“But actually, I did not come here to discuss the dead.”
It’s another one of those mysterious messages that Quentin’s been finding lately, scattered around his mansion. They’re cryptic little postcards from beyond the veil, signed by an old, extinguished flame, and they’re starting to get to him. They say things like “Joanna is dead and you are responsible,” which is upsetting, and they have these impenetrable adamantium wax seals that can only be opened by experts.
This time, the wax seal is even more troublesome than usual, and he’s really struggling with it. Quentin’s been opening his own mail for years now, it shouldn’t be this big of a deal, but the paper is determined to resist his advances. It must be some kind of trick judo paper that uses the attacker’s strength against him; the seconds are ticking by, and he’s still wrestling with it. He lunges at the seal one last time, and still it eludes him, and that’s when David Selby mutters “Oh, shit,” on network television.
Or he comes damn close to it, anyway. There’s definitely an “oh, shhhhii–“, but he’s saying it under his breath, and he finally tears through the page just as he’s coming to the end of the phrase, so it’s a close call whether he actually completes the word “shit” or manages to stop himself at the last moment. Either way, he basically just cursed on daytime television, which you’d think people would notice.
And yet here we are, only fifty seconds into the episode, and they don’t stop tape and start over; they just keep filming, and then they broadcast it on television, and eventually it winds up on videotape and DVD and Amazon Prime — a silly, embarrassing moment, preserved forever for you and posterity, in that order.
Well, they can’t stop, I suppose. They’ve gone to all the trouble and expense of sealing the note with kryptonite and expelliarmus powder, and you can’t do a thing like that twice. That’s why this note was in such bad shape, at the end of yesterday’s episode.
You see, they taped these episodes out of order — first today’s episode, and then yesterday’s — so the recap at the top of this episode was filmed before the cliffhanger of yesterday’s episode. This kind of thing is bound to crop up once in a while, on a show that’s mostly about how great it would be if you could go back in time and fix other people’s mistakes.
So after Quentin makes a dog’s breakfast out of the note today, it has to go back to the props department for repair and restoration, which they don’t bother to do. They just rip the troublesome wax seal off — or they try to, anyway, tearing the top half of the paper in two — and then on the next day, they hand the tattered remains back to Quentin, who has to pretend to unseal a note that at this point is practically a liquid.
Meanwhile, back in our own timestream, Quentin has managed to open the envelope, and he’s trying to come to grips with the content.
“We said it was over,” he reads. “That we had no chance for happiness, that your wife would never allow what we both wanted so much. But for so long now, I’ve asked — ached to see you.”
So the answer to what could happen in this first scene that would make them start over again is pretty much nothing, although obviously a little dialogue flub is an everyday occurrence here at Collinwood, and nothing to get upset over. There’s also an obvious teleprompter check halfway through Quentin’s monologue, but at least they manage to keep the boom mic out of shot, through the clever trick of zooming in on the actor’s face and just staying there until the theme song kicks in.
Still, it’s easier to edit videotape than it used to be — it’s October 1970, which is practically civilization. They did a lot of on-purpose edits a couple months ago, when they wanted to use David and Hallie in the same scene as their lookalikes, Tad and Carrie. It seemed like Dark Shadows was getting closer to what we would consider a broadcast-standard television show. But today, coming very, very close to profanity doesn’t qualify as a problem that needs to get solved. It’s almost like they’ve stopped caring about what happens on Dark Shadows, which a lot of people have.
After the theme, Quentin is still reviewing the remnants of his inbox when a Trask walks in. In this time period, the incumbent Trask is named Lamar. He’s not a reverend, like his better-known relatives, but he runs a funeral parlor, which gives him a similar kind of gravitas that’s necessary when you’re Trasking your way into other people’s scenes.
There’s a door opening sound effect and then Trask is standing there, greeting Quentin and asking if he’s disturbing him, which he obviously is, but he starts talking anyway, because Trasks are addicted to the sound of their own voice.
“I had intended to come earlier,” he explains, “but poor Mrs. Waddleford has been called to the great beyond, and my services were needed.”
Quentin has no time for Waddlefords, beyond or otherwise. “Mr. Trask,” he asks, “did you ever perform services for a woman named Joanna Mills?”
