Sunday, April 24, 2016

Turn of The Screw à la Collinwood

EPISODES 678-685

Hours of liquor tasting workshops
finally come in handy
Chris is apparently dying as our reliable family physician Julia has said so, but Barnabas and her take all the time in the world to help him. Instead, they go around collecting evidence to determine what may have caused him to be... dying. Following the lead that is the glass on the floor, Julia (the alcoholic anonymous), sniffs the drink bottle twice (one for business; one for pleasure) and is able to identify strychnine right away. Assuming it was a suicide attempt, Barnabas goes full drama queen once again reflecting back to his days as a vampire and how he too used to think about killing himself, when actually he friggin' should be helping the poor man dying on the floor and wait for throwback thursdays next time he feels nostalgic. At that same moment, Amy has a nightmare where she is led to Chris' cottage by Beth (who is finally saying some words; albeit still a bit on the obscure side) and witnesses her brother getting stabbed with an expression on his face as if killed by Samara. Oh, how I've missed Don Briscoe's ridiculous face-makings in extreme situations.
Samara visits Collinwood
In the dream, David admits having trying to stop Quentin, and Beth confirms this. Amy wakes up screaming. The next morning, still at the cottage, Barnabas and Julia assume the mysterious woman that led them there and disappeared must be a ghost. When Chris wakes up supporting a sexy stubble (Julia must have pumped his stomach or something), they go all "We don't judge you for trying to kill yourself" to which he simply says he neither did nor would, as he has them for support now. Aw. Upon learning David was the only visitor he had that day, a suspecting Barnabas has a talk with the boy but he can't learn much because David is one little witball, so he leaves with implied "I'm-on-to-you"s. 

Ghost fueled girl power
However it is Amy who is really onto David and boy, hell hath no fury like a little miss muffet scorned. Making sure her brother is alive, she confronts David like a firecracker and threatens to expose him as the accessory to a crime. David is not a turkey shoot either, so he covers the girl's mouth and twists her arm around, making her cry. Luckily, Liz is there for the save right on time as she always is and separates the two; my heart really aches for Amy. When David is sent to his room, Liz has a girl-to-girl talk with Amy, where the latter excitedly begins to tell the whole story (out of order and like a crazy person to be honest) but can't finish anyway because of Quentin's sudden appearance in the drawing room. As expected, he disappears when Liz turns around to look (sigh) and Amy understands talking about Quentin would endanger herself and the others. She goes back to David, ready to make a deal with Quentin to keep playing the game as long as no harm comes to Chris. That girl is feisty and I could eat her up.

The original "Stop playing with
your phone and do your homework"
Using the new authority granted to her by Liz to discipline David any way she sees fit, Maggie the supergoverness takes the old phone that the kids originally have been using to contact Quentin away from David in order to teach him a lesson. Once again Vicki is mentioned being the superior governess but Maggie can finally stand up for herself as she has that aforementioned full damn authority alright! As much as I like Vicki, I must admit Maggie does seem to be the better governess. She has both compassion and puissance, whereas Vicki was mostly hugs and marshmallows. Okay, maybe not, but we can all agree that she was way too easy to fool. At least Maggie was once a straightforward, no bullshit waitress of the best diner in town, so ain't no little boy gonna break her (Then again those countless memory tricks by Julia may have scarred her for life, so who knows). 
With his only way of communicating with Quentin is gone, David has no choice but to visit his secret room in the west wing to deliver Amy's negotiation offer, but not before Maggie spots and tails him. Seeing David go into the storage room, Maggie follows him there, only to find it empty for David has already sneaked into Quentin's adjoining secret room through the hole in the panel. Befuddled, Maggie leaves, trying to figure out for the next couple of episodes how the hell David has evaded her. David delivers Amy's message, right before falling under the possessive influence of Quentin. Possession stories are discomforting as they are, since it is practically a form of abuse and molestation; but it is extra repulsive when we have children in the middle of all that. Connotations of child abuse are not so subtle.

