Episode 641: Left Behind

“I’m positive he’ll give you a sign — a sign for you to forget all of this insanity!”

It’s a theme week on Dark Shadows — five straight episodes of ghost stories, featuring three different ghosts. That means a whole lot of windows blowing open, and a whole lot of doors slamming shut.

People will sit around a table, and make sure that their fingers touch. A book will fall off of a piano. A grandfather clock will commit suicide, right in front of us. And there’s a better than average chance that somebody’s going to feel a chill. A CHILL!

637 dark shadows vicki jeff time

Here’s the scenario: Girl governess Victoria Winters has married Jeff Clark, her 20th century boyfriend, who it turns out is also Peter Bradford, her 18th century boyfriend. This is bigamy, of course, but nobody else wants either of them, so she might as well help herself.

On their wedding night, Jeff disappeared before her eyes, drawn back into the past by mysterious forces, for reasons that were not immediately evident. It was kind of a dick move, to be honest, but you know what mysterious forces are like.

641 dark shadows liz vicki eyeroll

Now Vicki’s alone, with nothing to comfort her but a broken wristwatch and a catering bill.

She’s spending a lot of her free time holding the watch and wondering about it. She gave it to Jeff after the wedding, and he was wearing it when the powers grabbed him out of the now. Then she found it in her room, stopped at 11:25.

Trying her best to keep up, Liz says, “It doesn’t do any good to think about that.”

“It stopped the exact moment he disappeared,” Vicki insists. “Why didn’t I realize that before?”

And Liz just looks at her and basically says, I don’t know, you’ve had a lot on your mind. Does it matter?

640 dark shadows jeff watch

But it does, apparently; we’re going to hear a lot about the watch today. You and this watch are going to be well acquainted by the time this is over.

What I’ve gathered so far is that the watch stopped when Jeff disappeared — but when it starts running again, that means that Jeff’s spirit is in the room with her. We can’t see Jeff, or interact with him in any way, but Vicki says that he’s there when the watch is running, and there’s nothing to do but take her word for it. This is what we call a non-falsifiable hypothesis.

641 dark shadows vicki please

While we’re on the subject, the whole idea of saying that “a ghost is in the room” has always perplexed me. I mean, outside of a cartoon, what could that possibly even mean?

Ghosts are supposed to be non-corporeal wisps of consciousness, untethered from physical reality and left to drift through ideaspace. They aren’t anywhere. The whole point of a ghost is that it’s not in a body anymore.

Fraudulent ghost hunter grifter types always act like a ghost is a chipmunk family that’s living in the walls, and if you stay still and keep your nightvision camera rolling, the spook will pop out through a mousehole and look around.

The ghost hunter will claim that a spirit is chained to a particular location because the dead guy has unfinished business, like who hasn’t, but then they look around and sniff the air like they can smell ectoplasm, and they say, “It’s in this room right now!” And then the smart person in the room says, of course it is, you just said it was tied to this location. Doesn’t that mean it’s always in this room?

I’m kidding, of course. A smart person would never be in the same room as a ghost hunter. That’s pretty much the textbook definition of a smart person.

641 dark shadows stokes vicki ghosts

Anyway, Vicki calls Professor Stokes, and he comes over to try and beat some science into her. It works out pretty much the way you’d expect.

Vicki:  Professor Stokes, I want to be with him. No, that’s not right — I have to join him!

Stokes:  Why did you send for me? I am not a wizard, Miss Winters. I don’t transport people through time.

Vicki:  Is he here, listening to us?

Stokes:  If he is here, I’m positive he’ll give you a sign — a sign for you to forget all of this insanity!

Vicki:  Is loving insane, Professor?

So that’s the symposium that Professor Stokes finds himself in, a panel discussion on whether loving is insane or not.

641 dark shadows vicki stokes science

Stokes tries to dissuade Vicki, but she’s the one holding the magic wristwatch. It’s a symbol of time being suspended — so if it starts running again, then that means that Jeff is floating past, and she can hitch a ride to the 18th century.

What she doesn’t seem to grasp is that the wristwatch is broken. You can’t make history do what you want, just because you have a busted watch and an inadequate sense of temporal responsibility.

641 dark shadows vicki stokes change

But she’s still trying to make a sales pitch to the gods of chronological order and chaos.

Stokes:  You were in jail, being tried for witchcraft. You want to go back to that?

Vicki:  But, surely, I could go back to an earlier time!

Stokes:  And know what is ahead of you? What kind of a life would the two of you have, knowing how it must end?

Vicki:  We could change it!

Stokes:  History? It’s not so accommodating.

