Episode 355: Julia Hoffman Must Die

“I’m sorry, Maggie, it happens to be my favorite scarf, but if my touching it bothers you, I’ll stop.”

You know that it’s been a fairly static week on Dark Shadows when the first line of dialogue in Friday’s episode is, “How long are you going to stand there?”

Lately, I’ve been postulating a lot of hypothetical writer’s room drama, because things are starting to seem a little fraught in there. Gordon Russell handed Ron Sproat a pretty interesting situation this week — Carolyn, now under the vampire’s control, discovers that Julia is hypnotically conditioning Vicki to reject Barnabas’ advances — and now Sproat is handing it back, two days later, entirely unchanged. He basically just had everybody walk in place for a couple days.

So today’s episode opens with Carolyn asking Barnabas what the hell he’s waiting for. After all, he’s been talking about getting rid of Julia all week. What’s the holdup?

354 dark shadows barnabas carolyn kill her

There’s definitely evidence that something strange is happening backstage — either a difference of opinion between the writers, or a mutual decision to shift gears.

Let’s look again at the end of yesterday’s episode, when Carolyn presented Barnabas with evidence that Julia was working against him.

Barnabas:  First, we must find a way to repair the damage that Hoffman has already done — and then she must be punished.

Carolyn’s eyes flash with delight, her mouth curling into a irrepressible grin.

Carolyn:  Are you planning to kill her?

Barnabas:  Perhaps. Or perhaps she’ll meet a worse fate… much worse.

354 dark shadows carolyn barnabas kill her

That was yesterday; here’s today.

Carolyn:  What are you going to do to her?

Barnabas:  What do you think?

Carolyn looks scared, almost ready to cry.

Carolyn:  You can’t kill her.

Barnabas:  Why can’t I?

Carolyn:  Well, because… it’s wrong.

Barnabas:  If she lives, she will go on obstructing my plans. I have no other choice.

355 dark shadows barnabas carolyn pleading

And Carolyn spends the rest of the scene pleading with him, trying to find another way.

So… what just happened? Nancy Barrett is good at Dark Shadows, which means that she commits 100% to the melodrama of the moment. In this case, that makes the character’s flip-flop even more obvious.

Here’s what I know: this episode was taped five days after yesterday’s. There’s nothing special about that — they’ve been taping episodes out of order for most of this year, partly as a result of the actors’ strike in April, and the technicians’ strike in September. The taping schedule is going to stay mixed up through December, until it finally straightens out in January.

Yesterday’s episode was taped on a Wednesday, and today’s was taped on the following Monday. Sometime during that gap, somebody decided that turning Carolyn into a psychopath was probably a bad idea.

355 dark shadows carolyn resistance

So now the vampire/servant dynamic has changed. Carolyn still believes in Barnabas’ goals, and she knows that she needs to help him, but they tone down the impact on her values system.

Carolyn:  Barnabas… I’ll help you do anything else, but I can’t do this.

Barnabas:  Be sensible, Carolyn. You really don’t have a choice, do you?

Carolyn:  Yes, I do!

She doesn’t, really, but it’s nice to know that she hasn’t completely lost her humanity. That’ll probably come in handy later on.

355 dark shadows maggie carolyn scarf

Barnabas sends Carolyn to Collinwood to steal Julia’s notebook, which records all of the work she’s done trying to cure Barnabas’ condition. Barnabas thinks that the notebook is still hidden in Julia’s room, and he tells Carolyn to search the room.

Coming back to the house, she’s distracted by Maggie, who’s come over to visit Vicki. There’s not a huge reason for Maggie to be in this episode, except to point out the similarities between Carolyn’s situation and Maggie’s own past battles with vampire hypnosis.

Maggie’s memories of her vampire-related trauma have been wiped, thanks to Julia’s hypnosis, but she gets uneasy when she notices that Carolyn is behaving strangely.

This is my favorite moment of the episode:

Maggie:  You haven’t been ill or anything, have you?

Carolyn:  No. Why?

Maggie:  I don’t know, it’s just that… you don’t seem to be yourself, and the way you keep touching that scarf, it just…

Carolyn:  Just what?

