Episode 379: Nine Lives to Live

“Your aunt is right. The cat is a sign, the Devil’s pet. The laughter after the joke.”

“Governesses are supposed to be trusting,” the Countess du Prés smiles. “One has to be in dealing with children. Think of me as a giant child.”

Joshua Collins has disappeared, all of a sudden and in the middle of an argument. While the men are out pointlessly searching the grounds, the Countess has decided to re-enact the mystery, with herself in the starring role as Joshua, and Vicki pinch-hitting for Jeremiah. As usual, Grayson Hall is having a wonderful time in the role of Natalie, who has all of Julia’s swagger, none of Julia’s guilt, and a much more extravagant wardrobe.

And then there’s Vicki, who’s come all the way from the 20th century, and refuses to have any fun at all.

379 dark shadows natalie pompous

“Now, let me play my scene,” Natalie insists. “It will not be difficult to conjure all the pompous statements Joshua must have made.” Raising her hand to her chest, she performs a broad imitation, shamelessly pandering directly to the audience. “But you can’t just leave, Jeremiah, what would people think!” she sneers. “The du Prés, and that — that Countess.”

379 dark shadows vicki natalie play

But Vicki is determined to be a wet blanket. Even when Natalie prods her into facing the window as Jeremiah did, Vicki refuses to play the part. Instead, she delivers a lecture about how the Countess is being inappropriate and cruel.

379 dark shadows natalie vicki cat

So at a certain point, they just cut their losses and bring on the cat.

This is where Joshua disappeared to, by the way. In yesterday’s episode, the vengeful sorceress Angelique turned the Collins patriarch into a cat, in a spontaneous live-action adaptation of a Bugs Bunny Halloween special. Like so many pleasurable things, it felt great while they were doing it, but it’s awkward the next morning.

These early days of Angelique’s witchery are really just trial and error. As I said yesterday, they’re trying to see how far they can push this concept, and here’s the point when it turns out they actually pushed it too far.

The cat thing just doesn’t work. But it doesn’t work for interesting reasons, so let’s break it down a little.

379 dark shadows barnabas cat problems

To start with, my judgement about this has nothing to do with whether it’s “realistic” or not; we crossed that bridge a long time ago. I’m just talking about it as an aesthetic question — does it feel satisfying as a plot point, or not?

A truly satisfying witch-vixen scheme needs to get two things right — it needs to make sense tactically, and it needs to be metaphorically coherent.

For example, spiking Josette’s rose water perfume with love potion totally works, on a strategic level. Josette and Jeremiah find themselves drawn to each other, but they have no idea why. There’s no evidence that leads back to Angelique; everybody just thinks they’re unable to control their forbidden attraction to each other.

The best recent example of a strong metaphor was Julia’s experiments turning Barnabas into an old man. He’s actually a 190+ year old vampire,  so the punishment made sense, and it felt right.

374 dark shadows skull present

On the other hand, one recent gag that didn’t work was Barnabas and Josette opening a wedding present and finding a skull with a wig.

Tactically, it made no sense at all. Angelique’s plan depends on Barnabas believing that Josette has actually fallen in love with someone else. If he thinks that someone’s working to keep them apart, he’ll be on guard. So there’s no reason why Angelique would send them a message like this; it doesn’t get her anywhere, and it’s likely to backfire.

As far as the metaphor goes, “skull” means death, and she doesn’t actually want Josette to die, so it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a nice Spectacle moment, but then they just forget about it.

379 dark shadows joshua cat tactic

And then there’s the cat. Tactically, this is another clear mistake. Yes, Angelique’s goal was to keep Jeremiah from leaving town, and striking Joshua down is an effective way of doing that.

But the actual circumstances don’t allow for any kind of cover story — Joshua apparently disappeared in the middle of a conversation in the drawing room. He wasn’t even walking in the woods, or alone in the basement. Jeremiah knows exactly where Joshua was at that moment, and there’s no way that he could have silently left the house, even if he had a reason to, which he didn’t. Again, this just puts everybody on guard, and hunting around for a malign influence.

And as a metaphor, it’s even worse. Yeah, skull = death wasn’t particularly appropriate, but at least it means something. What does “cat” mean, in this context?

There’s no sense in which Joshua was a “cat”; the concept doesn’t connect to anything. There’s no symbolic resonance that would make it narratively satisfying, and so it just feels random and silly.

