“The Devil has painted your hair — but still, I recognize you!”
Professor Stokes declared war on the Collins witch two weeks ago, and to be honest with you, it’s not really going that well. He was trying to interrupt the Dream Curse, but Cassandra managed to get it jumpstarted again, and the curse is now a step closer to its final intended victim.
Stokes did score a point when he raised the spirit of Reverend Trask, the 18th century witch hunter who never actually managed to catch a witch. The revenant Reverend tried his best — setting Cassandra ablaze with ghostly fire — but she managed to put the flames out, and move on with her day.
But it’s not a fair fight, really. This war is being waged by “magic”, so the writers do whatever they want. Cassandra can say, “My powers are greater than yours!” but that just means that she has more plot points coming up.
The Dark Shadows audience is clearly okay with having villains stick around for an extended run, so the only way Cassandra can be destroyed is if her schemes become predictable and repetitive, or she gets sidetracked on a pointless B-plot. Fortunately for her, that will never ever happen.
In related news, Cassandra cast a spell on Liz last week that makes her stand around in the drawing room and have gloomy conversations that don’t go anywhere.
“I went to Eagle Hill today,” she says. “It’s lovely there. Quiet. Lonely, I suppose, but there’s such a feeling of peace. I want you to promise me you’ll bury me there.”
Roger is nonplussed, obviously. This kind of thing would nonplus anybody. He asks if Liz is ill.
“I’ve just become aware of how much time has passed,” she says, and I couldn’t agree more. We’re four minutes into the episode already, and we’ve only gotten from the window to the piano. If this keeps up, we could be halfway across the foyer by Tuesday.
So the conversation just drags on, with Liz settling into a series of impenetrable acting faces. This has got to be one of the least gripping witchcraft stories ever filmed. Angelique used to bring the dead to life and turn people into cats. Now, all of her spells involve sending people to sleep, up to and including the audience.
And the crazy thing is that this waste of sorcery apparently requires regular maintenance. There’s a cross-fade to Cassandra, who’s still casting the same spell. “Thoughts of death,” she says. “Only the first step, Mrs. Stoddard, in your last walk. For soon, you will see the world through the eyes of another woman, who lived in another century.” And so on.
Roger eventually comes upstairs to talk about how worried he is, so now we’re watching that for a while. He invites Cassandra to come to the drawing room to play bridge in half an hour. She agrees to come down, which means that if we hang on long enough, we might get to see a couple rounds of waiting-for-death bridge.
After Roger leaves, she fiddles around with potions for a while, and it really seems like this might just be the whole episode today, just Cassandra and her uninspired sorcery — and then, without warning, a reprieve. Thundering across the plains to our rescue, here comes Reverend Trask, the Chromakey Kid.
Meanwhile, Joe comes over, looking for Maggie, who’s staying at Collinwood for a while, following her father’s untimely death. He’s feeling guilty that he wasn’t around when Sam was hurt, and Vicki tries to comfort him. It’s a perfectly adequate soap opera scene, with everybody standing around processing their feelings, and Joe even mentions that he’s planning to marry Maggie, which ought to be big news.
But there’s a witch upstairs, and Trask is lurking, and all I can do is wait for the humans to stop yapping at each other so we can do something interesting. Is that wrong of me? I like Joe and Maggie. I’ll be happy for them when they get married. Still, the show’s been training me over the last several months to only pay attention to the kaiju.
So they finally get around to the thing we paid money to see: another ear-shattering confrontation between Cassandra and Reverend Trask.
And here’s how cool he is these days — he just walks right into the drawing room. Yeah, he’s dead. He starved to death while he was chained up behind a brick wall in the basement. I don’t see why that has to be a handicap. He’s like Ben Kenobi; if you strike him down, he becomes shoutier than you could possibly imagine.
He backs her up against the piano, and they perform a two-handed duet of crazy talk.
Cassandra: Stay away from me!
