Episode 1228: The Unlovables

“No, I couldn’t have, but she could have — that demon inside me, she could have, and she did!”

“I don’t know how to bring my son back,” declares Flora Collins, “except to wait.”

Her daughter-in-law Catherine looks at her in surprise. “Wait? Wait for what?

“I don’t know.”

“And how much longer must we wait?”

“I don’t know that either.”

So if you’re looking for a way to sum up what’s happening on Dark Shadows these days in ten seconds, then that little excerpt from Waiting for Godot ought to do nicely.

Because honestly, there aren’t that many storylines in this phase of Dark Shadows, and a lot of the characters are actively involved in slowing down the ones that we have. The worst recent offender was Gabriel in yesterday’s episode, who suddenly remembered something crucially important immediately before the commercial break, and suddenly forgot it again immediately after.

“Quentin!” he gasped, eyes boggling. “I know! I know what terrified me! I know what happened in that room!”

Then, after a couple brief words from Bufferin and L’Oréal, Quentin says, “All right, what was it?” and Gabriel turns and looks him straight in the face and says, “What are you talking about?”

So that is just not something that we do, as a grown-up television show. It does not signal confidence to the audience.

Now, today it looks like we’re going to get a huge payoff to a long-simmering plot point: Melanie wants to tell her boyfriend Kendrick that she’s the one who murdered his sister, while in the grip of an angry alternate personality from the 1680s.

At the end of yesterday’s episode, Melanie — sick and tired of the constant lies that scatter about the house — finally walks into the drawing room and tells her mother, “Mama, you’d better tell him. I tried, but I couldn’t. So you tell him, please.”

This is potentially a big deal, and worthy of the episode cliffhanger that it was — and when the next episode begins, it only takes forty seconds to cut through the obligatory “tell him what/you know what I’m talking about” before Melanie says the words: “That I killed Stella!” And there you have it, a plot point.

Kendrick’s response to this bombshell is delightfully subdued. He’s been walking around and shouting at people pretty much non-stop, even when he’s telling Melanie that he cares for her, and this is the painful truth that should be sending him into orbit.

Instead, he turns toward her and asks, “How did it happen?”

Melanie, turned away from him in shame, says, “I don’t know.”

“It was an accident, wasn’t it?” he says.

That’s a demonstration of how invested they are in the Melanie/Kendrick relationship, and I appreciate it. Kendrick knows that Melanie isn’t capable of murder, and there’s not even a flicker of anger or blame in his voice. In fact, it’s the opposite: he sees that confessing to the crime is causing Melanie pain, and his instinct is to comfort and care for her.

Melanie and Kendrick are nice together, and the sincerity and courage that they bring to this storyline prevents this period from being an endless grim parade.

But then here comes Flora, to reverse the story progression and try to drag us all back a step. She sends Melanie out of the room, and tells Kendrick that Melanie doesn’t know what she’s saying, nobody knows how or when or by whom Stella was killed, and anyway maybe there never really was a Stella, I’m not familiar with that name, maybe it was antifa and cancel culture.

So Flora is a storyline speed bump, and now Kendrick is having the exact same conversation with her that he did a week ago. Flora and Julia are both tirelessly devoted to slowing down the story; they take helpful plot information, declare that it’s a secret, and then keep it away from anybody who might use it to grow as a character.

And then Flora goes and does it again in the next scene with Melanie, assuring her that Kendrick isn’t right for her and it’s best if he just goes away and stops trying to make something interesting happen.

Then over to Daphne, who’s busy undermining her own story. Last week, it looked like Daphne was getting wise to her train wreck of a marriage, with some snappy dialogue about her husband Bramwell’s obsession with her married sister. She was acting like a smart character, figuring out what’s wrong with her life, and moving in a story-productive direction.

Well, about that.

Daphne:  Bramwell, when I asked you to take me away, you said no. You said that I could either stay here and be your wife, or I could leave by myself. That was the choice you gave me. Well, Bramwell, I’ve decided what I’m going to do.

Bramwell:  I see. And what is that?

Daphne:  I’m going to stay! Oh, Bramwell!

