Episode 216: I Don’t Dig You Out

“I didn’t mean to almost try to kill you.”

So, the story so far: Barnabas got up out of his coffin, bit Willie on the wrist, apparently, and then went out and drank a whole cow. Now Willie’s at the Blue Whale drowning his sorrows, and who can blame him? He’s competing with livestock, it’s a tough gig.

216 dark shadows makeup willie jason

But you have to hand it to the makeup department. The man said “make Willie look haunted,” and they sure did. He looks like James Dean, after the accident.

Jason tries to figure out what happened, but Willie just cowers against the jukebox and denies everything. Jason says that Willie needs to come to Collinwood and apologize to Liz; otherwise, she’ll never let him back in the house. Willie’s frantic — going to Collinwood is the last thing he wants.

“I don’t understand you,” Jason says. “For the first time, I just plain don’t dig you out, boy. And it kinda scares me.”

216 dark shadows worried willie carolyn

But somehow, during the commercial break, Jason manages to get Willie out of the bar and all the way over to Collinwood, where he apologizes to Liz and Carolyn. They’re not thrilled.

Jason brings Liz into the drawing room for another conference, leaving Willie in the foyer with Carolyn.

You’ll have to forgive me for posting a long quote, because it’s actually a lovely little scene.

Willie:  Carolyn? You didn’t believe me, did ya?

Carolyn:  Do I look like the village idot?

Willie:  I did mean it. I didn’t mean to scare ya.

Carolyn: And I didn’t mean to almost try to kill you.

Willie:  I shouldn’ta scared you. I’m sorry.

Carolyn:  Willie… you almost sound as if you mean that. (He looks at her.) I’d better go.

Willie:  I don’t blame you for not believing me. It’s all right.

Carolyn:  Are you sure you’re okay?

Willie:  Y-yes, I… yes.

Carolyn:  Because you don’t look it. And you don’t act it.

Willie:  I’m all right. Really, I’m… I’m all right.

Okay, I know it’s not The Glass Menagerie or anything, but it’s the first really good scene we’ve had so far. You can tell that they’re both doing their acting class homework.

Carolyn leaves, and Willie’s left alone in the foyer… and he slowly becomes aware that the portrait of Barnabas is staring at him.

This is a neat little narrative trick that they end up using a lot on the show — they treat the portrait as if it’s alive, which implies that Barnabas is able to spy on everyone in the house. It’s spooky. It also means that a character can have a whole scene with a portrait, and they don’t have to pay the other actor to show up.

216 dark shadows backacting liz jason

Meanwhile, in the drawing room, we get an example of another great soap opera theatrical tradition: Backacting.

Jason is trying to persuade Liz to let Willie stay — the boy is clearly sick; they can’t throw him out into the street. She says it’s out of the question, and turns away. Jason then does a forty-second monologue to the back of her head, while she emotes to the camera.

It looks fantastic as a shot; it’s only when you imagine doing it in real life that you realize how insane it is.

216 dark shadows backacting carolyn liz

In fact, it’s such a good trick that they do it again in the next scene, as Carolyn describes how strange and haunted Willie seems.

Technically, this is a variant of backacting that involves looking at the other actor out of the corner of your eye, as they sit on the couch and stare at the side of your head. The more traditional drama schools only teach the pure backacting, but this version is starting to catch on.

216 dark shadows wrist willie jason

Upstairs, we’ve got Jason putting Willie to bed. He notices that Willie’s got a bandage around his wrist, and he reaches out to see it. Willie flips out, hissing, “No! No one can see it. No one touches it! No one! Now, you stay away! You stay away!” because that is how soap opera episodes end. Stay tuned for The Dating Game.

Tomorrow: Not Enough Vampire in Your Vampire Show.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When they’re standing by the jukebox, Willie steps on one of Jason’s lines. He realizes that he’s doing it halfway through the word “trouble”…

Jason:  I’m not angry with you. I just want you to tell me where you’ve been, and then, if you’re in any trouble…

Willie:  No, no troub — le.

Jason:  … I’ll help you out of it, like I always do.

When Willie passes out in the Collinwood foyer, you can see marks on the floor for camera positions. There’s a nice big one pointing right at Willie’s head.

In the drawing room, Liz has what appears to be a partly telepathic conversation with Carolyn:

Liz:  He was obviously sick, so I had to let him stay for a few days at least.

(Carolyn starts to speak.)

Liz:  Now, I know what you’re going to say.

(Carolyn pauses.)

Carolyn:  I don’t think there’s anything else you can do.

Behind the Scenes:

The portrait of Barnabas was painted from a photograph taken of producer Bob Costello, who posed in Barnabas’ costume. The head was left blank, and then filled in once Jonathan Frid was cast in the role.

Tomorrow: Not Enough Vampire in Your Vampire Show.

216 dark shadows floor willie

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

6 thoughts on “Episode 216: I Don’t Dig You Out

  1. Having revisited DS for the 50th Anniversary, we started watching the episodes again and discovered your site. Your insights are wonderful. Thank you for your blog.

  2. There are some SIZZLING scenes in this episode: Jason and Liz are never better, and John Karlen’s Willie is ON FIRE from start to finish.

    Love the lighting throughout, particularly as it is used in Willie’s bedroom with the one lamp glowing omniscient in the background. Willie’s reeling back from Jason’s touching him produces one of the scariest moments in the show’s canon thus far. And Jason’s campaigning for Willie to stay at Collinwood is truly done out of a deep sense of caring for the dude’s welfare. This gives Jason some real depth and feeling and enhances him as something other than a spirited actor donning a sing-song Irish brogue.

    The acting classes have definitely paid off for everyone in this outing.

    Finally, it’s time we all come to grips with the following: the Collinwood Drawing Room Doors truly deserve their own screen credit at the end of each episode. They are opened and shut more than a French farce.

  3. In theatrical terms, the technique is sometimes known as “cheating” or “opening out”; instead of facing the other actor as in normal conversation, one faces out toward the audience, sometimes moving (“crossing”) downstage to deliver the speech more prominently.

    (Hey, that Theater History class had to have been good for something, right?)

    (Blank verse! Commedia Dell’arte! Sophocles! Volpone! Tiring house!)

    (Sorry, the flashbacks are heinous…)

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