Episode 425: Jump Street

“I would not let them be together in life… and they shall not be together in death.”

So far, there have been lots of surprises in the 1795 flashback storyline — some of them pleasant, and some not so much. I think the most disappointing surprise has been the characterization of Josette. She’s supposed to be the heart of the whole story, but as I’ve talked about this week, there’s not much there to hang on to.

Josette is basically just a spoiled rich girl. She never shows any real maturity, or makes any difficult decisions. She’s the blank slate that other characters write on — and not just the supernatural characters. There was that episode where Reverend Trask talked her into a weird, borderline-sexual exorcism ritual, and he didn’t use hypnosis. He just told her what he was going to do, and then he did it.

So, standing here at the precipice, the real tragedy is that Josette’s tragedy doesn’t feel like much of a tragedy. It’s the end of the girl as we know it, and I feel fine.

425 dark shadows box ben barnabas

But let’s start, as always, with a box. Barnabas has ordered his servant, Ben, to build a second coffin.

Barnabas:  The coffins must be ready tonight, Ben!

Ben:  You still haven’t told me why.

Barnabas:  I am leaving Collinwood, permanently.

Ben:  But why do you need two coffins?

Barnabas:  I will not be alone when I leave here. I will have Josette with me.

Ben:  You mean — one ‘a these coffins is intended for Miss Josette?

Yes, obviously. How has this not come up before?

425 dark shadows wrong barnabas ben

Now that Ben understands the plan, he’s against it. These two need to have a visioning session and get on the same page; these third-quarter conferences are slowing down productivity.

Things get heated, and Barnabas comes up with a lovely bit of Fridspeak.

Ben:  You can’t go through with it, Mr. Barnabas! It’s wrong!

Barnabas:  Don’t tell me what I can’t or can do!

I love that; you can always count on Barnabas to come up with something worth listening to. That’s why we love the guy, despite his many debilitating character flaws.

425 dark shadows late barnabas ben

But Ben is making some good points here. I think he’s been going to Debate Club meetings.

Ben:  You haven’t told her what’s going to happen to her! You haven’t told her about these, have you?

Barnabas:  She will know when the time comes!

Ben:  Aye, when it’s too late! After she’s died and come back, the same way you did!

Barnabas:  It’s what she wants, Ben.

Ben:  I don’t believe it! I don’t believe anyone would want a thing like that!

Now, to be fair to Barnabas, he’s tried to explain the situation to Josette several times in the last week. Every time, she says that she doesn’t care, and she’ll do absolutely anything to be with him forever. But Ben is right; she didn’t show up for a coffin fitting or anything. She hasn’t been fully briefed.

425 dark shadows plan barnabas ben

As usual, whenever there’s the slightest hitch in Barnabas’ schedule, he jumps straight to Plan A.

Barnabas:  You’re forgetting, Ben, that you are my servant. You will do as I say!

Ben:  You can’t make me do it if I don’t want to.

Barnabas:  No, that’s true. I can’t. But there is something else I can do, Ben. I CAN KILL YOU!!!

425 dark shadows kill barnabas ben

And then he fastens himself onto Ben’s neck, and just keeps on shouting orders. This is a vampire management technique with a pedigree, going back at least as far as 1931, when Dracula threw Renfield down the stairs and killed him just for sassing back.

425 dark shadows strategy ben

But Barnabas lets Ben go, because who else are you going to call if you need late-night coffin construction. Left alone, Ben comes up with his own plan, to go to Collinwood and warn Josette before it’s too late.

And then guess who shows up.

425 dark shadows floating ben angelique

That’s right, it’s his old boss, Angelique. She was killed several weeks ago, but lately she’s been appearing as a floating head, still very much in charge of the situation.

Now, what’s going to happen from here is that Angelique is going to stage-manage the entire unfolding tragedy.