379 dark shadows barnabas the cat

And then the reaction to the cat’s appearance is even less coherent.

Barnabas:  The cat! Is that the cat Jeremiah saw?

Natalie:  Have you ever seen that cat before?

Barnabas:  No, I don’t remember whether I have or not.

What is that supposed to mean? How do you not remember whether your family owns a cat? Either you have a cat or you don’t; it’s not the kind of thing that sneaks up on you.

Natalie:  Have you had cats around the house?

Barnabas:  No, no. My aunt Abigail despises them. The Devil’s pet, she calls them.

379 dark shadows barnabas natalie devil's pet

“Your aunt is right,” Natalie scowls. “The Devil’s pet. The laughter after the joke.” And then the cat just gets up and walks into another room, and they forget all about it, like it’s totally normal to let stray devil-cats couch surf in your mansion.

379 dark shadows nathan overhears

But at least we’re going to get some movement on the most obvious loose story thread, which is Vicki Winters, the time-traveling governess. She’s supposed to be our point of view character, lost in another time, but she’s actually dropped out of sight for most of this week, as the more interesting characters carry the show.

Now, the spotlight shifts back to our heroine. Natalie believes that Vicki is the mysterious agent of evil who’s responsible for all the recent upheavals. On his way to the study, Nathan gets an earful.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan mystery

Now, for me, the biggest mystery of the Dark Shadows production — the one thing that will probably never be explained — is what the hell they thought they were doing with Vicki this whole time. She’s supposed to be the main character, and she’s just a buzzkill.

They clearly know how to make appealing characters that the audience will love — we’ve seen three of them in this episode alone, not counting the cat — and it’s actually a remarkably simple recipe. If you want the audience to like a character, you give them a big hat and three funny lines. That’s pretty much all you need.

And then there’s Vicki Winters, the human equivalent of a light drizzle.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan assault

Nathan finds her in the study, and makes his move.

Nathan:  Oh, wait. Don’t go.

Vicki:  Mrs. Collins may need me.

Nathan:  Oh, not while Barnabas is there.

Vicki:  Please —

Nathan:  I’m the one who needs you now. I’ve needed you ever since I first saw you.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan drizzle

Vicki:  Lieutenant Forbes, may I say something to you?

Nathan:  Yes! Anything.

Vicki:  There is one quality you lack which I think is very important in a man.

Nathan:  Well, if I lack it, I’ll get it. What?

Vicki:  Taste.

Nathan:  Taste? My taste is fine; my appetite’s healthy. What are you talking about?

379 dark shadows vicki nathan good idea

Vicki:  When I came into this room, I was thinking about… how I was going to explain Mr. Collins’ disappearance to Sarah. And you think that I have nothing on my mind but some crazy desire to fly into your arms.

Nathan:  What a good idea.

Vicki:  That’s just what I mean. I wish you’d stop treating me as though I were some girl, who —

Nathan:  But you are! You’re a very beautiful girl.

Vicki:  I happen to be a woman, and I think, and I get upset. I’m upset now about Mr. Collins. And I can’t turn it on and off, as you can and do.

379 dark shadows nathan vicki friends

Nathan:  I see. That is a fault in my character.

Vicki:  Oh, I didn’t mean to criticize you.

Nathan, suddenly serious:  You shouldn’t. You may need friends.

Okay, let me pause this for a second, and acknowledge some of the gender politics going on here. Obviously, Nathan is sexually harassing Vicki. He’s acting like it’s playful and cute, but he’s a naval officer and a friend of the family, she’s a recently-hired servant, and he’s clearly physically dominant. This could turn ugly in a hot second, and in that sense, it’s admirable that Vicki is standing up to him, telling him that he needs to respect her feelings and her boundaries.

And yet — he really is playful and cute, and she’s a humorless pill. Natalie wasn’t sexually assaulting Vicki earlier in the episode, but she got the same sanctimonious treatment.

We’ve talked about this before: there’s something dark and interesting and flawed about us — about you, and me, and everyone who enjoys this kind of fiction.

As I noted before, the sexy bad-boy vampire is a cold-blooded rape fantasy that basically makes us bad people. That’s not necessarily something that we need to apologize for, or try to fix; it’s just a fact. There are a lot of good-hearted, respectable, law-abiding citizens who happen to enjoy fantasy-metaphor rape fiction, and that includes everyone who watches Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Being Human and Dark Shadows. And don’t even get me started on the sexy werewolves.

