Episode 949: The Last Days of the Guthrie Brothers

“It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”

There’s a rap at the door, interrupting Laura’s fireside reverie. Laura Collins has been living in the cottage on the Collinwood estate for two months now, periodically ensorcelling people, as she prepares to enter the furnace with her son, and char for all eternity. Laura has a vivid interior life.

But the rap, as I said. She glides to the door, and finds a Dartmouth professor in glasses and turtleneck, standing at the threshold.

“Mrs. Collins?” he inquires, and Laura says yes.

“I’m Peter Guthrie. I’ve been wanting to meet you.”

“I was just thinking about you,” she smiles, quietly. “Wondering what you’d be like.”

And now I can see what you’re like, she thinks. Oh, well. You can’t win them all.

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Meanwhile, three years later, another knock on another door, and guess who pops by the haunted antiques shop.

“Mr. Todd?” says the trenchcoat, and Philip says yes.

“My name is Lawrence Guthrie. I’m here from the state capital, investigating the unusual aspects of the murders.” There’s been murders, which have unusual aspects.

“Yes, I’d heard you were here,” Philip says, and invites him in, and another turn of the wheel begins.

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So here they are, Pete and Larry — the Guthrie brothers — settling down on the couch, in just the spot you had earmarked for other purposes. They’ve got a few questions, if you don’t mind, about symptoms and suspects and the existence of other worlds.

They will ask their questions, and raise their eyebrows, and smile their secret smiles, and then they’ll die, these doomed investigators. They will die in fire and agony. It’s purely a formality, you understand; it’s nothing personal.

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Dr. Guthrie isn’t a regular type doctor; he’s actually a parapsychologist, called in from Dartmouth to assist in a case that’s baffled the finest minds in Collinsport. Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is flat on her back, unable to move or speak or take any nourishment but sherry, and yet the doctors say there’s nothing wrong with her. So here comes Peter Guthrie, ghost-chaser and big thinker, to pose as a doctor and diagnose this impossible illness.

Inspector Guthrie isn’t quite what he appears, either. Yes, he’s an investigator from the state capital, but he hasn’t been assigned to this case. Nobody has. The boys in Augusta steer clear of the cases from Collinsport, a town where every murder has unusual aspects. The state capital has had several hundred years to adjust itself to Collinsport, and they’ve learned that investigators who head in that direction don’t come back. Lawrence Guthrie knows that better than most.

But the file on Lawrence’s desk said “Paul Stoddard”, as in Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. Pete’s last case.

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Meanwhile, three years ago, Peter Guthrie perches on the sofa, ingratiating himself. Laura Collins is not an easy woman to ingratiate. She’s not even a woman, probably, she’s a white hot kernel of popcorn, visibly holding back the pop, as she arches an eyebrow and pretends this is a social call.

“David’s a nice boy,” says Dr. Guthrie. David is her son, the one she plans to flambé.

“Yes, I think so,” she says. “And also a very imaginative one. Of course, you can’t blame him, growing up in a place like this all by himself.”

“It’s a beautiful place.”

“Oh, yes, it is,” she allows, “but so much a part of the past, rather than the present. It’s not surprising that he believes in ghosts.”

“Do you?”

“No.”

“Well, what do you believe in?”

Another eyebrow. “Well, if I so incline, I believe in times gone by. I believe that the events of the past can be haunting enough, without conjuring up spirits about it.”

This dame has been consumed in flames several times, by the way, in various time periods and municipalities. I don’t know if she’s ever been burned specifically because she talks like this, but I bet it didn’t help.

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But you talk about haunted by events of the past? Yeah, that’s Lawrence’s area; he’s had a lot of experience in that line. He’s currently standing in the middle of the country’s most dangerous antiques shop, trying to put it to rest.

“Now, Mr. Todd,” the inspector begins, “I’d like to ask you a few questions about Paul Stoddard. I’m sure you’ve already discussed this with Sheriff Davenport, but if you don’t mind –”

“No, of course not,” says Philip, the proprietor of the scene of the crime. “I’ll tell you anything I can. We were all very, very upset about poor Davenport.”

“Why?” says Jeb, the tall young man in the back of the room with a predator’s stance. “When a man dies like that, in the line of duty — isn’t that the way he wants to go?”

Lawrence swivels. “Isn’t that a rather odd point of view?”

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“Such a strange illness,” Dr. Guthrie tuts. “What do you make of it?”

Laura regards him. “Well, I’ll leave making anything of it to you. After all, that’s your business.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it. Not in this world.”

“Are there other worlds?” she asks.

“There might be.”

She pauses. “What an interesting observation,” she says. “We must discuss it sometime.”

And meanwhile, three years in the future, Lawrence feels a tingle as Pete’s interesting observation collides with the cold front of Jeb’s odd point of view. The Guthrie brothers are asking the same question at what isn’t actually the same time, and suddenly, for a moment, the wheel skids — and a tiny fracture zigzags its way across the skin of their existence.

