Episode 279: Party Animals

“That night must go… nothing wrong.”

We open today’s pulse-pounding episode with a long scene of two young women trying on dresses that they’re planning to wear to a costume party.

You can tell that the show is running a little low on suspense right now, because Vicki says, “When you said her name, the strangest feeling came over me,” and then we’re supposed to be interested in learning more about that feeling.

279 dark shadows vicki chill

So far, the gold standard for a boring Dark Shadows conversation has been episode 233, when Vicki and Carolyn sat around in the drawing room for the whole episode, explaining to each other how they feel about a thunderstorm.

This conversation doesn’t approach that level of pointless time-filling, but it’s in the same area.

Carolyn:  What kind of feeling?

Vicki:  A feeling… that I’d worn this dress before, and that I’d gone through a moment that I’d experienced before.

Carolyn:  That is strange. I’ll tell you something, Vicki — when I was trying on this dress, a chill went through me.

Vicki:  A chill!

Isn’t that gorgeous, though? “A chill!” That’s how you know you’re watching serious drama, when someone expresses that level of alarm about somebody else’s chill.

279 dark shadows carolyn collins

Personally, I’m a lot more concerned with this exchange:

Vicki:  I’m going to be very proud that for at least one night, I’ll actually be a member of the Collins family.

Carolyn:  Vicki, you should be a member of the family. If anyone deserves to be a Collins… it’s you.

Which is the kind of thing that makes you wonder about the scriptwriter’s commitment to theatrical realism. I’m not sure that a human being would ever talk that way, although I’ve been watching a lot of Dark Shadows lately, and my perceptions may be off.

279 dark shadows nothing must

Meanwhile, Willie is preparing for the party at the Old House, as Barnabas paces around the room talking about how great it’s going to be.

“Everything is going very well,” he chirps. “Tomorrow evening will be an occasion long remembered.”

Then he turns to Willie, and in a flourish of Fridspeak, he says, “That night must go… nothing wrong.”

But this is Barnabas’ first party in almost two centuries, so he’s a little over-excited. He even says, “This will be the most important night of my life,” which is obviously not true.

Dude… you rose from the dead. I think the prize for “most important night of my life” is pretty much taken.

279 dark shadows vicki burke

Barnabas and Vicki are both talking about this party like it’s the senior prom; it’s their whole world right now. They can’t think about anything but the big dance.

For example, here’s Vicki telling Burke about it: “Barnabas wanted to do something to lift us all out of the doldrums, and so he came up with a brilliant idea of having us all come to his party dressed as one of our ancestors.”

There are at least two problems with that statement. Number one, they’re not your ancestors; they’re the Collins family ancestors. And number two: a brilliant idea? Really?

279 dark shadows burke feeling

Burke is usually pretty level-headed, but he’s getting into the spirit today too. Vicki says that she’s going to the party dressed as Josette, and then the whole show has to come to a screeching halt so Burke can have a feeling.

Burke:  It’s funny, but — something bothers me about this. I don’t know why. Maybe it dates back to that séance, when Josette Collins spoke through you.

I know, the only thing I’m doing today is poking fun at the dialogue, but this episode is like 90% talking and 10% putting on dresses, so I don’t have a lot to work with. I’m just going to point out that “maybe it dates back to that séance” is an extremely Dark Shadows thing to say, and then we’ll keep moving.

279 dark shadows willie vicki

Next up, we’ve got a scene that I actually like a lot, because it’s got Willie in it, and he’s just on fire these days. I may be in the minority on this, but I think John Karlen is the best actor on the show right now, and every scene that he’s in is worth watching.

As I’ve said before, Karlen adopts his own personal theatrical style for any given scene, usually Death of a Salesman or A Streetcar Named Desire. Today he’s doing Salesman, with a hint of George from Act 3 of Our Town.

Vicki’s come over to ask Barnabas if Burke can come to the party. Willie opens the door, and it’s obvious that when he looks at her, all he can see is the horror that she doesn’t realize is about to be unleashed on her life.

Vicki:  Are you going to be there?

Willie:  Yeah, I’ll be around.

Vicki:  Are you going to wear a costume?

Willie:  I don’t know. Mr. Collins wants me to, but I feel a little funny about it.

Vicki:  Oh, you must. It’s going to be such fun.

Willie:  … You think so?

Vicki:  Yes, I do. You could do with some fun, Willie. You never smile. Do you know that?