Meanwhile downstairs, Mrs Johnson is kinda, sorta made fun of by Liz for being afraid of the children when she is asked to take David's food up to his room. Actually the whole conversation is so amazing that I'll just go ahead and quote it verbatim:
Mrs J has no time for your bullshit
Mrs Johnson: (dramatically) Those two children are playing some kind of monstrous game. A game that's intended to scare us all to death.
Liz: (mocking) Mrs Johnson. All children make up odd games from time to time.
Mrs Johnson: I didn't say this was odd. I said it's monstrous and that's what it is.
Liz: Mrs Johnson, you're a mature woman. David's twelve years old. You mean to tell me you're actually afraid to be with him for anytime.
Mrs Johnson: (nodding unashamedly) You can have my head examined but that's the way I feel.
This can be one of my favorite scenes so far, right up there when Julia slapped Cassandra (#535) or Naomi smacked Reverand Trask (#438). Or Liz calling off her wedding to Jason and confessing killing her husband (#270). Anything with Joan Bennett, really! But Mrs Johnson is the real star here; the subject of poor woman's age and sanity has come up three times this week and she took it like a pro and threw it back like the sassma
ster she is. However, this couldn't get her out of the task ahead and she grudgingly goes up to David's room, where she jumps up and down with joy to see Maggie, who is going through David's clothes. Overjoyed that she wouldn't be alone with David, or with David at all for he is missing, Mrs J acts like Maggie is her favorite person in the world, whereas just a couple of weeks ago she had no problem whatsoever to openly compare Maggie to Vicki. Upon seeing David's Victorian era coat, she says David was wearing it the night she caught the two brats playing dress-up and Maggie begins to connect the dots back to the man Mrs Johnson said she saw in the cottage. Maggie asks Mrs Johnson not to tell Liz about David's absence because she wants to handle it herself. Of course, Mrs Johnson will be Mrs Johnson, and she somehow manages to throw a shade here and there before leaving, once again questioning Maggie's adequacy as a governess. When questioned by Liz, Mrs Johnson lies halfheartedly and runs into the kitchen to avoid further query.

David gets even-steven
David comes back from the west wing to find Maggie in his room, soap operatically positioned in the armchair. A showdown of sorts take place as Maggie, firm and not gullible, asks how the hell David has gotten out of the storage room without her noticing. The reason why I've been beginning to like David is that he is ready-witted and quite sharp, managing to evade every question. He not only always has something to say, but also does it dipped in wit. But Maggie wasn't born yesterday either. The verbal tennis match ends with Maggie grounding David, who in turn calmly threatens to get even, sending chills down Maggie's and our spines. Welcome back David the child-sociopath of the early episodes! And even he gets! With a sequence of creepy tricks of the gothic genre (lights going off, the old telephone ringing, the window blowing open), Maggie is terrorized (seemingly by Quentin) in her room. Mrs Johnson is the one to come for Maggie's help ("Well, when I told you I saw that man down at the cottage, you looked at me as if I were crazy". With that finally out, I am hoping for Maggie and Mrs Johnson becoming besties).

Attention to the hand
Set to show David who the boss is, Maggie heads back to the west wing when she can't find David in his room. All alone she walks through the dark, scary, spider webby corridors up to the storage room. She opens the door hoping to see David but BAM!! Quentin is standing there and looking at her menacingly. Naturally, Maggie screams and runs downstairs; lucky to find not one but three familiar faces: Carolyn, Chris and Liz (It did not escape my attention that Maggie used this opportunity to grab Chris' hand when she first came down. Is she gonna snatch him right under Carolyn's nose? Wouldn't be the first time, you know!). Upon hearing there is a creepy looking man in the closed up part of the house, Chris and Carolyn volunteer to go look for him. Ah, love. Makes you do crazy things. But not surprisingly, they can't find anyone. Meanwhile, Liz offers Maggie a stiff drink to calm her down; I like it when she is generous like that.
Quentin & Mr Juggins:
7 Differences
However, she doesn't really see how that man, who she learns Mrs Johnson also recently saw, would possibly have anything to do with David. To set it straight, they go to David's room (who has been there all along but just hiding) and question him. Being a notorious liar, he manages to dodge every accusation. He even offers to take them up there and show them where he was hiding when Maggie failed to find him. Of course, he isn't doing this out of the sweetness of his heart. When the two women and the boy go up to the storage room, they run into Mr Juggins the sideburn-donning, creepy looking, easy-to-mistake-for-a-man dummy. "Could this be the man you saw?" Liz asks, rather mockingly, which must have stung like a bitch, definitely more than running into Quentin himself. There is a chill in the air, not because of the ghosts roaming the halls or the thunderstorm outside, but because Liz has an intimidating left profile. Maggie hangs her head in shame and David smiles defiantly, for he was the one who put the dummy there after Quentin told him to.

Proletarian revolution starts here
Later that night, Maggie is gloomily hanging out in the drawing room while everyone else is asleep. Everyone but Mrs Johnson. When Maggie tells her about the man she saw, Mrs Johnson feels a) happy because this proves she isn't crazy; b) scared because he is in the house now; c) lesbian because Maggie looks seductive in that blue, fluffy nightgown helpless because they are only ones who know what is going on and can't convince Liz otherwise. I am really, REALLY loving their scenes, bonding and comforting each other. I knew some bff action was coming their way. Mrs Johnson believes the children are wicked but Maggie thinks they are innocent and need their help. They exchange goodnights and head to bed (unfortunately, not together), but not before Maggie gives one final "And Mrs Johnson. Lock your door" for the sake of it. Geez, girl. You'll give the woman a stroke. That night, Maggie has a nightmare à la Elm Street where she goes to the storage room to confront Quentin, but gets strangled with a red shawl instead.

