“Let there be light — because I am tired of eternal darkness!”
Man, Jeb is such a rebellious teen that he still feels burdened and put-upon, even though there is literally a worldwide organization devoted to worshipping him as a god, which is actively working to make him the emperor of the Earth.
This is the end of the honeymoon period for secret space octopus Jeb Hawkes, the last day of his almost unbroken four-week streak. He’s appeared in 18 of the first 20 episodes since his debut, completely dominating the last month of story. Quentin’s tragic reunion with Amanda, the struggle to find a cure for Chris’ lycanthropy — it was all swept offstage, so everybody could plot and scheme and cry and scream and kiss and kill the monster man. But not anymore.
After this, Jeb sits out for a few episodes, while the old crew reassembles behind his rival, Barnabas Collins. Most of the important fan-fave characters are lining up on Barnabas’ side — Julia, Quentin, Maggie, and soon Angelique and Willie. In his corner, Jeb has Carolyn, Megan and Bruno, plus assorted non-combatants like Elizabeth and David. I don’t know which side Mrs. Johnson is on; she might be starting her own faction, for all I know. ¡Viva Mrs. Johnson!
For a soap character, you’re only as good as your scene partner; that’s why supercouples and long-term nemeses are so important. You can’t just walk around and have average conversations, not on this show — at least, not anymore. That’s why Angelique keeps turning up in every time period, because Angelique and Barnabas have literally never had a boring conversation.
Jeb’s on solid ground when he’s interacting with Carolyn, because she’s got impeccable history and range, but if he leans too much on non-pivotal newbies like Megan and Bruno, then he’s going to hit rough waters. What he needs is a solid connection to a really interesting character, and oh dear, here comes one of those unfortunate February surprises.
It’s Nicholas Blair, the boss from Hell, who darkened our doors in the summer of ’68, and left the canvas in disgrace five months later. He showed up towards the end of the dull Dream Curse storyline as a mysterious malefactor with power over Angelique, offering promises of intriguing new plot twists with every arch of the eyebrow. But then it all went wrong, somehow; he managed to clamp onto the Frankenstein story, which quickly ground to a halt. It turned out Nicholas didn’t really have the brilliant master plan that he kept teasing us with, and he obstinately refused to take any action that might upend the status quo and move things forward. And so he suffered the fate of all storyline speed bumps: a sudden and inglorious exit, engulfed in flames and pursued by a bear.
So it’s not exactly the fanservice of our dreams, having Nicholas turn up with the same sales pitch as last time. Two years ago, he was the guy who’d been secretly masterminding Angelique’s return to Collinwood, which up to that point we didn’t realize needed a master to mind it. But Mr. Blair swaggered in like a boss, scattering performance reviews in every direction. It looked a lot then like it does now.
“Shall you give your explanations now, for the crimes you have committed?” he demands. “For the chances you have taken, the power you have usurped?” Then we cut away for a Collinwood scene, and when we come back, Nicholas is still browbeating Jeb.
According to Nicholas, Jeb’s crimes include the following: killing Paul, forcing Philip to confess to the crime, killing Sheriff Davenport and then bringing him back as a zombie slave, and — worst of all — turning Barnabas into a vampire. “Every move unwise!” Nicholas shouts. “A shabby performance, indeed, and a dangerous one!”
Now, you might recognize that list of accomplishments as being the four most interesting plot points of the last month. Nicholas is here to get the Leviathans’ ascension back on track, i.e. the cautious unfolding of a plan that we already know pretty much everything about.
And then — even worse than worst of all, apparently — Jeb has decided recently that he doesn’t want to disappear off-camera and turn into a sound effect anymore. He wants to win Carolyn’s love in his human form, and then spring the concept of turning into gigantic tentacle monsters during the honeymoon, which I for one would be eager to see.
“Do you think I’m going to let you stand in the way of the return of the Leviathans?” Nicholas shouts. “This is my idea!” So that’s a thing you don’t really want to say, when you’re trying to turn around a sagging storyline. Nicholas doesn’t want to change the story, and make it more interesting — he just wants to take credit for it.
Although this does lead to a great moment in Dark Shadows silliness, which is always welcome. Promising to consecrate another Chosen Room, Nicholas exits stage right with the Naga box. Desperate and unhappy, Jeb decides to make a break for it…
And there’s Nicholas standing on the porch, like Droopy Dog in Northwest Hounded Police.