Trask thinks it over. “Mills… Mills… it’s not an unusual name.” Then he brightens, to the extent possible for a Trask. “Yes, there was a Mills — Frank, yes. He was killed in an accident near Cornith Bend.” He means Corinth Bend, of course; there isn’t such a place as Cornith Bend.
“It was a most unusual accident –” says Trask, warming to his theme, but Quentin interrupts.
“Now, listen,” he says, “I’m really not interested in Frank Mills.” Then they both say “Joanna,” in unison.
Trask’s intel comes up short, so he tries to redirect. “Actually,” he says, “I did not come here to discuss the dead, but rather — the living.”
“Well, I’m afraid I cannot give you too much time tonight,” Quentin says, as he walks across the room to the world’s noisiest drinks table.
For some reason, they’ve decided to set up the boom mic directly over the drinks cabinet, and we spend the next ten seconds listening to every step of the brandy distribution process, instead of whatever Trask is jabbering on about.
Quentin takes the stopper off the decanter, and places it on the table, Clank! He lifts the brandy to the glass, Clink! and then Glub, Glub, Glub, Glub, Glub! I’m not exaggerating, you can hear the brandy pouring into the glass super clearly. It’s crazy distracting.
Quentin returns the bottle to the table, Clunk! and then places the stopper back on the decanter, Clink! Then he takes a sip, and we’re allowed to return to the scene, already in progress.
Trask is nattering on about his usual obsession. “As you may or may not know, Mr. Collins, I am most interested in the original Barnabas Collins, for I am convinced that he had something to do with the disappearance of my late father.”
Quentin takes a sip and asks, “What makes you think he’s still not alive?” which is one of those great bloopers where you can’t figure out what that line was supposed to be in the first place.
Trask scowls. “I have spoken with my father from beyond the grave.” Quentin raises his eyebrows, and Trask confirms, “Yes, Mr. Collins. His death will be revenged!”
“I’m leaving no stone unturned to find out what actually happened on this estate in 1797,” Trask asserts, as the camera pulls in for one of those nonsensical closeups of a character’s eyes that they’ve been doing lately. He means 1796.
Then he sits down with Quentin, and says, “Would it interest you to know that there is no record of the present Barnabas Collings owning a house in Cadogan Square?”
So it’s just a mess of a scene, which is nice every now and then. It touches on several different storylines without advancing any of them, which is fine, because none of them are very important. Now that he’s dumped his boring wife, Quentin doesn’t really have any problems in particular, other than his ongoing struggle with the written word, and Trask is stirring up exactly the same kind of trouble for Barnabas that has been easily un-stirred a dozen times.
The fact that neither of them accomplishes their objective in the scene doesn’t really matter; by now, the show is just a clattering carriage ride down to Cornith Bend, an unusual accident that’s getting more usual all the time.
So Quentin takes his leave and exits the drawing room, heading through the foyer to the far door, where he bangs his head on the top of the doorframe, and stumbles into whatever happens to him next.
Tomorrow: The Graveyard Smash.
More Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
After the scene shifts from Roxanne and Trask to the fire in the Collinwood drawing room, you can hear Trask slamming the cottage door.
Why does Roxanne leave Trask alone in her cottage? He’s still there when she gets back from Collinwood.
Angelique asks Barnabas, “Where did you get such a good friend?” Then she checks the teleprompter, and says, “Where did you get such a good friend, and how long have you been out of the coffin?”
They’re on the wrong camera when Angelique asks Barnabas about the lace around Roxanne’s neck; her face is obscured by his shoulder.
Quentin asks Barnabas, “You haven’t had any report of the headless man missing, have you?”
Quentin reads the second note: “I cannot live without seeing you the night.” They play the transition music cue and fade out while Quentin is still saying, “Joanna.”
Quentin tells Barnabas, “I had the idea that I could build a staircase — not the usual kind of staircase, but a staircase that could — well, with each step I went, we could go further and further from the time we live now.”
The camera bounces up and down when Barnabas asks Trask, “What could have happened to her?”
Tomorrow: The Graveyard Smash.
— Danny Horn