Episode 312: Search Party

“Be quiet, you fool!”

I know it’s not politically correct to say it, but this is why you can’t trust vampires.

Hysterical governess Victoria Winters is out on the terrace, terribly concerned that her young charge, David, has wandered off into the night. Barnabas stops by, and she pours out all of her fears and anxieties. She begins to sob, and he comforts her, holding her close and making soothing sounds.

And then, apparently, he decides to just go ahead and rip a new hole in her neck. For the last several weeks, he’s been carefully positioning himself as a trusted friend and advisor, setting up the early stages of a long-term seduction plan. This moment is an uncharacteristic lapse, a gentleman jewel thief about to smash a piggy bank.

But what the hell, he must be thinking. You only live once, approximately.

312 dark shadows barnabas terrace

Just at the last moment, Barnabas gets fang-blocked by Carolyn and Joe, who’ve been out searching for David. As they approach, Barnabas ducks over to the wall for a moment, to take the plastic fangs out of his mouth and give himself a quick make-believe cold shower.

When he rejoins the humans, they explain that David wandered off to find Sarah, the little girl who seems to be involved in all the recent mysteries. Barnabas is disturbed to learn that David might be getting close to discovering his secret, and he slips away into the night.

312 dark shadows vicki carolyn vacation

Once the boys are gone, Carolyn says, “Vicki, I think we should call mother and Uncle Roger and let them know what’s going on.”

Vicki disagrees: “There’s no use in getting them worried. They can’t do anything from Boston.”

Now, we haven’t heard anything about this trip to Boston before; it’s news to us. This is a trick that soap operas do when a character hasn’t been seen on screen for a little while, and they want to explain the absence. In this case, Roger slipped quietly off the canvas about six weeks ago. So they’ve given him a little retrospective vacation, and when he shows up again later this week, they’ll have an excuse to recap everything that’s happened lately.

Unfortunately, this tends to happen quite a bit with Roger. He started out as the show’s main villain, but a year’s worth of melodrama has smoothed out all the wrinkles in his character. Now he’s mostly comic relief — a great character to have around, but not deeply involved in any of the storylines. So he drifts out of sight every once in a while, and they have to invent business trips to Boston or Bangor so they can do another “welcome home” sequence.

312 dark shadows barnabas willie flop

Meanwhile, in the world of characters who are actually on the show, Barnabas goes back to the Old House and tells Willie that they’ve got to find David. Sarah is actually the ghost of Barnabas’ dead little sister, and she may have revealed his secret.

This is basically the same scene that they did on Friday’s episode, but they’ve changed sides. On Friday, Barnabas was sure that Sarah would never do anything to hurt him, but now he’s convinced that she will.

312 dark shadows willie barnabas what if

Willie’s concerned.

Willie:  What if he does know too much? What happens then?

Barnabas:  You know the answer to that.

Willie:  Well, you wouldn’t harm him, would you?

Barnabas:  Of course I’d have to do what was necessary.

Willie:  Barnabas! He’s only a little boy… and a Collins! You wouldn’t harm a member of your own family, would you?

Barnabas:  It would certainly be regrettable…

Holy cow! That’s some heavy stuff. They’ve been easing off on the vampire mayhem lately, because they’ve realized that Barnabas is the most interesting character on the show, and they want to keep him around.

It seemed like they were building to a fight between Barnabas and Burke, who’s an adult and can take care of himself. But that storyline seems to have been nerfed last week, so there’s still a vacancy for a character that the vampire can kill. Now they’re raising the possibility that Barnabas’ next victim will be his ten-year-old great-great-grand-nephew, the only male heir to the Collins name.

That’s dark, and it’s going to get darker. We’re just on the verge of the most sinister version of Barnabas that we’ll ever see.

312 dark shadows patterson arrives

But first, let’s do another farce sequence featuring the breathtakingly incompetent Sheriff Patterson. He’s come to search for David, who has a history of sneaking into the Old House to play.

This is a good idea, so obviously the Sheriff didn’t think of it on his own. It was suggested by Joe, who’s not officially deputized, but Patterson is letting him tag along just to make sure he’s violating all known law enforcement procedure.

