“I believe you can do anything — and the meaner it is, the better you can do it.”
So there we were, all set up for the big royal wedding — Barnabas, the young prince of the wealthy and powerful Collins family, marrying Josette du Prés, the ravishing heiress of the Martinique sugar plantations. Young and beautiful and desperately in love, embarking together on their life’s journey.
And then, at the last moment, the bride runs off with the groom’s uncle, which is pretty much the exact reason why you need to hire a competent wedding planner. Have we learned nothing from reality TV?
Ben goes out and checks the stables, and then reports to Barnabas and Andre that Josette’s horse is missing… and Jeremiah’s horse is gone, too. This is astonishing news, for several reasons.
For one thing: why does Josette have a horse? She just arrived in Collinsport about three days ago, and she’s spent the entire time alternating between preparing for her wedding and having spells cast on her. Apparently, there was a slow afternoon where she found the time to make horse selections.
Also: Ben makes this announcement as if it’s impossible for anyone else to take Jeremiah’s horse. I guess he’s the only one who had the keys.
Andre goes upstairs to look for Jeremiah, and Barnabas stands around and tries to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Barnabas tells Angelique and Ben that they shouldn’t say anything about this, until he knows what’s going on.
He says, “It would be pointless to upset a great many people, when there is probably a very simple explanation of everything that’s happened,” but he can’t even get all the way through the sentence without feeling like the world’s biggest fool.
Of course, there is a simple explanation for everything that’s happened, namely: You let the crazy lady into your life. Angelique is determined to have Barnabas for herself, so she’s dosed Josette and Jeremiah with love potion and sent them off together.
And look how satisfied she is with herself. Every time Barnabas looks away, she gives Ben a triumphant grin, as if they’ve pulled off this amazing trick together, and they’re both itching to celebrate.
This is not actually the case, because Ben has human feelings. He was perfectly happy to go along with the witchcraft when it was directed at his cruel taskmaster boss. But Barnabas has always been kind to Ben. He likes Barnabas.
And now he has to watch as Barnabas stares at the floor, and tries desperately to think of any possible scenario that doesn’t involve his heart shattering into a million tiny fragments and blowing away in the wind.
So Ben fights back, using the only weapon that he has: sarcasm. As we saw last week, this is one of the rules of Dark Shadows — the henchman is always struggling against the villain who employs him. Angelique’s magic puts a collar and leash around Ben’s neck, but you can’t stop a soap opera character from talking.
Ben: I thought I oughta come ta see ya, and congratulate ya, for doin’ your work so well.
Angelique: Are you impressed, Ben?
Ben: Aye. You’ve got ’em all dancin’ like puppets on strings, haven’t ya?
Angelique: I told you. I always get what I want.
Ben: I used to think the master of this house was the meanest person I ever met. I was wrong. Next to you, Mr. Joshua Collins is a saint.
That hits a nerve.
Angelique: I do not appreciate lectures, Ben. Least of all from a convict.
Ben: What are you gettin’ so angry for? You got what you wanted, didn’t ya? You should be real pleased with yerself.
He’s gone into full Jiminy Cricket mode by now. His name might as well be Ben Loomis; he’s the new Willie.
But Angelique’s work isn’t done yet. Yes, Josette’s out of the picture, but she wants Barnabas to understand that he’s been betrayed.
Angelique: There is much to be done after he finds out. He’ll feel humiliated, and rejected. And I want to make certain that I am the one he turns to.
Ben: Should be easy. All ya have to do is use one a’ them evil spells o’ yours.
Angelique: On Barnabas?
Ben: You used them on others. Why not on him? It would make it real simple for ya.
And here’s the amazing thing — she’s actually shocked by that idea.
Angelique: That’s exactly the reason why I would never put Barnabas under any spell to gain his love. Oh, I could have him that way, yes. But he would not be truly mine. No — he must turn to me of his own free will.
Ben: And if he doesn’t… “turn” to ya?
Angelique: He will.
So that’s the real paradox at the heart of this story. Ben is right about the puppets on strings — Angelique is a manipulator, the only character who knows what’s really going on. She’s become the writer and director of this little melodrama, and she has the power to stage her own scenes.
But the only way that can feel satisfying and real for her is if Barnabas makes the choice himself. He’s essentially the only character right now who’s allowed to have free will.
She’s got a new power to show off today, because naturally her abilities run entirely on narrative convenience. She looks off into space, and she can tell where Barnabas is right now — he’s out in the woods, searching for Josette. Apparently, Angelique has recently installed a new Global Barnabas Positioning System.
So she sends Barnabas a vision, which happens to be one of the weirdest scenes we’ve had in a while, and we’ve had some doozies. Barnabas is in the woods, shouting Josette’s name. He’s brought a couple pistols along, so maybe he thinks she’s been abducted.
He hears someone rustling in the bushes, and he calls out: “Who is it? Speak up, whoever you are! Come out into the open so I can see you!”
The rustling stops, but then he hears a man laughing. It’s a weird, insane cackle — starting with a spirited ha-ha-ha and then moving up the scale from there, to a high-pitched whoop of delight.
“Poor Barnabas,” the man chirps, with a weird sing-song inflection. “Over here, Barnabas!”
Barnabas whirls around — and a man appears, in yet another completely unconvincing Chromakey effect. Barnabas is supposed to be pointing his gun at the apparition, but they’ve got the height wrong again, so it looks like Barnabas is aiming squarely at a spot three feet to the guy’s left.
But that’s not really the point. There’s so much more weirdness that’s about to uncork.
Barnabas: Who are you?
Man: Don’t you recognize me?
Barnabas: I cannot see you!
Man: I’m your uncle, Jeremiah!
