“You feel that you have no more use for me, and you’re planning to dispose of me. Is that correct?”
Dr. Julia Hoffman is standing in the foyer of Collinwood, clutching a red notebook and emoting. And when Dr. Hoffman expresses emotion, it stays expressed. She has an internal monologue that can be heard up to three miles away, if the wind is right.
This notebook contains the notes on her experiments in curing Barnabas’ vampirism. Barnabas has decided that Julia has betrayed him, and he’s planning to kill her once he’s sure that the notes have been destroyed.
Now, thinking about this situation rationally, there are several options here. For example: Tear some relevant pages out of the notebook, put them in an envelope, and mail them to a friend. Or copy the notes into another notebook, and use this notebook as a decoy. At a pinch, she could even write BARNABAS IS A VAMPIRE on her driver’s license, or in black magic marker down her arm, Memento style.
Julia does not consider any of those options. As far as she’s concerned, the smallest indivisible unit of measure is the notebook.
So, fine. Let’s play it her way.
There’s actually an odd narrative gap here — on Friday, Carolyn searched Julia’s room, and found the strongbox where Julia keeps the notebook. But when Carolyn opened the box, it wasn’t there. This episode opens with Julia holding the book, and there’s no explanation of where it was successfully hidden.
This problem will not occur again. This week, if there’s one piece of information that gets updated on a minute-by-minute basis, it’s the exact whereabouts of this notebook. Even after it’s safely locked away, we go and visit it several times. This may be the most cared-for notebook in the entire history of school supplies.
Fortunately, if Julia needs somewhere to stash the notebook, then she has an entire mansion full of possible hiding places. For example, I could direct her attention to the extensive basement, or perhaps the entirely deserted West and East wings of the house, which have held, respectively, a decaying skeleton and a localized space-time fissure, without anybody noticing.
But that’s not how Julia Hoffman rolls. If she needs a hiding place, then it’s got to be smack in the middle of Collinwood’s busiest transportation hub. Otherwise, why even bother?
Naturally, having decided on this course of action, she zeroes in on the largest and noisiest object in the room — namely, the huge grandfather clock that everyone looks at every time they walk by. She opens the door on the front of the clock, and shoves the notebook inside.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, local time is 7:46 pm. This is mildly astonishing, because it’s been night-time since last Thursday. It looks like it’s going to be another one of those long evenings.
Carolyn — who got bit last week, and is now acting as Barnabas’ consigliere — goes to the Old House to give the boss a progress report. He’s disturbed to hear that the notebook is still hidden somewhere, and he tells Carolyn to keep a close watch on Julia until she finds it.
Carolyn points out that Julia won’t reveal where the notebook is, if she knows that Carolyn’s watching. Barnabas says, “My dear, you are to watch her in such a way that she won’t know,” a cunning plan which Carolyn probably wouldn’t ever have come up with on her own.
Then there’s one of those great moments that make you question the show’s commitment to theatrical realism.
Carolyn: Barnabas, the biggest threat to you right now is that notebook. If we’re able to get that from her… is it necessary to kill her?
Carolyn: Even though she would have no hold over you?
Because, again, the information that’s in the notebook — which can be summed up in the phrase “Barnabas is a vampire” — will be rendered entirely harmless if the notebook is destroyed.
And you know what? Fine. Whatever. I don’t even know why I brought it up.
Back at Collinwood, Julia looks at the clock — it’s 8:06, if you’re keeping track — and then paces back and forth between the foyer and the drawing room.
There’s about forty-five seconds of silent pacing, accompanied by a sound effect of the ticking clock, as if they’re deliberately trying to draw our attention to the fact that this is nothing but a time-filler scene. This is not necessary.
Elizabeth comes into the drawing room, and offers Julia a glass of sherry, which she accepts. They sit down together and chat, as if it’s totally okay for a television series to just take a break in the middle of an episode.
Carolyn comes home, and the first thing she does is antagonize Julia, which is basically the exact opposite of what Barnabas instructed her to do. Julia is telling Liz that she’s planning to wrap up her “research” project in about a week, and she’ll be going back home.
Carolyn: Well, Miss Hoffman, what brought about this sudden decision to leave us?
Liz: Miss Hoffman has finished her research, so there’s no reason for her to stay any longer.
Carolyn: Oh. I thought for a moment perhaps our hospitality wasn’t good enough for her.
Liz, shocked: CAROLYN!
Carolyn: Well, I only heard her say that she was leaving. I didn’t know why until you told me.
And so now we have a whole new plot point about Carolyn being rude to Julia, with several scenes devoted to Liz insisting that Carolyn apologize.
Then Julia walks over to the Old House for a tense confrontation with Barnabas, which is perfectly fine, except that it makes everything else that’s happened entirely pointless. Why did we need a scene where Barnabas tells Carolyn to watch Julia, when Julia would be in the Old House two scenes later anyway?
This is just how the show works at the moment, kind of rambling around through any style that they feel like adopting. It’s not a bad script today — the individual scenes are all perfectly watchable, except for the pacing-around-the-foyer sequence — but there’s no focus at all. It’s really just four characters hanging around the house, waiting for something to happen.
But I’ve got good news — something is about to happen, starting tomorrow. We’ve finally got a new writer joining the show, and he has some exciting new ideas that I’ve been looking forward to digging into.
So today’s episode really is just pacing back and forth between Collinwood and the Old House, filling up the last half-hour until the new sheriff rides into town, guns blazing.
There are a couple more clock-watching episodes to come, over the next two weeks — and then the show transforms into something completely new.
And I have to say, in every possible sense of this phrase: it’s about time.
Tomorrow: When Worlds Collide.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Near the beginning of the Barnabas/Carolyn scene, one of the cameras swings way into the frame, and stays there for a couple seconds. It’s actually the only thing in the shot that’s in focus.
At the beginning of the fourth act, Carolyn is supposed to be pacing around the drawing room, waiting impatiently for Julia to come back from the Old House. However, when the scene starts, she’s standing still, clearly waiting for a cue to start pacing. She takes half a step, and then stops, unsure whether they’ve come back from commercial yet. She gets the cue, and starts walking.
Tomorrow: When Worlds Collide.
— Danny Horn