First, she keeps Ben in the shack and doesn’t let him warn Josette. Then she speaks to Josette in Barnabas’ voice, calling her to Widow’s Hill. She also calls to Barnabas in Josette’s voice — which he recognizes one of the witch’s tricks, but he still goes to Widow’s Hill anyway.

Finally, Angelique shows Josette a vision of herself as a vampire, and convinces her to commit suicide rather than become an undead ghoul.

425 tormented tom vi head

So while they’re all occupied, let’s talk for a second about Tormented, a 1960 horror movie directed by Bert I. Gordon.

Tormented is about a jazz musician living on Cape Cod who’s planning to marry his wealthy fiancee, Meg, until his mean old girlfriend Vi shows up, and threatens to wreck the engagement.

They’re talking things over while standing at the top of a lighthouse, like you do, and when the railing snaps and Vi is hanging on by her jungle-red fingernails, Tom just stands there and lets her fall.

It’s a terrible movie, by the way, sentimental and weird and not very satisfying. The only reason I even know about it is because they riffed it on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But this blog is my opportunity to put my deep knowledge of 1960s junk culture to some kind of use, so here it is.

425 tormented vi eyebrow

Vi returns as a ghost to haunt Tom, and there’s a memorable floating head sequence.

Tom:  It’s not my fault you’re dead!

Vi:  Isn’t it?

Tom:  I couldn’t have saved you!

Vi:  Couldn’t you? Maybe you can make yourself believe that, but not me. I was there, remember? You had to shut me up so you could marry Meg.

425 tormented vi never

And then she tells him how things are going to turn out.

Vi:  I’ll never let you marry Meg. You belong to me, Tom. You belong to a ghost! What would you do if Meg gets wise to you? Stop her, the same way you stopped me?

And Tom does get increasingly desperate, “forced” to kill a beatnik who figures out what happened to Vi, and then “forced” to menace Meg’s little sister when she sees him murder the beatnik. It never occurs to him that other people have a right to live, even if it’s inconvenient for his current obstruction of justice.

So all of that feels pretty familiar. I don’t know if someone working on Dark Shadows remembered the floating head from Tormented; it’s possible that this sort of thing was just something that America had to work through in the 1960s. You murder someone, things spiral out of control, and pretty soon you’ve got floating blondes throwing their ectoplasmic weight around.

425 dark shadows head angelique

But from a narrative structure point of view, the strange thing about Angelique’s intervention is that it’s completely unnecessary.

In that first coffin scene, they already set up the only concept that they actually need in order to get Josette to jump — she doesn’t really understand what she’s going to become.

So if Angelique would butt out and just leave the lovebirds to it, things would probably work out the same anyway.

425 dark shadows cliff josette

Here’s the alternate, Angelique-free synopsis for the episode: Barnabas appears to Josette, and takes her to the shack to see the finished coffins. He finally tells her that he’s one of the living dead, and when she hesitates, he starts over-explaining, telling her all about what he’s going to do, and how beautiful it’s going to be.

She’s horrified, and she runs from the shack, out to the cliff. He follows, she panics, and she goes over the edge.

That would actually be a tighter, and more directly “tragic” story — Josette isn’t killed thanks to the intervention of a ghostly puppeteer; she makes the decision herself, because Barnabas’ plan really is grotesque and inhuman.

425 dark shadows vision josette

So why do we need Angelique to step in and micromanage like this? Well, it does give them the opportunity for this visual treat — a vision of Josette post-rising, in her tattered, bloody gown and a moth-eaten appearance that says she just clawed her way up through the earth and hasn’t had the chance to find a hairbrush yet.

425 dark shadows fangs josette

But I think there’s more to it than that. Just like in Tormented, the guilt-stricken guy’s relationship with the sweet, innocent fiancee is not the heart of the story. She’s just the prize that he’s fighting for. The real chemistry is between the guy and the crazy floating-head ghost lady. That’s what we’re actually here to see.