We like the bad boys. That’s dark, and uncomfortable, and very deeply human. Welcome to that.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan witch

So with all of that in play, let’s get back to the scene.

Vicki:  Excuse me, I’m going to my room.

Nathan:  The Countess suspects you of being a witch.

Vicki:  I beg your pardon?

Nathan:  A witch! Spells, potions.

Vicki:  Really, Lieutenant. Good night.

Nathan:  She thinks you may have had something to do with Mr. Collins’ disappearance.

Vicki:  You must have misinterpreted her.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan why not

Nathan:  Miss Winters… if Barnabas had told you that, would you believe him? If Jeremiah had?

Vicki:  Yes, I suppose I would.

Nathan:  Well, then, why not me? Miss Winters, I was in this house the night you arrived here. I remember those strange clothes you were wearing. You had no idea where you had come from. You were let stay because Mrs. Collins was kind enough to pity you.

Vicki:  What is your point, Lieutenant?

Nathan:  Yet you act as if you were above anything I say or do, and as if your position in this house was secure. I warn you, that is not the case.

Vicki:  And I will not be intimidated into liking you, or anyone else. I do care what people think about me, but I won’t be blackmailed by their opinions.

379 dark shadows vicki nathan joke

Vicki:  Now, if I have said or done anything that you could give to the Countess as evidence against me, well, I hereby give you my permission to do so.

She walks to the door.

Nathan, bitterly:  I wouldn’t joke about that.

379 dark shadows vicki side

And here’s the strange tragedy of it all — I like him better. I just do. Even with all of the gender politics and sexual assault toxins in the mix. He’s more fun, and it turns out he’s not as dumb as he pretends to be. And I think that’s the problem: she’s just not being smart about this. She’s in an unbelievably precarious position, for all sorts of reasons, and she’s acting like she can boss people around.

Vicki: listen to me. There is a strange animal sitting on the furniture in the drawing room, and it is attracting less negative attention than you are. Please. Learn from this.

Tomorrow: Something Borrowed.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Natalie says that observing people is a hobby for her: “I prefer people to gardenwork. Gardening, or — or needlework.”

The cat is supposed to stay on the furniture in the drawing room, but it jumps off and walks off the set, twice. Just after Nathan enters the house, you can see a stagehand putting the cat back in place.

Nathan is eavesdropping as Barnabas and Natalie talk about Vicki. At one point, they cut to a shot of Nathan, and you can see one of the cameras on the right side of the screen.

Vicki asks Nathan why the Countess thinks she’s a witch. Nathan says, “I can’t guess what’s, uh — what’s on her mind.”

Natalie has a lengthy coughing fit for the first half of her scene with Vicki and the tarot cards.

In the final scene, Natalie trips on the carpet when she tells Barnabas, “I’ve told you all I will.”

Behind the Scenes

A props note from Prisoner of the Night: “In the Old House study of 1795, the tall, sloping black clock on the mantelpiece is the one from Vicki’s room at Collinwood from the start of the series (first seen in episode 2). Ironically, she is in the study when Nathan comes in to visit with her, but she takes no notice of the clock, which no doubt would have made her homesick for her room back in the Collinwood of 1968.”

Tomorrow: Something Borrowed.

379 dark shadows vicki natalie tarot

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

52 thoughts on “Episode 379: Nine Lives to Live

  1. I think you’ve hit on Vicki’s fatal flaw. She really does consider herself a smart person and thinks that her knowledge of the past, specifically of the Collins’ history, will somehow protect her. Her status as an outsider allowed her to play family savior in the present. What she fails to grasp, far too late, is that these people she has been mooning over in the pages of the family history book for two years have been cleaned up for posterity and will have no compunction about stringing her up when things get bad.

    The character of Lt. Nathan Forbes is one of my favorites on DS. JC plays the dashing hell out of him, and he’s one of the few characters with a genuine yet realistic character swerve up ahead. He seems like a bit of a rogue, sure, but he’s charming and he has moments such as this when he’s actually trying to help Vicki.

    1. Yes, I think he’s genuinely trying to help Vicki here and a little later on, which makes me think perhaps the production crew were unsure at this point what his ultimate role would be – hero or villain? Certainly at this point he could go either way – he’s roguish and self-centered, certainly, but he nevertheless shows signs of possible redemption. I think this adds to the character tremendously, and JC is fantastic.

