Episode 686: The Case of the Lifted Ledger

“Curious, so many hearts should stop in this house.”

Okay, new game: Why is it difficult to host a murder mystery dinner party when the main suspect is actually a ghost?

Well, ghosts can walk through walls, for one thing, so you can’t really do a locked room mystery. They don’t have fingerprints, or leave any physical evidence, really, except maybe the faint smell of jasmine or whatever. The victims all die of heart failure, including the one who fell all the way down the stairs and smacked her head on the hardwood. Also, there’s not much you can do with a ghost once you’ve caught him, and now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure they don’t even exist.

In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to attempt a murder mystery story about ghosts. And yet, here we are.

686 dark shadows barnabas julia crime scene

The victim was a white man in his late 80s, who made a pentagram in the late 1890s. Name: Ezra Braithwaite. Occupation: Silversmith, with a sideline in comic relief.

Ezra came over to Collinwood several hours ago, with an old ledger that he wanted to show to Barnabas. David showed Ezra into the drawing room and closed the doors, and the next thing anybody knew about it, the ledger was gone and Ezra was dead.

Now the Junior Detectives are spending a quiet evening at home, talking things over. The autopsy showed that Ezra died of heart failure, which proves that it must have been murder. Who ever heard of somebody dying of heart failure on a television show?

686 dark shadows barnabas julia murder

Now, in a situation like this, somebody has to be Watson, serving up the straight lines so that Sherlock can announce his deductions. Julia got the short straw today, so she says things like, “Who else was in the house?” and “There must be someone you suspect.” Meanwhile, Sherlock wrinkles his brow and sleuthsplains things.

“Julia,” Sherlock says, crossing the room because the light is better over there, “the figure of the woman that we saw — the one who led us over to Chris’ house, and who took Chris to the woods, where the pentagram was buried — that figure was directly responsible for Ezra Braithwaite being in this house.”

Watson objects, “Barnabas, she wouldn’t have killed him, after doing all that. That doesn’t make any sense.” She’s right, it doesn’t, but that’s the way you do murder mysteries on soaps, just tossing clues at each other and waiting for the killer to make a mistake.

686 dark shadows julia barnabas deduction

Naturally, Sherlock has a theory, and it’s absolutely correct, because Sherlocks as a species receive telepathic messages straight from the writers’ room. You can always count on a Sherlock for productive deductions.

“Now, wait,” he says, “think of the man that Mrs. Johnson saw. Suppose this man and the woman we saw are in conflict. She wants us to know her secret, he doesn’t.”

Watson’s on the verge of despair, but the great detective has a plan: “The spirits have a helper — an unwilling one, perhaps — but they do have a helper. We must make him help us too!” This psychic leap in logic comes at us pretty much out of nowhere, but he’s so sure of himself that you have to go along with it. It’s all about being emphatic in the Sherlock racket.

686 dark shadows liz barnabas julia tea

Barnabas has to be assertive about this, because if he lets anybody stop and think about it for more than a second, they’ll realize that he’s the prime suspect. He was the one who invited Ezra over to the house in the first place, and he’s the only one who’s shown the slightest interest in the missing ledger. Also, this isn’t his house, so I can’t imagine what the others think about why he’s hanging around in the drawing room all night, contaminating the crime scene.

So Sherlock and Watson team up to distract and befuddle. They have tea with Elizabeth — why they’re doing this when a previous shot established that it’s later than 11pm I couldn’t say — and they make suspicious requests.

“I haven’t felt the same way about this room since the seance,” Liz says, “when I heard that woman’s voice, warning us. Ever since then, there’s been nothing but trouble.”

Barnabas agrees, “Julia and I were talking about that tonight,” and then he pretends to change the subject. “Elizabeth, tell me,” he chirps, passing her a careless cup of tea, “where do you keep your family records?”

Julia chimes in, “What we’re really interested in are photograph albums.”

“Well,” Barnabas adds, “family receipts and accounts too.” He tosses an innocent look at Elizabeth. “You keep them still, surely?”

“Well, yes,” Liz says, trying to keep up.

