Episode 1002: Ordinary Circumstances

“Why should I drink this? Why should I be frightened?”

Here’s a tricky etiquette problem, if you’re in the mood for one: You’re spending time with friends in a relaxed social setting, and then, when they step out of the room for a moment, you suddenly and without warning transform yourself into a person to whom none of your friends have been properly introduced. Personally, I don’t have a contingency plan for that particular contingency; I figure if it ever happens, I’ll just report it to my commanding officer and wait for instructions.

But here’s Dr. Cyrus Longworth, pseudoscientist and dabbler in the unknown, relaxing after a hectic evening of corpse-related felonies, as his friend Quentin goes upstairs to invite the woman that everyone thinks is Alexis to join them for a drink. As Cyrus paces the floor, he suddenly doubles over in pain, and engages in an unintentional full-body metamorphosis.

What we end up with is John Yaeger, the yin to Cyrus’ yang, a more explicitly evil twin who’s lactose-intolerant in regards to the milk of human kindness. Cyrus has been bringing out his bad side lately by drinking a home-brewed chemical synthesis, but now he’s so hooked on the stuff that Yaeger comes out just because Cyrus is tired of waiting for cocktails.

With his host on the way back to the drawing room, Yaeger considers jumping out the window, but stops. “No,” he thinks, “it must look as if I left under ordinary circumstances!”

Except obviously people turning into monsters is an ordinary circumstance for Collinwood. Several people currently in the house have done this, up to and including both of the people you’re planning to have a drink with. This is what Collinwood is for.

I’m going to include Quentin in that tally of monsters, even though this Quentin isn’t supposed to be the same Quentin afflicted with lycanthropy, because we’re just kidding ourselves if we think these are two separate stories. They’re not. They merge together, along with House of Dark Shadows and the Paperback Library novels and the View-Master reels, and all the other Tales of Hoffman.

This incident proves that the Concurrent Collinwood of Parallel Time is what it always was — a house-shaped hole carved out of time and space that exists in order to facilitate transformations. And now you get to go home, John Yaeger, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-tray

Yaeger escapes by forging himself a doctor’s note, which is neither long nor worthy, but it’ll do in a pinch. Then he ducks out the window, which is now an ordinary circumstance, on account of the note.

He scurries home to the doctor’s lab to get an emergency gulp of reverso-fluid, but as he’s dialing up the combination to the safe, he takes a moment to think things through, and then — as is always the case with these Collinsport lunatics — he doubles down on the crazy.

“I am John Yaeger!” he announces, looking at his warped reflection in a silver tray. “I’m not Cyrus Longworth, the coward! Longworth, he’d take the quickest way out! But not me.” Apparently this means that Cyrus wouldn’t have the guts to climb out the window and run away; he probably would have done something weak and pathetic, like explain what’s going on and take responsibility for his actions.

“I love life!” Yaeger is still talking about himself. “I crave adventure! And I’m not afraid!” Then he hides the potion in a wall safe, hangs a picture over it, and pretends it’s not there anymore.

“Even if I did change without the potion, what of it?” he muses. “Why not take advantage of it? Why not enjoy it?” He picks up his sword cane. “I’m John Yaeger now! And I’m not afraid of anything!” I think we get it.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-fashion

Yaeger changes into a different costume, and compliments himself on his style and flair. This is something that I love about Dark Shadows — even when other things on the show aren’t quite working out, there’s always somebody on the team who’s making sure that there’s something worth paying attention to.

In this case, it’s a weird visual joke about the bad man having bad taste, and I love it. I wish there were more cosplayers who were interested in John Yaeger, and by “more” I mean one.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-suit

So Yaeger steals one of Cyrus’ paintings and brings it to his new lodgings, in a crummy boarding house in town. There, he’s visited by Buffie, his barmaid friend, who feels strangely drawn to this exciting but menacing new acquaintance. People are always strangely drawn to things on Dark Shadows; it helps to move things along with a minimum of prep time.