Willie:  I haven’t got that much to smile about, that’s all.

And he tries to put on a little forced smile, which dies before it reaches his eyes.

John Karlen’s the only member of the Dark Shadows cast to win a primetime Emmy Award, by the way. Okay, it was for Cagney and Lacey, but how many Emmy Awards have you won?

279 dark shadows barnabas frowny

There’s a slightly less subtle performance coming up. Vicki asks Barnabas if he can invite Burke to the costume party, and Barnabas puts on the frowniest possible expression.

Although it makes sense that he’s put out by this request — the whole point of the party is to for Vicki to be seduced by Barnabas. She’s not supposed to bring her boring boyfriend along.

279 dark shadows barnabas idea

But then Barnabas gets an idea.

Barnabas:  There is a role that Mr. Devlin could play. He could play a very important member of the family.

Vicki:  Which one?

Barnabas:  Jeremiah Collins.

Vicki:  Jeremiah… wasn’t he the husband of Josette?

Oh, yes, he was.

279 dark shadows barnabas hate

Vicki leaves, and Barnabas takes a moment to gloat to Willie.

Barnabas:  Burke Devlin is coming as Jeremiah Collins. Oh, that doesn’t mean much to you, I realize, but to me — he was an object of hate. He was the worst enemy I had. If time had permitted, I would have destroyed him. Tomorrow night… I may well have that opportunity.

So that’s fun, right? This was a super talky episode, but tomorrow, we’re having a party. And it will be the most important night of your life.

Tomorrow: Costume Drama.

(More) Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Barnabas and Vicki step away from the window, you can see a stage light in the corner.

Tomorrow: Costume Drama.

279 dark shadows floor light

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

22 thoughts on “Episode 279: Party Animals

  1. Vicki: I’m going to be very proud that for at least one night, I’ll actually be a member of the Collins family.

    Carolyn: Vicki, you should be a member of the family. If anyone deserves to be a Collins… it’s you.

    – In the real world, that comment would be an insult to Vicki. That she has finally reached their level of dysfunction.

      1. By the way, I am LOVING these. I’m also doing a post-Barnabas rewatch right now and am about 15 episodes behind you.

        Please keep it up. Your observations are killing me.

  2. Actually, Vicky is a Collins. Though it was strongly inferred, but never actually confirmed, in the early episodes of the show, Victoria Winters was indeed the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard.

    The closest the makers of the show ever came to confirming this was the 2003 radio drama Return To Collinwood, which reunited the original TV series cast, written by the son of David Selby, Jamison Selby, where the will of the late Elizabeth Stoddard is read naming Victoria Winters as her actual daughter. This play was approved by Dan Curtis Productions. Say, isn’t it interesting that, in real life, the actor who played Quentin would have a son named Jamison?

    Also, and perhaps as a resolution on behalf of Dark Shadows fans, the two principal cast members have since gone on record to confirm this element of the story line.

    First, in a video clip by Joan Bennet made at her home in 1986, where she reveals Elizabeth to be Victoria’s mother: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzdndt8OwIU

    And again in 2001, where Alexandra Moltke, in a Q&A session from the 2001 Dark Shadows convention, during which she is asked whether Victoria Winters is indeed the daughter of Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, confirms, “You bet I am!”

    Nancy Barrett, who is seated beside Alexandra Moltke on the panel, turns to her and says, “You’re my sister!”

    Which renders the “Barnabas loves Vicky” story line decidedly incestuous.

    1. Very Interesting. I wondered why Jason was hinting about Victoria’s past the last time they spoke at the Blue Whale.

  3. just began watching this episode and it got me wondering – has anyone done a count on how many times vicki says, “i dont know” during the whole series? a monumental task, to be sure. its her tag phrase!!!!

      1. I tried something similar, pre-Barnabas, with “…and you know it!”. My memory of the whole manslaughter storyline is decidedly hazy…

  4. I have to agree, Karlen is getting better and better. He seems very natural, and when he’s on, you can really feel the horror of the situation. Barnabas has too much of a combination of charismatic-and-crazy to make you feel that anything about the situation is actually horrifying. Nevertheless, I think Frid is doing a great job with a bizarre role — psychopathic vampire morphing into romantic hero while launching crazy schemes to recreate the past, seduce women and destroy his enemies by proxy. There’s a lot to juggle. And I have to say, when he first reacted to Vicki’s request to bring Burke, I felt his sadness loud and clear; his reaction didn’t seem truly theatrical til he got to the window. At first, he looked genuinely hurt.

