Episode 1189: Action in the Afternoon

“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.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

42 thoughts on “Episode 1189: Action in the Afternoon

  1. Somewhere in the middle of laughing my arse off at your hilarious recap (sticking closely to the action today produces much mirth), it hit–the way things sometimes do when I’ve been smoking a particular strain of weed and watching The Great British Baking Show–that Sam Hall was trying very hard to get the show off the air in a few months to free himself and his wife from their shackles. I bet he was even making anonymous calls to Allen Ludden–“The password is…April.”

  2. Amongst all the other usual wonderfulness in this post, there’s this gem:

    “’The less people that know about this, the better,’ Joanna declares. She means ‘fewer people. ‘ Joanna is terrible.”

    THIS. All the THIS. As a college English teacher who’s come to feel that several battles have been lost, it’s good to know that this one still has soldiers fighting the good fight.

    Yes, I’m a pedant. What of it?

    1. Without context I can’t be sure, but I suspect the actress messed up the line. (On Dark Shadows? No! Who ever heard of such a thing…). The line was probably supposed to be “The less that people know…”, which would be correct.

  3. Too bad they didn’t have KLS pop in to play Joanna. It would have been entirely believable that Quentin could have fallen in love with her and she would have made Joanna’s longing for him so heartbreaking. She’d also have gotten most of her lines out straight.

      1. Oh God – I’m so glad KLS didn’t play Samantha. I had all I could stand of Quentin yelling at her during that Rebecca-Parallel Time storyline. And Gerard and Gabriel would have been piling on the abuse, too.

    1. Leigh Berry (Mrs. Jonathan Tunick) is fabulous and so beautiful. Brando and Val Kilmer couldn’t memorize lines either and no one makes fun of them, ever. And I love those ringlets. She’s like Bridget Hanley’s sister from Here Come the Brides featuring Bobby Sherman.

      1. No offense meant to Ms. Berry. She was indeed lovely and her struggle with the lines could have been due to confusion behind the scenes. It’s not like any of the other actors were spot on with their dialogue delivery, either.

        1. Yeah, there’s a reason this blog has tags like “fridspeak,” “gerardspeak,” and my personal favorite “dialogue chicken” and has noted teleprompter gazing from the start.

      2. Yes, I’m a fan of Leigh Berry, too. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jonathan Tunick quite a bit and every time I’ve seen her, she could not have been any lovelier.

        1. I concur with all the praise and defense of wonderful Leigh Beery.

          I have nothing to add, but I thought that her last name should be spelled correctly at least once in this thread.

  4. All these years, my younger brain performed like most brains – it tried to make sense & order of the images and narratives fed to it. My assumption was always that there was a method to the madness of the writers, and that somehow it all fit together.

    One legacy of Danny’s blog, will be to show that the production of Dark Shadows was full of chaos & contradictions, and we should not assume anything resembling continuity.

  5. I’m watching episodes in the mid 700s but I’m sneaking a peek up here to read the new posts. I can’t believe how long the “blooper” sections have become! A sad commentary on the morale (or quality?) of the cast.

  6. “libidinous discordian trickster god”, sigh. that’s our Danny, informing our vocabulary with bedangling delights.

  7. I’m not trying to second guess the decisions of the writers when the show is still popular 50 years later, but I’ve never understood what I consider their mishandling of Quentin after 1897. 1970 Quentin was an amnesiac, or just hung around Collinwood, or was parallel Quentin, or parallel 1841 Quentin, or Quinten’s ancestor. Why would you botch an extremely popular actor and obviously popular character with so much storyline potential. still don’t get it..

  8. Yes, by 1971, Dan Curtis must have been growing extremely weary of the daily grind of churning out new Dark Shadows episodes.

    Back then in the early 70s, Los Angeles was becoming a magnet. People were leaving NYC. New York City’s finances really hit the skids by the mid-70s. The city was nearly bankrupt by 1975. Crime was rising. Industries were moving out. Those were bad times in NYC. LA simultaneously was draining away much of the creative talent from New York.
    
    I expect Dan Curtis was aware of the trends by the early 70s and started to plan his career move to LA to make more movies there. Eventually Dan did relocate. He made quite a few very entertaining made-for-TV horror movies in the mid-seventies after DS (but prior to his masterpieces, the “Winds of War” in 1983 followed by “War and Remembrance” in 1988).
    