Now, that’s fun, I have to give them that one. If they want to do the rest of the episode as a Tex Avery riff, where Jeb zips out the door and takes a plane to a boat to a bicycle, finally cross-country skiing to an igloo at the North Pole, and finding Nicholas inside, leaning up against the wall and casually regarding his fingernails, that’s fine with me. Go and do that.
But if all we’re leading up to is sending Jeb into the back parlor to huff and puff, then I’m not sure why we need a whole extra guy to do it.
And that’s pretty much all that’s on tap today, just Nicholas Blair, walking around and pretending to have a plan. Also, Carolyn has the same dream that we’ve already seen twice, where Jeb basically tells her that he murdered her father, and she says she doesn’t understand what he’s getting at.
If you ask me, dragging Nicholas into this is a sign of desperation, a poker tell that the writers want to postpone any story progress. Later in the episode, Nicholas tells Bruno that he’s responsible for making sure nobody kills anyone, although Bruno was specifically introduced as an assassin, so I don’t know why he’s now being tasked with the opposite. Still, that’s Mr. Blair’s modus diabolus: to poke a stick in the spokes of the wheel of fortune, and stop it cold.
“If I may ask one question,” Bruno says, “why Collinwood?”
“That is the one question you may not ask,” says Nicholas, grinning like the cat who isn’t even trying to catch the canary. “But there is a reason. A most important reason!”
Okay, great, says the viewing public. Look, why don’t you get back to me later, when you’ve given this some more thought?
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The Ralston-Purina lamp flashes on and off, several seconds before Megan walks over to turn it on. When she gets there, it turns on before she can touch it.
In Carolyn’s dream, Jeb mysteriously disappears and Carolyn looks around for him — but we can see him, standing not quite far enough to be off camera.
When Carolyn turns away from the coffin, the edge of the burlap grass is clearly visible.
When Jeb visits Collinwood in act 3, Megan is supposed to be hidden in the darkness until it’s time for her entrance — but you can see her ankles as she waits at the top of the stairs.
Behind the Scenes:
Dennis Patrick is credited with playing Paul Stoddard, but his only “appearance” is a still photo. His actual last episode was a month ago.
I assume somebody is the stand-in playing Lawrence Guthrie’s body in the dream, but I don’t know who it is. It might be a mannequin.
There’s an exciting scene transition, at least for me, when we fade in the first act from Jeb’s carriage house to the Collinwood drawing room. The first thing we see is a close-up on my favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp. There’s another one next week, too.
— Danny Horn
30 thoughts on “Episode 953: Walking Around and Pretending to Have a Plan”
But Nicholas is so much fun. It wasn’t until I read your blog that I realized how bad his track record really is.
Nicholas always sparkles with mischief – I love it when he shows up! He brings the fun like Uncle Arthur did on Bewitched.
I agree. Danny leave Nicholas alone. He is deliciously evil.
It’s his confidence! He just swaggers in like a boss and tells you you’re shit and doing a shitty job, and where’s his Cristal, dammit, and don’t ask me any questions if you know what’s good for you, got it?
He is the endgame epitome reductio ad absurdum of a middle manager with the confidence of every mediocre white guy who’s ever walked the earth, in a fantastic fur-collared coat and gloves.
(Although my husband and I did wonder a bit if he’d done a bump or had too much coffee as a perk me up before his first entrance–he was literally vibrating.)
Seriously, I also noticed how he was tweaking out. Thinking back to those times, you’re probably not off base with your first inclination, him being on something stronger than coffee beans that is.
I guess it’s a local ordinance in Collinsport that any grave has to be dug up at least once.
C’mon, Paul Stoddard looking like THAT when the coffin opens? That is good scary, friends. Just how I want to look when it comes time to box ME up, none of that ‘serene sleeping, “oh, he looks so natural”‘ stuff. That should put the ‘fun’ in funeral!
You think? I think the photo is so obviously a photo that it looks ridiculous! And Paul’s smile looks not so much vengeful as it does like the smile of someone on vacation—which of course he was.
For the record – we seem to be straightening out the record a lot today – Dennis Patrick might not so much have been on vacation as working on the movie “Joe,” which will be released nationwide on Wednesday July 15, 1970 (on the same day as the broadcast of episode 1058). I do not know the production schedule of “Joe,” so I do not know what stage the movie was at in February. But I do remember somebody reviewing “Joe” after it came out and condescendingly marveling at the good performance turned in by a mere soap opera actor.