Yaeger says that he has a few questions to ask Buffie, and she says sure, and then he goes and closes the door and stands between her and it, and looms.

1002-dark-shadows-buffie-yaeger-steepling-fingers

“I don’t frighten you, do I?” Yaeger asks, and she says no.

“Good,” he says, and then he puts his hands together in a way that isn’t quite steepling his fingers, but it’s close enough. “I don’t think you’ve done anything to be afraid of. Have you, Miss Harrington?”

She turns away, and he insists, “Have you?” although to be honest, it’s not super clear what he’s asking. How do you know if you’ve done something to be afraid of?

“I’m waiting for an answer, Miss Harrington,” he purrs, moving closer. “Have you done anything to be afraid of?” So apparently we’re committing to that line, as is.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-loom

The issue is that she visited Cyrus’ laboratory the other day, to find out if the check that Yaeger gave her was on the up and up. Cyrus confirmed that his signature was on the check, and then she flirted with him a little bit, and then she left, mission accomplished. But Yaeger, the very personification of all the evil impulses in man’s soul, is put out about the infidelity.

Yaeger:  Well, I can understand how you can not trust me, after such a short acquaintance. But it grieves me that you don’t like me.

Buffie:  But I do like you.

Yaeger:  Oh?

Buffie:  Haven’t I proved that?

Yaeger:  Possibly. Except that I thought you liked “a quiet man.”

Buffie:  Quiet?

Yaeger:  Yes, unless you’re being misquoted.

Buffie:  I don’t think I understand.

Yaeger:  Well, did you or did you not say to Cyrus Longworth that you liked a quiet man?

(She doesn’t answer.)

Yaeger:  Well? Were those your words, or weren’t they? Why don’t you answer me?

Buffie:  He told you?

Yaeger:  A quiet man. Very well. I won’t make a sound.

And then he takes a step towards her.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-kiss

“No one will hear anything,” he says, leaning in for a kiss. “Not a single… solitary… sound.”

And then —

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-wham

WHAM! So that’s what happens in that conversation.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-brutal

By the time we get back from the commercial break, they’re in the rebuttoning phase. She’s got an assortment of abrasions and scratches, her blouse is torn in several places, and she’s quietly sobbing, in the only chair in the room. Oh, and she’s limping.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she whimpers, and he smirks, and makes sarcastic comments.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-painting

She gets up to leave, and he stops her.

“Miss Harrington,” he says, picking up the picture he liberated from the laboratory. “Before you go — just to prove to you that I meant no malice in our little lesson today — I would like you to accept this from me.”

She doesn’t know what to say. This is not a situation that she’d ever really prepared for.

1002-dark-shadows-yaeger-buffie-proof

But she takes it, because what else are you going to do? Sure, hand it over. I really ought to be…

He’s not finished. “And, Miss Harrington, to further prove my point, I would like to take you out this evening.”

“Take me out?”

“Yes, I thought, to a late-night supper. A place we both appreciate, with music and excellent food, and good wines.”

And, good god. She smiles. And she says yes. And then he starts to laugh.

1002-dark-shadows-buffie-beaten

“Miss Harrington,” he chuckles, “did you really think I’d take you out, looking like this? With bruises all over your arms, and cuts all over your face? You really ought to take better care of yourself.”

Yeah, still not done. “Now, as much as I’d like to spend the late hours in your company, well — maybe sometime when you’ve paid more attention to the way you look.”

1002-dark-shadows-buffie-yaeger-shades

So there you go, that’s today’s little visit to the Fiftyshadesverse.

Now, the thing they don’t talk about is how he raped her, probably bending her over that chair. That’s because this is 1970 daytime TV; if this was a movie, he’d be buckling up his pants, rather than buttoning his sleeves. And then he’d do the painting thing, and the uninvite.

