Tag Archives: get out

Episode 899: The Fam Dram

“It’s a creature without a soul, that has to find one to be real.”

They say that art should hold a mirror up to nature, but the problem is there’s an awful lot of nature, and who has the time to just stand there and hold up mirrors? Plus, you go buy a mirror, and then you rustle up a decent patch of nature to hold it up to, and after all that hassle, what do you have? Backwards nature. Meanwhile, everybody else is holding mirrors up to superheroes and car chases.

But what the hell, just for today, let’s leave the blasphemous starbaby in his box, and partake in some good old-fashioned fam dram. Today’s slice of life begins with faithless father Paul Stoddard, recently returned to Collinsport, as he discovers that somebody has tattooed an ancient cult symbol on his inside left wrist, without his knowledge or consent.

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Episode 850: Proof of Your Perfidy

“When I have proof of your perfidy, I will make your life miserable!”

Hey! Trask’s back. It’s been a month since we’ve seen the rotten Reverend Gregory Trask, and I’ve missed him terribly. Sam Hall wrote today’s episode, and he loves writing dialogue for Trask. I love listening to it, so today I’m just going to sit back and enjoy some Trask trash talk.

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Episode 840: The Grown-Ups

“What could there possibly be new about falling in love?”

At this point, Count Petofi has just about had it. All he wants to do is get away from this crummy burg, with his legendary magical hand still attached at the wrist. He’s tired of being stalked by aggravating gypsies who shake tambourines and threaten him with scimitars, and he wants a ticket out.

He happens to know that Barnabas has the ability to travel forward in time to 1969, and if Petofi can tag along, it would give him a nice seventy-two year cushion when maybe the gypsies could calm the hell down. But Barnabas insists that he doesn’t know how to travel in time, despite the fact that he absolutely does know and I have no idea why he keeps saying that he doesn’t.

And now one of Barnabas’ friends pops up — having traveled exactly through time, thank you very much, like she can obviously do — and she still won’t tell Petofi how it works. I mean, at a certain point, they’re just being dicks about it.

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Episode 766: You Have to Admit She’s Got a Point

“Do you think it’s right, to pray for a cursed thing like this?”

So it all turns out okay, obviously, it’s Quentin, of course it’s going to be okay. It takes more than a silver bullet to the chest to stop a phenomenon like Quentin. At this point, the only thing that could destroy the audience’s interest in Quentin Collins is a 95-minute MGM motion picture where he tries to drown Kate Jackson in a swimming pool. And what are the odds of that?

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Episode 746: The Love Lives of Unhappy People

“Barnabas is dead. He locked me in a room, and then he died.”

Jenny’s mind skips like a stone on a lake, skimming across the years. She is paralyzed with joy, she is radiant in tears.

At each point, she experiences that moment more deeply than you’ve ever felt anything. Every memory is available to her, in its most devastating form. She is more alive than you could ever be. This offer is available for a limited time.

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Episode 745: Rendezvous at the OK Corral

“What I was is not what I am. What I am is what I will be.”

So let’s say you have an entirely crazy person on your hands, and you need to keep her in your home for an unspecified amount of time. This is a common concern for modern homeowners. According to the experts, you should keep her in a warm room with indirect light, check the top of the soil before watering, and fertilize once a month in the spring and summer. No, wait, that’s ficus trees.

Well, here’s what vampire-about-town Barnabas Collins does, once he’s taken it upon himself to immure Quentin’s crazy wife for the foreseeable. He stashes her in an upstairs bedroom, locks the door from the outside, and then goes down to the basement to sleep in a coffin, leaving a note for the comedy gypsies who serve as his unwilling housekeepers.

I’m not saying that’s the appropriate way to handle it, I’m just telling you what Barnabas does.

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Episode 714: Inherit the Win

“This is my house, and I decide what is legal from now on.”

Let’s begin with the Trojan War. I know, I’m always nattering on about the Trojan War, but bear with me for a second.

It all started with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Peleus was a hero in Greek mythology, but not one of the good ones; he’s mostly known for killing his half-brother and his stepmom in hunting accidents. Thetis was a shape-changing sea nymph, and Peleus got her to marry him after he snuck up on her and tied her up while she was sleeping. They were a terrible couple and shouldn’t be marrying anybody, really, but you know the ancient Greeks, anything for a party.

Anyway, they had the wedding on Mount Pelion, which is amazing, because usually it’s booked, like, two years in advance, and all of the deities were invited, except for Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord.

Irritated by the snub, Eris showed up anyway, probably in a Lady Gaga meat dress, and she tossed a golden apple into the middle of the room, inscribed with the word “Kallisti”, which means “to the fairest”. Pretty soon, the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were all squabbling over who the apple belonged to.