Trask: I have come back to right that wrong. The Lord has let me return!
Cassandra: You’re a ghost! You will disappear.
Trask: We will see who is stronger — your master, or mine! The eternal battle shall be waged again here, in this house!
Cassandra, completely losing track of her diction, shouts, “I command you to return to from where you came!”
He just smiles. With the air of a magician completing a card trick, Trask says, “You have Satan’s words, but I have something stronger…”
Cassandra cringes, and collapses. Game, as far as I can tell, over.
So that’s something new for Dark Shadows; I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this before. Reverend Trask, the hollering hypocrite, pulling a cross on a demon and making her beg for mercy. Who allowed that?
In general, this has been one of your more Satan-friendly television shows. Everybody gets a little uncomfortable when you talk too much about a specific religion on a network show, because there’s a lot of religious diversity in America, including many different flavors of Christianity, and they don’t want to risk offending anybody.
But it’s totally okay for a witch to talk about serving Beelzebub, so you end up with a show where the Devil gets name-checked all the time, and nobody talks about Jesus.
In fact, the only way to get God into the show at all is to turn the priest into a kaiju. I don’t think this trick would work if it was Carolyn or Joe waving a cross around. The cross needs to become a magic talisman.
So Trask takes Cassandra out into the woods and ties her to a tree, his old standby. And then we have the whole fourth act — five and a half minutes of daytime television — with the bizarre spectacle of a ghost performing an exorcism.
Here are some high points.
Trask: I command thee — whoever thou art! — thou unclean spirits which possess her body — to remove yourselves from her presence, and leave her free to become a servant of the true Lord!
Cassandra: YOU are the Devil! You have the spirit of evil within you!
Trask: HEAR NOT HER BLASPHEMOUS CRIES! JUDGE NOT BY WHAT SHE SAYS! GIVE ME THE POWER TO STEP UPON THE SERPENTS AND SCORPIONS WHICH INHABIT HER!
Trask: I adjure thee, foul serpent — by the judge of the quick and the dead — that thou depart in haste from this unworthy creature, that she may return to the bosom of goodness!
Cassandra: Never! NEVER!
Oh, it’s wonderful. You can tell how powerful he is by how long his run-on sentences run on.
Trask: Depart from her, ye cursed demons, into the everlasting fire which burns all evil, and leaves only the ashes of what good she once possessed!
And it’s that easy. All you have to do is find someone more powerful — and “more powerful,” obviously, means “more interesting to watch” — and she doesn’t stand a chance.
Monday: What Dead People Do.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the end of the teaser, Liz gazes out the window and says, “We all eventually die, don’t we? And I know who will be next.” The camera pulls in for a close-up, and it’s obvious that she isn’t quite sure what she’s supposed to say next. Her gaze flickers to the teleprompter, and then shrugs, “I will be next, and it will be soon.”
Coming back after the opening titles, we join Roger’s first line already in progress:
Roger: — frighten me.
Liz: I shouldn’t. Death is a perfectly natural thing.
Liz trips over the word “monster” neat the beginning of act 1.
At the end of act 1, the Chromakey ghost of Reverend Trask appears behind Cassandra. As the scene fades to commercial, the camera filming Cassandra moves, which makes it look like Trask is bouncing up and down.
When Liz imagines that she’s addressing Nathan Forbes, she barks, “Don’t play the innocent with me! It might work with Militant, perhaps –”
As Trask backs Cassandra up to the piano, she yells, “Stay away from me!” He glances at the teleprompter as she throws him the cue again: “Stay away from me…”
Trask is bedeviled by a wayward fly during the last moments of Cassandra’s exorcism. When he yells, “Depart from her, ye cursed demons!” the fly lands on his tie. The Reverend continues, “– into the everlasting fire which burns all evil, and leaves only the ashes of what good she once possessed.” At this point, the fly takes wing, and flies into his face. He puffs, to blow it away. “Devils be humbled!” he screams, as the fly bumps into his nose. He shakes his head. “Shrink in fear at the dark night you must shortly see.” The fly — not accustomed to shrinking in fear — settles on his right shoulder for another couple lines. Trask bellows, “Hear me, and go hence from her!” and the fly finally goes hence.