      1. Yeah, I think the concept of “rogue” involves that complicated dual identity of hero and villain. Tom Jones is definitely the inspiration for that side of Nathan’s character. I don’t know if people really know Tom Jones these days, but if you like Nathan, go check out the 1963 film.

    2. Yeah, Nathan is fun but is he suppose to hit on the women. He has biggest fish to fry when he gets to Millicent who isn’t that smart either and yes Joshua the Cat seem to not have a purpose but I like him anyway.

  2. Vicki is a disastrous character who continually has the audience groaning and saying, “Why would you do that? I wouldn’t do that!” This makes it impossible to relate to our ostensible POV character.

    Nathan and Natalie and even Angelique behave as we would like to behave if freed of scruple. It’s what draws audiences to characters like Addison Dewitt.

    Vicki, as the “good” guy, should behave as we would if we were smarter, braver, or more honest. I think of Emma Peel who was kicking butt around the same time. But Vicki fails utterly in this capacity. We actively dislike her because she’s boring (an almost forgivable sin in real life but a capital offense on an entertainment program).

    I do wonder what the writers were thinking. It would not be that hard to rewrite this episode so that she’s more active and engaged and thus more interesting. You could start with having her stage the roleplaying scene with Natalie and then stumble onto the cat and even ask others questions about it. She could also seek out Nathan Forbes for help and try to get it while wading through his advances.

    The key to making her likeable involves treating her like a protagonist, which the series consistently fails to do from now until her departure.

    It’ll eventually be Julia, especially during parts of 1968 and 1970, who will be the show’s intellectual core, the grown up Nancy Drew or younger Jesssica Fletcher.

    1. Perhaps part of the problem is in order for the things that will eventually happen to her to take place, she needs to be somewhat oblivious to what’s going on. Which is where her arrogance comes into it, preventing her from realizing exactly how much danger she’s in, until it’s too late. Unfortunately, this has the side effect of making her somewhat unlikeable as she just comes across as a bubblehead.

      I definitely agree the writers have no idea what to do with her, as evidenced by her being sidelined in 1795 when theoretically she should be the protagonist. It’s almost like when it came to writing individual episodes, each writer went “Ah, I’ll let X deal with her.” and just kept passing the buck in favour of concentrating on the more interesting characters.

    2. Great analogy – I think that by this time there was growing discontent on the part of Alexandra Moltke as to the direction the show was taking. They had just shelved the Seaview storyline of which it appeared she would playing a major role in favor of the Barnabas origin storyline. It’s easy to understand why she would feel this way. Just compare her manner in this episode to that of when she had to deal with the young ‘deranged’ David when she first arrived at Collinwood. Some of their confrontations bordered on physical violence and were truly scary when you watched them for the first time. However Alexandra portrayed Vicki as much more spirited and interesting character back then. It seemed like she was truly enjoying her role.

      1. I’ve always wondered where the Seaview story was going and what that might have meant for Vicki, and then it was just dropped.

        In defense of AM, she signed up for a Gothic Jane Eyre as the star and, as others have noted here, was shunted aside for the character of Barnabas and soap about Universal monsters. I can sympathize with any feelings of frustration in the writing. Vicki’s origins were never resolved, despite months of teasings, and to add insult, her final fate is revealed during the Leviathan story in a bit of throwaway exposition. Quite insulting to her and viewers.

        1. Exactly – I would have liked to have seen the Seaview story explored but not resolving the issue of Vicki’s parentage was the ultimate insult both to the actress and to the viewers who had watched this show from the beginning. They could have come up with a way to finish this storyline without depriving viewers of Barnabas and his escapades. I would have taken that over ‘Adam and Eve’ anyday.

  3. In the first year of the show, I think Vicki, Carolyn and Maggie all had the same problems — under-written parts, inconsistent characterization, and a gradual smoothing away of all their rough edges. But Nancy Barrett and Kathryn Leigh Scott actively looked for interesting acting choices that could lead to character development, while Alexandra Moltke just stood there looking vaguely nauseous all the time.

    Alexandra didn’t need to play an “evil” character to be interesting — Nancy B and KLS were pretty much always innocent ingenues in every storyline, but they interacted with the supernatual characters in interesting ways. Especially Nancy B as Carolyn, who got lots of high-profile supernatural boyfriends — Adam, Chris and Jeb — which meant she always had something interesting to do.