Maggie:  I don’t know, it just reminds me of something, that’s all. I don’t know what.

Carolyn:  Well, I’m sorry, Maggie, it happens to be my favorite scarf, but if my touching it bothers you, I’ll stop.

That’s one of those lovely “only on Dark Shadows” dialogue moments. Who talks like that?

355 dark shadows julia carolyn dognoise

That’s when the dogs start howling. This triggers more uncomfortable memories for Maggie, and she takes off. Carolyn finds Julia in the foyer, and they have an odd conversation about the dognoise.

Julia:  I was in my room working, but then a few minutes ago, I heard the dogs howling.

Carolyn:  And you got frightened?

Julia:  No, just a little apprehensive.

Carolyn:  Why?

Julia:  Don’t you know what the howling of the dogs means?

Carolyn:  No, tell me.

Julia:  Well, it means that Barnabas is upset about something, and he’s getting ready to do something about it.

That’s all they know about it, which is too bad, because I’d love to know the mechanism for how that works. Is Barnabas consciously giving the dogs a cue, or does it just happen automatically whenever he’s feeling stressed?

In reality, of course, the dognoise is intended to be mostly metaphorical — as if Barnabas’ unnatural existence is causing the natural world to cry out in desperation and fear. It might not be just the dogs who can feel it — for all we know, the raccoons could be going mental out there, and the butterflies might be flying in concentric circles and bumping into each other. But all we hear are the dogs.

355 dark shadows carolyn armoire

Carolyn gets Julia out of the way for a while by telling her that Barnabas wants to see her. Then she sneaks upstairs to Julia’s room to search for the notebook.

Carolyn finds the lockbox where the notebook used to be, but it’s empty. The notebook isn’t there, and I’m not actually clear on where it is myself. Julia comes back, finds Carolyn in her room — and guesses correctly that she was looking for the notebook. Now Julia knows that Barnabas plans to kill her.

Technically, I guess that counts as another episode where they didn’t actually advance the plot in any meaningful way from where they started. Gentlemen on the writing staff: How long are you going to stand there?

Monday: Beat the Clock.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Barnabas tells Carolyn where to find Julia’s notes: “She keeps them in a little notebook in a safety box on top of the armoire in her room.” In Monday’s episode, they refer to it as a “strongbox”, and I think here Jonathan Frid is mixing up that word with the phrase “safe deposit box”.

In Wednesday’s episode, Joe wrapped up his visit to Collinwood by saying, “I’m supposed to pick up Maggie in a couple minutes.” This episode takes place the next evening, and Maggie tells Carolyn, “I’ve been away visiting some friends up in New Hampshire, and then when I got back this afternoon, I heard the news about Burke.” So who was Joe really picking up last night?

Maggie appears to be having some trouble with her coat in her scene with Carolyn. It looks like one of the buttons in the middle is missing, so you can see a slight bulge where the fabric is buckling. At the beginning and the end of the scene, Maggie rests her hand on that spot, and she may be trying to hide the wardrobe malfunction.

Julia’s bedroom was arranged differently when Dr. Woodard searched it in episode 339; they changed it because Nancy Barrett is too short to reach the top of the armoire. When Woodard searched the room, the armoire was up against the same wall that had the door and a set of three pictures, and the head of the bed was on the opposite wall. Today, Carolyn needs to stand on the bed to look for the box on top of the armoire, so now the armoire and the head of the bed are on the same wall.

Behind the Scenes:

There was an ugly film splice in Tuesday’s episode, marking the spot where they made a clumsy edit in the videotape. There’s a similar splice today, towards the beginning of Julia’s scene with Barnabas. Video editing was very crude in the late 60s, and usually they just kept the cameras running, even when something went wrong. They may be trying to experiment this week with some editing, and they’re not particularly successful at it.

Monday: Beat the Clock.

355 dark shadows julia barnabas end

Dark Shadows episode guide – 1967

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 355: Julia Hoffman Must Die

  1. At last! In the 25 years since I saw this episode, I’d hoped someone would notice Carolyn’s drastic personality shift. As I’ve learned more about drama, it makes sense: There’s no conflict in Barnabas’s partner in crime is a fully willing psychopath. They would just stand around going bwah-ha-ha. They will later continue to play up the junkie aspect to Carolyn’s transformation, which is more effect drama, I think. She has to do what Barnabas says, but it doesn’t mean she has to leap with glee about it.

