“What would I be doing with a coffin in my basement?”
At the end of yesterday’s episode, young David broke into the Old House and went down to the basement, to find Barnabas’ coffin. But he was caught, and now the question is: Will Barnabas kill the boy?
The answer is no, obviously, for a couple reasons. For one thing, David’s been going around telling everybody that Cousin Barnabas Wants Me to Die — so if he suddenly disappeared, last seen heading towards the Old House, it would be tough to make a clean getaway. Even the thoroughly incompetent Collinsport police force could manage to connect those dots, given a good breakfast and a head start.
The other reason is that you can’t murder a child in cold blood on camera in a soap opera, even in the late 60s and even in this soap opera. I mean, we’re not animals.
But it’s amazing that the narrative even poses that question. The vampire’s only been on the show for six months, and look how far we’ve drifted from civilized human society.
As it turns out, Julia comes to the Old House, calling for David. He dashes upstairs and runs to her for protection, and we have the following high camp moment.
David: Barnabas! He’s going to kill me!
Julia: Kill you?
Barnabas: I found him prowling around in the basement.
Barnabas: Yes! I was about to give him a sound spanking!
But in the end, he doesn’t even do that. He just takes away the spare keys that David used, and sends him home.
But look what’s waiting for him back at Collinwood — Burke and Dr. Woodard, who are hanging around in the foyer with puzzled expressions and no chaperone. Note: They don’t live here, and as far as I can tell, nobody invited them over. They appear to have shown up to participate in some kind of impromptu competition to see who can say the stupidest dialogue.
Burke: I’m getting worried about that kid. He’s behaving very strangely lately, and according to Vicki, he’s had all sorts of wild fantasies.
Woodard: Yeah… if they are fantasies.
Burke: What do you mean by that?
Woodard: Oh, I’m not sure what I mean myself, Burke.
Burke: Now, what’s up, Dave? I’ve never known you to talk in riddles before.
You see what I mean? Who even talks like that? It makes me want to hit somebody.
Basically, this entire week is like a mirror-universe episode of Scooby-Doo, where the ghosts are real and the bad guys win.
This little self-appointed Scooby team is going to lead an investigation, but unfortunately, these are two of the most annoying characters on the show, which diminishes their rooting value considerably.
I mean, look at Woodard here. I’m not a director or anything, but if I saw an actor standing in the middle of a shot like that, I would take corrective action. I’m just saying.
Anyway, David runs back to Collinwood, and tells the grown-ups all about his adventure in the Old House.
David: It’s there, Burke, it’s really there!
Burke: Now, what would Barnabas Collins be doing with a coffin in his basement?
David: Because he’s dead.
David: He walks and talks, but he’s really dead, and that was his coffin that I saw.
But Julia is following close behind. She needs to cover for Barnabas, so she’s got her own version of events.
Julia: David, you didn’t see a coffin.
David: Yes, I did!
Julia: No, you only imagined you did. You saw something that resembled a coffin. A trunk, perhaps.
Finally, Roger comes in to bring order to the lunatic circus that’s broken out in his drawing room. He’s not pleased.
Roger: What is all this commotion?
Julia: David imagines that he saw a coffin in the basement of the Old House.
Roger: A coffin?
David: It’s there. Really, it is!
Julia: Now, David, if you’d seen a coffin there, I would have too, and I didn’t see anything. So there must not have been anything there.
And then, in the middle of all this crazy, there’s a tiny little transcendent moment that makes the entire episode worthwhile.
David walks up to Julia, looks her right in the face, and calmly asks her, “Why are you lying?”
It’s practically his only line in today’s episode that isn’t meant to be delivered in a hysterical shout. It’s like he’s just realized that there’s evil in the world, and he honestly can’t believe what he’s hearing.
Things deteriorate from there. Roger sends David to his room, and apologizes to Julia. But Dr. Woodard doesn’t see this as a time for healing and reflection.
Woodard: I think we ought to go to the Old House.
Roger: Whatever for?
Woodard: To check out the boy’s word.
Roger: Do you seriously think there’s a grain of truth in this preposterous story?
Woodard: All right, 99 chances out of a hundred, it’s nothing but the boy’s imagination. But there is that one chance that he did see something, and I think we ought to check it out.
This is fuzzy math at best; apparently, medical school didn’t include any classes on probability.
So the Scooby gang drives the Mystery Machine over to the Old House, where they ask Barnabas if they can take a look in his basement. Naturally, he tells them that they’re being ridiculous, and he wants them to leave.
And I have to say, at this point, I’m on Barnabas’ side. Even knowing that these guys are one hundred percent correct — there really is a sinister secret in the basement — I still think they’re acting like bullies and fools.
Here’s the low point of the investigation.
Barnabas: I resent the implication of what you’re saying. I find it quite insulting!
Woodard: I’m sorry.
Barnabas: You know, it would be within my right to ask the both of you to leave this house immediately.
Burke: But we’re not leaving, until we have a look at your basement.
Barnabas: And if I refuse to let you go down there?
Burke: That wouldn’t be a good idea.
Barnabas: Are you threatening me, Mr. Devlin?
And then: Burke chuckles.
Burke: No. We’re asking you to show us your basement.
And oh my God I seriously want to punch him in the face. I’m aware that he’s a fictional character on a soap opera rerun. I want him to come to harm.
Barnabas tells them to leave, and Burke says, “All right… but we’ll come back with a search warrant if necessary.” Because obviously that’s a thing that civilians can do.
Eventually, Barnabas takes them downstairs, and they don’t find a coffin, because he knew they were coming and he moved it somewhere else. And then he kills them and drinks their blood and buries them somewhere, the end.
Tomorrow: All Those Dead People.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Act 2 seems to start in the middle of a sentence. The scene begins with Woodard saying “–peared?”
When Burke looks around the basement, he puts his hand on a brick wall, which noticeably wobbles.
Tomorrow: All Those Dead People.
— Danny Horn