“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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
— Danny Horn