Episode 705: Prisoners of Emily Post

“I don’t know how you came back, and I don’t care!”

As we’re settling into this 1897 time travel story, the thing that’s really remarkable is how much the writers have learned about setting up dramatic conflicts within the core Collins family.

It’s early 1969, and by this point in the show, the present-day family has been entirely nerfed. All of their secrets have been exposed, explained and apologized for, and any future story-driving difficulties have to be imported from the outside.

Last year, we spent some time with the 1795 family, and they were actually pretty well grounded too. Naomi was a drunk, Joshua was a grouch and Abigail was a fanatic spinster, but they were a functional family who would have carried on pretty well, as long as they could avoid having sex with pretty French vengeance demons.

But the Collins family of 1897 is absolutely out of their goddamn minds. At the start of today’s episode, Judith walks into her dying grandmother’s bedroom, and finds her brother Quentin strangling the old lady, and demanding to know the family secret.

This is the second time in two straight episodes that Judith enters a room and interrupts Quentin in the process of murdering a family member. She doesn’t even have that big of a reaction, she just shoos him out the door and gets on with her day. That’s how insane this family is; a murder attempt means nothing to these people.

705 dark shadows edith quentin poison

The remarkable thing is that the old lady isn’t that bothered by the attack, even when Quentin’s hands are literally around her throat. Check this out:

Edith:  If you kill me, Quentin, you will gain nothing!

Quentin:  I’ll gain the satisfaction of having deprived Edward from knowing the secret!

Edith:  That would be very dangerous!

Quentin:  Why?

Edith:  (narrows her eyes) I’ll let you wonder about that.

I mean, how fierce is that? That’s, like, Ruth Bader Ginsburg level of old lady badassery. She just stares him down.

705 dark shadows quentin judith get out

And then Judith calls a halt to the whole thing by marching up to Quentin and saying, “Get out of this room.” He makes a couple smart remarks, Edith tells him to do what his sister says, and he makes for the corridor. That’s how things work in this house.

Now, there’s no sense that Quentin is being weak here, just because he’s getting bossed around by his big sister. It is clearly the point of view of the program that it was just bad luck that Judith happened to come in before he was finished, because you can’t kill your own grandmother if somebody else is watching. It’s simply not done. The Collinses of 1897 are scared of nothing in this world except bad manners.

705 dark shadows edith judith secret

Sam Hall is the lead writer on the show now, and this is the first time Sam’s been allowed to create a whole new set of characters to play with. He takes the opportunity to make a world in his own image: witty, talkative and incredibly cynical.

Edith:  How anxious everyone is to know the secret.

Judith:  I wouldn’t tell anyone else. You know that, don’t you?

Edith:  Edward is the eldest, and he is the only one who may know. And let me tell you something, Judith — you’re better off not knowing.

Judith:  What do you mean?

Edith:  That’s all I can tell you — but even that, you mustn’t tell the others. Let them keep on feeding their anxiety.

I mean, again — holy cow. This old lady was threatened with death literally two minutes ago because of this secret, and she still thinks it’s funny to dangle it in front of everyone and make them go nuts over it.

You know, we never actually find out anything about the generation between Edith and her grandchildren. There must have been a Collins who fathered Edward, Judith, Quentin and Carl, but the parents are gone by now, and nobody ever mentions their names. They must have died of exhaustion, poor things, living in a house with these five nutjobs.

705 dark shadows barnabas quentin foyer

Downstairs, Barnabas comes over for a visit, and now Quentin is chatting with yesterday’s attempted murder victim.

Barnabas:  Is Cousin Judith here?

Quentin:  Why?

Barnabas:  Well, I want to tell her that I’ve looked at the Old House, and I think it’ll be quite suitable.

Quentin:  I think I should warn you about something, cousin.

Barnabas:  What is that?

Quentin:  Your staying at the Old House will require my brother Edward’s approval.

