Episode 351: The Grateful Dead

“There are many secrets you haven’t known before, but you will soon know all of them, because you will become a part of them.”

So, I guess this would be the morning after. Young David has been going around for the last several weeks telling everyone that Cousin Barnabas is dead, and sleeps in a coffin. On Friday, Carolyn thought it would be a good idea to sneak into the Old House basement and see what all the fuss was about.

The short answer: She found out. Julia’s mad-science-fair project to cure the vampire has aged him, transforming Cousin Barnabas into Great-Great-Grand-Uncle Barnabas. He needed to drink somebody’s blood, so that he could “revert” back to his youthful form.

Friday’s episode ended with the hands-down, no-contest, intentionally creepiest moment of the series so far. Barnabas grabbed his young cousin, tenderly brushed her hair away from her throat, and said, “Don’t be afraid of me, my dear. I’m not going to hurt you. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt… my own flesh and blood.”

So it turns out that there’s something way scarier than a blood-sucking ghoul who feeds on the life force of the innocent and pretty, and it’s a blood-sucking ghoul who fantasy-metaphor-rapes his own niece.

And the very worst thing about this whole astounding very-worst-thing plot point? She loved it.

351 dark shadows julia carolyn assistant

When Carolyn comes to, she’s lying on the bed in Josette’s room. Julia, who has apparently become Barnabas’ executive assistant, conducts an exit interview.

Julia:  Are you aware of what happened?

Carolyn, idly fingering the scarf at her throat:  Yes.

Julia:  And how do you feel about it?

Carolyn:  I don’t know.

Julia:  Do you feel as if you want to run out of the house?

351 dark shadows carolyn run

Nope. Look at her face; this is not a girl planning to run anywhere. At some point, she’s going to want to update her Pinterest board, but that’s pretty much her limit, activity-wise.

Julia explains that Barnabas had to bite her, so that he could stop aging. Carolyn brightens, and says, “And I was able to do that for him?”

So this is a brand-new take on the post-feeding experience. Up to now, we’ve only seen two people after they’ve been bitten — Willie, and then Maggie — and the next day, they looked like a wreck, drained and haunted. Carolyn looks like she’s been to the spa.

351 dark shadows julia transgressive

There are a lot of different ways to make the audience feel “scared”, and they’re going for an interesting mix here that they haven’t done before. The goal is to grip the audience — to make them lean forward, watch more closely, and wait anxiously through the commercial break.

There are three layers of “scary” at play here. The most basic default level is Pretty Girl in Peril — putting a character that we like in physical danger. That was definitely part of the tension of Friday’s cliffhanger; Barnabas bit Carolyn’s throat, and we didn’t know whether she would survive the experience.

A second layer is what I’ve previously referred to as Suspense, which is putting the narrative itself in danger. This is the feeling you get when the story reaches a Crisis Point — a plot twist that changes the status quo.

In this case, Carolyn has been left on the sidelines of the vampire storyline — an occasional talk-to for Vicki, David or Joe. But in the last couple weeks, they’ve been positioning her to play a more important role, and — as of Friday’s cliffhanger — we now have a member of the show’s core family who’s learned the big secret driving the entire plot. The key to a suspenseful Crisis Point is that we know that something has to change — but we don’t know what the change is going to be, or whether it’ll make the story more interesting or less interesting. We’re actually anxious that the pleasure we take in the narrative is in danger.

And then this plot point exploits a third layer, which is the Transgressive. The fantasy-metaphor incest vibe feels wrong, and potentially dangerous for the show as a whole. The producers risk losing some of the audience, and making the network concerned that the show is becoming controversial. That’s thrilling, and you want to talk to a friend about it — can you believe they just did that? How did they get away with doing that on daytime television?

So there are three different levels of tension here — we’re worried for the character, for the storyline and for the future of the show. If they can construct a situation that impacts all three of those layers, we’ve got a home-run plot point.

(There, I’ve finally used the word transgressive in a blog post, which counts toward my Eagle Scout merit badge in Modern Culture and Media. Hooray!)

