Episode 879: Old Business

“Do you think me mad?”

Dark magic-dabbling attorney Evan Hanley was murdered yesterday, the not very innocent victim of an undead prison guard who was magically brought to life by an insane sketch artist, working under the instructions of a mad old wizard who wants to dispose of his pet assassin. I hope the Collinsport police don’t have a lot to do right now, because there is going to be all kinds of paperwork to complete on this one.

Now that rough beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching towards Collinwood, where I’m sorry but he’s going to have to take a number, and wait his turn.

879 dark shadows judith trask attitude

There are five characters in today’s episode of Dark Shadows, and each of them wants to murder at least one of the others. Evan’s end was just the start of a string of violent deaths we’re going to see over the next week, as a kind of storyline housecleaning. We’re heading towards the end of the 1897 story, and that means there’s a clearance sale on used characters. Everything must go, the sign says. Everything.

Today, the odious Reverend Trask learns about Evan’s death from Aristede, the freelance assassin who’s being hunted by the unstoppable black-souled vengeance demon. But Trask is more concerned with his own affairs — specifically, his plan to murder his wife, Judith.

Judith has been studying her faithless husband lately, and she’s come to the conclusion that the world would be a better place with fewer Trasks in it. So she’s been trolling him, informing him that she plans to change her will and leave all of her money to charity. The only lawyer on the show has just croaked on the carpet, which makes the will-changing a bit more difficult to arrange, but really she’s just trying to rattle Trask’s cage. He has now been sufficiently rattled.

879 dark shadows judith tim plan

So Judith goes downtown to visit Tim Shaw, an ex-teacher who hates Reverend Trask because Trask and Evan hypnotized him, and forced him to murder Trask’s wife Minerva. Now, following Evan’s murder, Tim is being employed by Trask’s wife Judith to murder Trask. Are you getting all of this?

It’s tricky, I know, because this is another one of those clockwork episodes, which is all about moving characters and props from one room to another. Aristede’s in the bedroom with a revolver, Judith’s in the parlor with the poison, Tim’s in the west wing with a trowel and a pile of bricks, and somewhere out there in the gloom, Garth Blackwood is shaking the excess bits of lawyer off his choke chain. I don’t know if they have a billiard room or a conservatory in this moldering manse, but somebody ought to do a security sweep just in case, and batten down any loose candlesticks and lead pipes.

879 dark shadows trask aristede plot

Getting down to business, Trask takes Aristede up to the master bedroom, and hands him a revolver that he’s carrying in his pocket. I don’t know if Trask always walks around armed, but this is Collinwood; he probably found the gun in the nursery.

The plan is as follows: Aristede hides behind a curtain. When Judith enters the room to go to bed, Aristede will shoot her, steal her jewels and then, I don’t know, join the Ice Capades or something. It doesn’t matter. This feels like a big ol’ slice of not gonna happen. There are other murder plots in the house today that are way more interesting than this one.

879 dark shadows tim judith map

Downstairs, Judith leads Tim into the drawing room, and gives him some blueprints. “This is a plan of the upstairs,” she explains. “You’ll have about an hour. He’s reading. He’ll come to my room. Give me fifteen minutes. Now, you’ll go to Quentin’s room. I’ve had all of Quentin’s things removed.”

The remarkable thing is that Judith has never killed anyone before, and she’s amazing at this. It must be in the blood; the Collins family is made for murder.

879 dark shadows judith tim backacting

She takes a moment for some self-reflective backacting.

“Do you think me mad?” she asks.

Tim says, “I should think you mad, if you continued to live with Trask.”

“Yes,” Judith replies. “I’ve decided that too.”

Which is fine, except she could just divorce the guy, and kick him out of the house. This option is a lot more of a hassle.

879 dark shadows judith aristede lurking

Next, Judith goes upstairs, where Aristede is waiting for her. Tick tock goes the clockwork.

879 dark shadows blackwood door

And downstairs, where nobody is paying attention, the hellhound enters the house. The door isn’t locked, so he just lets himself on in, and follows his nose.

879 dark shadows aristede judith gun

Aristede pops out of his hidey-hole, with his heater pointed at Judith. “Who are you?” she gasps, thinking, Can’t a girl murder her husband in peace?

The smooth assassin purrs, “I’ve come here to kill you.” She cries, “No!” but he assures her, “Oh, yesss.” This occupies precious seconds when he could have been pulling the trigger.

879 dark shadows aristede blackwood chain

Because then the door swings open, and in comes Garth Blackwood, the demon of Dartmoor.

“You learn little, ARISTEDE!” he proclaims, stamping across the floor. “Crime after crime! It SADDENS me, as it always saddens me when one of my boys refuses to learn!” He punctuates this with a swing of his chain.

And now Judith is a bystander in a totally different story. She doesn’t even know who the hell these people are.

879 dark shadows judith blackwood trask

But it all works itself out, somehow. Aristede leaps out the window, leaving Blackwood screaming, “You shall not escape from ME!” and smacking his chain against the wall. Trask runs in to see what all the racket’s about, and Blackwood shoves past him en route to the stairs, dragging his bad leg and rattling his chains.

Now, you would imagine, at this point, that Judith might want to reconsider pulling the trigger on her own murder plot for the evening. The one thing that you want, when you’re arranging for the death of a loved one, is for the rest of the world to keep the noise down until you’re finished.

I mean, Judith has already had some servants clear out Quentin’s room in a hurry, and then she brought a whole bunch of supplies upstairs for Tim. Now there’s a chain-wielding maniac with a wooden leg stomping upstairs and down, ranting about crime and punishment at the top of his lungs, plus there’s a completely different stranger, jumping out of the goddamn second-story window. This may be the noisiest evening in Collinwood history, up to and including the werewolf attacks. Where the hell is everybody?

879 dark shadows trask judith poison

But nobody calls the police, or even stops by to see what’s going on. They must all be wrapped up in their own murder plans, taking advantage of the distraction to sharpen their daggers and ready their poison-tipped blow darts.

And Judith takes all of this in stride, like the stone cold killer that she has suddenly become. She takes a brandy to calm her nerves, and pushes one on her husband as well. Like a sap, he swallows the Mickey Finn like it’s his bedtime treat.

879 dark shadows tim trask prison

Now, you’d imagine that the brandy would be spiked with something stronger and more lethal than Ambien, but after all that drama, you can’t just kill the guy with an adult beverage. You need a more exciting climax.

So Trask wakes up with a bad headache, and finds himself in Quentin’s room. Tim’s there, making a few last-minute adjustments, and he keeps Trask covered while he lets himself out.

Tim locks the door, and the windows have been nailed shut. Trask is trapped.

646 dark shadows amy david skeleton

And that’s when you realize that they’re taking the opportunity to take up all the old business, before 1897 comes to a close. They’re not just killing off all the characters that they don’t need anymore; they’re also wrapping up some unsolved mysteries from the beginning of the story.

When David and Amy first discovered Quentin’s room in — dear lord, it was eleven months ago, in December 1968 — they found a rotting corpse, identified as the final remains of Quentin Collins.

This was clearly Quentin, too — David said so, a couple of times. He told Amy, “All we’re doing is giving Quentin what his family refused to give him — a decent burial.” But nobody really remembers dialogue, especially not from that long ago. We just remember the striking visual — a dead body, locked away in this secret room.

Even so, they didn’t need to tie this up, and substitute another body in Quentin’s place. Barnabas and Angelique and Julia and Petofi have changed the course of history, sparing Quentin and un-haunting the present day Collinwood. They could have ignored this bit of old business, and moved on. But here they are, showing off how clever they can be.

879 dark shadows judith tim wall

And this is wonderful. Trask manages to open the locked door, and he finds Judith and Tim, who have built an impossible brick wall, blocking his exit in a terminal way. The last two bricks are about to be laid, at just the right spot for Trask to look through, and see his wife, and say goodbye. It’s a perfect moment, all the more remarkable during this noisy mess of a week.

For months, Gregory Trask has reveled in his ability to lock up anyone he finds objectionable — young students, ungrateful teachers, a brother-in-law that he suspected was a werewolf. Trask has confined one person after another, with Judith’s stay in the sanitarium as his crowning achievement.

And now — like his namesake, a century earlier — Reverend Trask is trapped behind a brick wall, constructed by the people who hate him the most. If there has to be a murder today — if there must be a room that we seal up, before we can move on — then, sure. Let it be this one.

Tomorrow: The Further Adventures of Other People.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The camera wobbles during Trask and Judith’s scene at the top of act 2.

When Tim tells Judith about Mrs. Curry, he looks at the teleprompter approximately once per sentence.

While Trask is briefing Aristede on the murder, the camera turns off for a second, then comes back on.

Judith tells Tim: “There’s a curtained alcove in the corner — corridor. There are all the things are that we need, be sure they’re there.”

