“When was the last time I became myself?”
We’ve all had nights like this, haven’t we? You’re living the wrong life, working at the wrong job, engaged to the wrong person. You long for the taste of something different on your tongue, something that gives you the power to flirt with strangers, and knock over tables, and tell people what you really think of them. Something that tastes like freedom. So you unlock the wall safe and grab that bottle of Do Not Touch juice, and you suck down way more than you probably should, and you go out looking for trouble. We’ve all done that, right? I mean, I haven’t, because I have self-respect. But your way is fine, too.
The facts are as follows: Dr. Cyrus Longworth, of the Parallel Time Longworths, has invented some cockamamie de-jekylling potion which he believes, incorrectly, will help humanity achieve the full potential of something or other. It involves the phrase “man is truly two,” and it probably won’t hold up in court; that’s all you need to know about that.
So Cyrus drank deep from the Curséd Fountain of Yolo, and underwent a transformation, cracking his chrysalis to become something new and strange. It calls itself John Yaeger, and it likes to party.
John is basically Cyrus with a new desktop theme, adding several features on top of the Cyrus we already had. He’s got slick black hair, an even more slick black mustache, a big putty nose and patches of fur on the back of his hands. He stands up straighter, his voice is deeper and he doesn’t wear fussy little scientist glasses anymore. The real mystery is: why “Yaeger”? Nobody knows.
So this is what Cyrus was aiming at, apparently; he put in an order for tall, dark and hairy. Turns out there’s a chemical synthesis that does exactly this.
He picks up a metal tray, tossing a collection of scientific implements to the floor, because fuck implements, so that he can look at himself in the tray’s reflection, even though there’s a mirror hanging up about four feet away, because fuck walking four feet. This is how Yaeger rolls; he has no time for boring conventional things, even if they work better. It’s just more fun making a mess. This is how they do it in the J.Y.
And oh, is he pleased with himself. “To bring forth all that is good in man!” he sneers, mocking the mission statement. “To deter the impediment of evil! To bring out what is best in his divided nature!” He chuckles. “What’s best is here… and his name is John Yaeger!” He’s just really into having facial hair, I guess.
Yaeger opens up the locked wardrobe that Cyrus keeps in his basement science dungeon for some reason, and finds another mirror inside; the tray is just sitting there, fuming.
“There’s no clear, honest eyes here!” Yaeger crows. “No pale face! The milk of human kidness doesn’t flow through these veins!” Just being John Yaeger is more fun than anything else you’ll do all year.
He grabs a suit and tie combo from the wardrobe, and congratulates himself some more. “Ah, look! Yaeger, you have style! Oh, you’ve got more than style, you’ve got flair! It’s too bad they never caught the man who broke into that clothing store, huh?”
He pauses. “Now, when was that? When was the last time I became myself?” He can’t quite remember, but who cares? Schedules are for pantywaist nerds. John Yaeger lives in the now.
So, as far as the audience is concerned: huge improvement, right? Yes, he’s still making speeches on the subject of how great he is, which appears to be Dr. Longworth’s specialty in every incarnation, but he’s louder and less predictable, and he’s not peering at test tubes, which was a dramatic dead end.
Once he’s climbed into the new couture and grabbed the sword cane he snatched from the sword cane shop free of charge, he’s ready for another villain monologue, this time on the subject of a ringing telephone.
“Someone’s calling the good Dr. Longworth!” he announces. “Well, that’s a pity, because he isn’t here. Maybe it’s a friend, some friend in need. Well, his friends better just get along without him.” The phone stops ringing, and he’s pleased. “That’s better! If it’s Dr. Longworth you’re looking for, you’d better give up!” This is what evil people do, if you give them a chance, they disrupt the telecommunications industry.
And then he goes to the bar, flirts with a girl and gets into a fight, which is entertaining, and helps to pass the time while we’re waiting for the vampire to come back. John Yaeger is the unfiltered id, and this is what ids do, especially with some breakaway furniture close at hand. The bottle on the bar is tricky to handle, and you can see it disintegrate when Steve tries to pick it up, but that’s exciting in its own way.
Although I have to say, this particular experiment has been performed before, every night and all over the world, so I’m not sure what Cyrus is all worked up about. This is called drunk people, and we have plenty.
That’s the strange thing about The Strange Case of Dr. J; it’s a monster movie without the monster. Mr. Hyde doesn’t really do anything that a normal person couldn’t do, if he’s in a really bad mood. In the original story, Hyde isn’t even big and strong, like our friend Yaeger; he’s actually smaller than Dr. Jekyll is, an underdeveloped runt with a chip on his shoulder.
Still, the idea of losing control of yourself packs a punch, horror-wise. It’s a scary idea, that there’s something sinister inside of you, which is seducing you into letting it take over. Mr. Hyde is basically your own home-brewed body-snatcher.
