“You can’t stop the trouble, Wicks!”
Time is running out for Sabrina Stuart. I mean, it’s running out for all of us, technically, but in Sabrina’s case, it’s running out even more than usual.
Yesterday, Sabrina watched as her mad scientist fiancee, Dr. Cyrus Longworth, clutched at his chest and transmogrified into a hideous angry man-monster, without warning, and without the aid of any magic potions or energy drinks. This is typical of late-stage Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, a metaphorical malady that will only get worse from here.
Sabrina was surprised, of course, but she dealt with this biology-busting miracle surprisingly well, by which I mean that she didn’t slump over in a chair and grow a mop of silver hair extensions, like she did the last time she saw a boyfriend transform into a monster before her very eyes.
When the problem was Chris turning into a wolfman, Sabrina was able to rally and reconnect with him, using the power of love and persistence and hair dye. He kept pushing her away, and she kept on loving him, and then she went out and bought a super-rare moon poppy to cure him. It didn’t work, but we all learned a valuable lesson about how you can’t solve every problem with flowers.
This time, faced with fiancee monster number two, Sabrina’s going to turn to the same playbook, and just keep on loving Cyrus, no matter what he turns into. There is a terrible flaw in this plan that I’m sure we’ll discover as we go along.
“What are you looking at me like that for?” says the new model, which calls itself John Yaeger. He’s strong and hairy, and he beats up girls for entertainment. He’s not quite as bad as a werewolf, in the sense that he doesn’t break plate glass windows as often, but he still represents a clear and present danger for Sabrina.
So she says, “Cyrus…” and he screams, “Don’t call me that! That’s not my name!”
And that’s pretty much Sabrina’s problem, in a nutshell. She’s making the worst mistake that a fictional character can make, which is misunderstanding the kind of story that you’re in. She thinks that this is a romantic story, about the selfless love of a good woman breaking through the hard exterior of an abusive man, to bring back the sweet, gentle lover that she convinced herself that she was dating all this time.
This “I can change him” fantasy is a terrible trope that’s bad for everyone who believes in it, but the women who participate in this kind of thinking tend to die sooner than otherwise, so at a certain point, natural selection will remove this trait from the human psyche and we can finally leave it behind. I’m pretty sure that’s how natural selection works.
Yaeger accuses Sabrina of sending word to the police, and she swears that she didn’t; she’s already covering up for Cyrus’ crimes, and he hasn’t even asked her to yet.
“I don’t believe you,” he sneers, and she looks up into his big ugly map and sighs, “Cyrus, I wouldn’t betray you.”
He laughs in her face. This is the thing about casting non-werewolves in these werewolf roles; yes, werewolves have claws and fangs, but at least they don’t make cutting personal remarks.
“You are a fool!” Yaeger shouts, directly into her face. “No wonder he was so bored by you!”
“He wasn’t!” she insists, as she turns away.
But he was, obviously, and we were too. They tried to make us care about Cyrus and Sabrina — at least, I assume they were trying, because otherwise why have we been looking at her this whole time — but it never clicked in any way.
Cyrus has gone through several different personas, and “loving fiancee” was definitely in the mix at first, but he’s gradually branched off into two basic personalities — generic doctor friend who people can call for emergency medical care or advice about voodoo, and neurotic sociopath lady-stalker who secretly rubs women’s gloves on his face.
They didn’t really need Sabrina for the former, and she’s a blocker on the latter, so she just kind of stepped offscreen, and Cyrus carried on as if she didn’t exist. We’ve hardly seen her over the last six weeks, and that includes the period when most of the cast was away making a movie, and you’d think the TV show would use all the remaining cast members they could get their hands on. So yeah, “bored by you” pretty much covers it.
“You don’t even know, do you?” he bellows, directly into her earhole. You have no idea how he went to the Eagle every single night, to see Buffie Harrington!”
“I don’t believe you!” Sabrina cries, although honestly, where did she think he was all that time? Sabrina works in Cyrus’ laboratory as his assistant. This is her office. There are only two employees at the firm. If your boss, who you’re engaged to, disappears for large stretches of time, including every evening for the last six weeks, then you’d probably want to look into it, right?
But no. “Cyrus loves me!” she claims, without evidence. Everything that she says is basically a press release from an alternate universe, and these people already live in an alternate universe in the first place.
This is what I’ve been saying lately about the concept of Love, which the show is not at all invested in anymore. There are currently zero romantic couples on the show; everybody is either pining for something they can’t have, or furiously rejecting whoever wants them, or both. This is unusual for a soap opera, in the sense that not having any baseballs would be unusual for a baseball game. You’d have to throw something around, but what?