When Judith enters her bedroom and Aristede is hiding behind the curtain, one of the stage lights can be seen at the bottom left of the screen. A little later, when Judith gasps at the sight of Aristede with his gun, you can see another stage light reflected in the glass of a framed picture. You can see it again when Blackwood leaves the room.


Behind the Scenes:

My favorite prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp, shows up in Tim’s hotel suite today. We last saw it two weeks ago, in the guest room at  Collinwood where Barnabas was recuperating.

Tomorrow: The Further Adventures of Other People.

880 clue board 2

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 879: Old Business

  1. And that bedside lamp in Judith’s room in 1897 was in Victoria Winters’ room at Collinwood in 1966 to 1968.

    Fortunately, no table lamps were harmed in the clearing of the 1897 story.

  2. And this is the moment where everybody finds out that I’m even weirder than they thought I was, but really, what were they expecting? Because I’ve always found Judith and Tim lingering over the brickwork to be kind of hot. I always imagine them washing the mortar off their hands and disappearing behind the nearest set of bed curtains. Naughty, naughty conspirators.

  3. I’m going to miss seeing Joan Bennett in the beautiful period gowns that she wore in these episodes. And I am sure that Ms. Bennett missed wearing them too. Welcome back to 1970 and polyester everything 😛

  4. Because I’ve always found Judith and Tim lingering over the brickwork to be kind of hot. I always imagine them washing the mortar off their hands and disappearing behind the nearest set of bed curtains

    It’s symbolism: “The last two bricks are about to be laid” and so is Judith.

  5. Here’s a little joke I came up with in tribute to one of Dark Shadows’ favorite methods of execution, brickwalling, which is carried out some five times over the shows’ run:

    Q: What do they call the Collinsport morgue?

    A: The mortarary

  6. Much as I’d love to see Judith and Tim have a celebratory roll in the hay, we know it could never happen – hell, it can’t even happen now.
    Apparently it’s okay to pair old geezers with young chicks but nobody (in America anyway) wants to see an older Babe with a young stud.
    What is it Onslow tells ever amorous Daisy?
    “Sorry Dais but women just age faster than men – it’s a biological fact.”
    Right – thanks ON-SLOW.
    The best we can hope for is that Judith adopt Tim or make him her ward.
    Bet that would have gone over well with Edward.

    1. I’m always hearing that, but that isn’t what I see – instead, it seems to me that most people who are priggish about the one thing are usually priggish about the OTHER thing too. Which doesn’t surprise me – why should people get on ONE moral high horse when they can get on a PAIR of them?!

    2. Hey, Dark Shadows sex fantasies can’t be all tongue-tied fortyish vampires and confused reincarnations of French ninnies.

  7. Absolutely one of my favourite episodes. I can’t wait for Trask to get his. And even though it’s the third (?) brickwalling, to me, it’s the first. 🙂

    Looking at the big picture of Dark Shadows, though, it’s hard to ignore that this “kill everyone and move on” attitude is not a great way to run a serialised narrative. Though they will copy this in 1970, PT, and 1840.

    I’m thrilled they thought of putting a skeleton in the room, even though they didn’t have to.

    1. It was the end of the 1795 storyline that had really set the pattern. All of the major characters had been killed off except Joshua, Daniel, Ben, an essentially insane Millicent, and, if he even counts, an undead vampire chained up in his coffin.

      1. I thought 1795 ended like a Shakespearan tragedy. It made thematic sense. 1897, however, just sort of ends. It’s arguably a worse ending than Adam/Eve because the latter storyline starts to segue into Chris Jennings/the werewolf & Quentin’s ghost.

        The last scene of “our” 1897 heartthrob Quentin is really anti-climactic. Worse, we never get a farewell scene with Magda (for all we know, she never sees Barnabas again after Julia returned to the past). This is the result of outside schedules but it’s somewhat disappointing.

        1. I agree completely, Stephen. I think the 1795 storyline ended brilliantly and was, in fact, the single finest storyline wrap-up in the entire run of DS. I prefer not even to count those subsequent retoolings where Barnabas went back again to make a few minor adjustments. They’re utterly forgettable.

          1. And so much of it was due to Louis Edmonds’s beautiful acting as a shaken but determined Joshua, left to clean up the bodies and go on as best he could. He started out the story as kind of a heavy, but ended up as the real hero. Brings tears to my eyes every time.