So this is one of those metaphors where you don’t really need any subtext. The characters just announce what they’re doing — I am going to separate good from evil in man’s divided nature, they say — and then it’s on with the bar fight.
And that’s a welcome development, in a storyline that has up until now been conducted entirely in the nerd lab over at Cyrus’ place, where you can’t move around too much or you’ll knock over the rabbit hutch. All the beakers and fluids in the apparatus need to stay put; that’s the only way we know this is scientifically sound.
So what a relief it is, to get out of the basement and create some new visual spectacle. Flipping over tables is always a good time, but the most compelling shot in this sequence is Yaeger standing at the door, feet planted, pounding at his chest like a gorilla. Again, this is a subtext-free zone; Yaeger is just straight up saying, I am the alpha male, and this is my territory.
Which means that we’re finally figuring out the correct use for Christopher Pennock, who was hired three months ago to be the looming, intimidating monster man. So far, this Jekyll-and-Hyde storyline has kept him all cooped up inside a lab coat, but Yaeger’s outrages give him a chance to cut loose. This is effective deployment of your big and tall cast members.
But the alpha male needs somebody to show off for, preferably the females of the tribe. In this case, that means the barmaid, Buffie Harrington, and she is not impressed.
Yaeger’s blown through the place like the Tasmanian Devil, destroying everything within reach, which you’d assume would leave the smaller members of the cast huddling behind the bar and hoping things would blow over. That is not the case.
“Well, who’s going to pay for all this?” she demands, stepping right up into the monster’s face. He says he’ll pay, and she spits, “Oh, yeah, sure. And I’m going to get fired, because there was a fight here!” Buffie is weird and surprising. I like her. I wish she’d been around for all the werewolf attacks we had last year; she’s good in a crisis.
And apparently, that’s an important survival skill in these parts. When Yaeger insists that he’ll pay for the damages, she says, “You guys are all alike! You wreck a place, and then you say oh, I’m going to pay for it, and that’s the last I ever hear about it!” Has this really happened that often? Does Parallel Time take place in the Blade Runner universe?
The interesting thing about this scenario is that John Yaeger — the unfiltered id, the guy without the milk of human kindness in his veins — is genuinely concerned about the post-disaster cleanup. Not only does he promise to pay Buffie for the damages, but then he immediately runs home to the lab and cuts a check for her. He even signs it as Cyrus, which is an obvious clue that will make people wonder what the connection is between the doctor and the gorilla.
Come to think of it, it’s not really clear why Yaeger is supposed to be the evil twin. Cyrus certainly lies a lot more than Yaeger does. Yes, Yaeger’s made a mess, but he comes back promptly with a FEMA unit and a funding source. He boasted about breaking into the clothing store and grabbing some menswear, but that was an emergency — he didn’t have any clothes that fit him, and the stores were all closed. For all I know, maybe he left a stack of bills on the counter.
Plus, Yaeger is a lot more open about his feelings than Cyrus is. It’s pretty clear that Cyrus doesn’t really want to be engaged to Sabrina anymore — yes, Yaeger was the one who ripped the engagement ring off her finger, but it ended up in Cyrus’ pocket, and he didn’t give it back to her. Anyway, Cyrus is Sabrina’s boss, which is a clear case of sexual harassment in the workplace. Yaeger actually bothers to go downtown and find somebody to flirt with who isn’t a direct report.
So, memo to Cyrus, when he gets back to the office: If you want to break up with Sabrina, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. Just tell her how you feel. I get where you’re coming from, I wouldn’t want to date her either. But this is not the way. Use your words.
Tomorrow: Fifty Shaves.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, when John approaches the wardrobe, you can see the studio lights for a moment.
When Alexis walks down the stairs, there’s a crunching noise as she hits the last step.
When Quentin slams the front door, the window on the nearby wall wobbles.
Yaeger holds up the bottle, and they’re supposed to cut to another camera, for a shot of the bottle. But they cut too late, so we see the first camera start to zoom in on Yaeger’s face for the close-up.
When Yaeger’s ready to leave the lab, something falls with a clatter to the floor.
Steve grabs for a breakaway bottle to smash over Yaeger’s head, but it instantly disintegrates in his hand. They do a nice job with the breakaway chair, though.
Yaeger tells Buffie, “I’m going to be right back, in a very — little while, with a very generous check.”
Quentin tells Trask, “You weren’t a day — you weren’t away the day Dameon Edwards disappeared last year.” Then he says, “I have every believe — every reason to believe that he was murdered.”
Quentin calls Buffie “Miss Harrigan”, instead of “Miss Harrington”.
Behind the Scenes:
Buffie is played by Elisabeth Eis, who last appeared in February as Nelle, the Leviathan girl who gets killed by Barnabas.
Steve is played by George Strus, who appears in two episodes. He has a few small parts in movies over the next couple of years, including the blaxploitation classic Shaft.
Tomorrow: Fifty Shaves.
— Danny Horn