Episode 294: House Party

“He said you were dead, but I knew you weren’t. And I was right!”

Today’s episode starts at Windcliff Sanitarium, where Maggie is clutching the bars on the window and wishing she could go home. And no wonder she’s restless — she was kidnapped three months ago, and she’s been confined in one room or another ever since. She’s missed practically the entire summer.

Happily, Maggie gets a visitation from Sarah, the ghost of a little girl who she met in lockup.

Sarah apologizes for taking so long: “I didn’t know where to find you. I just kept looking. I just kept listening very hard, and I began to hear you. And I found you at last!  And I’ll help you go home!”

Which brings up some questions: First, does Sarah operate with some kind of ghost radar? And second: what does she want, exactly?

294 dark shadows sarah maggie 2

Sarah’s been fairly busy over the last month — appearing at the top of the stairs at Barnabas’ costume party, singing “London Bridge” while Vicki is sleeping in Josette’s room, and scattering loose items all over the place. And it’s not completely clear what her intentions are. Is she trying to warn people about her brother? Is she trying to expose him? Or is she really just a little girl who’s genuinely trying to make connections with the people around her?

While you’re mulling that over, here’s some cryptic ghost dialogue.

Maggie:  Sarah — how will you help me go home?

Sarah:  I can do it.

Maggie:  How? The doors are locked, and the window is barred.

Sarah:  Every door is locked, and every door has a key to it, doesn’t it?

Maggie:  Yes.

Sarah:  Well, where’s the key to this one?

Maggie:  Miss Jackson, the nurse outside, has it. She keeps it on a ring, and the ring is on a chain, and the chain is on a belt.

Sarah:  The key is on a ring, the ring is on a chain, and the chain is on a belt. And that’s how Maggie’s going home.

I don’t really think the writers are sure who Sarah is, or what she wants. They’ve just been putting her in scenes when they need a little extra mystery, and letting the character come together accidentally. It should be a mess, but there’s something sincere about Sarah. I believe in her.

294 dark shadows miss jackson 2

Sarah prompts Maggie to pound on the door and call for the nurse. This is the nurse’s last episode, so I’m going to indulge myself and do the joke that I’ve been putting off.

Sarah:  Go ahead, call her.

Maggie:  Miss Jackson?

Sarah:  Louder! Come on, louder!

Maggie:  Miss Jackson! Miss Jackson!

If you’re nasty! If you’re nasty!

There, I’ve done it now; my soul is at peace.

294 dark shadows miss jackson

Miss Jackson opens the door, and she’s stunned to find a dead little girl sitting on the bed. While she’s distracted, Maggie sneaks past her like Yogi Bear getting away with a picnic basket.

Maggie closes the door behind her, and Miss Jackson whirls around to try the door. She turns back to the bed, and the little girl is gone. A perfectly executed plan; it’s like Ocean’s Eleven-year-old.

294 dark shadows house

Meanwhile, Vicki’s brought Burke and Barnabas to see the goddamn house.

Burke:  Whoever put this place together sure knew how to build a house. You’d think it was built yesterday!

Barnabas:  Perhaps the past isn’t so far behind us as we sometimes think.

Burke:  Well, whoever it was, they did a very good job. You found yourself quite a place here, Vicki.

Except that it’s not her place, because she doesn’t have any money. She grew up in a foundling home, and now she’s working as a governess, probably for not much more than room and board.

I don’t like to put so much stress on the financial side of things, but that is the traditional method of determining whether you’re the kind of person who falls in love with houses, or the kind of person who doesn’t.

So this storyline makes Vicki look like a scheming little baggage. She’s ensnared two potential rich husbands, and now she’s walking around a huge, empty house with her two suitors, cooing about how happy she’d be if she only lived there. Apparently, the only question is whether she’d have electric lights and central heating with Burke, or candlelight and fireplaces with Barnabas. Her ownership of the house is assured; now they’re just quibbling over how to furnish it.

294 dark shadows barnabas candle

And besides, everything that she says makes her sound like a lunatic.

Vicki:  I want to know all about the people who built this house and lived here.

Barnabas:  Sometimes that isn’t always a good idea.