351 dark shadows julia carolyn failed

Now Carolyn and Julia are waiting for Barnabas to come upstairs — they’re not sure whether taking Carolyn’s blood helped, or whether the aging process had gone too far.

“He depended on me to help him,” Carolyn emotes. “I hope I haven’t failed him.”

So that’s super creepy.

351 dark shadows barnabas young

But it’s a nice reveal, with Barnabas back to whatever passes for normal around here. The dialogue that follows is extremely Dark Shadows-y.

Barnabas:  Yes, my dear Carolyn — Miss Hoffman, eminent historian, is really Dr. Hoffman, blood specialist and psychologist. Does that surprise you?

Yeah, I’d imagine it does. Is that really a coherent specialty?

He follows that with a choice example of Fridspeak:

Barnabas:  There are many secrets you haven’t known before, but you will soon know all of them because you will become a part of them. Do you understand that?

It’s lovely, and as always, impossible to tell if that’s the actual line, or just his own extemporaneous jazz riff.

351 dark shadows barnabas carolyn briefing

Julia is excused, and Barnabas gives Carolyn her briefing instructions. There are two current projects that she’s going to help with — convincing everyone that David’s been imagining things, and helping to turn Vicki into a new Josette. Carolyn agrees to help.

351 dark shadows barnabas cold

Then there’s a super cold moment.

Carolyn:  What about me?

Barnabas, confused:  What about you?

Carolyn:  What’s going to happen to me?

Barnabas:  I don’t know what you mean.

Ouch. That’s kind of a lose-my-number move. She satisfied his hunger, gave up her free will and her immortal soul, and now she doesn’t even get to be the rich dead girlfriend.

But the really scary moment is “I don’t know what you mean” — as if it simply hasn’t occurred to him that she requires any consideration at all, or that her life has any intrinsic value outside of being useful to him.

351 dark shadows barnabas carolyn gift

And, yeah, it gets even creepier.

Barnabas:  Since we are of the same blood, I will not give you the same status that I gave Willie. He was a servant, nothing more.

Carolyn:  What will I be, if not your servant?

Barnabas:  Depending on how well you serve me, the reward will be far greater than Willie’s was.

Carolyn:  What do you mean?

Barnabas:  Serve me well, and I have within my power the ability to give you… the gift of eternal life.

351 dark shadows carolyn drugs

Okay. Clearly, we’ve left the fantasy rape metaphor behind. Yes, she was physically violated by a family member, but this scene doesn’t feel like the aftermath of a rape.

What Barnabas has ripped apart so casually is Carolyn’s value system. Her affect is a bit spacey, but she’s clearly in possession of her faculties — she’s just as sharp and emotionally expressive as she usually is. But the blood donation has torn out her sense of what’s important — her family, her close friends, her own future — and that’s been replaced by the desire to feed Barnabas’ boundless ego.

What this feels like, actually, is a drug pusher getting the pretty girl hooked.

junkie_uk_digit_1957_front

By 1967, there was a huge chunk of pop culture entirely devoted to providing a step-by-step guide to getting a girl addicted to heroin. Sometimes, these were intended as high-minded public education about a social issue; sometimes, the apparently-disapproving moral tone was an excuse to tell salacious stories of a young woman gone astray.

The basic story goes like this: an innocent teenager unwittingly falls in with a group of wayward friends. They encourage her to try marijuana, and she takes to it. At that point, a predatory older male offers her an even better kick. From there, the story can get as lurid as you like, using a standard catalog of degrading situations — casual sex, prostitution, armed robbery, selling drugs to schoolchildren, hiding from the police, pretty much any kind of depravity you feel like writing about.

351 dark shadows terrible truth

A story like this always has a sequence about this first-experience rush; you need to establish how great it feels at first. This screenshot is from The Terrible Truth, a 1951 educational film by Sid Davis Productions, and Phyllis has just had her first enchanting experience with heroin. As you can see, the pose is pretty much identical to Carolyn’s drowsy, happy fugue state.

