Episode 849: Here Today

“Where have you been? To Boston, for some new finery?”

Honestly, what can be done to rid this town of Josettes?

We kidnap them, we shoot them, we hang them, we throw them off a cliff onto the rocks and the raging sea, and they always come back — sighing, fretting, and making a nuisance of themselves. The problem, really, is that the Collins family insists on hiring governesses, which is a Josette-heavy industry.

The latest Josette is named Kitty. It turns out she was a governess once, and she married her employer, Lord Hampshire. Her husband is dead now — suicide, obviously — and the child is nowhere to be seen, which is all par for the course when you let a Josette into your house. Ruin and devastation, as far as the eye can see.

849 dark shadows petofi kitty music box

Granted, this one is more fun than the Josettes that we usually get, because they’ve finally taken the training wheels off. As everyone knows, Josette is a ridiculous, self-centered, stuck-up brat, who doesn’t care about anything except jewelry, hats and marrying the richest guy she can locate. That’s Kitty.

They’re also finally doing Jane Eyre correctly, on the fourth try. This is a Jane who’s married her Rochester, and now that she’s used him up, she’s come to Collinwood to find another. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jane devotedly, but Jane is no fool. A marriage between equals is all very well, but a girl has to be practical.

Kitty doesn’t have time for nonsense. She’s not here to make friends, she’s here to play the game. So naturally, she’s annoyed when she finds that someone’s been strewing hypnotic music boxes around the boudoir. Finding that one has mysteriously appeared on her dressing table, she brings it all the way over to Count Petofi’s secret underground lair, which must be on Google Maps or something.

Count Petofi doesn’t know anything about this haunted music box, and the two of them puzzle over it for a little while. Obviously, it comes from Barnabas — he’s the only one with the keys to the cupboard where the music box respawns, every time it goes tumbling over Widow’s Hill — but Barnabas has been exterminated, and he’s currently spending a month in Illinois.

849 frid dialed m

You see, last week, Pansy Faye knocked a stake into Barnabas, and then Jonathan Frid shed his vampire duds and headed for Sullivan, Illinois, where he’s spending a month as the headline attraction in Dial M for Murder.

Frid plays Tony, a professional tennis player who arranges to have his wife killed while he’s at a party. The plan explodes on impact, of course, because Frid is incapable of portraying a character who’s successful at anything.

Tony’s wife Margot has been having an affair, and upon discovering this, he began anonymously blackmailing her, because that is what you do. Six months later, the thrill has worn off, so he hires an assassin friend named Swann to bump her off for good. This story takes place in an alternate dimension where divorce does not exist.

Here’s the foolproof plan; see if you can find the flaw. Tony goes to a party with Mark, the guy who’s having an affair with Margot. While they’re out, Swann breaks into the house. At exactly 11pm, Tony will call home. While Margot’s on the telephone, Swann will sneak up behind her, murder her, and then leave, making it look like a burglary gone awry.

With all this careful planning, you wouldn’t think anything could possibly go wrong, except for one thing: Tony forgot to wind his watch. So he doesn’t call at 11:00, and Margot kills Swann with a pair of scissors. Seriously, I don’t know what to do with Frid characters.

849 frid arsenic and old lace

You know, Frid played Jonathan Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace too, and he didn’t manage to kill any of the people he wanted to kill there, either.

In Arsenic and Old Lace, the main character is Mortimer Brewster, who’s come to see his elderly aunts Abby and Martha on the day of his wedding. Mortimer discovers, to his horror, that for several years, the sweet old ladies have been killing lonely old gentlemen with poisoned elderberry wine. Then the bodies are buried in the basement by Mortimer’s brother Teddy, who thinks he’s Theodore Roosevelt, and the basement is the locks for the Panama Canal.

Mortimer is trying to figure out what to do about this, and things get more complicated when his fiendish brother Jonathan arrives, with another dead body to hide. Jonathan spends the rest of the play threatening to murder pretty much everyone that he runs across, and I don’t think he scores once.

