Tag Archives: macguffin

799 dark shadows magda hand

Episode 799: When Halloween Decorations Ruled the World

“You told me that hand was the most magical hand in the world!”

There are moments in life when you have to step back and ask yourself: How did I get here? For example, Grayson Hall. She moved to New York City to pursue an acting career when she was 19 years old. She studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. She was in a Broadway revival of Six Characters in Search of an Author. She was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her work in The Night of the Iguana. She’s done Pinter and Shaw and Chekhov.

And today she’s on network television at 4:00 in the afternoon, blacked up like a Universal Monsters gypsy, and she’s locked in a life-or-death struggle with Halloween Express.

Continue reading Episode 799: When Halloween Decorations Ruled the World

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Episode 797: Meanwhile, in the Present

“We have no time for your gypsy feelings!”

Hey, do you remember that plot contrivance that you don’t remember from like six weeks ago, when Jamison had a prophetic dream about Quentin’s death? In the dream, the ghost of Quentin appeared to Jamison’s grandson David, and gave him a handful of story points.

“Three things happened,” the ghost said, in the imagined future. “If I could have changed any one of them — if I could have known what they meant, while they were happening — maybe I wouldn’t have died when I did.’

David asked what the three things were, because he has good manners, plus what else are you going to say.

“The first was the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood. And then the one person who could have helped me — who could have kept me alive — was murdered.”

“What was the third thing?”

“Ah. That — that was the worst. The one person in this world that I truly loved turned against me. After that happened, there was practically no time left for Quentin Collins.”

So that was extremely informative, as prophetic dreams go. It’s not the thing I would have done, if Quentin showed up in one of my dreams, but I suppose people have different priorities.

Continue reading Episode 797: Meanwhile, in the Present

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Episode 796: Death and Taxes

“I have a small nagging wonder at your even being here.”

When we last left Quentin, he was strapped to a table under a slowly descending swinging axe, not at all in danger of being brutally killed. Quentin was trapped in this entirely non-lethal predicament by Aristede, who rigged up some “Pit and the Pendulum” machinery, and then left him here to not die.

The clock was not winding down and time was not running out, and the pendulum was not inching ever closer to our hero. It was inching, yes. I will concede the inching. But towards what?

Continue reading Episode 796: Death and Taxes

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Episode 708: Will Power

“It’s been my experience that death causes as much ill-feeling as life.”

Time-tossed vampire Barnabas Collins is stuck in the year 1897, lost behind enemy lines on a ghost-hunting recon mission. For all he knows, he’s here to stay, so he’s trying to make friends with the locals.

At the moment, he’s in the Collinwood study with Edward, the putative head of the household, in front of an open casket containing Edward’s grandmother. The old lady spent the last several decades telling everyone that she had a family secret that she would pass on just before her death, but it turns out that’s a tricky deadline to plan around. Now Barnabas is the only one who knows the secret, which was: Don’t let Barnabas get out of his coffin and hang around Collinwood. So that worked out great.

Grasping at straws, Edward harangues Barnabas for a while, begging him to tell the secret, but Barnabas just stonewalls and that’s pretty much all they can do.

Frustrated, Edward grouses that Edith even kept the location of her will a secret. She left instructions with Judith in a sealed envelope, and now they have to find it.

And that’s the last time anybody mentions the secret. From this moment on, the story is all about finding the will. It’s the most blatant MacGuffin relay race handoff you’ll ever see.

Continue reading Episode 708: Will Power

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Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

“Don’t touch me! Your grandmother knows how easily I bruise.”

It always starts with a box.

The malicious spirit of Quentin Collins has taken over present-day Collinwood, and he’s in the process of slowly murdering young David. Desperate to save the boy and unable to think of anything else, Barnabas turns to the I Ching, an ancient Chinese secret that has transported his soul back to the late 19th century. There, his astral body meets up with his physical body, which is trapped in a chained-up coffin.

And like any travel experience, it takes forever, there’s hardly any leg room, there’s nothing to eat, and he doesn’t even know where he’s landed. This is why you should never try to check yourself in as luggage.