That’s how Dark Shadows keeps a little distance from the clear incest-rape vibe of Friday’s cliffhanger. There’s still a mostly-suppressed romantic tone in Carolyn’s voice, but the overall scene structure is more like a drug pusher, who’s pleased to have a new recruit working for him.

351 dark shadows roger liz carolyn

By the end of the episode, we get another standard trope from the Reefer Madness back catalog — Liz and Roger have stayed up all night, waiting for Carolyn to come home. Carolyn glides in with a shaky explanation of where she’s been.

She goes upstairs to bed, and Liz and Roger talk about how odd she seems. They know that she’s been upset over David, but that doesn’t explain why she’s acting, as Liz says, “like she’s a stranger in her own house.”

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll see Carolyn drifting even further into her new burnout lifestyle. She’s only got two years to get to Yasgur’s farm; she might want to start hitchhiking now.

Tomorrow: Disturbed Children.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When the clock chimes in the foyer and Roger looks at his wristwatch, the boom mic slips into the top of the frame.


Behind the Scenes:

There’s another clear example in this episode of the not-yet-retconned Barnabas/Josette backstory. A couple weeks ago, Barnabas took Julia to Widow’s Hill, and told her the current version of the show’s mythology — Josette came to Collinwood to marry Barnabas’ middle-aged uncle, Jeremiah. They were married for many years, and when Jeremiah grew older, Barnabas (who was already a vampire at this point) decided to share the “gift” of eternal life with her.

Barnabas alludes to that revised backstory again today. He tells Carolyn, “I was in love with the original Josette, and she might, one day, have returned that love if she hadn’t committed the most foolish act of her life. Vicki must do the one thing that the original Josette never did. Vicki must come to me willingly.”

That story is about to get a massive retcon, starting in three weeks. Every Dark Shadows fan knows that the upcoming flashback to 1795 changes a lot of what we’ve been told is the “official history” of the Collins family. But I’d forgotten that this version actually comes from Barnabas’ dialogue, recounting his first-hand experiences, only three weeks before history changes. Keep this in mind; it’s going to come up again.

Also, I think that’s the Collinsport Afghan on Josette’s bed at the top of today’s episode. It’s hard to be completely sure, because the original color master tape was lost, and we’re watching a black-and-white kinescope copy. But it looks like the afghan to me. It’s mostly been seen in Maggie’s cottage lately. It’s really not appropriate for Josette’s room at all, but they needed a blanket.

Tomorrow: Disturbed Children.

351 dark shadows collinwood boom

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

33 thoughts on “Episode 351: The Grateful Dead

    1. Yeah, Liz and Roger are both in their bedtime casual wear. Amusingly, even when Roger’s got his dressing gown on, he still needs to wear a tie. The insistence on gentlemen’s neckwear for all occasions is probably the thing that dates the show the most.

  1. I suspect the reprise was a rare use of a clip from the previous episode. Removing the makeup from Frid would’ve taken hours — far too long to do “live.”

    Love your analysis of Carolyn’s violation. It is so different from what we’d seen previously that it’s an interesting twist. And, of course, only makes sense metaphorically.

    The show is actually genuinely creepy and Barnabas genuinely monstrous just a few weeks before we see him as an innocent young mortal. It’s as if the show is going full-steam ahead on his evil because they know they can hit the reset button.

    Barnabas’s goals for Vicki are now no longer the romantic “I’ll rid myself of my curse to live normally with you.” He now plans to kill her… with Carolyn’s aid, and alas poor Dr. Hoffman. She has left a trail of bodies helping Barnabas and he now rejects her cure (due mostly to his own arrogance).

    The scene in the next episode when Carolyn talks to David is especially haunting. It’s scary because it’s every child’s nightmare. Everyone who believes him either dies or, in Carolyn’s case, worse.

  2. Oh, one more thing: This is also around when the series begins to fall into “Collinwood Time.” It’s almost impossible to make sense of the continuity and a week of episodes can take place over one night.