Lawrence can hear — no, he can feel himself saying, “Isn’t that rather an odd point of view?” But it’s Pete’s voice, and in that moment, tears spring to his eyes, and he can see it all again — the absence of a brother, the wreck of a driver, blinded by fire and consumed in flame. And he stands at the graveside, numb with pain and fury. Just come home, asshole, Lawrence said, three years ago — and Peter feels a tug, between this world and another. But only for a moment.

949-dark-shadows-guthrie-philip-jeb-another-time

Stop thinking about that, Lawrence tells himself. Just do your job. Inspect something.

“Mr. Todd,” says the inspector, “how long was Paul Stoddard here, on the night of his murder?”

“Just a few minutes.”

“Well, where did he stand?”

“About where you’re standing now.”

Yeah, that figures, Lawrence thinks. X marks the spot.

He indicates a door. “As far as you know, he didn’t go anywhere near that door?”

Philip is puzzled. “No, I don’t think so.”

There are no further questions. Not on that subject, anyway.

That’s not the door I saw in my dream the other night, Lawrence thinks, when I saw Pete, and he begged me to stop looking. How many doors are there, in this town?

949-dark-shadows-guthrie-strange-illness

“Haven’t you ever considered the possibilities of another world?” Dr. Guthrie is warming to his subject, although his subject is not really warming to him.

“Well, let me put it this way,” Laura sniffs. “I feel that the possibilities of things in this world are so infinite, that it’s difficult to conceive of another.”

“What an interesting observation,” he parries. “We must discuss it sometime.”

949-dark-shadows-guthrie-jeb-traveling

Meanwhile, the inspector directs his attention to the predator. I’ve seen guys like this before, Lawrence thinks, although he hasn’t, really. Hardly anyone has.

“I wasn’t here on the night of the murders,” says the gorilla.

“Yes, I know. Where were you?”

“Traveling, across country.”

“Business, or pleasure?”

“Both,” Jeb says. “I’m a photographer.”

“You must have gotten some interesting pictures.”

“Yeah.”

“I’d like to see them someday.”

949-dark-shadows-guthrie-someday

But “someday” is not an option, for the doomed investigator. Someday is a luxury that he can not afford. It’s the doomed investigator’s job to unearth, but not resolve. That’s what he’s good for. And it runs in the family, apparently, but not for very long.

949-dark-shadows-laura-guthrie-alone

Laura looks at the little man who’s taking up space in her storyline. “Are you going to be around long enough, for us to have our… discussions?”

“Well, that depends on how soon I get to the bottom of your sister-in-law’s illness.”

She offers a pointed sigh. “I wish I could be of some help.”

“Well, you may be,” says the doctor. “You very well may be.”

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And he smiles his secret smile, and then he burns, cooked in the crucible of the Collins family. The wheel turns, unbidden, and the car slips off the road, and Peter Guthrie burns.

And the scream echoes, from now ’til then and back again, and it finds favor with the Old Ones.

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Meanwhile, three years from now, Lawrence Guthrie has a lead.

“What is it you wanted to tell me?” he asks Philip, his late-night tipster.

“How Paul Stoddard was killed, and who killed him.”

“What? You know?”

“Yes, I know,” Philip says. “It’s going to be difficult for you to believe. It’s an incredible story — incredible and horrible!”

Lawrence shivers. “Do you want to talk here, or at the police station?”

“At the police station, I think. But before we go, there’s something I’ve got to show you. A room, upstairs. It’s an important part of the story.”

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So this is what he wanted. Isn’t it?

To find this door? To make this choice?

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I told him to come home. That wild story, on the phone — a dead woman? A phoenix? A portrait that changes, while you’re looking at it? It’s not real, I said, it’s just one of your stories.

“Well, if it’s just a story, then it can’t hurt me, can it?” I could hear his smile, over the phone. “So you don’t have to worry about me.”

Just like he always did. He smiles that dumb smile, and he thinks he’s smarter than everyone, and I know that it doesn’t make sense, but you need to get out of that town. And I got mad, and I hung up on him.

“Larry, you –” I didn’t let him finish. Fuck fuck fuck, the last thing I would ever hear him say, and I hung up while he was saying it. Just come home, asshole. I’ve heard about that town.

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So Philip offers a door, and Lawrence walks right in. As it turns out, you don’t choose the chosen room. You just keep asking questions, until it chooses you.

“It’s an important part of the story,” Philip said, but that’s just what the Guthrie boys are not.

Failure is success, in the doomed investigator business. Failure gets you home on time. Failure means that you live long enough to apologize.

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Because there’s something incredible in that room, incredible and horrible, and in that last moment, as the monster bares its fangs and the car skids off the road, Larry knows that Pete was right, and vice versa.

But when a man dies like that, in the line of duty — isn’t that the way he wants to go? Screaming and burning and dying in darkness, as he considers the possibilities of another world?

Tomorrow: Flappy Bat for the Win.


