“I’ll close my eyes — and when I open them, you’ll be here, and the watch will tick!”
And then, six hundred and forty-nine episodes later, she was gone.
This is girl governess Victoria Winters’ last day at Collinwood, so it’s a good time to go over her original briefing instructions, and see how well she scored.
My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is beginning — a journey that I hope will open the doors of life to me, and link my past with my future. A journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place — to the edge of the sea, high atop Widow’s Hill. A house called Collinwood — a world I’ve never known, with people I’ve never met — people who tonight are still only shadows in my mind, but who will soon fill the days and nights of my tomorrows.
Well, she was spot-on with opening the doors, at least. Like every other Dark Shadows character, she spent the last two and a half years basically just killing time between opening and closing doors. So that’s a slam dunk.
What else? Widow’s Hill, Collinwood, people she’s never met — check, check. Yeah, I’d say she’s done pretty much everything on the list.
There’s just one more item that she has to check off — linking her past with her future. Well, she’s got one more episode; let’s see if she manages it.
Victoria Winters grew up in an orphanage, and always dreamed of being reunited with her mother and father, to have a place where she really belongs. That never really panned out, but she did what mature people do after a disappointing childhood — she grew up and got married, and started her own damn family.
Two weeks ago, Vicki married Jeff, and she finally had a place where she really belonged. Their happy ending lasted for thirteen and a half minutes, give or take a commercial break, before Jeff remembered that he’s actually Peter, her lawyer from 1795, and then disappeared in a cloud of Chromakey, dragged back through the centuries by some mysterious and unexplained force.
He left his busted wristwatch behind, and she’s spent the last couple weeks hoping he’ll come back for it. The watch starts ticking every once in a while, and she’s decided that when it’s ticking, that means his ghost is in the room, which is as good a guess as any.
For commentary, let’s go to the people currently filling the days and nights of her tomorrows.
First, Roger says, “Vicki, do you think you’re being entirely rational?” and then Liz throws in, “Vicki, sometimes one has to be realistic, no matter how painful it may be.” So that’s zero for two on the helpful advice.
I mean, under any other circumstances — literally, any other circumstances — then obviously they would be right. They may be rushing the schedule a bit, but yes, Vicki will go through a painful grieving process, and she’ll come to accept her loss, and she’ll find a way to carry on.
But, I mean — her husband disappeared before her eyes and was pulled back to the 18th century on their wedding night. Who knows how you’re supposed to react to something like that? It’s never come up before.
So here’s how our heroine is spending her time, just sitting around doing monologues with the wristwatch.
“Please, Jeff,” she says, “the watch must tick! I must know that you’re close to me! Oh, please, let me know that you’re here! Give me a sign!”
He doesn’t. Maybe it’s just a regular watch after all, not an astral plane communicator or whatever she thinks it’s supposed to be.
Now, everybody who reads this blog knows that I don’t like Vicki as a character. I have written extensively on the subject. In general, I think she’s had a bad case of protagonist poisoning, meaning that she can act judgemental, and make stupid decisions, and deliberately try to wreck causality, because she’s the main character and therefore everything that she does is okay.
The most advanced case of protagonist poisoning that I’ve ever seen is Bella Swan, from some vampire story called The Twilight Saga. Bella is pouty, rude, dull, self-absorbed, helpless and bad at planning, but every single person that she runs across acts like she’s special and perfect and super important. She is in fact The Worst Character in Fiction, which is why her book series is universally ignored. Oh, Harry Potter too, by the way. Same deal. That’s how Vicki acts.
But here, on her last day, Victoria Winters is one hundred percent correct. Her husband vanished on their wedding night before her eyes, dragged back to another century. It’s not possible to be rational and realistic about this situation. And now, every crazy thing that she’s saying — his spirit is nearby, the watch is a sign, he’ll come back for me — all of that is true. For the first time that I can recall, Vicki is the voice of reason.
So here comes the actual main character of Dark Shadows, the guy who snatched control of the show out of her hands and refuses to give it back. It’s nice to have him here on her last day, to see her off.
Vicki tells Barnabas that she’s got a plan, and it’s a good one.
Vicki: I’m going to leave Collinwood.
Barnabas: But why?
