“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