    Most of his mid-seventies horror flicks are worth a look for appreciative DS fans. I enjoy watching them once in a while. Almost all of these have Bob Cobert’s music, too, which is a nice reminder of their earlier collaboration on DS. Too many films to list here.
    
    And, yes, Joanna Mills fails to click as a character.
    
  9. Since 1968, Dark Shadows has been more about action than characters.

    The Culling of Collinsport happened that year, when Dan Curtis essentially slaughtered the more peripheral townsfolk. I believe Sam Evans was the first to go. Maggie Evans was also due to be gotten rid of, but Alexandra Moltke leaving the show and the unsuccessful recasts of the Victoria Winters character saved that role, allowing Maggie to move into Collinwood to essentially be the new Vicki. They were planning on having Joe Haskell killed off as well, but apparently Joel Crothers finally wanted to leave before that could happen, so they had Joe shipped off to Wyndecliff instead. Dan even mostly phased out the sheriff, occasionally finding the character useful enough to make a zombie out of by 1970.

    All for the sake of action. Keep the story condensed and the focus where the action is — Collinwood, forever revolving around its Denizens of Doom.

    Characters are for soaps, action is for thrillers — and since fall 1966 that’s exactly what Dark Shadows has been, a thriller anthology unto itself.

    I mean, we suspend disbelief enough to accept Dark Shadows as a kind of repertory company of actors who keep coming back even after their characters get killed off, so why not go a step further and stop limiting how one interprets the show by always restricting one’s view mainly to the standard soap opera tropes.

    Soaps are not made by big, burly golf show producers who look to the Universal Monsters for inspiration, nor does one even have to like soap operas to be a fan of Dark Shadows.

    How many actors after Dark Shadows went on to appear mainly in soaps? Offhand, I would say very few.

    We should maybe wash our hands of soap operas, when discussing Dark Shadows.

    1. Well, when Sam Hall and Gordon Russell left DS, they wrote for One Life to Live. The actors who went on to appear mainly in soaps (at least for the 1970s) include Joel Crothers, Louis Edmonds, Nancy Barrett, James Storm, Donna Wandrey, Christopher Pennock, Anthony George, Humbert Allen Astredo, Christopher Bernau, Robert Gerringer, Lisa Richards, Michael Stroka, Marie Wallace and Clarice Blackburn (until she became a soap opera writer).

      But I do agree that at this point, Dan Curtis is tired of making a soap opera, and when it’s over, he starts making thrillers. Dark Shadows is still a soap opera; it’s just not one that the executive producer is interested in anymore. What we’re tracking here is the transition from a great soap opera to a not-very-good soap opera.

  10. Not sure about the boredom factor weighing in toward the end. Dan Curtis only gave up on the show when word of cancellation came through, and that was just a couple weeks ahead of April 2. It feels more like a natural progression of things, in the end just winding down and emptying of itself, having been taken as far as it could go — 1967 was the right time for Dark Shadows, whereas 1977 would not have been.

    As for Jonathan Frid, it all came down to that thing with the virtual repertory company of actors, where he was wondering how come everyone else on the show got to play multiple roles and he didn’t. He was simply a talented, creative artist looking after his craft — keeping the approach varied and fresh. If one notices, Bramwell’s first few appearances in PT1841 show a newly energized Jonathan Frid, and it’s even quite a few episodes before the familiar word slips start creeping in again.

    If Jonathan Frid had truly been bored, he surely would have left and moved on to something else, like Joel Crothers did.

    1. They should have had Barnabas switch bodies like he intended at the start of the Adam storylime. Frid could have played a new personality that way and someone else could dis Julia and inappropriately crush on multiple young women.

  11. Oh this is great. I just came here to make a comment and discovered my microphone on my keyboard is missing, and I am not typing this whole post with my fingers on a phone. So I’m in another app.

    I was just reading the episode that you watched with your friend Randall where you didn’t know why you hated Sabrina and all of that and I was like “oh! So this is why you’ve been missing for a year or however long it was! Because it’s the show really sucks and now you have to write about how the show really sucks” and I can understand that…

    Honestly I read your blog during the Leviathan storyline, on purpose, so that I could get through it. And it helped.

