Episode 286: Slumber Party

“He never intended for her to die. Only to live.”

At the end of today’s episode, Barnabas is going to sneak into the room where Vicki’s sleeping, and lean over to bite her. I know, spoiler warning, but seriously it’s the only possible ending that this episode could have.

There’s a storm outside, Vicki is stuck at the Old House, and Barnabas has invited her to sleep in Josette’s room. What do you think is going to happen, they’re going to start a fantasy baseball league? Please.

286 dark shadows vicki barnabas

In fact, the only surprise here is that the bite didn’t happen at the end of the last episode, because that would have been a great Friday cliffhanger. These two episodes could easily have been compressed into one. But they weren’t, so now we’ve got half an hour to kill before the inevitable vamp attack.

And more bad news: Vicki is going to talk through a lot of it.

Vicki:  Somehow, the idea of spending the night in her room appeals to me.

Barnabas:  Why?

Vicki:  I don’t know. I’ve always felt a closeness to her.

Barnabas:  I wonder why.

Vicki:  I suppose it’s because I don’t know who my ancestors were, and I’ve always liked to imagine she was one of them.

Okay, let’s take a second to unpack that statement.

For one thing — her use of the word “always”. Vicki grew up in a foundling home, but she only came to Collinwood last year, and her first encounter with Josette’s spirit was about eight months ago.

So who were her previous fantasy ancestors when she was growing up? Did she just pick people randomly out of a magazine? (“I’ve always liked to imagine that Abbott and Costello were my ancestors.”)

Also, a quick defense of orphans as a class — growing up in a foundling home does not necessarily make you this crazy. You have to work at this.

286 dark shadows barnabas smooth

But Barnabas is playing into it.

Barnabas:  It’s very easy for me to believe that you are descended from Josette.

Vicki:  Why do you say that?

Barnabas:  Well, because you’re so much like her in so many ways. Not only because of your beauty, but because of your intelligence, your warmth, your generosity…

Vicki:  You’re very flattering.

Barnabas:  Only truthful.

So here’s another fact about orphans: They’re usually quicker on the draw than this.

Does she really not understand that he’s crushing on her? Her obsession with Josette is a secondary problem compared to her inability to understand other people’s motives. I think what we have here is a subnormal orphan.

286 dark shadows barnabas liar

So now it’s time for some more Real Life Ghost Stories with Barnabas Collins.

Vicki remembers the night a couple months ago when Barnabas told her the story of Josette in desperate flight, jumping from the top of Widows’ Hill.

Vicki:  Who was chasing her?

Barnabas:  Her lover. The man who loved her more than anyone else in the world.

Vicki:  Do you know who he was?

Barnabas:  Jeremiah Collins.

This is an obvious lie, and it’s a nice, revealing moment. Naturally, we all know that it was actually Barnabas who was chasing her, because we watch television and we understand subtext.

But blaming Jeremiah is a new twist, and it brings up a fun option they could have gone with — Barnabas the player.

“No, girl, that wasn’t me, that was Jeremiah. He’s always doin’ crazy shit like that. Yeah, don’t worry, girl, I got you. You’re safe with me.”

286 dark shadows vicki what up

But Barnabas isn’t really playing Vicki, because she’s completely oblivious. He’s actually playing us, in the audience. He’s posing for the camera, inviting us to feel sorry for him, which isn’t easy to do when a) you’re ten minutes away from a blood-ritual date rape, and b) you’re discussing the night that you chased your old girlfriend off a cliff.

He even has a moment when he dials back the blood lust, and offers to take Vicki back to Collinwood.

Barnabas:  The storm seems to have lessened somewhat.

Vicki:  Do you think I could make it back to Collinwood?

Barnabas:  Possibly. I’d be delighted to accompany you if you wanted to go back. I leave it entirely in your hands.

But she chooses to stay; she wants to sleep in Josette’s room. He stands with his back to her, as if he’s appealing to the audience: She wants to stay! I’m trying to let her go, but she won’t leave! What can I do?

286 dark shadows barnabas blood

This brings up something troubling that’s happened during the course of this storyline. Several months ago, when Barnabas first met Maggie at the coffee shop, we were seeing events from Maggie’s point of view. At the time, we didn’t know much about Barnabas, and there was actually some ambiguity about whether he was really a vampire. Like Maggie, we were intrigued by the newcomer, and unsure about his intentions.

Four months later, we know exactly what Barnabas is, and what he’s capable of. We’ve seen the whole first run-through of his crackpot build-your-own-Josette scheme. That knowledge, which we share with Barnabas, is the thing that’s creating tension in this scenario.

