Episode 437: There’s Just Us

“It’s got to stop now! It’s gone on for too long!”

It’s another trial day for Victoria Winters, who’s currently in custody on suspicion of witchcraft. As usual, she’s hanging out in her cell with Peter, her lawyer and boyfriend. He seems to spend a lot of time in these unstructured jailhouse discussions, just racking up the billable hours.

“Peter,” she says, “do you ever have nightmares?”

“Of course I do,” he replies. “I’m on Dark Shadows. Most of my scenes are with you. My whole life is a nightmare.” But he only says that in my imagination.

Vicki’s spent the last several months on this uncertain and frightening journey into the past, traveling to 1795 to witness the events leading up to Barnabas Collins becoming a vampire. Or, at least, the audience has witnessed those events. Vicki talked her way into a prison sentence six weeks ago, and now she’s well on her way to an execution.

“It’s got to stop now,” she says, trying to shake herself awake. “It’s gone on for too long! It’s got to stop now! It’s got to stop!”

Amen, sister. It’s been 437 episodes, and Vicki finally says something that I agree with.

437 dark shadows hysterical vicki

So let’s assess the situation. She’s female, she’s in a stressful situation, she’s expressing how she feels, and it’s 1968. What do you think happens next?

437 dark shadows smack vicki peter

That’s right! He smacks her across the face. This is a time-honored medical treatment that helps people to relax and focus. A good stiff slap in the kisser is often the key to achieving a healthy emotional balance. That’s why you see EMTs slapping people who’ve had heart attacks. It’s basic first aid, really.

437 dark shadows slapped vicki

Seriously, smacking women in the face to help them calm down is one of my least favorite things about television. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen on TV any more; I don’t know what we do with hysterical women now. Maybe we’ve finally learned how to stop making them hysterical in the first place.

437 dark shadows handsy vicki peter

And this isn’t the only example of Peter getting alarmingly hands-on with his client. Last week, Joanne — one of the blog’s awesome regular commenters — pointed out that this actor has a habit of getting handsy with his female co-stars. I’d never noticed this before, probably because I’m a dude, and therefore the suffering of women doesn’t register with me, the way it does with normal people.

But now that Joanne’s mentioned it, holy cow, yeah, that’s a problem. When they’re in the courtroom, and Peter calls Vicki to the stand to testify, he actually grabs her arm and pulls her across the room. I think we’re supposed to interpret this as tender and reassuring.

437 dark shadows hung vicki

Here’s another intimate moment, where Peter tells Vicki that he’s terribly afraid that if her testimony doesn’t convince the judges, she’ll be convicted and hanged. He illustrates this point by reaching out and gently grabbing her throat as if he’s throttling her. This is not a point that cries out for illustration.

437 dark shadows why vicki peter

But the weirdest example is the lengthy sequence while they’re waiting for the judges to announce the verdict. Peter’s actually in a good mood for some reason; he seems to think it’s possible that they’ll let Vicki go, despite the overwhelming evidence that she’s a clear and present danger to herself and everyone around her.

437 dark shadows trial vicki peter

So he’s optimistic, a feeling that he expresses through the medium of gripping her forearms and telling her not to worry.

437 dark shadows spin vicki peter

She cries, “Peter, I don’t want to die!” His response is to spin her around to face him, and then tell her how much he loves her.

437 dark shadows court peter vicki

She breaks away, and moves to the other side of the room, still talking about her feelings. He comes up behind her. Total time elapsed without putting his hands on her: 11 seconds.

437 dark shadows rubbing peter vicki

And this time he seriously goes for it. He starts squeezing her shoulders, and rubbing his face on the back of her head. It’s hard to explain how weird this is as an acting choice, except to say that there’s more face-rubbing than you would think was absolutely necessary in the situation.

Now, I’m all for actors expressing themselves artistically, and making interesting choices. Obviously, if you’re playing a scene where the woman that you love is waiting for her imminent death sentence, you’re going to want to comfort her.

