“Free for an instant. Not free enough to run… Not free enough to forget.”
It’s not fair of me, I know. I’ve been cranky lately about the show’s slow pace, with an endless witch trial and a long series of pointless dream sequences, but this week, the show is making an effort to entertain again.
It’s Thursday today, and so far, we’ve had a death sentence, a murder, the discovery of an alternate dimension filled with Brontë characters, a cast member clubbed with a candlestick, and a kidnapping, and today we’ll get a jailbreak, a shooting and an invisible knife attack. I suppose this is technically what I asked for, and yet I’m still not happy. That will teach me to be more specific.
“Yes, of course I’m glad to see you,” Quentin sighs, clearly positioning himself for an inevitable and well-earned “but”. The fact is that he is not glad to see Joanna Mills, and neither am I, and neither is the American viewing public.
Quentin Collins is currently in lockup, following a weeks-long witch trial that ended badly for him, and his defense attorney. The charges included acquiring, transporting and monkeying around with a dead warlock’s severed head, distributing fistfuls of ruin and despair. This is actually something that he did, but he didn’t realize people would get so upset about it. He also wears an enormous magical Brazilian witch-doctor ring, which has done him no good at all, either legally or as a fashion statement. This is not witchcraft per se, but it wasn’t a very good idea, and sometimes you have to ask yourself if being a trendsetter is really worth the trouble.
But Quentin is a popular character — or, at least, he was a couple years ago, when he was the libidinous discordian trickster god and black sheep of the family. Sometime last year, Dark Shadows made the decision that people wanted to see Quentin as the leading man and head of household, which hasn’t worked either time that they’ve tried it.
So he’s got to break out of this cell and do something leading-manly, and the person elected to help him is notorious romantic boat-anchor Joanna Mills, which is the kind of move that’s precisely calculated to drive me straight back to the spinoff material.
“If you can manage to break out of jail,” she says, which is a pretty daunting step one, “I can have everything worked out. Tonight, at 11:30, there’s a boat in Indian Cove. I know the captain! He’s willing to take us to England!” So the boat-anchor actually went and got herself a boat; you have to admire the hustle.
But there’s a catch, as usual. “Us, I said,” she says. “Us, Quentin. It’s not a mistake. You can be free!” And his smile dies away. Quentin has already broken up with this dame twice so far — once in the backstory, and a second time last week, but she still thinks that this is a story about her.
Quentin wants to bring his actual girlfriend Daphne on this trip, and break Desmond out of jail, and bring Desmond’s girlfriend too. This flight from justice is starting to feel a lot like a road trip.
Now, in general, I’m all for a teen runaway storyline, but my question is: why is it Joanna who’s putting this stupid plan together, instead of Barnabas, the king of stupid plans?
I mean, this is exactly the kind of cracker barrel scheme that would appeal to Barnabas. It’s dangerous, it’s unlikely, it involves too many people, and it requires all of them to be someplace at the same time. Also, it pretty much ignores the crucial step — “break out of jail” — and focuses entirely on whether the lead’s girlfriend is coming or not. The only way this could be more of a Barnabas Collins special is if you could involve the phrase “life force” somehow.
They set him up for this on Monday, vowing that he would save Quentin somehow, and then admitting that he had no idea how, but he’d give it serious consideration. Then he walked out the door and disappeared for the next two weeks; he won’t be back until episode 1195. Meanwhile, Joanna Mills — the most broken-up-with woman in the lower 48 — all of a sudden is acquainted with boat captains.
And so we find ourselves in the fishing shack on Indian Cove, arguing about the passenger manifest. Joanna’s brought Leticia all the way here to discuss the plan, because they’ve already got two jail cells set up and they’re economising on sets.
“Leticia, you can come with us!” Joanna urges, and Leticia gives her a look.
“You mean, you’re going?” she asks. “Well, what about Daphne? What about Daphne and Quentin?” Leticia is a dedicated Quentin/Daphne shipper, and wants them both on the ship.
