885 dark shadows kitty josette portrait

Episode 885: Not in Canvas Anymore

“I want you to do nothing. Promise me that, and I will not use the coffins.”

Now, from Josette’s point of view, it’s a weird decision either way, but it gets weirder the more that you think about it, which personally I was planning never to do. But let’s take a moment.

Kitty Soames — a living human woman, in the year 1897 — has discovered that she is the reincarnation of Josette DuPres, who toppled over a cliff in 1795. Reincarnation means that it’s the same spirit, reborn in a new body. Right? That’s what this story point has done to me; it’s made me question what reincarnation means.

So Kitty is Josette, in some kind of fictional necrobabble way. And listening to Josette’s music box put her into a kind of fugue state, where she remembered being Josette. I’m okay with that part.

But now Kitty is trying to suppress those memories, because she’s worried that the Josette persona will take over. So she goes to Josette’s room in the Old House, and argues with the portrait.

“I’ve got to go away to live my own life, and you can’t come with me!” she says. “You’ve got to let me be myself! I’ve got to forget Josette DuPres!” And then the portrait sasses her back, saying, “It is Kitty Soames you must forget!”

Now, obviously, if she’s really Josette, then who is she talking to, but it’s metaphor, it’s stagecraft, it’s a vampire soap opera and who even cares. And then there’s the floating.

855 dark shadows barnabas kitty portrait

All of a sudden, Kitty’s wearing Josette’s dress, and she’s airborne. She floats all the way up the wall in a gust of Chromakey, and when Barnabas comes into the room, he sees her sitting above the mantel, because now we live in the Haunted Mansion.

Barnabas reaches out to take her hand, and they both fade away, on a one-way trip back to 1795. And that’s how Barnabas exits the 1897 storyline, in this absolutely perplexing way.

Now, I want to give them credit here, for pulling this off in such an unexpected way. Somehow, they have to extract Barnabas from the 19th century, and send him back home, and there are several obvious paths that they could have taken — another I Ching ritual, or Angelique casting a spell. In the worst possible version, Barnabas could have just faded away, and found himself back in 1969. Instead of doing that, they gave us a memorable, surprising visual.

But can anyone tell me what is actually going on here? It feels like Kitty is suddenly using magic ghost power to suck herself back in time, discarding any chance of happiness with Barnabas in order to relive the worst night of their lives. This is where I think we’re spoiling the concept of reincarnation for everyone else.

885 dark shadows barnabas ben past

Anyway, Kitty’s weird decision — or Josette’s, or whatever — is to take Barnabas back to 1795, specifically the night that she killed herself.  On this night, as they say in the opening narration, Josette threw herself off a cliff, because Angelique told her that Barnabas was planning to kill her, and turn her into an unspeakable creature of darkness. Angelique’s negative campaign ad really resonated with the electorate, because that is exactly what Barnabas was planning to do.

So we find Barnabas lying on the ground in the woods, once again asking himself, what the hell time do you call this? He’s had a whole series of these unpleasant moments, where he comes to after a blackout, and desperately gropes for a calendar.

God damn it, he thinks. Am I going to have to kill Nathan Forbes all over again?

885 dark shadows ben barnabas change

Barnabas’ servant Ben shows up, and fills in the backstory, and Barnabas immediately groks the entire scenario. Obviously, Kitty has become Josette, and she won’t remember 1897, even though Barnabas still does. So she’s going to follow the original sequence of events, because I guess only guys have free will.

The question is: Has Barnabas changed since the last time we were here, in February 1968? Has he matured as a character, becoming a hero that can go back and actually undo the mistakes of his past? The answer to this question is no.

You can tell just by the way he handles himself in this first scene. Barnabas doesn’t explain anything to Ben, who keeps asking what he’s talking about. He just runs through the sequence of events. “I gave you orders to get a carriage, and take the coffins to the boat. But then Angelique came, and locked you in the shack. She was determined to ruin my plans.” Gotcha.

And then he acts like he’s going to be the mastermind of the evening, moving people around like chess pieces. “If Kitty has become Josette, she should be in her room. Come back and report to me. And then go to the shack. And when Angelique comes, bring her to me in Josette’s room at the Old House!”

This is exactly the problem. He needs to not be doing this.

885 dark shadows natalie josette dream

Kitty’s re-entry is a bit smoother. She just wakes up as Josette, and says that she’s had a strange dream. “I was looking at a portrait…” she says. “My portrait!” Natalie asks what she’s talking about, and she says, “The portrait — it’s as if it were alive! It doesn’t make any sense at all, but I felt as if I were the girl in the portrait! Then I woke up here.”

