Episode 420: The Stalking Dead

“I don’t care about those things that I can’t understand.”

Okay, everybody, please take your seats; Barnabas Collins is looking up.

“Why doesn’t she come to the window?” he says, in thinks. “I must see her one more time before she leaves. One more time!”

Barnabas is trying to avoid Josette, but as usual, he isn’t trying very hard. He knows that if he sees her, he won’t be able to resist biting her and turning her into his vampire bride, and on the whole that’s probably not something that a gentleman ought to do. But if he could just see her One more time!

He’s not good with the portion control, is what I’m saying. It’s not his strong area.

420 dark shadows looked up josette

But it’s Friday, and even at this late date, Dark Shadows hasn’t completely gotten its head around Fridays.

This is a perennial problem for serialized narratives, in any medium — what to do while you’re waiting for the cliffhanger. Strong episode endings are a relatively recent development on Dark Shadows; it wasn’t that long ago that they would just run the credits after twenty-two minutes, and whatever happened to be going on at that moment was the end of the episode. Sometimes that was just Vicki staring off into space.

By now, they’ve realized through trial and error that it’s better to actually have something happen at the end of an episode, just to give people a sense of accomplishment, and on Friday, they need to come up with something special.

Unfortunately, sometimes the Friday cliffhanger is so obvious, and telegraphed so far in advance, that it feels like a chore just waiting around for it to happen. In this case, we’re a little less than twenty-two minutes away from Barnabas biting Josette. That’s not a spoiler, because they’ve been talking about it nonstop for days.

So when they open the episode with Barnabas looking up at Josette’s window, and Josette at the window being looked up at, it’s not difficult to glance at a calendar and connect the dots.

420 dark shadows rich millicent nathan

Fortunately, we’ve got an entertaining B-story already in progress — and as it happens, it’s another predatory love story. Millicent Collins is naive, sheltered, silly and jaw-droppingly wealthy, and she’s currently being swept off her feet by the handsome young sweeper Lieutenant Nathan Forbes, who’s desperately, head-over-heels in love with her finances.

Under ordinary circumstances, Millicent’s relations would have put the kibosh on this budding romance long ago; it’s easy to imagine her flint-hearted cousin Joshua chasing Forbes out of the house with any blunt instrument he could lay his hands on.

But it’s been a tough couple months for the Collins family, and they’ve had a lot on their minds. The survivors, I mean.

420 dark shadows hat suki forbes

So things are going remarkably smoothly for Nathan, and he’s eager to set a wedding date and get this locked down before anyone notices. Then there’s a knock at the door and a hat walks in, and under it is Suki Forbes.

420 dark shadows sister nathan suki

That’s Mrs. Suki Forbes, by the way, as in: Nathan’s wife.

420 dark shadows tavern nathan suki

Suki showed up for the first time in yesterday’s episode, where she tracked Nathan down at the tavern and started making his life miserable, but I was addressing other issues yesterday and didn’t get a chance to mention her.

She’s phenomenal, a brand-new soap vixen who turns the B-story on its head just by walking into the room. She’s Nathan’s “abandoned” wife, who he left in Baltimore with a not-very-trustworthy promise to send her money every month. There’s a suggestion that she had an affair with at least one other sailor, but that doesn’t seem to be the root of the marital difficulties. The real problem is that they actually know each other, which in his line of work can be terribly dangerous.

420 dark shadows dynamite suki

Suki is pure soap opera dynamite, straight from the moment she walks in the door. This is yesterday’s scene, but it’s so good that I have to quote from it.

Nathan:  My expenses here have been greater than I anticipated.

Suki:  That means there’s a woman.

Nathan:  No, there’s no woman.

Suki:  With you, Nathan, there is always a woman. Who is the poor soul?

Nathan:  I tell you, there’s no one!

Suki:  Nathan, if you weren’t feathering a nest with some local innocent, you wouldn’t be quite so anxious to get rid of me so quickly. So, who is she?

420 dark shadows carriage nathan suki

Nathan:  What difference does it make? You couldn’t possibly know her. It’s not a serous thing anyway.

Suki:  I expect she thinks it is.

Nathan:  Suki… how much do you want, to get out of Collinsport on the next carriage?

Suki:  I expect she also doesn’t know that you’re already married.