    Alexandra was an annoying, one-note actress, so she played the same annoying, one-note part.

    1. The problem was that writing for women at that time was not that well developed. Emma Peel aside, there was a dearth of strong competent women who were also gorgeous. Gretchen Corbett says that her Beth Davenport in The Rockford files was the first one (at least on American TV).

      A DS remake wojuld have to make Vicky less of a standard gothic heroine and give her some competence, and make her acceptable to a public that has gone from the intechangealbe, generic Bond girl to Fionna Glennanne.

      1. But I think the problem – as Danny pointed out – on DS is that at the same time you had Carolyn and Maggie, who were far more competent than Vicky (and I think more gorgeous) and quite smart and resourceful (despite Carolyn’s poutiness). And of course the older women like Liz, Julia and Mrs. Johnson were also very well written. And then there were tha antagonists like Angelique and Laura Collins. I think this is what adds to the frustration. The writers were able to write strong women, they were just not able to get a good grasp on Vicky, and perhaps as Danny suggests this is down to Alexandra (though personally I like her but do agree her character is lacking, especially past the first year).

        1. Vicky was supposed to be the Gothic heroine, the one who runs from a castle in a nightgown in the cover, and there was a rule as to how Gothic heroines should behave – which is in no way resembling a real person.

    2. Completely agree. For example, in most of the series, the writers gave Roger Collins nothing to do except drink sherry and make pithy remarks. Despite that, Louis Edmonds was able to make him a beloved and entertaining character. Lara Parker, in her first professional gig, has been on the show less than 3 weeks and already owns it. Clarice Blackburn is nailing it as Abigail Collins. Frid was supposed to have a 6 week gig – he ends up saving the show. Same thing with Grayson Hall – she takes a throw away character and turns her into the show’s true hero. In soap operas, actors take what is written and turn them into interesting characters. Alexandra had plenty of chances; she just couldn’t do it.

  4. On the other hand there WERE story options here. As Danny pointed out they could have had Vicki reacting to Jeremiah as Burke. Clearly she was seeing them as duplicates of the people she knew in modern times (which they wouldn’t have had to play that way, just because we recognized them didn’t mean she had to). To have given at least a couple of days to that before starting this drug him into wanting Josette could have giving Vicki something to chew on and would have upped the ante because presumably that would have been real love to fight whereas as Danny pointed out Josette was only fighting a prettied up arranged marriage.

    I’ll also point out about soap opera speed, while soap operas can definitely spiral downward on speed (something Passions was particularly bad at), it can be just as dangerous for a soap opera to go too fast. Not only might the audience be left feeling lost and tune out, but also one of the defining characteristics is the playing of the beats. In a well written soap opera, when something definitive does happen your first thought should be something like “OH, wait until X finds out!” or “Oh, no that will devastate Y! When will she find out?” Go too fast, not show people caring and reacting and the audience will stop too.

    Here is a bit from my Postmordem of the new format on Guiding Light:
    The overall pace was also accelerated to the point of near lunacy. For example, the trial over whether or not Reva should be forced to have her baby early to save her own life lasted a single episode, including her husband deciding to sue her, filing the suit, each participant switching lawyers twice, etc. plus the actual trial. I just re-watched Mattessa go through the same thing and they spent a week just debating whether Matt should take Vanessa to trial or not. You can’t react to plot points when they spin by at supersonic speed.

    1. A hearty second on the idea of there being multiple options for Vicki in 1795. If the writers had played up both her fixation on Josette and actually meeting her with a belief that somehow Jeremiah was truly Burke and that this time trip was a way of reuniting with him, then she could have become a fly in the ointment for Angelique’s scheme to bring Josette and Jeremiah together. At best, Vicki takes on an active role in the midst of 1795’s central storyline. At worst, she gets turned into, I don’t know, a goldfish and gets to be gobbled up by Joshua.

  5. gah! Vicki says the stupidest things! there she goes again blurting out clairvoyant stuff, with much assertion. it really bothers me that they didn’t write her with a bit more good sense.

  6. I’m finding it pretty unbelievable, the way they’ve written Vicki. She’s as dumb as a bag of hammers, but she goes around lecturing everyone. She supposedly had an irrational fixation on Josette Collins that rivaled Barnabas’s own pathological obsession, and yet now that she’s in the same house with the actual Josette, we aren’t seeing scenes of Vicki trying to buddy up to Josette or find out more about her — we aren’t seeing signs of Vicki at all. It’s true what everyone is saying — this is supposedly her journey, but where are the scenes of her being amazed at being in 1795? It’s like they’ve locked her up in the attic and they only let her out when they need someone to act stupid and smug. One really must wonder how the writers managed to turn a major character into a doorstop.