So, there you go. Even Josette doesn’t think that this plot point makes sense, and she’s the one who started it. What chance do the rest of us have?

But sense, as always, is entirely beside the point. The show needs an off-ramp from 1897, and apparently when we want to close down a storyline, we visit 1795 for a few episodes. That’s what they did in January when they needed to wrap Vicki’s story; we even got a clip show that time. Josette going over Niagara Falls is a popular plot point, so we might as well revisit it while we’re waiting for something new to happen.

885 dark shadows angelique barnabas dress

But the single most surprising thing in this episode is Angelique’s dress. After seeing her swan around for months in her sumptuous 1897 wardrobe, this return to servant-girl couture is almost painful. She looks diminished. It’s practically a special effect.

And strangely, this is the only moment in this tangled timeline when Angelique doesn’t know everything that we know. Going by the logic that we’ve seen so far, this version of Angelique should be asking Barnabas how Quentin got away from Count Petofi, and whatever happened to that tedious Kitty Hampshire. Instead, we have straight-up episode 425 Angelique, which is even more surprising, because we’re not used to Dark Shadows following any kind of consistent logic.

885 dark shadows barnabas angelique bargain

So what we have here is essentially a hostage negotiation, with Barnabas asking Angelique to spare Josette. He promises that he won’t try to turn Josette into a vampire, if she’ll lay off the cliff-diving lessons. It goes spectacularly badly.

Angelique:  What are you planning now?

Barnabas:  I only want to save Josette’s life.

Angelique:  You really love her, don’t you?

Barnabas:  Too much to have her join me in that way.

Angelique:  I believe you. How often I’ve wanted to hear you say that one word, Love… and mean me.

Barnabas:  Angelique — if you have any feeling for me at all, other than hate — do this one thing for me.

 Angelique:  And if I agree?

And then he just looks at her, like a chump, because he has nothing to offer. He comes up with “I will be grateful,” which is not the correct answer.

885 dark shadows angelique barnabas frog scorpion

So, as I said: No. Barnabas can’t just put his foot out, and trip history as it thunders by. Once again, he thinks that he can grab the closest dark-haired woman and turn her into Josette, without propelling her down the same path, over the cliff and into the sea.

Kitty could have survived. That is unmistakably clear. If Barnabas had been able to step back for five seconds, and not throw the music box at her, then she could have married Edward, and experienced whatever joy or sadness or disappointment would have followed. He did have the choice, just at that moment, to save Josette’s life. He chose to destroy her.

There is no new, mature Barnabas, who returns in triumph to a ticker tape parade and the key to the city. He’s just the same foolish mess of a man, tripping over his own plans, falling backwards downstairs into whatever comes next.

Monday: The Sacrifice.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Barnabas wakes up in the woods in the first scene, he has some stray leaves in his hair and on his cape.

When Ben is talking to Barnabas in the woods, there’s the sound of a creaking door, or a chair. It happens in the middle of Ben’s line: “Mr. Barnabas” — creak — “change your mind!”

Josette is telling Natalie about her strange dream. “I was dressed like no one else is. I was holding a dress, it was my dress!” Natalie answers, “You must not — think of that,” which doesn’t mean anything. Then she asks Josette to continue telling her about the dream.

After Barnabas asks Angelique to stay with him until midnight, someone in the studio coughs.

When Natalie and Josette tussle and knock over the vase, it falls onto the bed first, so it’s out of synch with the “smashing glass” sound effect.

Natalie says that it’s an hour to midnight, but right after the vase breaks, you can see that the clock on the mantel says 10:05.

As Josette approaches the cliff on Widow’s Hill, a boom mic peeks into the frame.


Behind the Scenes:

Josette’s sleeping on mustard-colored sheets that we’ve seen before, on David’s bed back in 1967.

At the end of this episode, Jonathan Frid made an announcement over the credits: “This is Barnabas Collins. On Tuesday, November 18th, Dark Shadows returns to the year 1969, when one of the most terrifying tales ever told will begin on ABC.” The same text (minus the first sentence) was repeated by an announcer on Monday’s credits. These announcements weren’t on the master tape and therefore aren’t on the DVD, but MPI included off-air kinescope recordings of both announcements in the bonus features on their final box set, #26 (aka Disc 128 in the Complete DS box set).