Julia asks, “Would you mind if we saw them?” and then they just give her a pair of innocent looks.

686 dark shadows liz barnabas julia suspect

Head spinning, Liz tries to track where this is going. When you live at Collinwood, you expect a conversational hairpin turn once in a while, but there is a limit.

“Tonight?” she says. “What an odd thing to do. I suppose you have some reason for it.”

Barnabas says, “Well, can we explain the reason afterwards?”

“I’d like to know what’s happening in my own house,” Liz replies, and the others just stare at her.

686 dark shadows liz brow

Liz tries a different tactic. “Barnabas, you make me think that something is terribly wrong. Please don’t try to protect me.”

Faced with a direct request for information, there’s only one thing for Barnabas to do, namely: unleash the Fridspeak.

“I’m sorry, Elizabeth,” he says, “but sometimes, we always can’t understand the story until the end of it comes.”

Liz blinks, and asks the only possible question. “And I must accept that as an answer?”

Barnabas smiles, and says, “Of course.”

“We wish you would,” Julia says, and gives her a reassuring smile.

686 dark shadows julia tea

So if you’ll recall, when Julia first arrived at Collinwood under false pretenses which she refuses to discuss, she told everyone that she was a historian who’s writing a book about the Collins family history. She spent months looking through old photograph albums, and she examined all of the old receipts and accounts, whatever those are.

And tonight, immediately following the removal of an octogenarian who expired in a chair no more than six feet away, she’s conducting midnight tea parties and asking for reference material.

But that’s how life is, when you invite the Junior Detectives into your home to conduct endless secret investigations. At a certain point, you just hand over the documents, and wait for the next fatality.

Tomorrow: You Remind Me of a Man.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas tells Julia, “Braithwaite knew who he had sold that book to — that — that pentagram, so many years ago.”

When Barnabas walks into the drawing room and stops next to the piano, you can see the top of the set.

At the beginning of act 2, the camera bumps around as it tries to focus on Barnabas and Julia.

There’s an abrupt edit in act 2, as the scene shifts from David’s room to the drawing room. When the second scene starts, Liz and Barnabas are standing still at the door, obviously waiting for their cue to begin the scene.

There’s banging from the studio when Barnabas and Julia conspire in the drawing room.

During the argument between Barnabas and Roger, Barnabas says, “David — Roger, I can’t explain.”

Where is the storage room that Liz brings Julia to? Liz says, “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay down here with you?” which implies that they’re lower than the ground floor. But there’s a window, which blows open. So where are they?

Why would the Collins family have a photograph of a servant in a photo album?

At the end of the episode, they don’t blow out the candle on the first try, and the room gets darker before the candle is blown out.

Tomorrow: You Remind Me of a Man.

686 dark shadows beth david visit

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

42 thoughts on “Episode 686: The Case of the Lifted Ledger

  1. Yesterday’s episode had a lot of references to the year 1897, I think this is the point where they’ve decided to do another flashback, and now they are laying the real groundwork. But I guess they haven’t decided that Beth is a domestic and not the governess, yet.

    1. It seems to me the first indication that they show is intentionally heading to the 1897 storyline is when Chris and Barnabas discover the child’s coffin with the pentagram (about a week before this), which Barnabas discovers was made in the 1890s. Here the werewolf and ghost stories are obviously merging.

  2. As Barnabas pours Mrs. Stoddard a cup of tea his eyes begin to dart around and his voice registers mild panic: “Liz, if you will be–not sit here accepting this, then I… well, whatever you mention to Roger, just, tell him to keep it down. Now, your tea. How do you takage?”

  3. I think Beth is still intended to have been a governess (a la TURN OF THE SCREW) at this point. Even in 1897, she is a personal maid like Angelique, which I think is a bit higher in rank than someone who cleans the floors. However, a relationship between her and Quentin would have still been scandalous, sort of like Barnabas and Angelique.

    1. Huh, I never thought about Quentin and Beth in the context of being the 1897 equivalent of Barnabas and Angelique. Yet another happy accidental parallel on this show.

  4. More scandalous would be if Quentin, in all his philandering, left any female of age in the house, unattended to.

    In 1897.

