Episode 321: What We Talk About When We Talk About Ghosts

“There are men all over the place.”

It’s Monday, which means that Barnabas has had the whole weekend to think things over, and he still has the same stupid plan. He’s heard that Maggie’s started to remember what happened when she was abducted a few months ago, and the Sheriff thinks there’s going to be a big break in the case. If that’s true, then she’s probably already told everyone that Barnabas is a vampire, and now her agent is booking the promotional tour for her tell-all autobiography.

Barnabas’ brilliant response to this situation is to go to Maggie’s house while she’s sleeping, and kill her. Willie and Julia have tried to explain why this isn’t an award-winning idea, but it’s an uphill battle.

321 dark shadows julia barnabas blind spot

Julia assures Barnabas that her memory-erasing medallion zapped all the bad thoughts out of Maggie’s head, and there’s no chance that they’ll come back. Barnabas argues for a while, but then he decides — in a time-saving maneuver that I appreciate — that it would be easier to just go and kill Maggie, and then apologize to Julia about it later.

Oddly, Julia accepts this sudden and obviously insincere about-face, and now she’s smiling and chirping about how great it is that Barnabas is finally beginning to trust her. As we’ve seen, Julia is the smartest character on the show, but this may be her blind spot. She’s so good at lying to everyone else, it doesn’t seem to occur to her that Barnabas might be keeping a secret of his own.

321 dark shadows sam maggie trap

Meanwhile, over at the Evans house, Maggie’s father and the Sheriff have set up a trap to catch the kidnapper, with Maggie as bait. Maggie’s memory isn’t really coming back; they just spread that rumor so the maniac would try to silence her.

Sam reassures Maggie that everything’s going to be okay. “There are men all over the place,” he says, which is nice if you like that sort of thing.

For some reason, everyone seems to believe that the trap will only work if Maggie is alone, and asleep in her bed. But the curtains are drawn, and the kidnapper won’t be able to see her through the window. The police are stationed outside, with orders to intercept the kidnapper before he even gets into her bedroom. So why can’t they have someone in the room with her, or just put a cop in her bed wearing a wig? It’s like they think that the kidnapper is Santa Claus, and he won’t come unless Maggie is snuggled up in bed, with visions of sugar plums.

But apparently the Collinsport police department is full of Method actors; it doesn’t occur to them to just pretend. They have to commit to their theatrical reality; otherwise, what’s the point?

321 dark shadows maggie sarah sleep

Remarkably, despite the high-pressure situation, Maggie does actually doze off in her chair. I guess some people can sleep anywhere.

Then she’s visited by Sarah, her 9-year-old ghost friend. The last time Sarah visited, she was upset that Maggie’s memory had been erased. But Sarah’s basically a plot contrivance generator, so she has a lot of these convenient mood swings.

321 dark shadows maggie sarah rules

Maggie tells Sarah that she’s glad to see her, and offers to get her a glass of milk. Sarah’s not having it.

Maggie:  Now, you wait right here.

Sarah:  No, I won’t wait.

Maggie:  Why not?

Sarah:  I know why you want to leave the room. You want to tell your father that I’m here. If anyone else comes in this room, I’ll have to leave.

321 dark shadows sarah maggie leave

She says this as if there’s a well-known principle of ghost behavior that she can only appear to one person at a time. There’s no particular reason why that should be true, but the good thing about ghosts is that they don’t have to make sense.

I had similar questions a few weeks ago about Sarah’s habit of leaving solid props behind, like the brand-new antique bonnet that she dropped at Collinwood. If the bonnet that she wears is a physical object made in the 18th century, then why would it look new? Is it preserved in time, along with the restless spirit who wore it? And so on.

The answer, if there is one, is that Dark Shadows is a fantasy narrative, where the symbolic is just as important as the literal. Ghosts operate according to aesthetic rules, based on what feels right, rather than any kind of logical system.

Sarah has already met Maggie’s father; she appeared to him a couple months ago to tell him how to find Maggie. There’s no reason why she couldn’t talk to both Maggie and Sam at the same time. But if she interacted with more than one person at a time, it wouldn’t work; she’d feel like an ordinary character, rather than a special visitation.

321 dark shadows sarah maggie doll

Sarah asks Maggie if she still has the doll that Sarah left with her a couple weeks ago. Maggie admits that she loaned the doll to Dr. Woodard, who wanted to examine it.

Sarah gets upset, and tells Maggie that she needs to get the doll back immediately. She can’t explain why it’s so important — it just is.

The real answer is that the doll is a mark of Sarah’s protection. It’s like Harry Potter’s scar or Dorothy’s ruby slippers; it wards off the evil spirits.