Barnabas:  But your sister told me —

Quentin:  Sometimes my dear sister gets carried away by delusions of authority. The fact is, she has no authority whatsoever.

705 dark shadows judith enough

Suddenly, Judith shouts “I have enough, Quentin!” from the landing where she’s been eavesdropping. Then she walks down the stairs and continues the conversation with Barnabas as if nothing remarkable had happened.

705 dark shadows judith barnabas quentin stairs

Barnabas asks to see Edith, to present her with a family heirloom from the 18th century. Judith starts to lead him upstairs, and Quentin snaps, “You’re going to let him see her? I thought she was too ill to see anyone.”

“Well, who knows, Quentin?” she smiles. “The sight of a gentleman might do her some good.”

And oh my god, this family. Barnabas must be thinking, my own family wasn’t half as crazy as this, and I shot my uncle in the face. These people are out of their goddamn minds.

705 dark shadows quentin edward rachel

While Barnabas and Judith are upstairs, who should walk in but Edward himself, the eldest brother who we’ve been waiting for all week. He turns out to be Louis Edmonds in a mustache, which is just what we needed.

Quentin closes the drawing room doors and makes a grand entrance, just to see the look on his brother’s face. Edward’s brought a new governess from Boston, so Quentin does a little etiquette kung fu.

“Oh!” he says, circling the girl like a shark. “Well, well, well! What have we here? No, no, don’t tell me who she is, dear brother. Let me guess. Your new wife? No, too pretty. The new governess? No, much too pretty.” He stops, and looks shocked. “Good heavens, Edward,” he says. “She’s not your mistress!”

705 dark shadows edward quentin rachel rudeness

Quentin can get away with this, barely, because Edward is more polite than Quentin, and Quentin knows that he won’t want to scream at his brother in front of a servant.

You can basically get away with anything in this house, if you know how to push people’s buttons, and this is a family that’s done nothing for the last twenty years besides an ongoing research project on exactly where all those buttons are.

705 dark shadows edith barnabas come

Meanwhile, upstairs, the week’s big mystery is about to unfold. Edith gets a visit from the new cousin from England, who’s brought a family heirloom once owned by Naomi Collins.

When she hears Naomi’s name, Edith leans forward, and asks, “What is your name, young man?”

He introduces himself as Barnabas, and she begins to get agitated. “Come here,” she says. “Come into the light, so that I can see you.”

705 dark shadows edith barnabas secret

He steps forward, and she points a bony finger at him. “You!” she cries. “You are the secret!”

Barnabas gasps, and so do we. It’s a fantastic twist, one of the best they’ve ever done.

705 dark shadows edith failed

Edith wails, “Passed down from one generation to the other! You were never to be let out! We have failed! We have failed!”

He takes a step forward, and she puts her hands up to protect her throat. “Don’t come near me!” she cries. “I know what you are!”

705 dark shadows edith barnabas edward

Before Barnabas can figure out what to do, Edward walks in. Edith screams for him to come to her, and he rushes to her side.

705 dark shadows edith edward barnabas

And then the most extraordinary thing happens. Edward says to Barnabas, “Would you leave us, please? It’s imperative that I be alone with her.”

And Barnabas says, “Yes, of course,” because that is the polite thing to do, and this is a world where Emily Post reigns supreme. He turns away, walks to the door, and presumably that is the end of him.

Edith will tell Edward that Barnabas is a vampire, Edward will organize a calm and well-spoken posse to drive a stake through Barnabas’ heart, and it’ll all be cleaned up by teatime. Barnabas should take a moment to write a brief thank-you note for their hospitality; otherwise, who knows when he’ll find the time?

Monday: The Cliffhung.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Quentin looks outside when he hears Edward’s carriage approaching. He ducks back inside and closes the doors behind him, but they swing open. Rachel and Edward enter the foyer through the open doors, and they leave the doors wide open. They cut away to Edith’s room, and when they come back, the front doors are closed, although everyone is in the same positions.

