Episode 441: Weekend at Maudie’s

“You made them take my dead body away! They threw me in the water!”

So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: sanctimonious witch hunter Reverend Trask comes back to his room, and finds the corpse of streetwalker Maude Browning lying on his bed.

Now, just to be clear — violence against women is not funny. Murdering somebody to cover up for your crimes is not funny. And yet — Reverend Trask walking into his room and finding a dead prostitute in his bed is extremely funny. Let’s see if we can break this down a little.

441 dark shadows bed trask maude

One of the classic principles of comedy is the contrast between the high and the low — for example, taking an authority figure and putting him in a base, vulgar situation, which exposes the vanity and human folly in even the most dignified person’s heart.

In this case, Reverend Trask is the perfect subject for that kind of treatment. For all his many failings, Trask does appear to be entirely sincere. Look around his room — it’s a comfortable room at a Collinsport inn, but there’s nothing lavish about it. There are no ornaments or other worldly goods — just some books, and a small collection of simple black cloaks.

About a year from now, we’re going to meet Gregory Trask, one of the good reverend’s descendants. Gregory will actually be the hypocritical, sinful “man of God” — he claims to be holier than thou, but secretly he’s a greedy social climber, who will stop at nothing to pursue his selfish goals.

441 dark shadows candle trask

But this Trask is what he seems — a fanatic, sure, but a sincere one. He’s spent his life denying himself the pleasures of the flesh, so that he could pursue the more rarified pleasure of high-mindedly criticizing every single person he comes across. So this situation is completely outside his strike zone. He has no idea what to do.

441 dark shadows csi trask

He steps closer, putting out his hand. You get the sense that in a second, he’s going to get up the nerve to poke the body, just to make sure that it’s real.

441 dark shadows interrupting trask

Then disaster strikes — there’s a knock at the door, and scheming rogue Nathan Forbes wants to come in. Trask tells him to go away, but Nathan says it’s urgent.

441 dark shadows farce trask

So Trask does the funniest thing that he can think of — he covers Maude’s body with a blanket, and then lets Nathan in.

It’s adorable. It really is a perfect character moment, where you can tell that this is a guy who has never actually done anything impious in his life, and he has no idea how to handle himself.

441 dark shadows letter trask nathan

Trask tries to keep Nathan at the door, but nobody can stop this. Nathan pushes his way in, because he’s got an emergency of his own — he has a plan to repair his relationship with Millicent, and he needs Trask to deliver a letter to her tomorrow morning.

441 dark shadows comedy trask nathan

Trask tries to put him off until tomorrow, but then Nathan catches sight of something…

441 dark shadows arm maude

Maude’s arm is hanging out from under the blanket.

441 dark shadows misunderstand trask nathan

Let the comic misunderstandings commence.

Nathan:  Well, well, Reverend Trask… You’re a man after my own heart.

Trask:  What are you talking about?

Nathan:  I never would have persisted in talking to you if I’d known you had a guest.

And that’s a lovely character note for Nathan. A second ago, his Millicent crisis was the most important thing in the world, but he’s so amused by this discovery of Trask’s base humanity that everything else is secondary.

441 dark shadows amuse nathan trask

Naturally, this drives Trask entirely insane.

Trask:  Forbes! Stay here, and be quiet!

Nathan:  There’s no need to get angry about it; I’m not going to betray your little secret to anybody.

Trask:  I swear, I didn’t know she was here when I came in this room!

Nathan:  (chuckle) I must say, I never find them waiting for me when I come home.

441 dark shadows corpse nathan trask

In a complete panic, Trask tells him that the woman is dead. Nathan pulls back the blanket — and he recognizes that it’s Maude, a streetwalker that he’d met at the Eagle. Trask is now trapped in a nightmare that he’s never even thought of before.

441 dark shadows trickster trask nathan

We transition into the next phase of this comedy routine, which is an ironic reversal of Nathan and Trask’s relationship. Until now, Trask has always had the upper hand in the relationship — Nathan needed Trask’s help, to persuade Joshua not to report his conduct to the Navy. Trask has used that leverage mercilessly, forcing Nathan to accuse Vicki in court.

Now, the tables have turned, and Nathan — who is a natural-born folklore trickster, like Anansi the spider, Bugs Bunny and Julia Hoffman — quickly turns the situation to his advantage.

Trask:  They’ll have to believe me, because I’m innocent! I didn’t even know this woman!

Nathan:  Well, you knew who she was, you knew where she worked?

Trask:  Everyone knows I would never associate with such a woman!

Nathan:  Well, they may have thought that until now, but as soon as they find out that she was found dead in your room… you know how people can talk, Reverend.

441 dark shadows gossip trask nathan

And so we end this sequence with another comic turn, as Trask’s brush with supernatural horror turns into a business negotiation. Nathan offers to take the dead girl off Trask’s hands, if Trask meets his terms. Nathan puts this over with his usual quick wit.

Trask:  How soon can you get it done?

Nathan:  As soon as you personally deliver this letter to Millicent Collins.

Trask:  Very well. I’ll take it to her first thing in the morning.

Nathan:  Good. When you return from Collinwood, I’ll have someone here to help me remove the body.

I seriously love these two as an opposites-attract buddy-comedy team, and the wonderful thing is that it just developed organically out of the storyline. This is the kind of magic that can happen in an open-ended serialized narrative, where they’re just making it up as they go along.

When they introduced Trask, they didn’t know that they would pair him up with Nathan a few months later. But as the Angelique and Abigail plotlines reached their natural end, it left Trask and Nathan as the two strongest antagonists left on the show.

They ended up in a scene together, and you could see the sparks fly. A soap opera is basically a never-ending chemistry experiment, and these two have it. Unfortunately, that’s about to come to a definitive end very soon, so let’s enjoy this while we have it.