    Even Angelique.

  5. What’s up with the ‘Best of DS Every Day’ at the top of the website? Is it new and how was it determined what was ‘best’? Was Danny’s analysis of episode 643 the best of the best?

    1. Yeah, they’re the ones that I like best at the moment, or that I think makes an important point about how I see the show. I’ve actually been doing that the whole time, using the “satan’s favorite tv show” tag, but that’s entirely obscure and I don’t know if people even notice the tags.

      It’s basically whimsical, except for 536, which is objectively the best post so far.

      They’re listed in reverse chronological order, so 643 is the most recent one.

  6. Really lazy writing on this one – the whole REASON for Julia to freeload there is to research the family ARCHIVES – when she asks Liz so ‘innocently’ about family photos I have to groan in annoyance – I guess Julia and Barnabas are annoying me in general today with their cavalier attitude with assuming Collinwood is theirs for the taking – come on would anyone allow themselves to be treated by these two the way Liz is treated in her own home?

    1. Yes, there is the perfect cover for investigating the haunting of Collinwood, but perhaps they don’t want to dwell on Julia’s “historian” cover story. It’s best to just move forward as though Julia has always lived there and always will.

      Julia’s presence at Collinwood is one of those convoluted issues that were hard to explain well in HODS or the 1991 series or any of the other remakes of the series. It’s vital that Julia has an intimate relationship with the Collins so the question is whether it just makes sense to have her be a Collins. Or even better, if you want to maintain the unrequited love with Barnabas element, make her the sister of Roger’s first wife or Elizabeth’s first husband.

      1. But then she’d lose the rock star attitude of “Yeah, I live here now, in this enormous mansion owned by other people.” Julia only makes sense in the context of 1967, and hardly even then.

        There are 1,245 steps to complete the ritual. One of the steps is missing. The ritual has only been completed once.

  7. A live-in doctor is a status symbol, and sometimes people are so rich,
    they don’t even know who is living in their house,
    let alone who they are going to find in flagrante on the credenza.

    1. Collinwood to me is a hotel, for anybody to show up and stay. The door is never locked and people who come, are free to lodge there for free. Seems like all business is conducted in the night time.

  8. By the way — sorry that this week’s posts have been super delayed. It’s been a weird week. Everything’s okay, and I’ll catch up. 🙂

  9. Perhaps Beth is photo-bombing? Or is it daugerro-bombing. Tintype-bombing. Heck, if Vicki can butt in on that otherwise charming pic of Carolyn & Barnabas – oh, wait. Vicki ruins everything.

    1. @12:25 into this episode…

      David: (speaking to his father). I knew that you and Aunt Elizabeth would just sit in the car and talk about Vicky and things, and I’d just be so bored.

      …. Ahh, thank you for saying that. Vicky is so boring. We love you, David.

      Btw: in the scenes filmed in David’s room this episode, countless seconds were spent with the camera almost focussing on the cardboard figurine of the purple & orange dog thingie holding the mysterious counterculture sign.

      If only our dear Julia had thought to turn around at one point. I can just picture her randomly picking up the little figurine while drawing our attention to her hands and her funny expressions as she did when we first met her (playing with the net of the aquarium in her office at Windcliff).

      Julia, David, Barnabas, Roger, Amy, Carolyn, Mrs. Johnson, Harry, Maggie, Hailey (or Carrie) or any of the many others who have visited in David’s room: please just tell us…. what is on that dog’s signnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!?!?!

    1. IKR? Best comment on this poor woman, who’s the same age as–well, just not that old, but who’s forced to plod about hunch-shouldered with open hands dangling limply from twin raised wrists, so she appears bent and broken by years of servitude. Yeah, that hysteric.

  10. Collinsport does the fastest autopsies in the world. It seems unlikely that an autopsy would be performed so quickly on Ezra Braithwaite. It’s nighttime, and he arrived at Collinwood just that evening. Even if we accept that the autopsy was performed so quickly and after working hours, it must have been an incredibly quick one since Elizabeth and Roger hadn’t even returned from the airport yet.