Joanna takes a step forward, for a bit of anxious backacting that is not endorsed by the lighting director. “Leticia, you barely know me,” she says, which is not an answer to the question. “Daphne is, uh…” To be honest, she doesn’t really know what Daphne is, so she looks to the teleprompter for assistance. “Daphne — I care very much about Quentin.” This is also not an answer to the question. Joanna may be involved in a different conversation, somewhere else.
Leticia stays on point. “But Quentin loves Daphne.”
Joanna gives a light scoff. “He’s infatuated with her, yes, but…” Words fail her again. They keep doing that. “But she’s, she’s so young, and, and, beautiful…” Leticia is waiting for Joanna to say anything that sounds like an argument in her favor. “But he’ll realize that he belongs to me, when he gets to England!”
Leticia has no patience for this. “Have you told her?” she asks.
“The less people that know about this, the better,” Joanna declares. She means “fewer people”. Joanna is terrible.
But enough of that; it’s time for the jailbreak. Quentin adopts the “guard, guard, I’ve got a sick man in here” routine that they use all the time on TV, but it’s 1840 and television hasn’t been invented yet, so the guard isn’t familiar with it.
“It’s my stomach!” Quentin cries. “You’ve got to get me something for it. It’s that bloody food you’ve been feeding me!”
“There’s nothing wrong with it!” yells the guard.
“There is!” Quentin says, collapsing on the bed, so the guard opens the cell. It turns out all Quentin has to do is cast aspersions on the cuisine; he could have done that months ago. I had no idea the guard was so sensitive about the catering.
The guard walks all the way into the cell and gets into karate-chop range, so Quentin karate chops him and instantly renders him unconscious, in accordance with the unified field theory of action-adventure drama. People on television are always rendered unconscious, because it’s no fun watching someone sitting on the floor, rubbing his head and saying boring things like “ow” and “what did you do that for”.
Grabbing the guard’s keys and gun, Quentin scurries over to Desmond’s cell, and lets him out too.
But a-ha, the guard activates his mutant healing factor, gets back up, tackles Quentin, throws him on the bed, steals the gun back, shakes off Desmond and shoots him in the chest. That is a badass move that makes me wonder why this isn’t a show about the guard. He might be the only competent person in the history of Collinsport law enforcement.
But Quentin manages to grapple with him and give him a very light slap in the face, which drops him into the dreamtime once more. Of course, judging by past performance, he’s probably going to get up again in twenty-five seconds, more powerful than Quentin can possibly imagine, but at least they get a head start.
Somehow, Quentin manages to get his near-fatally wounded friend to the good old fishing shack at Indian Cove. I hope it was close by, because from all appearances, Desmond took the bullet right around the upper left torso, which is usually pretty serious. Now the boat’s going to leave without them, and Desmond is dying, and they don’t know where Daphne is. This is what happens when you let Joanna Mills drive.
Leticia runs to Collinwood to find Julia, who’s probably stuck talking to Stokes about Parallel Time instead of participating in the plot development. Meanwhile, Quentin is planning to go to Collinwood as well, to find Daphne and get arrested again.
Joanna pleads with him to stay. “You can’t forget about Daphne?” she asks, and oh my god, I think we’re going to have to break up with her all over again. This is the third time that Quentin’s broken up with her in a row. I bet right now Quentin is a little bit jealous of Desmond; all he’s got is a gunshot wound.
“Now, listen to me,” Quentin says, with no real hope of success. “What I’m going to tell you is the truth.” Then he tells her that he’s in love with Daphne, and she needs to adjust her plans accordingly.
“I thought the past could be our future,” Joanna moans. “I was a fool.” Stay tuned for the next Quentin/Joanna breakup conversation, tentatively penciled in for next week.
“Quentin, at least get on the ship!” she urges, because apparently this is still a sales call.
“I can’t,” he says decisively, using his command voice. “You’ve got to understand that!”
“Then none of us will go,” she pouts. Apparently England is going to be terribly disappointed.
So, I don’t know, I’m all for focusing on the main characters in the storyline, but I do wish we had a different set of main characters. It’s good to see Quentin and Desmond walking around free, and Daphne with an actual storyline. I’m also glad that Gabriel and Leticia are getting some time in the spotlight.
