“I don’t know what it is. I just know it’s going to happen.”
Today’s episode opens with Carolyn standing on the landing with a glum expression, probably because it’s been almost two weeks since she’s been on the show, and so far nobody’s noticed.
She walks downstairs at a moderate pace, and sets course for the drawing room. She reaches the fireplace, and then she whirls around, looking behind her. Nobody’s there, so she walks back across the drawing room.
It’s almost a shame that Liz comes in at that point and starts talking; this could have turned into a whole half hour of Carolyn pacing silently around the house.
This episode is actually more like two mini-episodes stitched together. The beginning of the episode is one of those days where they don’t have anything to do, so everyone walks around and talks about having vague feelings of dread about nothing in particular. Then they lose their nerve halfway through, and they switch to a Julia scene so the day isn’t a complete waste.
So we take you now live to Carolyn Stoddard, who keeps getting the oddest feeling.
Carolyn: I keep getting the oddest feeling, mother, and I don’t know why.
Liz: What kind of feeling?
Carolyn: The feeling that — something terrible is about to happen.
Liz: Like what?
Carolyn: I don’t know what it is. I just know it’s going to happen. And soon. Very soon.
And, remarkably, it turns out that she’s exactly right. There really is something terrible that’s about to happen, and here he is: Burke comes over to ask Liz about “the house”.
Last week, Vicki suddenly decided that she’d fallen love with an abandoned old house by the sea. They spent three episodes talking about how much she’d like to live there, but they didn’t mention who owned it. It turns out it belongs to the Collins family, which means that some of the dialogue from last week probably doesn’t make sense. But never mind.
Burke wants to buy the property, and Liz says that the family doesn’t really have any use for it. They decide to go down and look at it, and talk about a sale price. They invite Carolyn along, because there’s nothing that helps to lift your mood like walking around in a huge, dark, abandoned house.
At the house, they blow another thirty seconds on opening the door, closing the door and pacing around in silence.
Carolyn walks to the window, enchanted. “There’s a feeling about it,” she says. “A warmth. I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe it’s the light from the ocean.”
That’s kind of an odd thing to say, because last week they spent an entire episode talking about how chilly the house is. In fact, a couple minutes later, Liz has a vague feeling of her own to share:
Liz: I don’t share your enthusiasm about this house.
Burke: Why not?
Liz: I don’t know, exactly. The architecture’s beautiful, but there’s something about it. There’s a coldness here, a clamminess in the air.
Carolyn: That’s only because it’s so close to the ocean.
Except that two minutes ago, you said that being close to the ocean gave it a warmth. This is what happens when you just throw characters at the screen, instead of coming up with a storyline. I think if a soap opera really doesn’t have anything to do, we should just let them take a personal day.
But now we switch gears and go over to the Evans cottage, where Maggie’s talking about her mysterious memory loss. Vicki is prompting her for memories of the night they heard snarling dogs. This is actually an appropriate use of recap — they’re recapping something that happened three months ago, and there’s a good chance that it’s new information for viewers who have started tuning in over the summer.
Then they have a completely mysterious conversation about the day that Vicki saw Maggie at the Eagle Hill cemetery.
Maggie is puzzled, and says, “What was I doing in a cemetery? Why would anyone take me to a cemetery?” Vicki says she doesn’t know.
Which would be another fine use of recap, except that there was also an episode where Burke and Vicki found a “sleepwalking” Maggie in that same cemetery. That’s not part of the period that Julia erased from Maggie’s brain, so they should both remember it, but they don’t mention it. I know, all I’m doing today is nitpicking, but there isn’t much else to do.
The conversation moves to the couch, where we get a look at a much-loved Dark Shadows prop, known to fans as the Collinsport Afghan. It’s a crocheted blanket with a distinctive pattern of brightly-colored squares. Like the Ralston-Purina lamp, it pops up in different locations throughout the whole run of the show, including past time periods and parallel universes.
Afghan-spotting is something of a sport for fans who like that kind of thing. (For example, here’s a site that has a picture of a fan dressed up as the afghan at a Dark Shadows convention.) As far as I know, this is the blanket’s first appearance, but if anyone knows of an earlier one, let me know in the comments.
Anyway, when all seems lost, they finally come up with a plot point. Vicki mentions that she was in the cemetery to visit the grave of Josette Collins — and that name rings a bell for Maggie. The memories of her abduction start to resurface, and she remembers seeing a grave, and a coffin.
So it’s lucky for Julia that she stops by to check on Maggie at the exact moment when her memory-erasing treatment has started to wear off. Julia pretends that she’s waiting to talk to Sam about her research, puttering around in the background while Maggie has a full-blown flashback event on the couch.
Vicki: Maggie, you said you were remembering a grave. Was it the grave of Josette Collins?
Maggie: Josette… Who is she? Tell me about her.
Vicki: She was a great lady, who had a very tragic life. Barnabas Collins has restored her room in the Old House.
Julia overhears this, and pulls the medallion out of her purse.
Vicki: He’s restored all of her belongings in that room. They’re all there, just the way they were when she was living.
Maggie: I —
Vicki: What is it, Maggie?
Vicki: What is it?
Julia: Are you interested in antiques?
It’s fantastic. Julia completely disrupts the flow of the conversation, just in time. She starts talking about antique jewelry, as if they’re all having a totally normal afternoon.
And it completely works. Julia shows them the medallion, which is her special hypnotizing equipment, and just seeing it calms Maggie and breaks the mood. Julia asks if she could have a cup of tea, and Vicki goes off to the kitchen.
This gives Julia the opportunity to flash her medallion at Maggie, and top up her amnesia. By the time Vicki comes back with the tea, Maggie is smiling and relaxed, and she has no idea why Vicki thinks that her memories were coming back.
Now, ordinarily, I might be a little hard on a scene like this, because it’s basically pressing a reset button and restoring the status quo of ten minutes ago. But after spending the first half of the episode trying to decide whether an empty house is warm or chilly, this hypnotism scene feels like a taut action sequence.
Plus, Julia’s interruption is so cheerful and silly, and it makes me smile.
“Are you interested in antiques?” Yes, I am. I’m interested in anything you want to say.
Tomorrow: A Human Life.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Liz and Burke talk in the Collinwood drawing room, she dries up in the middle of a line and has to check the teleprompter. Burke tries to say something to cover the silence, and they end up talking over each other.
Also, there’s a weird edit in the first act when there’s a knock at the door; it jumps from Liz standing in the drawing room to opening the door. Legend has it that Joan Bennett, who plays Liz, was the only actor who was important enough to stop tape; this edit could be the result of covering up a mistake.
Tomorrow: A Human Life.
— Danny Horn