Barnabas answers the door.

Barnabas:  Well, Sheriff. Ah, Haskell!

Patterson:  Mr. Collins.

Then they do a five-second round of dialogue chicken, while they try to figure out who’s supposed to talk next. Patterson folds.

Patterson:  We’d like to take a look around your house, if you don’t mind.

Barnabas:  Well, not at all.

Wait, that wasn’t right. He gropes for another line.

Barnabas:  My house? Here? Why?

Joe:  We have a hunch that David might be hiding in here.

Barnabas grasps the word “here,” and milks it for a while.

Barnabas:  David, here? Why would he come here?

Joe:  To find Sarah.

Barnabas:  But… why would she be here?

It’s gorgeous, another in the series of Great Moments in Accidental Dialogue.

312 dark shadows willie barnabas quiet

Joe goes upstairs to search, and the Sheriff checks the back of the house. Meanwhile, Willie and Barnabas have a quick conference.

Willie:  They might search the basement!

Barnabas:  They haven’t yet.

Willie:  But they might! They might search the coffin room, and they’d find your coffin.

Barnabas:  Be quiet, you fool!

Willie:  They’d know! They’d know everything!

Barnabas:  I said, be quiet!

I love that exchange. It sounds like it’s lifted from Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, but even in the old radio serials, the villain didn’t have an official “coffin room”.

312 dark shadows barnabas willie dawn

It’s close to dawn, and we hear the crow of the Convenient Rooster, which they apparently keep nearby on an imaginary farm to let them know when the sun’s coming up.

Barnabas and Willie are getting increasingly nervous that Joe and the Sheriff will find the coffin just as Barnabas is climbing into it. Because this is Dark Shadows, the audience is rooting for the vampire, who ten minutes ago announced that he was planning to kill a child.

312 dark shadows sheriff patterson

Joe and the Sheriff don’t find anything upstairs, so Patterson says that he wants to take a look in the basement. Barnabas tries to stall — the basement’s always been kept locked, it would be a waste of time for them to search down there.

312 dark shadows barnabas guilty

Delightfully, Barnabas’ nervousness is matched by Jonathan Frid’s shaky grasp on his dialogue. The result is a scene where the audience isn’t sure who to feel sorry for — the vulnerable character, or the struggling actor.

Patterson:  May we have the key, Mr. Collins?

Barnabas:  I’m afraid you can’t.

Patterson:  Why not?

Barnabas:  I lost it.

Patterson:  Lost it?

Barnabas:  Yes, I misplaced it. So you possibly… can’t get down through that door.

312 dark shadows carolyn interrupts

It looks bad for Barnabas, but suddenly Carolyn runs in, and tells the Sheriff that a woman reported seeing a young boy walking along the beach road just outside of town.

The guys take off, and the monster is saved. Hooray!

312 dark shadows willie barnabas rooster

The Convenient R. crows for a second time. It’s been four minutes since his first crow; he must have hit the snooze button or something.

Barnabas needs to get downstairs to his coffin, but he instructs Willie to go out and search for David. If he can find the boy, he should bring him back here… and Barnabas will decide what to do next.

That’s right; we’ve got a real storyline at last. Stay tuned, this might actually be going somewhere.

Tomorrow: Old Friends.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

On the terrace with Vicki and Joe, Barnabas blows through a couple of lines:

Vicki:  Mr. Collins has been very kind.

Barnabas:  Oh, not at all. I… only would do it… for your sake. (checks the teleprompter)  I can’t understand… why David has disappeared into the middle of the night.

When Joe and the Sheriff leave Collinwood, the music cue is played too early, and they have to play it twice to last until the end of the scene.

I quoted a few of Barnabas’ flubbed lines above, but there are plenty more in the Old House scenes, including:

“Willie’s right. Besides, why would he come finding her here?”

“I had no choice. You were making them suspicion as it was.”

“But it’s impossible for Willie to have gotten… for David to have gotten down there.”

Tomorrow: Old Friends.

312 dark shadows willie watches

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

11 thoughts on “Episode 312: Search Party

  1. i relish the dialogue flubs – not in any malicious way – but just from the unbridled hokeyness of it all. it’s wonderful fun.