Then she rushes to his arms to embrace him, and somewhere in the world, another fish gets a bicycle.

Daphne:  I was so lonely, even for just the hour that I was by myself! I know I could never live without you.

Bramwell:  You won’t have to.

Daphne:  I know that, but Bramwell, we can make this marriage work, I know we can!

So I don’t know what to do with that. Even for just the hour? Is she a baby duck that imprinted on him?

Daphne:  We can be happy together, we can be happier than, than, than anyone else could make each of us —

Bramwell: I must —

Daphne:  Bramwell, you’ve got to believe me, I —

Bramwell:  I must go upstairs, if you’ll excuse me —

And then he extricates, and quickly walks away from her.

And she follows him, still gabbling, as he goes all the way up the stairs.

Daphne:  Bramwell, things will be different from now on! Let’s go out tonight, just the two of us, and… Bramwell, did you hear me?

So this is a whole other level of speed bump, which slows down story progression while also making the character look pathetic and foolish.

So I’m losing patience with these people, who talk endlessly about waiting and hoping, and hardly ever take real action to move things along. Kendrick and Melanie actually do have a nice scene where he shouts at her to deny everything she’s said about Stella, but then pivots to a marriage proposal, which they treat very capably and with some real feelings. But then it’s back to Catherine and Flora talking about Morgan, and Bramwell leaving Daphne to come and meet with Catherine again, and honestly, how much longer do we have to wait?

Tomorrow: Catherine the Not-So-Great.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

The guy who kept clearing his throat yesterday is still at it, when Flora closes the drawing room doors.

After Melanie’s confession, Flora says, “Don’t listen to him, Mr. Young; she doesn’t know what she’s saying!”

When Kendrick yells, “Melanie, stop torturing yourself!” you can see a studio light.

Kendrick tells Melanie, “In time, the truth will come about, what happened to Stella.”

There’s an offscreen clatter as Catherine walks down the foyer stairs, and the guy clears his throat again as she enters the drawing room.

Catherine tells Flora, “You know, I used to think that the worst thing in the world would be waiting for someone you loved. Someone you loved to die.”

Bramwell and Flora step on each other’s lines, and then Bramwell goes off-book:

Flora:  You will never assure me, no matter what you say, Bramwell. Now, leave us alone!

Bramwell:  That’s all —

Flora:  Leave Catherine alone!

Bramwell:  That’s all she is to you — just your son’s wife! Well, she’s become a Collins possession now, as far as you’re concerned, you can tell her what to do, you have the right to tell her what to do, and how to act!

Then Flora says, “And what about Morgan? Is his situation — less — suffering?”

Bramwell tells Catherine, “Every minute you breathe is mine, just as I — every breath I take is yours!” He does the line correctly in tomorrow’s reprise: “Every minute you live is mine, just as every breath I take is yours!”

Similarly, he says, “It is only you that I love, and always will be. It can never be anything else.” The line in tomorrow’s reprise makes a bit more sense: “It’s you that I’ve always loved, and it always will be. Nothing could ever change that.”

Tomorrow: Catherine the Not-So-Great.

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

26 thoughts on “Episode 1228: The Unlovables

  1. It was a big mistake to have Bramwell live in the Old House. Every scene showing him on that set distracts us with the comparison to Barnabas. Also, the Old House is supposed to be a big mansion, and Bramwell is supposed to be poor. It would have been better to settle him in the caretaker’s cottage.

    1. Just to enlarge on that point a bit- when they* show us Daphne at the foot of the stairs pleading with Bramwell to come back, they’re showing us the typical fan’s reaction to this segment and setting Jonathan Frid up to take the blame for our frustrations. Most of the audience wants Barnabas to come back, and most of those who were willing to give Bramwell a chance are running out of patience. They must have known that the first of those reactions was coming, and by this point in the show they must be getting indications of the second. So they set Daphne up as our point of view character and give us a visual of Jonathan Frid refusing to have anything to do with her.

      *The “they” I’m thinking of here is chiefly Lela Swift, Gordon Russell, and Henry Kaplan.