Many of the outdoor scenes in “Joe,” especially at the climax, are clearly filmed during the winter with real snow on the ground.
We laughed out loud at the sight of that photo. He looks like he’s jumped out of a cake.
That was HILARIOUS! We were full on shrieking over that photo-face expression.
I hear Mrs. Johnson’s team has access to the best cigarettes. And if any food still exists, they probably know where it is.
Unfortunately she boiled it to death though.
I was so excited when Evan Hanley somehow showed up in the present. But oops, it was Nicholas Blair. (Who, like Barnabas, really stinks as an antagonist when analysed. Well done sir.)
As for the killing-people thing, at one point (I can’t remember if it’s happened on-blog-screen yet or not) don’t they say that the most powerful enemies the L-dogs have is the ones whom they’ve murdered? That seems like quite a disadvantage for the Space Octopus team. Of course, they forget about that within episodes of saying it, so, nevermind. waits patiently in the East Wing
Yes, that was given a mention back when Jeb wanted to do in Julia, and David read the contraindications in the ‘Big Book’. So Jeb went off and killed Paul, and the sheriff, and the investigator from the state capital instead, ’cause what are they gonna do? Lie in caskets and grin? Get resurrected and torn apart by a werewolf? Be a dead body in a dream sequence? Doesn’t seem that powerful to me…
Great commentary as usual, Danny. And I wonder how many readers picked up on your clever little Shakespearean reference.
Nicholas is right about the stupidity of turning Barnabas back into a vampire, an ultimate act of cutting off your nose to spite your face: punishing your enemy by making him a more powerful enemy.
That’s my favorite stage direction EVER. 😛
I recently directed a production of W.S. Gilbert’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. We added the character of Hamlet’s horse to the play-within-a-play, and we were constantly saying, “Exit, pursued by a horse.”
Just for the record. All that talk that Philip would hang for murders he didn’t commit? There was no capital punishment in Maine, and hadn’t been since the 1880s.
Picky, picky, picky. Next thing you’ll say was that there were no witchcraft trials at the end of the eighteenth century….
And certainly not in the middle of the nineteenth…
That’s a coincidence, because I’ve been reading another Dark Shadows blog, called “Dark Shadows Before I Die.” It’s just now in the middle of the “Murder of Bill Malloy” sub-plot, and it mentions the scene where David taunts Roger by telling him the killer will be hanged, and Roger matter-of-factly telling him the same thing, that there are no hangings in Maine.
Oh, I hadn’t seen that before, neat.
Philip has turned into such a whiny bitch (“You’re frightening me!”). No wonder his wife hates him.
I kinda like the “Megan is jealous of Carolyn” thing though. And Megan’s pseudo-mother relationship with Jeb’s earlier incarnations gives the kissing scene a creepy feel that seems appropriate for the kind of creatures we’re dealing with.
Let me add my voice to the chorus welcoming back Nicholas Blair, resplendent in expensive overcoat and Homburg. What with the likes of Pennock, Stroka, and Geoffrey Scott roaming the halls the cast is badly in need of a good actor and Bud Astredo fits the bill nicely. Finally, someone who doesn’t need to look at the teleprompter every five seconds.
That photo of Dennis Patrick as Paul Stoddard is a classic, the perfect visual representation of the batshit craziness that defines the series.
Agreed… He and Jerry Lacey in all of his Trask incarnations were definite highlights of the series!
Awww, come on man. Nicholas Blair is a hoot.
Humbert Allen Astredo as Nicolas Blair/Evan Hanley is always so much fun to watch! I like him best as Hanley, though; mortal, with more limited powers, and sporting a goatee that resembles a cloven hoof. Unf!
I was glad to see Nicholas Blair’s return, but like courtleymanor said before me, where’s the cloven hoof goatee?
That photo of Paul was LAUGH OUT LOUD funny!! How could they do that?!
And I was creeped out by Jeb and Megan made out. Isn’t he sort of her son?
“The Ralston-Purina lamp flashes on and off, several seconds before Megan walks over to turn it on. When she gets there, it turns on before she can touch it.”
Now, even the props are jumping cues! Though they’ve probably done it plenty before now, if I stop to think about it.
I welcome the return of Nicholas. I missed his sneering.