    Tangentially, it also makes more sense as to why Barnabas doesn’t go around putting everyone under his spell. He’d have power over them but they could still potentially resist him. It’s hard work, like managing a small staff of junkies. It explains why he was afraid Willie would rat him out after he was shot, why Maggie was able to almost kill him, and why he didn’t just enslave Doctor Woodard. And it’s the plothole for why he doesn’t attack Julia and force her to hand over the notes.

    It’s interesting to watch the show try to maintain conflict and drama in a situation that really has none. Julia staying in Collinsport makes no sense unless she’s still in love with Barnabas (as they’ll suggest) but then Barnabas is just torturing a lovesick woman, so they try to make Julia a more active opponent to Barnabas, but then we wind up with why she doesn’t just leave. It’s a boring circle.

    Barnabas’s later attempts to gaslight Julia make for a fun few episodes thanks to Grayson Hall’s performance, but it ignores the House of Cards upon which Barnabas’s secret is built. Yes, saying someone is a vampire is absurd, but he is unable to appear in daylight, which is an easy thing to demand if you’re the police.

    1. Oh, you’re totally right about the junkie logic; I hadn’t thought about that. It’s true, technically Barnabas could go around biting everyone at Collinwood. He could have bitten David, or Burke.

      But whenever he bites someone, he has to spend energy managing them. He hasn’t had an easy time juggling the addicts that he’s had so far — and if they break free, then that’s another potential source of danger. If the police catch a user, they’ll want to know the supplier…

      I’m not as worried as you are about Barnabas and Julia’s motivations right now. I think the core standard always has to be — are these people interesting to watch, or not? Whether the scene conforms to common sense or human nature is a distant second.

      Barnabas and Julia are tangled up in each other’s lives now. There’s an intimate bond between them — they share secrets that nobody else knows. She even knows his body, in some ways better than he does himself. No matter how much they threaten each other, they just can’t bring themselves to destroy each other.

      There’s some character logic there, but the real reason for it is: we don’t want them to. Life is more fun when they’re in scenes together.

      1. True — Barnabas and Julia are the super couple on the show. No one gets close (arguably, Barnabas and Angelique, but that worked best in small doses. I don’t think they could maintain a “working” relationship).

        1. You and Danny both make good points. I was thinking things would have been much easier if Barnabas had taken Julia up on her offer. If he just bit her, he could get the notebook. But he says she prides herself in being an independent woman and maybe he thinks she is, too. Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t bite her. He doesn’t think he can control her. But really we don’t want him to. They’re fun as adversaries. That’s why pre-1795 is my favorite part of the show.

    2. I know I’m jumping the gun here by about 5 months but I’ve never understood what happened when Barnabas was cured and Carolyn was restored to her normal self….did she just completely forget that he was a vampire and attacked her?? Or did she just keep his secret bc he was cured??

  2. I know a lot of people hate remakes, myself included – although I LOVED the 90’s mini-series and wished it would have kept going. (Not so much a fan of the Burton film). However I would love to see a straight remake of the old series, just with the stories & dialouge tightened up. Same storylines, same characters, same results – just cut out the repetitive , circling the drain conversations (like much of this wks episodes) and keep the Collins family history consistent. Something very much in the style of American Horror Story.

    1. I’m not sure it would be possible to re-create just the good parts of the show. Part of what makes Dark Shadows amazing is that it was essentially improvisational — they were making it up as they went along, responding to the audience’s interest in the characters, actors and situations. And like all soap operas, real-world considerations would affect story decisions — for example, Joan Bennett took August off every year, so Liz / Judith would get sent to a sanitarium for a month.

      I think what you really want is a DVD set where you can fast-forward through the boring episodes. Fortunately, I believe those are available for sale. 🙂

      1. I think you hit on my issue with every remake of DARK SHADOWS. First, there’s this idea (seen in the 1991 revival and the Burton film) that the Barnabas/Vicki/Josette pairing is some classic love story, while failing to capture the Barnabas/Angelique or especially the Barnabas/Julia magic.

