Episode 444: Anatomy of a Speed Bump

“I ask you to believe one thing, because it’s as true and as real as anything you’ll ever hear.”

Well, that scoundrel Nathan Forbes is at it again, manipulating the wealthy and naive Millicent Collins into marrying him, and giving him access to the Collins fortune. Exposed as a liar and an aspiring bigamist, Nathan is banned from Collinwood, plus Millicent tried to stab him with a letter opener, so figuring out the seating chart for the reception has been pretty decisively moved to the back burner.

Right now, the emotionally fragile Millicent is walking around with a box full of duelling pistols, looking for someone who’s willing to shoot Nathan in the face. It was that kind of breakup.

But Nathan, ever resourceful, has come up with a completely bonkers drawing-room-comedy-style plan, where his associate Noah attacks Millicent, wielding her cousin Barnabas’ cane. It’s all very fraught and complex.

Then Nathan jumps in and delivers some Batman ’66 style punches, and with a WHAM!, a POW! and a ZOK!, he chases the nasty bad man away. Millicent is overcome with emotion, and the whole production is a runaway success.

444 dark shadows pest noah nathan

That’s pretty much all the plot they have for us today, but unfortunately, they’ve still got time to fill. This is what they fill it with.

Noah:  You took your good sweet time, didn’t you?

This is Noah. He’s Nathan’s new, reluctant henchman, and by reluctant I mean annoying, and by annoying I mean that I want to hit him with something heavy.

Nathan:  I told you it might take a little while.

Noah:  What did you do out there, anyway?

Nathan:  Had to make sure that the lady was all right, didn’t I?

Noah:  And it took this long?

Holy cow, what is your point? Is your car double-parked or something? You just pretended to menace a girl, so that Nathan could get close to her. How do you not understand the importance of the post-menace phase of the operation?

444 dark shadows carriage noah nathan

But Noah only thinks about himself.

Noah:  Did she see my face?

Nathan:  She saw just what I wanted her to see — the cane. Nothing more.

Noah:  But you don’t know that she didn’t see my face.

Nathan:  She thinks it was Barnabas who attacked her, so stop worrying.

Noah:  Well, if there’s nothing to worry about, why are you packing all those things?

Oh, man. We are currently 45 seconds into this sequence, and already you just want to smack the guy. Nathan keeps saying things like, “Because it’s part of the plan. Don’t you remember?” The answer, apparently, is no.

444 dark shadows whine noah nathan

I mean, admittedly, it’s a shaky plan. I wouldn’t trust Nathan either. But try to pay attention, at least.

Noah:  Why don’t you just give me the money you promised me?

Nathan:  I don’t have any money.

Noah:  You don’t have any?

Nathan:  Of course not, I told you. I won’t have it until the plan’s been fully executed.

Noah:  What does that mean?

It means that the plan is the thing that’s going to get us the money. You’ve been over this several times. We really have to go through this again?

So this is me, just yelling at the television now. I can be patient sometimes — I watch Dark Shadows, being patient is a survival skill — but conversations like this just drive me crazy.

444 dark shadows no nathan noah

It doesn’t help that the actor apparently read the script, and said, okay, petulant. I can do that. I’m not sure what other acting choice you could make with this particular scene, but I’m not an actor on television, and it’s not my job to figure that out.

Nathan:  So far, everything that I have planned has gone exactly the way I planned it.

Noah:  But something could go wrong!

Nathan:  Well, if it does, then both of us will leave Collinsport penniless. Is that what you want?

Noah:  What I want is my money.

As we’ve discussed before, it’s not that hard to get the audience to like a new character. There are three steps — make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen.

That “make a friend” step is more important than people might think. Conceptually, if you watch a television show regularly, then you start to see the cast as a group of people that you know. This is especially true on soap operas, where you invite the cast into your home five times a week. You have to really like those people if you have them over that often; that’s a group of close friends.

So when a new person joins the group, you need to see the existing characters accept the newcomer. If Nathan likes and trusts Noah, then he must be okay. But if Noah only exists to drive Nathan crazy, then why did we invite him over?

444 dark shadows risk nathan noah

Nathan finally says the thing that I’ve wanted him to say the whole time.

Nathan:  Now, look, I want you out of my room.

Noah:  Why?

Nathan:  Because I’m expecting a visitor.

Noah:  Who?

Oh my god, seriously? It’s like dealing with a four-year-old. It’s been a while since I’ve been this exasperated with a Dark Shadows character.

444 dark shadows digger noah nathan

They actually blow all the way through an act break — and when they come back from commercial, Nathan is still waiting for Millicent, and Noah is still being a dick.

Noah:  Why don’t you sit down?

Nathan:  I don’t want to sit down.

Noah:  You’re getting a little nervous.

Nathan:  Why don’t you be quiet?

Noah:  Also a little edgy. What’s the matter, Lieutenant, have you decided that I was right and you were wrong?

Okay, you’re just the worst henchman ever. Seriously, I’ve seen a lot of henchmen. It’s not an inspiring list. You’re at the bottom of it.

444 dark shadows get out nathan noah

Finally, they hear footsteps approaching down the hall. Nathan speaks in an urgent whisper.

Nathan:  Listen! Someone’s coming. Now, you’ve got to get out of here.

Noah:  How do you know it’s her?