“Oh, Sabrina,” the monster chuckles, “you’re just going to have to find somebody else.”
“I won’t!” she insists, positioning herself across the room so that she has some yelling space.
“Because you’re never going to see Cyrus Longworth again,” he taunts.
“Don’t you say that!” she screams.
He rounds on her, and declares, “I’ve murdered him, Sabrina!”
So Sabrina clutches both sides of her head and shouts “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!” as loud as she can. You know, I wonder what this scene would be like, if they’d cast a human being in this role.
And then there’s the hands, we have to talk about the hands. It starts with a close-up, all the way up in Yaeger’s face.
“Yes, you have been witness to a murder!” he crows. “You’ve seen his face turn into mine!”
“And you’ve watched his hands…”
“… turn into these.”
“These strong hands…”
“… that just TAKE whatever they want!”
“Hands that PUNISH!”
“Do they frighten you, Sabrina?”
And Sabrina just walks up to this madman, and says, “No. Because I know Cyrus is still there. You have not destroyed him!”
Which is just, like, did you even hear what he was saying about his hands? This is not a salvageable situation. You need to look around and locate the closest exit. In some cases, the nearest exit may be behind you.
And then they just go into full-blown the-replicants-are-malfunctioning mode.
“Don’t you have any idea how he hated being himself?” Yaeger shouts. “So much that he just became me?”
“No!” she grimaces.
“And those detestable traits of his? They don’t even exist anymore!”
“They will, again! They will!”
He shakes his head. “Oh, Sabrina.”
“You’ve lived before, but you became Cyrus!”
Seriously, it’s like this scene takes place on another planet, and I love it, and I hate it. This isn’t even theater anymore. I don’t know what this is.
I’m just going to go on. I have to do this whole thing, and then I’ll be free of it.
“I hated it!” Yaeger growls. “Every single time!”
“Well, then why didn’t you stay Yaeger?” says the shouty lady.
“Because I used his body to escape!”
“Escape? From what?” she cries. “You tell me!” I have no idea what she’s trying to achieve at this point. I guess the psychopath serial killer doesn’t always have to be the weirdest person in the room.
And then he brandishes the sword-cane, which he insists on brandishing despite the fact that the blade keeps making noises and sometimes, as it will in about a minute and a half, it falls out of the cane and clatters to the floor.
“See this sword?” he says, which is the only thing that someone who owns a sword-cane ever says. “See it?” She sees it. We all do.
“How easily it enters the body?” he continues. “With just one little FLICK! of my wrist — and a scream in the night!”
There’s a lot of things you could say to this. Sabrina goes with, “Gladstone!”
Amazingly, this is the correct answer. “Yes!” Yaeger grins, beaming at his blade. “Yes, Gladstone! He was my first victim, Sabrina… and ever since then, this sword hungers for another!”
He turns it on her, poking it in her face. “You?” he laughs. “Are you going to be its next victim, Sabrina?”
So I don’t know, maybe it’s true that love conquers all, but if it does, then it really needs to get a move on. Because this? This is going to take a minute to conquer.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Daniel enters Maggie’s bedroom, the bedside lamp turns on before Maggie touches it.
Yaeger sets down his cane during his conversation with Sabrina, and we can hear it fall on the floor.
After the tense scene of menacing Sabrina with his sword cane, Yaeger tries to get the sword back inside the cane. It breaks, and the sword falls out of the cane. He picks it up, and keeps on going.
Sabrina asks Yaeger where he’s going, and he says, “I’m going to take care of something. I’m going to take something.”
Aldon tells Yaeger, “If you’re really looking for a place like this, I’ll make you a good deal at a — deal on it, Mr. –?”
When Aldon asks Yaeger what he was working on, they cut to a close-up too quickly, as the camera is still zooming in on Yaeger’s face.
Behind the Scenes:
Ray Carlson, who plays hapless landlord Aldon Wicks in this episode, also appeared as a Blue Whale customer for one episode in February 1967. Carlson also had small parts in two movies — Spike Lee’s 1999 Summer of Sam, and a 2000 Ben Stiller/Jenna Elfman/Edward Norton romantic comedy, Keeping the Faith.
Ken McEwen does the voiceover for today’s opening narration, but he doesn’t appear in the episode. McEwen is an assistant director who played Larry Chase until episode 1020, a week and a half ago. He also does the voiceover on episodes 1079 and 1082.
— Danny Horn