I don’t know what’s up with Frid characters, and follow-through. They never quite manage to pull it together, do they?

712 dark shadows rachel music box

Meanwhile, I don’t know where this Josette music box storyline is supposed to go, if Barnabas is going to be off the show for a month. It hardly seems worth it to bring Kathryn Leigh Scott back from Rome to play Kitty, really.

You see, that’s how we lost Rachel, who was our last Josette. She was a governess too — just another Jane, to throw on the pile — and she got the standard Josette onboarding, including a music box. And just as we were starting to get somewhere, BLAM! She’s shot in the stomach, and she dies, so that Kathryn Leigh Scott can run off with her boyfriend Ben for an African safari. After that, Kathryn and Ben spent some time in Rome, and then Dan dragged her back, and told her that her name is Kitty now, and yes, she’s a governess, don’t worry, no matter how many characters you play, you will always be a governess.

And then the very next day, Barnabas got staked, and went to Illinois. These people need to coordinate better; we’re not getting anywhere.

849 dark shadows quentin julia goe

Plus, now we’ve got Julia, just hanging around in the rectory, with no way to explain why she’s still in the late 19th. Quentin asks her why she doesn’t go back to her own time, and Julia says she can’t, because she has to finish what Barnabas started. Quentin asks what Barnabas started, but Julia doesn’t want to say, which I think means that she’s the backup for the Dial M for Murder scheme. She’s just waiting for Tony to call, and then she’ll go to Illinois and murder his wife.

Quentin wants Amanda to stay with Julia for the night, until he’s ready to take her to New York tomorrow. Amanda’s got to leave town in a hurry — partly because she’s trying to get away from her weird artist dad who wants to marry her, and partly because Donna McKechnie is going to London, to appear in the debut of Promises, Promises. I guess that’s what these people do, they’re constantly running off and appearing in plays.

Promises, Promises is a musical comedy about Chuck Baxter, a junior executive at Consolidated Life, who rents out his bachelor apartment to his boss, J.D. Sheldrake, so that Sheldrake can have secret trysts with his mistress. Sheldrake’s mistress turns out to be Fran, a waitress who’s also dating Chuck. I forget how it all turns out — is it Sheldrake who blackmails Chuck and makes him kill Fran, or is it the other way around? Anyway, at some point it turns into a Christmas office party, and Donna McKechnie sings “Turkey Lurkey Time”, and that’s why Amanda has to leave Dark Shadows.

Quentin reminds Julia that she has to deal with Count Petofi and Aristede, and she muses, “Aristede — I haven’t seen Aristede since that night that Barnabas came and got me at the old mill.” That was two weeks ago, and she’s right, Aristede took off and hasn’t been seen since. I don’t know where Michael Stroka’s been — in Africa, I suppose, or doing a play somewhere. Sometimes one feels that actors live for pleasure alone.

849 dark shadows aristede petofi retrospective

Aristede does return today, actually — apparently he’s been in Boston, on one of those retrospective vacations that characters are always taking when we haven’t seen them on the show for a minute.

But let’s start at the beginning. A couple weeks ago, Count Petofi was holding Julia as a prisoner, trying to get her to reveal the secret of time travel. She refused to talk, so Petofi handed her over to Aristede, standing in for Swann.

Aristede’s plan was simplicity itself. First, he tied Julia to a chair, and then he rigged up a gun so that it would fire directly at her when somebody opened the door. So then all Aristede had to do was call Mortimer Brewster at exactly 11pm, and he’d come open the door, and then Fran would kill Margot with a  pair of scissors.

Once Aristede heard the gunshot, he knew that Julia was dead, and that Barnabas would want to kill him in revenge. So Aristede ran off to Illinois, to lay low until he heard that Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha had poisoned Barnabas’ elderberry wine. Which they did, and now Aristede’s back, hooray!

849 dark shadows petofi aristede owl

But Count Petofi — who’s looking more and more like a stuffed owl every time we see him — is not pleased with Aristede’s job performance.