321 dark shadows willie julia blind

Over at Collinwood, Willie tells Julia that Barnabas was lying; he’s planning to kill Maggie. We get to see that blind spot of hers again, in full, living color.

Willie:  It’s Barnabas. You’ve gotta stop him.

Julia:  Stop him? From what?

Willie:  From killing Maggie Evans.

Julia:  Killing Maggie!

Willie:  He plans to do it tonight.

Julia:  What?

Willie:  Yeah, he said that Maggie Evans is gonna die tonight!

Julia:  He said that?

Willie:  Those were his exact words.

Julia:  But he wouldn’t kill Maggie! He couldn’t!

Okay, doctor, read my lips — he’s go-ing to kill Mag-gie. This is a rare goldfish moment for Julia.

321 dark shadows barnabas window

Meanwhile, the dogs are howling, and Barnabas is standing at the window, staring out into the night.

“Goodbye, Maggie Evans,” he thinks. “I might have loved you. I might have spared you. Now… you must die.”

Man, what a diva. He even has backup singers.

Tomorrow: To Bite or Not to Bite.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Sarah gets some of her lines mixed up during her conversation with Maggie, and ends up repeating a couple of lines:

Maggie:  You’re not afraid of my father, are you? He likes little girls.

Sarah:  I don’t care.

(Sarah is supposed to say that she has to leave, but she doesn’t. Maggie says her line anyway.)

Maggie:  But why would you have to go?

Sarah:  I have to leave. I came to see you anyway. If anyone else comes into this room, I’ll have to leave.

Maggie:  Please don’t do that. I wouldn’t like that. I’m glad you’re here.

Sarah:  You are?

Maggie:  Of course! We’re friends, aren’t we?

Sarah:  Yes. But I came to see you, not anyone else. If anyone else comes in this room, I’ll have to leave.

When Maggie tells Sam about Sarah’s visit, they turn on the fountain on the Collinwood terrace set, preparing for the next scene. You can hear the water start flowing right after Maggie says, “She said I had to get it back right away, tonight!”

Right after that, Maggie bobbles a line:

Maggie:  Pop, what do you suppose it means?

Sam:  I don’t know.

Maggie:  Where do you suppose she comes from? Where do you suppose… who is she?

Sam:  I don’t know that either.

Julia messes up a line in her scene with Willie:

Julia:  I can hardly believe this is happening.

Willie:  It’s happening all right.

Julia:  I was so certain that I was… full control of the situation.

Tomorrow: To Bite or Not to Bite.

321 dark shadows maggie sam confused

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

4 thoughts on “Episode 321: What We Talk About When We Talk About Ghosts

  1. I’m with Willie when he yells at Julia ” how many times do I have to say it before you believe me!”. It is almost maddening how this plot is dragging on what with, how does Sarah keep popping up and who is Barnabas going to kill next and what does David know if somebody would just make a damn decision already and just move on, PLEASE!!!

  2. I meant to comment on this yesterday but it slipped my mind.

    That obsession with getting that shot in of the moon moving through the clouds all because Barnabas says that he’ll kill Maggie “when the moon moves behind the clouds” for darkest night, I guess, and lowest vampire visibility. They tried the shot yesterday but it only went to black screen so I guess they wanted to make sure they established their bona fides today.

    Also, like Danny intimates above, I sure wish that they would up the ante with Sarah. There needs to be a ghost intervention performed. Everyone needs to get in a circle and hold each other’s hand, all kumbaya-like, and say, “Hi, my name is Maggie/Sam/Julia, etc., and, yes, Sarah is, in fact, a GHOST.” Taking the first step towards surrender will always set you free.

    And, just like the friggin’ MUSIC BOX, the SARAH DOLL seems to have mystical powers as well, though never really articulated. Pretty hilarious that Sam’s sending Joe over to drive to Doctor Woodard’s house to pick it up.

    This thought just occurred to me: have any of the SURVIVING CAST MEMBERS ever found their way here to this blog site? That would be tres awesome if that were to occur. It seems to me that Sarah should be pretty young-ish still and possibly able to throw her two cents in here. Can you imagine watching yourself as a 9-year old some odd 50 years later? That would have to be surreal.

    There’s so much talking of killing people; yet so little gets done. We are DEFINITELY in need of a fresh killing. It seems oh-so-long since the demise of Dear Jason McGuire.

  3. Maggie: You’re not afraid of my father, are you? He likes little girls.

    That line must have sounded innocuous in 1967.

  4. It may be possible that Sarah is not a ghost at all, but a kind of mass hallucination. Her goals seem to change depending upon who she’s appearing to – – now, I just need to find a way to explain her accessories appearing and vanishing.

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