“Don’t start imagining a lot of things just because someone we barely know is acting peculiar.”
All week, I’ve been talking about Sam Hall, the new writer who just joined the show. He wrote the last three episodes, and now he passes the baton back to Ron Sproat, who tends to be lackluster and frustrating. And today, just to prove the point, Sproat turns in a script that appears to be made mostly of reconstituted episode parts. Damn it, Sproat! Get it together.
We open with an incredibly contrived teaser — Julia rushes to Tony’s office, saying, “I must see you… It’s a matter of life and death!”
When we come back from the opening titles, it turns out she’s just talking about the damn notebook again. Tony put it in his safe three episodes ago, and it’s perfectly content there. But Julia knows that if Barnabas gets the notebook, he’ll destroy it, and then he’ll be able to kill her without worrying that her secrets will get out. Naturally, Julia’s a little stressed about the whole situation.
Except… yesterday’s episode ended with the exact opposite of this. Barnabas played an incredibly cruel trick on Julia yesterday, pretending that he’d had a change of heart, and was ready to return her affections. By the end of the scene, she was completely convinced that her relationship with Barnabas was stronger than ever.
So what the hell? The only explanation is that the writers aren’t talking to each other. It’s not the actors’ fault — they recorded this week’s episodes out of sequence, so I’m sure it was tough for them to keep track of where they are emotionally. But somebody should have been paying attention.
I suppose they might have an excuse for being a little distracted. They’re getting ready to do something big and crazy at the end of next week, and maybe they were spending all their energy figuring out how that’s going to work. Although Sproat doesn’t usually need an excuse for writing a disappointing episode, so maybe not.
So what we’ve got here is a four-minute scene where Julia begs Tony to get the notebook out of the box, and then begs him to put it back in the box. This was a great scene when they did it three days ago. I’m not sure why we have to revisit it, because the notebook isn’t mentioned again for the rest of the episode, but let’s move on.
Next, we go to the Evans house, where Maggie and Joe are having an unbelievably wholesome date night. She brings in a cake, and he says, “Hey, that looks great. Store-bought?” She swats at him, and says, “Joe! It’s homemade!”, and then they kiss. In other words: these are the cutest possible people, and at some point we ought to get around to giving them a storyline.
Then there’s a knock at the door, and the crazy lady walks in. This is the structure of the entire episode — the people of Collinsport living their lives in peace, interrupted by sudden-onset crazy lady.
Julia’s decided that she might be able to get help from Sarah, the ghost of Barnabas’ beloved little sister. She’s come over to Maggie’s house because she wants to borrow Sarah’s doll, which Sarah left with Maggie a couple months ago.
Maggie says that she doesn’t have the doll anymore — it disappeared a couple of weeks ago, and she can’t find it.
Disappointed, Julia helps herself to a chair and continues to talk nonsense. She explains that she’s in trouble, and she wants to know how to get Sarah to appear to her.
Now, everyone’s being pretty casual about the idea that Sarah is a ghost. For the last month or so, it’s been hard to track exactly who believes in Sarah and who doesn’t. I think by now they’ve given up on that as a story point. I know I have.
Then Julia realizes where she might be able to find Sarah — at the Collins mausoleum, her final resting place. Maggie is concerned.
Maggie: You’re not going up there now?
Maggie: But it’s getting dark, it’s not good to go tramping through the cemetery after dark.
Julia: I must.
Maggie: But something could happen to you up there all alone.
That’s adorable; apparently, Maggie thinks that there might be something in the cemetery that’s scarier than Julia.
Julia goes to the cemetery, and guess who she runs into.
Caretaker: You mustn’t go in there.
Julia: Why not?
Caretaker: This place is cursed. Anyone who enters it will anger the dead. The dead take terrible revenge.
Damn you, Sproat! Again with the caretaker. Why couldn’t we have stayed at Maggie’s? They had cake.
This scene goes on for approximately four hours. They cut away for a commercial break, and when we come back, she’s still talking to the caretaker.
Caretaker: Strange things have happened here… violent things.
Julia: What do you mean? What’s happened here?
Caretaker: I don’t know.
Oh, for Pete’s sake. Is there anyone else there we could speak to? Let me talk to your manager.
There’s another four minutes left in the episode, so we go back to the cottage to check in with Maggie, who’s a little shaken following the crazy lady visit. She says, “I have the feeling that something is going on,” which is a difficult feeling to dispute.
This scene is very Sproat; it’s just nice people standing around and having vague feelings of dread. The whole show used to be like this.
And then — because this is Dark Shadows — just when you least expect it, something amazing happens. Julia enters the mausoleum, and she meets Sarah.
And Sarah is pissed.
Sarah: I know who you are.
Julia: I’m Julia Hoffman.
Sarah: I know what you did!
Julia: What do you mean?
Sarah: I know what you did to Doctor Woodard!
And… oh. Damn.
Julia: No, Barnabas did it! It was Barnabas.
Sarah: You helped.
Julia: I couldn’t help it! I had to do it, to protect him! You understand that, don’t you?
Sarah: You shouldn’t have done it! I liked Dr. Woodard. You shouldn’t have done it!
Julia: Are you angry with me?
Sarah: You shouldn’t have done it!
I’d say that’s a yes. I’ve seen angry people before; that’s what they sound like. You know, this might actually be the first time on the show that there are consequences for doing something wrong. I forgot that could even happen.
And that’s how we end this crazy, impossible week. Julia is alone, standing in the Collins mausoleum — where this whole lunatic storyline started, one hundred and fifty half-hours ago. I wonder what they’ll do for an encore.
Monday: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
It sounds like the caretaker forgets a line, and has to be prompted by Julia.
Caretaker: I can warn you, just as the dead have done. You’re in danger here! Danger!
Julia: I’ll… remember that you warned me.
Caretaker: Yes, remember — and heed my advice!
Somebody coughs offstage during Maggie and Joe’s final scene, right before Maggie says, “Do you suppose it’s starting again?”
Behind the Scenes:
This is the last appearance of the Eagle Hill caretaker; his last words, appropriately, are “Go, now — if you value your life!” We’ll see Peter Murphy again in a couple of days, playing the ghost of Dr. Woodard.
Monday: The One Where Julia Loses Her Mind.
— Danny Horn