Episode 422: Confining Women

“Aunt Natalie, I don’t mean to be impatient with you, but I think these questions are annoying.”

Josette is wearing a ring.

I’m making that super clear right up front, just in case anyone has a hard time processing the concept. It’s a hard ring to miss — it’s gold, with a big black onyx stone, and it’s usually seen in the company of a vampire. But now the ring is on Josette’s finger — Josette being the young woman you can see here, the one standing behind the enormous ring — and that is apparently a compelling dramatic situation.

You can tell that it’s important, because this is a five-minute scene, and Josette is under strict instructions to keep the damn ring in shot as much as she possibly can. This involves making several hand gestures which do not occur in nature.

Josette’s aunt, the Countess Natalie, is concerned about this, because she believes that the ring is connected to a witch’s spell, which will lead to Josette’s death.

Exasperated, Josette says, “Why do you persist in this ridiculous nonsense about witches?” which would be a perfectly reasonable question, except that’s not what Josette thinks, and therefore Ron Sproat is trying to kill me.

422 dark shadows hand josette natalie

I’m serious. Ron Sproat wrote today’s episode, and I don’t know what the dude has against me, but he keeps trying to wreck my show.

I mean, I understand what he’s trying to do. This is basically a note-for-note repeat of the first scene in yesterday’s episode, which also opened with Natalie expressing concern, and Josette pretending that everything is just fine. Naturally, I would prefer it if you could tell one day’s episode apart from the next without examining it under an electron microscope, but it’s a soap opera and these things happen.

My issue is that two weeks ago, we had several episodes that were entirely based on Josette’s unshakeable belief that Vicki is a witch bent on destroying the Collins family. They talked about it a lot.

So if Josette doesn’t believe in witchcraft now, then that means she’s become one of the Goldfish People. She forgets everything that happened more than a week ago, and she needs constant reminders to help her keep track of her own life and opinions. But it’s easy to do this with Josette, because she really doesn’t have much of a character.

422 dark shadows still josette

Josette Du Prés Collins is basically a human Rorschach test; you see in her whatever you want to see. Barnabas sees a devoted lover; Natalie sees an independent young woman; Ben sees a noble lady; Angelique sees a selfish, pampered child. She’s really just an open canvas for other people to write on.

So when the witch cast a spell on her that made her fall in love with Jeremiah, it didn’t actually feel like it was that much of a violation, because she said exactly the same things to Jeremiah that she’s said to Barnabas.

422 dark shadows shot josette natalie

We don’t actually know what originally drew Josette to Barnabas, rather than any other guy that she’s met. (Psst, Josette — keep the ring in shot, that’s a good girl.) What does she even like about him? Why is her connection to Barnabas so special and important?

She keeps saying variations of “I love you, all that matters is being with you,” using an increasingly urgent tone of voice. But Josette’s “love” is really just a MacGuffin — something to fight over and try to possess, but having no intrinsic value of its own.

422 dark shadows dread natalie josette

So without any relatable emotional content, we’re left with a standard Dark Shadows dread scene, where people stand around and talk about how worried they are about something. The only difference between this and a dozen other scenes just like it is that this one is a little more focused on the accessories.

422 dark shadows briefing natalie riggs

Of course, once you determine that you’re concerned about someone that you care about, the next logical step is to post a servant outside their bedroom door. There’s a lengthy briefing scene where Natalie gives Riggs his instructions not to let Josette out, or anybody else in. I’m not sure I would entrust Riggs with any task that’s more mission-critical than light housekeeping, but what do I know. I’m not even a Countess.

422 dark shadows locked josette

So do you remember when I said that Ron Sproat has a thing about locking up women and children? He loves that; he can’t stay away from it. This is his go-to plot point, just banging on doors and begging people to unlock them.

It’s not a great way to treat your female characters, and it’s not even that good for the doors, which have a tendency to wobble and come unstuck at inopportune times, as this one does halfway through the scene.

422 dark shadows plan barnabas josette

The episode ends with Barnabas entering the room through the secret panel, which we already knew was there, because he used it for exactly the same purpose two episodes ago. And Natalie knows that Barnabas is able to enter Josette’s bedroom, because she saw him there last week.

This is why, if you’re going to hold somebody captive, it’s probably a good idea to keep eyes on the prisoner at all times. Keeping her on the other side of a door is just giving her the opportunity to get up to all kinds of mischief while you’re not looking.

