Episode 296: United Stakes

“Is this really happening, or am I imagining it?”

We’re not good people, I think is the main thing. Every few years, somebody notices that there are a lot of popular TV shows where the protagonist isn’t a very nice person. The current list includes Don Draper, Walter White, Dexter Morgan, Jax Teller and assorted Bluths. In earlier days, it was Tony Soprano, Amanda Woodward, Bart Simpson, J.R. Ewing and Basil Fawlty, in a fictional rogues’ gallery that stretches all the way back to Falstaff and Tom Jones. (From the Henry Fielding novel, not the guy who sang “What’s New Pussycat”. Well, maybe him too.)

The disturbing thing — or, at least, the thing that disturbs people who are disturbed by things like this — is that after a while, you find yourself rooting for the bad guy. You want them to evade the police, to get away with murder, to swindle and seduce and blackmail and crush the opposition.

So, apparently, we’re not good people, at least as far as our television loyalties go. There’s a very short list of things that a fictional character can do that would make the audience actually turn against them. The only ones that I can think of are hurting a young child, or being cruel to cute and/or endangered animals.

Amazingly, in the female-focused world of the soap opera, a popular protagonist can even bounce back from committing rape, as fans of General Hospital’s Luke Spencer and One Life to Live’s Todd Manning know. That also applies to fantasy-metaphor rape, see also: Angel and Spike and Eric Northman and Damon Salvatore and every other sexy vampire in fiction.

Which brings us to Maggie Evans, who was fantasy-metaphor raped in a fairly comprehensive way, and now we’re rooting for the monsters who are trying to conceal their crimes.

296 dark shadows julia maggie

By the way, yes, this episode is black and white, sorry about that. The color episodes started on Friday, but they lost the master videotape for this episode, so we’re watching a black and white kinescope copy. There are eleven color episodes that only exist as kinescopes, most of them in the mid-300s.

So, what’s happening right now is that Maggie’s back in town, and she was just about to explain to Dr. Woodard exactly what happened to her during her vampire abduction when Julia interrupted with her magic memory-erasing medallion.

Julia ushered Dr. Woodard out of the room, and then restored Maggie to factory settings. Now, all Maggie knows is that she wasn’t feeling well, she went to sleep, and now she’s here.

296 dark shadows julia thought

As audience members, I think we’re genuinely torn right now about who to root for. Clearly, Barnabas is a monster and deserves to be stopped, and Julia has allied herself with the dark forces. But if they’re exposed, then that’s the end of the vampire storyline, and all we’d be left with is Vicki and Burke hanging around the Blue Whale, talking about bad dreams.

Ultimately, our only loyalty is to the story. We want the show to be interesting. If exposing the vampire leads to a thrilling twelve-week story arc that burns through town like a forest fire, then sure, let’s do that. But so far, the most consistently interesting characters are the ones with terrible secrets to hide.

296 dark shadows julia calm

Woodard drags Julia out into the hall, and she assumes a series of unbothered facial expressions, as if she’s incredibly relaxed about the whole situation.

Woodard:  Julia, I can’t figure any of this out at all.

Julia:  In what respect?

Woodard:  Look — one minute, Maggie says that she remembers everything. The next, she can’t remember anything. It doesn’t make sense!

Julia:  Perhaps what she meant by remembering is just what she said.

It’s amazing. She’s gaslighting him. She might as well bring the medallion out and erase his memory too.

296 dark shadows julia eyebrows
Woodard:  You know, for a minute there, I think she remembered where she was when she’d been kidnapped, and I think she remembered who kidnapped her, too.

Julia: If so, she repressed it immediately.

And that’s the end of the story, as far as Dr. Julia Hoffman is concerned. Unbothered.

296 dark shadows smoking

Maggie’s father, Sam, finally shows up, and they have a sweet reunion that’s only marred by the fact that he’s smoking in a hospital.

One nice thing about what Julia’s done is that she let Maggie keep all of her memories up until the point that she was kidnapped. She easily could have regressed Maggie to the childlike state that she was in when she first came to Windcliff, but she didn’t. That’s a weird thing to be grateful for, but it’s a weird storyline.

296 dark shadows julia reports in

After that settles down, Julia goes to the Old House to give Barnabas her report. It’s basically the exact same conversation that she had with Woodard, but facing in the other direction.

Barnabas:  This hypnosis — how long will it last?

Julia:  I’ve made arrangements to visit Maggie regularly as her doctor. I’ll make certain she doesn’t remember anything, as long as you continue to cooperate with me.

Barnabas:  And if I don’t?

She fixes him with a look.

Julia:  Your safety depends on me.

So here’s an amazing thing to consider: this is Julia’s 13th episode. She’s really only been on the show for about three weeks. We’d hardly even heard of her a month ago, and now she’s managed to position herself smack in the middle of the biggest story on the canvas.

296 dark shadows julia cheek

Barnabas is still trying to figure her out.

Barnabas:  You seem willing to go to great lengths to continue these inquiries.

Julia:  I’ll do whatever I need to do.

Barnabas:  That seems to be anything.

Julia:  Anything short of sacrificing a human life.

So that’s the first time we’ve heard anything that sounds like a moral code for Julia. They’ll repeat that statement again in future episodes; that’s the line that she refuses to cross.

Barnabas:  But this hypnosis — what if it doesn’t last? What if she comes out of it?

Julia:  I told you. I’ll make certain she doesn’t.

Barnabas:  But what if she comes out of it when you’re not around to stop her?

Julia:  It’s highly unlikely that that will happen. 

296 dark shadows julia cig

And then she takes out a cigarette, and lights it off one of the candles.

That is so fierce that I can’t even talk about it. There’s nothing to say.

296 dark shadows julia challenge

I know, I’m doing it again; I’m just quoting Julia dialogue instead of actually writing a blog entry. But there are only so many times that I can say look how awesome Julia is.

And, anyway: look how awesome Julia is!

Julia:  I know what I’m doing, and you must trust me. And no harm must come to Maggie Evans.

Barnabas:  And if something should happen to Maggie?

She looks him in the eye.

Julia:  I’ll expose you.

He turns away.

Barnabas:  I see.

296 dark shadows barnabas candle

Julia strolls out, completely in command of the situation. Then the Convenient Rooster crows, signalling that it’s dawn.

Barnabas picks up a candle, and has a little soliloquy.

Barnabas:  Dawn… you’re safe tonight, Maggie Evans. But I can’t take a chance on your silence. Tomorrow night… you must die.

And then he blows out the candle, because camp is contagious.

Tomorrow: The Honest Truth.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Woodard takes Julia out into the hall, someone in the studio coughs.

This one’s a nitpick: Julia tells Maggie that only Sam and Woodard know that she’s a doctor. Joe knows, too.

Barnabas has the black onyx ring on his right hand as he walks downstairs right before the last commercial break. When we come back from commercial, the first shot is the ring, which is now on his left hand.

Tomorrow: The Honest Truth.

296 dark shadows julia face

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

16 thoughts on “Episode 296: United Stakes

  1. YES! Julia’s lighting of the cigarette on one of the Old House candles was perhaps the best moment of the show yet. Her nonchalance is so, so sweet. I wish it would last …

    1. Julia was very cool in this scene. In other words, she was saying, “back off if you know better.” Barnabas, used to being in command of the situation found himself seriously vulnerable at this moment with Julia. He didn’t know what to do (smile).

  2. Look how awesome Julia Hoffman is. Look how awesome Julia Hoffman is! LOOK HOW AWESOME JULIA HOFFMAN IS! Extra ‘fierce’ points for the cigarette holder!

    As this was a Monday episode, I guess we the audience were expected to forget the dialogue and blocking of the closing on Friday’s show. Today, Maggie walks across the office, with Woodard chasing after her (tabulate how many times per minute he says ‘remember’), so the camera can zoom on Julia and show her ‘sneaky face’. On Friday, Woodard had a big ol’ brain freeze, and just stood and ‘With – whgh – whatha’ at Maggie, with Julia back by the door.

    Joe seems remarkably…shiny…when he comes in and kisses Maggie. Is it just the kinescope? Nobody else is nearly that reflective! (And despite what anybody’s memoirs say, Joel Crothers looks to be a darn good kisser! Maybe I’m just projecting.)

    I bet Barnabas goes around the room, giving that same speech as he blows out each and every candle! And can SOMEBODY please restuff that chair seat on the red armchair?

    1. Barnabas probably walking around in a circle. Julia has completely unnerved him. It is so funny to realize this now. Now entertaining!

  3. Did that ring have his own agent. Seems like it must be the focus of a close-up at least 2xs an episode. I guess the agent couldn’t convince DC to give it screen credits.

    1. I LOVE that ring! I think it does deserve screen credit.
      I had that ring. Where did I buy the ring and Josette’s music box?
      From the back of a fan magazine?
      Alas, they are both long gone….

  4. Julia is awesome. The lighting of her cigarette is extremely cool – particularly the way she takes an unhurried drag, puffing it out again before she deigns to answer Barnabas.

    His candle-snuffing is also great – such a shame they couldn’t cut to black at that moment.

    And Maggie gets a whoppin’ gert smootch off Joe – despite whatever else she’s been through, for this one scene, she’s a lucky, lucky girl…

  5. Well, to not sound completely redundant, but this may be the BEST blog entry YET that Danny has written! I absolutely love the lead-in discussion about protagonists that we love to root for that are kind of sorta anti-protagonists. It’s always going to be a much more interesting TV series, book or film if the hero is conflicted and we have to watch them go through a moral or scruples test that we can all relate to.

    I could not agree more with how fierce Julia is with the ghetto lighting of the cigarette off of the candelabra. I think this is the first time we have seen her smoke. Julia Prop Watch #3 (fish tank net, steno notebook, and now the classic femme fatale cigarette). She has completely flipped the script on ole Barnabas who is reverting back to wanting to kill Maggie again since he currently can’t kill Julia.

    And for one of the best laughs of the episode and week, you need look no further than Sam Evans who is always sprightly enough to offer up some good old-fashioned comical side-splitting. He is telling Maggie about the men stationed outside and how they are going to be there 24/7 for her protection, and as a cautionary measure, when a loud knock comes at the front door. He immediately acts concerned and says, “Who in the world could that be at this hour?” Duh: Maybe it’s one of the people stationed outside that you just got through telling us about. (But, of course, it’s only Joe).

    Even though the Barnabas-Julia scene is only a couple of minutes long, it is the meat-and-potatoes of the whole episode. No wonder this was becoming rush-home-from-school must-see television in the late summer of 1967.

  6. Woodard is now neck and neck with Vicki for Dumbest Character On The Show. Winner gets to take the Ralston-Purina lamp home for a week.

    Every time Barnabas seems about to strangle Hoffman I have the same reaction: “Do it!”

  7. “Ultimately, our only loyalty is to the story. We want the show to be interesting.”
    To me the show is only interesting when either Barnabas, Willie, Julia or a combination of them is on the screen.
    Julia knocks it out of the park again in this episode!
    “And then she takes out a cigarette, and lights it off one of the candles.”
    But before she does that she puts it in a groovy cigarette holder only adding more campy class to lighting her cig from a candle.
    Julia’s got game and she’s not going to let a psycho vampire intimidate her.
    Barnabas has met his match.

  8. We want the bad guy to win. I love the example of Bruno in the Hitchcock masterpiece “Strangers on a Train.” Bruno (Robert Walker) drops the evidence framing Guy (Farley Granger) for a murder he didn’t commit literally down the drain and we wind up rooting for him to retrieve it if it rips all the skin off his hand.

  9. For someone who’s been on the show for less than two weeks, Julia Hoffman has successfully blackmailed the psychotic vampire into submitting to her lunatic experiments and not killing his previous victim, who she regularly mindwipes to keep her under control and protect her lunatic experiments. So she just casually lights a cigarette off the candelabra while reminding the psychotic vampire just who’s in charge. So what? Julia’s gotten herself in position to where she can just do whatever she damn well pleases and knows it.

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