“Strange things have begun to happen in this house, things that even I can’t explain.”
A seance has been held at Dark Shadows Every Day, which has suspended time and space, and sent one writer on an uncertain and frightening journey into taking the day off. Danny is playing Phyllis Wick for today, and in his place you’ll find writer, lyricist and recent Dark Shadows convert Charlie Mason…
Since I am but a guest here — and have no intention of painting a target on my back like that simpering Miss Winters — before beginning to write this blog entry, I traded my immodest modern garb into something more period-appropriate. Unfortunately, since I can scarcely tell 1795 from 1975, I still may have made a misstep with my choice of bell-bottoms and a Lee Majors T-shirt. Perhaps none of you will notice…
We begin this episode with what I believe is customary — a voiceover, and some still photos from a Collinsport Board of Tourism brochure. (Its title would probably be “Fancy Places… After Dark.”)
At Barnabas’ house, Angelique is downstairs pacing. At first, it appears that she’s trying to figure out which weighs more — her hair, which is voluminous (though I guess no more so than usual, for her or Lady Bunny) or her nightgown, which has the same flow as those lead vests that they make you wear at doctors’ offices during X-rays. But then, helpfully, she think-speaks about her befuddlement over Jeremiah’s haunting.
“Why did he turn on me?” she wonders.
Sadly, no one think-suggests, “Maybe because you magically got him interested in Josette and then, almost as bad, got him shot to death.” She can’t be bothered to think about it, much less think-speak about it, for too long, anyway. She has bigger problems — like getting some shut-eye.
“I must rest,” thinks the madwoman, “or I’ll lose my mind.”
She’s probably right about that. Not the part about losing her mind — that train left the station before we ever met her. The part about her needing to catch some Zs. It’s still early in the episode, and her insomnia is already affecting the cameraman, who seems to doze off at one point and let her image go blurry.
Alas, what Angelique finds upstairs isn’t likely to lull her into slumber. First, she senses something — her gestures hint at an oncoming migraine, for which I recommend Hexcedrin (sorry) — and then she hears something.
No, it’s not Jeremiah, as she fears (and insists she doesn’t). It’s — oh dear, even worse than a ticked-off ghost! — surprise houseguest Victoria knocking over a brush, the klutz! (Side note: Doesn’t anyone in this house sleep?)
Here, it’s hard not to be distracted by Angelique’s complete and total lack of a poker face. (C’mon, that’s Supervixen 101!) Yet Vicki, as dim a bulb as she is, manages to overlook this shortcoming for almost the entire duration of the scene.
“You didn’t frighten me,” says Angelique, voice aquiver, her cheeks pale enough to have had the blush Chromakey’d out of them.
In fairness to Angelique, I suppose she has more important matters to discuss than how advantageous it might be if she had the ability to even thinly veil her emotions — like WTH Vicki’s doing there!
As you’d expect, the mistress of the manor is less than thrilled to learn that Barnabas has moved the suspected sorceress into their home to keep her hidden from Mr. Trask’s witch hunt. And really, the preceding sentence could have ended with the word “home”. What woman, a wild-eyed Endora or not, wants her new hubby keeping a spare around — and keeping it from her?
In turn, Angelique stuns Vicki with the revelation that she got Barnabas to put a ring on it.
“Seems that he’s been keeping secrets from both of us,” Angelique says, before getting pissy about Vicki’s disbelief at the union. “I can’t tell whether you’re just surprised, or quite shocked by it.”
Finally, even Vicki figures out that Ol’ Wears Her Heart On Her Face might be angry. This, at last, seems to remind Angelique that there exists something called a poker face. She can’t employ the tactic, though — it seems beyond the scope of her powers.
So Angelique turns on a dime, and — suddenly saccharine sweet — rolls out the welcome wagon for Vicki, all but offering to invent York Peppermint Patties so that she might lay one on the squatter’s pillow.
In fact, she even makes Vicki this delicious promise:
“Mr. Trask will never know you’re here.” Dramatic pause. “Unless someone tells him.” Even more devilishly dramatic pause. “And I’m sure no one will do that.”
Of course, no sooner is Angelique out Vicki’s door than she’s flipped the switch, and turned her bitchface on. It’s been so long since I watched an actual episode and didn’t just devour the blog, I almost forgot that she was as much fun to watch as read about!
And what a shame she seems to have a remote control preset for bitchface, but not for poker face. If I were as powerful a witch as she is, you can be damn sure I’d conjure myself up a modicum of discretion!
Then again, when Angelique confronts Barnabas in the next scene, she does play her cards close to the vest, confounding wench that she is. We know from her flash of bitchface that she already intends to get rid of Vicki by any means necessary — yet here, she casts herself as the ticked-off wife from any scene from any marriage. Or at least, any marriage in which the husband has quietly hidden a spare chick in the guest bedroom.
Her chest heaves, her eyes bulge like Bugs Bunny’s when he’s in love, and she radiates so much righteous indignation that it’s a wonder she doesn’t explode!
“It may be,” she pointedly suggests, “that there are things that you have not been telling me.”
“Such as what?” asks Barnabas, walking right into it.
“If I knew,” she spits back, “I would not have to ask you.”
If hashtags had been invented back then, this exchange would have been #classic! And, even though Barnabas stumbles over his lines like they were an obstacle course he’s being asked to run in the dark while wearing roller skates with the parking brakes on, the scene is still electric.