Continue reading Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

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Episode 541: Death of a MacGuffin

“Julia — when you do the experiment again, if both Barnabas and my creation live — if they both live — Barnabas will be free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. Adam will drain Barnabas’ affliction from him, but will not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.”

As we open today’s reckless stumble into the unknown, sinister sorceress Angelique — currently masquerading as Roger’s innocent new wife, Cassandra — is listening to a recording of a man’s voice that young David has discovered on a tape recorder.

On the tape, the man addresses Julia, and tells her that when she does the experiment again, if both Barnabas and his creation live — if they both live — Barnabas will be free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. The man goes on to say that Adam will drain Barnabas’ affliction from him, but will not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But — the man warns — if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.

This is a fortunate coincidence, because Cassandra is on a very tight deadline to find out why her Dream Curse didn’t turn Barnabas into a vampire again. The answer, it turns out, is that Julia did the experiment again, and both Barnabas and the man’s creation lived — they both lived — and Barnabas is free and healthy, as long as Adam lives. In other words, Adam is draining Barnabas’ affliction from him, but does not suffer from the disease itself, because he lives. But — and I honestly cannot stress this point emphatically enough — if Adam dies, Barnabas Collins will be as he was before.

Continue reading Episode 541: Death of a MacGuffin

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Episode 425: Jump Street

“I would not let them be together in life… and they shall not be together in death.”

So far, there have been lots of surprises in the 1795 flashback storyline — some of them pleasant, and some not so much. I think the most disappointing surprise has been the characterization of Josette. She’s supposed to be the heart of the whole story, but as I’ve talked about this week, there’s not much there to hang on to.

Josette is basically just a spoiled rich girl. She never shows any real maturity, or makes any difficult decisions. She’s the blank slate that other characters write on — and not just the supernatural characters. There was that episode where Reverend Trask talked her into a weird, borderline-sexual exorcism ritual, and he didn’t use hypnosis. He just told her what he was going to do, and then he did it.

So, standing here at the precipice, the real tragedy is that Josette’s tragedy doesn’t feel like much of a tragedy. It’s the end of the girl as we know it, and I feel fine.

Continue reading Episode 425: Jump Street

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Episode 422: Confining Women

“Aunt Natalie, I don’t mean to be impatient with you, but I think these questions are annoying.”

Josette is wearing a ring.

I’m making that super clear right up front, just in case anyone has a hard time processing the concept. It’s a hard ring to miss — it’s gold, with a big black onyx stone, and it’s usually seen in the company of a vampire. But now the ring is on Josette’s finger — Josette being the young woman you can see here, the one standing behind the enormous ring — and that is apparently a compelling dramatic situation.

You can tell that it’s important, because this is a five-minute scene, and Josette is under strict instructions to keep the damn ring in shot as much as she possibly can. This involves making several hand gestures which do not occur in nature.

Josette’s aunt, the Countess Natalie, is concerned about this, because she believes that the ring is connected to a witch’s spell, which will lead to Josette’s death.

Exasperated, Josette says, “Why do you persist in this ridiculous nonsense about witches?” which would be a perfectly reasonable question, except that’s not what Josette thinks, and therefore Ron Sproat is trying to kill me.

Continue reading Episode 422: Confining Women

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Episode 356: Beat the Clock

“You feel that you have no more use for me, and you’re planning to dispose of me. Is that correct?”

Dr. Julia Hoffman is standing in the foyer of Collinwood, clutching a red notebook and emoting. And when Dr. Hoffman expresses emotion, it stays expressed. She has an internal monologue that can be heard up to three miles away, if the wind is right.

This notebook contains the notes on her experiments in curing Barnabas’ vampirism. Barnabas has decided that Julia has betrayed him, and he’s planning to kill her once he’s sure that the notes have been destroyed.

Now, thinking about this situation rationally, there are several options here. For example: Tear some relevant pages out of the notebook, put them in an envelope, and mail them to a friend. Or copy the notes into another notebook, and use this notebook as a decoy. At a pinch, she could even write BARNABAS IS A VAMPIRE on her driver’s license, or in black magic marker down her arm, Memento style.

Julia does not consider any of those options. As far as she’s concerned, the smallest indivisible unit of measure is the notebook.

Continue reading Episode 356: Beat the Clock