But he keeps making the same choice, and after a while, it gets super distracting and unsettling.

437 dark shadows more spin peter vicki

And then he goes and spins her around again. I don’t know what to say. Is he going to keep doing this for, like, the whole rest of the series? Cause I’m not sure you can get a restraining order on your own lawyer. That would definitely make things awkward during the appeals process.

At one point, Vicki yells at Nathan during his testimony, and the judge tells Peter, “Mr. Bradford, please control the prisoner.” Yeah, like he ever does anything else.

Tomorrow: Drag Me to Hell.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Peter loses his way as he’s questioning Nathan: “At that time, you told him that, uh, you had, uh, something that… something…” He checks the teleprompter. “A weakness. Yes, a weakness, that’s what you said.”

A few moments later, Peter says, “Your honor, in my last defense, I call Victoria Winters.” He means “for my last witness.”

Behind the Scenes:

The jailer who unlocks Vicki’s cell is Peter Murphy, who we’ve seen a lot of lately. He played the recast Caretaker in October, and a bunch of body double roles as Dr. Woodard’s ghost, Burke’s dead body and the back of Barnabas’ head. We saw him as a jailer a couple weeks ago. He’s got one more episode coming up, as a Gravedigger.

The Bailiff is Anthony Goodstone, who makes three appearances on the show over a period of a year and a half. He was a background Blue Whale customer in episode 199 (April 1967), a Bailiff in today’s episode (Feb 1968) and then a reprise of the Bailiff in episode 664 (Dec 1968). Besides that, he was in a 1977 episode of Starsky and Hutch, and that’s everything I know about him.

Also, Hal White fills in as one of the non-speaking judges today, taking the chair in place of Hansford Rowe. This is White’s only appearance on the show.

Tomorrow: Drag Me to Hell.

437 dark shadows control peter vicki

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

39 thoughts on “Episode 437: There’s Just Us

    1. Jaclyn Smith was married to Roger Davis? He was interviewed I guess for the DVD release, and he came off as such a jerk! Not funny, not appropriate and still SHOUTING! I am relieved to find out everyone finds him as annoying AND boring as I do. As we probablY all know, he never gets better. Great recap though, Danny. Thankyou as always

      1. Yeah, he talks about her on one of the DS dvds (and yes, he came off as a jerk and weirdo – wore dark sunglasses throughout which was very distracting). Apparently he was the one that suggested she try out for the Victoria Winters role when Alexandra left – that’s how he hit on her (according to him). Then they started dating and eventually married (and divorced).

        1. I think his last claim to fame after DS was replacing Pete duell in alias Smith and Jones. On a side note, I wondered why the show cast such bad actors, and then kept bringing them back! But as Danny’s recaps remind us, they were just making it up as they went along, and we are viewing this through jaded, but delighted, eyes. There is two types of talent on DS, CAMPY,/ GREATand yellers/ awful. We have a long way to go before I can share my revelation of which one David Selby falls into.

        2. It appears to have been Dan Curtis who first pointed her out to him. According to what Davis told a magazine interviewer in 1973, there had been a party on the set of Dark Shadows, and when Curtis saw her there he went up to Davis and told him that he ought to marry her. According to Davis they didn’t actually meet formally until 1972 in the waiting room of an ad agency, where they were each auditioning for work in commercials. They eventually began dating and then made plans for marriage six weeks later.

        3. In that interview, he also states he never looked at the teleprompter.

          “”You had, uh, something that… something…” He checks the teleprompter. “A weakness. Yes, a weakness, that’s what you said.””

          Take that, Roger Davis.


        4. Jaclyn Smith as Victoria Winters would have been an improvement, instead the actresses they went with who I thought were worse when I first saw them. We’ll see when I reach the “Replacements” in a few episodes from now.

  1. So he slapped her too. I had forgotten that. I’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt that it was in the script. But Roger Davis slapping a woman just makes my blood boil.