Angelique is so consumed by jealousy that when she insists that her spouse is being “absurd,” asking if she thinks he fancies Vicki, her intensity all but spells out in big, bold letters, “Yes, you freakin’ lummox, of course I’m jealous! On what planet would a witch who moved heaven and earth to be with you not be jealous? I left Martinique for this crap?!?”
On second thought, this may not be Angelique taking a stab at poker face. Sure, she’s covering up the fact that she intends to dispatch Vicki. But that may be accidental. She could just be so consumed by rage that she forgets she’s putting on an act.
Whatever the case, it’s exciting to watch her chew the scenery and shoot looks that should certainly maim, if not kill. (Too bad she doesn’t chew to bits that godawful mustard bedspread that we’ll see shortly in Abigail’s bedroom. I am gonna have nightmares about that thing for sure. Shudder… but I digress.)
After Barnabas apologizes — and really, dude, you owe the missus some make-up sex for this one! — he elicits a promise from Angelique: she won’t tell anyone about the fugitive.
“But,” she think-adds as she cleans the windows with the laser beams zapping out from her eyes, “that does not mean that no one will find out.”
So, to do a mid-recap recap — thus far, Angelique has made it so clear that she’s livid about Vicki’s hiding place that even the blind could see it, yet both Vicki and Barnabas are taking her at her word that, after those initial outbursts, everything is hunky-dory. Mmkay. Let’s chalk that up to “These were simpler times… with simpler people.”
Off Angelique’s think-spoken threat, we join Ben as he’s pretending to tend to the fire. First things first: Someone trusts Ben to pretend-tend to a fire? I wouldn’t trust Ben to pretend to tie his own shoelaces!
Anyway, Angelique waits until her reluctant henchman is finished with the make-believe — he could at least have picked up a poker or something! — and on his way out of the room to say a word to him. (I assume this is an enchantress/slave power trip?)
Ben, having played this scene before, knows what’s coming, so — however futilely — he tries to get out of the conversation.
“I’m busy now,” he says, even though Twitter won’t be invented for hundreds of years.
Angelique, as she is wont to do, blows past his objections like he hasn’t raised any, and orders him to retrieve a black ribbon from Abigail’s room. First, he — again, futilely — objects. Sneaking into a man’s room is foolhardy enough, but a woman’s?
“No, sir,” he insists. “I’m not takin’ a chance like that.”
Personally, I might have gone with “What do you want it for?” as my first question. But Ben is not what you’d call a linear thinker. (Sometimes, he’s not what you’d call a thinker, period.) So he doesn’t ask that until later.
And honestly, I don’t see why he bothers asking. He knows Angelique’s answer is always going to be some variation of “I’m casting a spell,” “I’m stirring the pot” or “I’m making trouble.”
Although if she wants a ribbon, the answer is never going to be a perfectly reasonable “Have you seen how much hair I have? There aren’t enough ribbons in the world to contain it!”
Anyway, they go around and around for a bit until Angelique reveals that, this time, she’s casting a spell that will work like a kind of phony GPS to lead Abigail via a dream to Vicki, you know — cough, cough — the witch.
Well, she might be a witch, Angelique argues. “Strange things have begun to happen in this house, things that even I can’t explain.”
Regardless, after Abigail’s dream leads her to Vicki, Reverend Trask will be convinced that he’s found the witch he’s after, and not only won’t Angelique have to worry anymore about that pretty piece of milquetoast living within stammering distance of Barnabas, she also won’t have to worry about being accused of being the she-devil herself.
“But I don’t wanna,” Ben more or less says. So Angelique has to use the command voice my mother always used on me when I wouldn’t clean my room, and orders him to run his errand “NOW!”
And, just like it always did on me, the voice works on Ben. Off he toddles, entranced and armed with Angelique’s promise to protect him while he’s in Abigail’s room.
Mind you, what protection Angelique actually offers, I have no idea. Though she’s able to boss Ben around in his head, reminding him to get “in and out of the room quickly and quietly,” as soon as he finds the ribbon, Abigail finds him!
This sets off Angelique’s spidey senses, but only vaguely.
“Something’s happened,” she can tell. Well, that’s helpful.
In the meantime, Ben is swearing to Abigail — who appears to be painfully trying to make her beady eyes as large and saucerlike as Angelique’s — that he wasn’t stealing from her. But this retro Almira Gulch isn’t buying what he’s selling.
“If you were in the habit of telling the truth,” says Miss Judgey McJudgerson, “you wouldn’t be a convict today.”
So let me get this straight: a) Angelique’s protection of Ben amounted to nothing but some subconscious nagging, and b) Angelique’s control of Ben amounts to him whining a little longer than usual before doing what he wants and blabbing?
In the end, Angelique resorts to remotely choking the life out of Ben. So, just to be clear — and I believe this is one of those “things that make you go hmm” that often fascinates Danny — the spell-raiser CAN force her servant to do things for her, she CAN chatter on in his mind, she CAN tell when something’s happened but not WHAT has happened, she has absolutely ZERO protective powers — and, when in doubt, she resorts to a spectral chokehold.
Okay, scratch “witch’s guy Friday” off my list of possible career options. There’s just no future in it.
Tomorrow: Hide and Seek.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 2, Barnabas loses touch with his lines for a moment:
Barnabas: And besides, even if she was a — even if I did believe in witchcraft, I wouldn’t believe that she was one.
Angelique: Why not?
Barnabas: Because even a witch would need some reason to do the things she did. And Miss Winters has no idea — or wants to do anything to hurt our family.
At the end of act 3, when Ben leaves the house, the music cue plays too early, and they have to play it twice.
Tomorrow: Hide and Seek.
— Phyllis Wick