Episode 412: You’ve Got to Believe Me

“I can see you know nothing about the power of witchcraft.”

The notorious Salem Witch Trials were a series of arrests, hearings and executions that took place from March to October 1692. Twenty people were executed, and more than a hundred people were held in prison for almost a year.

The story is often used as an example of the devastating power of superstition and the suggestibility of the mob, but more than anything, it’s actually the story of a pre-Revolution American colony trying to figure out how justice works.

This was more than seventy years before the Declaration of Independence, when the colonies joined together to form a more perfect union. At the time, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a Puritan settlement. There was no real distinction between civil law and religious law; the judges and magistrates mostly operated according to guidelines agreed upon by the senior ministers in Boston.

The accused witches didn’t have lawyers, or any representation. The charges against them were almost entirely imaginary, based on the “spectral evidence” of the possessed girls who screamed that they saw the witches’ shapes stabbing at them, and allowing invisible birds to suckle from the blood of their fingers. There were a lot of confessions, especially in the later months of the trials, but the confessed “witches” were mostly just answering yes to the magistrates’ leading questions.

And the hearings were just three-ring circus nightmares, day after day. While the defendant stood in the dock, the growing chorus of “afflicted girls” screamed and rolled on the floor, sometimes running up to the magistrates holding out their arms to show tooth marks where the defendant’s spectre had just bitten them.

The defendant would look at the girls, and the girls would fall down on the floor. The defendant would look away, and they’d get up again. That interaction on its own was enough to put somebody in chains for months.

During Martha Corey’s trial, one of the accusers threw her muff at the defendant. When that fell short, she took off her shoe and threw it, nailing Goodwife Corey in the head. The trial just continued after that, like that was normal trial procedure. Martha Corey was convicted, and executed. That’s how witch trial justice worked.

412 dark shadows pissed vicki josette

So accused witch Victoria Winters is actually getting off easy here. Instead of Salem witch trial justice, Vicki is being tried according to the procedures of soap opera justice, which are much more relaxed.

Essentially, soap opera justice runs on the principle that every single person involved in the case should say everything that they think and feel out loud at all times, until somebody starts to cry. At that point, the judge passes sentence based on however they feel at the moment, and then the trial is over.

I forget if the jury ever gets to do anything. They’re usually just extras anyway, and who cares what they think.

412 dark shadows strategy vicki josette

So if you only watch police procedurals — or, heaven forbid, you actually know something about the legal system without watching it on television — then you might be surprised to see one of the witnesses just walk herself into the Collinsport Gaol to strike up a sarcastic pre-trial conversation with the defendant.

“You made a serious mistake when you rejected my plea last week,” Josette says, because apparently it’s okay to just yell at the accused.

412 dark shadows expect josette

Last week, Vicki warned Josette that if she stayed in Collinsport, she would end up dying at her own hand. Josette treated this suggestion with the respect that it deserved.

Josette:  You really expected me to leave, when Barnabas was in such critical condition?

Vicki:  Is he better now?

Josette:  How could you ask such a question?

Vicki:  I don’t know what you mean.

Josette:  Why are you pretending to me that you do not know that Barnabas is dead?

This is a weird thing to say, because Joshua made everyone promise to pretend that Barnabas went away to England. Apparently this is the Dark Shadows version of pre-trial discovery.

412 dark shadows believe josette vicki

So now we get a revealing glimpse of Vicki’s defense strategy.

Josette:  I don’t know why you wanted Barnabas dead, but I do know that you are responsible for his death!

Vicki:  No, I’m not; you’ve got to believe me!

There you have it. That sentence is about to become Vicki’s catchphrase. “You’ve got to believe me!” She says it all the time from now on. In fact, she’s going to say it again in exactly one minute.

412 dark shadows hanged josette vicki

Josette:  You had it in your power to save him.

Vicki:  No, I didn’t; I swear it!

Josette:  I begged you to do it!

Vicki:  No, that’s not true! He was going to help me. If I could have done anything to save him, I would have. You’ve got to believe me!

The problem with this argument, obviously, is that it’s incorrect. They don’t got to.

412 dark shadows arms vicki peter

Meanwhile, see the guy lurking in the background holding his arms at his sides like he’s recently learned how to act by correspondence course? That’s Peter Bradford, Vicki’s lawyer and putative new love interest. He’s not really very good at either of those jobs.

