“This painting can’t be in the house. I was responsible for bringing it here, and I am going to dispose of it.”
It’s another dark and stormy night in the great house at Collinwood, and Victoria Winters, girl governess, is creeping around the house in her nightgown, eavesdropping on people. As she approaches the closed drawing room doors, she hears Roger speaking to someone. This is what you do when you live at Collinwood — you walk the perimeter, and check on the inmates. It’s a survival skill.
As usual, there’s something unearthly going on in the drawing room — Roger is being hypnotized by an oil painting, and when he flings open the doors to confront the interloper, he believes that he’s Joshua Collins, an ancestor from the 18th century. Lord knows what everyone else is getting up to. This could be contagious, you never know.
Vicki tries to get Roger to snap out of his delusion, but he just barks at her, Joshua-style. He starts with “Have you taken leave of your senses?” and then things degenerate from there.
Finally, Vicki picks up the telephone receiver, and holds it in front of her like a magical talisman. She asks, “Roger, do you know what this is? This is proof that you’re in the 20th century, not the 18th century! Roger, can you hear me?”
He stares at her for a long moment, and then asks, “Is it for me, Vicki?” So this may be the first recorded example of exorcism by telephone.
Now, you’d think that that little episode would earn Roger the title of craziest person in the house, at least for tonight, but Vicki’s giving him a run for his money.
Vicki: I’m going to take that painting back to the antique dealer, and let him sell it to Professor Stokes.
Roger: You’re going to what?
Vicki: Roger, it’s an evil thing!
And the thunder is just crashing away like mad. It’s lovely.
Now, technically, Vicki is exactly right — the portrait is an evil thing, good call — but this isn’t what she needs to keep an eye on tonight. This whole week has been the story of the male characters taking control of the show, and today is the grand finale. It’s just Vicki and four guys today, each one nuttier than the last.
Roger suggests that Vicki go upstairs to sleep — but as soon as her back is turned, he grabs the portrait and sprints out into the night. It’s difficult to say exactly why.
Vicki runs to the door and yells, “Roger, come back!” which is something that people do on soap operas all the time. Nobody ever comes back.
Then Vicki walks slowly back into the drawing room and sits down on the couch. There’s a commercial break, and when we come back, it’s the next morning, and Vicki’s been sleeping on the couch all night.
She wakes up, and then takes another slow stroll around the room. Nobody else seems to be around; I don’t know what’s become of them. It’s like I Am Legend: The Home Game around here.
Thankfully, then there’s a knock at the door, and Vicki finds Jeff, her new amnesiac time-traveling boyfriend. I’m not usually that thrilled to see him, but he tells her, “Vicki, I have to talk to you right away,” which comes as a refreshing surprise. It’s been a solid three minutes of network television time since anybody said anything except “come back”.
Jeff’s a murderer, by the way. I didn’t mention that yesterday because I had other things on my mind, but at the end of the episode Jeff’s boss, Dr. Lang, told him that if he doesn’t stay away from Vicki, he’ll tell her that Jeff is a murderer, and his previous residence was an institution for the criminally insane. Apparently, that threat didn’t make a lot of impact, because here he is, but I’m not even sure that Vicki would mind if she found out. I mean, she killed somebody too. That’s just another thing they have in common.
She leads him into the drawing room, and they really must not have much of a story today, because they’re still stalling like crazy.
Vicki: Sit down.
Jeff: Uh, no thanks.
Vicki: What’s the matter?
Jeff: I have a question to ask you, Vicki.
Jeff: A very personal question.
Vicki: What is it?
Jeff: It’s about Barnabas Collins.
And then Jeff walks all the way around the couch before he responds. This is why you should always pay soap opera writers by the word.
They stand around and have a long, tepid conversation about whether she’s in love with Barnabas (she isn’t), whether she plans to marry him (she doesn’t), whether she knows how to tell him (she doesn’t), and whether she wants to hurt him (she doesn’t). That leaves us, at halftime, with a score of 0-4 for the conversation.
Meanwhile, Roger’s out with the painting somewhere, probably skydiving or breaking into a bank vault. What are we hanging around the house for?