Mrs Johnson climaxes
Next morning, Maggie fills Barnabas in on everything that went down and he believes her right away on the first try. It's a big relief for Maggie and also us; finally there is someone in the house who doesn't try to rationalize it when a strange thing happens, especially after all the scary shit that went down (curses, witches, spirits, fuckin' time travel, Buzz). Barnabas doesn't keep this info to himself and does the most logical thing to do: Bring Professor Stokes in. Suddenly, some people started to get smarter in this house. Stokes believes Janet Findley, the medium he sent here couple of weeks earlier and ended up dead (well, shit happens), didn't die a natural death even though it looked like a heart attack. So, as it the Collins tradition in every 100 episode or so, it is SEANCE TIME AGAIN! This time participants are Stokes, Barnabas, Maggie and despite practically begging not to be involved, Mrs Johnson (they were ones who got close and personal with Quentin afterall). It was about time they popped Mrs J's séance cherry, and as one would expect, the whole thing was hilarious. And as if it wasn't enough, the spirit of Madame Findley picked her of all people to be her human-speaker. Mrs Johnson moans and utters some words like "Children. The Panel. The room." instead of saying "You know guys while I was looking for the malevolent spirit, the children led me to the west wing. There I discovered his secret room by going through the panel" but yeah yeah, the wi-fi connection is and has always been slow between the two worlds. Luckily, Mrs Johnson finishes the story by screaming "AND HE KILLED ME" before collapsing, at least proving there is something evil inside the house. We haven't seen Mrs J ever since, I hope she is dealing okay with the séance hangover.

Consenting adults try hypnosis
The next morning Barnabas tells Julia about previous night's hoopla and try to decipher the dead medium's message: He believes children are either in some kind of danger or they know who the murderer is. Or worse yet, they are the murderers. They hope it's either number one or two. Later, they visit Chris hoping to learn more about this mysterious ghost looking out for him. He says he doesn't know, and it turns out to be true when Julia hypnotizes him (with his consent, probably the first time we see Julia using work ethics) with hopes of uncovering something buried, yet fails. Chris finds it hard to believe in ghosts. An odd statement from a man who happens to be a werewolf every now and then. Outside, Beth appears to Amy and asks her to do something (again, not speaking), and it turns out to be to get an old doll of some kind from the west wing, which Amy embraces and starts playing with. I still don't get how the kids are able to go in and out the west wing without having the bejesus scared out of them.

The estate of Collinwood
is one big graveyard
A little bit later, Beth finally appears to Chris in the woods and points him to a spot on the ground. Chris does the most sensible thing to do to a guardian angel and shouts "You are the one. You are the woman!" at her face. Naturally, she disappears and Chris goes and gets Barnabas. The two man dig the earth where she pointed and discover a child size coffin of 50-70 years (Barnabas shows off his expertise on the coffins; and he should know). It is a saddening sight. When they open it up, they find the remains of an infant and a silver pentagram necklace. Ohh, the plot thickens. They speculate that it must be a protection against a werewolf, which proves there must have been another one before Chris, which proves his condition must be connected to it. They take the necklace and bury the coffin back, not knowing Quentin is watching them. Another easy paycheck day for David Selby.

Possession stands for what exactly?
Back at the house, David grabs a book from the library (why the hell is there a book titled "Ghosts and Exorcism" in the Collins' collection I am not sure, but then again they have always been a bit morbid) and Carolyn comes in and tells him it's a weird choice for a bedtime reading. David is ready to open up about what has been scaring him, but right on cue, Quentin the ever silent, the ever present, the ever buzzkill ghost appears and David shuts up. Later when they meet in Quentin's room, David first rejects whatever it is Quentin has asked him to do this time, but the music starts playing and David falls under the man-ghost's influence once again. You know, I can't unsee the child abuse metaphor even if I want to now and it is unsettling. It is also supported by the fact that they always cut away once Quentin starts to possess them.

Sherlockin' Barnabas
Examining the pentagram in the drawing room, Barnabas notices an inscription that says "'To guard you from the wrath of Cerberus", which is amazing 'cause who doesn't like Greek mythology subtly integrated into any story? Carolyn recognizes the jeweler's mark and identifies it as belonging to Mr. Ezra Braithwaite, the third and last generation craftsman in a line of jewelers providing the Collins family their much needed silver. Barnabas calls him up while David watches and eventually filches the pentagram right under Barnabas' nose, as Quentin has ordered. On top of that, he manages to get out of this one, even though he was the only other person in the room and Barnabas even apologizes to him for assuming he stole it. Barnabas must be having one of his slow days (it was the 60's, the acid was the thing; we are not shaming him for experimenting).

