“What of the witchcraft?”
Well, wills were made to be broken, and this one’s about as broken as you can get. Tower-dwelling invalid Daniel Collins, purportedly of sound mind and body, has slipped away from his lawyers and nurses, and scribbled himself a will that leaves everything to the black hat villain Gerard Stiles, who’s currently hosting the furious spirit of the legendary Judah Zachery, and if you can find a worse thing to do with your fortune then you’re welcome to it.
The situation is particularly dire because we know that it’s interfering with the proper course of Collins family history, which runs from Daniel to Gabriel, through some unknown mid-century child, and then on to Edward, Jamison, Elizabeth and points south. Finally, it ends up in 1970, when the family is scattered and the mansion destroyed by Gerard Stiles, aka the furious spirit of the legendary — oh, dear. He’s got us either way, hasn’t he?
I have to say, if you ever feel like a failure and nobody pays attention to you, then become a soap opera lawyer, it’s the only life. Look how these people are staring at Desmond, clutching his little scraps of Daniel’s last testament. He didn’t write the thing and he’s never even seen it until just now, but here he is, reading it aloud and taking all the credit.
“Get on with it!” cries Gabriel, crouching in his unnecessary wheelchair. “Who gets it? WHO?”
Desmond’s eyes flick to the answer key at the bottom of the page, and he looks up in surprise and wonder. “Oh, my God!” he says, because that’s how soap operas work. In the real world, if you’ll pardon the expression, lawyers don’t read bombshell wills to a crowd of agog heirs; they just sit in their offices and send letters to people, and then the interfamily squabbling mostly happens over a series of tense Thanksgivings. Soap opera lawyers tend to treat these somber occasions as a sort of freelance Bachelor-style rose ceremony, with dramatic pauses before commercial breaks.
But the question remains, who gets it, who? Well, young Tad gets it, eventually, if he’s still alive and living at Collinwood when he turns twenty-one, which Dark Shadows has assured us is not going to be the case. Tad dies young, according to the visions and hauntings and prophecies; in fact, by the end of the week, he’s going to go upstairs and polish his skis, never to be seen again.
No, the real who is Gerard, of course; he’s the answer to every question in this entire storyline. I’ve mentioned before that Gerard’s stranglehold on Dark Shadows lasts until the end of January, so if anybody’s who, it’s him. Apparently Gerard sucked up to Daniel to such an elaborate extent that he swept the old man right off his feet; Daniel refers to him as “my son — I call him that because I have learned to love him as a son.” I’ll bet.
Naturally, the family roars with disbelief and displeasure; families tend to take issue when dread pirate gun-runners swipe the keys to the kingdom. So we get a terrific example of what soap operas are really all about: rich white people yelling at each other.
“I should have known, I should have known!” says Samantha, jumping to her feet and racing from the room. “I knew you wanted something here,” says Gabriel, attempting to do the same from a sitting position, “I just didn’t realize the scope of your ambition!”
But “WAIT!” — Desmond has a further dramatic codicil. If favored son Quentin is declared innocent in his upcoming murder-slash-witchcraft trial, then he gets to come home and take back all the moneys, properties, and commercial ventures, forthwith and furtherfore.
So Gerard has to stand there and pretend that would be just fine, which he does, because Gerard is made entirely of lies. “I’m happy he wrote that,” he smiles, “I will do everything in my power to see that he is free!”
“I’m not going to accept this will,” Gabriel shouts. “You hear me, Desmond? I’m not going to accept it. I’m going to fight it!” This is all pretty standard for soap opera will readings.
Unfortunately, in order to support Gerard’s charm offensive, they’ve made all the other characters humorless and impossible to like. That’s John Karlen buried in there, an extremely personable actor who up until now has been nothing but delightful, but Desmond is a jagged little pill, and all he does is scowl and bellow. I don’t know who determined that we needed a scowly John Karlen character, but they were incorrect and I wish there was something we could do about it. And then there’s Samantha, who I have no use for whatsoever.
The situation is that if her son Tad survives in the house until he’s twenty-one, then he’ll take all the money away from Gerard, which means that Gerard’s going to arrange for some kind of tragic accident before that date. Samantha’s only hope is for Quentin to be released from prison, so he can come home and reclaim his birthright, protecting Tad and solving all of her problems. She doesn’t see it that way.
“What of the witchcraft?” she asks. “What of the fear of the people in the village, what of Lamar Trask, what of Mordecai Grimes? Once they give testimony to the jury, do you think Quentin is going to be released?”
Desmond tries to scowl some sense into her. “Samantha, let us work together in hopes of freeing Quentin. Then the money will be yours and his!”