Vicki: I fell in love. I married the man I loved. And then I lost him — forever. If I stay here, the memories would be unbearable. Surely you can understand that.
Barnabas: Yes, I suppose I can.
Vicki: So — I have to go away. Where, I don’t know, but… I have to go.
So Barnabas unleashes his own master plan.
Barnabas: You know how much I care for you.
Barnabas: Then let me take you away. Let me take care of you.
Barnabas: Oh, I know it’s too early to ask, but — Vicki, I want you to be my wife.
Then he says, “Please don’t speak; let me do the talking,” which is probably the dumbest idea he’s had this year. Barnabas should never be trusted to do the talking, not in a situation like this.
So he goes on about “you have some feeling for me,” and “maybe in time,” etcetera, I can’t even paraphrase it right now, because it’s awful. The woman just lost her husband and a perfectly good wristwatch two weeks ago. Barnabas, dude, please — this is not the time for a sales pitch.
She tries to walk him through some remedial education about human emotions and interactions, but it’s an uphill battle.
Vicki: I only wish I didn’t have to say no.
Barnabas: Must you?
Barnabas: Why — because you could never learn to love me?
Vicki: No… in many ways, I feel something like love for you. If I hadn’t met Jeff —
Barnabas: But Jeff Clark is gone, Vicki.
And oh my god seriously you have to stop with the sales pitch. This scene actually makes me feel uncomfortable. Are we, like, a hundred percent committed to keeping this guy as our main character?
After she says “no” four times and “never” once, it finally sinks in that she’s not buying, so he walks across the room and makes the frowniest face that he possibly can. This is something I always admire about Jonathan Frid as an actor, that he’s able to make his mouth actually do the upside down cartoon frown.
I mean, it wouldn’t make me want to marry the guy. But it’s a skill. You have to respect it.
Anyway, it’s nice to have this scene, just to emphasize the disappointing puddle that this purported romance has always been. For Barnabas, this has never, ever been about Vicki — her feelings, her problems, her story. It’s just been an opportunity for Barnabas to show off his bottomless capacity for self-love. So that’s all settled now.
When Barnabas finally clears the room, Vicki breaks down and sobs. And then — look who’s magically returned in a beam of light! It’s amazing. I will never doubt a wristwatch again. I’ve heard a lot about smart watches lately, but I didn’t realize I was supposed to take that literally.
So, yeah, Peter’s back — or Jeff, or whoever he’s supposed to be — and he puts his hands on her head like always, and rubs his lips on her and everything, and it turns out there’s a happy ending after all.
She’s going to cling to PJ here, and click her heels together three times, and then they’re going to disappear into the sunset, reunited.
Now, I know that some fans are critical about this as the conclusion to Vicki’s story. She’s choosing to travel back to the late 18th century, which hasn’t been the best environment for her. She and PJ have both been sentenced to hang — actually, they’ve already been hanged, so it’s a bit unclear exactly what the plan is once they get there.
Besides, women didn’t have a lot of rights back then, even if she could avoid getting accused of witchcraft for five seconds. This is a modern 1968 woman, stepping backwards into the past so that she can be with her man. It’s not a very right-on women’s liberation story.
But I’m going to keep contradicting my traditional anti-Vicki stance. This is the right choice for her. It’s actually the only workable ending for this character.
Vicki is a romantic. She has big dreams and big fears, and she wears her feelings on the outside of her body. She comes to Collinwood because she thinks she’ll somehow learn the secrets of her past here. If she was a real person, we’d say that’s unrealistic at best, stalker-level crazy at worst.
I mean, imagine hiring a woman on a recommendation from a friend — and when she arrives, she tells you that she took the job because she suspects that you are secretly her mother. It’s an utterly bizarre thing to do.
So Vicki is never going to have a normal life. She’s not a normal person.
Her life is a story of perpetual, senseless loss. She comes to Collinsport hoping to find her family, and she doesn’t. She’s engaged to Burke, and then he suddenly dies off-screen.
She falls in love with Peter, and then gets hanged as a witch. Then she finds Jeff, and he insists that he’s not Peter. And when he finally understands, and they’re united, he’s suddenly taken away from her again.
And there’s never a good reason for any of this. Every single time, it’s an arbitrary and undeserved denial. People are simply removed from her life, with no warning, and for no reason.
Every. Single. Time.