The key to becoming a classic soap opera supercouple is to keep splitting up and reuniting, finding your way back to each other despite every obstacle that gets in the way. But this is pretty much the end of the Barnabas and Josette story. We see a couple of scattered Josette’s-ghost cameos, and there’s a moment when it looks like Barnabas has found a girl who’s the reincarnation of Josette’s spirit, but it hardly lasts a week.

And you know who keeps coming back, time and again? Angelique. Across the centuries, cheating time and death and common sense, she always finds her way back into a primary place in Barnabas’ long and complicated existence. Barnabas and Angelique are a true Dark Shadows supercouple.

Josette, it turns out, is just one of the obstacles getting in the way, and as of about thirty seconds from now, she’s not going to be a problem anymore. I wonder what happens next?

Monday: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 2, when Josette is sitting on her bed talking about how good she feels, there’s a clear boom mic shadow right on the center of her forehead. The show breaks for commercial, and when they come back, the shadow is still there.

In the last couple seconds of the episode, the camera pulls back too far and you can see the studio lights.


Behind the Scenes:

In her book My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows, Kathryn Leigh Scott (who played Josette) wrote:

“I’m going to pause here a moment and confess to some deep feelings of inadequacy. When they passed out fangs, I didn’t get any. I did become a vampire but I wasn’t given proper fangs — bridgework that I could pop in and out like Jonathan [Frid, Barnabas] and Lara [Parker, Angelique]. I think the story caught us all off guard and no one thought ahead to send me to the dentist. But [makeup artist] Vinnie Loscalzo to the rescue. When the appropriate moment arrived, I’d duck off camera, quickly wipe my incisors dry and Vinnie would stand ready with eyelash glue to paste two false fingernails in place over my teeth. My upper lip held the ersatz fangs in place. Lara got to keep her fangs. She even got to wear them for a guest appearance on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, but I’m not jealous. I am not jealous.”

Monday: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern.

425 dark shadows closed barnabas josette

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

26 thoughts on “Episode 425: Jump Street

  1. Never did understand why Josette had to be TOLD that Barnabas was a vampire. What had she thought when he was biting her…that he just gave the biggest hickeys in town? LOL!

    Really tired of Angelique at this point, however. I get it. She is The Evol. A return to 1968 is awaited. And I miss Julia.

  2. An opportunity was missed, I think, to have Josette actually believe and support Vicki so that her sudden death is a devastating blow to the so-called protagonist who has no more allies.

    Instead, Vicki is moved around like a chess piece.

  3. That would have made much more sense and given Josette the opportunity to garner respect and sympathy from the audience. Also they’re starting to back to the well once too often with bringing Angelique back. Seeing this disembodied head was like ‘Oh..it’s HER again’ – the impact of this plot device is quickly losing it’s shock value. But then I guess we wouldn’t get to see Josette with the ‘hanging eyeball’ – didn’t Jeremiah’s ghost have one of these also?

  4. Sure, Josette was a rich girl, but that’s an accident of birth. We can hardly hold that against her, can we? Where is the evidence that she was spoiled?

    She didn’t hold her class above others. She was never imperious or snotty to others. She never believed her station entitled her to anything special. When Angelique’s spell wanes over Josette and Jeremiah, Josette decides to be a loyal wife to Jeremiah and to face the consequences with both families. When she begs Vicki to save a dying Barnabas, she offers up her own life. Both actions suggest nobility of character.

    Josette’s greatest sin, forgive my crassness, was becoming the sausage in a sociopath sandwich. Between witch Angelique and vampire Barnabas, she didn’t stand a chance. She ricocheted from a love curse to hypnotic thrall, and was never given any information or weapons to defend herself.

    As to why Josette is a mere shadow compared to her 1960s self, I greatly love the retcon suggested by a reader here some days ago, that ghost Josette only intervened to save Vicki and David as karmic payback for accusing Vicki of witchcraft. It explains why Josette is not a force in 1840, 1897 or the present after Barnabas emerges from his coffin.

    Girl learned in the afterlife not to date crazy.