Now, think about that for a moment. Aphrodite was so beautiful that she was literally The Goddess of Beauty, and Hera and Athena still thought they had a shot. That right there tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Greek weddings.

The three goddesses asked Zeus to decide between them, but Zeus mumbled something about a very important phone call that he suddenly needed to make, and he pointed them at Paris, the prince of Troy.

The girls all tried to get on Paris’ good side. Hera offered political power, Athena promised skill in battle, and Aphrodite said she could give him the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth. Paris awarded the golden apple to Aphrodite and ran off with the beautiful woman, who happened to be Helen, the queen of Sparta. This started the Trojan War, and a ten-year siege that ended with the destruction of both the Achaeans and the Trojans.

So who triumphs in this tale? Only Eris, the goddess of Chaos and Discord, who orchestrated the destruction of empires, just to hear the funny sound it made as it all shattered to the ground. Then Eris invented television, and you know the rest.

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Episode 705: Prisoners of Emily Post

“I don’t know how you came back, and I don’t care!”

As we’re settling into this 1897 time travel story, the thing that’s really remarkable is how much the writers have learned about setting up dramatic conflicts within the core Collins family.

It’s early 1969, and by this point in the show, the present-day family has been entirely nerfed. All of their secrets have been exposed, explained and apologized for, and any future story-driving difficulties have to be imported from the outside.

Last year, we spent some time with the 1795 family, and they were actually pretty well grounded too. Naomi was a drunk, Joshua was a grouch and Abigail was a fanatic spinster, but they were a functional family who would have carried on pretty well, as long as they could avoid having sex with pretty French vengeance demons.

But the Collins family of 1897 is absolutely out of their goddamn minds. At the start of today’s episode, Judith walks into her dying grandmother’s bedroom, and finds her brother Quentin strangling the old lady, and demanding to know the family secret.

This is the second time in two straight episodes that Judith enters a room and interrupts Quentin in the process of murdering a family member. She doesn’t even have that big of a reaction, she just shoos him out the door and gets on with her day. That’s how insane this family is; a murder attempt means nothing to these people.

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Episode 703: The Problem of Beth

“The problem with you, Judith, is that you hate the fraudulence of gypsies.”

Okay, let’s review what it means to be a “couple” in fiction.

The mistake that people sometimes make is that they think that a couple needs to be romantic. Obviously, there are lots of love stories with a romantic pairing at the center, but there’s a deeper definition that’s more useful if you’re trying to figure out how stories work.

A couple is two people that you want to see on stage at the same time, because they have chemistry together. A scene with both of them is funnier, or more exciting, or more romantic, or more interesting, or the plot moves faster. It doesn’t matter exactly why that pairing makes the scene better, as long as the structure of the story bends around putting them together.

Sulley and Mike from Monsters, Inc. are a couple. Bertie and Jeeves are a couple. Holmes and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, Laverne and Shirley, the Doctor and Amy Pond, basically any two characters who are best known as “X and Y”.

In fact, sometimes giving one member a love interest can be a distraction. Buzz Lightyear has a romantic subplot with Jessie in Toy Story 3, but the main story beats are Woody/Buzz, because a Woody/Buzz scene is more interesting than a Buzz/Jessie scene. (Except for the Spanish dancing scene, obviously, but that’s an outlier.)

This is why a “will they/won’t they” relationship can be so compelling — Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Sam and Diane, Jim and Pam, Clark and Lois, Kermit and Miss Piggy. It’s an evergreen structure, because it’s fun watching those characters interact, whether they happen to be officially “together” or not.

If the couple doesn’t appear on screen together very much — because they’re separated, let’s say, and they’re trying to find their way back to each other — then they don’t really count as a couple. In the lit crit biz, we call that a “Princess Peach” — a kiss at the end of a story that wasn’t really about the kiss after all. You can always tell what the important relationships in a story are, even if the characters pretend otherwise. The important characters are the ones they point the camera at.

This goes double for Dark Shadows, because it’s a soap opera that’s not really about romance most of the time. They don’t have time for the common soap tropes like weddings and babies — instead, they use ideas and plot structures borrowed from a mix of genres, including gothic romance, monster movie, film noir, door-slamming farce, avant-garde black box theater and the Doors’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

So the idea of a romantic couple on Dark Shadows is almost irrelevant. The couple that everybody talks about on the show is Barnabas and Josette, but they hardly appear together, even during that brief window when Josette is alive. Most of the action in 1795 centers around Barnabas and Angelique; Josette’s love is just the MacGuffin that they play for.

But the most important relationship in Dark Shadows is Barnabas and Julia, who are paired together because they’re just fascinating to look at. Their chemistry is so powerful that it even works when Julia puts on brown makeup, and pretends to be somebody else.

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