412 dark shadows scowling vicki peter

For one thing, he scowls all the time. This actor, Roger Davis, plays five roles on Dark Shadows, and they just get more and more angry. By the time we get to Harrison Monroe in late 1969, his character is literally an automaton sitting behind a desk, who yells at people nonstop until his head falls off. That is actually true.

And even here, when he’s supposed to be melting Vicki’s heart with his devoted belief in her innocence, he just looks grumpy and confused.

412 dark shadows decision peter vicki

So here’s a sentence that makes your blood run cold: Victoria Winters has a plan.

Last week, her world-shattering idea was to tell Josette where to find the 1965 edition of the Collins family history, which Vicki brought into the past. Now that Josette’s blurted out that she’s going to introduce it in court, Vicki has a new brainstorm.

Vicki:  I want you to let me go to Collinwood, and I promise you that as soon as I have the book, I’ll come back.

Peter:  I can’t do anything like that.

Okay, good. I was starting to worry that there was something in the water supply at the Collinsport Gaol which lowered the IQ of anyone who sets foot in the building.

Vicki:  Don’t you think that I’ll keep my word, and return?

Peter:  I’m not doubting your word. I’m thinking about your safety.

Wait, what? Seriously?

412 dark shadows scowls peter vicki

Peter scowls, and looks out the window.

Peter:  During the past two nights, just being on the streets of this village has been dangerous enough. Two women have been attacked.

Vicki:  Peter, if I don’t get that book, my safety won’t be worth much. Please!

Peter:  Is there any way that I can get the book for you?

Vicki:  No. I know where it is.

Peter:  All right, you can go to Collinwood. But I’m not letting you go alone.

412 dark shadows cloak vicki peter

So he helps her on with her coat, and walks her out. This is soap opera justice at its finest.

By the way, if you weren’t planning to let the prisoner out on field trips, why is her cloak hanging on a coatrack right next to the door? What kind of a Gaol are you running around here?

412 dark shadows clothes josette natalie

Speaking of clothes, check out the ensembles on display as Reverend Trask stops by Collinwood to talk to Josette and Natalie about the case. Fantastic. As far as I’m concerned, they can talk as much nonsense as they want, as long as they’re wearing outfits like that.

412 dark shadows search vicki

Meanwhile, Vicki busts in and starts rummaging around Josette’s room, looking for the book. I thought she said she knew where it was! She’s useless.

So I’d say the charges for the evening so far are: breaking out of prison, theft, breaking and entering, concealing evidence and obstruction of justice. The felonies are just stacking up.

412 dark shadows talking josette trask

Downstairs, Josette tells Trask about the Collins family history. I’m skipping over a lot of this stuff, because it feels like it’s taking forever.

We’d better get a move on. They’re called the Salem witch trials, not the Salem witch standing around and having conversations.

412 dark shadows shock natalie

Anyway, Natalie goes upstairs to get the book, and obviously she runs smack into Vicki. There’s a great shocked expression from Grayson Hall. Take a moment to enjoy this; it’s pretty much the only real action of the day.

412 dark shadows book peter vicki

Vicki and Peter get away, and when they get back to the Gaol, they discuss their next move.

Peter:  We’d better do something about the book. Now that they know you have it, it won’t be long before they come looking for it.

Vicki:  I know. If I take it with me into the cell, they’ll probably find it.

Yeah, you think? How big could your cell possibly be?

412 dark shadows hiding peter

So Peter, being the brilliant strategic thinker of the group, hides the book in the only place in the whole room that could possibly hold a book. This approach works perfectly.

412 dark shadows trask peter

Anyway, this episode started wearing on me a while ago, so I’ll just close with my favorite exchange of the day. It comes courtesy of Reverend Trask, who never disappoints.

Trask:  I demand to see for myself that Miss Winters is in her cell.

Peter:  Reverend, we don’t usually have visitors this late.

Trask:  I do not wish to VISIT with her!

That’s lovely. So far, this looks like the Trial of the Century, whatever the hell century this is supposed to be.

Tomorrow: The New Black.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

There are several noticeable edits in Act 1. Editing videotape was expensive in 1968, and edits left an obvious break in the background music cues, so it’s surprising that they felt like they had to make at least three edits in one scene. Maybe something really unprecedentedly bad happened while they were taping the scene, but I can’t imagine what that could have been.

