“Vicki thinks it might be her imagination. But somehow, she connects the two… and they add up to Willie.”
Maggie’s disappeared from the hospital! Last week, the nurse thought that Maggie had died, and ran to get the doctor. When they came back into the room a moment later, the window was open and Maggie was gone.
So there are a lot of mysteries going on, and we’ll get some answers by the end of the day. But at the moment, the most pressing questions are: Why is there a camera in the hallway, and why does everybody keep touching Sam?
Sam is understandably upset. His daughter wasn’t in great shape when he checked her into the hospital, but at least she was alive and he knew where she was. Now she’s either dead, missing or both, and he’s probably still going to have to pay the deductible.
His first impulse is to run outside and yell Maggie’s name a bunch of times, like people usually do on soap operas, but Dr. Woodard grabs him and says, “Leave it to us,” as if the search and rescue mission is part of the hospital’s quality care initiative.
Joe suggests that Maggie may have wandered back to the cemetery on Eagle Hill. He pats Sam’s arm, and says that he’ll go check it out.
Apparently, Sam won’t listen to anyone unless they’re currently touching him. It’s the new rule.
As Sam staggers back into the room, we see that a camera’s been filming them in the hallway. Is the local news team here already?
Obviously, Sam is just shattered; he can’t believe this is happening. Woodard responds by putting his hands on Sam’s shoulders, like they teach you to do in medical school.
Then Burke rushes in, and we see the camera in the hallway again. They cut to that camera for a shot of Burke and Woodard at the door. When they cut back to Sam, the other camera is still in the shot.
This suggests an interesting new way to interpret the show. Maybe Dark Shadows is actually a reality show, and everyone is aware that the cameras are there. That would explain so many things.
By the time Joe comes back from the cemetery, Burke is all up on Sam again. They can’t keep their hands off him; they’re insatiable. Three different guys have fondled him in the last ten minutes.
Burke reminds them that Vicki had a hunch that Willie was responsible for last week’s mysterious phone call, telling them that Maggie was in the graveyard.
Except that Vicki never actually said that. Burke’s talking about a conversation that happens in tomorrow’s episode, and it’s the sheriff who suggests that Willie made the call, not Vicki. They’ve been filming episodes out of order lately, and this is the first sign that the characters are starting to experience some wibbly-wobbly time jumps.
By the way, look at this amazing shot. The characters are all standing in a line, everybody’s found their light, and they look fantastic. They also did a nice artsy thing at the beginning of the episode, with all three cameras doing close-ups on Sam, Joe and Woodard, and cutting back and forth between them to indicate urgency.
Of course, then they couldn’t quite get the main camera back in focus for the group shot, so you can see them adjust the focus a second later.
But the point is: They tried.
By way of comparison, check out this contemporary episode of General Hospital. They start a basic two-shot at 3:00, and they stay on that camera for a full two and a half minutes. The characters walk back and forth across the set, and have six different conversations without cutting to a close-up, like it’s a stage play. They’re finally forced to go to another shot when a character walks through a door where the camera can’t follow.
Meanwhile, on Dark Shadows, they’re making television.
Lela Swift is the director for all five episodes this week. She’s got a silly vampire script, no money for retakes and a daytime-TV audience with low expectations, but she’s still setting up visually interesting shots. On General Hospital, the director just points the camera at whoever’s talking. Swift shows up and actually does her damn job.
And that’s one reason why YouTube only has one General Hospital episode from 1967, and the entire run of Dark Shadows is available on Netflix, Hulu and DVD. The people who made Dark Shadows actually cared.
So let’s go over to the Old House, where Burke and Joe are following a lead. Barnabas says that Willie’s gone to Bangor for the night, and he won’t be back until morning. That might be the least convincing alibi of all time.
But Barnabas says “I find this all completely mystifying,” so I guess it’s not possible to go to Bangor and kidnap Maggie in the same night. What was I thinking?
As soon as the Hardy Boys drive away, Barnabas calls out, “It’s all right. They’re gone. You’re safe… safe here with me.” And then a hypnotized Maggie walks into the room and takes Barnabas’ hand.
WHICH IS UNBELIEVABLY AWESOME.
Barnabas brings Maggie upstairs to Josette Collins’ room, which he and Willie have painstakingly restored. Josette’s portrait is hanging above the fireplace, and there are candles and flowers everywhere. It’s a fantastic set.
“You see?” Barnabas says. “It’s just as you left it, long, long ago. Nothing has changed. Even we haven’t changed.”
Maggie sits at the window. Barnabas purrs, “But perhaps you’ve changed. You’re more lovely, my dear Josette, then I remember.”
The girl reacts: “Josette?”
Barnabas assures her, “Yes… From now on, that will be your name. A name of great beauty. In time, you will learn to think like her, act like her. You will become her.”
And there you go. This is the moment that redefines Dark Shadows. It sets us on the road to understanding and eventually embracing this undead monster, and accepting him as the protagonist of the show.
We’ve seen Josette’s ghost sporadically over the last six months; her big moment was in December 1966, when she was the spiritus ex machina who stepped in when Vicki was kidnapped. We didn’t hear a lot about Josette’s backstory, except that she lived in the Old House, she was married to Jeremiah Collins, and she’d died in some vaguely tragic way.
Now the ratings are going up, and the producers need to figure out how to keep Barnabas on the show. This is how they do it — by sticking the vampire straight into the middle of the Collins family’s origin myth.
Remember that endless soliloquy that Barnabas delivered the other day about the beautiful young woman running away from her lover, and throwing herself off the cliff on Widows’ Hill? That was Josette, and she was running away because Barnabas wanted to turn her into a vampire.
This wasn’t their original intention when they introduced Barnabas. In his second episode, Barnabas talked to Josette’s portrait, and strongly implied that she’d died before he was born. They’re coming up with this plot point on the fly, reaching out for whatever they can use to keep the show going for another day.
This is an incredible retcon, a moment of pure inspiration, and it’s going to drive the story for the next four years. It’s been a slow start, and it’s going to be slow for a little while longer. But this is where Dark Shadows begins.
Tomorrow: Cold Case.
More Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Woodard explains: “The nurse and I walked into Maggie’s room; the room was empty. And that room that the nurse had left open just a crack was wide open.” He means the window was left open.
Joe comes into the hospital room and reports, “I was all over Eagle. Hill. Cemetery grounds. Nothing.”
There’s a loud squeak when Burke and Joe leave Maggie’s hospital room.
Tomorrow: Cold Case.
— Danny Horn