    For instance, Barnabas demands that Julia conduct the last disastrous treatment at sunset. Let’s say that’s around 5 (it’s October in Maine). Vicki shows up at The Old House unannounced later. Then she talks to Carolyn about Barnabas being “ill.” Then she goes to bed, and Barnabas almost attacks her. That must be around 10 or so, right? Then Carolyn sees Joe.

    We are led to believe that the next episode takes place immediately afterward, but why is David still up at that hour? Maybe his crazy theories are a result of sleep deprivation. What is Vicki’s job, actually?

    Carolyn sneaks into the Old House, is attacked, Barnabas returns to normal and she’s instructed on her role in his plan and then returns to Collinwood around 3.

    I suppose this could all take place in one night. The problem becomes David and Vicki’s weird sleep patterns.

    1. Yeah, the last scene today makes a big deal about the clock changing from 3am to 5:45am, so they can show Carolyn in the morning, looking at Barnabas’ portrait in the foyer. Both Willie and Maggie were shown dragging themselves out of bed post-bite, but the blood loss appears to give Carolyn superhuman alertness. She’s slept less than three hours, if she even bothered to sleep at all.

      Oh, and you’re right, of course, about the reprise being a clip from Friday’s episode. I’m so used to them restaging the teasers that I didn’t bother to check. I’m going to fix that in the post, but — for anyone reading this in the future — I’m going to rewrite history, but Stephen was right.

      Also: I just added a new “Behind the Scenes” section about the Barnabas/Josette retcon. I don’t think they had the reset button figured out when they made this episode. That’s going to be a theme that we’ll be investigating in the blog for the next few weeks — what did they plan, and when did they plan it?

      1. Fantastic. I find the behind the scenes stuff to be fascinating as I still don’t really know all that much about what happened in the making of the show, especially on the writing side (but I’m learning!). It is interesting that Barnabas’ details of Josette’s history come so close to the 1795 flashback and yet are so wildly different, so I’m guessing many things happened quickly.

  3. Yeah, we’ll see a lot of changes when Sam Hall joins the writing team next week. I’ve always been surprised that DS fans don’t pay a lot of attention to the writers, so I’m trying to balance that out by completely obsessing over them. 🙂

  4. Sam Hall writes the first episode in which Angelique appears. It’s interesting to wonder how much of that plotline might have come from him.

    It’s easy to assume that Dan Curtis was the Joss Whedon of DARK SHADOWS with a grand plan in place and that the writers he hired helped implement it. But it’s possible that’s not how it was at all and Curtis’s primary goal was to keep the show going and to keep their obvious star still alive.

    Keep in mind that Barnabas’s sole threat right now is a 10 yr old boy. That’s a bit of a mismatch. If you’re watching the show and you’re at all genre savvy, you’ve got to wonder who is supposed to oppose Barnabas. I guess there’s the “hope” that Devlin might suddenly reappear. Or will it be the Bogey stand-in? (And really, Bogart in a Universal Horror film is just a crazy awesome concept.)

    Even the antagonism between Barnabas and Hoffman over the next few weeks feels like padding.

    Arguably, there is no development on the series right now that will matter when DS returns from 1795. Read no further if you wish to remain “unspoiled”:

    We never see Sara again. David’s mental stability is no longer questioned. Barnabas and Julia sort of reprise their saucy banter but it’s not long before their classic friendship begins in earnest.

    In many ways, a form of DS ends with episode 365 and a new one, with a more likeable Barnabas Collins, begins.

    1. Sam Hall joining the team makes a huge difference. I totally agree that we’re just on the verge of a reboot, but it actually starts a couple weeks before 1795.

      Spoiler for next week’s blog entries: Take a look at episode 357. The credits say that Gordon Russell wrote that script. The credits lie.

  5. I actually dislike these next few weeks as it seems an endless round of Barnabas threatening to kill Julia. And then there’s the episode in which they ran out of money and had Julia running around Collinwood and getting crank calls from Dr. Woodard.