    And somebody’s complaining that you’re hating on the show. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was reading a series of books and I couldn’t figure out why anyone liked them and then I said, you know, hate-watching, and “it would be great if somebody could write snark about this book because it’s really awful and then I could laugh at it.” And then I went out and found a couple blogs like that but only one of them was really good and she gave up in the third book in the 9th chapter. I bet you could guess what series that was.

    But anyway that explains where you’ve been. In any case I’m glad you’re back.

    Also I started watching again from the beginning of the blog so that I could read the blog posts. so now I’m watching 1795 AND parallel time.

    Meanwhile – off topic – I discovered that last spring, not only did I not rewatch the last season of this is us but apparently I didn’t finish watching the last season and I started the current season with a two episode gap in my head. I know that’s irrelevant but it’s only happened once before and that time it also happened in the spring. It might be allergy related…

    I discovered Google Go, which appears to be newish, some web pages it will read to you out loud and it’s really pretty good. It just has a little trouble with count Petofi and I-ching. And that’s very funny to listen to.

    It’s the end of October 2020 and life is really hard. It could be worse and it might be soon. But I’m reading the blog when I wake up in the morning. Most of the time it keeps me out of the present, and, on those rare occasions when it doesn’t, it still makes me laugh. You know, like Alec Baldwin.

    So thank you for slogging through. 🙂

    1. Joanna has a stronger story, “ex-crazylady” back from the dead with a tie to Quentin, and is moving the story along. (I mean yeah Desmond’s been shot and she’s probably never going to get the money for those boat fares back but she DID try.)

      Sabrina always seemed to have things happening TO her (and a not-very-good crazylady phase). Cannonfodder, surprised she lasted as long as she did. Same for PT-Bree.

        1. But loses it again for bad grey roadkill wig and getting pawed over by brother Ned…
          Though strictly speaking she didn’t DO that, it just happened to her. (You see what I mean about her?)

          1. Right, Sabrina can’t help it that Dan Curtis got her hair piece from the Budget Rent-A-Wig Shoppe. Believe me, no woman would choose that look (no matter how catatonic she was).
            And as for Ned’s pawing – hey, you can’t fight a tidal wave!

            1. Could be Ned’s little way to shock her out of her catatonia — relentlessly grabbing at her inappropriately until she cracks him upside the head.
              A proven therapeutic technique. 🤓

              1. Speaking of proven therapeutic techniques, too bad Dr. Hoffman didn’t prescribe some for Ned. Like behavior modification sessions where everytime he paws anybody inappropriately, he gets pawed back – by chris. With real paws.

                1. Julia’s “go to” is sedation.
                  She should have doped Ned up until he was as unresponsive as Sabrina and put them both in adjoining rooms at Windcliff.
                  Alternatively, using hypnosis so that anytime Ned tries to grab at someone he’s going to feel an unpleasant electric shock ( though he might LIKE that. Psychiatry is still an inexact science.)

                  1. It would take a pretty big whompin’ shot to sedate Ned. I doubt Julia has enough in her arsenal. Also, he’d never stop talking long enough to be hypnotized.

  12. I am all caught up now. I’ve been streaming on tubi.tv and spreading the word. My introduction was through NJN as well but lost track f it when I went away to college.

  13. Just saw on my Google news feed that the new CW Dark Shadows series has not made it past the planning phase.

    1. Yes, they mentioned this in the recent Dark Shadows Reunion. But I couldn’t validate it with any Google searches.

  14. Can anyone speak to how Jonathon Frid did live on stage? I saw him live in a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” but was young enough that i didn’t care how he performed. I know he had a memorization issue with DS, but that may not have been as great a problem live. I am aware he favored Shakesperian drama, too, which is challenging.

    1. Jonathan Frid was not a “quick” study; some actors can pick up a script, read it once or twice, and have it committed to memory. Others have to work at it, reading again and again, and don’t get to word-perfect. And (of course) directors generally like working with quick study, just as choreographers like a dancer who can pick up a routine after one or two times through.
      Mr. Frid was a very competent actor when given time and rehearsal; the weekly grind of DS must have been hell for him, especially since he’d only intended to be on the series for a few weeks (and not be turned into a cultural icon).

      1. I’ll add that when you’re doing a play, you have weeks and weeks of rehearsals and do a much better job of learning your lines. With a daytime soap opera, you’re getting new material to learn every day that you appear on the show.

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