“It must be what’s been happening.”
Okay, so you know how once in every generation somebody in the Collins family needs to spend a night locked up in the spooky old room behind the magic door, and in the morning they’re either dead or they’ve gone irretrievably insane? Well, it turns out there’s a third option.
Eldest son Morgan Collins has undergone the ordeal, and during that surprisingly uneventful evening, he located a secret locked door that was hidden behind basically nothing, so why nobody had ever noticed it before I don’t know. Behind that door — easily accessed by banging on the cheap seventeenth-century padlock with something heavy, like one of the excess vases cluttering up the place — was a whole other part of the house, a secret passage with a set of stairs leading to who knows where.
Morgan apparently explored this secret-behind-the-secret area, and experienced I’m not sure what, which by morning had him sitting quietly in a chair, unharmed but in an odd mood. Now he’s walking around telling everyone he’s not Morgan, and making insulting remarks.
I feel like we were more or less promised some kind of supernatural upheaval after spending a couple episodes just waiting around until they opened the door again, and this doesn’t quite live up to their side of the bargain. But at least we don’t have a white-haired Morgan cringing and babbling about the Woman in White, so let’s go ahead and consider this a win.
Because I have to say, the new Morgan is more compelling than the previous version by a wide margin. He feels exactly the same way that I do about the Collins family of 1841 Parallel Time, by which I mean that he finds them an entire waste of time. He keeps asking people if their name is Collins, and if he finds that it is, he says something dismissive and rude.
“Poor Morgan,” Melanie laments. “It’s the madness, now you have it!”
“Madness, did you say?” he asks Melanie. This new Morgan is a “did you say” guy, if there ever was one. “Well, if you’re referring to me, you’re wrong. Oh, yes, there is madness in this house, but it is not from me, and it has been going on for years. Do you understand that?”
Melanie apologizes for nothing in particular, and Julia snaps, “Leave Melanie alone!”
“Melanie,” he ponders. “That’s a very pretty name. It’s too bad it has to belong to a Collins. You are a Collins, aren’t you?”
“You know I am.”
“I know nothing of the sort!” he shouts. “And frankly, I care even less. I want nothing to do with any of you. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to be left alone to do what I must do.”
So that’s a huge improvement, as far as I’m concerned. This entire family has spent the last several weeks broadcasting their concern about everything — where Gabriel could be, who Bramwell is marrying, who’s going to spend the night in the room — and Morgan has been the worrier-in-chief. But this new model doesn’t care about anything but his own personal plot points, and he thinks everyone else can go to hell. I for one find it refreshing.
Now he’s on a spelunking expedition at the cottage, and he’s returned from the basement with a book in his hand. Julia and Catherine show up and want to know what the hell, especially because Carrie — the only person in the room who actually lives here — seems to have gotten stuck in one of those abstract trances.
Julia and Catherine want to know what Morgan’s done to the girl, but he says that he didn’t do anything; they were talking and she suddenly put herself into an individual-sized fugue state, which is the kind of thing that happens to her now. Carrie has recently developed powerful psychic and fortune-telling abilities which are growing stronger by the day and will surely lead to some kind of Jean Grey Dark Phoenix scenario eventually, if we stick around long enough to see it.
These powers are incredibly useful, because they can trigger plot development at a moment’s notice, which makes parallel Carrie Stokes the first watchable Kathy Cody character in my career. This has been such a pleasant surprise that I’ve felt obliged to offer her an honored place in my late-stage head canon, as seen in the last week and a half of blog posts. It’s remarkable that here, on the outskirts, as the sun sets and hope fades, the parallel Carrie pops up to remind us that maybe we should take it easy and try to enjoy ourselves.
So Carrie awakes from her unscheduled midafternoon break with the shocking prophecy that the personality currently invading the man that was Morgan Collins is none other than James Forsythe, a still-unspecified force in the narrative who stores his stuff in the basement of this very cottage. Apparently, when Morgan dipped out of the spooky room on the night in question, he followed the staircase to some kind of Forsytheification center and returned with a bossy roommate.
The spirit is a little put out that he’s been doxxed just when he was starting to build his brand as a man of mystery, but nobody knows who James Forsythe is anyway, except he had a lost boat arriving from Saint Eustasius. That’s a pretty neat trick, now that I think of it; you don’t get a lot of lost boats arriving anywhere. Usually they get lost; that’s why we call them lost boats.
Julia announces, “James Forsythe was the man who put the curse on the Collins family!” which is a bold assumption, considering they first heard the name two weeks ago, and it was followed by an unbroken string of unheralded pronouns.
The new man chuckles, as he struts across the room. “Is that what the family has thought all these years?” It isn’t. “You’re even bigger fools than I thought you were.” It’s been a while since we’ve seen this kind of broad-brush dislike of the Collins family, and I’m enjoying it.
And look at that, for a shot: a lineup of three versions of shock. That’s a ten-yard penalty for blocking.
Julia asks if the man can deny the allegation, and he admits, “No, it is true. I am James Forsythe! After one hundred years, I live again!” He means one hundred and sixty years, but that’s the Morgan in him; you can’t just shake off being Morgan all at once.