Monday: The Sacrifice.

885 dark shadows josette vampire

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

49 thoughts on “Episode 885: Not in Canvas Anymore

  1. Isn’t Angelique supposed to be dead at this point in 1795 and just a disembodied head that sometimes takes human form to testify against idiots on trial for witchcraft?

  2. I might have posted this before, but when this episode originally aired on ABC, during the end credits Jonathan Frid did a voice-over announcement: “This is Barnabas Collins. On November ??, Dark Shadows will return to the year 1969 for the most terrifying story ever told.” I was really relieved to know that the show would be returning to the present time. The “most terrifying story ever told” was uh, well….

  3. I feel like Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men here, but the Leviathan story was not that bad!!! I’m racing through it now and enjoying a lot of it. Like all DS stories, it sags and bends under the weight of its own illogic, but it has lots of twists and surprises and some really good points, which I will try and point out to the angry mob! Will no one stand beside me? You, Joseph Sweeney? Jack Klugman? How about you, John Fiedler?

    1. I agree, and it also has one of my favorite sets, the Blue Whale. Not to mention the return of Dennis Patrick.

      1. I think “I’m racing through it now” might explain the reaction to the Leviathan storyline. It is glacially slow until Jeb appears (compare the pacing to a similar period in 1897, 1968, and 1795). I also enjoyed it more when I watched it in batches on DVD (even the two episodes a day on Sci-Fi felt like forever).

    2. I agree that the Leviathan story gets too much hate. Yes, it has its down periods, but what Dark Shadows story doesn’t? But what makes it memorable is that it pays off plot points that were established early on in the show. When Paul Stoddard arrived, it felt like a huge event. The fact he was played by Dennis Patrick was extra icing on the cake for me. Definitely one of the best parts of the arc.

  4. Prisoner, we will stand together on this. Stephen, we will agree to disagree. I actually love the early part, with evil Barnabus and the beginnings of it all.

  5. By my calculations, the Josette that’s haunting the portrait in 1897 should be the smush-faced, dangling-eyeball Josette who just wants to rest in peace. It doesn’t seem to me like she’d be down with the whole Luring Kitty Into the Portrait caper.

    1. It does kind of turn the whole concept of reincarnation on its head. Doesn’t the soul choose in which new body/life to be reincarnated as? And if Josette has indeed reincarnated, then her spirit would be residing in the body of Kitty Soames, not in some inanimate portrait.

  6. One of the best special effects on the show was Kitty/Josette merging into the portrait – it’s probably a special moment for Kathryn Leigh Scott if she ever watches these episodes. Just a side thought – wouldn’t it be strange to view your younger self via the medium of a long running television series 50 years later?? I like the Leviathan story – 1897, although the most popular storyline of the show never clicked with me personally – I felt that there were so many events going on at one time you never got to really engage in any one plot. Like comparing a 5 star dining event where you savor every taste and flavor of the meal to an ‘all you can eat’ buffet…

  7. IMO, Dark Shadows is at its best during the Leviathan storyline. Unfortunately, the Leviathans themselves are The Weakest Link in this period. Everything else taking place during this period is fun and a huge improvement over the dreary, drawn-out 1897.

  8. I thought it was pretty cool that they went back to 1795 at the end. I love the visual of Barnabas and Kitty/Josette fading into the portrait. Maybe Josette brought Barnabas and Kitty back to that night in 1795 hoping to change the events of that evening. So they could live out their lives in 1795.

    But now that I think about it that doesn’t make any sense, because 1795 Barnabas is a Vampire, and 1897 ghost Josette would know that. Hmmm…maybe it’s just Angelique giving one last FU to Josette. Maybe she was behind all this portrait haunting business. She’s seems to have come to terms with Barnabas, but probably never got over hating Josette.

    1. This moment with the portrait could actually be the beginning of the Leviathan storyline. They are using Josette to divert Barnabas into their path and to make him vulnerable and more willing to cooperate, as if the 1795 he returns to isn’t actually real, but a staged alternate universe which is created merely to bring him into their control, because the Leviathans are at this point merely in a state of “pre-existence” and out of the realm of time, so they spot this time traveler (because while traveling between one time and another you jump out of existence for a slight interval, like a dolphin leaping above the surface of the sea) and hatch a plan so that, through Barnabas and his path back to 1969, they can step back in to time and thus back in to existence.