  7. I liked her in the pre-Barnabas days. But she’s deteriorated since then, although it was excusable since she wasn’t a major part of most of the storylines, but she’s really gotten dumb in this episode. What does she do after she’s learned shes raised suspicions, she goes and acts suspicious again, right in front of the person who’s suspicions she’s raised. She also could have easily explained herself – “I’m a romantic, I had faith that Josette would arrive”, or “I said it for Barnabas’s sake, so he wouldn’t be so worried”. Either of those would have been convincing.

  8. Get a grip people, the character was written as kind of the outsider learning the family secrets as we do. Unfortunately, the writers got carried away with the supernatural and couldn’t figure out how to get Vicki too involved but still keep her original mission. Liz, Carolyn and Maggie got to ride on the crazy train, but Vicki has to stay at the station checking everyones ticket.

  9. I love the very first shot of this episode, just after the opening monologue – Grayson Hall, front and centre, turns and looks straight into the camera and gives a little react, like she’s just noticed it there.

    It reminds me of the storyteller-type shows we have for kids in the UK – “oh hello, I didn’t see you there! I was just thinking about a story I know, all about cats. Would you like to hear it?”

    In fact, the first scene is full of great, weird reacts – Vicki and Natalie pausing dramatically and staring for several seconds at a place that must logically contain no cat, followed by a shot of the cat casually strolling into the room and up to its mark; and Barnabas’s delightful “A cat!!”, following a massive pantomime pause, like it’s the single oddest thing he’s ever seen in his life…

  10. The coughing fit of Natalie’s was great even when she speaks it is with difficulty, then there is the wiping of the tears from her left eye .

  11. The only intelligent thing Vicki does in this episode should be noted for being almost out of character at this point. Natalie tries to trick her by asking her if she was born in 1774 after Vicki says she is 22. So Vicki says, No, 1773. The governess can do math in her head. Still, it is also dumb because she should have planned out her whole backstory already just in case her birth date should happen to come up.

    I was disappointed the announcer did not tell us over the ocean waves in the opening, “Today the role of Joshua Collins will be played by Sylvester the Cat.”

    I also missed Ben going around saying, “Begging your pardon Mr. Barnabas, but I could take that cat and drown in the well if you’d like. I wouldn’t mind doin’ it a bit.”

    1. When Natalie was trying to trick her and ask her about where she was from and her birth date, the other thing Vicky could have done was continue to play the amnesia card, which she already, and still, has at her disposal.

  12. The cat thing worked for me. Witches have cats as their familiar so perhaps it is a transformation she has used before. I’m sure she would have found it wonderfully ironic if a family member or servant killed or got rid of the cat. (Similar to the scene where she enjoyed using Josette against Barnabus.) After all, cats are explicitly stated as being viewed as the Devil’s pet, so it is reasonable for Angelique to expect the cat to be at high risk of harm.

    Also, how has no one noticed that they picked the most formal of cats, a handsome tuxedo with spats, to portray foppish Joshua?!?

    So far I find the Natalie character rather less abrasive than Julia, thank goodness. Still, makeup and wardrobe had a bad day. The only thing more hideous than the blue ‘beauty mark’ on Natalie’s face is the ghastly tent she’s wearing.

    I actually don’t mind Vicki that much. She is supposed to be an innocent. She doesn’t plot. She doesn’t look too deeply into the motives of others; she takes what they tell her as truth. She is an ingenue, a naif. Such characters tend to seem kind of bland and, well, stupid. Josette comes across the same way.

    1. I agree with DS Willie re: the cat. Seemed perfectly logical to me, if anything in the DS world could be construed as logical. The skull the other day? Not so much.

      I also agree that Natalie is less abrasive than Julia, however, her outfit in today’s episode was stepped up to reflect Empire era clothing that the younger women have been prematurely sporting since Vicki zipped back in time. (I think she actually tripped on the new train she wore.) In 1795 Europe, it would have been a hodge-podge of clothing styles heading toward the end of the French Revolution. (Paris was the dictator of worldwide styles.) I think the Empire look is a little too early to have arrived in 1795 America, but there it is anyway. Natalie took a quantum leap from pre-French Revolution attire to Empire attire in one show. Talk about speeding things up! Naomi is still in the past-past, as would be expected from an older woman. Probably more true to the style of the day in the USA.

