“I’m trying to figure out how something you’ve never seen before managed to get into your suitcase.”
So the plan, as I understand it, is as follows: sinister sorceress Angelique Collins and her housekeeper pal Hoffman will break up the marriage between Angelique’s one-time husband Quentin and his now-time wife Maggie, by making Maggie paranoid and hysterical, so that Quentin won’t be able to stand living with her. They’ll accomplish this by doing super suspicious things right in front of Maggie, and then acting weird and petulant about it, so that she knows they’re doing something suspicious, and thereby lulling her into a false sense of insecurity. It’s the perfect plan; she’ll never see it coming.
I know, all I do these days is complain about people’s terrible plans, like this is a soap opera version of Shark Tank, but seriously, one of these days, the villains on this show are going to figure out what they want and how they’re going to get it, and I need to stay alive until that day.
At the moment, the issue appears to be that Hoffman went into Maggie’s room while she was sleeping, inadvertently scaring off a vampire who was about to attack, so whatever, you’re welcome I guess, but then Maggie woke up and found Hoffman, and she asked a lot of personal questions, like, What are you doing here? and Well, I think if there had been someone in here, I would have heard them too, don’t you?
So Hoffman raised her eyebrows and smiled her secret smiles, and said, “So many frightening things have happened — things we haven’t been able to understand.” And Maggie said, yeah, I know, there’s a frightening thing happening right now, and you’re it.
Begging milady’s pardon, Hoffman turned and paced slowly out of the room, and the whole thing unsettled Maggie so much that she got out of bed and put clothes on, and went downstairs, and continued to be on television.
So Hoffman heads straight for the phone, to call Angelique and report on the evening’s achievements.
“Oh, I’m sure she felt that I was in the room for some other reason,” Hoffman gloats. “Yes — yes, I think she was frightened! Just as we planned.” Then she reassures her co-conspirator, “I’ll take care of everything here.”
In this case, “everything” means that when Maggie tells Quentin that Hoffman was in her room tonight for inadequately-explained reasons, then Hoffman admits it, restates her original excuse, and apologizes for causing a problem. This somehow translates as a diabolical scheme.
So I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I don’t think this scenario is particularly suspenseful. It’s not enough for Angelique and Hoffman to be excited about their plan; the audience needs to find it interesting too. And the scheme at the moment appears to be that they’re going to drive Maggie out of her mind by annoying her so much that Quentin divorces her. Who knows, they might even walk into her room again while she’s sleeping, and then apologize for waking her up.
The weird thing is that Angelique is an actual living-dead creature with magic powers. It’s true that so far every single spell that she’s tried to cast has backfired disastrously, but this walk-into-the-room plan backfired too, so what difference does it make?
And then they go and pull the goofiest cliffhanger we’ve had in a good long while. After their Hoffman encounter, Quentin and Maggie go upstairs to the master b., where he notices that her suitcase is sitting there at the foot of the bed, filled with forensics.
The suitcase is open, and the only objects inside are a clay voodoo doll and a handkerchief with the monogram QC. There isn’t a sharp pin lying next to them and a diary entry that reads “Tonight I will voodoo-doll my husband to the brink of death, ha ha, I’m sure that will achieve things, they all said my bachelor’s degree in voodoo studies would never come in handy, well, who’s laughing now,” but I guess this is one of those arts and crafts kits where some of the materials are sold separately.
So now we’re expected to live in a universe Quentin would suspect Maggie of casting a voodoo spell on him and then leaving the evidence in an open suitcase in their shared bedroom, when he knows that Bruno, Hannah, “Alexis” and Cyrus all have an interest in the occult, and at least one of them has a well-known grudge against Quentin, plus Hoffman was seen acting suspiciously in pretty much this exact spot, which he knows, because they were just talking about it before they came upstairs.
I know, I’m complaining about story logic again, which isn’t the point of Dark Shadows, but this isn’t even fun to watch. Angelique’s spell to make Quentin fall deeper in love with Maggie didn’t make sense either, but at least it had Quentin slashing a portrait and then seeing blood trickle down from the frame. This is just people talking to each other about stuff that we already know.
I was under the impression that the show was spinning its wheels while they were waiting for the cast to come back from filming House of Dark Shadows, and the story would kick into high gear once everybody returned, but that is simply not the case. This week, I’ve enjoyed Barnabas, Will and Carolyn, and Hoffman is always worth watching, but the Quentin/Angelique/Maggie triangle is supposed to be the heart of this storyline, and it’s just not working for me. I think this storyline is trying to kill me.
And then Cyrus comes over to play Peer at a Prop, which is even more frustrating. Quentin has invited the doctor over to show him the doll, and he asks Cyrus what he thinks it is.
“Obviously handmade,” Cyrus says, looking closely. “Also, obviously a doll… used in the practice of black magic!” They try to squeeze a commercial-break music cue out of that, but it’s not easy, because everyone involved already knows that, especially us.
And then the scene gets even more head-pounding.
Cyrus: Where did you find this?
Quentin: Maggie’s suitcase, last night.
Cyrus: Your wife? You don’t think she —
Quentin: No, no. I can’t believe that Maggie knows anything about black magic.
Cyrus: Is it possible that someone wants you to think that she does?
Quentin: What do you mean?
Cyrus: Well, this doll couldn’t just materialize in a suitcase —
Quentin: I’m aware of that!
Cyrus: The question is: was the doll in the suitcase through some freakish coincidence, or did somebody deliberately put it there?
Which is not a question that a character on a healthy TV show needs to remind someone to ask, because what else has Quentin been thinking about all this time?
Then Cyrus says, “I think you should investigate this — find out where the doll came from, and how it got into your wife’s suitcase!” Quentin says, “Yes, I will,” and then they just stand there, with no idea what the next step in that investigation could possibly be.
Tomorrow: To Serve Man.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Julia turns out the Ralston-Purina lamp in act 1, somebody in the studio coughs, and you can hear someone talking. You can also see a little shadow of the camera moving on the paneling under the windows.
When Cyrus strolls into the drawing room, a camera is visible on the left.
At the start of act 3, when Maggie says, “Angelique murdered?” there’s a quick glimpse of a boom mic at the top.
Angelique describes the seance: “At some point, there was — the lights went out, and there was a great deal of confusion.”
Hoffman says that she thought the subject was closed, and Quentin responds, “I’m reopening, Hoffman!”
When Angelique runs into the drawing room in act 3, we get another look at that camera.
Behind the Scenes:
My favorite prop to peer at is the Ralston-Purina lamp, which shows up today in the drawing room. We last saw it in the study, last week.
Tomorrow: To Serve Man.
— Danny Horn