“Stop thinking like a woman, and start thinking like a doctor.”
Here’s a lesson from Supervillain 101: Don’t sacrifice your only henchman.
I know it’s tempting, but seriously, try to keep it together. Willie was kind of a pain sometimes — prone to backchat, and not fully committed to the corporate vision — but on the upside, he did the occasional perimeter check.
So here’s Dr. Woodard, leaving the Old House after a mutually threatening conversation with Barnabas. He bumps into Julia on his way out, and says good night. As soon as she enters the house, Woodard takes four steps over to the window, and helps himself to their conversation.
Barnabas really should have a more complex security protocol by now. This is not a new problem.
Of course, it’s not easy to keep things on the D.L. in a soap opera, because the format requires a level of exposition usually reserved for 24-hour cable news channels. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiding from the Nazis, and an SS patrol is walking by with sniffer dogs and infrared goggles. You’re a soap opera character, and you never stop talking.
Obviously, the first item on Barnabas and Julia’s agenda is What Does Woodard Know. Barnabas has been playing Threat Whac-A-Mole for the last two months solid, and I think it’s wearing thin on all of us.
But then the conversation takes an unexpected turn toward the feels.
Barnabas: Dr. Hoffman, my existence has been won at great cost. It is very precious to me.
Julia: It’s… very important to me too, Barnabas.
This is incredibly peculiar. Today’s episode returns to the Julia Hearts Barnabas theme in a big way, and I’m not sure why.
Julia’s crush on Barnabas makes a lot more sense later on in the series, when they face some challenges together as a team, and he starts acting in a more positive and less selfish way. At the moment, however, he’s the guy who strangled Julia twice in the last month, including just a week ago. This brings up some serious questions about what she’s looking for in a life partner.
And frankly, he hasn’t been a particularly romantic figure lately. With all these Whac-A-Mole plots, he’s become entirely reactive, just bouncing from one threat to another — Burke, Maggie, David, Willie and now Dr. Woodard.
Worse, he’s hardly even done anything about these threats. Looking back at the last couple months, Barnabas has only taken real action twice.
First, there was the bat attack in David’s room, which was phenomenal. But the only other positive action he’s taken lately is when he complained to Vicki about Burke, and got her to stop Burke’s investigation. That was an effective way to solve the problem, but when you get down to it, it’s just tattling.
Most of the time, Barnabas has just been standing around in the Old House, fretting. The monster has become a whiner. It’s not super attractive.
Barnabas used to be a guy who made plans. I mean, sure, his plans were psychotic, but at least he had a reason to get up in the evening.
And then he says this.
Barnabas: He knows you’re a doctor. He knows, therefore, that something in this house interests you medically.
Julia: Oh, I don’t think you should assume that.
Barnabas: Stop thinking like a woman, and start thinking like a doctor.
Which is crazy. Now, I don’t need to get into a feminist critique here, because it’s almost 50 years later, and everybody reading this blog understands how patronizing that is. But the weird thing is that even with my hypothetical 1967 worldview plugged in, I don’t really understand what he means.
After all, he’s the one who’s being emotional right now. She’s actually fairly blasé about the whole situation; if he dropped the subject, she’d just head down to her basement laboratory, and start messing around with make-believe chemistry.
But they’ve come up with some new material, which is nice. Barnabas is suddenly worried about the notes that Julia’s been keeping about her experiments.
Barnabas: I want you to destroy them.
Julia: Destroy them? Why?
Barnabas: Why do you think? I don’t want him to find them.
Julia: He couldn’t possibly find them. They’re locked in a strongbox in my room.
That’s a pretty skillful little bit of writing, because it’s new information, for Barnabas and for us. Usually on a soap opera, when there’s an eavesdropping character, everybody has to start using “As you know” statements, where you go over your entire plan one more time, including full names and zip codes.
Then there’s another dramatic tone shift. Barnabas says that Woodard mentioned his sister, Sarah.
Julia: What did you do?
Barnabas: I looked at him as though he were mad, utterly mad. Then I felt myself growing pale, and I forced the blood back into my cheeks, so that he wouldn’t suspect how near to panic I was.
Julia rests her hand on his shoulder.
Julia: Poor Barnabas.
Which is possibly the most surprising thing that could have happened in this scene, outside of a gas main exploding. Did anybody see a “poor Barnabas” coming?
And then he just goes full-on emo.
Barnabas: Yes, poor Barnabas… forced to deny one of the two things in this whole world that matters to him most.
He turns, and walks upstage.
Barnabas: Wherever you are, little Sarah, forgive me for having denied you, for not being able to look at him and speak the truth. Yes, Dr. Woodard, Sarah Collins is my sister… and the dearest creature that ever walked this Earth.
And there you have it — Barnabas Collins, master of the mood swing, dazzling us once again with the variety and intensity of his feelings.
So, what the hell. Things are going to get pretty dark by the end of the week, so this is probably a nice moment to take a breath, rest your hand on the monster’s shoulder, and — just for a little while — think like a woman.
Tomorrow: The End of Everything.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the final scene in Dr. Woodard’s office, he tells Julia, “Yes, I’ve given much too time — much too much time and thought to this Sarah Collins business.”
There’s also a moment when he opens a desk drawer and dramatically pulls out a piece of paper. It’s obvious that the single sheet of paper is the only thing in the huge drawer, which is amusing.
Behind the Scenes:
Also in this episode: Liz invites Vicki and Burke to live in the West Wing of Collinwood after they’re married. Burke jokes, “What about strange old Collins skeletons — any of those tucked away in the closets?” As we’ll see in December 1968, there really is a skeleton hidden in the West Wing…
Tomorrow: The End of Everything.
— Danny Horn