“She’s lonely, very lonely. She’ll talk to anyone… anyone but you.”
The vampire, the doctor, the lawyer, the governess, the niece and the little boy who talks to dead people. For months, they’ve been scrambling around each other — a little chaos engine that chews its way through anybody who gets too close.
And now we’ve gotten to the point where it just can’t go on. Barnabas is the most popular character on the show, but he’s radioactive — every character that he touches ends up murdered, hypnotized, lost in the jungle, or packed off to an insane asylum.
So far, we’ve killed off Jason, Burke, Dr. Woodard and Willie. Pretty soon, we’re going to start losing members of the Collins family, and that gets expensive, story-wise. If you kill one of the kids, that’s a hard stop on any other plot development; the show just becomes one long funeral.
In fact, my estimate is that this storyline has about three more days left in it, and then they’re going to have to come up with a whole new idea.
Act One: Lawyer vs Niece. Carolyn is supposed to be on a date with Tony Peterson, the hard-boiled lawyer with a hot notebook locked in his safe. Carolyn’s working for the vampire now, and Barnabas needs to get his hands on the red notebook with the details of Julia’s vampire-cure experiments.
Yesterday, Carolyn talked her way into Tony’s apartment, stole his keys, and then broke into his office to rifle through the safe.
This kind of thing happens to hard-boiled people all the time; it’s one of the hazards of the hard-boiled lifestyle.
Carolyn tells Tony that she’s got a very good reason for breaking into his safe. Then she has the difficult job of figuring out what that very good reason might possibly be.
This is a great scene, because you can watch Carolyn coming up with the story on the spot. She starts out with “I can’t tell you, so you might as well turn me over to the police” — and when he pushes her, she hits on, “I don’t want you or anyone else to be in a position to judge the Collins family.”
That’s good. She can work something up from that. She crosses to the desk, and says, “Whether or not you believe me is beside the point. If I tell you, you’ll know something about the family that I’d rather no one knew.”
Okay, she’s getting somewhere. You can see her struggling to put something together, stammering and flirting to buy another few seconds to think.
And we are completely on her side, because the audience always likes smart characters. Stupid people get caught and confess, which doesn’t give the story anywhere to go. Smart people come up with plans and schemes. The thing that we like most of all is watching smart people who think on their feet, coming up with something clever and unexpected.
And she nails it. Here’s what she comes up with:
Years ago, her mother had an affair with a young man who worked for the family. He left town before Carolyn was born; she never knew him.
Carolyn: And then Julia Hoffman came on the scene.
Tony: What did she have to do with it?
Carolyn: She came to us pretending to be a genealogist, but the only history of the family she was interested in was recent history… about my mother and me.
Tony: You mean she knew about the incident?
Carolyn: Sometime before she came to us, she met a man who told her about a love affair he’d had with a very prominent married woman. He found out that she had a child, and he said that he could prove that I… that it was his child.
Tony: I still don’t see how Julia Hoffman fits into the picture.
Carolyn is still thinking furiously, struggling to make the last piece fit.
Carolyn: It’s very simple, really. The man died… but before he did, he gave Julia Hoffman his personal diary. So, although he didn’t live to blackmail my mother… Julia did.
And that’s it, a story that explains everything. The relieved smile on Carolyn’s face as she takes it across the finish line is irresistible. She’s been pretty nasty lately, since she switched over to the vampire’s team. But in this moment, she is triumphant, and we love her completely.
Carolyn: So, take me to the police if you don’t believe me. Or take me home if you do. But either way — take me someplace, away from here.
Dark Shadows is not a perfect work of art. It’s messy and scatterbrained, and sometimes it misses by a mile. But sometimes it hits a scene so perfectly that it’s all you can see. Today is a good day.
And then, because we’ve been very good and deserving children, we get to see the mirror image of that scene, with Tony telling Julia that she should take her notebook back, and stop bothering Carolyn.
Tony: She’s been through a lot. And so has her mother — but, of course, you know all about that, don’t you?