      Oops, I digress. So did Vicki. Vicki is supposedly the DS anchor. Anchors may be boring, but it appeared to me to be the writing and not the actress. In keeping her as an anchor of the show, they also forgot to write interesting plot lines for her as the show moved forward. Come on writers! You shipped this ONE character back in time and didn’t line up something spectacular? No, that was reserved for all the other actors playing different characters. They short shrifted AM. As for Nathan coming on to Vicki, this was what went on in those days between classes, as someone pointed out. Nathan is frisky. He’s fun. In 1795 he would have been considered way out of line. You can see the deference in how Barnabas, Jeremiah, etc. treat the ladies and Nathan’s treatment. Gentlemen vs. Tom Jones and libertines. Vicki smacked him down with modern sensibilities. That’s about the only good thing they’ve done for her so far.

      1. I think she’s wearng a robe a la francaise (an outer garment worn so that the underskirt is visible, which might or might not have a train) which would have looked a lot better if it had been done up properly. Technically she’s half-dressed. Also she’s wearing it like a bathrobe, so it just looks hideous.

  13. Re: Nathan vs. Vicki. Here’s what stood out to me about their conversation, as well as part of how Danny interpreted it:

    1) Nathan is a man in his time of 1795 and, as mentioned before regarding Barnabas and Angelique, servant-class women were often seen as “fair game” for men above the servant class. Right or wrong, it’s just how it was. BUT …to infer that he was “sexually assaulting” Vicki I think is overkill: I say he was playfully “flirting” with his naughty, suggestive charm. She didn’t seem to be in any imminent danger; she didn’t seem frightened or menacingly threatened. Speaking for myself AS a woman, I definitely wouldn’t consider that as an assault.

    2) Vicki is out of her time of 1967 and, for all of her interest in history and now having actually been witnessing history first-hand, she STILL thinks she can behave as if it were 1967, not 1795. She didn’t choose to go back in time, but there she is and she’s unaware of how much potential 18th century danger she’s already in. She needs to be playing her part better to fit in and not get hung out to dry, as it were. She really DOES need friends.

    1. CORRECTION: In my last post, I incorrectly said “sexually assaulted” instead of “sexually harassed”. My bad, with apologies to Danny for my misquote.

    2. Re: item 2. I totally agree. It’s a wonder they haven’t turned her or for being an uppity servant. And then she’d really be up a creek- no references, no money, and no place to go.

  14. I don’t we don’t point out ALL of these, but when Natalie says, “So much about the disappearance is.”, you can see the shadow of a boom mike going across her face. I’ll reiterate what was said before, how can Vicki be thought a witch but not Natalie for saying be married in 24 hours or never. Ohmigash, that stagehand’s head was so hilarious! I had to back it up and watch it two more times!

  15. That blue blob on Natalie’s face was so distracting. It is all I saw the entire time she was on the screen. Was it in the shape of Texas? I do think her wig was a little better but that spot on her face… please make it go away.

  16. The Countess to Barnabas: “Have you ever seen that cat before?” got peals of laughter from my end. The notion that the entire show has come to a screeching halt so that we can have this 2-day sub plot over the cat is just hilarious. Grayson Hall really is hamming it up in this episode non-stop. She’s so singing for her supper here that maybe she’s after some Little Friskie’s. What up with the star mole that’s been added to her make-up? I hadn’t realized you could purchase star moles to add to your toilette in 1795.

    Joel Crothers’ Nathan is a sheer joy to watch. He is definitely putting the Tom Jones lusty abandon on with a relish we’ve never been able to see in her before now. He is never better than in his scene with Vicki.

    And as for the cat’s departing twice in one episode: this is definitely one fickle feline.

  17. The only connection I can make with the cat (aside from the witches-like-cats stereotype) is that, in the scene with Joshua scolding Ben and Angelique, at one point he asks, “Cat got your tongue?” I wondered if that was where Angelique got the idea for turning him into a cat.

  18. Barry: “One fickle feline,” indeed! My girlfriend and I were watching this episode on DECADES tonight, and she said, “Watch that cat’s tail.” It was wagging. A cat’s wagging tail does not mean the same as a dog’s wagging tail. It usually means the cat’s annoyed. That may be why the cat runs off twice during this episode.