When Josette tells Vicki “I am going to testify at your trial,” Vicki tries to suppress a quiet cough.

Tomorrow: The New Black.

412 dark shadows scream natalie

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

23 thoughts on “Episode 412: You’ve Got to Believe Me

    1. Which meant that they ended up having to rely on Barnabas “cunning plan” Collins and Julia. Or Dumb and Dumber (because she knew better, but still went along with his plans).

  1. Arrogant, sarcastic, narcissistic, pushy (literally), rude – I could think of many more terms in describing Mr Roger Davis and his style of ‘acting??’ – I read that he was disliked by most of the cast and after Alexandra Moltke left none of the other actresses wanted to play his romantic interest. Also Josette comes across really shallow and self-centered. I don’t remember Alexandra messing up her lines when she had the dominant role on the show so the blame for the edits probably lie elsewhere…

    1. Am currently almost done the Adam and Eve storyline and have to admit, so far, I’m not terribly impressed by Roger Davis – but don’t want to jump the gun on Danny : )
      (also, he wore really distracting sunglasses during his dvd interview – what’s up with that?)

      Anyway, yes I agree Josette came across badly in this episode. I remember watching and thinkin I liked ghost Josette more.

      1. I also think it’s kind of sad to see the disappearance of Kathryn Leigh Scott’s cheerful, warm and friendly Maggie Evan’s personality traits and replacement with this disappointing Josette depiction.

      2. Just think, in the beginning the diabolical Dr. Lang wanted to replace Jonathan Frid with Roger Davis to play Barnabas. The space-time rift this caused made the Doctor come in with his TARDIS to fix the timeline.

        1. My God, that plan was insane! “You got woman troubles? Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll chop off the head of your rival and plop it on my monster. Your love interest won’t notice that her boyfriend is several inches taller… and she’s Vicki, so that’s probably true.”

    2. I believe that Alexandra was extremely myopic but for some reason did not wear contacts. (And LASIK was not invented yet.) So she assiduously memorized her part every day she was on (except, I suppose, the opening narration), because if she did not, the Teleprompter would not save her anyway.

    1. I don’t know. Vicki remembering and making use of Collinwood secret passages showed more smarts than I would have expected.

      And now that I come to think of it, I wonder what Joshua was thinking about when he was authorising the plans for the house? “Make sure the builders know to put in secret doors leading to all the ladies’ bedrooms!”

    1. I remember going to school and calling her a complete dummy during the 1795 storyline. I liked Vicki at first, but the only way this whole thing works is for her to be a total idiot.

  2. That reaction shot of Grayson must be what her husband was talking about when he said they could never end a scene on a close up of her. She is without a doubt the worst expressionistic actor on the show, really ridiculous.

  3. The opening narration states two members of the Collins family have recently died “in mysterious circumstances”.

    Am I miscounting? Coz it seems to me like Barnabas is the only one… getting shot in the face is hardly mysterious, so it can’t mean Jeremiah. And it presumably isn’t about Angelique either, since no-one but her killer and his henchman knows she’s dead (the omnipresent, multivoiced narrator knows, but they also know how and why it happened, so neither Angelique’s nor Barnabas’s death are really ‘mysterious’ from their Mary Alice perspective).

    And whatever other faults she might have in this episode, Josette is so far the first person in 1795 to use the past tense of ‘hang’ correctly (it’s ‘hanged’, not ‘hung’), and I love her for that…

    1. I noticed others getting that wrong. There is a good historical reason for that. It has to do with strong verbs and the fact that hanging was not known to the Angles and Saxons until invaders introduced it. Thus, laundry is hung, but murderers are hanged.

  4. Oh, oh, also – how does Vicki know where the book is? I guess it’s fairly logical it would be in either Natalie’s room or Josette’s, but really, they could have stashed it anywhere after taking it from Vicki’s room. How does she know who has which room in the new house anyway? And when, exactly, did she find these secret passages? Surely that discovery would have been more to watch than endless Liz/Jason scenes.

    Conclusion: Vicki actually is a witch.

    And I liked Peter much more when he didn’t speak, just stood about in the distance like a shiny 60s Joel McHale waxwork.

  5. I think Josette (foolishly, yes) blurted out about Barnabas’ death to Vicki because a) she thinks Vicki’s THE witch of the story and would know darn good and well that he was dead, and b) she forgot to engage her brain before opening her mouth (not uncommon for some on DS).

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