Footnotes:

The Peter/Laura scene described here is from episode 177; the car crash is from 185. And yes, they were both actually named Guthrie. Sometimes a story is just sitting there, waiting for someone to notice it.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Amy runs to Carolyn, there’s a glimpse of a stagehand on the left.

On the phone, Philip tells Guthrie that Jeb has gone to Collinsport. He realizes halfway through the word that he means Collinwood, but keeps on going.

When Jeb leaves the Chosen Room and slams the door behind him, the key drops onto the floor.

Jeb tells Philip, “You did your job well. Megan would be proud of you!” Philip moans, “Megan…” and Jeb says, “You did your job very well.”


Behind the Scenes:

The credits say that Inspector Guthrie was played by Jered Mickey, but IMDb says that his real name was Jarred Mickey, although he was credited as Jered Mickey in both of his screen appearances. IBDb says that he’s Jerry Mickey. I’m not sure what difference it makes either way.

J. Mickey was on Broadway for a week in 1963, in the ensemble of Andorra, and then an understudy in The Homecoming in 1967. Then he was in Sam’s Song, a 1969 Robert De Niro movie, and then Dark Shadows, and that’s all I know about him. This is his only episode, obviously.

Tomorrow: Flappy Bat for the Win.

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Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 949: The Last Days of the Guthrie Brothers

  1. At first Dr. Guthrie was to be named Dr. Harrison Guthrie — ayuh, the Guthrie brothers coulda been Harry and Larry, which sounds crazy as clam chowder, don’t it?

    One of my favorite Dr. Guthrie moments is when he shows up at the Evans’ cottage to talk with Sam about Laura Collins. He knocks at the door and Sam shouts for him to “Go away!” With perfect comedic timing Guthrie pushes the door open part way, pokes his head round inside and says, “Did you say come in?”

    Dr. Guthrie always had a… burning desire to get to the bottom of things, even if in the end it meant getting only to the bottom of a hill.

  2. I wonder how many times they had to put Adam’s green turtleneck through the washer and dryer before it shrunk enough to fit Jeb?

    I absolutely love stories about minor characters. “Lower Decks” was one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation. I thoroughly enjoyed this entry of DSED.

    1. That’s not Adam’s sweater – it was Joe’s…

      And he wears it WAY better than Jeb.
      Hmm, then again, maybe Adam and Joe ‘shared’ it –

      another unexplored relationship of Dark Shadows!
      Adam and Joe
      On the ‘down low’.

      Maybe an entry on the complex relationship between Niles Bradford and Peter Bradford. On second thoughts, no – the less said, the better.

      1. No, wait – Joe’s green sweater was sacrificed upon the altar of Beefcake, wasn’t it?

        But what a way to go.

  3. Chris Pennock as Jeb always has that trendy look, but in that pullover shirt with his hands on his hips, he looks straight out of an album cover.

  4. When its says “Fashions courtesy of Ohrbach’s” they really meant it. One has to wonder how many of those green sweaters the production dept bought. They probably only bought a few of the same size. The actors who wore that green sweater were tall.

  5. The women of Collinsport probably knitted those sweaters for their men out of the seaweed that washed up on the rocks below Widow’s Hill.

    Full fathom five thy father lies,
    Of his bones are coral made,
    Those are pearls that were his eyes,
    In seaweed sweater he’s arrayed.
    He doth suffer a sea-change,
    And he looks like he’s got mange.
    Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell.
    Hark to his trousers: Bell bottoms, Bell.

  6. Doesn’t Courtesy mean free of charge?

    Anyway…….Danny hits it out of the park, afreakingain.

    I believe that his writing superpower was given him by Nicholas Blair.

    Better watch out for that most prized possession.

  7. Great post. But Pete was a real character in a tightly plotted and authentically creepy storyline. Larry was a prop in a vaudeville skit. The first was DS at its best. The second was its absolute nadir.

  8. I found it entertaining that Guthrie #2 announces he’s “from the state capitol.” Who talks like that? You would just say the city’s name!
    No way is this DS’s nadir. That comes later, with PT in its various iterations. I can’t stand PT. Though I always imagine it to be the same PT in which Spock has a beard. And I do love Spock in a beard, just for the record. Maybe if B or Q had grown a beard…though the long hair on Bramwell is almost as good, maybe.

  9. 1970 PT is great.

    1840 PT was, in the first episode, the end of DS. Plot, acting on some newbies, and premise were sheer death.

  10. 1840 PT was way worse than 1970 PT, but I am not crazy about either one. It was just too silly. I would have preferred spending time with the real Collins family in 1970. Q and Maggie reenacting Rebecca was just not my cup of tea. Again, they just didn’t know what to do with Quentin so they made him a different Quentin entirely. What a copout.

  11. For me, maybe having Roger be a raging a hole was wholly entertaining.

    Like he was in The Beginning.

    And Angelique as Character Central helped a lot.

    Add a female vampire.

    Gold.

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