            1. Yes, absolutely! I think Joshua was Edmonds’s greatest portrayal on DS. I distinctly recall my aunt (a fellow fan) repeatedly referring to him (in the role of Joshua) as “the old man,” when in fact Louis was actually younger than she was at the time. He really came across superbly well as an elder patriarch, yet did so with a minimum of makeup — conveying his age and personality through voice inflections and body language more than anything else. Edmonds and the writers together managed to impart to Joshua more gravitas and tragic grandeur — a man who learns too late the true depths of his feelings for those closest to him — than any other character in the entire run of the show.

  8. A most Poesque end for Trask!

    I will just interject amid the furniture inventory that Elizabeth’s gown and Aristede’s cravat appear nicely coordinated.

  9. I was going to mention the costume coordinating, too! Hope Barnabas put a couple of bolts of fabric in his coffin for the return to 1969, that color that Judith is wearing would really brighten up the Old House.

  10. I still like to believe it was Trask’s skeleton all along and that’s what David and Amy found. And that Quentin’s ghost was Petofi. I hate the idea of “changing history” because once you change one thing… 1969 should have looked way way different than when Barnabas left. But yes, from the writers’ point of view, they didn’t need to find a replacement skeleton… Or maybe they were in fact thinking along these lines.

  11. I love the way Garth Blackwood’s penchant for spontaneous executions provides Judith with the perfect cover story for Gregory’s mysterious disappearance.
    Judith really seized the day, or in this case, the night.

  12. Of course Judith bricked up Trask alive! When you’re lucky enough to get a Trask, that’s what you do with him, particularly if you’re a Collins.

    It’s my theory that Pansy is Tony Peterson’s grandmother. It would explain why he looks like a Trask, but doesn’t act like a Trask and isn’t named Trask.

    1. Do we see Tony Peterson after 1897? It’s possible that he was Charity Trask’s grandson in the “original” timeline. She probably married Tim Shaw as planned with Barnabas out of the picture (and Trask not going after Judith’s money). Maybe the Shaws had a daughter who married a Peterson. Regardless, it’s hard to say what happened with Pansy but it could be that Tony was “erased” from the timeline. Thanks, Barnabas!

  13. You can tell a story or setting is over when they start killing off all the chars!
    I always wondered why they did that. That had to wreck havoc on the timeline, especially when it was caused by time-travelling interlopers!

    1. Then again, we get back to 1969 and David and Amy still remember being haunted by Quentin’s ghosteven, though Quentin never really died anymore. So we’re dealing with a special brand of temporal physics here.

  14. “… they didn’t need to tie this up, and substitute another body in Quentin’s place. Barnabas and Angelique and Julia and Petofi have changed the course of history.,.”

    True. But it’s still great. This is one of my favorite episodes, a great way to wind down 1897. I do disagree with one thing – Barnabas, Angelique, and Julia did not change history. Petofi did.

    There are basically two types of time travel stories. Type 1 is the “Butterfly Effect” – Hunters go back in time to hunt dinosaurs, accidentally step on a butterfly, and change history. Type 2 is is the protagonist goes back in time, intending to change history, but ends up causing the events that he was trying to change.

    1897 is a “Type 2” time travel story. Barnabas goes back in time hoping find out information about Quentin. That causes Quentin and Evan Handley to summon Angelique, who eventually tries to force Quentin to marry her. That causes Beth to shoot Quentin and poison herself. Julia had no impact on the events other than saving Barnabas. It was Petofi’s hand that led to the events that changed history.

    I read and watch a lot of SF, and I have to say that as time travel stories go, this is pretty damn good, particularly considering that the writers mere making it up as they went along. Certainly much better than the confusing nonsense like “Lost.” The only complaint I have is that the writers never closed the loop by explaining how Petofi’s hand got involved in the first place.

    In the great Dr. Who episode, “Blink” the viewer is left in the dark about how the Doctor knew how to contact Sally Sparrow…until the last scene. That’s what’s missing here. If, for example, on his journey back to 1797, Barnabas ran into a younger Petofi, that could have closed the loop – the events are history to Barnabas but the future for Petofi. But, given the stressed writing schedule, that’s not realistic. Besides, what they did achieve was amazing.

    1. But Beth did not shoot Quentin, nor did she poison herself. That is the history that was changed. I’m also not sure what you mean by the writers needing to explain “how Petofi’s hand got involved in the first place.” We do learn the backstory of Petofi and his hand and why Magda stole it.

  15. Didn’t Judith say that she’d had all Quentin’s things removed from his rooms? Then why is the record player still there in 1969 when Amy and David find the room? And the furniture is different from what we see when Trask is walled in; and his clothing is different from what’s on the skeleton.
    But who cares? We’ve got another Trask bricked in, and that’s good enough for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s