  5. Another John Karlen fan here. Willie/Barnabas scenes are fantastic.

    But somehow, I’m good with these ladies trying on dresses and feeling vaguely nervous. I like that unexplained foreboding they constantly were beset by.

  6. Saw an interview with Karlen where he talked about how easy he had it re: line memorization compared to Frid due to the disparity in amount. I think he was able to show emotion so well because he was more confident in his lines. Poor Barnabas was always struggling because of the volume of lines he had to remember.

  7. “It dates back to that seance’ where Josette Collins spoke through you…..”

    This lines comes as a big “Huh?” for those of us who didn’t sit through the first #209 episodes.

    And whats up with the new Burke Devlin’s eyebrows anyway? They are so dark and ominous that they completely make the rest of his face look sunken and hollow. I wouldn’t necessarily say that he’s looking like a young Bela Lugosi with hair but that was what definitely comes to mind. You can’t take your eyes off of them.

    I love when Vicki says, “And you’ll drive me down there and I’ll ask him myself (Barnabas for the invite for Burke). Drive down? I thought the Old House was right next door. Since when do you have to drive down to it?

    And Willie has become such a consummate charge d’affairs has he not? Got the Old House looking all spic and span and ready for guests. Barnabas has stated that Willie can come in costume as well but it’s never really stated as what in this episode. The party wouldn’t really be complete without him.

    BTW: Looks like they are going to have to really inflate the acting budget for Friday as, by my count, they are going to have around 7 actors onstage to deal with,. That’s 3 over the normal rate. Maybe the newfound ratings spike is starting to allow the show to have a little more money for “special occasions.”

  8. Definitely agree with you on Karlen as the best actor now that Dennis Patrick is gone. Also noticed that Nancy Barrett is still wearing that wrist brace that she got after the accident in 259. Had she really injured herself somehow? Given the series’ rather cavalier attitude toward continuity I can’t imagine they’re still having her wear it for consistency’s sake.

  9. It would’ve been fun if they’d also invited Mrs Johnson to the party costumed as Aunt Abigail.

  10. ‘Dude… you rose from the dead. I think the prize for “most important night of my life” is pretty much taken.’

    I think he has a point, though. While it is undoubtedly true that the writers, producers, and other creatives never had an elaborate plan that they had agreed on and that they would stick to regarding the future storylines of the show, they did have some memory of the storylines they had already developed. They spent the first 25 weeks building up the ghosts of Josette and of The Widows as presences in the show, a whole second cast of characters existing in a back-world behind the one in which the events we see take place. In 126, we actually see them when they intervene in the story to rescue Vicki from Matthew Morgan. In 170 and 171, the ghost of Josette will speak through Vicki, precipitating the big crisis of the Phoenix storyline.

    Once the vampire story gets going, Josette and the Widows can’t come back. Their distant, mysterious, impassive qualities suited the slow, atmospheric early months of the show, but once you have a ghoul rampaging about sucking people’s blood there’s no place for remote and uncanny presences. To hold the stage while that’s going on, you need to be a dynamic character. This point is made explicitly when David sees the much-abused Maggie in Josette’s dress in 240 and 241, mistaking her for the ghost but remarking on how she’s changed, and again when David confronts Willie in the parlor of the Old House in 256 bewailing the fact that Willie and Barnabas have hurt Josette.

    So the old supernatural order of Josette and the Widows is gone. But the idea of a second cast of characters, mostly invisible to us, properly associated with the distant past, but still wielding powerful influence over the events on screen. is stronger than ever. Barnabas had been hidden away, he belongs dead, yet he has irrupted into the present and taken over the story. Sarah is a denizen of the same back-world, she has broken through with Barnabas, and is steadily pulling aside the curtain that conceals their realm from that in which the established characters live and which the audience sees. The audience is going to have to be introduced to more characters from Barnabas and Sarah’s world, and the party is going to serve that function.

    Once we’ve learned their names and how they relate to each other, the back-world characters and their time will have to become a concrete part of the show in a way that Josette and the Widows never could. In retrospect, the only way that could end is with an extended flashback. So the party does turn out to be a solid candidate for ‘the most important night of Barnabas’ life’, in that it is a major step towards the time-travel and parallel-universe stories that would come to define the show.

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