Vicki has never experienced love for more than a few days, before “They” snatch it away from her. So how can you blame her for holding on to the one person she still has a chance to build a life with?
I mean, if my husband was suddenly taken from me, and the only way I could be with him was to follow him, then I would follow. We made a vow. Sickness and health, richer or poorer. They don’t specify “no matter what century he lives in,” but I think it’s implied. That’s how marriage works. It’s how love works.
And if she stayed in the present day, how could she ever leave Collinwood? When it came down to it, I don’t think that she could ever walk out on David, Liz, Carolyn and Roger. They’re the closest thing she’s ever had to a family, whether she turned out to be Liz’s daughter or not. (By the way, she’s not. I checked. Liz’s secret daughter was at a different orphanage. Total misunderstanding.)
I mean, with Burke, she was actually marrying a multi-millionaire with no family ties. They could have traveled around the world together, and lived anywhere she liked. Instead, she arranged it so that they would still live at Collinwood.
Burke Devlin — her wealthy and generous husband, who would give her the world if he could only persuade her to take it — was planning to live in an apartment in the shabby abandoned wing of her step-family’s mansion.
If this was anything like a normal situation — Vicki gets married, and moves out of town — it would be entirely out of character. Victoria Winters, whoever she is, is not capable of leaving people behind.
So this is the only way it can happen — a sudden, impulsive leap, cutting her off from the world she knew.
Finally, Victoria Winters has linked her past with her future. Mission accomplished.
Monday: Barnabas Goes to the Circus.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
At the beginning of act 2, while Vicki is talking to the light, there’s a very clear sound of someone flipping pages in the script. This lasts for more than five seconds, then pauses, and starts up again.
Barnabas tells Vicki, “You know much — how much I care for you.”
In act 3, Vicki says, “They’ll try to stop me! What shall I do, Peter?” He says, “Take my hand.” She looks down, sees that she’s already clutching both of his hands, and says, “All right.”
Tomorrows my of nights and days the fill soon will who but, mind my in shadows only still are tonight who people — met never I’ve people with, known never I’ve world a — Collinwood called house a. Hill Widow’s atop high, sea the of edge the to — place dark and strange a to me bring will that journey a. Future my with past my link and, me to life of doors the open will hope I that journey a — beginning is journey my. Winters Victoria is name my.
Okay, that’s over with. So now what?
Monday: Barnabas Goes to the Circus.
— Danny Horn
27 thoughts on “Episode 650: Happily Ever Before”
The only thing the story of Victoria Winters ever brought to Dark Shadows was looming cancellation.
A vampire is always more interesting than a governess, the possibilities for story ideas are endless. Not even a movie star like Joan Bennett could top the popularity of a previously unknown stage actor like Frid in this vehicle. Even despite the huge popularity of David Selby, Dark Shadows will remain in the public consciousness a vampire soap opera, and therefore it is about the life (and death) and times (past, parallel, and future) of Barnabas Collins.
I like it that Barnabas is self-absorbed and says often inappropriate things. Make him normal, and you no longer have a show. As proof of this, take the last few months of Dark Shadows. As soon as Frid trades in his fangs for the Heathcliff type character of Bramwell, and therefore the driving force of his charisma, then it’s no longer Dark Shadows, it’s just a vaguely spooky show plodding along unevenly without a core character to center the plot and give the overall themes and characters a sense of meaning.
Alternative ending for Victoria: Jeff never comes back, so she takes the night train back to New York City. Elizabeth, Carolyn and David all take her to the train station to say good-bye.
She rides away, thinking “My name is Victoria Winters. My journey continues, a journey that will take me to a strange city that never sleeps. If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!”
Unbeknownst to Victoria, a few rows behind her on the train, sits a dark-haired, mysterious man, also headed for New York City.
Don’t forget Bella Swan goes on a similar journey to an unknown destination via jet instead of train. And she has the same dark luxurious hair as Vicki – maybe she’s Vicki’s great great…grandaughter. Barnabas makes ME uncomfortable in his last ditch marriage proposal – if he hadn’t mellowed out Vicki would have been the next ‘guest’ in his basement holding cell attending pre-Josette boot camp. Vicki and Burke 4EVER…
I really agree about both Bella Swan and Harry Potter. Harry Potter especially just makes me want to hit him. How many times would things have worked out for the better if he had just gone to Dumbledore told him what he knew or even asked a few straight forward questions.