420 dark shadows angry nathan suki

He grabs her roughly, by the wrist.

Nathan:  Are you going to give me your price, or do I have to —

He stops himself. It’s a great character moment; this is the first time we’ve seen Nathan losing his cool.

420 dark shadows money suki

She yanks her wrist out of his grip, and narrows her eyes.

Suki:  Do you have to what, Nathan? You’re hardly in a position to do anything, you know. I mean, you are legally married to me. I even brought our marriage certificate along to prove it. Somehow, I anticipated your being obstinate.

That’s another revealing character detail. This is a girl who thinks several steps ahead. Nathan is in trouble.

420 dark shadows funny millicent suki

So that’s the girl who just walked into Collinwood. Millicent is horrified, obviously, and doesn’t understand what’s going on. But Suki came prepared.

Millicent:  Suki… Forbes?

Suki:  Yes. You don’t mean Nathan has never told you?

Nathan:  Suki…

Millicent:  Told me what?

Suki:  Well, that he had a sister.

Millicent relaxes, and Suki goes on, clearly having the time of her life.

Suki:  Oh, Nathan. Shame on you! He’s always been terribly forgetful about certain things. Haven’t you, dear?

420 dark shadows hat suki nathan

And there she is, our terrifying new character. She’s hardly been on the show for a day, and already she’s primed to be an instant fan favorite.

Suki has every quality that an audience responds to — she’s clever, she’s funny and she immediately opens up more conflict and story possibilties, just by standing there. Plus, she’s got the kind of remorseless, self-possessed swagger that gay dudes in particular are especially susceptible to.

420 dark shadows 1968 suki nathan

She’s also the most authentically contemporary character that we have in the 1795 storyline. Suki is right at home in late 1960s soap opera. Her frank talk about infidelity and ruthless interest in non-consensual alimony is exactly what the genre is just learning how to do.

Thinking about cultural influences, I’m not sure where Suki comes from. She’s probably an amalgam of various vixen characters who popped up starting in the mid-60s, on soap operas and elsewhere. The one touchpoint that I can think of is Edward Albee’s 1962 play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, just for the cynical pleasure they’re taking from breaking through the respectable barriers of marital duty and fidelity.

420 dark shadows gasp suki

Then, just as Suki is saying something particularly arch and wonderful, she suddenly gasps, and stares at the window.

420 dark shadows stalker barnabas

And there’s our weird hero, Barnabas the Vampire Stalker, with his nose practically pressed up against the glass, which really makes you wonder about his commitment to keeping his supernaturally-assisted existence a secret.

I mean, what the hell is he even trying to do here? I know this is a weird thing to say about a character who asked his friend to kill him the other day, but sometimes I think Barnabas is being willfully self-destructive.

420 dark shadows wearing josette barnabas

So if the A-story is just going to pout outside the window, we might as well invite it in and see what it wants.

Barnabas’ awesome “I must see Josette one more time” plan ends up exactly the way we figured it would; the inexorable logic of the Friday cliffhanger has caught up with them at last.

420 dark shadows fangs barnabas

So Barnabas grabs Josette, and this time he’s remembered to put his fangs in, which is always a plus. Come back on Monday for the next episode; I have the feeling that everything is going to work out just fine for all of these people. Why wouldn’t it?

Monday: Bird Planes.


Behind the Scenes:

Jane Draper, the actress who plays Suki, is a bit mysterious. According to her IMDb listing, Dark Shadows is her only screen credit. Her page on the Internet Broadway Database lists one show that she was in — a 1966 production of Those That Play the Clowns, which also happened to include Grayson Hall (Julia/Natalie) and Thayer David (Stokes).

There’s nothing else on the internet about her, and she’s not mentioned in any of the Dark Shadows books that I have about her, other than a note that she played Suki. This is frustrating, because she’s great, and I’d love to know more of her story. If anybody knows anything about her, please leave a comment!

 Monday: Bird Planes.

420 dark shadows suki conceit

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

18 thoughts on “Episode 420: The Stalking Dead

  1. Why are we surprised that Barnabas’ plan does not go as he thought? I swear, a DS reboot would have to be a dark comedy, based on the BIG character flaw of its protagonist – making bad decisions consistently.

