Episode 367: Making History

“I can’t let you leave here. The evil in you may return in another form.”

You know the scene at the end of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy wakes up, and she’s delighted to discover that the ruby slippers have carried her home, and she’s surrounded by her family and friends? And everybody is super thrilled that their beloved Dorothy is alive and safe at home? Well, this scene isn’t like that at all.

Today, Vicki wakes up and finds Mrs. Johnson, the friendly housekeeper, sitting by the bed. Except she’s not Mrs. Johnson, she’s not friendly, you’re still trapped in the nightmare, and she hates you.

367 dark shadows vicki abigail trapped

This is the moment where they could have bailed. Vicki traveled back in time yesterday, to the year 1795, when Barnabas was preparing to marry Josette. Overwhelmed by the shock of it all, Vicki ended the episode in a dead faint on the drawing room floor.

And it’s still possible, at the beginning of today’s episode, that Vicki could wake up in Collinwood, and say, “So it was all just a dream!” Then they just go on with the television show that they were making. I’m sure that’s what at least some of the people in the audience expected, because obviously you can’t just send your entire show to the 18th century.

So Vicki opens her eyes, and says, “Mrs. Johnson, it’s you! Then it was all just a dream!” And the woman sitting by the bed says, “What are you saying, young lady? Who is Mrs. Johnson?”

They’re messing with us! They’re thinking metatextually, and they constructed a scene that deliberately pokes fun at our expectations. I told you guys that Dark Shadows was a great show, and here it is, being great. Nobody ever believes me.

367 dark shadows abigail is the bomb

This is Abigail Collins, by the way. I don’t know why I’m stalling like this, while Abigail is on TV being amazing.

Vicki:  It can’t be true. I must be dreaming.

Abigail:  I can assure you, you’re not.

Vicki:  This dress! Why am I wearing this dress?

Abigail:  It belongs to one of the servants. The clothing you were wearing when you arrived was shockingly immodest, to say the least.

Vicki:  I don’t understand any of this.

Abigail:  I find you difficult to understand. Increasingly so, the more I talk to you.

Every time she speaks, she finishes her line by settling back into her resting position — back straight, feet on the floor, hands in her lap, chin raised, lips pursed in an expression of disdain. You know exactly who Abigail is — aging spinster from a respectable family, fanatical Christian with no understanding of Christian love or mercy — within thirty seconds of meeting her.

It would be an overstatement to say that Clarice Blackburn is a great actress. She’s actually something even better than that — she’s a competent working actress, who can read a script, and construct a character with mathematical precision. We could use a dozen more just like her.

367 dark shadows abigail vicki answers

Abigail wants answers. She wants to know where Vicki came from, what she’s doing here, and why she claimed to be Sarah’s new governess. Vicki doesn’t know what to say. She doesn’t know why she’s here, or how she got here; she doesn’t even know what year it is.

And Vicki’s character finally clicks into place. She’s been walking around in a daze the whole show, talking nonsense and not really able to connect with the other people around her. That’s why she’s been such a weird main character, because she always seems lost in her own thoughts and feelings.

Now they’ve finally put Vicki in an environment where that sense of confused distance is a completely appropriate response to the situation. For the first time, Victoria Winters actually makes sense. It’s a year and a half too late, of course, but it’s nice that they got there.

367 dark shadows abigail vicki possessed

And she’s just in time for the crazy.

Abigail:  Let me look at you. Let me look deep into your eyes. Yes! I can see it. When did it happen?

Vicki:  When did what happen?

Abigail:  You are possessed!

Vicki:  Possessed?

Abigail:  Possessed by the devil! You needn’t try to deny it. I can see it in your eyes!

367 dark shadows vicki abigail crucible

So now they’re doing The Crucible, the 1953 Arthur Miller play about the Salem witch trials. Sure, that makes sense. Four minutes ago, they were doing The Wizard of Oz, and now it’s The Crucible; that’s the obvious progression.

