Episode 350: Grumpy Old Man

“That’s the first time you’ve ever called me by that name.”

Not very much previously, on Dark Shadows: Two days ago, David gave Carolyn the antique toy soldier, which he said would protect her. Then she was visited by the spirit of Sarah Collins, and she realized that the wild stories David’s been telling might actually be true. There, that’s your background on Carolyn’s character arc for the week — steadily building an awareness that David’s “fantasies” might be real.

So it’s a bit disappointing when David walks into the drawing room at the top of today’s episode, and hands Carolyn the toy soldier again.

David:  I came to bring you this.

Carolyn:  A toy soldier?

David:  Yes. You should have it with you all the time.

Carolyn:  Why?

Yeah, good question. I have several “why” questions of my own, starting with: Why doesn’t David climb up on a chair and smack her upside the head?

350 dark shadows david are you kidding me

Even on a messy daytime soap like this, the only way to reconcile this scene with what happened in Wednesday’s episode is that maybe Carolyn had some massive head trauma while we weren’t looking. She spent the entire episode talking to David and Liz about this toy soldier.

It’s just maddening. Look at his face. Totally justified.

350 dark shadows carolyn david window

And then it gets worse. For some reason, the hideously-aged Barnabas appears at the window, glaring into the room. David cries out, but by the time Carolyn turns around, Barnabas is gone. When Liz rushes in, David tells them that he saw a scary old man outside, and Liz and Carolyn share a pitying look behind David’s back.

So Carolyn’s just gone full-on goldfish; as far as she’s concerned, the last two days didn’t happen. This is what happens when you let Ron Sproat write episodes again.

350 dark shadows carolyn goldfish

I mean, Sproat’s not a bad writer. I don’t know if you can say that he’s the guy who invented Barnabas — executive producer Dan Curtis deserves at least half the credit for that — but Sproat is the guy who defined who Barnabas is, how he talks and how he thinks. His Barnabas/Julia scene in today’s episode is pure 24-karat dynamite.

But I think Sproat is so excited about the monsters that he’s lost interest in writing for the humans. Last week, Joe Caldwell wrote an amazing character-building episode with genuinely touching moments between David and Carolyn, because Caldwell cares about the human characters. Sproat mostly thinks of them as recap monkeys.

The thing that’s really frustrating is that you can write recap scenes in a way that still preserves the characters’ IQ. If it’s really crucial to remind the audience about the toy soldier, then you have Carolyn say, “Yes, I know, David. You want me to keep this toy soldier, because Sarah said it would protect me.” Is that really a difficult guideline to get your head around?

350 dark shadows carolyn liz goldfish

When David leaves the room, Carolyn tells Liz about her encounter with Sarah, and she says that she’s starting to believe David. This is even more baffling. Apparently now we can’t even keep track of what Carolyn knows all the way through a scene.

350 dark shadows barnabas old

So let’s go over to the Old House and check in with the ghouls, because the humans are getting on my last nerve.

And it looks like Barnabas feels pretty much the same way. Julia gave him an extra-heavy dose of anti-vampire juice the other day, and it turned him into the withered old husk that he would be if he’d actually been alive this whole time.

He comes back to the house after taking a walk, and Julia’s waiting for him.

Julia:  Where have you been?

Barnabas:  I was out for a walk. I wanted to be alone, to contemplate the success of your noble experiments, Doctor, and what I must do about it.

Julia:  You didn’t…

Barnabas:  No, not yet. Of course not, for my appearance would have altered.

Apparently, he believes that if he bites someone, then he’ll “revert” and get his youthful good looks back. I’m not sure why he believes this, but he’s the vampire, so whatever.

350 dark shadows barnabas julia walk

Julia:  And who is it going to be?

Barnabas:  I don’t know yet. I must find her. There must be someone out there… someone there in the darkness.

350 dark shadows julia barnabas willing

Julia’s been lobbying for Barnabas to bite Vicki, for kind of complicated interpersonal reasons. Barnabas insists that he doesn’t want Vicki that way; she has to come to him willingly, as the new version of his dead girlfriend, Josette.

But Julia has an idea for an alternative.

Julia:  Don’t you think it’s possible that someone might come to you… willingly?

Barnabas:  Willingly?

Julia:  Yes. There might be someone who could accept you for what you are, and… submit to your needs?

Barnabas:  And who is this person?

350 dark shadows julia i am

Julia turns to face him, and says, “I am.”

So. Damn. Okay.

Cause, that’s…

Damn.

350 dark shadows julia smile

And she means it, too. Look at that smile.

Barnabas:  Would you… willingly?

Julia:  Yes! Willingly.

Barnabas:  Even knowing what would happen to you?

Julia:  Yes.