“Don’t think I didn’t prepare a special homecoming for you,” Petofi growls, “because I did, you bungling fool!”

“I did what you told me to!” Aristede yelps.

“What did I tell you to do? What was your last order, Aristede?”

“To kill Julia Hoffman!”

“And did you do it?” Petofi bellows. “Did you see Julia Hoffman die?”

The answer, obviously, is no, because Aristede’s conceptual multimedia art performance was just another entry in this apparently endless series of hairbrained murder schemes, planned exclusively by bungling fools. The women do fine — Pansy stakes Barnabas, Margot stabs Swann, Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha poison twelve lonely gentlemen. Kitty Hampshire finishes with one rich husband, and just moves on to the next. But the guys are a mess, they can’t get anything done.

849 dark shadows petofi poison

So let’s try one more round, before we all run off to Africa or Boston or wherever we’re planning to go, once this is all over.

Count Petofi, realizing that there might be something different about Julia, goes and visits her at the rectory, and offers her some poisoned elderberry brandy. She says that she doesn’t like drinking with enemies, but Petofi insists, and then pulls a vial of cyanide from his jacket pocket. Let the bungling begin.

849 dark shadows julia petofi poison

Julia drinks the brandy, which was packed with enough cyanide to kill ten women, and look at her. Unbothered. Petofi is going to have to go find the other nine women and apologize, that’s the only thing left to do.

You see, Julia can’t be killed, because she’s only here in her astral body. She left her physical body back in 1969, and now that she’s time-traveled to 1897, only her astral self remains. And everybody knows that your astral self can’t be poisoned. It can wear clothes, obviously, and drink brandy, and come up with a new cure for vampirism, based on grass and berries and whatever’s left in the refrigerator.

An astral self can wind a watch, and open a music box, and go on safari, and marry its boss. It can get shot in the stomach, and stabbed with scissors; it can fly to London and sing “Turkey Lurkey Time”. But an astral self cannot do one thing — it cannot die. So, are we all on the same page about this?

Tomorrow: Proof of Your Perfidy.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Petofi tries to talk in the middle of one of Kitty’s lines. He tries to say, “No, I assure you,” but she runs over him and just keeps on going. About ten seconds later, Kitty suppresses a smile, apparently at something she can see in the studio.

At the mill, the blue candles have been dripping on the table; there’s gobs of blue wax all over it.

When Kitty is talking to Petofi, she closes the music box before the music stops.

When Quentin tells Julia, “It won’t last,” there’s a noticeable pause before she says her next line.

Tomorrow: Proof of Your Perfidy.

849 dark shadows turkey lurkey

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

27 thoughts on “Episode 849: Here Today

  1. I will take my place as the lone Josette defender, here, because I’m fond of Josette I’m fond of her partly because I liked ghost Josette, who fought with what little she had to protect the Collins family and to protect a Vicki that she wronged once upon a time. I also really liked Kathryn Leigh Scott, in all her iterations. She did really good work when given good scripts (like when she was kidnapped) and did her best when given less fully fleshed out characters like Josette.

    I will admit that 1795 made Josette a less than interesting character, but she was not “a ridiculous, self-centered, stuck-up brat, who doesn’t care about anything except jewelry, hats and marrying the richest guy she can locate.” She was rich in her own right, with no siblings, so she didn’t have to marry for money. She was too young for Barnabas, but that was how the times were, rich older men married younger women, who were expected to bear lots of children. She came to Collinwood after a big shopping trip to marry Barnabas. Many brides go all out for a wedding and again she was young, it seemed like it was the first time she left Martinique and she was buying things to be pretty for her husband to be. She gave every indication of loving Barnabas. She did, after all, offer his life for hers to Vicki, when she thought Vicki was a witch and capable of saving Barnabas from his illness. She didn’t marry Jeremiah because he was wealthy. She married him because Angelique drugged them both. She, and Jeremiah, were RAPED by Angelique. She agreed to stay in that marriage because divorce WASN’T an option in 1795 and she tried to talk Jeremiah out of suicide, stating their punishment should be in living with their mistake, not him dying. She was kind and non-judgmental when Barnabas married Angelique. She could have joined in the Angelique isn’t good enough for him chorus, but she never did. She turned to Barnabas when she thought he returned from the dead and ran from him because she didn’t want to turn into a blood sucking monster who killed people, which is usually viewed as a good thing.