Then Jeff says some cryptic things about the hospital, and how she thinks that he’s Peter Bradford. For some reason, he’s not telling her that he actually has amnesia, which would be relevant to approximately 110% of their conversations.
So I honestly don’t know what they’re doing with this storyline; it feels like a huge mistake. This should be a sweet story about Vicki and Peter finding their way back to each other, transcending time and death and common sense. He should just be saying super cute things, and making everyone in the audience fall in love with him.
If there has to be an obstacle in their path — and obviously there does, because it’s a soap opera — then it should be a romantic one, like he’s already married to Angelique, or he made a pact with a magical spirit who’s giving him six days to get Vicki to fall in love with him, or he’ll be snatched back to the 18th century.
They’re already behind the 8-ball with Roger Davis in the role. He’s not a bad-looking guy, if he smiles and doesn’t talk and you’re kind of a long way away and you don’t have super high standards. David Selby, who shows up about eight months from now, would have made a meal of a storyline like this; we would have been in love with him in seconds. I know that not everybody can be David Selby, but if you’ve got a charisma deficit like this, then at least you should avoid phrases like “institution for the criminally insane.” Do you know what I mean?
Anyway, continuing her walking tour of Collinsport’s lunatic population, Vicki visits Barnabas at the hospital, where he’s about to be released, more of less cured of being a vampire. I can’t say that this conversation is a rocket sled to adventure, either.
Barnabas: You seem troubled, Vicki. What is it?
Vicki: I’m not sure I know how to begin.
Barnabas: Does it have something to do with me?
Vicki: Yes. You… and the past.
This is how it is today. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can do.
Then we cut to an image which blazes a new trail in bonkers establishing shots. They’ve been taking it easy for a while with the green-screen shots, only using Chromakey effects when they want somebody to disappear.
But now they’re using it to construct an exterior shot again. The clouds and the sunset are a film clip, and then Dr. Lang’s house is overlaid on top of that shot. But they can’t actually use Chromakey to mix two exterior shots together, so I think what they’ve done is take a photograph of a house, cut around it with scissors, put it in front of a green screen and then key in the sunset.
It’s unexpected, and fantastic, and it cheers me up immensely after watching the rest of this dull episode. This is exactly the kind of thing that Dark Shadows is for; it’s like a postcard from the uncanny valley.
Unfortunately, being at Lang’s house means that we have to see Lang, and hey, guess what: he’s annoyed about something. Vicki told Barnabas that she can’t marry him, so now Barnabas is depressed and doesn’t want to go through with the experiments anymore.
But Lang has ridiculous dialogue for every occasion.
Lang: Is there, by any chance, anyone else?
Lang: Would his name, by any chance, be Jeff Clark?
It turns out yes, by any chance, it would, and fortunately the episode, by any chance, is almost over.
And not a moment too soon, because now we get the cliffhanger that they’ve been building up to all week. This has been a pretty grim week for the show, what with all the guys being completely out of their minds the whole time, but Dark Shadows always goes the extra mile for a Friday cliffhanger. That’s basically their mission statement.
So Dr. Lang hustles Barnabas out of the house as Jeff places a box on the table. Lang rushes over to unwrap the box like a kid at Christmas, tearing through the wrapping paper.
Jeff turns away, but Lang is thrilled: “Oh, Jeff, Jeff… Don’t be so squeamish! Come have a look at it! It’s a perfect specimen!”
And yeah, it sure is. Wave goodbye to the folks, Adam. See you all on Monday.
Monday: A Farewell to Arms.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of act 1, as Vicki stares at Angelique’s portrait, there’s a videotape eidt. They manage to sync up the music pretty well; it’s not as obvious as the other tape edits that we’ve seen.
Jeff says, “Vicki, you once — actually, you’ve been saying all along that I remind you of someone named Peter Bradford.”
Towards the end of Vicki’s scene with Barnabas, there’s some offstage clatter from the studio.
When Lang shuts the doors after Barnabas leaves, part of a camera can be seen briefly, on the right side of the screen.
Monday: A Farewell to Arms.
— Danny Horn