    1. Oh, she wasn’t BURIED, just put in a coffin in a crypt.

      Actually, you’d think there’d be scientists crawling all over the place by now; a month without any food or water, no heartbeat, no respiration, and no decomposition? She should be the most astounding medical phenomenon of all time! But at Collinwood, meh. Just another night…

  11. It’s not entirely unheard of for a basement to have windows – I used to work in our town’s County Hall, it had kind of a trench dug into the ground, like a waterless moat, which formed a narrow alleyway around part of the foundations (so narrow you could only squeeze though sideways). There were windows in the basement, but they just gave a rather boring view of this alley. Apparently it was kind of a fashionable architectural feature at one time; possibly designed by an architect to be reckoned with. Maybe it was originally staff access or something. But that’s in Somerset, England, so it doesn’t really have any relevance to this show at all, now I come to think of it.

    I like the complete sea change in Roger’s attitude to David, insisting that Barnabas treats him gently and getting upset that anyone would accuse the poor boy of dishonesty. “Sure, there was that one time he tried to kill me… we can laugh about it now…”

    1. Windows in the basement like you describe are also used so people can call them an egress window and then put a bedroom in the basement that meets code regulations. You have to have a window that opens, but I’ve seen it done.

    2. Right on, Clay. Anyone who’s sat through the early days realizes in an instant that this is a completely different Roger now, at least in his attitude towards David. Of course, it’s an almost completely different show at this point, so I suppose it’s largely irrelevant, but still absurd.
      I am so freaking fed up with looking at and listening to these kids and their goshdarn nonsense, and of course there’s more to come, but I’ll keep shouting from the rooftops until the whole wretched world hears me.
      (someone catches David obviously doing something) “What are you doing, David?” “Nothing.”
      “I have never met nor spoken to you before, Victoria Winters, but I HATE YOU.”
      “Victoria Winters, I wouldn’t come to your funeral, even though, with regards to every rotten, crappy thing I’ve done and said, you retain the patience of a saint.”
      “I’m going to try to frame Burke Devlin for my attempt to cause the death of my (maybe) father, but he’s a very good friend to me.”
      And so on and so on and on and on and on and on.
      Ordinarily I would never contemplate using a word like goshdarn, but I promised Danny I would clean up my language, and I’m a man of my word, at least when it comes to posting comments here.

  12. Julia calling Mrs. Johnson a “repressed hysteric” is like Roger Davis calling someone a hammy actor.

    Why did I suddenly think of Roger Davis? He’s gone, right? Must be just a coincidence. (dun dun DUUUUUNNNNN)

  13. “Why would the Collins family have a photograph of a servant in a photo album?”

    I guess that’s why Julia gasps when she sees it and exclaims, “Its not possible!” Because otherwise, that statement makes no sense. Julia knew the woman she and Barnabas saw was a ghost and that her clothing was “Victorian” in style. So why would she think it impossible that Beth had lived in 1897?

  14. Roger’s angry dismissal of Barnabas and Julia’s concerns this time, combined with Liz’s triumphant reaction to the sight of Mr Jughans at the end of last Monday’s episode, actually do make sense both of Barnabas and Julia’s refusal to tell her what they’re up to and of Liz’s own acquiescence in their absurd behavior. The Collinses may reside in the state of Maine, but the state in which they hold their true citizenship and to which they give their sole allegiance is the state of denial. If Barnabas and Julia tell Liz what’s going on, she will have to build some structure of lies to conceal it from herself and from everyone else, regardless of the cost. If they simply act like lunatics and impose on her with nonsensical demands, however, she can set about convincing herself that it is somehow all right to have Barnabas and Julia around her house.

  15. It seems like ages since Roger was here. I missed him.

    I really don’t like Barnabas and Julia acting like they have the run of Collinwood, especially to Liz’s face.

    That room Julia was in reminds me of a recurring dream I have where I find a hidden room at my parents’ house that is filled with cobwebs and tons of stuff from my childhood.

  16. Man, I felt sorry for Barnabas. He was genuinely sad that Roger threatened to have him banished from the mansion.

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