    Josette was not as interesting a character as Angelique, nor as boring as Vicki, IMHO. I wish they had written her with more depth. I wish Mitch Ryan and been able to stay on so they could have had played a story closer to the one in the history of Collinwood, but Ryan’s alcoholism and Anthony George’s complete miscast worked against that. Josette was never malicious, generally nice and kind and a bit of a non-entity. She didn’t become an alcoholic like Naomi. She wasn’t conned by a man like Millicent. She wasn’t as much of an idiot as Vicki. She certainly didn’t roofie two innocent people and then make Sarah ill to blackmail Barnabas into marriage. She didn’t curse and kill him for not loving her. She didn’t enact a curse that had everyone he cared about DIE as revenge. She apparently kept coming backto look for Barnabas, which may show a severe lack of taste, but not really much else.

    I just don’t get the utter contempt for her. She could and should have been a more interesting character, but she wasn’t a bad person. Her Kitty iteration was more interesting and one of my more favorite of KLS’s roles. I kind of like Josette. She was, sadly, a victim of Angelique and later of Barnabas’ obsessive love. But she tried to make a life for herself after the life she wanted fell utterly and irretrievably apart. That actually shows some character, IMHO.

    1. I completely agree. Josette was a gentle, lovely woman who tried, even after death, to do the right thing.
      If anyone was a spoiled, SELF centered brat, it was Angelique.

        1. Oh Danny, I think that was just a contrived moment where the writers were trying to introduce some friction between Josette and Jeremiah just befor Angelique made them fall in lust with each other. Also, it was an attempt to illustrate the strong bond of friendship between Jeremiah and Barnabas befor Angelique destroyed it.
          Even without Angelique’s interference, it was clear that Jeremiah was going to have to learn to back off and let Barnabas handle his own grown up relationships.

          1. I totally agree that what we see in that scene was plot-mandated and contrived, but no more so than anything else in the show, from about ep 290 on.

            That was one of the few times that we got to see what Josette was really like, before Angelique started messing with her head. We don’t see much of Josette before she gets spell-bound, but the bits that we see don’t portray her as a deep thinker.

            1. Josette was quite fearless, mystifying, and compelling as a ghost in 1966 and 1967, but from the very moment Barnabas strolled into the Old House drawing room that early evening in April 1967 and did his homecoming soliloquy before Josette’s portrait (“I was a Collins. Why didn’t you protect me?”) and bids her to leave now and rest, then that’s the end of her otherworldly mystique, as she won’t be seen again until the 1795 storyline.

              I’ve been enjoying the blog that focuses on those pre-Barnabas episodes, Dark Shadows Diary by Cousin Barnabas at The Collinsport Historical Society website, but was disappointed to discover that the blog stops at episode 95, ironically just as it was beginning to attract multiple comments for each post. Great insights there about these early episodes and the characters, particularly the complexities and inner conflicts that make up David and Carolyn, for instance, as well as a cutting sense of humor, in particular, his nickname for Roger Collins (“the Butterscotch Bastard”).

              It would be great if, like the first issue of the DVD set, after April 1971 Dark Shadows Every Day could continue on with Dark Shadows: The Beginning, to cover those first 200 plus episodes, but alas, I would bet a filigreed fountain pen that you wouldn’t be interested.

              1. My plan is that by April 2nd, 1971, I will have said everything that I have to say about Dark Shadows. If 1841PT gets boring, and it probably will, then I may look back at a couple of ’66 episodes to do a compare and contrast on how the series began vs how it’s ending.