    I value the behind-the-scenes stuff. In all the DS remembrance books – and there have been so many, somebody should write a DS Remembrance of DS Remembrance Book (Danny?), nobody has directly addressed how the cast was informed they would be jumping to 1795 for five months or so and they’d all be playing new characters. It was revolutionary for ANY show to do this and I have to believe there must have been at least a moment of WTF. And yet judging by the performances – I’m rewatching week one – the cast seems absolutely reinvigorated by the experience.

    Fun stuff in a month. Now? Meh.

    1. That’s a good point; I probably could write the special commemorative 14th Anniversary of The Dark Shadows Almanac: Millennium Edition Companion: In a Funny Vein.

      But then I’d worry about somebody coming along and doing the same thing to me in twenty years. And that guy will probably look just like me, because he’s played by the same actor. You know how time travel can be.

    2. As a tremendous Grayson Hall fan, the episode that’s basically her one woman show is one of my favorites. We talk about Barnabas Collins becoming the series star, but in a way, it’s just as revolutionary that the 40-something chainsmoker replaces the deer-in-the-headlights ingenue as the undisputed female lead.

      Sending Vicki to 1795 feels like a last gasp at trying to keep her the star. But she is completely static and reactive. Imagine if Julia had been sent back instead. I actually can’t conceive of what the storyline would have been like because Julia would have done *things*. She’s such an active character that she’s a critical part of every storyline in which she appears — as opposed to say Roger and Elizabeth from hereon out.

      1. Funny you mention that about Vicky. I’m just finishing up the 1795 storyline right now and I’m surprised how sidelined Vicky has actually been. She’s shunted off to gaol and then it’s a few weeks before the trial. And then once the verdict is reached it’s about another couple of weeks before we pick up that storyline. Does anyone know at what point Alexandra announced her pregnancy to the production team? I’m thinking not yet but soon?

        1. I think Moltke’s son is not born until 1969.

          What we’re seeing now, I believe, is the producer’s slow realization that Victoria Winters serves little purpose in the new concept of the series. Even if you “reform” Barnabas into an anti-hero, Vicki’s former Nancy Drew personality (when she still had a brain in the early episodes) doesn’t fit, as well as Julia’s, who can match him crazy lie for crazy lie. “Cousin from England with no discernible English accent?” I’ll see that and raise you “Historian who needs to live at Collinwood for a while rent free.”

          Vicki Winters was too much the ingenue to last for long once the series moved from JANE EYRE to Universal Horror with a touch of film noir*. The sad thing is she’s written in character for 1795, which only exacerbates her doltishness. She can’t keep anything close to the vest (like being from the future) and she can’t strategize a way to save herself. She’s simply a victim. And it only gets worse when she returns to 1968.

          Film noir’s appeal for many people — including me — is that all the characters are basically pretty shady. There are no “good guys.” We see this in soap operas sometimes and in gangster films. What I love most about 1897 is that *everyone has an angle. Vicki Winters was never able to fit into that mold.

      2. Yes, Vicky was not up to the demands of a lunatic show… By the way, anyone here watches the Canadian “Lost Girl”? They manage to keep their Vicky Winters by making her and Barnabas be the same person. As Barnabas she has an Old House, a Willie, and a Julia. As Vicky she has a Burke Devlin and a mysterious past, and unsupsected relatives she is living with, and a whole new world to explore. And now she has gone on a strange interdimensional trip and came back with a whole new love, and barely acknowledges the Burke and the Julia..

  6. Alexandra left the show in ’68 and gave birth in ’69 to her son – her Vicki still has the Dream Curse to contend with (funny how that’s cropping up today, hmm) and Cassandra Collins.

    As for sending back Vicki over Julia, I think story-wise it makes great sense. Vicki lives so much in the past anyway. She has spent the last two years or so of the show romanticizing the 18th-century ancestors, Joshua, Naomi, and especially Josette, that it is especially dramatic and delicious when she meets the Collins family and discovers most of them soon want her dead.

