy to buy, cause we already bought time travel.
          Just add vampire, and New Story!

      2. Comic book narratives often run into the same problem; trying to maintain continuity over 75+ years becomes difficult, if not downright impossible.

  5. I came to like the Carolyn and Jeb romance more on rewatch. It’s still deeply weird, because Jeb never really stops being a child. But the older I get, the more I’m into deeply weird romance. It was probably a terrible example for all the young people who were watching in first run; if I’d had a teenage daughter whose boyfriend acted like Jeb I’d be wondering where that nice Buzz Hackett boy was. But since I’m not a housewife from 45 years ago, I can just sit back and enjoy it.

    1. After Joe Haskell, who were the good ones?

      Wasn’t her MO picking the wrong guys?

      And marry one who bites her on screen…..spoiler.

      1. I understand that for other reasons this is the episode that makes the Leviathan Arc bearable but I will never like these instant romances. The first one I remember is Amanda and Quentin. I was sitting watching them going okay what? When did this happen? And didn’t she go through any transitional time, where she thought you know this Quentin guy is not half bad even though he disappears every full moon.

        No absolutely no transition for her from excuse me who are you? to I love you Quentin.

        And Jim and Carolyn or even faster. One week and an interruption oh, and they’re ready to be bride and groom. Even though she’s halfway sure he’s actually the guy that killed her father, given the dream sequences. But that’s okay he’s hot. what? Just what? For me that’s stuff that Yanks me right out of collinsport Maine and puts me back in the present day saying, ” this show I can’t even…”.

        Although to be fair, that’s a phrase I’ve been using about a lot of real-world things these days.

  6. The gender assumptions of DS romances and the whole tangled soap trope of who-needs-consent-I’m-a-leading-soap-actor-so-shut-up look a lot worse to me as I revisit; Angelique’s “You are to be my master” was disturbing enough, but the coming Roxanne scenes with Barnabas (which, I admit, looked like true love to me in my early teens) really creep me out. But, as Richard Rorty never quite said, reruns give us a chance to be shocked by our younger selves.

  7. About the yelling – Selby was always prone to it. I figured he blasted the sound man’s ears every time he used his actor’s school shouting technique. He sure can wake me up out of a stupor – even after 4 beers.

    1. If there is one thing I hated about the show, that’s it.

      Selby had all options.

      And to show his Quentin Temper, he did that.

      It’s okay once, twice, but……please. Do something else.

      It’s television, not theatre.

      1. He learned how to be a little more subtle on Falcon Crest. He must have driven the audio engineer crazy. I always hate it when I’m editing a video where one person is speaking softly and another shouts. I can fix it to a degree, damn it takes a lot of time!

  8. I’ve been thinking about why I never liked Jeb or the Leviathan storyline. Most of us high school girls had read Jane Erye, but had never heard of Lovecraft. So the English literature plots were recognizable and made sense to us. But Lovecraft isn’t about making sense, so most of us were non-plussed by the plot and couldn’t get into it. And then there was Jeb (gagging noise) . . .Barnabas was courtly and Quentin was charming, but Jeb was tedious and spoiled. Maybe someone would date him to piss off their parents, but as an engaging soap opera character. . . Nope. And that hair! Conditioner! Stat!

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