As Cassandra disappears, the audio drops out on two of Trask’s words. You can read his lips to fill in the missing words: “Her spirit is free! [Out, devils!] Go!”
Jerry Lacy is credited as Tony Peterson, instead of Reverend Trask.
Monday: What Dead People Do.
— Danny Horn
23 thoughts on “Episode 519: Ex Wife”
Oh, Trask is perfect.
Alas, this show if full of wonderful characters that leave too soon…
Did Trask’s ghost ever mention anything regarding seeing Vicki at Collinwood during this time? She was right there in the house at the time he came to confront Cassandra – I would have thought he would have had a reaction to seeing her there in 1968 – after all she was the sole object of his torment back in 1795.
Yes, he appeared to Vicky, and warned her about Angelique, but Jeff told him not to torment her further.
Thanks Adriana – I’ll have to go and rewatch some of those episodes.
As epitomized in this episode especially, the 1968 version of Angelique seems far more vulnerable to destruction than her 1795 counterpart. Sure, she was easily dispatched by Barnabas in the mausoleum, but that didn’t prevent her essence from returning to thwart Ben in staking Barnabas to free him of her curse nor did it stop her from appearing in court in person to testify against Vicky. It seems, in these instances, that she required no approval or assistance from any dark forces to accomplish this and in just about every respect she seemed virtually infallible as one by one the Collins family of 1795 fell like dominoes in the wake of her powerful spells and potions. The only one she had trouble with back then was Jeremiah’s ghost, which she couldn’t get to obey her commands to return to the grave. But she still managed to get things done to her satisfaction.
Yet, in 1968 all it takes is a couple of short sticks of wood glued together in the form of a cross to not only upset her schemes, but also to make her disappear entirely. How does Trask accomplish this? Is he now more powerful than Angelique merely because he is now in spirit form? During his relentless exorcism, not even the Collinsport Fly can get in his way. And all because of that little wooden cross. Would two finger-length sticks of wood been enough to rid Collinwood of Angelique in 1795?
Not only this, but in 1968 also, as we shall see, in order for her to return she will require the assistance and goodwill of Nicholas, to whom she seems vulnerable as he amuses himself by making the flesh on her hand and forearm disappear and later transforming her into a vampire as punishment for her perceived incompetence resulting from her main personal weakness, her obsession with transforming Barnabas back into a vampire.
In 1795, Angelique was frightening and formidable because she seemed all powerful and indestructible, but in 1968 there is a whole hierarchy of dark supernatural beings to answer to and Angelique is at the bottom of that totem pole and always at the mercy of the whims of Nicholas. What happened?
At a guess, I would say they wanted to do something new with the character? You can only have Angelique be omnipotent for so long before it becomes boring. And bottom line, she has to fail – or at least, have a number of set backs – in order for our heroes to go on. And the more powerful you make her, the harder this is. This is a recurring problem in fiction when dealing with a popular character and am sure this is one of the reasons they also turned Barnabas into a human in 1968.
As far as Trask, we saw that Angelique had problems with the ghost of Jeremiah, so maybe her powers have difficulty working on the undead? So a cross wielded by a human is no big thing, but an angry, uncontrollable spirit? That’s harder for her to defend against. (I’m just theorizing by the way)
A sound theory for sure! It’s just that Cassandra/Angelique seems more hapless than effective half the time, which seems to diminish the character somewhat–until, of course, she gets hold of Nicholas’ special mirror. 🙂
I agree. Still, she does do an awful lot of damage prior to her confrontation with Trask – kills Lang, entrances Tony, hypnotizes Roger, takes David’s voice away, curses Liz, blinds Sam. And she would have turned Barnabas into a vampire if it hadn’t been for Adam. So she does get a few good hits in. But once Nicholas shows up she gets served.