      1. Of course, it’s in the script. And I really don’t understand all these “acting choices” comments. You do realize the director tells the actor how to say the lines and what business they do while they’re saying those lines? That’s why they’re called “director.” An actor who does the opposite of what the director says won’t be on the series for long.

        1. Wiseguy: Besides the fact you are commenting on this post 7 years late, your comments in general over the last several episodes are unhelpful and frankly a little insulting. You were attacking Danny in the comments section for not writing a personal blog the way you felt it should be written several posts ago. If you don’t like it , write your own blog or be quiet if you have nothing remotely positive to add to the situation. You come across as having an ego larger than your IQ.

        2. Directors don’t always tell actors every little thing they’re supposed to do. They do not tell actors how to say their lines. In fact, actors don’t really like directors who do that. Actors are hired for what they can bring to a character. They aren’t empty vessels that directors have to fill up and pour out all over the set.

          Good directors enhance a scene mostly through blocking and tone and mood. They don’t typically tell actors to grab someone and haul them around the set. And because Davis has been doing this episode after episode, it does feel like an actor choice. No two or three directors in a row would all give the same direction. Directors like to stand out. They want to be recognized. They need a job once they are done with their episode. Most likely, Davis did not take direction well, and so he was ignored by the directors. Besides, it’s live to tape, so if he was a renegade actor loved by Dan Curtis, he could play the scene however he wanted and the directors had to just deal with it. It wasn’t like they could re-shoot anything.

          I’ve worked on lots of episodic tv, some shows well established, and often times we laughed at the guest director for an episode because they are trying to make their mark on a show that really directs itself. DS kinda directs itself. There’s only so much they can do to make each episode have its own life. Micro-managing actors certainly doesn’t breathe life into a show.

        3. Yes, the slap would have been scripted, but squeezing Alexandra Moltke’s upper arms, almost clutching her neck, squeezing her shoulders, rubbing his face in her hair–those are not actions that would have been specifically scripted or instructed by a director.

  2. Hey Danny – thanks for the ‘honorable mention’ in today’s post. I think this couple goes downhill from here. When you get back to the present you’ll also get to see some verbal hostility from ‘Jeff Clark’ to the ‘woman he loves’. At one point you can actually see Alexandra Moltke’s face turn red with anger after he is particularly sarcastic to her. I’m eagerly looking forward to returning to the present – I already have several choice comments lined up for some of characters in the upcoming Adam and Eve storyline, and they’re not good..

    1. Oh, yeah, Jeff Clark is a super hot mess. The surprising/disappointing thing for me in this re-watch is that I thought I remembered liking Peter and Vicki, and then disliking them when Peter turned into Jeff. But now I realize that I don’t like Peter either. Where’s Jeb Hawkes when you need him?

      1. Maybe I’m just reading too much into these actions, but it seems like there are some other male characters like Quentin (who never met a lady character he didn’t love) and Jeb were “getting a bit handsy” with female co-stars also. It’s getting really annoying at this point, because I’m on the episodes in the 1100’s and have been seeing it for a while. What do you guys think–is this “all in my head”? 🙂

  3. Maybe you liked Peter as a kid because he was the only one standing up for Victoria. There is a study that says kids think Muppets look like them (for instance compare to kids’s self-portraits not what they actually look like). I think kids are like that for other TV shows too. I imagine you at least felt it wasn’t fair that Victoria was getting blamed when Angelica was the witch and here is Peter being basically the only one except hapless Ben to champion her. I think lots of first couples don’t hold up later scrutiny. I loved “Shepherd of the Hills” as a kid, but a re-read as adult showed me that while what I’d like was still there, but that a lot of really horrible stuff had gone right over my head.