When Edward brings Quentin into the drawing room, you can see the top of the set.

Monday: The Cliffhung.

705 dark shadows barnabas eavesdrop

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

35 thoughts on “Episode 705: Prisoners of Emily Post

    1. An amazing week for the show. There’s a “Friday-style” cliffhanger for every episode , as well as a major development that advances the plot: Quentin returns to Collinwood, Barnabas is released from his coffin, Barnabas and Quentin clash, Edward returns with the new governess, dropping subplots aplenty about the absent Mrs. Collins, Edith reveals the family secret, which threatens to expose Barnabas.

      All in one week! In the Sproat-age, it might have taken a week to accomplish what each episode does… and that’s if the show is moving quicker than usual. The recaps are brief if they occur at all: For example, we don’t have a whole episode devoted to supporting characters discussing the arrival of Quentin (“What does he want? Why is he here?”).

      This breaks all the rules of soap-opera storytelling. This is now a prime time drama that airs daily.

  1. And Edith recognized Barnabas in person, how? Was she given a peek into the coffin? “Here’s our chained-up vampire ancestor. Memorize that face.”

    Re Barnabas politely leaving the room, what was the alternative? “Edward, no! No! You mustn’t talk to her! You can’t learn the secret!!”? That would have sealed his doom then and there.

    1. She recognized Barnabas because they kept his picture in the foyer, presumably so that when telling the secret they could tell them who was locked in the mausoleum, and if he ever got out, came to visit and claimed to be a relative from England then everyone would know he was lying. This did not work in the end. Probably keeping it a secret that was confided to only one person was not the best idea.

      1. What I meant was, it’s improbable anyone would recognize someone from a painting alone, even if he or she was on the verge of passing on the news that said person was chained up in a secret room on the property. (The Awkward Prose police are coming for me.) It can be hard to match faces to photos, let alone paintings. She’s on her deathbed in a dimly-lit room, and she recognizes a man she’s never actually seen? I mean, on a dramatic level, and within the anything-is-possible framework of DS, it works beautifully, but I’m just engaging in a Danny-style fiction vs. reality moment.

        1. What’s interesting is that the resemblance to the portrait was originally far more unsettling. In 1967, everyone commented on the resemblance, which was so strong that the only logical conclusion was that it was the same man, but obviously that wasn’t logical because he should have been long dead.

          After 1795 and 1897, the “persistent strength” of the Collins blood is such that Barnabas’s resemblance to his ancestor is not that bizarre, especially to the audience.

        2. I disagree. The likeness in the painting is so exact, and no doubt it’s been burned into Edith’s memory, that I find it not at all unlikely that she would recognize Barnabas, even under the circumstances you describe. Especially since he tells her his name is Barnabas!

  2. It’s a bit far-fetched to believe there could be such a secret “handed down from generation to generation”. It seems so out of character for Joshua to not conceal his deepest shame, after having gone to such trouble of rewriting the family history, in thinking he could trust future members of the family and eventually revealing this to Daniel.

    But Daniel knows no such secret in 1840. And in 1897 Edith is somewhere around 90, so Daniel must have been her father, which would have made him 20 or so at the time. And if the secret had been passed down, then Liz in 1967 would have been the one to know, and would have recoiled from Barnabas upon his arrival, because it wouldn’t have been until 1969 that he could go back to 1897 to stop the chain of secret passing that had begun soon after 1796.

    If anything, it is Sam Hall seeking to liberate himself, where the story of Barnabas’ arrival is concerned, from having to follow in the 1967 footsteps of the former head writer who’s just been edged out.

    1. I vaguely remember Daniel Collins of 1840 being a bit off in the head. And Edith is not a Collins by birth, she’s the wife of Gabriel Collins – and she’s played there by Danny’s favorite actress, Terry Crawford. When we get to 1840, Edith’s fate becomes a whole ‘nother headache for the timeline.