Yeah, but try talking sense to Vicki for five seconds. It doesn’t work, because it’s Vicki, and there are some situations that you just can’t fix.

641 dark shadows vicki stokes mustbe

Vicki is going to break time again — and now, she’s actually doing it on purpose. The stupid choices that she makes will have a huge impact on Collins family history, like a particularly dim butterfly flapping its wings backwards, and causing a drought in New Mexico.

Okay, let me try to explain this to her.

Victoria Winters: You are not in charge of time. Put the magic wristwatch down, and step away from the calendar before you hurt somebody.

I swear, this is the last time I’m going to talk to her about this. Or maybe it’s the first time, it depends on which direction she’s going.

Tomorrow: Mind Over Manners.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Liz and Vicki enter Vicki’s room, there’s a crash from offstage.

Liz tells Vicki, “I think it would be a good idea to ask him for lunch, to have lunch with us.”

Vicki loses track of her lines during her conversation with Liz about the watch. She says, “I know because when I went to call Professor Stokes, I glanced at the clock. It was nearly that hour then.” Liz says, “It doesn’t do any good to think about that,” and then Vicki can’t remember what comes next.  She stares at the watch and whispers to herself, “It was nearly that time then,” and then she checks the teleprompter.

At the end of act 1, the door slamming shut and the door-closing sound effect are way out of synch.

When Vicki’s standing on the edge of Widow’s Hill, the lightning flashes reveal the top of the backdrop, as well as a bare patch of floor to the right, with a cable on it.


Behind the Scenes:

All five of this week’s episodes are directed by Penberry Jones, apparently filling in for one of the regular directors. I can’t really tell the difference, so I don’t know why I’m even bringing itup.

The cast credits play over a shot of Vicki’s bedroom, and then it cuts to a shot of the Collinwood foyer for the production credits. This only happens in two episodes; the other one is episode 657. I apologize that these Behind the Scenes notes are even more boring than usual today.

Tomorrow: Mind Over Manners.

641 dark shadows vicki cliff

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Episode 641: Left Behind

  1. I’m sorry but neither Jeff Clark or the bad lawyer formerly known as Peter Bradford has convinced me that he’s worth a woman returning to a time when she can’t vote, own property, or have access to a hair dryer.

    Victoria Winters almost had the wisps of a character arc: She was a young woman with no past, so she romanticized and idealized the past in general and the past of the Collins family in particular. This compulsion put her in the sights of a psychotic vampire from the late 18th Century (or early 19th depending on the week). Note that Maggie Evans was able to resist Barnabas because she was firmly rooted in the here and now.

    A seance sends Vicki back to 1795 and what should be a dream quickly turns into a nightmare: The Collins are dysfunctional and everything she knew about the past was wrong except for the parts where people jumped off cliffs. She’s accused of witchcraft, which puts a crimp in her social schedule, and she barely escapes with her life.

    This is the basic structure for the plot Booker calls “Voyage and Return” (WIZARD OF OZ is a classic example, THE GREAT GATSBY is my lit geek example). You’ll note that the WIZARD OF OZ doesn’t end with Dorothy deciding that the cute in a bland way lawyer she met in Oz is worth her going back.

    I know Vicki had to be written out of the show, but I think the writers believed this was a happy ending for her. The problem is that Jeff Clark has never not been annoying and her decision to marry him is not even based in anything close to adult logic (he’s unstable at times — either emotionally or professionally).

    1. The character of Vicki was totally wrecked by cast changes beyond the control of the show. Mitch Ryan having to be written out and then the recast just didn’t work took away one of the big pillars of Vicki’s story. I personally would not willingly return to a time period without central plumbing, let alone the constrained women’s rights. However, if Burke was a reincarnation of Jeremiah and Vicki went back to be with him, there would have been a continuity with the history of the show. At least she would have been going with the guy that had been her love interest for 2 years as opposed to a couple of months. Or better yet, Burke tormented by memories of being Jeremiah decides they both need to get the hell out of Collinsport and they leave for happily ever after.

      The final nail was Alexandra Moltke having to leave and having to leave with very little time to switch over. Whatever good will was left for Vicki was because people knew her and knew her the way Moltke played her. I think Danny mentioned that Betsy Durkin was only in 10 episodes, they could have written Moltke out in 10 episodes, possibly with a better story although they did seem to think that having a man, even one as dopey as Peter/Jeff was better than Vicki deciding she had had so much tragedy at Collinwood that she needed to leave and put it behind her. Then we could have gotten a scene as she leaves where Liz says “BTW, you were the child of (insert parental units here) I just wanted to give you closure. Don’t forget to write.”

