“There are a dozen reasons why that’s impossible.”
So here’s your standard, kitchen-sink soap opera situation: Willie was shot a couple days ago, and he’s still in a coma. Barnabas is pacing around the drawing room, waiting for Julia to come back from the hospital to report on the patient’s recovery.
But this is Dark Shadows, and what he’s really worried about is that if Willie pulls through, he’ll tell everyone that Barnabas is a vampire. So when Julia tells him that Willie is still alive, Barnabas explodes with anger.
“I know what you’re going to say!” he shouts. “You’re going to tell me to remain quiet and forget it. Well, I refuse to do that any longer! Willie must die!”
So, once again, the slow progress of Barnabas’ moral development skids off the highway and hits a tree. We’ve seen some improvement — he hasn’t really been strangling people as much as he used to — but he’s still not taking responsibility for anything that goes on in his life.
Barnabas’ problems started several months ago, when he kidnapped Maggie and tried to brainwash her into becoming his dead girlfriend, Josette. It’s a long story, but the bottom line is that it didn’t really go that well.
Maggie got away, although she’s lost all memories of her abduction. But the Sheriff set a trap for the kidnapper, and Willie stumbled into it, getting himself shot in the back.
Obviously, this would be a golden opportunity for Barnabas to reflect on his life choices, and make a searching and fearless moral inventory. He’s done that, and the result is: It’s all Willie’s fault.
So Barnabas continues to lurch from one self-induced crisis to the next. But this is a soap opera, and even in the gravest emergencies, they’ve always got time for the feels.
Julia saw the Sheriff at the hospital, and learned that he’s coming over tonight to search Willie’s room for proof that he was the kidnapper. Barnabas starts to panic, but Julia’s been thinking things over.
Julia: I think you might be able to turn this to your advantage.
Barnabas: What do you mean?
Julia: If there were a way that you could prove that Willie was the kidnapper… the Sheriff wouldn’t have to ask you any more questions.
Barnabas asks, “How can I do that?”
“I don’t know,” Julia says — and then she smiles. “But you’ll find a way.”
And how cute is that! Psychopaths can be so adorable sometimes.
As it turns out, he does come up with an idea, because Barnabas is actually a pretty smart character, when he can stifle his impulse to murder everybody in sight. And that’s why Julia likes him, and that’s why we like Julia, and suddenly the world is full of feels.
At the hospital, Sheriff Patterson hovers over Dr. Woodard, who’s fussing with Willie’s oxygen tent. This is actually a recast Sheriff, and he looks even more like Droopy Dog than the last one did.
Willie’s still hanging in there, and the doctor says that there’s a slim chance he could pull through. The Sheriff says, “Well, all we can do is wait.”
Yeah. Great plan. Feel free to do that off-screen.
But while they’re waiting, they might as well speculate. This is pretty much all that law enforcement personnel ever do on soap operas; they review the case endlessly, with anybody who happens to be standing nearby.
Patterson: You know something, Dave?
Woodard: What’s that?
Patterson: I don’t believe that boy kidnapped Maggie.
Woodard: You don’t?
Woodard: Well, then… why did he try to break into Maggie’s room?
Patterson: I don’t know.
All right, then. Good talk. Thanks for stopping by.
Okay, back to Barnabas. It turns out that he has Maggie’s ring, which she left behind during the abduction. This is actually a reference to episode 253, which was more than three months ago — a startlingly clever moment of continuity that almost makes you imagine that the writers ever have enough time to plan something in advance.
Barnabas hides the ring in one of the candlesticks, and he’ll make sure the Sheriff finds it. People are always looking inside candlesticks; it’s one of the first things that you do.
Once that’s taken care of, Barnabas gives Julia her instructions. He wants her to go back to the hospital — and make sure that Willie doesn’t recover.
Remarkably, Julia is shocked.
Julia: Are you asking me to kill him?
Barnabas: I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.
Julia: You must be insane if you think I’d do anything like that!
