When Cousin Barnabas mentioned this topic, I wasted no time in calling dibs on Petofi.
Today, I just wrapped up watching, hmmm, let me see. Oh yes, 1225 episodes of the show, so I’m a bit frazzled. Pardon me as I don my black turtleneck, grab some bongos, and rap with you about the many reasons why even primitive tribes in far-flung La Jolla worship him as a kind of deity.
Let’s dig Petofi. These are why I think he’d win any election.
1. The wig.
2. The beard.
3. The glasses.
4. The clothing.
6. The ability to read symphonies while he’s just hanging around the drawing room.
7. Yet he is so stone-cold that just his hand was enough to send our heroes and villains into a justified panic weeks before he even appeared to claim it.
8. The man seemingly switches the brains and bodies of people for reasons so wacky that I ultimately think he’s doing it just to kill time… most of the time. His foray into controlling Jamison leads to the lad leering like Matt Helm at his swingin’est.
9. He acts like one half of an old married couple with his inexplicably sleazy assistant, Aristede. It’s almost as if he keeps Aristede around because he knows that Aristede will somehow make a shambles of things. Why would he do this? Because punishing a weasel like Aristede is old-fashioned fun. More fun than seeing Aristede succeed. I suspect that Petofi just waits for Aristede to stand up for himself and tell him off, and he never does.
10. He’s the most foppish of villains because he pulls it off. Bruno is just new money trash. Petofi has style. Yet he still finds time to use Aristede’s sartorial obsessions to question his sexuality. It’s precisely the kind of insult that could be leveled at Petofi, leading me to wonder if Petofi’s in on the joke or not. I prefer not to make a decision.
11. His arch enemies are Gypsies. That’s all kinds of fun.
12. He’s been a werewolf.
13. A unicorn is sometimes involved in his backstory.
14. He occupies an interesting place because he is one of the few villains who exists totally beyond the Collins-centric mythos. Normally, I find that villains are less interesting the further they stray from having needs and objectives innately tied up with the Collins family. But Petofi just shows up, as I recall, simply looking for his hand. Understandable. It’s only after seeing the advantages of certain family members that he decides to hang around. In theory, this should make him an nuisance more than a nemesis. But his outsider’s status also gives him a wonderful lack of sentimentality toward the Collins clan, and lends an almost Brechtian level of commentary as he calls them on their pomposity and shenanigans. The Collins family really holds the full house in the Maine Class Envy game. No matter what you do to them, they are still born aristocrats. But Petofi’s, um, well, an actual Count! He’s unphased by these provincial bumpkins.
15. I think he may also be Santa Claus. It’s just one day out of the year. Think about it.
16. When I think of the other “master villains” on the show, eventually we find out that they work for someone else, and this defangs them. With two exceptions. One is Judah Zachary, the oft-ignored prime mover of all misery in Collinsport. The second is Petofi. Ultimately, Angelique’s scared of Nicholas (or Judah), and Nicholas answers to Diabolos (or the Leviathans… I think he may be demonic contractor or something). The Count’s his own boss. He sets his own hours. He seems to enjoy life. He just believes that being bad is more fun than being good, and so he’s chosen to excel at it. Were Petofi to win, I’m not sure others would suffer under his reign. He’d probably just set himself up like a Victorian Hef.
17. Yeah, the Victorian thing. Well, more Edwardian. It was a prime age for spiritualist and vegetarian crackpots, and the Count looks and acts like something out of The Road to Wellville. He has a sense of enthusiastic industry which makes me think of an evil Ben Franklin.
18. In D&D terms — yeah, I think I’m safe in this company using them — the Count is Neutral Evil, giving him the upper hand (haw-haw) against a guy like Nicholas who has to follow very set union guidelines.
19. Mayfair’s coming out with Star Trek: Catan. How cool is that?
20. He’s played by Thayer David, a man who takes more indulgent pleasure in the art of acting than almost anyone else on the show. The writers must have had hours of fun attempting to top each other when writing dialogue for David’s smarter characters.
21. Ultimately, if Jack Kirby created a Bat-Villain, we’d have Count Petofi. That may be the best reason of all.
Petofi. In your heart, you know he’s a swinger.