It’s actually to his credit that he’s shocked. That’s how messed up this is; we’ve shocked the psychopath vampire.

Barnabas:  You take pride in being a strong-willed woman. You would no longer have a will of your own.

Julia:  I’m aware of that.

Barnabas:  And you would make that sacrifice?

Julia:  Yes.

Barnabas:  Well… why, Julia?

350 dark shadows julia first time

She turns around.

Julia:  That’s the first time you’ve ever called me by that name.

And I think that might be the moment that really sells this insane situation. I hadn’t noticed that he’d never called her Julia before. Look how happy she is.

Now, obviously, this is not an awesome moment, re: strong, independent female role models who should be teaching young girls of the late 1960s that they shouldn’t give up their careers, not to mention their immortal souls, for a guy’s short-term hunger for body fluids.

But now that I think of it, Julia recently murdered an old friend in cold blood, to cover up for Barnabas’ crimes. I guess she lost the Woman of the Year nomination a while ago.

Still, it’s definitely surprising. We didn’t see this one coming.

350 dark shadows barnabas julia no

He says no, by the way. He may need her services as a doctor in the future, and apparently drinking her blood will invalidate her medical license somehow. I forget if there’s a chapter on that excuse in He’s Just Not That Into You.

But let’s break this down a little bit more. There’s an obvious question here — why does it have to be a woman? The short answer to that question is, “Because a vampire bite is a metaphor for sex.” The long answer is exactly the same, but you add the word “Duh.”

Although “sex” isn’t really the right word. It’s non-consensual. He’s planning to go out and rape somebody.

350 dark shadows barnabas julia touch it

Vampires — especially sexy vampires, as seen in approximately half of American pop culture output in the last ten years — are not-very-subtle rape fantasy objects. And it’s a particularly nasty version of the rape fantasy, because after it’s over, the victim becomes the rapist’s slave. The initial attack is terrifying, but once you get going, it turns into love.

Now, if you took the fantasy-metaphor part out of that scenario, it would be completely unacceptable. A sexy bad boy with dark eye makeup walks around town, assaulting pretty girls and then making them fall in love with him. And you even see the penetration; they do big exciting close-ups on the “fangs”.

I don’t have a way to process this, really. We enjoy stories that use a fantasy metaphor to turn rape into romance. Deal with that.

350 dark shadows barnabas julia oldness

And we can’t say that Ron Sproat didn’t consider this interpretation, because it’s the only way to understand what they’re talking about.

Barnabas doesn’t want to bite Vicki, because it would violate the innocent virgin. He wants to marry her, and assaulting her before she agrees to the wedding would spoil everything. When Julia offers herself, Barnabas is shocked, because she’s an intelligent woman who you’d think would have more self-respect than to volunteer for the position of helpless rape-victim slave.

350 dark shadows carolyn breaking and entering

So keep all that in mind as we move on to today’s big cliffhanger. After another frustrating conversation with David, Carolyn decides to go to the Old House, and find out what’s really going on in the basement.

Naturally, the front door is unlocked, because this is a soap opera, and locks are storyline speed bumps.

350 dark shadows carolyn peril

The basement door is unlocked, too. They made a big deal about the locked basement a few weeks ago, but never mind. Let’s get her downstairs.

So this turns out to be a crazy episode. The beginning was baffling and dull, but now they’re flipping over tables, and there’s a real threat to a character that we love.

Remember, they’ve killed two characters recently. They weren’t core family members like Carolyn is, but still.

350 dark shadows carolyn coffin

And they’re following through on it, too. This isn’t one of those bait-and-switch episodes where they’ve hidden the coffin, or blocked up the secret room in the mausoleum. She goes to the basement. She finds the coffin.

350 dark shadows barnabas carolyn uh oh

And then there’s this.

Carolyn:  You can’t be Barnabas!

Barnabas:  But I am.

Carolyn:  But… what’s happened to your face? You’re so old!

Barnabas:  It won’t be old much longer!

350 dark shadows barnabas carolyn my dear

Barnabas holds his young great-great-grand-niece, and gently brushes her hair away from her neck.

Don’t be afraid of me, my dear,” he says. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

350 dark shadows barnabas blood

“I wouldn’t do anything to hurt… my own flesh and blood.”

Which is phenomenal. A strong punchline, and a shocking Friday cliffhanger.

Oh, Sproat. Every time I think I’m done with you, you pull something like this. I wish I knew how to quit you.

Monday: The Grateful Dead.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Liz sits down during her conversation with Carolyn, the boom mic can be seen at the top of the frame.

Carolyn is sitting in the drawing room, staring at the toy soldier. The camera cuts to David, standing at the foot of the foyer stairs, clearly waiting for his cue. As he walks across the foyer, there’s a noise that sounds like someone’s operating a pump.