      1. I couldn’t agree with you more about how the Vicki exit should have taken place – she and Burke/Jeremiah should have somehow wound up together, period. Also I’m not a rocket scientist or a casting director on a now hugely popular daytime soap opera, but if I were trying to replace a main character on a show I would maybe have had the hair stylist put Betsy Durkin’s hair in a style similar to the ones Alexandra Motke wore – even if she needed a ‘fall’ (know that term because of my mother’s vast wig collection from the 60’s and 70’s) to make her hair appear long. I mean they went to all the trouble of coloring her hair to match Alexandra’s, they should have matched the style as well.

        1. Yes to your comments about the hair. And if they weren’t going to try to match it to the previous Vicky, why make it so awful? Both sides of her hair come so far forward that when she turns profile, her face is invisible.

      2. The problem is, as most accounts go, Moltke had to leave suddenly because of complications with her pregnancy. There would not have been any time to film ten episodes to write her character out of the show at that point.

    2. Not regarding the Jeff situation, but regarding the Oz books: Dorothy does return to Oz more than once and eventually moves there (not for a guy, as far as I know).

      1. Yeah, because Oz is awesome. There’s talking scarecrows and magic and flying monkeys and junk. Jeff Clarke? Not so much.

  2. I love the fact that Professor Stokes has to explain to Vicki that he’s not a wizard. (Granted, on this show that’s less implausible, but still…)

    1. Despite the seasonal wizard-wear in his closet, and the occasional road trips to Bangor, to shop at We B. Wyzrds and WizMart.

  3. But Vicki needs Jeff Peter Bradford Clark and all the Devlins that go with it. Because it helps her to forget who she is. Or at least to forget to remember to try to find out who she is. When was the last time she tried to determine the identity of her mother for instance, only to be thwarted by the Richard Garners of the world? It’s good therapy to avoid her own past, or lack of one, by becoming hopelessly obsessed with someone else’s past, or her lack of a place in it.

    Vicki couldn’t vote in 1968 either, since she was not yet 21. And she wasn’t going to be a property owner as well, having the year before been planning to live in the house Burke Devlin was going to buy–but owing to a special provision in the will of Caleb Collins, had Burke lived they would have had to have stayed on at Collinwood for another 5 years anyway. So it seems that these modern provisions meant little, if anything, to her, and with her character modeled on that of a nineteenth century gothic romance novel, she hardly qualifies as the prototype of a contemporary modern woman.

    Carolyn, on the other hand, falling for werewolves and marrying soulless hippy shapeshifters, now that’s a more adventurous, happening type of character whose come a long way indeed since that filigreed fountain pen.

  4. This ep marks where Betsy blows up her character and feeds it to the sharks below Widows Hill.

    I liked her acting choices until she lost Peter.

    She took it over the top.

    It just became annoying.

    I threw a shoe at my TV.

    But she keeps GOING.

    Her lines are awful to start with, but she’s just punting, and every scene is a blown one.

    From here on out.

    This is where the audience turned on her.

    For good reason.

    Vicki was dumb before this, but at least she was watchable.

    1. Oh, I can’t agree with that. This is the point where the most un-supernatural character in a show full of weirdos and monsters and weirdo monsters finally breaks, and I find Durkin’s portrayal of a normal person flying far past the bounds of rationality quite compelling.

      Granted, it looks odd in a show where people just sort of shrug off being almost strangled by a patchwork man or put murderous ex-vampires in their place by arching an eyebrow, but Vicki seems to be acting like a real person, finally, and just going completely mental.

      I mean, there’s her and Stokes and Liz up in her room, and she’s babbling about Jeff being there and starts talking to him like a total loon, and Liz just calmly turns to Stokes and says “Professor, you have certain psychics powers – do you feel anyone here?” That’s the crazy, unrealistic reaction, if you ask me.

  5. Just a couple of minor details: Vicky actually found Jeff’s watch in the hallway, not her room. And regarding this blooper–“When Liz and Vicki enter Vicki’s room, there’s a crash from offstage.”–I think that’s actually the door banging into the wall and picture on that wall.

  6. Well, at least, in ep 637, Jeff did actually vow to love, honor and OBEY Vicki. That would be interesting, if Vicki had Jeff/Peter obeying her back in the 1795-96 time frame. But don’t we go back to 1795 somehow, with modern-day Barnabus, where Vicki (played by a different actress) somehow escapes being hanged and goes off with Jeff to settle somewhere out west? When is that sequence sandwiched in?

  7. “I apologize that these Behind the Scenes notes are even more boring than usual today.”

    I tell you in all sincerity, this is the stuff I live for. If only you could find a way to present the information on a formula-filled spreadsheet, I would never visit another website as long as I live.

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