“Just how does one go about sensing an evil spirit? I’ve always been curious about that.”
We take you now live to the Old House drawing room, where an argument is already in progress.
Trask: Miss Winters was bound securely to the tree. She could not possibly have freed herself. Someone must have untied those ropes for her.
Joshua: Are you suggesting, Reverend, that it was a member of this family?
Trask: I am saying that whoever helped her escape is also in league with the Devil, and that can mean only one thing. We are dealing with a coven of witches!
And that’s what Dark Shadows is like these days. Zero to sixty.
Today’s episode is written by Gordon Russell, who joined Dark Shadows about four months ago, and he’s really matured. In his first couple months on the show, he was working with Ron Sproat, who taught him some bad habits, including aggravating recap scenes, and characters acting like goldfish.
And look what Russell’s doing now! We’re forty seconds in, and we’ve already got a coven of witches breaking out in the drawing room.
So far, almost all of the 1795 episodes have been written by Russell and Sam Hall, who joined the team a little over a month ago and is the best thing that ever happened to Dark Shadows. Over the last four weeks, Russell and Hall have stripped the show down to its essentials — eccentric characters, unrequited love, high-stakes plot points and lots of surprises.
It was only a few months ago that Dark Shadows episodes just walked in circles. Now they sprint right out of the gate.
So let’s get right into it, because Trask has an ambitious agenda. He wants to start his investigation by interviewing everybody in the house, because apparently this is the only house in the entire world.
Joshua agrees to let the Reverend proceed, as long as he keeps the investigation under control and doesn’t expose the family to scandal.
Andre objects, saying that the whole idea is ridiculous and barbaric. He doesn’t believe in witches, and he’s outraged that Joshua would subject his guests to this kind of interrogation.
Joshua replies that strange things have been going on in the house, and — whether there’s witchcraft involved or not — he wants to get to the bottom of it.
Trask turns, and steeples his fingers, which is like the witch hunter version of revving his engine.
Trask: Perhaps the gentleman has a very good reason, Mr. Collins.
Joshua: What do you mean by that, sir?
Trask: Refusal to cooperate could mean many things. A desire to protect oneself, or to shield someone else.
And look at his sly little face. This is his favorite thing to do in the world.
Joshua turns back to Andre.
Andre: The Reverend is implying that I might have something to hide.
Joshua: Do you?
Andre: Don’t be absurd.
Joshua: Then what harm can there be in answering a few, simple direct questions?
And there you go; that’s the question that opens the door to confusion, panic and despair.
This is always the modus operandi when people start looking for witches, Communists, perverts, terrorists and other subversives. Anyone who objects to the proceedings is viewed with suspicion, so there’s no reasonable check on the prosecutors. Before you know it, we’re counting the bodies and making plans for a memorial.
But, as always, Angelique is several steps ahead of everyone else. She needs a patsy to take the fall, and the obvious candidate is Vicki, who isn’t smart enough to get under cover.
When Angelique sees Nathan smuggling food out of the house through the servants’ entrance, she knows exactly what’s going on. Nathan and Barnabas are keeping Vicki hidden in the new house, to keep her out of Trask’s reach until things blow over.
But things don’t blow over with these two around. Each of them is incendiary enough as a solo act. When they’re together, they get along like a house on fire. Have you ever seen a house that’s on fire?
Angelique shows up a minute late for the appointment, explaining that she was out walking in the woods.
Trask is intrigued. Note the steepling.
Trask: Why were you walking in the woods?
Angelique: I have no reason. I went to get some air.
Trask: Were you alone?
Trask: Why? Do you always go walking alone in the woods?
Angelique: Well, yes, but —
He springs toward her like a panther, ready to pounce.
Trask: What is there about the woods that makes you want to be there alone?
Angelique: I don’t know!
Trask: There’s something about the woods that fascinates you. That draws you to them. Isn’t that right?
Angelique: Well, I never thought of it in that way before.