David asks Carolyn if she thinks he’s crazy, and she says that he doesn’t. David says “Elizabeth does.” Usually, he refers to Liz as “Aunt Elizabeth.”

Monday: The Grateful Dead.

350 dark shadows carolyn liz boom mic

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

13 thoughts on “Episode 350: Grumpy Old Man

  1. This episode blew my mind when I was 10. No one was safe from Barnabas. I was still on his side though at 10 years old. I started watching DS in syndication in 1982. I did not like how the resolved the Carolyn issue after 1795.

  2. The past few episodes are gripping and more overtly “Universal horror” than the series has ever been (just a month ago, they were trying to frame Willie or Barnabas was sulking about Burke and Vicki). It’s also very DARK SHADOWS in that storylines or character motivations sometimes make no sense or come out of left field.

    For instance, as noted, Barnabas seems confident that taking a victim can reverse the aging effect. Did he read this in the manual? Is the key to reversing my age simply to… consume what currently keeps me alive? Amazing. Also, why does he not even consider it in Episode 348? No, instead, he insists on another hasty, massive treatment. (By the way, Barnabas’s borderline personality traits of reckless impatience and dogmatic insistence on a certain course of action, despite its insanity, will come to define the character for the rest of the series. It’s why I love him — He’s essentially a mentally unstable drama queen who likes to give extensive monologues about his feelings, no wonder teens took to him!)

    Anyway, Barnabas makes it clear that he’s going to kill Julia (or worse) if she fails to cure him. She fails. He clearly blames her, but he’s actually fairly gracious towards her afterwards until he discovers her hypnosis of Vicki. The obvious narrative would have been Barnabas killing Julia — just as she’s failed in the one thing she came on the show to attempt. It’s what happens in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS , and I sometimes think that was Dan Curtis’s original plan.

    But the show becomes almost farcical over the next two weeks. If you thought there was filler before…

    1. You’re totally right about Barnabas’ dogmatism; I hadn’t thought of it that way. He does tend to get an idea stuck in his head — a suspicion, or a course of action — and then commit to it completely, no matter how reckless or ill-informed it might be.

      By any standard of narrative logic, Barnabas should kill Julia — in this episode, he says that he might need her medical services in the future, which means almost exactly nothing.

      But the logic of the Dark Shadows world always bends around Julia. The sanitarium apparently doesn’t need her to come back; nobody ever asks her to leave Collinwood; she faces deadly threats on a weekly basis, usually without a scratch. It’s the Hippocratic Oath of Dark Shadows: First, do no harm (to Grayson Hall).

  3. Actually Barnabas saying that Julia would be unable o function as a doctor if she was bitten turn out to be rather prophetic. Later on, when she becomes a victim of vampire Tom Jennings, her strong will goes out the window, she is distracted and unable to concentrate on her doctor duties. So, for once, Barnabas gets something right. lol

  4. With time we learned that Barnabas was most fightening when he had a plan. He had more cunning plans than Baldric, and they made even less sense. Eventually I had to write my own fan fiction in which I finally someone tells him that vampirism is no excuse for stupidity…

  5. And honestly would any of this really happened if Carolyn had managed to bring along the dang doll? How many times does David have to tell her. She should have that thing in a snuggy.

  6. julia has access to many medical supplies. cant she just get her fantasy-boyfriend some plasma from the blood bank?

    whoops that would kill the series. nevermind!!

    carolyn’s screams are absolutely blood-curdling.

    1. Sounds a lot like the legend of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who reputedly bathed regularly in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. (Hammer would make film of this in the early 70s under the title “Countess Dracula”, starring Ingrid Pitt).

  7. These past few episodes can be pointed out to anyone who thinks the whole show is just camp, bad acting/effects, and disposable, great shows, and that make up of Barnabas is all kidding aside, flawless.

  8. I admit that I contemplated where Carolyn would keep that toy soldier on her person, and I could not think of an answer that would be anatomically possible. On the other hand, ever since David took the toy soldier to the basement (in his coat pocket) I expected that Barnabas would be brought up short if he saw it because it could only have been given to David by Sarah, and it would remind Barnabas of himself and his own childhood. That might have been Sarah’s intent, right there. No magic about this talisman unless psychology is magic, which it often seems to be.

  9. I realize this is redundant, but kudos again to Dick Smith for the phenomenal Barnabas-aged make up. It’s really stunning. This is a daytime TV soap, not a big budget movie. I don’t recall this level of aging make up in movies of the day. Frid did an even better job the second day of the “old man.” His shoulders were more sloped and movements more in line with a very aged man, aside from the day prior’s subtle change of his voice. Creepy make up and effective acting. Onward to Carolyn’s throat……. Family member? Hmm…..nasty business.

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