“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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn