Episode 874: The Rape of Kitty Soames

“I mean, that makes a girl feel all creepy, having all that ‘ocus-pocus said over her!”

What do you think it feels like?

When you “switch off”, I mean. When you suddenly wake up and you’re wearing clothes that you don’t recognize, and you find out that you just had a fight that you don’t understand, with somebody that you’ve never met.

You haven’t been drinking; it wasn’t a blackout. You were just sitting in a room, and you heard a strange sound, and the next thing you know, it’s an hour later, you’re downstairs, and you’re screaming at an oil painting.

And what do you think it feels like, when somebody that you hardly know looks you right in the eye, and tries to convince you that you’re the intruder?

I don’t know about you, but if that happened to me? I’d probably punch that person in the face, and keep on punching until there’s nothing left to punch.

874 dark shadows kitty portrait

So that’s the big romantic storyline at the end of 1897, hooray! This is Love in the Afternoon, Dark Shadows ’69.

Here’s the deal: Kitty Soames arrived at Collinwood about six weeks ago, and apparently she’s two people. She believes that she’s a pragmatic widow woman with a fancy title and no income, who’s hoping to snare Edward Collins into her second rich-man marriage. But then she was spotted by eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins, who decided that she’s the reincarnation of his long-lost Josette, because she looks like Josette and he’s bored.

The vampire has been stalking Kitty remotely, even through the whole month that everybody thought he was dead. First, Barnabas snuck into her bedroom to deliver Josette’s music box, a magical panty-melting artifact that hypnotizes young women into thinking that they’re into him, and then he started communicating with her via subliminal messages emanating from his portrait. These aren’t typical courtship moves, but Barnabas is a trend-setter.

So she’s been musicboxing around the house for weeks, slipping in and out of a Josette-flavored fugue state.

874 dark shadows kitty petofi please

Naturally, Kitty’s upset about this. Anybody would be, if a prior tenant showed up and started walking your body around the house. In fact, she’s so freaked out that she decides to visit the evil old wizard who lives under a bridge for a consultation.

Now, the problem that I’m having with this story at the moment is that I have to keep explaining that almost everyone is currently two people. In fact, five out of the six characters in today’s episode are currently experiencing some kind of identity theft issue — Kitty is struggling with Josette, Charity Trask is inhabited by the spirit of Pansy Faye, Barnabas is pretending to be a lookalike cousin who was victimized by the vampire, and Quentin has switched bodies with mad god Count Petofi. Possession is nine-tenths of this storyline.

So Kitty isn’t actually addressing Petofi, when she begs him to use his magical legendary hand to help her understand where the Josette business is coming from. She’s talking to Quentin, who’s perfectly willing to help, but he doesn’t have any powers. His hands are just standard issue non-legendary hands.

But Kitty keeps insisting, so Quentin goes ahead and gives it a try, and guess what. It turns out the hand was loaded after all.

874 dark shadows petofi kitty hand

“NO!” Kitty screams. “Barnabas was right!” This was not the answer she was hoping for.

But then she gets that glazed look again, and the music box cue starts drifting through the room.

“I am Josette DuPres! I remember everything now… I am Josette DuPres…”

Then she catches herself. “But I’m also Kitty Soames!”

And the interesting thing is that Kitty doesn’t play this the way that you might expect. I think the more traditional past-lives story would frame this as “I was Josette DuPres,” meaning that now Kitty’s consciousness has expanded, and her memories include her past life as Josette.

But instead, she says, “I am Josette DuPres,” which suggests that this is an either/or situation. In those moments when she is Josette, she is emphatically not Kitty, and vice versa.

When Quentin tells her to stay put, she cries, “No, I’m afraid to stay here! Knowing that I’m two people, knowing that I possess the memory of a woman who’s dead!”

Again, she doesn’t say my memories, and “the dead woman” is a stranger. Josette is an external agent, imposing her identity onto Kitty by force.

After Quentin leaves, Kitty spots a knife on the table, and for an unsettling moment, she considers suicide. This is already an occupational hazard for Josettes; just imagine how bad this could get for Kitty.

874 dark shadows quentin barnabas hand

Meanwhile, over at Collinwood, Count Petofi — appearing here in the guise and garb of Quentin Collins — is shocked to discover that his legendary hand is shooting blanks. Barnabas tries to reassure him that this happens to everyone once in a while, and he shouldn’t worry about it. He’s still an evil wizard; his hand probably just needs a legendary rest.

But Petofi decides that he needs to test drive the hand on somebody else, so he goes and messes with the other woman on the show who’s currently two people.

874 dark shadows pansy quentin hand

Straight and narrow Charity Trask has been doing business as music-hall artiste Pansy Faye since midsummer — but unlike Kitty, Charity didn’t experience a lot of angst over the change in management.

Charity’s personality was overwritten by Pansy’s, just like Kitty and Josette, but they were more casual about it. In the early moments when there was still some overlap, it seemed like a funny affectation that Charity was putting on — an opportunity to let loose, and have fun for a change.

I can’t remember exactly when they pulled the switch, and Charity actually dissolved in the red-hot lava pool of Pansy’s personality. I’m pretty sure they didn’t make a big deal about it. They just kept on doing Pansy scenes.

This is an obvious example of serialized narrative as natural selection. Pansy didn’t necessarily have more story potential than her body’s previous owner; she’s just more fun. She’s louder and more expressive, she’s got a funny accent, she carries around a neon-bright feaher boa, and you can’t predict how she’s going to react to any given event. Scenes with Pansy are just more interesting than scenes with Charity, so when they released everybody else from Petofi’s sorcery, Pansy stayed on, for no explicit storyline-related reason.

So when we see Petofi trying to unwhammy Pansy, the show is playing this like a potential loss. The audience likes Pansy, and we don’t want her to be replaced with boring snooty Charity Trask. Petofi waggles his hand in her direction, and the music builds to a crescendo — and this is played as a source of tension, not as a gallant rescue of sweet Charity from the prison of being Pansy.

Once it’s all over, it’s a relief when Pansy looks up at Petofi, cocks her head to the side like a parakeet, and squeaks, “What you been tryin’ to do to me? I mean, that makes a girl feel all creepy, having all that ‘ocus-pocus said over her!” She’s still under the influence, but it’s a comedy sequence, instead of the horror that Kitty is experiencing.

874 dark shadows kitty josette portrait

And ultimately, that’s the difference between these two otherwise identical stories. Pansy’s personality keeps its grip over Charity, and that’s fine with us; she can stay that way forever, as far as we’re concerned. But we don’t feel the same way about Kitty and Josette, because the story is trending in the direction of the less interesting character.

Now, I know that there are Josette enthusiasts out there, who disagree with my assessment that Josette is a boring sap who has nothing to talk about and never makes a single good decision. But even the hardcore Barnsetters have to admit that Kitty has more interesting things to say. Overwriting Kitty with Josette is a net loss, and Kitty responds accordingly.

So it’s simply awful when Kitty musicboxes her way into Josette’s room, and gets a sales pitch from a portrait.

“Don’t despair,” the spot of art whispers. “Don’t fight. I mean you no harm, Kitty. Let me live through you!”

This, I think, is the final straw between me and Josette. This is Count Petofi-level selfishness. Josette already had the chance for a happy ever after with Barnabas, and she chose to throw herself off a cliff instead. A hundred years later, she’s suddenly decided she wants to change her vote.

I mean you no harm, she says. I just want you to stop existing, so that I can have sex with my brother-in-law, using your body. Is that really too much to ask?

874 dark shadows barnabas kitty josette

So I honestly don’t know which way the show wants me to land on Kitty and Josette. With Pansy and Charity, it’s obvious that the writers and the audience are entirely in synch. Pansy is better. She should stay Pansy.

But how are we supposed to feel, when Barnabas walks in and acts romancey? Who are we supposed to be rooting for?

And Barnabas really gets deep into the romance, too, with a line that I think is one of the best he’s ever delivered on the show.

Kitty:  Kitty Soames calls you Mr. Collins, and tells you to leave the room. But Josette…

Barnabas:  Josette calls me Barnabas… and wants me to stay.

And the way he says it, the golden honey in his voice — I’m generally immune to the romantic charms of Jonathan Frid, but I have to admit, that line makes me melt a little. This is a very emotionally complex story to process.

848 dark shadows quentin amanda grin

And the crazy thing is that this is literally the only love story that Dark Shadows has, to anchor the end of the 1897 storyline. Romantic plots are supposed to be the bread and butter of soap opera storytelling, but the conclusion of this eight-month sequence is mostly about beating up the mean dudes.

The 1795 storyline hinged on two big romantic stories. The core of that period, obviously, was the toxic triangle of Barnabas, Josette and Angelique. Once that story faded after Josette’s death, the show picked up Vicki and Peter as the story-driving romantic couple. The end of Vicki’s relationship with Peter was the end of 1795.

But 1897 never really had a strong core couple to root for. Obviously, Quentin should be the romantic lead, given that everyone in the audience wants to have sex with him, but he’s had chemistry tests with almost every woman who’s appeared, except for his sister and Grayson Hall, and none of those pairings have lasted.

Now, in the dying days of the storyline, Quentin has four simultaneous love interests: Amanda, Beth, Angelique and Pansy. Of those four, Amanda has the strongest stake in things — partly because they spent a decent amount of time building up Quentin and Amanda as a couple, and partly because Amanda has her own little squad of suitors, including Tate, Tim and Trask. Quentin is the most-admired man on the canvas, and Amanda is the most-admired woman, so putting them together makes a kind of rough sense.

Unfortunately, Donna McKechnie went off to London for a while, leaving a huge hole in the conclusion of this storyline. Once we get back to 1969, we’ll see that Quentin and Amanda have been searching for each other — but you wouldn’t know it from here.

874 dark shadows barnabas kitty hug

So it feels like Dark Shadows is asking the question: Do we even need romantic couples anymore?

If this was anything like a normal soap opera, we’d see a love triangle between Edward, Kitty and Barnabas, but here, in this strange frigid landscape, Edward and Barnabas aren’t explicitly played as rivals for Kitty’s love.

There’s an Edward/Kitty story — an actual, human story about love and money and disappointment — that I would very much like to see. Instead, it’s being erased, and transformed into another turn of the wheel in the endless tragedy of Barnabas and Josette. It’s just not fair. Ghosts ruin everything.

Tomorrow: Switchback.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

I actually didn’t spot any bloopers in the whole episode today, other than random boom mic shadows. If you noticed something, let us know in the comments…

Tomorrow: Switchback.

874 dark shadows pansy quentin creepy

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

11 thoughts on “Episode 874: The Rape of Kitty Soames

  1. But there will be romance a’comin,’ and plenty of it, Dark Shadows style, in the Leviathan story: the doomed tragedy of the Todds, an “ordinary couple” caught up in evil forces, the doomed tragedy, a la Orpheus, of Quentin and Olivia, the doomed tragedy of Carolyn and her latest (but oh, so hot) monster fixation, the doomed tragedy of Sabrina and Chris . . . young love rules on Dark Shadows!

    As you point out, Danny, Kitty showed up a mere six weeks ago, and her story has zigzagged so quickly that it’s really hard to find the heart in it. There’s a scene coming up where she switches back and forth in front of Barnabas so often and so fast that I developed a sympathetic headache. And it’s so unclear what the . . .what, ghost? past life? . . . of Josette wants, especially when we get to 1796 and the result of all this makes no sense at all as any part of someone’s plan.

