“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Buffie: Haven’t I proved that?
Yaeger: Possibly. Except that I thought you liked “a quiet man.”
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.
“No one will hear anything,” he says, leaning in for a kiss. “Not a single… solitary… sound.”
And then —
WHAM! So that’s what happens in that conversation.
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
— Danny Horn