                But April Third is a hard stop; just ask Henry Anthony Wilcox.

            2. Well, she was smart enough to note how Jeremiah pushed people around, as she put it.
              Also, Barnabas insisted on coming downstairs to be with Josette, she didn’t make him get out of bed against dr.’s orders.
              Besides, they had to open wedding gifts as they’re received as all the wedding books tell every Bride. As a well brought up young lady, Josette was required to pen an immediate heart felt thank you note for that lovely, non-bridal registry skull!

              1. I watched the episode, up until they opened the skull. We learn a lot about Josette. We learn from Angelique that she had a lot of suitors, but never was interested until Barnabas. To me, that takes away from the idea that she was just a gold digger, who only wanted to marry a rich man to give he jewels and clothes. We learn she was very sheltered, since she is worried about how her father and aunt would react to Barnabas kissing her. She even says they shouldn’t be alone in the drawing room.

                That brings us to her and the presents. If she couldn’t be with Barnabas in the drawing room, then she certainly couldn’t be in his bedroom when he wasn’t fully dressed. His illness meant she couldn’t see him. Barnabas came downstairs by himself and told Jeremiah that he had too much to do. Opening presents may seem selfish, but it’s a calm, non-strenuous activity that will get Barnabas to sit down and relax. It’s not resting in bed, but it’s close. At least he isn’t going out riding, or something far more dangerous.

                Then there is her reaction to Jeremiah. Barnabas brought himself downstairs. Barnabas stated he’s not going to lie around any longer. Jeremiah tells Barnabas he should be in bed and Josette immediately jumps in and suggest bringing the presents to his room. Jeremiah them makes Barnabas being out of bed all Josette’s fault. She tries to let Barnabas know that she doesn’t like how Jeremiah is treating her. Yes, she’s being passive in her complaint. Barnabas replies that Jeremiah is his BFF and Josette MUST like him. He then asks what she thinks of Jeremiah. It was pretty obvious to me that she thought Jeremiah was a big old jerk, who wanted to be in charge of Barnabas and who had made his dislike of Josette crystal clear. But she can’t say that. She’s been ordered to like him, so she prevaricates. She says she hasn’t thought about him at all, instead of saying that she thinks she’d like to tell him to go jump and treat her politely.

                Just as you have talked about how gay men experience the world in certain ways, so do women. I was a teen when DS was shown and I know how women were supposed to act. We were trained to not express our opinions too strongly. We must suggest there are problems kindly. If men disagree, we can’t push too strongly because if we do we are a nag. A man’s view is worth more than a woman’s. A woman must not interfere in her husband’s friendships, or she is too overbearing. Josette is in a world where she has less power than women in the 60’s did. She had to navigate social expectations where she could not be too forward, or be seen as a shrew. When she gently told Barnabas that Jeremiah was making her feel selfish, even though it was Barnabas’ idea to come downstairs, she got no support from Barnabas. I see her as simply trying to make the best of the situation.

                As far as I remember, Angelique’s spell only affects how Josette’s attraction to Jeremiah, not her basic personality. So I weigh her actions after her marriage as being the real Josette and there she behaved with dignity, took responsibility for marrying Jeremiah and was gracious to Angelique when she married Barnabas.

                I’m sure I wont’ change your opinion on Josette, but I’m throwing this out there anyway.

  2. “Sometimes one feels that actors live for pleasure alone.”

    I always like it when you work Wodehouse references into the write-ups.

    Also, “Promises, Promises” was the stage musical version of Billy Wilder’s movie “The Apartment” (which I love). In either version, no murder, but there is an attempted suicide, so it does still involve unsuccessful violence. Also…. I hate “Turkey Lurkey Time.” It’s a great showcase for dancers, but the song itself is painfully inane (a friend kept sending links of it to me) and the fact that it’s also an earworm doesn’t help.