        But, as you have said, soap operas, like many long running TV series, often result in the stars greatly influencing the lead characters. As Chris Rock said when rejecting a proposal for him to star in a SANFORD AND SON remake, Fred Sanford is Redd Foxx. And likewise, I think Barnabas Collins is Jonathan Frid. When I think of the character, I think of the forlorn looks into the distance (actually reading the teleprompter), the wringing of his hands (his own nervousness when trying to recall a line), or the “Fridspeak,” which after a while doesn’t feel like a mistake but just how this prima donna character talks. (There’s less of this in the Barnabas from HODS — he’s a smoother character, which is probably a deliberate choice along with the benefit of a filiming schedule — but I love the TV Barnabas more).

        And Julia Hoffman is Grayson Hall, by God. Remove those personal attributes from the characters and what do you have?

        1. I imagine recasting the show with someone more like a young Nancy McKeon as Vicki – someone more streetwise who might actually have grown up in a New York orphanage. Would have given the character a different valance. Also, Nancy Barrett is great, but she seems more like a Southern belle than a New England deb. That would be an different shift, too.

      2. After watching the entire series, I think the show gets good after 1975. I will go back and watch them again, but only starting from there.

  3. i love maggie’s coat!

    its really fun seeing carolyn finally have an occupation. granted, its as a minion to a psychotic undead killer, but hey its something.

    the blue candles are really getting to me. i try to ignore them, but they’re so ice-pop-blue.

    they keep using the last door on the left for different bedrooms. that door has lead to vicki’s room, carolyn’s room, and julia’s room.

    1. Has anyone else noticed that Carolyn’s bedroom radically changed from a traditional four poster to a padded princess headboard? That new version was earlier this week or last. I don’t remember the last time we were in Carolyn’s boudoir before that but it was different.

  4. I noticed the change in Carolyn this episode, but my first thoughts were that it was a sign that Barnabas’ influence can wear off slowly.

  5. Maybe I’ll get quite a bit of backlash for this, or maybe I won’t, but here goes. I grew up watching the original Dark Shadows on TV. I watched every single episode from beginning to end during its original airing on ABC. I watched the reruns when I was lucky enough some years ago to find a TV station that showed them (they never showed the whole series in syndication though). I own the entire series on DVD, which wasn’t cheap. I am a true blue fan of the series and love it more than any other series in my lifetime, so I think I have the right to mention the three DS characters that annoyed and irritated me immensely. First, Dr. Julia Hoffman was absolutely the most aggravating and unlikable character in my opinion. That constant pursing of her lips and squinting of her eyes and hesitating between words when she spoke drove me crazy. The way she would look off into the distance and squint was so phony. Grayson Hall was the queen of overacting and I just couldn’t stomach her. Her holier than thou attitude made me keep wishing that Barnabas would kill her.

    David Collins was a character that I wanted to strangle. I love children, but he was so damned annoying. He was nosey, disobedient, disrespectful and impudent. He would break into the Old House even though he knew Barnabas now lived there and told him to stay out. He just got under people’s skin, including mine.

    Victoria Winters was the person who began the whole show, but if there was ever an annoying, nauseating, goody-two-shoes in the world, it was her! She was worse than David with her nosiness and prying and sticking her nose into everybody’s business. There’s nothing wrong with being a good and honest person, but she totally overdid it. Then she would cause trouble by always opening her big mouth. She couldn’t keep anything to herself. What made me the most crazy is how she would constantly speak her thoughts out loud almost as if she was showing off her “I know something you don’t know” attitude. That’s how she got herself hanged in 1795. She couldn’t keep her trap shut.

    Before anyone says it, I know there would be no series without all of these irritating characters and their traits, and I wouldn’t really get rid of any of them. I just had to finally vent about the people that aggravated me.


    Long Live Dark Shadows!


    1. Linn..lol. I thought David, Vicki, and Maggie got on my nerves here and there. They just wore out “I am frightened” and “I don’t understand.” Maggie should have been in the insane asylum several times never to return. I did get tired of Angelique ruthless, vindictive, hateful, scornful, curse everybody who liked Barnabas mentality.