I see what you mean about it being the only possible ending for Vicki and I don’t think she really used most of the benefits of being a 20th century woman – with the exception of modern plumbing which NOT something left behind easily once you’ve experienced the alternative. But the whole thing would have played better if Peter/Jeff had been the embodiment of Burke – even a recast Burke. Or if at least Peter/Jeff had been played by someone other than the destroyer of the heretofore BRILLIANT Alias Smith and Jones.
My only guess about what they did in the past was that they didn’t stay in Collinwood. Why should they? Everyone they knew was gone and it isn’t like it was hard to change your name or identity back then – no centralized records to easily check. As an instance in the 1840s the man who is credited as the founder of a nearby small city – and is honored with a street name therein – was actually operating under a alias and the street is named for the alias. This wasn’t discovered until much later.
Re: Harry Potter: I actually lay the blame for most of that on Dumbledore.
This was as good of an ending as they could possibly have given her, given the change in the show’s direction. I just wish it had been Alexandra Moltke fading back with Peterjeff, for a sense of closure. Even still it’s one of my favourite scenes, and truly spooky and unique when compared with the likes of other write-offs…not just on DS but on every other soap as well.
Another blooper: When Barnabas tries to force Vicky’s bedroom door open at the end of the episode, the whole set shakes when he rams his shoulder onto the door. You can also see shadows at the top of the set moving.
I’m watching the entire show again for the 8th? 9th? time and reading the blog entries again as I go along. Regarding the question of why a 20th century woman would want to live in the 18th, that’s the premise of the Outlander series of novels (and now tv shows). The author of the novels, Diana Gabadon, was born in 1952 which meant that she was 16 when the show originally aired, and I wonder if memories of watching DS influenced her writing.
i’m doing the same thing, Emily, nine months behind you, a few days ahead of the blog (to retain the shadow of surprise.)
I didn’t think I’d ever wish to see Alexandre Moultke (AM) as Vicki again, but Miss Betsy Durkin has finally made me wish so. The intensity and volume of her voice is nearly always the same; high-pitched and shrill to the nth degree. She is like a bull in a china shop in her scenes. I can only hope the 3rd Vicki will be somewhat more bearable.
From what I had read somewhere, Vicki was supposed to have continued as a character post Moltke leaving, but due to the lack of positive response to Durkin.. the character was written off. Judging by the last two or three times Vicki was on, she was becoming close to Amy and re-establishing her bond with David.. so I truly think she was gonna be in the Turning of the shrew esque story. Oh well.
I see the possibility that Vicki in the “Turn of the Screw” scenario would have been homage not only to governesses and ghosts in literature but also to Dan Curtis’s original vision. (While it is disputed whether he had ever heard of “Jane Eyre” before he created the idea of a soap about a governess, he had certainly seen “The Innocents” on stage as well as the movie version.) But I do not mourn the loss of this homage. I do not trust that it would have been particularly good.
As to the disappearance of Betsy Durkin: I was one of those teens back in 1968 who completely rejected her as the new Victoria Winters, but I now think she was not so bad. I repeat: I disliked Betsy Durkin not because she did a worse job than Moltke as I believed at the time, but rather because she was not Alexandra Moltke, an unpardonable sin that Miss Durkin could do nothing about.
I actually think that Betsy Durkin’s fever-pitch performance is actually perfectly appropriate, for a depiction of a Victoria Winters whose cheese has finally irrevocably slipped off her cracker.
Plus, when she’s playing her scenes with Jeff, she’s committing to them physically in a way that Alexandra never did — you actually gets a sense that she wants to kiss him, cling to him, rather than it’s just the script demanding it.
Strangely, I think a departure like this would have felt more like a damp squib without the recasting!
Another episode that makes me question the sanity of the pro-Moltke crowd. Durkin’s great in this – she gets to be hysterical, hollow, quietly sad, emotionally broken, determined, afraid, and surprisingly gentle when letting Barnabas down. She displays far more emotional range than Moltke ever did (like, more than just sort of ethereally mopey), and people are still complaining about her. What’s the girl gotta do?