Honestly, this isn’t a train wreck of an episode, and it doesn’t completely deserve the shellacking that I’m giving it. But there’s nothing surprising about it, and that’s the fundamental purpose of Dark Shadows. They are in the surprise industry, and today they don’t deliver.

Happily, in the next episode we get to leave the house, and all Hell breaks loose. Let’s meet back here tomorrow, and see if we can stir something up.

Tomorrow: Twisted.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, Natalie tells Josette, “You forget that when we were getting ready to leave Collinwood, I helped you make an inventory of your jewelry.” She means ready to leave Martinique.

Josette comes downstairs to the foyer, and tells Natalie and Joshua that she wants to for a walk. Natalie stammers, “I thought you were having some sleep!”

When Josette pounds on her locked bedroom door, the door shakes and starts to open. She slams it shut again.

When Joshua enters the secret room in the mausoleum, the door closes automatically behind him. Usually, you have to push the door closed from the inside. Also, he doesn’t seem to notice that there are lit candles in what he assumes is a sealed, deserted room.

Tomorrow: Twisted.

422 dark shadows ring barnabas josette

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 422: Confining Women

  1. Can’t Josette’s erratic and somewhat contradictory behaviour simply be attributed to being bitten by Barnabas? Would explain why she would want to distance herself from talk of the occult. We saw similar behaviour from Carolyn and Maggie when they were bitten so I just assume Josette’s coyness is due to this.

    1. I like that idea! When something doesn’t make sense, it’s perfectly acceptable to go fishing for ways to make it make sense—and you don’t have to fish too far in this case. Good one.

    2. That’s the comment I also wanted to make. I just assumed her “once bitten, twice avoiding any mention of the supernatural” persona was in force.

  2. I love it when you can find ‘logical’ (i.e. not stretching the boundaries of credibility too much) explanations for the things that happen on this show. Did the writers have any get togethers to possibly discuss plot continuity? I know in the show’s beginning episodes they seemed to because they usually had a rational explanation of events and plot conclusions (until Josette’s ghost showed up)…They were even trying to explain the story of Vicki’s possible parentage before they got sidelined beginning with Episode 210. Back to Josette’s ring, did Barnabas mean for that to be an engagement ring? If he planned to ‘marry’ Josette he would have had to either divorce Angelique (almost impossible to do in 1795) or prove that Angelique was ‘dead’ (which would have been more impossible to do)…

    1. His plan was to bite Josette, kill her, and have her rise as his undead vampire bride. Then Ben was going to pack them off in a pair of his ‘n hers coffins and they were going to go somewhere on a ship. (That plan was inspired by / stolen from the original Dracula novel.)

      As supernatural undead creatures, I think they would be beyond the reach of either civil or religious marriage law. 🙂

  3. True – I didn’t remember the plans that were made for their ‘eternal lives. I guess they could have eventually returned to the family home at Collinwood after the 1795 generation died out and when none of the relatives would have remembered them. Barnbas liked to pull that ‘ long lost cousin from England’ routine on the Collins family and I guess he could have also done that with his wife alongside him…

    1. Yeah, if things had gone according to Barnabas’ plan, then Josette would have just “disappeared” — and probably would have been written in the history book as both of them gone to England.

      Although it would be difficult for Barnabas to say, “The original Barnabas and Josette went to England, and had children. I’m the great-grandson of that Barnabas, and I happened to fall in love with a woman who looks exactly like my great-grandmother and happens to have the same name? Maybe?” Not easy to pull that off.

      1. Words that I never thought could be strung together in that order: “if things had gone according to Barnabas’ plan…”

  4. It’s interesting how you mentioned in a previous post that Josette and Bella from “Twilight” are very similar character types in that you see in them what you want to see. I recall reading somewhere that Meyer intentionally created the character that way (bland, one-dimensional) so girls could project themselves onto the character, which would be harder if she had any personality traits of her own. It seems these type of female characters are always the ones who are the “love interest/victim” in a vampire story, including Dracula. For example, Lucy and Mina weren’t very interesting except for their “love/interest victim” status. I did notice that the spunky ghost Josette that rescued people in 1967 was quite different in 1795–perhaps she got a personality after hanging around Collinwood for several hundred years?

