“The only possible explanation for David’s disappearance is that he vanished.”
It’s now going on five days since David got locked in a box, and doesn’t it feel like forever? This is something that people miss if they don’t watch one episode every day, the way that the original audience did. And by “people”, obviously, I mean everybody in the world except me.
After all, you’re free to skip around and watch any episode you want. And here I am, committed to this one-episode-a-day format, trapped with David in a secret room of my own making.
Still, at least it’s a nice day for it. And look! Here’s Julia.
She’s a little stressed out tonight, because she’s trying to discover a cure for vampirism, and instead of sitting around and being injected with things, her vampire patient wants to go out and kill a ten-year-old boy. It turns out that specializing in make-believe monster medicine has a downside.
Barnabas is convinced that Sarah — the ghost of his dead little sister — has revealed his secret to young David, and therefore the boy is a threat to his existence. Julia tries to reason with him.
Julia: You’re assuming that David knows what you are, but you have no way of being sure.
Barnabas: Of course I don’t. That’s why I must find him, and question him, and then I’ll know and do whatever is necessary.
Julia: Oh, you mean if he doesn’t know, you won’t hurt him?
Barnabas: Precisely. But unfortunately, I’m convinced that he does. He’s been seeing far too much of Sarah lately. Children are always talking with each other and sharing their secrets!
And there’s a nice example of why Dark Shadows is different from any other show on television. Where else would you hear a guy complaining about the social lives of ghost children?
Julia follows Barnabas out onto the porch.
He admits, “It would be a pity if David has to be done away with. I was growing very fond of him. But if I have to choose between sentiment and survival… I’ll choose survival.”
Which is just… I mean… what a completely insane thing for the show to do. Barnabas is now the most popular character on an increasingly popular daytime soap opera. They’ve been working on rebranding him for months, turning him into a romantic scoundrel rather than a bloodthirsty danger to society. And now, just as he’s gotten himself involved in a typical soap love triangle, they’ve decided that he should murder a little kid.
So here he is, visiting the girl that he says he loves, and he’s pretending to be sympathetic as she tells him how worried she is about David’s disappearance. Really, the whole time he’s just pumping her for information. She mentions Joe and Roger’s encounter with the caretaker at the Eagle Hill cemetery, and then he’s off like a shot.
Vicki said that the caretaker told Joe about hearing a ghostly voice calling for help in the old Collins mausoleum, and obviously Barnabas knows what that means — David’s locked in the mausoleum’s secret room. That’s why he’s heading for the cemetery, because he’s figured that out.
But then, for some unfathomable reason, Barnabas feels compelled to stop along the way and confirm the story with the crazy old caretaker. That unfathomable reason is otherwise known as: it’s a thirty-minute TV show and it’s only half over.
The conversation does not begin well.
Caretaker: Who did you say you are?
Barnabas: Barnabas Collins.
Caretaker: Are you a ghost?
See what I mean? It’s hard to keep the upper hand in a conversation like this.
Caretaker: You look just like the gentleman in the portrait.
Barnabas: Please, I have some urgent business and I want your cooperation. I’m looking for a little boy who’s lost.
Caretaker: And the ring on your finger is the same, too… and the cane.
Barnabas: Would you please listen to me?
Caretaker: Why are you getting so disturbed?
Barnabas: I told you, I want some answers from you.
Caretaker: What answers?
Barnabas: About the little boy everyone’s looking for.
Caretaker: Oh… he hasn’t been found yet?
It’s wonderful, really. It’s like a summer stock production of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, where Abbott is being played by Count Dracula.
That scene goes on approximately forever, but let’s skip the comedy cross-talk and get to the main event.
David is calling out to Sarah to help him escape from the room, and suddenly, there she is. Ta-da!
Now, I’ve been complaining a lot that Sarah leaving David to starve in the mausolem doesn’t make any sense. (For example, see Monday’s post and Wednesday’s post, as well as the unspoken subtext of everything else I’ve written, said and thought this entire week, including while I’m asleep.)
So obviously it’s a huge surprise when Sarah finally shows up, and guess what, it doesn’t make any sense.
Delightfully, David treats this miraculous rescue like it’s just another inconvenience.
David: Sarah! Where did you come from?
Sarah: I heard you calling for help, so I came to help you.
David: How did you get in here?
Sarah: I can get in anywhere.
David: Well, I’m mad at you.
Sarah: What for?
David: For running off, and leaving me in this place.
Sarah: I didn’t run off and leave you.
David: Yes, you did!
And she did! Arrgh! The core message of this episode is that everybody in the entire world is incredibly frustrating to talk to.
But what are you going to do? At a certain point, you just say fine, whatever, just show me how to unlock the door, so I can get out of this deserted crypt and go home. I think everybody’s had a couple dates like that.
David gets out of the mausoleum, and heads for home — but he runs straight into the arms of Barnabas, who cries, “Hello, David! I’ve been looking everywhere for you. But now I’ve found you, haven’t I?”
So next week, we’ll get to see what happens when a popular soap opera character kills a ten-year-old boy. Stay tuned, because any minute now, this show is going to start getting a little weird.
Monday: The Big Bad.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Barnabas completely loses track of his lines when he’s talking to Julia in the Old House. Here’s the line where it really goes south:
Barnabas: Use your head, doctor. I would never keep little David a prisoner, and let — err — let me run the risk of his telling someone about me after he’s escaped from me. No. David… will never. Tell. Because when I find him, it won’t be. To keep him prisoner.
During one of the scenes with David calling for Sarah in the secret room, he lays down on the steps, and accidentally pushes against the step that has the secret mechanism to open the door. He has to close it again and pretend that he doesn’t know it’s there. (This is the scene between Barnabas’ conversation with Vicki, and his encounter with the caretaker.)
Sarah tells David that she’s sorry, and David says, “No, I’m the one that’s gonna be sorry when my family gets me!” Whatever that means.
Monday: The Big Bad.
— Danny Horn