    Too bad that Suki does not hang around longer to make REAL trouble. I swear, DS comes out with wonderful characters, but in the end they end up leaving too soon, or lapsing into irrelevance (I am thinking Tony Peterson). I guess that Barnabas ends up disminishing everyone else (my biggest regret is David, who started as a seriously disturbed child, and then mellowed out into what looks like a within the range of a normal child – I swear, in a decent reboot, David would rig an incendiary device to Barnabas’ coffin, and take it from there).

    One quibble I have is the assumption that a vampire attack is usually fatal on the first feeding. This seems to be a rather new development, since the literature and legend usually talk about a slow wasting away. – which makes sense, because when the legends originated there were not a lot of bloodless corpses around, but plenty of wasting diseases (like tuberculosis) to be observed. This new development I think I can trace to Ann Rice, which makes it the SOP for her vampires. Since she wrote long after DS was cancelled, I tend to assume that DS follows the traditional view (which explains that when Barnabas is tried by the ghosts, there are so few of them to name him their murderer, as opposed to a bigger parade of drained victims) – also I noted in 1897 when discussing Barnabas’ deeds, they talk of “attacks” and the “killing” of Carl. Note the different words used.

    1. I couldn’t have said it better- in order to accommodate Barnabas the writers basically ‘drained the life’ out of the original core characters (Roger, Vicki, David, Burke, Carolyn, Maggie), even the ones he didn’t bite. Dour Liz remained basically the same but was actually more lively in the time travel storylines. Also, if Barnabas says ‘One More Time’ one more time I’m going to wish that he jumped off Widows Hill along with his whiny girlfriend….

  2. Suki is one of my favourite characters of 1795. She is so cool. Unfortunately she won’t be around for long. In this she reminds me of the 1897 character Julianka. Everyone liked her as well, she was so beautiful, but unfortunately wasn’t around for long. I would’ve liked both of them to be around longer or at least these two actresses to have had other roles on the show.

    1. when vicki used it to escape from trask, i was like, “what secret panel?!” i’ve watched all the episodes up to here, including pre-barnabas, and i dont recall anything about a secret panel. i could certainly be wrong, though.

    2. The secret panel in the Matthew storyline was in the old house, a building which appears to have been constructed with the convenient imprisonment of kidnapped women as a particular design feature.

    3. The secret panel in the drawing room was revealed by Roger when Vicki was locked in the abandoned wing of the mansion. I don’t know if that particular secret doorway ever comes up again. I thought it was neat at the time. Roger grew up in the house along with his sister but probably knew about secret panels that Elizabeth did not know about.

  3. I remember Suki’s hat on the Charles Nelson Reilly kid’s show “Lidsville,” for which it won a daytime Emmy.

    Seriously, she is genius and you’re right, gay catnip. As for character antecedents, she’s actually a classic trope out of 19th century melodrama. If any fans have read the prolific American smut peddler George Thompson they might recognize this character: a fallen woman, but a gleefully fallen one. Bates’s wife on “Downton Abbey” is a close approximation.

    I also love how this show interrupts but also has to engage in the supernatural plot line. Josette has just spoken to Barnabas’s ghost, but then she has to shift gears and say, “oh but enough about my encounters with the undead, what’s new with you Millicent? How’s your boyfriend? Has anyone with a bigger hat shown up in your life recently?” And then after Suki is done batting Milicent and Nathan around a bit, stops and screams at the image of Barnabas in the window. The B plot is straight B plot from a soap opera but most also exist, somewhat awkwardly, next to Barnabas and Josette.

    Needless to say, this was a favorite recent episode of mine.

  4. And if you didn’t start singing “Hello Dolly” when Suki’s hat walked into the Collins mansion, you’re probably straight.

    1. Ha! I didn’t sing, but the arrival of a The Hat did briefly distract me from Joel’s, um, “lil’ lieutenant”… so I think I can hang on to the clubcard for now.

  5. Glad to see other Suki Forbes fans. Wish she had a longer run in 1795 or had taken the place of “Cassandra” in “the present.”

  6. I think Jane Draper was a British actress who went under a different name–I seem to remember her in the 1962 film Burn Witch Burn starring Janet Blair and Peter Wyngarde but not as Jane Draper

  7. Suki was wonderful. I wish she’d been written to stay around. I always thought it would have taken someone like her to corrupt or begin Trask’s love life and distract him from his tedious witch hunting.