    For me my first couple was Morgan and Kelly on “Guiding Light” revisiting some of the footage, it’s still a great story, but “Morgan” (either version) wasn’t the actress I remembered and frankly when I went through to describe them for a favorite couple series on my blog I found that they met none of my criteria for why I liked other soap couples later. On the plus side my second couple Hope and Alan were still as wonderful and tragic flaw filled as I remembered. https://glmanny.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/kelly-and-morgan/

  4. I’ve never been fond of the cliché of slapping hysterical people either, but I like it a thousand times better than the cliché of ANGRILY slapping someone. Except in slapstick comedies and really over-the-top melodramas, that one REALLY gets on my nerves.

    1. The very best dealing with a hysterical person is Zero Mostel dealing with Gene Wilder in the Producers. “I’m hysterical and I’m wet!”

    2. There is one place where it plays really well, the movie Clue, when Mr. Green slaps Mrs. Peacock across the face (after she thinks she drank poison), pushes his glasses up, and says, “I had to stop her screaming!” But, you’re right, that is slapstick comedy.

  5. I guess Vicki should have let Barnabas buy that house for her back in 1967. Being a faux-Josette and one of the living dead beats having this slap happy yahoo berate her day after day.

  6. At first I was all “another accidental b&w episode. How annoying.”

    But then Trask turns up, and holy crap that guy is even more terrifying in monochrome. Good job Lacy, good job.

    1. How annoyed would you be if the episode was missing altogether (like episode 1219)? Be grateful a copy existed instead of uselessly being annoyed.

  7. I have to agree. Trask is scarier in bw. Surprised no one mentioned how stupid Vicki was for admitting she was in the middle of a seance when she time-travelled. Guess we are all just used to it.

  8. While I realise I’m treading into some rather choppy waters, I kinda feel the need to play just a little devil’s advocate. While presenting Vicky’s current state leading up to the slap, the point is made that it’s 1968; it should be pointed out that the scene where this is taking place is about 170 years prior. While this argument can’t hold water in possible future slapping episodes after time is restored, at least in this one case, it would seem to be historically accurate. Remember that even as late as the first half of the 20th century, “female hysteria” was still viewed as a medical issue, along with so many other conditions which were poorly understood; and the typical go-to treatment would, today, be justifiably seen as grotesque abuse. As the witch trial can demonstrate (even if it’s 100 years after the appropriate era), life before the modern age for most was unbelievably harsh and unpredictable. Thanks to the industrial age and the many advancements that followed, more people not only survived but prospered enough so that simply struggling to see another year wasn’t an all-encompassing existence. More focus was given to quality of life and it’s been a never-ending uphill battle since, but progress has been made nonetheless.

    Again, this argument pretty much only has merit for representations of how things were done far before our time… after, say, the Great Depression & WWII, the cultural tendencies of what was (and wasn’t) appropriate began to change signficantly, and still continues today (slowly at times but surely). So, any future instances of Roger Davis’ loud & forceful methodology (or anyone else’s) will have to fight their own battles (pun maybe intended, not sure). Just wanted to offer perspective of cultural norms of the period. Hindsight being 20:20 and all:)

    1. You’re correct, Joseph. As natural as it may seem to do, we can’t always judge history by modern-day standards. Take the Salem witchcraft trials: Today we wouldn’t treat someone who claims to be a witch as they did in the 1690’s. But as far as the accusers of those poor women, they were products of their own times. That doesn’t mean we condone their behavior, but we just realize that they “didn’t know any better” – it was how “witches” were “properly” dealt with in those times.

  9. An overall note of this entire trial storyline…. can’t tell how many times I was like “what the heck is this?” First, how in the world is Trask able to be prosecutor? How is Peter qualified to be an attorney when he so clearly is terrible at his job… saying he had no questions for Angelique after her scathing testimony and the statement by Ben, just moments before, that she was the witch the whole time? Peter’s clearly as good a lawyer as he is a gaol guard, who assists the accused in not only leaving confinement, but being an accomplice in her efforts to get the book back. And again… so loud…..

    Too bad this was also roughly 200 years before the Supreme Court ruled that the insanity defense could keep the convicted from execution, or else Vicky would definitely have been fine, because she’d certainly fail the competency evaluation.