Julia: What do you mean?
Tony: Do me a favor, Miss Hoffman. Don’t play dumb with me.
Julia: I’m not playing anything. I’m merely trying to find out what you’re talking about.
She pulls him into the drawing room, and tries on several of her most quizzical expressions.
Tony: I happen to know what’s in that book, and I realize why it’s so valuable to you.
Julia: You do?
Tony: Yes, but it’s not valuable to me, or to anybody else. Only to you, and Elizabeth Stoddard.
Then we see why they pay Grayson Hall money to appear on television, and make like she’s a vampire doctor. She is absolutely baffled.
And now we find ourselves rooting for Julia, because she’s being smart, and she’s refusing to allow the story to get less interesting. If Tony gives back the notebook, then there’s no reason for him to be part of the story anymore. Things are a lot more lively when he’s around, and we don’t want him to go.
So the script — this is Gordon Russell, by the way, who’s getting better now that there’s another good writer around — is structured like a tennis match, with our loyalties switching back and forth, in favor of whoever’s swinging the racket at the time.
She wins, of course, because we want her to win, and today is a day that we get everything that we want. To prove it, Julia goes over to the Old House to have the face-off that we’ve been waiting weeks to see.
Julia: Your — what shall I call her? — your little helper tried to get my notebook from Tony Peterson. Her plan didn’t work. He still has the notebook, and he’s going to keep it.
Barnabas: I see. Apparently, Carolyn isn’t the experienced criminal that you are.
And that’s it, as far as my participation is concerned. I’m done for the day. There’s nothing else that I can say about this episode; the only thing I can do is leave you with the incredible hotness on display.
Julia: I’m not a criminal.
Barnabas: You mean murder is no longer a crime?
Julia: I’m not a murderer. Dave Woodard was my friend. It was the circumstances.
Barnabas: Oh, yes. It’s always the circumstances.
Julia: Not with you. Your kind kills for the sake of killing.
Barnabas: Have you finished with what you came here to tell me about?
Barnabas: May we say good night?
Julia: Well, I haven’t quite given you all the news. There is one more thing.
Julia: Yes, I spoke to someone the other day — someone that you might be interested in.
Barnabas: I don’t think so.
Julia: I do.
Barnabas: Very well. With whom did you speak?
Julia: Sarah Collins.
Barnabas: You spoke to…
Julia: Your sister, Sarah. Yes, I saw her.
Julia: At the mausoleum.
Julia: Don’t bother going there, Barnabas. She won’t appear to you.
Barnabas: You didn’t talk to her, you’re lying!
Julia: No, I’m not lying.
Barnabas: Why should she want to talk to you?
Julia: She’s lonely, very lonely. She’ll talk to anyone… anyone but you.
Barnabas: Don’t you talk to me that way!
Julia: Anyone but you!
He lunges, and grabs her by the throat.
Barnabas: No more words, Doctor! You’ve done too much…
Then the door slams open, as a gust of wind blows through the house.
Barnabas turns… and there’s his sister, Sarah, finally — standing in front of her brother, for the first and last time.
Tomorrow: Boom Goes the Dynamite.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Tony is wearing a hat in today’s teaser, which he wasn’t wearing in yesterday’s version of the same scene.
At the end of the teaser, the camera zooms in on Carolyn’s face, completely out of focus.
When Tony talks to Julia in the Collinwood foyer, he completely loses track of his lines at one point. It happens when Julia says, “What do you mean?” — he pauses, smiles, looks at the teleprompter, and then continues the conversation.
There’s a Chromakey effect at the end of Sarah and David’s scene — they exchange a few lines, and then she disappears. But the Chromakey image is slightly too low, so she doesn’t match David’s eyeline. It looks like he’s having a discussion with her hat.
When the wind blows the Old House doors open and Barnabas drops Julia, someone can be seen passing by at the bottom left of the frame.
Tomorrow: Boom Goes the Dynamite.
— Danny Horn