Episode 1019: Peer at a Prop

“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 where 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.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

19 thoughts on “Episode 1019: Peer at a Prop

  1. The Quentin-Maggie-Angelique triangle thing doesn’t work for me either. And I can’t imagine it working for ANY viewer. The lack of a “fun” factor is definitely one of the reasons. And the lack of someone to root for. These characters are joyless. At the very least a villain should at least be charismatic and enjoy being evil. That’s why Nicholas worked. PT Angelique doesn’t. She could have used a little more Endora in her, less Esmeralda.

  2. Hmm, my didacticism might be showing, but…
    If the doll is ‘obviously’ handmade, wouldn’t there be fingerprint impressions in it?
    Why would Maggie create and use a voodoo doll, then return to Quentin and leave the doll sitting in her open suitcase, right on top of her dainties, in their shared bedroom?
    Why would Hoffman go in the bedroom to be discovered by Maggie, then consider that to be a step forward in Angelique’s nefarious plan? Especially since it makes it fairly obvious that SHE planted the doll in Maggie’s luggage?


    Oh my God, this plot is an idiot, and may possibly ruin everything. And all along we thought it was Vicki.

    1. Really, the person we should blame is Elizabeth. If she hadn’t conked Paul Stoddard on the head, Jason McGuire wouldn’t have returned to Collinwood with Willie Loomis. Barnabas wouldn’t have been let out of the coffin, etc etc etc

      1. Which would have meant Grayson Hall would never have been on the show. As bad as plotlines like this are, I don’t think remaining a show about cannery disputes and possibly Vicki’s parentage would have been that much better (if it even stayed on the air, which seems less likely).

        1. Totally true. You can also look at it from the other way. Willie may have been the inadvertent savior of the Collins family. If he hadn’t started hanging around Jason McGuire he wouldn’t have come to Collinsport and let Barnabas out, He wouldn’t have saved Elizabeth from jumping off Widow’s Hll or been around to save Carolyn from a werewolf attack .

          1. It does make one wonder what direction the show would have taken had Dan Curtis decided against putting a vampire on the show, or if he had insisted on that handsome Bert Convy to play Barnabas – then agreed that Julian Hoffman had been mentioned already, so the part must be played by a man (say, for instance, that guy from The Thomas Crown Affair, Addison Powell).
            Oh, no! That means there might never have been any Tattletales! So perhaps one shouldn’t even speculate upon it…the alternatives are simply too grim.

    2. Perhaps this is how gaslighting works in PT, or is it another one of those “people making different decisions” thing?

    3. The thing that gets me is that finally, the actual bones of Angelique’s evil scheme make a sort of sense:

      She can’t just kill Maggie or wait for Quentin to file divorce papers, because then Quentin might still love Maggie and Angelique can’t convince him to die or be a warmth vampire or whatever she’s got in mind. Quentin MUST LOVE HER AND ONLY HER ( the through line for all Angeliques everywhere and everywhen is that some guy who isn’t into them must LOVE HER AND ONLY HER) so:

      She gaslights Maggie (badly) using Hoffman and crazy eyes, while also making Quentin think that Maggie is the one doing this to him. Every time Maggie complains or describes what’s happening, she sounds like a liar, or like she’s crazy. Meanwhile, Quentin’s suspicions apply the hammer to the wedge of her actions, they break up for good and Quentin doesn’t love her anymore so bring on the heat vampirism or whatever you’ve got in mind, dead wife in her sister’s body whom I actually wasn’t that into even when you were alive and in your own because you were a sociopathic cheater who openly surrounded yourself with your trashy lovers and hangers-on!

      So that’s actually the kind of gothic Rube Goldberg mechanism that would work just fine with competent people at the helm. Instead, every single thing is so hamfisted and telegraphed that it takes Maggie/Quentin and Quentin/Cyrus approximately ten seconds each to smell a rat.

  3. I know it’s all very depressing and everything, but I at least expected a screenshot of Julia fondling the Ralston-Purina lamp.

  4. If Angelique wants to get rid of Maggie, why not kill her the next time Angelique gets a case of the undead chills?

    1. Dead Maggie would still be loved by Quentin, I guess? She’s got a witch-on for exclusivity.

  5. I was trying to work out a way that the Angelique/Quentin/Maggie triangle could have been made to work. What I came up with was this: instead of making Angelique bring back Maggie for inexplicable plot reasons, have Maggie decide to come back of her own accord. Have her return just as “Alexis” thinks she’s getting somewhere with Quentin. Instead of having her stick pins into a voodoo doll of Quentin, let her take a leaf out Angelique Mark I’s book and cast a love spell on Maggie. Make her fall for the mysterious cousin from South America staying at Loomis House. (Maybe he’ll take her back to Peru with her!) Of course Angelique doesn’t realise he’s a 200 year old vampire with a Josette obsession, so her plan goes seriously, SERIOUSLY wrong…

  6. Yeah. I think Quentin/Maggie/Angelique doesn’t have any heat. Nobody’s having pitchforks appear on their hands. Nobody’s sneaking off for surreptitious smooching.

  7. I’m liking it.

    PT Angelique’s harebrained scheme isn’t really any worse than were most of Angelique-Prime’s schemes. So the difference between PT Maggie and Quentin on the one hand and 1795 Josette and Jeremiah on the other is that Maggie and Quentin have some brains. They talk to each other about what they’ve seen, confront Miss Hoffman, and consult with the resident Doctor of Spookology. For viewers who had seen 1795, that must have come both as a relief- thank goodness they aren’t going to simply recycle that story- and as a source of suspense- when Angelique sees her first evil plan fail, what other, even more evil plan will she devise?

    Besides, all of the actors are fun to watch. Even Ken McEwen’s turn as Larry Chase was hilarious by virtue if its incompetence. Partly that’s because he was always sharing the screen with people who knew what they were doing, partly it’s because he was on in moments when we didn’t really care about the story, partly it’s because we know the backstory of his emergency last-minute casting, but he was responsible for some genuine laughs.

    1. I agree. Whether it was intentional or not on the part of the writers, it’s refreshing to watch the schemes concocted by a pair of incompetent villains continue to fail or backfire for once. Same with Angelique’s less than perfect black magic. It actually gives the show a realism it doesn’t normally have.

  8. I’m beginning to realize it’s not Barnabas’s fault that his fall-back plan was always, “They must die!” The writers are TERRIBLE at coming up with dastardly plans! Every villain’s plan is ill-conceived, nonsensical, incompetent or non-existent. The last diabolical plan that worked was the murder of Dave Woodard which they possibly regretted since Barnabas and Julia turned into the main protagonists of the show. Now they’re not even trying!

  9. There appears to be 2 Ralston-Purina lamps! Or 2 lamps that share the same shade. The drawing room base is brass and glass. The study lamp’s base was wood. I wonder if there were other combinations?

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