    1. Ah, the insanity defense. In the early 1880s, President Garfield’s assassin’s lawyers tried the insanity defense, and their client was truly bonkers, but he was hanged anyway. That defense has worked better since the 20th century.

      I’m surprised nobody mentioned the scene in “Airplane!” where the hysterical passenger is slapped by one person and then every passenger lines up to take a crack at her. The ultimate send up of this trope.

  10. Years earlier, Roger Davis had appeared in an episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE series, called “Spur of the Moment.” He also guest-starred on another series, WONDER WOMAN, in the episode “The Man Who Made Volcanoes.” He played the second-in-command to the titular scientist, played by Roddy McDowall. In one scene, he gets very physical in tying up and abducting Diana Price, Wonder Woman’s alter-ego. Here, then, was another Davis character who invaded his female co-star’s character’s private space big time.

  11. Dumb-dumb VIcki shoots herself in the foot again! When Trask asked her what she and the other people in the room were doing at the time she was whisked away into the past, she should have just said that they were conversing about family matters or pouring through the family history book, a common pastime of theirs, when, suddenly, a storm occurred, the nights went out, and she inexplicably found herself in 1795. No, she HAD to admit that they had been conducting a seance–DUH! I can just imagine Vicki later telling Peter that, in the words of Ralph Kramden, “I have a BIG MOUTH!–a BIG MOUTH!”

    1. People don’t seem to realize that Vicki HAS to be executed. It’s what sends her back to the present. All the writing has to come to that conclusion: Vicki can’t learn that Barnabas is a vampire and that she is found guilty and executed. Perhaps the writing could be better but from all accounts they didn’t have the luxury of time.

  12. “….where Peter tells Vicki.. she’ll be convicted and hanged.” Except, in typical Roger Davis can’t be bothered to learn his lines fashion, he says “hung,”

  13. How amazing it is today to see what a cult following this show has now, and remember that they assumed back then that no one would ever care to see this show again once it went off the air. All the sets, props, costumes, and videotapes were just treated as unimportant. All those custom painted portraits, what in heck happened to them? The cane, the fake bat, the ring, the coffin? I’ll bet those who were involved and are still around today are really sorry they didn’t hang onto all of it. Just having all the episodes as aired would be priceless. Sigh…

    1. Oh, I bet the props people kept a lot of the bats and things. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frid had the Barnabas ring, or at least one of them. (There were probably more than one in case one got lost.) Maybe he has his Barnabas paintings too! Maybe Dan Curtis kept the paintings. I know the cast members got to keep their vampire teeth!

      As one who works in film/tv in the wardrobe department, just know that all these things become important to the cast and crew. We become attached to certain things, same as the audience. After a run of 5 years with the popularity of this show, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the crew has a lot of little consolation prizes they were able to keep!

      The costumes are probably in LA rental houses by now, especially anything that was in good shape. The sets are torn down, and the furniture and decor either sold or in the prop rental houses.

      That’s how we get rid of it all nowadays, anyways…

    2. “All the sets, props, costumes, and videotapes were just treated as unimportant.” Not entirely true when it comes to the tapes. The reason we have DS in its entirety (except for the missing 1219 and, to some extent, those relatively few kinescope episodes, such as this one) is that, as I understand it, Dan Curtis DID have foresight as to the importance of those tapes and made sure they were not wiped clean as was the usual practice with soap operas. He seemed to have some sense that syndication was a possibility (and as owner of the show, he probably wanted them to be preserved rather than discarded).

  14. Vicki’s fear and desperation in the beginning of the episode, pleading for this nightmare she’s found herself in to end, was moving. The idea that she believes, on some level, that what she’s experiencing is an incredibly lucid dream, though not very credible, does go some way toward explaining why she would be so careless with the information she’s been throwing around. Retreating into fantasy as a defense mechanism. It doesn’t explain why she would further endanger herself by answering Trask’s questions honestly, though. Some people, I guess, can’t tell a lie even to save their own life.

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