Except he’s not. We can see the guy’s face very clearly, and he doesn’t look anything like Jeremiah. He’s got a completely different sing-songy voice, and a tall hat that Jeremiah doesn’t wear.
Obviously, this guy is not Jeremiah. So what is he talking about?
“You are not Jeremiah,” Barnabas sneers. “Your voice is different.”
And then they just go on with the scene, as if this guy really is Jeremiah.
Man: Your Josette is gone, Barnabas. She has left you. Because she does not love you.
Barnabas: You’re lying!
Man: Oh, no! It is true. She’s in love with me.
Barnabas: Stop it!
Man: She has left you… to marry me. Jeremiah!
It’s so weird. I can’t figure out what they think they’re doing right now.
Barnabas: That’s not true! You’re not Jeremiah. Who are you?
Man: She’s made a fool of you! She’s deceived you! She has been unfaithful to you!
Barnabas: Stop it! STOP IT!
Man: Barnabas, the FOOL! Barnabas, the FOO-OOL!
Enraged, Barnabas fires his pistol, but it has no effect.
Then the apparition cackles mockingly, and vanishes.
So, that’s just… wow. I can’t explain that at all. The sing-song delivery reminds me of somebody playing the Fool in King Lear, or the witches in Macbeth — a character that’s so insane that he tells the real truth, because he’s too crazy to understand the consequences.
But claiming that he’s Jeremiah, when both Barnabas and the audience can tell that he’s not… It’s like they’re suddenly doing experimental black box theater in the middle of their 18th century soap opera. It’s an incredibly strange choice to make, to structure a scene like this — a complete surprise that would be impossible for the audience to predict.
So, naturally, I love it. I absolutely love this baffling little scene. The whole purpose of Dark Shadows is to surprise you, and show you things that just shouldn’t be happening on network television at 3:30 in the afternoon. I can’t explain it. But I love it.
Following a woman’s voice that only he can hear, Barnabas leads Andre down to the road to Collinsport, where he finds Josette’s veil hanging on a branch. At this point, you stop trying to figure out what’s going on. You just lean back and let the crazy wash over you.
The first three weeks of 1795 were noisy and bonkers, with lots of outrageous characters and people turning into cats. Today, everything quiets down. This isn’t a huge plot-heavy episode, like many that we’ve had recently.
Weird as all these incidents are, this is actually a character-based episode — we’re watching Barnabas’ internal process, as he realizes the full extent of what’s happened to his fiancee. Because it’s Dark Shadows, we’re seeing that played out with Chromakey ghosts and gunplay, but if you look at the magic spells as metaphors, then this really is a black box theater production about grief and alienation.
Then it’s back to Angelique, who actually believes that Barnabas is ready now to declare his love for her. She really doesn’t have a clue, does she? She thinks this is all going spectacularly well.
So it turns out the puppet master doesn’t really know what she’s doing at all. She wants to be the master manipulator, nudging people into doing what she wants them to do, but she’s got a huge blind spot — she doesn’t understand how other people’s feelings work. She’s so consumed by her own passion and desires that she can’t quite connect the dots so that Barnabas actually falls in love with her.
So look at her face here, as Barnabas returns, clutching the evidence of Josette’s betrayal. She really thought he was going to run into her arms, and she’s devastated that he doesn’t.
Instead, he glares at Angelique, and says, “In spite of what I’ve been through, I still love her.” He turns away, and holds the veil. “No matter what has happened, or what will happen… I will always love her.”
And we close with some classic Angelique crazyface. In her mind, the plan worked perfectly — but she’s a psychopath, and she couldn’t predict how Barnabas would actually respond.
Things are really going to spiral out of control from here. It’s about to get so much worse, for everyone.
Tomorrow: A Witch in Time.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Barnabas tells Andre, “The Reverend Brooks is very upset; I didn’t know what to tell him.” According to Friday’s episode, the reverend’s name is Alton Brook, not Brooks.
Andre goes upstairs to see if he can find Jeremiah. Just as Barnabas sends Angelique and Ben to their rooms, you can see Andre standing on the stairs, waiting for his cue to come back down and re-enter the scene.
When Barnabas is first seen in the woods, he’s holding one pistol, and the other is tucked into his belt in a way that seems not entirely wise, if he plans on having children in the future. Hearing the ghost’s laughter, Barnabas turns, shouting, “Who are you? What are you doing out here?” As he turns, the second gun slips out of his belt, and he has to quickly grab it before it drops to the ground. This ends up looking extremely rude; check out the screenshot below.
When Barnabas tells Andre about the apparition in the woods, he trips over Josette’s name: “He tried to tell me he was Jeremiah! And that Dojette had followed him.”
After he hears the mysterious voice in the woods, Barnabas tells Andre, “Come, we’re going to the road to Collinport.”
Behind the Scenes:
David Cryer plays the apparition that appears to Barnabas. He’s not listed in the credits, but there’s a cast list in the Dark Shadows Almanac based on the original production documents, which refers to the character as “Ghost in Woods”.
This is Cryer’s only appearance on Dark Shadows. He’d been working on the stage for several years, and had a string of understudy and ensemble player roles in Broadway shows from the mid-60s through the 90s, including 1776, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera and Chess.
According to his IMDb listing, Dark Shadows was his first screen credit. He spent several years on the CBS soap Where the Heart Is, and then had small roles on a handful of other shows, including All My Children, As the World Turns, Dallas, Wonder Woman and Law & Order.
Cryer’s got one more claim to fame — he’s the father of actor Jon Cryer, co-star of Two and a Half Men and Pretty in Pink. (Thanks to sharp-eyed commenter Stephen Robinson for pointing that out.)
Tomorrow: A Witch in Time.
— Danny Horn