But even playing it like this, it’s shocking for Dark Shadows. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this before. They usually go for werewolf attacks these days, and even the werewolf attacks aren’t this brutal.

I’m not complaining — Yaeger is a villain, and he needs to do villainous things. You can’t just have him shoplift, and leave cocktail parties early. This is what makes you the evil twin.

And it’s actually an example of one of the helpful uses of soap opera, in everyday life — dramatizing issues and problems that women face every day. The show’s lead-in, One Life to Live, started out as the social-issues soap; if this had happened half an hour earlier, they would have spent a full month on this, at minimum. They would have shown Buffie talking to a rape crisis counselor about fear and shame, and encouraging viewers to reach out, if something like this happens. That’s how soap operas handle a rape storyline.

Except on Dark Shadows, of course, where it’s a thing that you do to kill time between Chromakey effects. Good night, Miss Harrington. I said, good night.

Tomorrow: The Way We Live Now.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

It’s cleaned up above, but Yaeger actually tells Buffie, “I can understand how you can not trust me, after such a short acquaitant.”

Sabrina asks Yaeger, “Who are you?” when she should have said, “Who are you?”

When Quentin opens the doors to Angelique’s room, a stagehand can be seen briefly on the left.

In the end credits, Barnabas’ portrait is sitting on the floor next to the drawing room fireplace. It won’t be introduced on the show until tomorrow’s episode.


Behind the Scenes:

Yaeger’s room (or the left side of it, anyway) is instantly recognizable as Quentin’s room from 1897, especially because it’s not furnished.

Tomorrow: The Way We Live Now.

1002-gonzo-camilla-muppets

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

38 thoughts on “Episode 1002: Ordinary Circumstances

  1. I’m not sure Yaeger’s suit is supposed to represent bad taste. I was alive in the early 70s and it looks rather typical of the time. It seems more like he’s going from Longworth’s boring black suit to a flashy, man-about-town outfit.

    1. You are sadly correct. In 1970, I would have cut quite a figure in that suit at my bar mitzvah. The horror of ’70s fashion reaches through time to sear our eyeballs.

    2. Yeah, when the fashion tide turned against those kind of suits, it turned swiftly and mercilessly. But when they were hot, they were hot. (Of course, you couldn’t get them too hot or they would melt.)

    3. Hope he got some tuxedoes from that men’s shop! If you thought 70s leisure suits were stylin’,…

      How could Yeager pass this up?

  2. While looking at the lead-in photo of Yaeger at the top of the post, I was thinking how well they were doing the character’s makeup by this point, but it also occurred to me that it seems to reinforce the prevailing cultural bias of the time against those with a “swarthy” appearance. Cyrus is fair and meek, whereas Yaeger is practically black.

      1. I got a ‘Ron Davis with native makeup’ vibe from that first pic…maybe the original idea was to use HIM as Longworth.

  3. Bill Horton drunkenly raped his sister in law Laura on Days of Our Lives in 1968 and I remember it as being portrayed in a very disturbing and frightening scene. He didn’t beat the hell out of her but, it was a rape and we had no doubt that was what was happening.

  4. The creepy part is not that there is a rape; uncomfortable to think that there has been vampire-lure abuse of women this show for a long, long time, and Barnabas’s Vertigo-style psychological reprogramming of Maggie Evans is what got many of us watching this show in the first place. But, in the complicated mix, we were at least in part horrified by the evil of all that, and, centrally, the women were resistant. The heart-sinking moment here is Buffie’s fleeting hopeful response that Yeager’s going to treat her well now, with an elegant date: at that proposal, Maggie Evans would have spat at him and early Victoria would have stayed desperately reasonable–Buffie’s momentary glimmer of submissive hope is battered-worker syndrome and it’s a whole different level of ugly. Maybe part of the reason Buffie and Sabrina, and, in time, Roxane, don’t stay in the fanbase’s memory the same way is that they’re written with less strength and spine, more ready to return a kiss for the slap? Would it have been different if Violet Welles had stayed on board?

