Episode 282: The Examined Life

“You’ve remembered coldness, you’ve remembered a melody, a fragrance. All these things are very important.”

We open today with Dr. Julia Hoffman, noted blood specialist, leading a therapy session for Maggie, who’s blocking out her memories of being kidnapped by a vampire. This is not typically in a blood specialist’s line of enquiry, but Julia Hoffman is not a typical doctor.

282 dark shadows therapy session

Maggie escaped from Barnabas’ dungeon a few weeks ago, and since then she’s been recovering at the Windcliff Sanitarium, a private hospital run by Dr. Hoffman.

The traumatized girl has blocked out all memories of her hellish ordeal, as well as everything else that happened to her since she was about eight years old, which doesn’t say a lot of flattering things about her father’s parenting skills.

Julia starts today’s session by saying that she’d like to concentrate on sense memories — things that Maggie has touched, or heard. Maggie has a hard time getting started.

Maggie:  Everything is sad, and dreary — and cold.

Julia:  Try to describe this feeling of cold.

Maggie tries, but it turns out that describing a feeling of cold is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone.

Then she remembers hearing some music — like a tinkling sound, way off in the distance.

282 dark shadows vicki music box

Then we cut to Vicki, who’s listening to the music box with a dreamy smile.

Today’s episode is going to switch back and forth between these two story threads. This is a very common television format, especially on soap operas. Dark Shadows hasn’t been doing a lot of this lately — they’ve mostly been alternating episodes between two storylines, with very little connection between them.

Now that it’s all one interlocking story, they can use this device again, and it allows for nice little cross-scene correspondences like this.

282 dark shadows liz vicki

One of the dramatic ironies here is that Maggie is in a sanitarium getting therapy, when it’s obvious that Vicki is the one who’s actually insane. In the last couple weeks, she’s become obsessed with Josette, an 18th century Collins ancestor.

Vicki shows Liz Josette’s music box, which Barnabas gave to her last night.

Liz is concerned that Vicki is thinking too much about the ancestral past: “We’ve had enough seances, and calling back of the dead, and searching for ghosts. It’s very upsetting.”

And she’s right; Vicki is apparently addicted to listening to this music box. She’s been sitting in the drawing room staring at it, while it plays its little song over and over. Everyone else in the house must be going out of their minds.

282 dark shadows maggie julia piano

Back to the therapy session, where Julia is asking questions about the music.

Julia:  Can you tell what instrument is playing?

Maggie:  I don’t know.

Julia:  Would it be a piano?

Maggie: No.

Julia:  A violin, then?

Maggie:  No. It’s just a tinkling kind of sound. It just tinkles.

Julia:  Tinkling… like bells, perhaps?

Maggie:  Yes. Like bells. Bells that are ready to shatter.

Maggie keeps approaching a memory — the cold walls, the music box, the scent of Josette’s jasmine perfume — but each time, she gets frightened and backs off.

282 dark shadows julia maggie violin

Finally, Maggie remembers cold stones, with writing on them. Julia suggests that she’s remembering gravestones, in a cemetery.

The scene goes on for a while, but surprisingly, it’s not dull — it’s actually kind of intense. Julia is asking smart questions, and the audience is interested in seeing what happens when Maggie remembers.

There’s a sense of real movement, the definition of suspense — it’s clear that something’s going to happen, but we don’t know what it is.

This is mostly sold by the intensity of Grayson Hall’s performance as Dr. Hoffman. For a comparison, remember how Dr. Woodard responds when he’s faced with a mystery? He just gets grumpy and critical, and the scene goes precisely nowhere.

When he’s frustrated, Dr. Woodard leans back, and cleans his glasses. Dr. Hoffman leans forward. That’s a huge difference.

282 dark shadows vicki grave

Meanwhile, Vicki tells Liz that tomorrow is Josette’s birthday, and she wants to leave flowers on Josette’s grave. Liz doesn’t know what to do with this information.

Vicki:  You were right that I have nothing to cling to, no past and no family. Well, Josette’s become very important to me.

Liz:  Vicki, I can’t ask you not to go. But I wish you’d reconsider. I see you drawing father and farther away from reality.

Vicki:  Mrs. Stoddard, I assure you I’m not doing that.

But she is doing that. She’s obviously doing that.

The difference in this episode between Julia and Vicki could not be more pronounced. Julia is probing and intelligent, and she’s trying to figure things out. Vicki is walking around in a daze, and everyone around her can see what’s happening much more clearly than she can.

282 dark shadows remember

Here’s the wrap-up of the therapy session.

Julia:  You’ve made tremendous progress today. You’ve remembered many things. You’ve remembered coldness, you’ve remembered a melody, a fragrance. All these things are very important. But more important — you remembered a place. A specific place.

Maggie:  A cemetery. Why would I remember a cemetery?

Julia:  You were found wandering in a cemetery once.

Maggie:  I don’t know. I don’t remember.

Julia:  You were found in a cemetery at the beginning of your illness. Something must have happened there.

282 dark shadows julia found

Julia:  What if you were to see that cemetery again?

Maggie:  See it?

Julia:  Yes. What if you were to go there?

Maggie:  I don’t know.

Julia:  It would be a big and important step. It would make things happen faster.

Maggie:  I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to go to the cemetery.

282 dark shadows maggie pushing

Julia keeps pushing.

Julia:  Can’t you see that your very fear of it is the reason that you must face it?

Maggie:  I don’t want to face it! I don’t want to go there!

Julia:  Even if it would help you?

Maggie:  Please! Please don’t take me there! Don’t take me there!

And then Maggie breaks down into sobs.

Spoiler for tomorrow’s episode: Julia is going to take her there.

Tomorrow: Role Playing.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the final scene, Julia says, “We must do everything and everything and anything we can to hurry the day that you can remember the story of the real Maggie Evans.”

The closing credits stop on the writer credit. The text shakes, and then disappears. The rest of the theme runs without credits; the title card returns in time for the Dan Curtis Productions tag at the end.

Tomorrow: Role Playing.

282 dark shadows julia wins

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

4 thoughts on “Episode 282: The Examined Life

  1. “Everyone else in the house must be going out of their minds.” I think I am, with as many times as I’ve heard it so far.

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