  2. I honestly think that Kendrick and Melanie are the only, and I mean the only, good thing about the storyline. Anytime that you have those two actors playing off each other, you get dividends. Unfortunately, as you said, you then have Flora coming in and trying to say Melanie’s confession is unconstitutional because she’s already out of office. No, wait a minute, that wasn’t it…

  3. Little known fact: Asked her opinion of this plot turn, Gloria Steinem replied, “Daphne needs Bramwell like a fish needs a bicycle.” When the show left the air little more than a month later, the precious context was lost, and so Steinem universalized it. I’m glad, however, that someone recalls its true origin.

  4. “Then she rushes to his arms to embrace him, and somewhere in the world, another fish gets a bicycle.” — This is just typical (and rather lazy) “character does something stupid because otherwise there is no story” TV writing. It’s like the capsule description of The Star Trek Episode You’ll Never See: “The Enterprise encounters a strange space-time anomaly and steers around it because going into those things never turns out well.”

    It’s lazy because a good writer would give the character some plausible motivation for the (from our POV as viewers) poor decision. If Daphne was pregnant, for instance, or if (in a shocking display of historical awareness for DS) they laid out how tough things would be for Daphne if she did leave him given that it’s unlikely Bramwell could/would provide for her financially if she did and she’d still be stuck legally being his wife.

    1. Yeah, once they got married they are pretty well stuck with each other. Divorce was pretty well impossible. I mean there’s a chance they could have gone for an annulment if both were willing to swear the marriage had not been consummated, but otherwise, both are in it “till death do you part”, or until one of them heads west to settle in Ohio, or some other area with poor communication and then just say nope, I never got married or I’m a widow.

    2. There was a similar unused premise in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
      “Data and Geordi program the HoloDeck for some recreation. Dr. Crusher and Captain Picard join them and everyone has an enjoyable evening without any unusual incident.”

    3. Maybe during her hour of solitude she realized she’d end up as a prostitute and that triggered her desperate hopefulness. And then there’s “let’s go out tonight”. Where? The Blue Whale?

      1. The funny thing is that I looked at Wikipedia last night (this generation’s version of Cliff Notes), and in Wuthering Heights the (pregnant) Daphne character does leave the Bramwell character.

  5. I look at Kendrick and Melanie and I just think of kitchen appliances. Avocado green and harvest gold.
    Catharine’s dress fabric reminds me of a knit blouse I wore in the early 1970s. I have to remind myself that it’s parallel 1841 and their fashion does not need to match what was available in our universe. Every time I see that dress, though, it takes me right out of the story, for which I am grateful.
    The soundtrack in my head is playing Dusty Springfield’s Wishin’ and Hopin’ during Daphne and Bramwell’s scene.
    There is nothing to like about this episode.

  6. Let’s just be grateful Bramwell and/or Kendrick didn’t give Daphne and/or Melanie a hard slap.

  7. Bramwell & Catherine drop their posing and finally embrace as Daphne watches. As a straight male, I enjoy seeing her dressed in exquisite gowns. To see her this way with desire in her eyes is very……uplifting. If only she could stumble upon a severed head, hand, or secret number. Then she could call on Diabolos to turn Brutus, James, & Morgan into pussies, cast Daphne off into the nether world, and take Bramwell out to dinner. That way the plot could move on with Catherine in command.

    1. “uplifting”

      Not sure if that was meant as a double entendre, but it’s a good one.

      Alright, I’ll have to take a look at this episode, thanks Phrank. Parker was always the more alluring member of the cast, while Donna McKechnie took first place in the facial beauty contest, imo.

      I’m sure that comment will be judged as offensive in 10 years, as the impact of sexist remarks miraculously evolves into severe life-destroying trauma. Fortunately, I won’t be wealthy, so there’s less incentive to make a big deal out of it.

  8. Donna McKechnie was four years younger, but she did lack a certain quality that Lara Parker had in abundance. It was operatic acting. Lara could make a slight thirst appear as a life-threatening, searingly parched torment with a fluttering of her eyelids and an inflection in her dulcet modulations.