Trask: Perhaps there is someone you go there to see. Someone… like THE DEVIL HIMSELF!
Now, a direct attack like that might work on a simpleton like Victoria Winters, girl governess, but come on. Angelique is a mythopoetic trickster-figure, like Anansi, Bugs Bunny and Julia Hoffman, and she knows kung fu.
Angelique: Oh, no! I go walking in the woods alone!
Trask: Everything must have a reason! And you have not given me one.
Angelique: It is not to communicate with the Devil! He has never tempted me, and he never will!
Trask: You mean he has tried?
She turns the eyes to full brightness. It’s hardly even fair.
Angelique: Well, he tries to tempt everyone, does he not?
Trask: But you are too strong for him, is that what you’re trying to tell me?
Angelique: The Devil knows that my loyalty is to my God.
Trask: Is that what you’ve told him?
Angelique: I’ve never seen him. I go to the woods alone because it is quiet, and peaceful, and I long to be close to — to communicate to God.
Trask: By your own admission, you have not even been baptized. How can you ever hope to be close to God?
Angelique: Sometimes, when I’m alone, I feel that I am. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I hear voices, and I see images.
Trask: Graven images!
Angelique: Oh, no!
Here’s where the Bugs Bunny kung fu action really kicks in. She sinks to her knees.
Angelique: Oh, you must believe me! I long to be a child of religion, to feel a part of it!
She turns on the crazyface.
Angelique: And I do feel it! Now! At this very minute!
Trask: What are you talking about, girl?
She closes her eyes. She’s single-handedly creating a one-woman revival movement.
Angelique: I began to feel it a moment ago! Closer to God than I have ever felt in my life!
Trask: Open your eyes!
Angelique: No! I begin to see something! My whole body is filled with a strange sensation!
Now she plays to his vanity and self-importance.
Angelique: It must be religion! And, Reverend, you’re responsible!
Trask: Tell me what it is you see.
Angelique: It’s becoming clearer. Oh, I’ve never felt this way before in my life!
Obviously, Joshua is deeply baffled. Nobody ever tells you to prepare for something like this, busting loose in the middle of your living room.
Joshua: What is it, Reverend? What is happening to the girl?
Trask: She is either a complete charlatan, or she is indeed having a spiritual revelation.
Trask is fully hooked at this point; now she’s just reeling him in.
Trask: Tell me what it is you see. Describe it to me.
Angelique: It’s a house… a very large house. And it’s new. There’s no one there.
Trask: Do you know of such a house, Mr. Collins?
Joshua: Yes, Collinwood. It’ll be the family’s new home when it’s completed.
Angelique: There’s no one there. But I hear voices! A man and a woman are speaking!
Trask: How far is Collinwood from here, Mr. Collins?
Joshua: It’s on the hill, overlooking the ocean, about fifteen minutes walk from here.
Trask: I should like to go there, at once.
So I don’t know if you’ll ever find yourself in that position — but if you are, now you know how to handle it. Stay tuned for The Dating Game.
Tomorrow: The Bad Ideas.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
The first scene begins in the middle of a conversation. As the scene starts, Trask is clearly looking towards the camera, waiting to get his cue.
Andre objects to being questioned about witchcraft, saying, “I am a civilized man, sir. I come from a civilized country, where such childish notions were cast out centuries ago!” France was actually still hunting witches for decades after they stopped having trials in the United States. The US appetite for witch trials petered out shortly after the Salem trials concluded in 1693, but the last person to be executed for witchcraft in France was Louis Debaraz, in 1745. Europe’s last known official trial was the Doruchów witch trial in Poland, in 1783.
Behind the Scenes:
This episode debuts a new set — the servants’ entrance at the back of the Old House. In Angelique’s conversation with Nathan, she makes a point of noticing that he’s leaving the house through the servants’ entrance. But up until now, the servants have always used the front door, including Ben in episode 381, and Riggs in episode 383.
Tomorrow: The Bad Ideas.
— Danny Horn