“Will my life be changed then?” she snaps. The answer to this question is yes, of course it will, for the better. What’s the matter with you?
“Samantha, why do you spend all of your time hating Gerard, when you could be helping Quentin?” hollers Desmond, directly into her face. “Maybe hating is what you do best!”
“Get out!” she yells, proving his point. What can you even do with people like this? What of the witchcraft indeed.
Meanwhile, downstairs on Dark Shadows, Gerard is being entirely adorable with his co-conspirator, making smug jokes in a non-secure area.
“May I congratulate you?” Dawson smiles, but Gerard gives him an elaborate shushing gesture.
“Not quite yet, Charles,” he says, pretending to be cautious, but bellowing his next line as loud as he can. “This house still reeks of the agony of the vanquished!” I don’t blame him, if I had a cute line like that I’d say it loud too. “Would you believe that inside the bedrooms lies little plotters working on their counter-plots? No, Charles, I haven’t inherited money, I’ve merely inherited a kingdom full of vicious rebels!”
So he wins again, in the space of forty-five seconds he wins the episode, and possibly the entire run of the show. I know, I keep writing blog posts that boil down to “Gerard is great,” but Barnabas and Julia have abandoned me here in the mid-19th century, and I have literally no other observations to make. Besides, Gerard is great.
And I swear, they must be deliberately trying to make the previous title-holder less appealing, because there’s no other explanation for what happens later that afternoon. Gerard goes and visits Quentin in the jail, and hands him a whole bunch of disquieting news that Quentin refuses to react to.
“Quentin, there is more disquieting news,” Gerard explains. “The will has been read. Gabriel forced it, he wanted to find out if Daniel had changed his mind. Indeed he had.”
Naturally, Quentin assumes that Gabriel got the kitty, so Gerard has to move on to the even more disquieting part. I’m going to have to walk you through the camera moves from here.
Quentin takes a seat, and Gerard looks down at his friend. “Quentin, Gabriel won’t be lording over Tad. The money, the estate and everything — he didn’t get a penny.”
Quentin looks up in surprise. “Who did?”
And Quentin does this, which is to say: nothing.
He stands, and looks Gerard in the face…
… and then settles back a half-step, which puts him behind one of the cell bars. “You,” he says.
They quickly cut to a shot of Gerard, making another cute facial expression. “I don’t understand, myself,” he says.
Quentin turns away, still not reacting in any measurable way. “You,” he says.
And they keep Gerard’s face in focus for the rest of the shot, because he’s the one who’s acting. “I thought –” he says, “well, Daniel must have thought that, well, as far as I was concerned, I would be in control of the money, and put it in trust for you.”
“I know he didn’t trust Gabriel with it.”
“He kept asking me about your innocence, I assured him that you were.”
“Quentin — the money, the estate, everything, I know it’s not mine. I will merely administer it until you’re free.”
Quentin finally turns, and gives Gerard a blank stare.
“Well, what’s the matter?” Gerard asks. “You don’t trust me?”
I don’t know why Gerard thinks that anything’s the matter; Quentin looks pretty much the same as he did before.
So that’s how things are going on Dark Shadows these days; sorry this turned into another Gerard-boosting exhibition, but that’s kind of all they’re giving me these days. I remember back when Quentin was passionate and eccentric, and the John Karlen character was a tragic clown. But that was last year, three timelines ago. Things are different now.
Tomorrow: The Tribulations.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Dawson extends his sympathies to Gerard, you can see the shadow of a camera on the wall to the right; when Gerard steps closer to Gabriel a moment later, the shadow moves in again.
Quentin says, “Gerard, someone is doing this to me,” and Gerard replies, “And I will do everything in my power to make sure, and find out who it is.”
When Gerard tells Edith to run along, there’s some offscreen banging.
When Gerard invites Dawson to have a brandy, you can see blue marking tape on the carpet.
Dawson observes, “No one has been tried for witchcraft in two hundred years.” Gerard replies, “Well, it’s about time things happened again.”
Behind the Scenes:
This is the last episode for Elizabeth Eis, who first appeared in February as one of the Leviathans’ patsies. Then she played Buffie, John Yaeger’s girlfriend, from April to May, and showed up for a final run last week as the sheriff’s wife. After this, she appeared in a 1972 movie called Dear Dead Delilah, which also featured Dennis Patrick, and then she was on a 1979 episode of Mrs. Columbo, and after that, people appear to have lost interest in Elizabeth Eis completely.
Also, this episode has a lot of nice close-ups on my favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp. It’s a real treat for my fellow lamp fans, if there are any.
Tomorrow: The Tribulations.
— Danny Horn