“I haven’t seen him around, but I don’t know that he’s gone.”
We’re back at the Blue Whale today, and we’ll be here for the whole episode, so I hope you have a designated driver. The story plays out in real time, so it’s like 24 but without the action or suspense. But there is a mystery, and the question on everyone’s lips is: “Where’s Willie?”
Turns out Willie wasn’t just bothering the Collins family — he was also causing trouble at the Blue Whale, and Burke threw him out and told him not to come back. And Willie hasn’t come back, so I’m not sure why Burke’s still being twitchy about it. I guess some people just can’t take not showing up for an answer.
Jason comes in to look for Willie and have a drink, not necessarily in that order, and Burke asks for a Willie update.
Burke: I haven’t seen him around lately.
Jason: Well, then you must be very pleased.
Jason: It must be a great weight off your mind.
Burke: Well, it’s not quite off my mind. I haven’t seen him around, but I’m not sure that he’s gone.
This conversation goes on forever.
Burke: Where is Willie Loomis?
Jason: I don’t know where he is.
Burke: What does that mean?
Jason: Just what I said! I don’t know.
Burke: So it is possible that he’s left.
Jason: Well… anything’s possible.
Thanks, guys, I think this plot point has been established pretty comprehensively. We’ll get back to you if we need anything.
Jason finally disengages, and leaves the bar. Burke sits down with Joe and Maggie.
Joe’s having a bad night — he just came from his uncle’s farm outside of town, where they found a calf that was completely drained of blood.
The veterinarian said that there weren’t any obvious wounds — just two puncture marks in the calf’s throat. Apparently, somebody’s going around perforating cows.
Maggie says, “There has to be a rational explanation for it!” And obviously if somebody says that on a television show, it can only mean one thing: alien cows.
But just as the empty calf conversation gets rolling, who should walk in but Willie Loomis. And he looks awful.
Burke approaches, expecting a fight, but all the fight’s gone out of Willie; he looks haunted, just staring off into space.
Willie mutters an apology to Burke, and says, “I won’t make any trouble.” Burke gets concerned, asking Willie what happened. Willie stares down at the bar and summons the energy to say, “Nothin’.”
This is actually a nice performance by John Karlen, subdued and weird. In his head, he’s doing Death of a Salesman, and actually he’s not doing a bad job.
Then Jason comes back into the bar. I’m not sure why he’s decided to check back in ten minutes after he left, but Willie’s here, so I guess it worked. He grabs Willie and starts another interrogation. Willie denies being in the cemetery, he doesn’t want the money, he can’t explain where he’s been, and so on.
Back at the table, Joe’s still all broken up about the calf. These are perfectly acceptable plot points, but they’re using about three minutes worth of story to fill a 22-minute episode.
For the big finish, Jason notices that there are specks of blood on Willie’s sleeve. I guess Willie’s been hollowing out cows again.
Tomorrow: I Don’t Dig You Out.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Jason’s talking to Willie at the bar, he hisses, “How could you sink so low, do a thing like that, rob a stiff?” Jason barely stifles a cough and then goes on.
Behind the Scenes:
John Karlen, who plays Willie, was born John Karlewicz, and grew up in Red Hook, Brooklyn, a historically tough neighborhood. (In 1990, Life magazine said that it was one of the worst neighborhoods in the US.) Karlen had a varied career on stage and television in the late 50s and early 60s, appearing on Broadway in Sweet Bird of Youth and All in Good Time. Like many of the Dark Shadows actors, this was his first regular appearance on a TV series.
Karlen was planning to move to California when his agent told him that Dark Shadows needed to replace an actor in a hurry. (James Hall, the original Willie, left the show after 4 episodes.) Karlen says that he never had a contract with executive producer Dan Curtis: “We had a handshake, which was pretty good.” This allowed him to take breaks from the show sometimes. One of those breaks will begin in a very dramatic fashion in September.
Tomorrow: I Don’t Dig You Out.
— Danny Horn