  5. I think at this point it’s worth mentioning that far from wrecking the show, Ron Sproat played a major hand in saving it from soap opera oblivion. Because had he not been on the writing staff, Jonathan Frid would never have been on the show. Sproat knew Frid from their days at Yale, and it was he who brought Frid to the attention of the production staff when it was time for the role of Barnabas to be cast. Auditioning for Dark Shadows would otherwise have never occurred to Frid, as he was planning to head out West at the time with other ambitions. Frid has also mentioned that he worked with the writers to portray Barnabas the way he wanted the character to be portrayed, and no doubt Sproat played a significant role in this collaboration.

    And, thankfully, Dan Curtis was away at the time the casting decision was made. Because if it were up to Curtis and he’d been able to make the final decision on the casting for Barnabas and gotten the actor to portray the character the way he originally wanted, Dark Shadows would have sunk like a stone in the spring of ’67 faster than Mitch Ryan could drink himself out of a job.

    1. Wow; I never knew (or even suspected) that Sproat had any past history with Jonathan Frid, let alone bring Frid to the production staff’s attention! Well, then we DO have something to be thankful for in Ron Sproat! Also, it’s really cool that Jonathan was able to then work with the writers and to have his own creative control over the Barnabas character. You never know how things can just come together so well, and in hindsight, with very small room for error. Thanks for sharing, PotN! 🙂

    1. Didn’t Joshua offer Angelique a large sum of money to leave town? Surely if anyone thinks of Angelique at all, they assume she’s long gone, with a portion of the Collins fortune in her reticule.

  6. barnabas’ ring would be waaaaaaaaaaay too big for little josette to wear.

    yeah, like thats the biggest issue with this episode. lol

  7. Regarding the blooper, I’d assumed the inventory made when they were leaving Collinwood referred to the time when Barnabas told Josette to leave and Natalie invited herself along.

  8. At last we see the famous Barnabas portrait. I wondered about it a few episodes ago. Joshua says it was painted months ago. I guess he’s been keeping it in a closet since then.

  9. Once again, I must backtrack: Barnabas is wearing a white ascot in this episode; he seems to be going back and forth between the white and the black one. How has he been able to change his wardrobe?

    Regarding Barnabas’ ring: Joshua attributes his son’s fondness for it to a “streak of feminine vanity.” In addition to having been a patriot, Joshua was also, obviously, a chauvinist!

  10. Can we talk about the servants? Or lack of them? In 1968 the excuse was that the Collins family had fallen on hard times, but now they seem fabulously wealthy since they’re building this palatial new home. And yet the only servants we see I think are Riggs and Ben and Vicki, the governess. Natalie and Josette don’t seem to have been given a replacement ladies’ maid after Angelique married Barnabas. A maid could have sat in the room with Josette instead of having Riggs stand guard outside it. Barnabas says the Old House is large, so supposedly it would have had servants who were transferred to the Great House? Or is there a shortage of Indentured Servants and Joshua refuses to own slaves? Does Naomi do all the housekeeping herself? Facing making the beds in all those rooms, I’d start drinking, too!

  11. Good points. Natalie did mention that “Cook” had been on her way up with Josette’s breakfast when Natalie intercepted her (“Cook”) and brought the meal up to Joesette, herself. But without Natalie’s reference, we’d have precious little evidence of any “cook” being about.

  12. Speaking of maids and secret tunnels. Old mansions such as Collinwood would have been built with a great network of secret passages and secret entrances through panels just as the one in Josette’s room shows. This way, the household staff could go all over the house without having been seen in any of the hallways. The secret entrances were built into the walls so that you could not even really see it if you didn’t know it was there. This was on purpose because household staff is supposed to do their jobs and be invisible.

    These passages would connect all the floors, the kitchen, basement, staff quarters, butler’s pantry etc. A great example of this in the real world is a house called The Breakers, which is in Newport, Rhode Island. Built in 1895 by Cornelius Vanderbilt. One can tour that fabulous house, and from one of the bedrooms, pass through the wall in a secret panel into the Ladies Maid room and passages. The closets and much of the inner workings of the house were literally in the walls!

    Possibly, at Collinwood, the household staff are very busy with their chores and carrying their odds and ends up and down the stairs and through the passages of the grand house!

    Go see The Breakers if you are ever in Newport!

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