    1. I think you’re on to something. These latter-day characters don’t have the integrity or the spirit or the intelligence that Early Vicki, Maggie or Carolyn possessed. I do wonder how a female writer would have written them.

      1. I’m not sure that it matters, given that the early portrayals of Vicky, Carolyn, and Maggie were written by male writers. Another thing to consider is that the scene with Buffie that some find so objectionable was directed by a female (Lela Swift).

    2. Nice analysis. I would also speculate that the reason some/many/most are uncomfortable with this moreso than Barnabas’s other horrors is because most of them were outré/supernatural/unbelievable whereas rape is very real.

      And yes, my particular disgust and marking of the most famous rapist in soap history is because of Buffie’s smile, not the rape itself.

  5. When I first watched this episode, I honestly thought I was reading too much into it when we came back from commercial and my first response was, “My god, he didn’t RAPE her, did he?” Now I’m not so sure I’m glad that I wasn’t misreading it – it makes it one of the most uncomfortable sequences in DS for me now, and it concerns two characters that I really couldn’t care less for, besides. Nicely done – I think?

  6. Slightly OT, but since last post was about Don Briscoe’s sad departure from DS, here he is in better days (1964) as Nick in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? from the playbill for same. Several photos of Don(ald). His standby (and the asst. stage manager) is Christopher Bernau!!

    Don’t bio mentions that he made a film for the Army Signal Corps (somebody needs to find that!) and that he’s a professional ghost writer. (Did they say “ghosts”?)

    And here’s a review: http://newspaperarchives.vassar.edu/cgi-bin/vassar?a=d&d=miscellany19641014-01.2.13

  7. Although Maggie Evans is appropriately repulsed by what Barnabas is doing to her, the rape fantasy element of his vampirism is an element of a lot of his later interactions with his victims (specifically Charity Trask and Megan Todd). Yaeger and Buffie just sort of remove the veneer of the supernatural: Yaeger is very real in an unsettling way, as well as his abuse of Buffie. Yet we’ve seen Quentin assaulting Beth early on in their courtship, as well.

  8. Nothing surprises me about this episode, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a general attitude that slapping women around was, well, acceptable. This was the era of MASH, a movie that glorifies the sexual harassment of Army nurses. The spin-off show did the same thing (even showing the head nurse as a buffoon; how f’ing likely was that?), glorifying drunken behavior (these are docs who could be, and were, called on at every hour of the day and night to operate) and drunk driving (remember Potter speeding into camp, drunk?).

    This is how enlightened that era was. Noting disturbing about the beating and implied rape here. It was 1970. Here in 2017, women are still roughed up all the time on TV, but it’s mixed with an “empowerment” narrative, so the “context” is changed, and it’s okay.

    Remember, please–it wasn’t that long ago that women didn’t report rapes because it would be assumed they did something to make it happen. 1970 wasn’t a good year for women, and DS, like any pop culture product, tells us volumes about its era.

  9. Perhaps if the Longworth character had been something more than an invertebrate weenie, there might be more of a conflict in me as a viewer, more suspense that Yaeger won’t be caught. Maybe that’s why this plotline doesn’t work for me. Cyrus isn’t a strong enough ‘good guy’ to make me care what happens to him (and NO, Sabrina’s happy ending is not an enticement), and John is so poisonously wretched that I want him to pay. They don’t balance out.

  10. This is where I turned against the Yaeger character for all time. He could have been played with at least SOME charm, but NOOOOO.

    Everything he does oozes of sleaze and general ahole.

    Imagine if he could actually charm the audience into liking some part of him, like a certain Frid we know. And then turn into what he really is.

    THAT would be compelling.

    From the moment he whacked her, then followed by mocking, I wanted to turn off my TV,
    Every time he came on, thereafter.