    Of course, the real reason why Josette is so sidelined is that the writers keyed in on a lesson as old as Shakespeare (and one the cable networks wouldn’t pick up for about 40 years with “The Sopranos” and “Dexter”): Villains bring in the eyeballs and raise ratings. Good people are just not interesting to the writers anymore.There’s little difference between Vicki and a five-year-old after multiple concussions.

    As for “supercouple,” we need to really re-examine that term. It became popular in the 1980s and was applied to such pairings as “General Hospital’s” Luke & Laura and “Days of Our Lives’ ” Marlena and John – Couples who faced enormous obstacles and who won enormous support from viewers, who wanted them united.

    That term cannot be ascribed to Barnabas and Angelique. Unfortunately, this viewpoint of Josette as the spoiler in this Barnabas/Angelique relationship has more or less become canon in the DS universe – just look at the Big Finish audio productions spotlighting Josette. To those who think Barnabas and Angelique are meant for one another, I have two words: Sarah. Collins.

    The witch slaughtered his little sister. That’s kind of a deal-breaker.

    Barnabas and Angelique deserve each other, but that’s a far different story.

    But reading this entry, I was reminded of a character who keeps coming back into Barnabas’ life almost as much as Angelique, but in a loving manner at all times of crisis: when Barnabas returns to Collinwood, during the Dream Curse, during the Leviathan run – and that would be Willie Loomis.

    There’s probably fan fiction around that, but I am so not looking it up.

    1. No, I think “Barnabas and Angelique deserve each other” is exactly what I meant by supercouple. Like them or not, they’re central to the DS story, and they keep finding their way back into each other’s lives. From the “natural selection of soap opera characters” point of view, Josette disappears at this point because she’s not strong enough to survive. The B&A couple is strong enough to survive killing each other, several times each.

      The weird thing is that the other Dark Shadows supercouple is Barnabas and Julia. Somehow Barnabas found his way into two simultaneous supercouples, which may be a soap opera first.

      I have three pieces of evidence that Josette is spoiled. #1: She never does anything worthwhile, but she’s surrounded by people who keep telling her how great she is. #2: Episode 374, when she tries to talk smack about Jeremiah because he said one thing to her that wasn’t a compliment. #3: She jumps off a cliff because Barnabas is going to make her look ugly.

      Also, “Villains bring in the eyeballs” is an awesome sentence.

      1. Of course, the idea that villains bring in the eyeballs does not work if you are doing GBS… He tended to make his heroes quite interesting (perhaps because he wanted them to be mouthpieces for his theories – and he needed them to catch people’s attention)

        Of course, if you start from the definition of “good” as “never does anything interesting” of course, the villains are more entertaining.

      2. I don’t know, I still think some are being too harsh on Josette. I admit she’s bland, but I don’t think she’s necessarily unlikeable and she does have her positive traits. As someone pointed out, her treatment of Angelique is good despite class differences. Even after Angelique marries Barnabas, Josette accepts it and doesn’t harbour ill feelings or resentment. So she definitely has admirable qualities. Like most characters on DS she has likeable and unlikeable qualities (one of the reasons I love the show). That said, I do think her death scene would have been more effective without Angelique (who, I agree, is getting a bit tiresome at this point). But vampire Josette is fantastic.

        1. I agree…also, women of that time period weren’t supposed to be anything but ornamental so we can’t necessarily blame her for how she acted. She was a wealthy young woman who never knew anything else (someone else mentioned she was “sheltered” which is the perfect word) so to her, losing Barnabas, her only stability, was horrifying. And when she found out that she would have to become “the undead” to be with him, it was too much for her to handle.

          I have always liked Josette, if for no other reason because she did the best she could in her time period. At least she was nice to Angelique, to me that indicates that she was a kind person even if she was naive and couldn’t cope. I’m sure the calamities at Collinwood were the first time(s) she was challenged in any way or had to think for herself. So I can’t totally dislike Josette.