There’s a fun bit at the top of Barnabas’s first scene – the camera hits him a few moments earlier than he was expecting, so there’s a slight pause before he greets Liz. Basically, he’s barged into the drawing room, got all up in Liz’s face, and just stared at her silently for a bit before saying hi.
Moltke was a dull, wet, sagging blanket in terms of acting. She couldn’t emote or read a line. Her idea of showing emotion was to just keep shaking her head back and forth like a Bobblehead. It was so freakin’ annoying. Durkin, on the other hand, was fantastic. I just don’t understand the hate so many fans have for her. Her performance in this episode is wonderful–it’s the first time I ever cared about Vicki.
Now at last we’re coming to the episodes when I first started watching this on the Sci-fi Channel, with Maggie as governess. All I knew about Vicki at the time was from the 90’s reboot, until I reached the end of this strange soap only to loop back around to the Phoenix storyline & thence to eventually close the gap much later on, coming full circle with this episode (more or less). My head canon when I finally reached this point, having at length digested Vicki’s entire story arc, was that Peter in his desperation to fulfill his promise of finding VIcki again had turned to witchcraft. That’s how he ended up in the company of the likes of Danielle Roget, and how he was able to not only travel to the present, but also bring Vicki back to the past with him. I can’t recall if something happens later that contradicts this theory, but for now it’s making me want to write a fic.
At the beginning Vicki’s getting pretty lousy reception on WJEF but it’s 1968 so he’s still probably broadcasting on AM. Try pointing the antenna toward the window Vicki!
Concerning the marriage proposal, Barnabas’s approach was all wrong. If he’d said something like “Let’s get married but we’ll have separate bedrooms and you’ll never have to see me naked” she probably would have gone for it.
Lol your version of Barnabas’ approach is much more humorous…and believable!
It was nice that they let JP and Vicki fade off I to the 18th century sunset. Barnabas bringing up marriage to her was weird and i wish she would’ve called him out on it.
I agree about Harry Potter and Bella Swan. Great comparison!
Au revoir, Vicki!
I could not believe Barnabas had the nerve to ask Vicky to marry him five minutes after she lost her husband. And after he was sent up there to console her! That was a new low, even for him.
Yup, I just watched it, Barney went full on creep mode. Vicki should have slapped the centuries off his face!
“Her life is a story of perpetual, senseless loss.”
Well, that is just…sad.
Spoiler: Her story is worse than Jane Eyre’s. Her “happy ending” is cut short.
No wonder people consider her bland or lacking in emotion. Her reserve is probably a defense against all the pain and loss in her life. She’s learned not to get too excited because fate seems to dash her hopes for no reason. It’s a wonder she’s able to function at all.
She’s not the plucky heroine. She’s the doomed heroine.
Also, if Elizabeth IS her mother, she is extraordinarily cruel not to tell her now. It might have given Vicki some comfort.
By the way, Snape is my favorite Harry Potter character. I wonder why?
Vickie was a stooge. So glad she’s gone. Also about Bella Swan-THANK YOU! I thought I was the only one who found her sullen, rude and unworthy of all the fuss made over her. My daughter loves her and I cannot for the life of me figure out why!
I can actually appreciate what Barnabas is trying to do here. Despite what Danny says, I don’t think Jonathan Frid is playing it as being all about him… compared to the old Barnabas putting the bite on Vicki to get her to run away with him, he’s finally reached the point of offering such a life to her, one which would at least be better than cutting all her ties with everyone she’s ever loved.
He’s hamstrung of course not just by being a centuries-old sociopath with no concept of how to negotiate a relationship, but also by having woken up during the last gasp of pre-Sixties morality. If the show had been written even five years later, Barnabas could have just proposed that they run away together, travel the world, without having to propose marriage or even raise the possibility of sex — offering her an escape with someone who cares about her, and maybe she’d learn to love him in time. But in 1968 the whole idea of living with someone of the opposite sex even platonically was so outrageous that he would have to propose marriage to even live in the same house with her — see also Julia’s permanent residence in the spare bedroom at Collinwood…
Vicky would most certainly have fallen in love with Barnabas. He can be extremely charming, loving, patient, and kind. He was all those things before Angelique destroyed his life.
I love the Barnabas shimmy as he’s trying to break down Vicky’s door. Pretty good moves for a 175 year old…