“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn