“Dead people don’t just walk away.”
You know, I complain a lot about the lengthy recap conversations on Dark Shadows, but then I find myself trying to explain the current state of play to a reader who may have just stumbled onto the blog for the first time, and it’s hard to know where to begin.
Here’s where we left things on Friday — young David Collins is playing with his friend Sarah, who he doesn’t realize is a ghost. Sarah wants David to play with her, so she’s brought him to the family crypt where she’s buried, and she’s instructed him to open the panel that leads to the secret room, where her brother Barnabas was chained up in a coffin for 170 years.
And here’s the problem — if you, dear reader, have managed to cram all of those story points into your head simultaneously, then the next question is: Why has Sarah brought David to the secret room, and why is she telling him to open the coffin? And then I have to confess that I don’t really have any idea.
Unsurprisingly, it’s kind of a weird scene. David opens the coffin, and finds that it’s empty. He says, “Why would somebody put an empty coffin in here?” and Sarah answers, “Oh, it hasn’t always been empty. Someone was in it once, but he went away.”
From there, the conversation gets a little complex. David’s uncomfortable, Sarah’s mysterious, and neither of them has a particularly firm grasp on their lines.
David: Vicki is probably worried about me.
Sarah: But you said if I showed you a good place to play, that you’d play with me in it.
David: I know…
And then there’s a long pause while they try to remember who’s supposed to speak next.
But the kids aren’t the only ones groping for their cues today. Everybody’s off their game. At the start of the next scene, the camera pulls back too far, so we see Julia standing off to the side, waiting for her cue to walk into the room. It’s adorable, a little summer stock theater moment on national TV.
Part of the problem today might be that they’ve been filming episodes way out of order recently. Yes, I have a book that lists all the taping dates, and yes, I’m going to tell you what they are, because I’m a nerd and it’s my blog.
From Monday to Friday, here’s the taping order:
Last week — 302, 300, 304, 301, 305
This week — 303, 307, 308, 309, 306
Sometimes you can read the taping dates like tea leaves, and figure out what’s going on behind the scenes. Usually, a weird taping schedule is the result of a holiday, a strike, or something like the switch to color a few weeks ago. In this case, I have no idea why the schedule was mixed up like this. It was early August, so maybe it had something to do with vacation schedules, but I don’t know.
So this is actually the last episode filmed, at the end of two confusing weeks. The story slows down this week, with a lot of recap conversations — which means that it was probably hard to remember which version of this conversation they’re supposed to be having at the moment. The actors are clearly running on empty.
And why is everything slowing down? Because the entire storyline is focused on finding Sarah, and the writers still aren’t sure who she is, or what she wants. It’s fine if they want to keep the audience guessing, but it’s pretty clear they haven’t figured it out yet.
At the moment, Sarah’s behavior is entirely determined by plot mechanics. They need her to show David the coffin and the secret room today, because he’s going to end up trapped in that coffin by the end of the week. She’s got to get him into that room, even if they don’t have anything to do but squabble and then leave again.
So they’re counting on Sarah to drive the story this week, but her behavior is random and whimsical. She can show up at any time and completely change the course of the story, but there isn’t any compelling reason why she should do that today, rather than tomorrow or three weeks from now.
Meanwhile, they’re putting some actual story possibilities on hold, which isn’t going to help. Julia has been working on a cure for Barnabas’ vampirism, but on Friday, the injections were making him feel weak, and he suspected that Julia might actually be harming him. He told Willie that if it looked like Julia wasn’t acting in his best interest, then Willie should destroy her.
That’s a nice tasty little plot point, involving the three most conflicted and interesting characters on the show, and there’s an opportunity for multiple alliances to spring up between them that could drive character development.
Unfortunately, today they’ve forgotten all about it. Barnabas apparently feels fine. He says goodbye to Julia and walks over to Collinwood, as if nothing happened last week.
And so we move on to the next round of story-killing. Last week, Burke started digging up information on Barnabas, and he was getting close to some dangerous truths. That could be an interesting storyline to play out, especially if Barnabas is feeling weak, and suspicious of his own allies.
But then Barnabas goes ahead and does something intelligent. He tells Vicki that he’s learned that Burke has been investigating his background, and he’s puzzled and hurt. Vicki is horrified that her fiancee is treating Barnabas this way, and she promises to put a stop to it.
That’s actually a nice character-building moment for Barnabas, showing that he can manipulate people without having to resort to violence. If they’re working on a transition to a more sympathetic version of Barnabas, then it’s good to establish that he can still get things done without strangling somebody. Unfortunately, it shuts down more story potential.
So stay tuned for a whole week of people realizing that maybe that strange little girl in the weird clothes might possibly have something to do with Maggie’s abduction.
Tomorrow: Total Recall.
(More) Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
If you’re blooper-spotting, then you should definitely check out that moment with Julia in the Old House waiting for her cue. It’s priceless.
There are lots of pauses and flubbed lines today, including:
Sarah: You’ve got to promise that you won’t tell not a single soul about the secret room.
Barnabas: Now we have a new crisis: Mr. Devlin and his private little investigation of me.
Barnabas: Doctor… problems are solved not only through violence.
David: Well, you know that party that everyone went to, the costume party down by the Old House?
Also, you can hear something in the studio fall to the floor with a crash during Barnabas and Julia’s scene in the Old House.
And watch Sarah’s fingers when she plays “London Bridge” on the recorder in the last scene. She’s playing a lot more notes than the music cue does, and she continues to move her fingers after the music stops.
Tomorrow: Total Recall.
Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967
— Danny Horn
11 thoughts on “Episode 306: Out of Order”
Barnabas has a plan.
And he’s going to use finesse.
Yup. Got ‘SUCCESS’ written all over it. (Well, he IS trying to dupe Vicki, so that’s in his favor.)
As David comes downstairs at Vicki’s order, the shadow of a camera rolls across the wall and floor at the bottom of the stairs.
For some reason, this has been bothering me – couple of shows back, Julia hounds Barnabas repeatedly about where he saw Sarah; today, Vicki and Julia ask David about the same thing. Geez, guys! Just tell the inquisitive dames that you were out in the woods! For all the lies that Barnabas and David have told, you’d think they could lie better. Or at least FASTER.
Shouldn’t Jason McGuire’s body be in the coffin, given that that’s where Barnabas and Willie hid it after Barnabas killed him?
No, Ed. Jason is buried under the earthen floor of the secret room. The coffin we’re seeing now, the one Sarah wants David to open, is the same one bad ol’ Barny was freed from by Willie 94 episodes ago. It was inside the room beside them when they buried McGuire. While we be can’t be absolutely sure B&W did not place JM’s body in some sort of container for burial – as we didn’t witness the actual burial, rather just Willie turning the last shovelfuls of earth on top of it – I think it’s rather unlikely they bothered. But, as JFrid might say, coffin Jason’s this is not.
I agree with the observation that everyone’s off their game. Thanks for clearing up the reason.
I thought that Barnabas’ plan to use Vicki to stop Burke’s snooping was a good move by the writer’s. Gave Barnabas his swagger back vs Julia and hopefully will reduce Burke’s screentime.
Barnabas knows that Vicki loves him as a person and not the real animal that wants to make her a vampire. So of course she is gonna get in Burke’s butt about it. He scores one point here.
Because I’m a nerd even though it isn’t my blog, I looked through the days the cast were needed, and I think your vacation theory might be right — this shooting schedule gives Willie, Liz, Maggie, Joe, Sam, and Carolyn each a solid week off, and even front-burner players like Barnabas and Burke get three straight days off to recover a bit. Still no frickin’ idea why they’d do things like shoot 302 before 300 and 301 within the same week, though!
But one worrying thought… You suggested that the whole reason for the big weekend cliffhanger in 305/306 was to set up the fact that David would end up trapped in the secret room in 310. But… 310 wasn’t part of these two weeks of shooting. You’d know more about their production cycle than me, but I’d figure they would have done their breakdown of 300-309 in one batch, and then moved on to plotting 310-319… saving their second Friday cliffhanger until they’d worked out what they were cliffhangering into.
So basically… could it be that when they did this batch, they didn’t even have that much idea where they were going with the Sarah plotline? Were they really completely… god I’m sorry but… vamping till ready?
I think it was established that Sarah is showing David the coffin because he likes secret places and she wants David to like and play with her. She is very lonely.
Also I think this is the last batch of MM episodes and Sproat has to pick up the slack just as the David/Sarah/Secret Room thing is starting to climax. It could be that Sproat with his love of sequestering characters thought that having David get locked in the crypt would make for good TV.
My rationalization for Sarah’s behavior is that she’s trying, in an admittedly oblique manner, to warn / protect her descendants against Barnabus. Why did she only return after Barnabus was freed from his coffin? She knows he’s dangerous and is attempting to, in a slow, excruciatingly coy way, wise them up to his undead, predatory nature. Why can’t she just materialize and blurt out “My brother is a psychotic blood-sucker and you’re all in danger!” ‘Cause ghost rules is rules! Also possibly back in her day little girls were taught to be seen and not heard, and to be demure and not demonstrative. It’s giving the writer(s) a lot of credit, but it makes sense to me. Plus the demands of narrative suspense in a daily story.
Did David get a haircut between 305 and 306?
Yes he kept moving his hair out of his eyes in 305 when talking to Sarah. All good in 306!