    Time and time again Angelique/Cassandra/Valerie/Catherine/Alexis would do the most heinous deeds, yet she inevitably made sure you understood and felt(!) her perspective. In this final end run, she married Morgan for money while keeping Bramwell hanging, yet she still makes (forces!) viewers to want to see her with Bramwell. Flora voices the audiences objections to their relationship, but mere mortals like us can’t compete with her fluttering ways.

    Solely external beauty can’t compete with overall beauty.

    1. Irrelevant to my point, but ok.

      As far as Bramwell and Catherine shacking up, maybe some viewers wanted this to happen because they were influenced by Parker’s fine acting skills. But I wanted this to happen as surrogate closure for Barnabas and Angelique.

      But that isn’t your main point. Your ‘thesis’ is that Parker was enchanting, in all of her roles. And I agree.

  9. Re-reading this it’s all so hopeless… The idea of late-40-something very uptight Canadian Frid as a wild Heathcliff-like lover… chased by Kate Jackson at her dewy-freshest and prettiest, a TV star on the (short) brink of primetime… while Frid (looking every one of his years thanks to lots of drinking and who knows what else) is plainly most engaged by the hot youngish Keith Prentice…. Yes, it’s ONLY because we want to see what would happen if Barnabas and Angelique hooked up that we have anything invested in this silly thing. Danny, how do you go on? (But thank God you do…)

    1. I think Frid used his gayness to definitely help impose a very real, impenetrable wall between Bramwell and Daphne. It’s obvious there could never be any genuine passion between them.

      On the other hand, the intensity of Catherine’s lust and raw emotion takes the forefront in her scenes with Bramwell thus diminishing any of Frid’s signs of indifference.

      btw Mr. Campbell….

      I put Donna McKechnie in second place in the facial beauty contest.

      I really don’t care how my comments are interpreted in 10 years. My own views tend to change over time. I’ll defend or denounce my comments then depending on my then current feelings.

        1. I’d never heard of this movie before, so I decided to watch it. It wasn’t a great film, by any means, but it was entertaining. I guessed the ending, although I’m no master detective by any means. It was good enough fare for a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately Lara Parker’s talents are wasted. It was nice to see her in a bikini, but that’s about it for her contribution.

          1. That was exactly my interpretation.

            It is disappointing that Lara never made it to the Big Time. She had a few decent miscellaneous roles in individual episodes of drama series, but never hit the stardom level that she was hoping for.

            I don’t think it was a matter of talent or not talent – there are both talented & meh performers who do well – but rather the Luck of the Draw.

            On the other hand, Parker found happiness in a long-term marriage from 1980 on. I now what that’s like, and it’s one of life’s greatest gifts.

      1. Donna McKechnie was not by any stretch beautiful, and certainly not in the way of Lara Parker. Having seen the original production off Chorus Line twice, once from the second row, she was phenomenally expressive as an actress and a dancer. The Music and the Mirror–boffo. But there was an assumption with her Cassie that she couldn’t make the final leap to stardom–the Ann Reinking leap, if you will–because she lacked that… well, anything I say will sound sexist. To most hetero males, a younger and not very interesting non-actress like Donna Wandrey had the “it” thing that McKechnie lacked. And so it goes.

  10. If this really was being written as a soap opera, after Daphne accused Bramwell of wanting Catherine instead of her, it would be enter handsome young man stage left. Then while Bramwell apparently felt passion for Catherine, and, heck let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, love once said handsome young man arrived and took a deep interest in Daphne Bramwell (being the spoiled brat he is) would react poorly to someone else trying to play with something he regarded as his. This would result in him playing up to Daphne Then he’s actually torn between actual feeling (again giving him the benefit of the doubt) and petty, vindictive selfishness. It would be right in Frid’s sweet spot and actually be a story. He might even kill said handsome young man to open more storyline possibilities or hex him bringing the supernatural element back somehow.

  11. The storyline of Melanie and Kendrick, about the only thing worth watching in 1840 PT (imo) demonstrates once again how exceptional Nancy Barrett and John Karlen were in this series.

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