Vicki:  Well, I don’t care. I have to.

And what on earth is that supposed to mean? Meanwhile, Burke acts grumpy and aloof, and Barnabas offers to explore the upstairs floors to find something for Vicki. He says, “I’m not so dependent on the sort of artificial light that most people need in order to see. Perhaps I’ll find you something from the past.”

294 dark shadows burke horrible

While Barnabas is upstairs, Burke says, “Hey, let’s forget about presents from the past, shall we, and think about the future of this house? I have a feeling it could be a very rosy future — if we let it.”

He’s basically offering her the house in exchange for marrying him. It’s horrible.

294 dark shadows maggie woods

And somewhere out in this warm summer night, Maggie Evans is walking to Collinsport, on foot, accompanied by a ghost. It’s a weird plot point; I don’t think this happened much on As the World Turns.

The whole idea of Maggie being rescued by a ghost is a bit of a phasmatis ex machina, but Sarah’s enigmatic playfulness makes it work.

Maggie:  In the hospital room, there were bars on the windows, and the door was locked. Now, how did you get in?

Sarah:  Do you really want to know?

Maggie:  Yes, I do.

Sarah:  The same way I got out.

Maggie:  All right. But when I left the room, I locked you in with the nurse. Now, how did you get out?

Sarah:  The same way I got in!

Maggie:  Sarah… (She chuckles.) You know, you’re a funny little girl.

Sarah:  I never heard you laugh before. You should do it all the time.

Now, we’ve been told that Windcliff is 100 miles away from Collinsport. At a brisk walk, you can go about four miles an hour, so this journey should take more than a day if they walked without stopping. But one of them is a child, plus: they’re stopping.

But somehow they make the whole trip in one night. It’s a spiritual journey, really; you have to see it in terms of a prophet walking through the desert under divine protection. Or maybe it’s more like Dorothy and the ruby slippers. Either one.

294 dark shadows vicki burke

Now, back to “the house”, where Burke is acting all impatient and grumpy while Barnabas rummages around upstairs.

Burke:  It’s the chilliest house I’ve ever been in. Well, I can fix that with central heating.

Vicki:  Oh, no. It would be a shame to change this house in any way.

Burke:  Why?

Vicki:  Well, I don’t think that the people who built it or lived here would like it.

I just don’t know what to say. I may be getting to the point where I simply can’t speak about Victoria Winters again. That might happen.

294 dark shadows handkerchief

Barnabas finally comes downstairs, and he’s found a handkerchief which is embroidered with a monogram — F. McA. C.

Vicki:  Thank you, Barnabas. But do you think it was all right to take it?

Barnabas:  Of course I do. Whoever it was, or wherever she might be, I’m sure she’d want you to have it.

Again — super delusional. These people are just projecting whatever they want on to the past.

Oh man, I just said “the past” — now they’ve got me doing it!

294 dark shadows vicki hankie

They go to the Blue Whale for some much-needed adult beverages, and Vicki stares at the handkerchief and wonders who F. McA. C. was.

So here’s a spoiler alert: this is threeshadowing, setting up a potential storyline that never goes anywhere. They’ll mention it a couple more times and then forget all about it.

294 dark shadows maggie

But then the door opens, and it’s a plot point! And not a moment too soon.

So here’s some good news for us all — we made it through the black-and-white episodes. Starting tomorrow, Dark Shadows is in color. Hooray!

Tomorrow: Nothing But Lies.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Things are always a bit rocky whenever Sarah has dialogue to say. Her most noticeable trip in this episode is her answer to Maggie: “The ring is on a — the key is on a ring, the ring is on a… chain, and the chain is on a belt. And that’s how Maggie’s going home.”

When Miss Jackson pounds on the locked door, the walls of the set visibly shake.

As Vicki and Burke walk up to the window of the deserted house, you can see the reflection of a man in a white shirt walking across the studio.

294 dark shadows man crosses window

Behind the Scenes:

According to Jim Pierson’s 1988 book Dark Shadows: The Introduction of Barnabas, the original script for this episode included a truck driver, who picks up Maggie on the road and drives her to Collinsport. The truck driver was written out of the revised script, possibly because there were already six speaking parts in the episode, which is usually the limit. So Maggie ends up walking the entire 100 mile journey in one night.