They’re really getting the hang of this narrative collision thing. For the last seven months, they’ve been living off the energy of smashing Jane Eyre and Dracula together, and now they’ve figured out that they can just keep throwing literary references into the show to see what happens. Two weeks ago, we had Sam Spade from The Maltese Falcon, and yesterday, they introduced Nathan Forbes, who’s basically Tom Jones in a Navy costume.

Anybody want to place a bet on who’s next? I’ll give you 5:3 on Tom Sawyer, 8:1 on Willy Wonka, and today’s daily double, Santa Claus and the Mad Hatter, at 15:1.

367 dark shadows vicki abigail bets

Once Abigail’s decided that Vicki is in league with the Devil, things get out of control really quickly.

Abigail:  First, I must burn the clothing that you arrived in.

Vicki:  Burn it? Why?

Abigail:  There’s a taint of evil on it. It must be burned, it must be destroyed!

Vicki:  No, you can’t burn it! I’m going to need those, when I go back where I came from.

Abigail:  I must think how to deal with you!

Vicki:  What do you mean?

Abigail:  I can’t let you leave here. The evil in you may return in another form.

367 dark shadows vicki window

Abigail takes Vicki’s clothes, and leaves her locked in the room. Now, according to the traditional Dark Shadows standard of conduct, Vicki should stay trapped here for at least five episodes, but instead she goes out the window, because today we’ve decided we’re making good television.

367 dark shadows vicki jeremiah meet

Vicki runs to Collinwood, hoping to find some way to get back to her own time. But Collinwood is still under construction, and all she finds is Jeremiah Collins, who looks like Burke and dresses like an 18th century lounge singer.

I love these costumes. The clothes in 1967 were fine, but you only noticed them when they went really, really wrong. Going into the past has given them license to go wild in the wardrobe room.

I don’t know anything about the history of fashion, so I have no idea if the clothes they’re wearing are even close to appropriate for 1795. All I know is that Jeremiah is supposed to come across as a level-headed, reasonable man, and this is what he wears at a construction site.

367 dark shadows vicki jeremiah cry

Vicki thinks that Jeremiah looks like her missing-presumed-dead fiancee, and the shock of one more disappointment finally makes her break down. He gives her a handkerchief, and offers to help.

Jeremiah:  You’re coming back to the main house with me.

Vicki:  No, I can’t go back there.

Jeremiah:  You just said you have no place else to go.

Vicki:  I’m afraid. I don’t want to.

Jeremiah:  Don’t be afraid of Abigail. She won’t do anything to you; I’ll see to that.

Vicki:  How do you know that what she said about me isn’t true?

Jeremiah:  Well, I trust Sarah’s instincts more than I do Abigail’s. And besides, I know you can’t be a witch. Witches don’t cry over men they love.

So here we are, having a touching, well-written and dramatically tense scene between Vicki and Burke, in a script written by Ron Sproat, and I love it. 1795 really does change everything.

367 dark shadows naomi discussion

And then it’s back to the Old House for a spirited family argument between Joshua, Naomi, Abigail and Jeremiah, about what they’re going to do with this strange young woman who appears to believe that she’s Sarah’s governess.

This is the first time we see Joshua. They’re introducing new characters in every scene today, and immediately putting them into the middle of a family conflict. I could go on quoting and saying “That’s amazing,” but at a certain point you might as well go and watch the episode on Hulu. This is one of those days when they get everything right, except for Joshua, who apparently dresses to the left. Still, as long as he’s happy.

Tomorrow: A Wicked Woman.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the beginning of the teaser, when Abigail pokes Vicki awake, the boom mic is in shot at the top right of the frame.

When Abigail decides that Vicki is possessed, she repeats the line “I must think how to deal with you” in two different places in the scene.

Also: Joshua’s pants.


Behind the Scenes:

The Collinsport Afghan has traveled through time. We first saw the brightly-colored blanket in August 1967 at Maggie’s house. Most recently, we saw it in Josette’s room in the Old House in October. Today, it’s on Vicki’s bed, although this is presumably the 1967 afghan’s great-great-great-grandfather.