  2. Is that ripped up patch of wall just inside the Old House’s front door starting to bug anyone else? Come on, Willie, quit dusting chandeliers and grab a can of spackle!

    And I can’t imagine why Barnabas thinks he has so much privacy at the Old House, the place is practically Penn Station.

    Willie and Barnabas would seem a LOT less suspicious if they at least pretended to search, or SAY THAT THEY SEARCHED IN THE BASEMENT!!! Sounds lots better than that lame-ass ‘lost the key’ story!

    Is it me, or are the backgrounds in the house sets really smoky? I can kind of see why in the Old House, with all the candles, but Collinwood seems pretty murky, too. Guess Julia is chain smoking.

  3. That patch is driving me batty (sorry). Guess Willie doesn’t do wallpaper. Yea, this whole searching for David thing is starting to remind me of the missing Vicki storyline, another Sproatnapping. Which raises another Bob Villa question. Whatever happened to the secret room behind the bookcase. Did Willie convert it into a candle shop to save money or is just sealed off to prevent people from just wandering into that room like they do the rest of the house when no one is around?

  4. There is so much to unpack here that one doesn’t know where to begin…………

    The quickly invented trip of Elizabeth and Roger being in Boston is problematic on so many levels. Why, poor Elizabeth, who’s been a recluse for 18 years and who hasn’t been out of Collinwood until the resolution of the Jason McGuire storyline, now is off gallivanting across the countryside with Roger (no doubt sporting his houndstooth jacket). I would think that some pre-planning on this would have been called for as it obvious that they are cycling through the major actors’ annual summer vacation. What a thing to spring on us in the midst of all the other drama. I hope they are installed in a nice bed-and-breakfast somewhere.

    And then, as Danny cites above, this protracted bit of dialogue chicken is a Major League Outing to be sure. The Sheriff and his stop-start cadence at the door is classic “whose line is it anyway?” Barnabas looks completely at sea for virtually the entire episode and if it wasn’t for Willie and Joe to push the dialogue, the episode might have come in at 43 minutes.

    Love the Convenient Rooster discussion above as well. I hope someone is feeding him. He really comes in handy.

    Meanwhile, is there anything more scintillating that Willie uttering the line, “You need to get to your coffin” or “they’re going to find your coffin.” They sure as hell aren’t saying that over on GUIDING LIGHT or ANOTHER WORLD, are they?

    Willie’s hair seems particularly wavy and shiny today. And the ladies’ vibrant dresses are definitely taking advantage of the new show-in-color. Though this being the third straight day in a row that everyone is in the same clothes with the storyline having gone from yesterday and through the night. Joe’s patchwork shirt looks good on him but might be time for a shower for everyone concerned what with all their all night searching and hand-wringing over David.

  5. There are some problems with time in this episode. When the sheriff arrives Joe tells him that David has been missing for about six hours. When they get to the Old House (presumably only a few minutes away) it’s almost 6:00 AM. So David went missing at midnight? Just before he was about to eat dinner? That doesn’t make any sense. More likely David’s been gone around twelve hours.

    As Danny notes this was a really rough episode for Frid but it ends up working in his favor as Barnabas seems completely ill at ease, just what the scene calls for. He and Willie also look absurdly guilty but since the sheriff has all the instincts of an elderly bloodhound with a head cold nothing comes of it.

    Three consecutive episodes without Hoffman – bliss!

  6. “the audience is rooting for the vampire…”
    I can’t speak for the entire audience but honestly, when I first watched this as a child, we were not “rooting for him” at this point. We hadn’t forgotten what happened to Maggie. We thought he was a villain and based on the other shows we had seen in our young lives, we completely expected him to be caught and punished.
    I’m not sure if the writers even knew where they were going with him yet. They’re threatening to make him irredeemable.

    1. By this point, Barnabas has been kept past his previously planned 13-week expiration date because he has increased the ratings so much, but I’m not sure that it’s been determined yet that he will be a permanent character. Even if he has been, the show’s creators are indeed still struggling with how to keep him around and remain villainous at the same time.

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