Barnabas supporting local businesses
Lacking the real thing, Barnabas visits Mr. Braithwaite in his shop with a drawing of the pentagram. The man is very old and eccentric. He has two glasses: One pair to see people; the other for things (like all of us, really). He almost has a memory of making the necklace and promises to look through his books to find out. Later, he gives Collinwood a call to let them know that he has found out who it was made for, but unfortunately it is David who answers the phone and before he can summon Barnabas, Quentin intervenes and takes the phone from his hands. When David protests, Quentin chases him up the stairs looking creepy as ever. Right after the opening credits, we see them talking in the drawing room, so once again we have been denied to witness whatever it is Quentin does to those kids. Anyway, Quentin must still be resentful towards Amy because he disappears right after she joins them (what is he, 7?). Amy is the mature one here and she figures whatever it is those two are doing must be something Chris would be harmed at the end of. She warns David not to trust Quentin, and he agrees by saying he doesn't like the game anymore.

Amy must have remind Barnabas
of his own sister Sarah
Enter Liz, getting ready to go to the airport to pick up Roger who is finally coming back from Boston doing devil knows what, while his sister has been resurrected, his niece got attacked by a werewolf and his son has been possessed by ghosts galloping around the house like there is no tomorrow. Liz wants to take David with her but meets much resistance, because he wants to make sure Quentin behaves. Amy almost blurts the whole thing but the clock strikes conveniently and Liz has to go. Jeez! Then, Amy and Barnabas have a heart-warming talk about their good old (offscreen) friendship at the Windcliff Sanitarium but Amy still can't bring her tiny self to admit who she is afraid of. QUENTIN! IT'S QUENTIN!!1!

Ezra is a little too fond of silver
Meanwhile downstairs David welcomes Mr. Braithwaite in, who has come up with his ledger to tell Barnabas about his discovery. David leaves the old man admiring all the iron Collins' have alone in the drawing room, to have Quentin prey on him. And right on cue, Quentin appears behind the hidden panel (appearing out of thin air like a regular ghost must not be dramatic enough for him) and approaches the man. Poor old Braithwaite has his "things-glasses" on, so he can't make out Quentin at first and even assumes he is the friend Barnabas has mentioned.
Quentin plays with his
prey first
Noticing this, Quentin has some fun and pretends to listen with a smile on his face while Braithwaite goes on and on about how the pentagram was one of the first pieces he made, and it was ordered by Miss Beth Chaves and charged to Count Quentin Collins. After he's done reading, Mr. Braithwaite switches back to his people-glasses and casually identifies the man as Quentin Collins. After a pause that actually seems like a whole minute, he realizes that it is impossible and yells "You're dead! You're dead!" as Quentin comes closer and closer... During that, David has actually gone up to Barnabas' room to tell him about Mr. Braithwaite's arrival but got caught up in his cousin's never ending speeches. When he finally manages to interrupt him and tell the news, they run down to the drawing room to find Mr. Braithwaite sitting in a position with his head hanging down, now practically screaming I'm dead. Right on cue, he drops to the floor like a single raisin as the ex-vampire gently touches him. As Barnabas yells David to stay away and call Julia, Quentin is already in the west wing, with the ledger.

Notes... Notes... Notes

- Chris is one of my favorite characters now. He's nice but edgy; secretive and overall cool to watch. I really enjoy watching Don Briscoe's performance and was sad to learn he had a tough life.

-Julia has been reading about the werewolves and apparently there are two ways you can be one: By a bite or a curse. We know Chris' thing is a curse but not sure how he got it. How is he related to Quentin, Beth and the dead baby we will see, I hope. It is also a bit hypocritical of Julia to suggest they will have to expose Chris if they fail to help him, while that was never an option for Barnabas. Unrequited love has blinded her.

-While on the subject of werewolves, even though Barnabas made it sound like Cerberus was only a random guard dog at the gates of hell, it was actually a huge three-headed beast. Now that we know there was another werewolf back in the town's history, it would be cool if Chris was one of three people who are affected by a curse, forming a symbolic Cerberus through time.

-It is funny how Liz is right back at her game again, with no lasting after effects of being dead. With no mention of the whole thing, one would assume she only went to Bangor for a couple of days.

- Occasional black and white episodes give me a nice feeling of nostalgia and an opportunity to see what the show would have looked like if it never gone multicolor during less gothic and more exciting, full fledged supernatural stories.

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