441 dark shadows dream trask

And then, just when you think you have a handle on the tone of this episode, they throw you into a dream sequence that takes another sharp left turn.

Trask falls asleep — this is after Nathan has removed the dearly departed from his bed, of course — and he follows Abigail’s voice into a spooky landscape made of recycled parts from other sets.

441 dark shadows dream trask maude

The door opens, and guess who’s there — it’s the ghost of Maude, with super crazy eyes and a haunted-house voice.

441 dark shadows ghost maude

And just look at this. They actually put this on television, on a grown-up network.

Maude:  Why didn’t you let me rest! You made them take my dead body away!

Trask:  Don’t touch me! Stay away!

Maude:  They threw me in the water! You shouldn’t have let them do that!

Trask:  I didn’t know that’s what they’d do! I swear I didn’t!

Maude:  Yes, you did!

And then he says that he didn’t, and she says that he did, and they just go back and forth like that forever. It’s a shame that ABC didn’t start expanding its soap operas to an hour until the late 70s, because they could have tacked on an extra thirty minutes of Trask and Maude contradicting each other, and it would have held the audience spellbound.

441 dark shadows tone trask maude

This is one of the wonderful things about daytime soap operas in general, and Dark Shadows in particular. They made five episodes a week, every week all year round, so it was okay if an individual episode had a noticeably different tone. They could go from epic Shakespearean tragedy to door-slamming farce, and from there to spooky haunted-house, or experimental black-box theater, or anywhere they felt like going, even within a single episode.

Every time you think you know where the show is going, there’s another left turn, from the sublime to the ridiculous — or, in this case, from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous. And then tomorrow they do it all over again.

Tomorrow: Cask Party.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Trask blows a line when he’s negotiating with Nathan: “I will not allow my… my name to be…” (checks the teleprompter) “I will not be the subject of vicious gossip!”

Behind the Scenes:

Barnabas’ floating hand with the onyx ring appears again at the end of the episode. This is Timothy Gordon, who’s played Barnabas’ hand before, reaching out of the coffin to strangle Willie in episode 210.

The Petofi box has moved again — it was last seen in the second-floor hallway outside Josette’s room in Collinwood; now it’s on the desk in the drawng room as Millicent reads the Tarot cards. It’ll stay in the drawing room, drifting between a couple different locations, for the remainder of the 1795 storyline. (Thanks to prop-spotter Prisoner of the NIght.)

Tomorrow: Cask Party.

441 dark shadows haunted trask

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 441: Weekend at Maudie’s

  1. DS also had some good pre-Barnabas ‘partners in crime’, such as Roger and Sam Evans, Jason McGuire and Willie Loomis and my favorite Burke Devlin and Mrs Johnson. I’m watching the end of the 1897 storyline and I have to say I like 1795 Trask much better than 1897 Trask. The facial expressions on 1795 Trask while Barnabas was terrorizing him were unbeatable. I noticed that the 1897 equivalent to 1968 Nicholas Blair (Evan Hanley) also paled in comparison to the original portrayal of the character.

  2. It’s a shame nobody pointed out to Trask that his defense was exactly the same as the evil witch, Vicki: Nobody could believe I’m guilty because I’m innocent!

    1. I was going to say the same thing. Now Trask knows what it feels like to desperately defend his innocence, but to no avail– serves him right!

  3. You didn’t have a chance to mention Joan Bennett’s performance in this episode, but it’s a gem. I love her barely veiled contempt for Trask and tearing up the letter. JB could never handle all the memorization the show required, but in moments like this you see the spark that was so compelling back in “Scarlet Street”.

    1. Agree – She’s a wonderful actress. Her problems with remembering lines in no way interfered with her ability to create wonderful characters from the scripts. I always found her “foot stomps” endearing

  4. Good episode, like a 3 part play with Trask as the centerpiece. First he is like a child caught in the middle of a dilemma he doesn’t know how to handle. Then he’s back to the old misogynistic Trask trying to bully Naomi, though she stands up to him. Finally he’s like Scrooge, being visited by ghosts telling him what he’s done and what he should do. His character actually has more depth than any they’ve had on the series before.

  5. In the scene where Barnabas’ disembodied hand is floating towards Trask, if you look up at the top of the screen you can see the wire that’s controlling the hand.

  6. Trask and Abigail. I think there was a real camaraderie between them. They were birds of a feather. I believe it was platonic, though. I would swear that neither of them ever so much as had sex with themselves let alone with another person – unless they each masturbated once and were so traumatized by the shame that they never did it again. Dark place. Sorry I went there.

  7. Joel Crothers was obviously supposed to throw the blanket back to cover Maude’s entire body…but he missed the mark. The characters move away from the bed but at the start of the next act the blanket completely covers Maude’s body.

  8. Lamar Trask in 1840 is this Trask’s descendant, right? Reverend Trask doesn’t wear a wedding ring. Maybe it wasn’t a thing then or maybe he was just against wearing jewelry. I don’t think his family was ever mentioned during 1795.

  9. Okay, so this is nearly a year later, but where’s commenter Barry? I get worried when a regular contributor disappears. If you’re still out there, let us know.
    P.s. I really enjoyed your posts.

    1. You’re right, Margaret. Also, I realized I hadn’t read anything from Stephen Robinson lately, then he popped up two days ago.

      I’m watching and reading this blog in November 2021, so I think I’m the last one to comment for now, until someone else finds the blog. It is strange to see folks coming and going with their ideas.

  10. The dream set is kinda great! I loved the chandelier hanging down really low with our favorite Old House Blue Candles in it. Hats off to the mylar curtains being blown by a fan! So much fun. And, we got to see the psychedelic kaleidoscope again!! Well done, Art Department!

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