  7. Danny — the afghan that appears in this episode is not the Collinsport Afghan; this afghan has dark yellow squares surrounded by dark red borders. It’s usually called the Ravioli Afghan. 🙂

    Like its multi-colored counterpart, this afghan pops up in all different time zones, perhaps most notably on wheelchair-bound Gabriel Collins’s lap in 1840.

    1. Yeah you’re right John Hall – but I call this “the blechgan” because of its revolting colour scheme. It is in the show way before the “proper” afghan, sadly. It turns up prior to episode 210.

    2. This is often used in low-key situations, like covering ill people. Actually you see it in a very similar situation later, when Joe Haskell is ill for similar reasons and lying in the very same bed.

  8. I’m sorry to learn that about ghost Sarah. I think there was story there to be played and I think she would have been an interesting counterpoint to Barnabas, a tie to him really being human.

  9. In a couple of the Ross novels, Carolyn is desperately in love with her distant cousin Barnabas and begs him both to bite her (which he does at least once) and marry her (which he does not, though he strings her along for awhile). They discuss that they are such distant cousins there is no impediment to their relationship, which I guess is technically true.

  10. Feel free to correct me, because I’m not 100% certain here. As I understand family relationships, if Barnabas and Daniel were 1st cousins, then Barnabas would be first cousin once removed to Gabriel. Gabriel begat his son, who begat Jamison, who begat Elizabeth, who begat Carolyn. So add up the begats and you get 4 plus one for Gabriel. I believe that makes Barnabas first cousin, five times removed to Carolyn. Since David is Carolyn’s first cousin the same relationship applies to David. Roger and Elizabeth would be first cousins four times removed.

  11. I love that Dr. Hoffman’s alias could also just be called Dr. Hoffman. If she’s an eminent historian wouldn’t she also have a Ph.D.? Miss Julia Hoffman, eminent historian, ABD seems an irreverent alias.

  12. I’m a bit disappointed here that the Old Man Barnabas story arc ended so quickly. It would have been quite fun to see Barnabas cause all sorts of mischief while being out and about where nobody recognizes him. A missed opportunity?

    I suspect that the makeup effects were costing the show a small fortune, which is probably why this angle didn’t last very long.

    Another question: why are some episodes in black and white after the show turned into a series broadcast in color? Is it because there was leftover black and white film stock that the show wanted to use up, or did some of the color versions of the newer episodes go missing and therefore the B&W versins of these episodes are the only ones that survive?

    I really like the Evil Carolyn storyline. It makes things interesting.

    1. Yeah, some of the master videotapes were missing or damaged. Luckily, they had black and white “kinescope” copies, which were sent to TV stations that aired Dark Shadows at a different time of day. The kinescopes were made by pointing a film camera at a TV monitor while the episode aired; then they’d be copied and mailed out. The TV broadcasting technology in the late 60s feels amazingly primitive compared to now. 🙂

      There’s only one actual missing episode, where they don’t have the videotape master or a kinescope copy — ep 1219, from the last few weeks of the show.

  13. Carolyn has mostly been as you say the talk to or go to guy, or eye candy, from here she is genuinely creepy these next few episodes have an early HAMMER films feel, maybe KISS OF THE VAMPIRE or BRIDES OF DRACULA.

  14. Elizabeth’s description of Carolyn – “she’s a stranger in her own house” – does’t jibe for me. After all, she knows she is in the foyer and that her bedroom is up the stairs and through the door. Metaphorically, maybe, she seems a stranger in her body as house. Like she has been possessed.

    The final minute of this episode was my first exposure to DS back in 1967 when – I know I am voluntarily dating myself here – I was 16. Imagine doing the late-60s equivalent of surfing (you had to be right in front of the screen and flipping the dial) and coming across a pretty blond coming down the stairs, standing in front of a portrait and exposing the two little holes on the side of her neck. I had no idea what I was watching, but I was hooked.

    Re-watching, I am struck by what they did with the camera work, back and forth between Carolyn and the portrait, Carolyn and her neck-holes, back to the portrait. It at least occurred to me when I first saw it that the man in the picture was the vampire who had bitten her. That is a lot of story-telling without dialogue for a soap opera.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s