          Unrelated question–whatever happened to Andre? I always thought it was weird that in light of all the problems at Collinwood, Josette’s dad left her with Countess Natalie instead of sticking around to provide moral support. Unless I missed him in the last few episodes?

          1. In the lead-up to Josette’s death, Natalie mentions that Andre is in New York on business, and she wants them to join him there. We don’t see Andre again for the rest of the storyline — once Josette’s gone, there’s nothing left for him to do. The only reason Natalie sticks around is that she’s Grayson Hall and she’s awesome.

          2. I’ll add to the pro-Josette chorus. She was a woman of her time and she was old to be unmarried, but by modern day standards, she was fairly young and sheltered. The original story of Josette would have shown her in a better light. Having David Ford play Jeremiah would have worked, except it would have meant David Ford would have been onscreen a lot, never a good thing. Things might have worked if Mitch Ryan hadn’t been a drunk and had played Jeremiah.

            I have affection for Josette. For all the comparison to Bella in Twilight Josette fell in love with Barnabas when he was fully human. She comes to a strange land and has her life fall apart. She gets bewitched into running off with Jeremiah, who decides to commit suicide rather than live with her. Barnabas marries her maid and Josette doesn’t resent her at all. Then Barnabas dies and she’s stuck waiting around Collinwood. Joshua would have kept her for a while to make sure there wasn’t a little Jeremiah on the way at the very least. By the time Barnabas comes to her she doesn’t have much left. Her honor is gone due to the runaway marriage. She really did love Barnabas, more selflessly than Angelique. She was willing to die to save him. She should have asked questions, but she’d been messed with from the day she arrived. Suddenly the man she loved was there and still loved her and she decided to do what she had wanted since she said yes, marry him and be with him. I thought Josette was tragic.

            I also agree that B&A was never acceptable as a couple to me, not because of Josette or even vampire curses. Because she set the stage for him to murder Jeremia, her curse killed Sarah and Naomi. I could see Barnabas forgiving a lot, but killing his sister and his mother was a step to far for me.

            OTOH, I thought Julia deserved far better than Barnabas. He was always going to be looking for a pretty young thing to love. Once he switches horses and decides he loves Angelique, you know he was going to spend the rest of his life trying to find HER reincarnation while having Julia help him. They never had a good match for Julia, but she deserved someone to love and appreciate her, not a guy who keeps trying to recreate his dead lovers.

              1. Ditto what Sean said. Glad to see Josette get support. Thanks.
                (I am not a fan of the floating and laughing Angelique head. It’s a yawner.)

  5. “It’s the end of the girl as we know it, and I feel fine.”

    Best.
    Line.
    Evah.

    Meanwhile, Charlie and I watched Tormented ages ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. And as if to prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same, the past few months on THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL have featured what I dubbed “Bubble Darla,” aka the advice-giving, body-missing head of Aly’s long-dead mom.

    I really wish they’d allowed Josette to come to the “Oh, crap, he’s a vampire and this is kinda not awesome” conclusion on her own. I hate when female characters aren’t given that moment of awareness. On last week’s GENERAL HOSPITAL, Maxie — who has been a complete moron since coming back to town with Kangaroo Ken — realized JUST before becoming his bride that she, in fact, didn’t love him or want to be with him. The timing was important, because two minutes later, in rushed Detective Nathan Sexypants to rescue her from Levi, whom he’d discovered to be the bad guy the audience had pegged him as ages ago. To me, it was important that Maxie have this epiphany BEFORE being rescued, especially given that for months, it had seemed as if upon returning from her “spiritual quest,” she’d checked her brain into a suitcase which the airline had lost.

  6. It might be a little off the point, but I’ve always liked TORMENTED (on or off MST3K). For one thing, it sort of has its own answer to David Collins in the form of the fiancée’s little sister that you mention, because so much of the weird stuff is witnessed by her.