Tomorrow: A Wicked Woman.

367 dark shadows jeremiah joshua

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

23 thoughts on “Episode 367: Making History

  1. I don’t remember Clarice Blackburn ever having to look at the teleprompter during her scenes. She always seemed to recite lines flawlessy. Burke Devlin actually did the Collins family a favor when he sent her to get a job at Collinwood to ‘spy’ on them during the pre-Barnabas days of the show.

  2. I know, I know, we’re all about Joel being the only hot guy on the show… but I love me some Burke/Jeremiah. And I have to agree about Blackburn… from her first appearance, it was clear that she was something special. As with several of the other actors, the trip back in time gave her so much more to do… and she rose to the challenge. I love that we’re now going to begin seeing more of the Collins clan, in all its wonderful forms, because for me, when the show backburnered folks like Roger and Elizabeth, it lost something.

    1. Agreed, Jeremiah looks good, and just as with Nathan Forbes, it’s wonderful to have him be more interesting than Burke was. Uh, will be. Before he died. Will die.
      Whoah, I’m time-tripping! It’s worse than jetlag.

  3. I just pulled up the episode to watch it on Hulu, and all I can think is… imagine being in the writer’s room, or better still, being the executive in charge of production… the network rep. The network rep overseeing a daily soap opera that is suddenly taking a journey through time, five days a week…

    Whenever I stop to think about it, my mind kinda explodes. I cant help thinking, “How did this happen? How did this get on the air? How did they convince the network to let them do a full-blown costume drama about witches and a vampire’s origin?”

    It’s just… yeah, crazy.

    1. Yeah, it’s nuts. I think the key was that there was a lot less network oversight in the late 60s. By which I mean, hardly any at all. Daytime TV was more like theater back then. They didn’t think about things like branding or synergy or focus groups — those are all concepts of the 1980s and 90s.

      Probably the biggest difference — and I just thought of this right now — is that the playback technology simply didn’t exist. There was one master videotape — literally one copy — that was broadcast and then archived. They made kinescope copies to send to affiliates that wanted to air the show at a different time, and those were made by pointing a film camera at the television screen while the original broadcast was airing.

      So in practical terms, the only way that network execs would ever see what’s airing at 3:30 in the afternoon is to turn on the TV and watch it live on broadcast. But they were working during the day, and they probably didn’t bother. Dark Shadows was a secret collaboration between the lunatic creators, and the audience of housewives and teenagers.

  4. I know a bit about costume history–and while I’d say they got things mostly right for 1795, the “look” seems a bit more 1815 to me. In 1795 the women’s skirts should be a bit longer and fuller, and the older men in particular should still be wearing their hair longer and tied back. Barnabas’ haircut is radically up-to-date and modern for a young man about town in 1795–but Joshua’s short back and muttonchops–well, it’s the equivalent of Roger sporting a hippie do in 1967! (Actually, the 1790s like the 1960s was an era of great social upheaval–but of course the modern world never intrudes on Dark Shadows in any era!)

    BTW, I’ve been racing through your blog over the past few days, and loving every word of it. I’ll have to force myself to stop reading once I reach the last episode I’ve seen so far.

    1. Oh, that’s interesting — thanks! I don’t really know anything about fashion, so any anachronisms in the clothes and hairstyles fly past me completely. Let me know what you think when you get to Jeremiah’s “leaf jacket”. You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

      1. Ah, the “leaf jacket”! Well they really existed. There are plenty of those in museums–the thing is, though, they were for very formal wear. You’d wear one if you were going to Court (royal court, not the law courts) or for getting married in. They weren’t the sort of thing you wore for knocking about the house. So the fact that Jeremiah wears one for everyday–it makes him a bit of a fop, doesn’t it?