      1. You know what would be so cool about your theory, Prisoner? It would explain why THIS Josette’s is so different from the Josette we already know. All the questions we’ve been asking about how this all fits into reincarnation or why Angelique isn’t already dead could be explained. The whole thing could be a trick hallucination to get Barnabas on their side.

        I know that Hall, Welles, et al did not think this clearly or with such foresight. But does it matter now that we fans can think that way?

        Of course, this doesn’t account for the fact that halfway through the first part of the Leviathan story, they rewrite the reason Barnabas is involved at all. It’s the first sour note in the tale for me because I really liked when Barnabas was heart and soul part of the Leviathan cause.

        1. Totally agree. These two 1796 (not 1795) episodes are two of my least favorite in the series. The only way I can stomach them is to say they’re a Levianthan-induced illusion. You’re right that the writers were certainly not thinking this, but the fans can rewrite parts of the series that don’t work. I mean, did the writers really want to change canon and say Josette DIDN ‘T go over Niagara Falls? Unacceptable. So we will rewrite that bit and then sleep easy knowing that she still took that tumble and Kitty, for her part, woke up in the woods in 1897, begged Edward to forgive her, and got that ring back on her finger.

          1. Except then they have her go completely OOC and commit suicide because Barnabas didn’t come for her. Just a couple of days before she found the Collins History saying she would kill herself and she was adamant that she would NEVER do that. I hadn’t thought about this being a Leviathan trick, but that makes this whole story a bit more palatable. Josette may not be the greatest character, but she wasn’t suicidal. Her original fall from Widow’s Hill was her trying to get away from Barnabas and not be turned into a blood sucking monster. Even then she didn’t jump, she was struggling with Barnabas and fell when she pulled away from him.

  9. Regarding Josette’s portrait: Don’t forget that in 1966 her ghost came out of the portrait to save Vicki from Matthew.

    1. True, but at least at that time she was “in between lives”, that is, her spirit was not also inhabiting a living person who resided at Collinwood at the time. There was nothing to indicate that she hadn’t since her untimely death been anyone other than Josette the whole time.

      In those days, the spirit of Josette Collins was the backbone of Collinwood mythology, and she was a strong, protective presence who even instilled fear in the heart of the Phoenix at the mere mention of her name in 1966 and 1967. Then, when her backstory is rewritten for 1795 she shows less strength of character, and virtually none at all in this 1897/1796 rehash.

      I wonder how Art Wallace would have written these episodes.

  10. I liked aspects of the Leviathan story and I was really happy (being a teen in 1970) that the show returned to contemporary times. But with all the zombies walking around, entering Collinwood, etc., was just way over the top.

  11. Since we are exiting 1897, I might as well review my thoughts of the period.

    I can see why some people consider this as the “golden age” period of the show and the best storyline, but I respectfully don’t agree. As crazy and entertaining as 1897 is, I can barely remember most of what happens because of how chaotic and jumbled the plot is. While I’m watching it I’m having a blast, but I am hard pressed to remember the events in order.

    Another problem I have with this period is that most of the characters are unsympathetic right off the bat. In order for me to become invested in a character, there needs to be some kind of redeeming trait I can latch onto. When Barnabas arrived in episode 211, he was charming and Daniel pointed out that he was “sad,” unlike the anger shown in his portrait. Most of the 1897 characters (except Quentin) don’t have their redeeming trait until much later in the story, which makes it harder for me to become invested in them. At the end of the day, I need to care about the characters before I invest in them. This is why 1795-6 is better in my eyes. It had interesting characters that I cared about from the get-go and was one of the most emotionally intense stories of the series.

    Overall, 1897 gets a 3 out of 5 from me. Entertaining and spellbinding at its best and incoherently unmemorable at its worst.

  12. I like pretty much everything about the Leviathan story arc, except how they retconned Barnabas. He was not pretending to be a Leviathan at the beginning, he really was evil brainwashed Barnabas. Saying he wasn’t is just a cop-out, man.

    1. We can talk more about it when we get there, Rose (that’s a guess! 🙂 ), but I absolutely agree that this is the first big mistake. And then the whole brainwashing thing starts to get really muddied! It would have been a much more terrifying story if the brainwash held and they didn’t change the rules so that everyone could start having moral qualms! (They could have explained David Henesy’s broken leg in a way that made sense, too, since he was one of the most loyal Leviathans.) Watching Elizabeth rejoice that her daughter was going to become a repulsive mud thingy would have been super creepy!