    1. Tormented is WAY better on MST3K!
      But (picky me) Vi was no mere floating head! She was physically present. Kinda.
      At one point, she begins calling “Tom Stewart killed me! TOM STEWART KILLED ME!” Tom is forced to grab her disembodied head and stuff it into a sack, which was one of my favorite moments of Bert I. Gordon wackiness. (‘Tor-MENT-ed!’)

  7. Danny — another spot-on observation about Angelique’s completely unnecessary participation in these events. This second viewing of 1795 almost 40 years later has me rethinking a lot of things. And one of them is this:

    I’m tired of Angelique. Already. She was great at first, but it was too much. Too much of her. Too many wildly variably powers. When they killed her, they should have kept her dead. I’m flat-out tired of her stupid, floating, laughing, unnecessary head (apologies to the wonderful Lara Parker).

    I actually like the vampire portion of 1795 better than the witch portion this time out. Go away witch, go away.

    Another observation: It almost looks like that Barnabas pushed Josette off the cliff at the end. It was a poorly staged struggle and not nearly as momentous as I remembered from the late ’70s as a riveted teen.

    Despite the complaints, STILL love 1795.

  8. I may have already mentioned it…
    Okay, sometimes Angelique’s witchery goes awry, but cut her some slack!
    They haven’t invented SpellCheck yet.

  9. Was on team Barnabas up until the final scene. I get that maybe he didn’t come clean and explain to Josette what’s in store in her new life, but in his defense he is new to it too. Maybe he figured she would just get used to it. But after she starts yelling for him to go away, he should have backed off instead of trying to grab her. He basically forced her into jumping through his own selfishness.

    As for Angelique I think it’s just another example of the writers taking shortcuts to get to the story climax. They probably needed her to control Ben, but the rest of the interference was just a lazy way to get to the end. The curse she put on Barnabas would have seemed more powerful and Barnabas more sympathetic if outside forces would have brought the same results instead of her micro-managing every detail.

  10. A livestock woman discovers her lover has become an undead monster.

    They meet, for the last time, on a clifftop in the driving rain.

    He begs her to join him, to let him make her what he has already become.

    Finally seeing the man in front of her for the beast he is, she decides in a moment of revulsion that she would rather die.

    She throws herself off the cliff, leaving him screaming her name into the void.

    It’s a tragic, emotional scene that practically writes itself – how could they mess it up so badly? The limp, bloodless scene we actually get is so drama-free it feels like they actually had to work to make it so flat…

    1. … that should be “lovestruck” there, in that first sentence. Hey, maybe the script was inadvertently ruined by shitty autocorrect?

  11. I just noticed that Barnabas was trying to put the bite on Josette right before she leapt off Widow’s Hill. What a jerk!

  12. In regard to Josette and women in general — Barnabas seems to be stuck on the humdrum girl no matter which century he’s in. Back to the ’60s… I like Maggie, but apart from her resemblance to Josette, I don’t see her as a match for Barnabus’s complexity, intelligence, and sensitivities. And for Barnabas to switch from Maggie to Vicki — is he looking only for a pretty face? Are all pretty faces interchangeable? To ignore the fascinating Julia who is every bit his match (AND who is willing AND who loves him in all his vampire-ness) for vacuous young women is Barbabas’s greatest failing. He’s in eternal midlife crisis mode.

  13. Ben’s debating style proves that he is smarter than he is supposed to be. Indeed, in his think he proposes not to go to Josette but to warn Natalie instead. He seemingly knows that Natalie is more on the ball than Josette.

    Josette is, indeed, naive. Her letting Angelique marry Barnabas and not holding any kind of grudge could be taken as evidence that Josette is a doormat. I could be wrong, but that is probably how Angelique sees it.

    Agreed. Bad staging of what should have been a climactic death scene of epic proportions. When her death was recounted in 1967, it was said that Barnabas chased her to the edge of the cliff. That would be consistent with the scenario in which Barnabas finally tells her what is in store for her and she runs for her life.

  14. Also, I’m tired of Angelique’s laughter. That noise she makes when she draws in her breath is almost like fingernails on a chalkboard.

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