    2. Hey, Linn – believe it or not, I am fully in agreement with you on the Julia Hoffman and David Collins characters. While I’ve not seen every DS episode, I became a fan during its original run. I know that JH especially is thought to be a much-loved character by many fans, but other than honestly intelligent, she’s right up there with 1795’s Abigail Collins insofar as having a very sanctimonious and smug attitude befitting a nosy busybody. So please be assured that you’re not alone in your views. 🙂

    3. Linn, I understand and agreed with all of what you said. I was too young to be watching DS in its first run, although my older brother and sister did have me stand guard so they could change the channel if my mom came close.

      But over the years, I collected the DVDs and watched them all. I had the same reactions to those three characters, particularly Julia. Grayson Hall’s stutter-speech, squinting, and wrapping her lower lip up over her mouth made me crazy.

      But… I recently bought the DS The Beginning DVD sets and am currently on the fourth collection. Boy, was Victoria different. She was independent, seemed to have a good deal of sense, and had a purpose for being there. In these episodes, David Henesy is outstanding. It’s probably partly because he’s a spiteful, malevolent little shit and that’s just good fun, but the kid was a surprisingly good actor.

      Grayson Hall’s weird (over)acting tics will probably always annoy me, but I definitely have a new appreciation for the characters of Victoria and David. That alone is enough to make Julia more tolerable.

    4. Linn, I certainly agree with you about all of Grayson H.’s actor tics, but for me, they made me love her, and I was always happy to see her on screen. As to David, I didn’t mind his disobeying so much as his constant lying about having done so. As to Maggie, that shrill voice of hers and her general uselessness when it came to being in any kind of danger made me mental. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. I agree that Julia can be annoying. In particular, when she’s trying to play dumb with, well, most people. She does much better when she’s opposite Barnabas, because she doesn’t need to play dumb.

    I don’t mind Victoria or David so much, although Victoria is a lot stronger and more interesting during the pre-Barnabas period then she is at this point in the show.

    Speaking of which, I am so sick of the show using the following terms: “Interesting”, “Strange” and “Odd”. They use them so often – they really could have used a thesaurus.

  7. So Barnabas has conveniently forgotten that Dr. Hoffman has arrangements set that will expose his secret if she should die?

  8. Linn Carpenter is a saint for having watched the entire series in its original broadcast despite strongly disliking three central characters. I mean that, I admire you and envy you. (If you had seen DS in color I’d envy you more.) When I watched part of the show in its first run, I loved Vicki, found David irritating and thought Julia pressed her lips together too much to be likable. But today I am less enthralled with Vicki, more sympathetic to David, and find Julia’s highhandedness entertaining even if her pursed lips are still too mannered. I think Grayson’s rote acting style is still better than Alexandra’s acting. I think Grayson is doing stage acting the way it is supposed to be done while Alexandra is trying to do what Grayson does, and it looks more fake on Alexandra. Compare what they do with their eyes. Grayson sells it better than Alexandra. I agree with those who often find young David’s acting surprisingly good at times. (BTW, it annoys me when people on the show call him “young David” since there aren’t any other characters aside from the late Dave Woodard who are named David; so I hasten to say that I am referring to David Henesy that way to distinguish him from David Selby or David Ford.)

  9. For a Friday cliffhanger, I think it’s pretty weak–particularly with some of the great ones we’ve had in recent weeks and months. So what that Julia realizes that Barnabas and Carolyn are in cahoots to knock her off? That shouldn’t come as a surprise to Julia as Carolyn’s mood and temperament since she was “turned,” have been exceptionally antagonistic towards her. What we should have seen instead was a huge confrontation between Barnabas and Julia over her hypnotizing and turning Carolyn against him.

    It is also highly amusing that they had to change the bedroom furniture around of Julia’s room to accommodate Nancy Barrett’s being able to reach up and get the notebook from off the top of the armoire.

    Just out of curiosity: Has anyone ever kept track of how many people have stayed at Collinwood and occupied those rooms at the end of the hall that we see in long shots? And where does Mrs. Johnson sleep? Is she upstairs or downstairs?

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