      1. Oh, yes the Edith Collins paradox… Also, I am curious about the inheritance. Edith was not a Collins, but the wife of a Collins. The propery would have passed from Gabriel to Gabriel’s son and father of the terrible four… Unless Edith had her own inheritance…

        1. I’m not sure the writers gave it that much thought — it was more interesting to have Edith as the head of the family and holder of the purse strings. However, just based on what we see, it’s not too much of a leap to presume that Gabriel did not trust or favor Edward/Judith/Carl/Quentin’s father. He tells Edith the secret instead of his son and it seems like he pretty much disinherited him. The children have no money of their own and have to rely on their grandmother. It seems like given the times that the opposite would have occurred — at the very least Edward would have inherited the bulk of the estate upon coming of age.

          1. Gabriel and Edith’s son and daughter-in-law may have both died before Gabriel did in 1863. BTW could Caleb Sayers Collins, who died in 1872 be a son of theirs, but not the father of the 4? In 1967, When Burke wanted to buy Seaview, Liz found his will stating no one was to live there for 100 after his death, which would expire in 5 years.

        2. I don’t have an explanation for the Edith paradox yet. I’m sure it’ll end up as part of my weird “lost princess” time travel conspiracy theory somehow. I just realized that there’s a clue in Edith’s episode 706 dialogue that is going to have to be a footnote to the 707 post.

          1. I don’t think the writers gave 1897 much thought when it came to 1840. The continuity on the show was sort of like DC Comics of the period — Superman was from Krypton and his arch enemy is Lex Luthor and he’s faced Brainiac before. No references to specific past stories were ever made (unlike Marvel of the same time). So, Barnabas was from 1795 (or 6 or 7) and his arch enemy is Angelique and best friend is Julia and Willie occasionally works for him.

            As we’ve discussed on the blog, the writers clearly have no Whedonesque “master plan,” and their approach to Time Travel is especially fluid. Barnabas makes drastic changes to the past like a surgeon operating with a chainsaw. 1840 is even more dramatic than 1897 in that an entire branch of the family left intact that wasn’t before. Forget Edith dying — even if she’d lived, she would have been a pauper and not the mistress of Collinwood after the revised events of 1840. I would have loved for Barnabas and Julia to return to a restored Collinwood in 1971 but one completely different or at least with different or new family members. It would have made a great cliffhanger.

            I’ve argued that DS fan fiction — no matter how well written — seems to scream that it’s fan fiction when it tries to make sense of past continuity or even mentions past continuity.

        3. Far be it from to disagree with an expert on things Dark Shadows, but me thinks Edith was “granted” the secret either by her husband Gabriel or her son if Gabriel passed it down to his son before his son died. (But I am speculating that Edith and Gabriel’s children predeceased them both, which happens. There were lots of incurable diseases in the mid-19th century.) Also, Maine was not so primitive that a woman of the late 19th century might not have been given complete control over the estate of her husband upon his death. Especially if Gabriel did not trust any of his children – even Edward who might have been thought too young t be responsible when Gabriel died.

    2. I think Joshua is responsible enough to not die and leave it to fate as to whether his vampire son was discovered and accidentally set free on the populace. I also think that sparing Barnabas in the first place was a moment of emotional weakness for him that if he didn’t regret, he would do everything to make sure did not cause anyone else harm.

      Edith is not a Collins by birth. She married into the family (a lot of this backstory is given in the next episode). Daniel must have told Gabriel, who then told Edith. We can only speculate as to why Gabriel never told Edward/Quentin/Judith/Carl’s father. The most logical assumption is that Gabriel died when his son was still a boy and had no choice but to confide in Edith. She states in this episode that Gabriel died “34 years ago,” though, which could be dismissed as her faulty memory but there are also references to Gabriel having known Quentin.