If you take away that knowledge — in other words, watching the scene from Vicki’s point of view — then this episode is about a polite man inviting an acquaintance to stay in the house until the rain stops. That’s not a television show.

So the only thing that makes this a dramatic scene is that we’re actually watching from Barnabas’ point of view. Vicki has transitioned remarkably quickly from “audience identification character” to “entree”, and frankly we’re kind of hoping that he goes for it, because otherwise this episode is going nowhere.

This essentially makes us accomplices to the upcoming blood-ritual date rape. We should probably get around to feeling bad about that at some point.

286 dark shadows vicki edison

Vicki goes upstairs to Josette’s room, and now it’s time for one of the Great Moments in Time-Killing.

Vicki walks over to the vanity and lights a candle. Then she does a little circuit around the room, looking at the portrait and reacting to a lightning flash outside. Then she walks over to the bed, and lights another candle.

Then — and this is the crazy part — she walks back to the vanity and blows out the first candle. She pauses to smell the bottle of Josette’s perfume. Then she walks back over to the bed and blows out the second candle. And then she gets into bed with all of her clothes on.

286 dark shadows vicki costello

So — ten points for the fire safety lesson, I guess, but that is a full two minutes that just doesn’t feel like a television show. They did scenes like this on Twin Peaks, and everybody said that David Lynch was a genius.

They’ve also just missed a great opportunity to do some product placement for electric light bulbs. (“I’ve always liked to imagine that Thomas Edison was one of my ancestors.”)

286 dark shadows willie ball

The rest of the episode is basically just more time-filling, with recaps about Barnabas’ sister Sarah, who died when she was young and is now haunting the house and making Barnabas review his lifestyle choices.

Willie shows Barnabas a child’s ball that he found near the coffin downstairs. Sarah’s ghost is apparently just scattering objects everywhere. Maggie has Sarah’s doll, Sarah was trying on her old dress last week, and now Willie’s found her ball. The kid must have driven her parents crazy — even when she’s dead, she won’t pick up after herself.

286 dark shadows vicki awake

Back upstairs, Vicki is woken up by the sound of Sarah singing “London Bridge”, over and over. Vicki wakes up, looks around — lights the damn candle all over again — and then searches the room. Sarah doesn’t appear; she just keeps singing “London Bridge”. So Vicki sort of stares around the room for a while.

It’s not a particularly interesting scene, really. I’m only mentioning it here because Vicki’s not going to be able to shut up about it for a week.

286 dark shadows barnabas finally

There are like five more scenes that are basically just the same three characters walking upstairs and downstairs and running into each other. Vicki goes downstairs and has a scene with Willie, and then Barnabas comes up from the basement and has a scene with Vicki, and then Vicki goes back upstairs and Barnabas has another scene with Willie.

It goes on and on until finally it’s the end of the episode. Barnabas walks into the bedroom where Vicki is sleeping and leans over the bed. And he doesn’t even have his fangs in, so all in all it’s pretty much a waste of matches. It’s like they don’t even care about the rainforest.

Tomorrow: Notes on Camp.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, they play the dramatic sting music cue at the wrong time. The cue is Vicki saying “Josette’s room”, but they play it when Barnabas says “Josette’s room,” a couple lines too early.

At the start of the final scene, the camera is tilted a little too far to the left, so the edge of the set is visible. If you watch the left side of the screen, you can see Jonathan Frid walking around the set and then coming in through the door.

Behind the Scenes:

In case you were wondering: Sarah’s voice was pre-recorded in this episode. Sharon Smyth didn’t appear, and she’s not credited.

Tomorrow: Notes on Camp.

286 dark shadows edge of the set

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

12 thoughts on “Episode 286: Slumber Party

  1. I think Victoria is brilliant myself. She clearly realizes that candle lighting is THE major Old House activity. She’s taken the lighting and blowing out of candles and turned it into an art form.

  2. I think Barnabas realizes he doesn’t want to hurt Vicki, hence the offer to take her home. Inside he wants her to say no, more than anything probably just to reinforce his dream of finding a Josette who is worthy of his love. But at the sametime maybe just hoping a little that she will leave to take away his opportunity, and choice, of acting on his desires.
    Whether intentionally or not, the writers are using Wille and Vicki as kind of a moral dilemma for Barnabas. Willie, speaking to his humanity. Vicki, enticing his demonity. It really is a classic case of one’s inner struggle between what is right and what we want.

    1. I definitely agree with you. I want to believe Barnabas doesn’t really want
      to give into his demons. He just desperately wants to “love” and “be loved”…
      I hope?
      Otherwise, why am I rooting for him… what does that make me?