    2. Yes, he’s downright evil, arguably more so than he was in 1967, during the scene where he explains to Stoddard that he sold his daughter to the Leviathans. There’s no evidence he is struggling with his actions. He even tries to flat-out murder Quentin! When I watch him, I keep thinking how Nicholas Blair would have worked just as well if not better in this role.

      Barnabas is a character motivated by love — twisted love in many cases, but he has no ambitions for world domination. It is a different character.

      Though, I suppose as the ultimate eccentric millionaire, getting involved with a cult is par for the course.

  13. I love the Leviathan story. I did think Christopher Pennock’s acting was pretty bad when he first came on the show. It took him a few months to settle down and figure out what he was doing. I mean, scenery-chewing is OK as long as you’ve got some kind of core of soul or sincerity backing it up. But scenery-chewing just for S&G gets a little annoying after a while. It was almost like he was breaking the fourth wall and saying to the audience, “See? SEE? See how EEEVILLLL I AM? AIN’T I A STINKER?”

    But that’s one of the good things about this show; it gives weird actors a chance to develop.

    1. That’s funny, because in this Archive of American Television interview (with Jim Pierson in Burbank, California, on July 21, 2008), he tells specifically of how much he disliked working with Grayson Hall (he couldn’t even recall her name at first, only the fact that “she died…”). Director Lela Swift also tended to get on his nerves.

      http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/jonathan-frid

      1. Maybe he was being a little more honest in his old age. I’ve seen some interviews with him where he was positively grumpy.

        1. In this interview especially, he comes across as quite grumpy, refusing even to answer certain questions because Jim Pierson had already done another interview with Frid earlier (this was during the Dark Shadows fan convention for that year, during which Frid fell over onstage and had to be led off), and Frid would balk in the surliest manner possible, saying, “Oh, Jim, we went over all this already!”, perhaps forgetting the significance of this archived interview, that it was something, a career-spanning retrospective sponsored by a prominent institution, that would be highly visible to fans of the future.

  14. He seems grumpy, testy and rude in this video. “Let’s just talk about other people as they pertain to me.” “We already talked about this!” Clearly he’s somewhat deaf and forgetful here, but you can tell the interviewer is trying to “handle” him. I couldn’t find the part about Grayson Hall, and I listened to all of part 2 and most of part 3. If anyone supported and aided Frid on camera, it was her.

    1. It’s in there, I can’t recall where exactly (it’s a four-part interview), but it’s when he’s recalling his Dark Shadows days. One of the things that bothered him about Grayson if I recall was that he said she would “overact” or “over-emote” — but then so did everyone on that show. 🙂 Another thing he mentions is that he didn’t like her false eyelashes — and again, all the women in those days did, at least in the earlier black and white episodes.

      1. He commented with amusement that they were slathered with “opera make-up,” not even theatre but opera! He complained that sometimes they went nuts with the eyeliner – so true! Why did I think Frid himself had something to do with that. Evidently he wished they had been more subtle, but he excused it as make-up for a fantasy world! Great stuff!

      2. Well thanks, what an eye-opener! Everywhere you read about how well they got along, and in that other interview on Dick Cavett he is saying how Grayson saved him, and now this! I can’t believe it. He is talking about the use of the teleprompter (starting 2 minutes in Part 3, but starts to talk about Grayson about 2:30), and he is saying that she was the one who took the most advantage of it! But Jonathan Frid was probably the person who had the most trouble with his lines, and relied heavily on the teleprompter. She also rescued him plenty, which is clear to see on the screen. I was blown away by him saying he didn’t like her at all. Woah, where did that come from? Maybe he just hated how she didn’t care at all, she was shameless about using the teleprompter while he was really ashamed of it and trying so hard to pretend he wasn’t doing it.

    2. I think that age was beginning to take its toll. In her final years my mother had dementia, and at one time she started complaining about her sister and listing all her grievances against her since she was 2 years old…

  15. I think I only watched this storyline once during the SFC run in the 19980’s, but I didn’t like the Leviathan story. I’m not sure if it were revealed later or I fan-wanked it, but I thought they diverted Barnabus to a 1795 pocket universe to make him more easily swayed to their cause.

  16. Am I the only one who thinks it may have actually been a good idea to let count Petofi get to1969…and to transition that way instead of this crazy Leviathan business?

    1. That’s what I thought happened when they showed the mysterious stranger wandering about Collinwood at the beginning of the Leviathan story.

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