Um, yeah. He is. I thought we’d established that, pretty comprehensively.
Once again, Julia says that she refuses to take a human life. But we’ll see how that goes.
The Sheriff’s search plays out exactly the way that you’d expect. He and Sam shuffle around Willie’s room, just opening and closing drawers.
At one point, Patterson opens the closet door, rifles through Willie’s shirts for literally five seconds, and then closes the door again. When he’s checking the dresser, he doesn’t bother to open the bottom drawer, because he doesn’t feel like bending down that far. It’s amazing.
Meanwhile, Barnabas is absolutely dying inside. Sam actually picks up the candlestick, and then puts it down again.
Watching these clowns, Barnabas is clearly thinking that he should have put the ring in a box marked RING, inside a drawer marked CLUES. Even then, he’d probably have to stand next to the sign and say, “Why, I wonder what this could mean.”
So in the end, he has to knock over the candlestick himself. “Look!” he cries. “A ring!” And then he has to explain what “evidence” means, because it’s longer than two syllables.
At the hospital, Julia and Dr. Woodard are startled when Willie starts to moan; he’s waking up from the coma. Woodard rushes out of the room, to call the Sheriff.
Left alone with the patient, Julia takes a long, hard look at Willie’s IV. And we’ll pick it up from here tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Willie Loomis Must Die!
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Barnabas tells Julia, “As long as Willie is alive, my entire career is threatened.”
Barnabas messes up his line at the end of the teaser, trailing off into nothing: “Willie must die! Now. Tonight.” The music cue for the dramatic sting comes in too early, and plays over his last two words.
In Willie’s room, Barnabas says to Julia, “That’s why I must find a place to hide it, but in a place that they will — where they will find it.”
When Willie starts to regain consciousness, Dr. Woodard can’t get the zipper on Willie’s oxygen tent to close. He asks Julia to take care of it, and rushes out of the room.
Sheriff Patterson walks onto the set as the end credits are playing.
Behind the Scenes:
This episode begins a little Sheriff reshuffle. Dana Elcar has played Sheriff George Patterson since episode 54, back in September 1966, when he was investigating the disappearance of Bill Malloy. (If you don’t know who that is, don’t worry about it. Nobody cares about Bill Malloy.) During this run, Patterson also investigated Vicki’s disappearance, and Maggie’s vampire abduction. Elcar will be back for one more episode tomorrow, and then he’s out.
Today, Vince O’Brien fills in as the temporary Sheriff for one episode, before handing the role to Angus Cairns next week. O’Brien has been on Dark Shadows before; he played another police officer, Lt. Dan Riley, in four episodes during the Phoenix storyline. O’Brien will be back again as Sheriff Patterson for another five episodes in May 1968.
O’Brien’s television career started in 1950, with appearances on the early TV anthology series Westinghouse Studio One. He had a long career in TV law enforcement, playing a parole officer on Armstrong Circle Theatre, a detective on The Defenders, and a judge on The Edge of Night, Ryan’s Hope, The Cross and the Switchblade and Law & Order. He also played a doctor in Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall.
The episodes this week were filmed out of order, so it looks like Dana Elcar skipped an episode. He’d actually left by the time O’Brien filled in for this episode.
Today’s cast also includes Dennis Johnson as Deputy Fred; we saw him last week, and he’ll be in the teaser tomorrow.
Also, Dean Perchall was the stand-in for Willie under the oxygen tent today. This seems to be Perchall’s only credit.
Finally, just for the super-trivial — this is the last episode where WABC-TV Channel 7 announcer Bob Lloyd ends the credits with “Dark Shadows is a Dan Curtis production.” Over the next couple weeks, the announcement is read by a member of the cast, until they finally drop it in episode 339. Lloyd also makes the recast announcements over the opening credits, including today’s: “The part of Sheriff Patterson is played by Vince O’Brien.”
Tomorrow: Willie Loomis Must Die!
— Danny Horn