What happened obviously is that the writers changed the game at their whim. But also magic is a many splendored thing. Any symbol such as a cross is a gestalt that is greater than the sum of its upright and crossbar. Danny swerved into the truth of the matter when he noted that it would not have been as effective if Carolyn had wielded the cross. It takes its full power from the intent and or faith of the person holding it. Trask is certainly a flawed vessel. There is truth in Cassandra/Angelique’s retort that Trask is evil. Trask himself never questions whether in fact he might not be theologically incorrect, being a vengeance-seeking ghost who never says the name of Jesus. (The one or two references to “the Lord,” I am told, are acceptable substitutes.)
I recommend the book “Jesus The Magician” by Morton Smith. I think Smith thinks he answers the question of whether Jesus was a magician in the affirmative, but to me he just muddied the waters. At the end, I closed the book wondering just what is the difference between magic and religion? But I recommend the book because Smith gives a good explanation of how magic works. A magician is like a computer programmer who has to do a lot of preparation, entering code, etc. When this preparation is done, once the program is done, the programmer just pushes one button and the program takes off as if on its own. Magicians, too, have to do a lot of preparation to get the powers of darkness under their command. Once the spell has been cast, they can say a word or sprinkle some prepared magic dust and the spell is off and running.
Trask didn’t defeat Angelique. God defeated Angelique.
God is the creator. He created the angel who became Satan.
God’s power is limitless.
Satan’s power is limited.
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
This is the most honest depiction of the power of God I’ve seen on TV in a very long time.
Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Didn’t The Collinsport Fly make an appearance in this one as well? By flying into Trask’s mouth while he was performing the exorcism?
I don’t recall Cassandra demonstrating more powers than Angelique did in 1795, and Angelique had the advantage of no one suspecting her and confronting her head on like Stokes and Barnabas. The latter also went after her as a human (attempting to poison her, for example).
She was presumably more powerful dead but she had no corporeal form. I think that’s what Diabolos provided for her, and the unfortunate side effect was that she was vulnerable again.
Bring on Nicholas Blair!!
There was an interesting character moment from Trask when he accuses Angelique of causing Vicki’s death in 1795. He seems not to believe that he had any part to play in that himself.
Danny, your writing is quite amazing. I love it!
revenant reverend! exquisite.
I wonder how much the devil charges to paint hair. I am looking for a new stylist and he did a fairly good job on Cassandra, although the color was far too dark for her complexion.
Trask’s fly friend was hilarious! I also love how Jerry Lacey gives it 110% He looked he was truly possessed. I’ll bet those of you who watched when you were kids were scared spitless him. And I was glad to see Cassandra go, though I’m sure it’s not for long.
That damn kaftan Cassandra is wearing gets uglier every time I see it. She deserves to die for that alone.
And now they’ve dressed Liz in some blazing lime green disaster. Many more outfits like that and I’ll need to borrow Sam’s dark glasses (which are kinda cool, BTW).
The music sure dragged in act one the first time Track’s ghost showed up.
There’s a lot of lime green in the women’s costumes. Liz, Carolyn and Angelique all wear it. I may accept that it’s a symbol of Cassangelique’s villainy but it doesn’t explain the others. All I can think is Ohrbach’s had a lot of lime green fashions that didn’t sell.
Intersting footnote to “the fly”: Only a decade later, a fly was the symbol of the evil demonic power in “The Amityville Horror”.
I hope someone burned that neon butterfly disaster that Cassandra has on. Poor Lara Parker got stuck with some of the most vomit inducing wardrobe on the show. Joan Bennett and KLS got the best. None of the men ever looked anything but suave. I’d kill to have the smoking jackets and brocade and velvet robes of Barnabas and Roger. All lost, I’m sure.