    2. Hey, Christine – love the info about the dating of the 1795 costumes, etc. One question about Joshua’s top ‘n chops: he wouldn’t have been in any situations requiring a powdered wig, would he? I’m thinking those were probably on their way out of fashion except in government places like courtrooms?

  5. While outlining the terms of the governess position, Joshua informs Vicky that she will be paid $4 a month. “Four dollars?!” she reacts. She is right to seem indignant when you compare the value of a dollar between her time and 1795. One dollar in 1795 is worth $2.61 in 1967. Minimum wage for the state of Maine as of October 15, 1967 matched the federal rate of $1.40 (per hour), in 1967 dollars. Presumably Mrs. Stoddard was paying Vicky somewhere above minimum wage. This means that in 1795 Vicky will have to work an entire month as Sarah’s governess before she will earn the amount for working just a single day as David’s governess in 1967. It seems she got a better deal with the gallows.

  6. I respectfully agree about the clothes. I found the 60s clothes fascinating, not only because they reminded me of my childhood but also because some of them were downright beautiful and I wouldlove to wear them today. These 18th century costumes are loud and garish and look like something from Disneyland. I have a hard time believing the characters wearing them, and Naomi (Elizabeth) Collins looks ridiculous with all that heavy makeup. Women did not wear anything other than rouge back then, and even that was considered tarty. They also really should have done something about the men “dressing left or right.” I seriously doubt men in those days wore such thin breeches with nothing underneath to, ahem, mitigate the immodesty.

  7. I respectfully disagree about the clothes. I found the 60s clothes fascinating, not only because they reminded me of my childhood but also because some of them were downright beautiful and I wouldlove to wear them today. These 18th century costumes are loud and garish and look like something from Disneyland. I have a hard time believing the characters wearing them, and Naomi (Elizabeth) Collins looks ridiculous with all that heavy makeup. Women did not wear anything other than rouge back then, and even that was considered tarty. They also really should have done something about the men “dressing left or right.” I seriously doubt men in those days wore such thin breeches with nothing underneath to, ahem, mitigate the immodesty.

  8. Got the underlying details about men’s underwear in 1795, thanks to a friend who belongs to the Jane Austen Society and whose husband is a Revolutionary War re-enactor. Men did wear underpants in period, they were like modern boxer shorts but more fitted. Or they tucked their shirt tails (which were long, halfway to the knee) around their bottoms. The purpose was not modesty as much as keeping their outer clothes free from skid marks and other stains. Everyone wore wool and dry cleaning had not been invented. I’m guessing that we are seeing a lot of Louis and Joel because they were trying to avoid panty lines under those wonderfully snug trousers.

  9. I am fascinated by the suddenly different family dynamics. The Naomi / Jeremiah / Abigail / Joshua scene is fabulous in every way. And the writers dive straight in, which is great.

  10. I would love to possess Vikki and if this is 1795, why is she in the main house doing scenes with a blue pole lamp ? oh wait, it’s Anthony George .

  11. Ok, so much to cover. First of all this does seem to be a kind of version of “Wizard of Oz”. That would explain everyone being someone from Vicki’s past (future?) and the twist on Barnabas marrying Josette. Vicki’s psyche is kind of making it up as she goes down the pink brick road. Interesting that Mrs.Johnson gets to play the wicked witch, guess Vicki secretly hated or was afraid of her.

    Second the change in character proves that AG really was a one trick pony. The other actors have created new personas for their new characters. Anthony, not so much. Wouldn’t it have been great if Jeremiah didn’t have that swarthy guy with no confidence trying to act tough way of talking that Burke did. Guess that’s Vicki’s type. As for Vicki I think you are dead on when you say her constant state of confusion is perfect for her current situation.

    Finally, it is great to see the change in pecking order in the house. Roger (Joshua) gets to tell Liz (Naomi) what to do for awhile. I think the writers wanted to have fun for awhile, and realizing that CB and LE were great actors wanted to give them meatier roles so they could flesh them out. Super excited to see the dynamics between Barnabas and Joshia.

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