But I just don’t understand why Barnabas and Julia aren’t involved with this at all. Julia does show up to tend to Desmond’s wounds, but only offscreen, and the story is weaker without her. There’s another glimpse of Parallel Time today, and that’s got some exciting action as well, but that just means we’re transitioning to a Dark Shadows where words like “Barnabas” and “Julia” no longer mean very much.
I don’t know what’s going on backstage, except that Jonathan Frid doesn’t want to play Barnabas anymore. He’s bored, and so is Dan Curtis, and so am I. When Dan was in his prime, which was up until last July, he was always focused on putting the most interesting characters in front of the camera. But I’m not sure he knows who the most interesting characters are, anymore.
Tomorrow: The Years of Time.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Stella opens the door and moves into the room, asking, “Is anyone in here?” Then there’s a tape edit, and she’s moved back a couple of steps.
Gabriel tells Joanna, “I’ll let your wife know, if I see you.”
When Gabriel starts to wheel into the drawing room, a cable can be seen on the floor.
Joanna tells Gabriel about the noise in the East wing, saying, “I thought I heard someone there last night.” According to the clock it’s ten to three in the morning. Isn’t this still last night?
Quentin’s jail scene with Joanna begins with a closeup on his face, because she’s hustling over from the Collinwood set. You can hear her footsteps when he talks, as she gets into place.
Quentin misses his cue when he’s talking to Joanna. She says, “You can be free!” There’s a long pause while he looks at the teleprompter, and then Quentin says, “What about Daphne?” when she tries to start talking again. Then Joanna says, “Daphne, you can talk to her when she gets to England; you can decide for yourself when she gets to England.” She means “when you get to England.” Then she says, “You’ve got to be at that fishing cove! The fishing shack.”
When Leticia says, “I’m not ever going to see Desmond again, after tonight,” someone clears their throat, and then something falls in the studio.
Joanna says, “Leticia, you barely know me. Daphne’s, uh” — looks at the teleprompter — “Daphne, I care very much about Quentin.”
In the drawing room, when Gabriel wheels over to Leticia and says, “Perhaps she’s made an enemy,” part of a camera can be seen on the left, above the Ralston-Purina lamp. This is a good camera sighting — a big chunk of the machinery, clearly visible for about ten seconds.
Gabriel tells Leticia “what’s happened tonight,” the battle between Daphne and Gerard. This must be the next day, because it’s 11:00. There’s a lot of confusion in today’s episode about what “last night” means.
At the beginning of act 3, when we see the unconscious guard, there’s blue marking tape on the floor.
In the jail cell, just as the guard shoots Desmond, the camera pulls back too far, and you can briefly see two people on the left side of the screen.
Quentin tells Desmond that he’ll be all right, stands up, looks at Joanna, and forgets what he’s supposed to say. He whispers “what”, and she whispers “what”, and then she looks at the teleprompter. Then they both start talking at the same time. Quentin says, “We’re going to have to take him —” and Joanna says, “Should we take him —” and Quentin finishes, “Yes, we’re going to take him with us.” Desmond moans, and when we cut to him, Joanna whispers “what” again, and then the camera cuts back to her, and she’s looking at the teleprompter again. Quentin says, “We’re not going to go anywhere until Leticia gets here,” and Joanna whispers, “Where is she?” which is not something that Quentin would know. It’s a complex moment.
Joanna pleads with Quentin, “You have — you can’t forget — you can’t forget about Daphne?”
When Gabriel asks Stella, “Has mother laid down the ground rules yet?” there’s a tape edit.
Behind the Scenes:
The prison guard is played by Charles Rush, in his fourth and final appearance on the show, and his first speaking part. He was the mystery feet and wristwatch standing in for Grant Douglas in December 1969, the zombie hand emerging from the ground in March 1970, and Daniel Collins’ hand and arm strangling Julia in September 1970. He has no other screen credits on IMDb.
Tomorrow: The Years of Time.
— Danny Horn