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At Azure, was Natalie Hypnotized or Drugged?
by Amy R.
April 15, 1998
Last Modified August 23, 2003 / Comment on LiveJournal
At the end of the second-season Forever Knight episode "Be My Valentine," Natalie tells Nick that she cannot remember anything from the moment she walked into the restaurant the night before "until you took me home in a cab; you know, I usually hold my liquor just a little bit better than that . . . !" Natalie's memory loss has puzzled and plagued Forever Knight viewers ever since that assertion first flowed across the airwaves in 1995.
"You mean, you don't remember?" Nick replies, but his question sounds less inquisitive than disingenuous. While debatable, the dominant interpretation assumes that he expected her to have forgotten, and she goes on to say that the entire previous day has become fuzzy in her memory. He tells her that they had a good time -- an undefined, unchallenging, friendly "good time." Natalie seems satisfied with that and, most of all, relieved at his assurance that she did not embarrass herself.
Now, clearly, Natalie's memory loss in the present-day story of "Be My Valentine" (BMV) parallels Fleur's in the flashback. As Fleur forgot Lacroix's declaration of love, so Natalie forgot Nick's approach. It binds the overall structure paralleling the two women in that episode's story.
Those are the facts. Their interpretations are legion, resting on three vexing -- perhaps irresolvable -- questions touching the core of Forever Knight (FK) canon.
Natalie is a resistor (cf. "Only the Lonely"). She cannot be hypnotized, so how can she have lost her memory?
One answer states, given Natalie is a resistor, she must then be faking the memory loss. Motivated either to protect Nick and herself from Lacroix, or to back off from a relationship with Nick she no longer desires (either because of anger, fear or attraction to Lacroix, among the popularly supposed motivations), Natalie feigns forgetting. Natpackers (followers of Natalie) usually advance this perspective.
Another answer points out that while Lacroix poured champagne for Natalie, he poured none for himself, even though "The Code" and "1966" -- and, obliquely, "Dark Knight" -- demonstrate that vampires can, with minimal to no discomfort, consume alcohol without blood. Lacroix's conspicuously empty glass prompts this perspective's assertion that drugging accounts for Natalie's lassitude in the restaurant and memory loss after. Additionally, in "Ashes to Ashes," Nick observes that he has seen Lacroix "work around" the obstacle of someone being a resistor; Nick's remark may even specifically reference Natalie in BMV. This reading offers maximum simplicity in both plot and character interpretation.
Yet another answer declares that such a theory as drugging demeans Lacroix. His power and confidence, this supposition holds, should overcome even a resistor. Holders of this opinion -- often Cousins, followers of Lacroix -- maintain that Lacroix hypnotized Natalie despite her being a resistor, or that Nick was mistaken in thinking her a resistor in the first place. Evidence for this comes from "A More Permanent Hell" (with another controversial "is Nat hypnotized?" scene) and in what is perceived as Nick's comparative lack of skill with hypnotism (controversially found in "Ashes to Ashes," "Dying to Know You," "Avenging Angel" and others. Its controversiality lies in the third-season-based speculation that there are no true human resistors, only vampires unskilled in hypnotism).
A deliberate ambiguity in the script's stage directions asks that both hypnotism and drugging appear on screen as valid possibilities. (The actress Catherine Disher, however, has said that she played the scene as if Natalie is drugged through the champagne.)
A fourth answer posits that it is Nick who hypnotizes Natalie after Lacroix leaves -- made possible either because she is not truly a resistor, or because she had been weakened by the drugged champagne. His motive is represented either as shielding himself from what she might have learned about his true feelings or protecting her from Lacroix's threatened vengeance.
And Lacroix's threat is generally regarded as a very real one. Interpretations of the third-season episode "Dead of Night" (DoN) frequently cross-reference Lacroix's behavior with BMV through his 1229 promise to take from Nick what Nick took from him in the person of Fleur. Would Lacroix have killed Nick's wife Alyssa himself if he had believed Nick truly loved her (cf. "the lost swordfight scene" of DoN)? Similar questions rise from Lacroix's goading of Nick to kill the ballerina Sylvaine in "Love You to Death" and the author Emily Weiss in "Stranger than Fiction," and his gloating over the death of the wine-merchant's daughter Amalia in "Crazy Love" and Janette's departure in "Partners of the Month." Lacroix conspicuously renews his threatened vengeance at Fleur's grave in "Fallen Idol."
Over the years, fans have written numerous stories from any and all of these perspectives. The most frequent motif features Natalie recovering the memories and bitterly resenting Nick either for taking them from her or not telling her that Lacroix had taken them from her. Fans frequently interpret Nick as too willing to make decisions for others (for what he perceives as their own good) without consulting them -- Fleur and Natalie, prime examples -- possibly as a hangover from his medieval, aristocratic, male upbringing or possibly as a hangover from eight-hundred years as Lacroix's "son" and "protege" -- for who in the world is more likely than Lacroix to arbitrarily make decisions for others?
From there, the logic of the structural parallel leads to this question of responsibility: did Nick take Natalie's memories in the present as he took Fleur's in the past, or did Lacroix take Nick's love's memories in the present as Nick took his love's memories in the past? Which parallel is the one to follow?
In any case, those memories are most generally considered gone. Certainly, they must be gone for a period of time if one ascribes continuity to Natalie's behavior in late second-season. However . . . .
