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