Catherine comes and rubs herself up on his front side, mewling, “Morgan! Morgan, look at me! Morgan, please come back to me!” It’s the perfect illustration of why I consider Catherine to be dead weight, dramatically.
Happily, Morgan isn’t having it. “The Morgan you speak of is dead,” he yells in her face, “and will never come back to you!” The news is just getting better today.
Julia wants to know why James came to the cottage, and Carrie says that he wanted the key to the cellar. Julia presumes that he wants the ledger that the family found last week, but he holds up a book and says nope, I found what I was looking for.
“Oh, what’s that?” she asks casually, and reaches out to snap the book from his fingers in a move worthy of the Regular Time Julia. He doesn’t fall for it, though; this new and improved Morgan’s got game.
“I have answered all the questions I’m going to,” he says, and then he walks out the door, like a boss. It is ridiculous how much I admire new Morgan.
Meanwhile, over at the Old House, there’s another good scene happening, which is a two-scene streak that may be a record for 1841 Parallel Time. Bramwell comes home from scoping out the situation at Collinwood, and Daphne — who’s been sitting around in what looks like a lavender nightgown originally intended to house a family of four — wants to know why her new husband is always running off to spend time with the woman that he actually loves.
She knows that he’s troubled, and he grumbles, “It’s no concern of yours.”
“But your happiness is my concern,” she points out. “Now, why won’t you tell me?”
He dissembles. “Daphne, I’m not in the mood to talk now, do you mind?”
“Yes,” she says, and all of a sudden, she gives him a look that stops him in his tracks, and reminds everyone that she’s Kate Jackson, an actually good actress who deserves better than she’s been given. “Yes, Bramwell, I do mind. You haven’t been in the mood to talk, to me at least, since we’ve been married.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” he stammers, “but I’ve been preoccupied with… with business matters. I’m anxious for my ship to come in.” It’s always about lost boats with these people.
The great thing about Kate Jackson is that she’s smart, and she can play smart characters really well. If you give her a lot of damsel-in-distress dialogue, as they did in the back half of the 1840 story, then she kind of fades into the background, but if you make her the smartest person in the scene, she lights right up, and delivers.
“Bramwell, will it bring us closer together?” she asks, drilling down into the boat excuse. “Will it make us talk to each other more? Can it remove whatever it is that’s troubling you so?”
He turns away, and she follows. “I can give you the answer to all of those questions. No, darling, it won’t. Bramwell, please, talk to me now, for both our sakes.”
He maintains that it doesn’t concern her. “It’s Catherine, isn’t it?” she asks, and he sighs. “Oh, Bramwell, it’s always Catherine,” she says, and then she walks up the stairs as fast as she can, given the wind resistance on that nightgown.
So maybe it’s just me, but it feels like all of a sudden, I can see what the show is trying to do again. There are twin love quadrangle storylines — one in the present, and one in the past — and the present version is moving inexorably towards a tragic end, as we learn more about the past problem that casts a shadow over them all.
Plus, they’re just doing watchable scenes, one after the other. Morgan walks onto a weird random shack set, just to read from the book for twenty-eight seconds, vow revenge and walk out. It’s a new land speed record for vengeance.
Then there’s a good scene with Catherine and Julia, where Catherine admits that she believes in the spooky room, and they have a little moment of bonding — which is ruined when Catherine gets a little faint-headed, and then refuses to admit to Julia why she’s been feeling off-balance lately. Julia arches some eyebrows, and ends up bringing her some sarcastic smelling salts.
It’s like everybody knows what they’re doing today, from Carrie on down. They’re leaning into the soap opera, and building the scenes around real human conflict, rather than everybody waiting around for a room to eat somebody.
It’s just a bona fide good episode, and I wasn’t sure they were making those anymore. I’m not naive enough to think it’ll last, but it’s heartening to know that these are still possible.
Tomorrow: Strong to the Finish.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Bramwell tells Daphne, “He’s all right, he’s alive, but, uh…” Then it takes him a moment to continue, “I tried to find out more, but, well, I saw Julia this morning, and she wouldn’t tell me anything.”
Carrie asks Morgan, “What is it you want?” He looks down, clearly searching for his line, and repeats the cue under his breath, “What is it that I want…” He gives up, looks at the teleprompter and finds the answer: “To turn back time, Carrie.” She says, “That isn’t possible!” and he continues reading his next line: “I know… I know.” He turns back to the other actor in the scene. “Tell me, Carrie, this — this gift that you possess.” And then he has to go back to the damn teleprompter. “It enables you to sense certain things that escape ordinary circumstances.” She answers, “Sometimes.” He continues, “Carrie, is — are these rooms inhabited by a spirit?”
Carrie tells Morgan, “There’s no one here except me!” Where is her father, in the middle of the night?
Morgan tells Carrie, “I know he has buried her here, someplace. I know it! But the time is, I’ve got to find it.”
During Daphne’s impassioned speech to Bramwell about leaving Collinsport, she looks at the teleprompter a couple of times.
Tomorrow: Strong to the Finish.
— Danny Horn