      If he could have gone the Twilight route and practiced delayed gratification for awhile and let Vicki fall desperately in love with him and beg him to do her that could have been interesting…

      But if that had happened where would Julia fit in. Can’t wait for the two of them to get together!!

  3. So Vicki doesn’t want to leave a candle burning for safety reasons. But there is a candle burning on the mantle in front of Josette’s portrait when she walks into the room. And it never is extinguished.

  4. John Karlen’s understated acting is absolutely terrific in this episode. His choppy breathing, stammering, frozen posture and slight tremors really sell the terror he’s feeling. Yet he has the courage to try to keep Vicki safe. First time rewatching since I was 5 years old and I love Willie now, just as I did then.

    1. Did anyone catch John Karlen starting to laugh in the scene where Barnabas tells him to stay in bed all night? He just barely turns his head in time, but you can see him starting to lose it.

  5. Another raging thunderstorm in Collinsport, the epicenter of which is apparently, once again, over the Old House and Collinwood. If you’re going to live in these parts, you’d really better invest in a darned good rain slicker.

    I love the re-enactment of the first scene from the prior episode and poor Jonathan Frid stumbling over that exact same line as he stumbled over it in yesterday’s episode:

    “You’d better wait inside until it lets up at least a little.” That’s a mouthful on a good day to be sure but definitely signifies Barnabas’ continued relevance as quite a playa. This vampire’s definitely got game, no doubt.

    And then we proceed to a tremendous amount of back acting with Barnabas having to sublimate himself for Jeremiah Collins as once again the story of Josette’s cliff dive comes back for another round of recapping (the first time Vicki heard the tale was in the last raging thunderstorm when the power went down). It’s always about Josette! I don’t know who the person actually is in the portrait on the wall of Josette but I think it’s high time that her agent got her some royalties because never has one person’s name been uttered more on a show than Josette.

    The big question for me in this episode is where in the hell is Willie? You’d think with overnight guests and all that he’d at least be around to provide toiletries and snacks. Poor Vicki might not have had her evening meal before trotting over to the Old House.

    And then, of course, just when we need him the most, Willie appears.

    The whole thing is unnerving from the jump. There’s Barnbas looking…..frankly, hungry, and here comes Willie with a ball found near the coffin in the basement that seems to belong to the little girl everyone keeps seeing. Things really get downright spooky when Willie says, “I keep getting the feeling that there is someone else in this house besides us.” And with Barnabas’ unease on the matter, the audience becomes equally freaked out. With the exception of Frid completely upstaging Willie blocking-wise (Karlen at one point has his entire back to the camera), it really is another phenomenal Willie/Barnabas scene.

    The staircase scene to follow is a real corker as well and Willie nailing Barnabas’ true feelings about Vicki is a spot-on moment of astute psychoanalysis. Barnabas has never looked graver (pardon the pun) and more anxious than he does in this episode.

  6. I’m surprised you’re glossing over the “stop me before I kill again” encounter between Barnabas and Willie in the drawing room. I though it was kind of touching the way Barnabas reached out, albeit briefly, to Willie for support as he struggled with his inner demons. Also, not a blooper but a technical glitch: the title of the show can be seen faintly over the stock shots of Collinwood and the old house during the opening narration.

  7. Barnabas the Playa!!! Ha! Ha!
    “No, girl, that wasn’t me, that was Jeremiah. He’s always doin’ crazy shit like that. Yeah, don’t worry, girl, I got you. You’re safe with me.”

  8. Barnabas tells Vicki that Jeremiah Collins was chasing Josette to incriminate Jeremiah. Of course the audience knows it was Barnabas. But, now, Burke is the new Jeremiah, so by default Vicki will begin to distrust Burke… maybe….but it’s an intentional character slander.

  9. The first “Twin Peaks” was brilliant. Or maybe I was half my present age and thought anything weird was art. “Twin Peaks II” (which had woefully little Twin Peaks in it) was chock full of rubbish like a guy sweeping a floor for ten minutes. When people do that these days it proves 2 things: 1) some guys take their PR seriously and think they can get away with stringing along and wasting the precious time of life and annoying the ever-lovin’ Charles Huffman Dickens out of the good, workaday people who put food on their tables all these years; and 2) some fans get tricked by these buzzards because we optimistically think there must be a payoff (like the guy’s going to mount his broom and fly away, and I wish he had. And take David Lynch with you.)

    In the days of DS it meant they had to fill 20-odd minutes a day somehow. But watch well-made old shows and see how the best of them have people wasting time entering and leaving rooms to open and close scenes, compared to today.

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