  3. I think it’s reasonable to assume that sometime between 1897 and 1967 the secret was lost and not continually passed down. Perhaps in the original timeline Quentin was successful in killing Edith before Edward arrived, or maybe Edward died later in life before he was able to pass it on.

    As far as Joshua passing the secret on, maybe he did, or maybe it was the elderly Ben Stokes who started the tradition?

  4. It’s especially funny to watch Barnabas’ reaction when he realizes he can’t wrangle his way into the house this time using his “I’m yor long lost cousin from England” routine. He had to be thinking – am I going to have to kill this old broad or what??
    Grandma Edith is exactly the kind of creepy old matriarch you’d expect this family to have – she’s even scarier than the vampire.

  5. Also wasn’t Millicent still alive from 1795? She had first hand experience that Barnabas was a vampire but she was crazy so no one would believe her…

  6. The “Come closer” moment between Barnabas and Edith is like the big confrontation in THE GODFATHER PART II, when the Don in Sicily makes the mistake of asking Vito to come closer and tell him his name.

  7. Without pulling out my notes, here’s what I recall about the timeline:

    The Fab Four’s parents had to live to at least 1875 – Quentin was old enough to catch Judith crying when the kids learned their parents died.

    Gabriel died (in the un-screwed-up timeline) in 1863.

    It would not have been impossible for Gabriel to have died without naming his son as an heir (seems to be a Collins trait, à la Jamison) and for Edith to have thusly inherited as a spouse (pretty typical for the day). But given Judith’s age, and that Edward is older (!), the “missing link” would have certainly been of age by 1863.

    But don’t worry folks! Even when Gabriel and Edith are killed 42 and 57 years earlier than they should be, their descendants still maintain hold of Collinwood in 1971!! LOL

    I love Old Lady Edith Collins – especially her rambling about wanting to live in the Old House and hating Daniel.

    1. There is the “corrective” theory of time travel. Although Quentin and Tad survived the revised events of 1840, it’s possible both still died early (and that Daphne had no children). The Civil War was twenty years away, after all. So the “Fab Four” (like that term)’s father could have still wound up the heir.

    2. A very belated comment here, but if Gabriel died in 1863, it’s entirely possible that his son and heir was off fighting in the Civil War at the time. Thus leading him to pass on the Family Secret to Edith as a stopgap.

  8. I’ve been following this blog for awhile now, and I have to admit, the fact the barnabas is the family secret actually took me by surprise. I was expecting ‘the family secret’ mystery to be dragged out over the course of several months, and then have a silly resolution as to what it was that contradicts previous information. So, yeah, kudos to Dark Shadows for taking me by suprise

  9. yes, big surprise…”the secret” was sleeping in the family mausoleum and is now standing in your bedroom bearing gifts. grandmama. Good job on the lighting in that scene too

  10. Another “blooper” … the boom microphone could not access the little entryway (where people hanged their coats). A small microphone was taped to the inside wall right above the archway. It is visible in the Quentin/Edward/Rachel scene.

  11. All this speculation about dates and such makes me wonder whether the writers just realized they had gotten it wrong and said, Oh, let’s fudge it. Was Quentin ever said to have met his grandfather? He was said to have been born in 1870. This seems to fit the character’s age (27), but if he knew his grandfather, and his grandfather died 34 years ago…. Quentin’s father could not have died in the Civil War because Quentin was born post bellum, but he could have fought in it and survived, thereby supporting the theory that Gabriel’s son was away when Gabriel died. Edith is played by an actress who was in her 70s at the time. (She was born a few years before 1897!) If her Gabriel was of similar age, he would have been in his forties during the Civil War. He could have had sons who were in their 20s and eligible for military service unless they used the rich man’s dodge available at the time of paying someone to do their military service for them. Not considered an honorable thing to do, which might explain why Gabriel’s eldest son did not shirk his duty and was away in Virginia or someplace fighting rebels when his father died.

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