  19. “And then the cat just gets up and walks into another room, and they forget all about it, like it’s totally normal to let stray devil-cats couch surf in your mansion.”

    Actually, I think it’s quite normal for the Collins family to let stray devil-cats take up residence in the Collinwood mansion. I’m continually amazed at how the Collins will allow almost anyone off the street to just move in, indefinitely, rent free. They’ll apparently offer a room to any stranger who shows up that’s (1) reasonably well-dressed and (2) seems like convivial company for a round of sherry or two.

    Jason McGuire, Willie Loomis, Dr. Julia Hoffman, Nicholas Blair, Mrs. Johnson’s snivelly son, even Cousin Barnabas himself — they’re all just stray cats that decided to make themselves at home at Collinwood.

  20. Coming back around to DS after all these years, one thing I’m struck by as well is Joel Crothers’ “bounder hero.” That mixed figure is something I met years ago in grad school and Tom Jones as well as most “heroes” in satire are that character. It is neither good nor ultimately bad, and it may comment on the action going on around it–partly a smartass.

    I did love the cat, though.

  21. So many questions swirling about regarding these “beauty spots”, so I Googled it.
    Early on in ancient times and up into the Renaissance, small patches made of moleskin were used to cover scars or other small blemishes. These patches (mouches in French, for ‘flies’; since they looked like a small insect against pale skin) became fashion statements, and as such became larger and were cut into shapes like stars and crescents, and made from taffeta or velvet. Generally black to imitate a mole or ‘beauty mark’, their placement on areas of the face became a subtle statement to others. France, the leader of all things fashionable, was where this trend was at its peak.
    The placement of the patches for Josette and Natalie seem to be in the ‘coquette’ region – below and to the sides of the mouth. A bit further in, under the mouth, would indicate ‘discretion’. Naomi’s patch is closest to the ‘passionate’ placement.

    But as with all things “a la mode”, the beauty spot went out of fashion – – in this case at the time of the French Revolution. Their use was in steep decline in the 1790s, since wearing them marked one as the hated aristocracy, and might lead to the guillotine.
    So technically the ladies are still fashionable, but not for much longer.

    The next period when the beauty spot was ‘en vogue’ was the 1920s, when movie stars like Clara Bow were widely imitated.

    1. oh thank you so much for this post!! I’ve been trying to google it and apparently I’m not the brightest! Nothing I searched for gave me any answers and those things have been driving me crazy! I want to smack it off all of them LOL

      1. I actually started with an image search and found one from “back in the day”. And yes, those damn beauty spots were irritating!

        1. Yes, the beauty spots are distracting, but period correct. Other things I find more jarring, is that none of men seem to own hats. Men of this period would never be out doors without his hat on. It just wouldn’t happen. It would be like them being naked. They never have on a hat. They don’t even carry one in the front door or take one with them when they leave. They put on and take off their cloaks, but no hats. NO HATS. I find very distracting. A few episodes from now Joshua takes Rev. Trask to the new house. Trask has on his hat, but Joshua doesn’t. That’s wrong. They find Lt. Forbes there with no hat. Wrong.

  22. “Alexandra was an annoying, one-note actress, so she played the same annoying, one-note part.”

    Couldn’t agree more, and I think her one-noted-ness would have dragged down any story line she was given, no matter how interesting.

    And boy is that cat one relaxed feline. Hard to believe that’s the same Joshua that was laying into Jeremiah shortly before.

  23. The bit with Vicky and Natalie over the cards is the strongest part of the episode, the most well-written, and I think Vicky’s slip when giving her birthdate is completely understandable; she just isn’t someone who thinks and reacts deceptively, and that doesn’t make her stupid or a bad person. Grayson Hall’s coughing fit made me wonder if someone hadn’t played a joke on her and put real booze in her sherry glass.

    1. But Vicky DIDN’T slip when giving her birthdate. Natalie tried to trick her by saying “1774,” but Vicky picked up on that immediately and said “No, 1773.”

  24. Poor Grayson. For God sakes let the woman cough it out and bring her some water! She could barely speak her lines. Why wouldn’t they have cut and started the scene again? I understand time is money but damn…

    Sidenote, anytime Grayson’s characters are extra feisty I’m always reminded of her character as the motel owner from the 70”s tv movie masterpiece “Gargoyle”.

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