  8. Long-time reader of Danny’s blog, first-time commenter…I found some info about actress Jane Draper that I thought might be of interest. The following are excerpts from a story that ran in The Indianapolis Star on August 24, 1966:

    Miss Jane Sloan Draper…The New York City movie actress and teen-age beauty consultant comes to her home town of Indianapolis this week to tell teens how to have glowing complexions and haunting eyes. The 100-pound 20-year-old blond will be at the Tourneur Salon at H. P. Wasson & Co. Thursday through Saturday…

    Miss Draper has the lead role of Teena in “The Teenager” and parts in two other films, “Bold View Approach” and “Felicia” expected to be released this year…

    [ Note: the IMDB lists a 1964 feature called “Felicia” written and directed by the New York-based exploitation writer/director David Durston, and says it was never released in the U.S. That’s probably the film the article refers to. I haven’t been able to find any info on “Bold View Approach” or “The Teenager.” I’ll be happy to share more of the article if anybody’s interested; it’s mostly about make-up tips and fashion, but there are some other biographical details, too.]

    1. Sometimes good actors get out of show business for reasons that must have seemed to make sense at the time, but really didn’t. Finding out about the life and work of Jane Draper is the missing persons equivalent of pulling teeth.

      I have spent much of the past 24 hours trying to find info about her on ancestry.com and newspapers.com, which is where I found the excellent 1966 article in the Indianapolis Star that Paul H. cited. You would think that that article provided a small mountain of leads, but, so far, I have some tittilating guesses, albeit they seem to be supported by some facts.

      Age 20 in 1966 would make her birth year 1946. My research, which raises as many or more questions as it answers, led to the following at ancestry.com:

      Name: Jane S Draper
      [Jane Boos]
      Birth Date: 29 Mar 1946

      And

      Name: Jane D Boos
      Birth Date: 29 Mar 1946

      The first entry is accompanied by two Florida addresses and one North Carolina address. Two with dates in the 1990s, one without any date. The second name is accompanied by a Michigan address (with no date) that is just about a block down the street from a small manufacturing firm called Boos Products. A late owner of the firm has an obituary (1997) that mentions five sons, eight grandchildren and three great grand children, but no wives of the sons are listed. My unconfirmed guess is that Jane Draper married one of those sons but that they divorced. She, of course, would be 72 now. Hence the addresses Florida and even N.C. make sense.

      She attended what is now the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York but I have yet to find other evidence than the August 1966 article in the Indianapolis Star that she attended or graduated or even taught there. I found school yearbook pictures of her from both junior high (middle) school in Indiana and high school in Brooklyn, New York (Packer Collegiate Inst.).

      I found an article in the New York Daily News from 1965 about her starring in a film production called “The Teenager” that corroborates the mention of the same title in the Star. The movie was produced by Ely Landau and Oliver Unger, two celebrated producers, and they must have spent a lot of money filming “The Teenager” in at least six different countries, but the movie was evidently never released. Interestingly, there was a French movie released in 1968 called “Les Teenagers,” but I see no connection between that documentary and the evidently fictional “The Teenager,” except that footage from New York, London, France, and Sweden was used in both.

      The other alleged film mentioned in the Star article, “Bold View Approach” is a very odd title that I found nowhere; however, there was a documentary “released” in 1966 entitled “Bold New Approach” that got limited circulation and is not listed on IMDb or anywhere else today. I pieced together from various 1967 newspaper accounts (but especially the Warren [Penn.] Times-Mirror and Observer) that it is 62-minutes long and “combines semi- documentary and documentary footage.” Can you say “re-enactments”? Indeed, the article goes on to say “two vignettes dramatize the nervous breakdown of an engineer and the psychotic collapse of a teen-age [sic] student.” Can you say possible candidate for Jane Draper’s first or second screen appearance? (Oh, yes, another newspaper account of the film says “you will follow a young woman patient step by step through a continuity of treatment and rehabilitation services,” so I think the teen is probably female.)

      Unless you were a mental health worker or went out of your way to take an interest in community mental health in the 1960s, you probably never saw a print this movie, of which the article says there only existed 150. It was written and directed by Irving Jacoby who then had over ten years experience writing or directing documentaries as well as news features, some of which are listed on IMDb under his name.

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