    1. Hooray, and I like it when you notice my references. Someday, somebody will do a Dark Shadows Every Day Every Day blog, where they analyze all my influences.

      I know what you mean about the inanity of “Turkey Lurkey Time”, but that video with Donna McKechnie doing it makes me so happy. I watched it twice today, as I was writing this post, just because she is ridiculous and wonderful in it. A terrible song and terrible choreography, turned into a good number by a spirited performance.

  3. Josette may well be, in terms of defining and fulfilling the mystique of Dark Shadows, one of the most important characters ever on the show. Because before Josette was a character in 1795/1967, she was a ghost in 1966 by way of 1830. In fact, Josette’s ghost (played by Kathryn Leigh Scott) descending from the portrait in the Old House drawing room and moving through the wall to pirouette outside among the columns was the first truly supernatural moment on the show (episode 70, broadcast on September 30, 1966). Without this landmark transition, Bill Malloy’s ghost wouldn’t have appeared and neither would those of the widows. The appearance of Josette’s ghost paved the way to the Phoenix story (which also featured the first battle of opposing supernatural powers pitting those of Josette against those of Laura Collins), which then made Barnabas possible.

    Without Josette, Dark Shadows would have been cancelled at the end of 1966, after the 26 weeks that Leonard Goldberg promised Dan Curtis at the outset. The reason for so many Josettes was because Dan Curtis liked the idea of lost loves separated by time and rediscovering each other, as he explains in one of those Dark Shadows DVD interviews.

  4. I wonder if some of the Josette bashing is actually redirected frustration with Barnabas’s obsession with her. A lot of fandom believes that he really belongs wit Julia (I’m counting myself among that number) who is more of his equal, in addition to being awesomely smart and sexy and who get really ticked off when he seems to be ready to admit to Julia that he loves her, but is then distracted by the latest Josette incarnation.

    1. I have to admit that Barnabas constantly getting distracted by the latest Josette incarnation only makes me think that Julia deserves far, far better than Barnabas. In the end, the heart wants what the heart wants and Barnabas is never able to make the leap to Julia being a romantic interest. He was always going for young pretty things. He wasn’t attracted to Julia and Julia deserved someone who wanted her, first.

      1. Yes, by this stage in the game, I’m not so sure Julia is exasperated with Barnabas every time he’s distracted by a new Josette simply because she wants him for herself so much as she’s just exasperated with all the crazy stuff he does when it happens, and at his stubborn inability to move on.

    2. Julia should have hooked up with Professor Stokes. they both had boundless intellectual curiosity and Stokes had a well developed sense of humor. He’d have been a lot more fun than that sad, brooding 200 year old who didn’t even want electricity put into his house cause he’s so stuck in the PAST.
      Stokes is handsome, too – I bet he’d be a good dancer as well.
      I can’t see Barnabas doing anything but the Minuet.

  5. Wow- just watched the “Turkey Lurkey Time” clip. OK, so is Donna McKechnie (Amanda?) the one with the short hair in the middle? What was this aired on – some variety show or an actual staged production of “Promises, Promises,” which was also televised? Some issues with the sound, it seemed — it looks like they actually had a mic front and center to help with the sound. Yes, spirited is a apt descriptor — a silly song, but the performers’ infectious enthusiasm totally wins me over…

    1. Whoever made up that playbill obviously knew nothing of Dark Shadows, or Arsenic and Old Lace for that matter.

  6. Say….Weren’t all of Grayson Hall’s characters (except Magda) solo?

    Julia didn’t date. Countess didn’t date. Julia Collins didn’t date.

  7. It looks like the A&OL picture is (l-r) Marion Ross, Jean Stapleton, Jonathan Frid, and Larry Storch.

  8. There’s a missed opportunity for a brilliant Grayson Hall moment to end the Petofi/Julia scene in this episode. It ends with Julia holding up the glass of poisoned brandy that failed to kill her and looking at it with trepidation. It should have continued with her giving a little shrug and downing the rest of it.

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