    To be honest, I’ve sneaked ahead and gotten started on the Leviathan story. We may all have a free-for-all over this one, but, gosh darn it! it sure feels good to be back in the present so far!

  2. When Charity became Pansy, she stopped being tragic, and started being fun.

    We usually think of insanity as “so unpleasant”, and usually, it is, but in a certain percentage of cases, insanity seems to work FOR a person, and it makes them more popular, as opposed to less. I think Pansy is like that.

    With Kitty and Josette, it’s all very tragic, because……well……it has to be? Aside from the “Sybil” scenes, Kitty is my favorite character by Kathryn. She had potential.

    I’m used to going through DS pretty fast, so I never got tired of 1897, but here, we are taking it at a pace much closer to that of the original broadcast, so it’s understandable that people are getting restless. It was that way, originally.

    Now, it’s time to wake up, and say goodbye to Quentin, the Friendly Scarecrow, Edward, the Cowardly Lion, Judith, the Tin Woman, Evan, the Dead Munchkin, Charles, the Flying Monkey, Petofi, the Wicked Witch, and Gregory Trask, the Wonderful Wizard of Russian Roulette.

    I’ve also been doing lots of jumping ahead: Nicholas Blair risks “sounding banal”!!!

  3. I’ve never comfortable with the Charity/Pansy switch. Charity was a prude, sure, but she deserves to lose her life to a ditz with a song that will play on the jukebox in hell forever? Nope.

    The Kitty/Josette story makes less and less sense to me as I rewatch it. Why would Josette pull Kitty back to her own time? Why does she want Barnabas now? And where is Angelique in all this, whose witch-radar should be pinging like crazy now that there’s a Josette back in the ‘wood?

  4. My fanwank for Charity and Pansy is that Charity was so desperately unhappy as the Reverend’s daughter that she welcomed the escape that being Pansy gave her too much to let her go. Charity didn’t have the will to live because she didn’t want to go back to her old life with Trask, so she didn’t fight for ownership of her own body when she had the chance.

    Not so for Kitty, though. I’ll always believe she got ripped off.

    1. That’s my take as well. Charity, in my mind, was probably compliant to some degree with the takeover.

      And I agree with Danny — Kitty over Josette. So it kind of sucks.

  5. With the reincarnated Josette angle, it’s almost as if the 1897 story has spiraled in on itself and become a time travel within a time travel story. But that’s just the romantic fancies of Dan Curtis, lost loves separated by time, even in this case if it’s merely a rehash of a previous storyline. I do like the moment of those quick zooms between Kitty’s confused expression and the “blinking” frames of the Barnabas portrait — quite a deft and clever bit of camera work for a “live to tape” show.

    1. Yeah, I like the blinking frames too. I wanted to mention them in a post last week, but couldn’t think of a good spot for it. It’s a really interesting innovation, especially because it’s more televisual than theatrical.

  6. Or, since Kitty and Josette are presented as two distinctly different entities, we could have had a love square with Edward/Kitty on one side and Barnabas/Josette on the other. That would have mixed things up in an interesting way.

  7. Regarding bloopers, this does seem to be a remarkably blooper-free episode. Aside from the boom mics, I did hear a bit of squeaky studio noise when Kitty enters Josette’s room.

  8. My ‘least understood’ for this is Josette. She killed herself rather than be with Barnabas (admittedly as a loathsome bloodsucking undead ghoul) – when she was brought back as a smooshyfaced zombie/ghost/whatever, all she moaned about was returning to her rest, that she felt nothing now. Has her attitude switched because Barnabas is human again? And suddenly Josette wants to usurp the ‘reincarnation’ of her body, and pitch out the squatter in there (effectively murdering Kitty)? This doesn’t seem like the Josette we watched in 1795; maybe she’s taken a few pages out of Angelique’s book. ‘Cause that’s who this ‘Josette’ sounds like.

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