This episode is the last appearance of Alice Drummond as Miss Jackson. Drummond had a long and varied career after this four-episode stint on Dark Shadows. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1970 for The Chinese and Dr. Fish. She spent three years on a CBS soap, Where the Heart Is, and had featured roles on several short-lived TV series, including Park Place, Lenny and Frannie’s Turn. She had several memorable “old lady” roles in comedies — the scared librarian at the beginning of Ghostbusters (1984), Mrs. Finkle in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), and Kevin Kline’s aunt in In and Out (1997). Her most recent film role was a part in a 2011 Brendan Fraser movie, Furry Vengeance.

Nurse Jackson appears again in April 1968, where she’s played by Ann Davies.

Vicki’s dream house is named Seaview, the name of the actual New England mansion which is used on the show as the exterior of Collinwood.

Tomorrow: Nothing But Lies.

294 dark shadows maggie down

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 294: House Party

    1. It was a fan-published episode guide published by the Dark Shadows Festival in 1988. Fans published episode guide books for all of the storylines in the 80s and 90s; most of them were called “Dark Shadows Concordances” and were published by the editor of the fanzine “The World of Dark Shadows”. At some point, I’m going to have to find a place to write about the fanzines, because they were really important to Dark Shadows fandom in the pre-internet days.

  1. I think it doesn’t matter about her being a child for the traveling since she’s a ghost, but Maggie would never have made it. I’d have to fanwank that she got a ride.

    As a governess, Vicki should receive a salary in addition to room and board, so she has an income and essentially no expenses, except clothes, and she could shop in a thrift store for all we know. Burke takes her out and pays for meals and entertainment. Even if her salary is small, she should be saving most of it. Also, as you note, she does have prospects.

    I am really enjoying these posts!

  2. Gosh — so many points to address!

    I had completely forgotten about this little house diversion from my 1970s viewing. I guess they were setting up the next Vicki mystery — and then thought better of it.

    As for Maggie’s 100-mile journey, my theory is Buzz gave that crazy chick an off-camera ride.

    I loved the ending scene in the Blue Whale and Barnabas’ obvious barely contained panic.

    Finally — BOO on the color. I need to figure out a way to make it show up B/W for the rest of the run. It’s so much more mysterious that way.

  3. Ugh. I can’t stand New Burke. He’s as annoying as Vicki has become.

    Great last scene though. One of those endings that makes you want to watch the next episode immediately (which I did).

  4. As the trio enter Seaview, Vicki states that it’s lucky Barnabas brought candles, or this whole trip would have been a waste. And that’s just what the whole trip (and the whole plot line) ends up as. So Vicki was actually right about SOMETHING!

    Burke is the one I had the most issues with; half the time, he’s on about how great the place is, then he’s whining about ‘I just wanna get out of here’ and cold and damp. I just keep thinking, what does Vicki see in Burke? And vice versa. I mean they spend most of their time crabbing away ate each other, just so they can make up later. I know, conflict is the essence of drama, but they just seem to be so ‘manufactured’ as a couple.

    And I just love that the first place Maggie stops at is The Blue Whale, she knows instinctively that’s where Sam is most likely to be…

  5. That was definitely a Friday cliffhanger if there ever was one, Maggie walking into the Blue Whale. Can’t understand why they did it on a Thursday. I also agree that the bw looks better, as far as ambiance, but it is nice to have some color in the wardrobe. Maked Vicki look a little less boring.

    1. It’s true that the end of this episode seems like a Friday cliffhanger, but I believe they wanted the first color episode to be on a Friday, which would explain it.

  6. As a ghost, Sarah didn’t walk the full hundred miles to get to the sanitarium. I think Maggie held her hand as they walked home and they traversed the distance ghostwise. I’d have to watch the episode more carefully to figure out the time differential to see how long it took.