  11. Questions about what it’s okay for a villain to do are pretty central to Dark Shadows. Barnabas does things that are way, WAY worse than this, but maybe they don’t have the same sting because it’s in a fantasy-metaphor context.

    Obviously, raping a woman and then slut-shaming her is a completely evil and very real thing that people do.

    But (in my opinion) murder is worse, and erasing somebody else’s entire identity is fantasy-metaphor murder. Using somebody to provide a life-force for somebody else is also fantasy-metaphor murder.

    Barnabas does those things literally all of the time. I don’t think there’s a four-week period with Barnabas on the show when he’s not either doing or planning to do one of those things. But we like him anyway, because he has friends that we like. John Yaeger doesn’t have friends, so we hate him.

    1. Plus, Barnabas is cursed, where Cyrus\John did it all on his own;
      Barnabas (occasionally) shows remorse (no, that doesn’t make it all better, but it’s something), and John revels in his bad-ittude.
      And Barnabas keeps getting locked in coffins! This is his third go around! That should be worth something.

      (Just a note – Willie freed Barnabas in ‘Time Classic’, where William trapped Barnabas in PT…another opposite.)

      1. Also, a lot of the time when Barnabas does these things to people they don’t know he’s doing them, at least at first. Yaeger is like “I’m going to do evil things to you, and you WILL LIKE IT! You better tell me you like it, or otherwise no more Mr. Nice Guy!”

  12. Why is Yeager so concerned about it ‘looking like I left under normal circumstances’, anyhow? Just let Cyrus do damage control later; Yeager has been doing that right along! Perhaps it’s just residual weenie-ness, since the transformation has just occurred (without benefit of drinking the elixir)?

      1. As opposed to being pulled into Parallel Time, or attacked by a werewolf, or cursed by a witch, or chased away by a ghost, or escaping from zombies, or thrown backwards in time, or being a vampire’s blood slave, or being a vampire, or needing to immolate because you’re a Phoenix and your time is up, or you have to kill your twin and take their place, or you need a face for your big naked dead guy creation and all you can find is Roger Davis’, or you need to go remove the bleeder valves on someone’s Mustang, or they told you they need this set for a ChromaKey dream sequence.

        Normal circumstances include needing to check Widow’s Hill for jumpers, Bathia Mapes just caught on fire, a sale at Ohrbachs, just remembered I have a date with Danielle Roget, I don’t really like sherry or brandy (though that is a fairly remote possibility), I have to go look for my silver pen, I’m knitting an Afghan, Istvan wants to go clubbing, do I smell Mrs. Johnson’s boiled dinner, gone to Belem to search for Burke Devlin, had a sudden craving for lobster rolls, ohmigod Chris just took off his shirt, I have a bit part in House Of Dark Shadows and need to get to Tarrytown right away, Joe Haskell’s broken out of Windcliff, I promised Sabrina I’d help her shop for moon poppies, I left candles lit over at the Old House and they’re dripping on the carpets, and (my favourite) I have to go somewhere and do something immediately.

    1. Perhaps this is just a factor of the merging of the characters. After all, he did change without taking any Do Not Touch juice.

      1. Yeh, he doesn’t go full-on Yeager until he gets to the lab.
        Maybe that ‘merge’ is also why the werewolves know how to use doorknobs. And keep their clothing on. 😀

  13. The rape scene is definately disturbing. I can’t help but wish that Barnabas was more involved in the beginning of Parallel Time (not having seen the rest of the storyline yet at the time of this post). There are lots of echoings of different aspects of early Barnabas in the Paralell Time villians: John Yeager has the abvusive “rapist” aspect of early Barnabas, Angelique Stokes Collins has the vampire angle with body heat replacing blood (the life metaphor remains the same) and even Timothy Stokes brings to mind the “secret number of the universe” element. It would have been great to see Barnabas become self-reflective of his behavior during 1967 after seeing these elements in the villians.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s