What evidence suggests that the memories are not gone?
The vague allusion in "Last Knight," if alone, could be read in many ways. However, it gains credibility in light of another, only slightly less vague, allusion in "The Human Factor" (HF). In the tag of HF, Natalie refers to the "extraordinary circumstances" of their situation and her efforts to reconcile herself to them. In the original, syndicated closed-captioning, certainly, and -- if I recall correctly -- in the script as well, those two words appear inside quotation marks. She is, therefore, quoting. Who is she quoting? Lacroix, in "Be My Valentine." "Extraordinary circumstances," he says.
To quote it, she must recall it.
Subtle and vague and open to interpretation it is, but there just the same. Third season is like that, dusted with quiet but intriguing references to earlier episodes. Natalie may remember! Or she may not. By accepting the reference in HF, she does. If so, how long had she remembered what she and Nick had almost won and were then forced to abandon?
Some interpretations of Natalie in the third season answer that question as they explain her increasing frustration with Nick by the resurfacing of her memories from BMV. So close, and yet so far, it becomes unbearable for her. Others say that the line in HF is a mistake, or a coincidence, or a merely subconscious resurfacing. All these theories remain canonically possible. The reference is simply too intangible to pin permanently to any one interpretation.
Is Nick telling the truth? -- a.k.a., Does Nick love Nat?
The prevailing interpretation assumes that Nick lies when he asserts to Lacroix that "I do not love this woman!" Most viewers conclude that Nick put up a front in order to save Natalie's life, playing a very dangerous game against Lacroix, and that he would not have brought her across as Lacroix demanded -- after all, Lacroix is correct . . . isn't he? Wouldn't Nick rather watch a beloved mortal die than make him or her a vampire? Wouldn't Nick watch Natalie die before bringing her across? (Well, that question, too, was long debated, until "Last Knight" settled the question in a way no one wished to see. Indeed, Nick would watch her die rather than bring her across. But was that true in the second season?)
While many possibilities continue to revolve through the fandom's interpretations, the majority view maintains that Nick lies to Lacroix in BMV, that he loves Natalie and that Lacroix was either 1) too blinded by his own roiling emotions to realize that, or 2) realized that, but decided to let them go anyway, either because a) he thought Nick would suffer more that way, forbidden Natalie's love but condemned to her daily presence, or b) because he realized just how useful a tool Natalie could be for him to use against Nick, to bring him back into the vampire fold, or c) because he desired Natalie for himself at some future point.
Another contention contrarily asserts that Lacroix, Nick's vampire "master," who has been known to read Nick's mind in the past (most explicitly in "Unreality TV"), could not possibly be fooled by such a charade. Thus, he must either have chosen to let Nick and Natalie go, motivated as described above, or Nick must have been telling the truth, that he does not love Natalie [romantically] and is merely using her to get to his goal of mortality. Many who assert this view maintain that Nick thinks he loves Natalie, but that Lacroix knows better than Nick that Nick is equivocating to salve his conscience. This "allowed self-delusion," known by Lacroix but hidden from Nick, is a serious, reasonable contention advanced by intelligent, thoughtful, FK-loving people.
Of course, I tend to think it's barking mad. Nick knows his own mind by now -- indeed now, in his quest, more than ever before. But it is, nevertheless, canonically possible that Lacroix knows him better than he knows himself.
Personally, I believe that Nick's spectacularly-failed attempts to connect with Natalie in the second season, in combination with various vampiric stresses, drove him not-unwillingly back to Janette (with whom he has been in love before and who loves him again, cf. "Partners of the Month"), but that something came between them and drove her to leave him again ("The Black Buddha") and in Janette's absence, Nick began to actively, seriously fall in love with Natalie, throughout the third season (starting, say, with "My Boyfriend is a Vampire"). Natalie, of course, has been falling in love with Nick since the first season (cf. "Only the Lonely"); it takes him longer to sort out his feelings, no doubt influenced by his awareness of just how much time he has to ponder before acting. That she has much less time does not necessarily register. Sometimes Nick is very Hamlet; worse, he has been Othello and Romeo.
Now, again personally, I no longer care whom Nick romances, in fanfiction or in canon, as long as he is striving to come to terms with his sins, find salvation and become human -- preferably in the midst of a cracking good yarn, be it police mystery or historical adventure. That is my paradigm: the quest, not the romance. But even from relatively neutral ground, I cannot resolve the faction-fraught puzzle of Natalie's memory loss in BMV. This highly controversial, much-interpreted episode inspires adoration and loathing in equal measures. Many viewers see in it the ultimate culmination of the most important aspect of the FK story. As many others find it a hideous travesty, a betrayal of each and every character, as well as FK's basic metaphor.
Trivia? The author of BMV, Diane Cary, plays the radio psychologist in "Dead Air" and the manager of the women's shelter in "Avenging Angel," and also wrote "Let No Man Tear Asunder." James Parriot, the show's creator and producer, is her husband. The director of BMV worked on FK only that once, and is rumored to have given the regular crew and cast a hard time on the set.
A friend who loathes BMV more than anyone I know likes to say that BMV is first-rate fanfiction. Her chosen insult -- implying that BMV should never have been produced on screen -- still acknowledges the compelling power BMV exercises over the fandom, for better and for worse, in all its myriad interpretations.
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