  7. I totally agree with Ed about it really should have been a Friday cliffhanger if ever there was one. There’s also some issues with her entrance as it seems to be late. The actors all stop speaking for what seems like minutes and there is actually some thought that someone has completely missed DELIVERING a line when the door finally opens and Maggie appears. It even takes the second camera a second or two to switch over to get the establishing reaction shots and some of the dramatic build-up is lost because of it.

    I mean, c’mon, if you are seeing someone you knew and loved who had been pronounced dead and buried suddenly come walking into your local watering hole, aren’t you gonna jump back from the table, knock over a chair or two, in your fright and surprise?

    Danny, for the first time EVER in my entire travels through your blog, I am not getting the Nurse Jackson “nasty” joke. What’s the pop culture reference I am missing?

    Absolutely ADORE “phastasmis ex machina.” A round of applause on that one.

    Is the embroidered handkerchief ever explained with the initials on it?

    1. Janet Jackson has a song called “Nasty” where she says, No, my first name ain’t baby. It’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.” There are many versions of that song, so I’m guessing there’s at least one where the phrases are repeated the way Danny shows—“Miss Jackson! Miss Jackson! If you’re nasty! If you’re nasty!”

      1. When Maggie shouted, “Miss Jackson, Miss Jackson”, the phrase “If you’re nasty” popped into my head as well. I blame MST3K (though I actually did hear the song–and see the music video–once or twice when it first came out, so maybe I would’ve thought of it anyway). But I didn’t expect Danny to make that joke here, so I still laughed out loud when I read it. 😀

  8. I’ll agree with Barry that the last scene is very sloppy. Even before Maggie’s awkward entrance there was a clumsy shot of the bartender just standing in the background holding the tray of drinks, apparently waiting for his cue.

    What is it with Barnabas and old handkerchiefs? He seems to want to give one to everybody. It’s pretty disgusting.

    Sarah took Maggie home from Windcliff the same way the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge all over the world in A Christmas Carol. Ghosts can just do that sort of stuff.

    If we’re going to forgive a 45 year old Canadian actor for mangling his lines in virtually every episode then I think we can extend the same courtesy to a nine year old actress when she has an occasional slip.

  9. Straker, your last three paragraphs quite did me in! and Danny, i could roll along with “Ocean’s Eleven-year-old, but i had to comment back in time to thank you for giving us “phastasmis ex machina.” * sigh *

  10. Vicki’s storylines just get sucked down into a whirlpool of oblivion. The Seaview story evaporates. Her fiancé disappears and is never spoken of again. Her parentage is never revealed. At least Big Finish addresses the Burke story but with Maggie, not Vicki. (…And Red All Over)

  11. It is hard not to like Sarah. She’s a supernatural force that actually gets things done. I actually think she’s the smartest character on the show at this point.

  12. “I don’t really think the writers are sure who Sarah is, or what she wants.” I don’t think that either we or she are supposed to know what Sarah wants. Up to this point she’s been very mysterious- for the first few episodes it was unclear what she remembered from one appearance to the next. And of course she several times expresses puzzlement that she can’t find her parents in the Old House, and she doesn’t know why David and the others think her clothes are old-fashioned. So they leave open the possibility that she was just a projection from the past with no intentions and no ability to learn in the present.

    By now it’s clear that she is a character interacting with other characters, but still unsettled as to whether she knows she’s a ghost, or what happened to any of the people from her corporeal days, or what century it is. It still could be that her presence is just a side-effect of Barnabas’ revival, that she represents some kind of energy that was released into the world when he came out of the box. In the Phoenix storyline, they played with that same kind of ambiguity- Laura’s presence in the house coincided with other disturbances, over which she had no control and of which she was not aware.

    Later it will become clearer that Sarah knows a fair bit, but right up to the moment Vicki vanishes from the seance she is trying to figure out a way to curb Barnabas’ murderousness without betraying him. Indeed, the speech Sarah gives speaking through Vicki at that seance is the climax of that whole development- Sarah is deep in her own thoughts, trying to solve an impossible problem, and taking a gamble on something amazing of which the most she can say is that “maybe” it will work out.

  13. WARNING: I spent 2 yrs in grad school in history but bailed out after studying, not the past but, the professors. And, sad to say, lots of them “are just projecting whatever they want to on the past.”

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