How do you… Really, dude? We’ve spent the last five minutes doing exactly nothing but waiting for Millicent to show up. She’s now right outside the door. The only thing standing in the way of scene progression is you.

So that’s it. I’m done with Noah. Didn’t Millicent have a box of guns? Maybe she’s brought it with her.

Tomorrow: Generation Gap.

444 dark shadows wait nathan noah

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

39 thoughts on “Episode 444: Anatomy of a Speed Bump

  1. Petulant, is the perfect word for Craig slocum, I always just thought he was just a bad accent whiny actor. But he is definitely petulant. AND not related to Dan Curtis, as I was sure that was the only way he could get hired as an actor. I googled him, and he did not act in much else. I wish I could go back in time and ask the casting director WHY? Surely ONE other actor showed up to audition. Was it the red hair? Oh well, I guess we will never know.

  2. Just out of curiosity I googled Craig Slocum – it seems his only other acting credits were in some 50’s juvenile schlock films – very appropriate. Apparently he died of insulin shock while he was only in his 40’s.

    1. He had some other roles, but he used several stage names, so the credits are all scattered. He’s been credited as Warren Slocum (his actual birth name), Craig Slocum, Rusty Slocum and Carlo Grassi. I’ve read that he was recommended by Dan Curtis’ wife, but I’m not sure where that information comes from.

      There’s a super-weird Craig Slocum fansite created in 2001 on tripod.com, which includes a list of his credits. I can’t say anything more about that site because I am a nice person. http://rusty_slocum.tripod.com/slocum.htm

      1. Hello from the future. He’s not a great actor by any means but there’s something kind of sweet about the fan’s dedication. And she’s contributing money to find a cure for diabetes, all inspired by a love for him.

  3. Yeah, Craig Slocum is horrible. Not that it’s a great part to begin with, but he does nothing to make the character likeable. In some ways it looks like they’re trying to recreate the Jason Mcguire/Willie Loomis double-act, and while Crothers is certainly up to the task of channeling of Dennis Patrick, Slocum is no John Karlen (and honestly, they should have got Karlen back for Noah – that would have been a welcomed surprise).

    I guess we should be lucky that Noah and Peter don’t get on the screen at the same time or televisions everywhere would have imploded. But man, did my heart sink when Slocum shows up in 1968.

    1. OMG! I guess we should be thankful that Noah and Peter never had the pleasure of meeting – I think sales of Tylenol would have gone through the roof if they had! Also I remember reading that some people thought that Craig Slocum and young David Henesy were related – other than the same color hair I see no resemblance – David Henesy was a cute (if somewhat mischevious) kid!

    2. “Slocum is no John Karlen.” He’s not even a James Hall! And it’s hard to believe that he’s even worse as Harry Johnson. (Heh heh Heh heh, as Beavis and Butthead would say.)

    3. I just want to branch out from the Slocumfest to say that, although Joel Crothers does fine as Joe and as Lt. Nathan, Nathan-as-Jason McGuire is very lacking.

      Dennis Patrick channeled Jason as cunning, manipulative, and defiant almost to the end. I half-expected Jason, as he was being choked by Barnabas, to growl in his brogue, “Ah, so I have discovered your secret, Barnabas Collins, and if you try to kill me, I will make the rest of your eternity most unpleasant, so you better let me go…”

      Nathan’s a cad, but he fared poorly in his first attempt with revenge and blackmail. I know it was up to Barnabas to force Trask to recant, but Nathan held all the cards in the Case of And Then There’s Maud, and he played a…. two? Hardball isn’t his forte.

  4. IMO this guy is just flat ugly. I don’t know what would make him go into acting either. But it is amusing when he shows up in the present and Vicki opens the door and screams. Then Mrs. Johnson immediately blames Harry when he really didn’t do anything but knock on the door and stand there while it was being answered. But he ought to be used to people running and screaming when they see him!

    1. Sky Rumson is bad, but at least he was handsome, AND had an awesome soap opera name. He went on to more roles, and I remembered him from Dynasty. Poor Craig, this exchange today may be his biggest legacy in acting. Maybe he was a great guy.

      1. OMG!, , I just went to the Craig Slocum fan page. So I amend my earlier comment, this is Craig’s biggest legacy among more than one person. My grandma used to say there is a lid for every pot. Craig’s lid is over the moon for him, too bad the pot never actually met him.

    2. Vicki did the same thing when she first saw Ben Stokes, merely because the poor guy, through no fault of his own, looked like Matthew Morgan.

  5. Craig Slocum was to me hands down the worst actor in Dark Shadows. Even beats out the actor who played Dr. Lang. Slocum was so distracting in about every scene he was in due to his bad acting. Kind of surprising as most of the actors on DS were so good. Having a bad one really stands out against that.

    1. Ah Dr. Lang, from the Peter Bradford school of Shouty Shoutatoplous acting!, When in doubt dr. Lang removes his glasses.Craig is still the worst!

    2. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Louisa. I had even said, on an earlier episode blog post, that I thought Slocum was even worse than Addison Powell.

    3. I will just say that if you listed everyone who ever appeared on Dark Shadows in order of acting ability Slocum would come after the cat who played Joshua-as-a-cat.

      1. I agree! In fact, you could say that Addison Powell was so bad that he was good–at least his scenery chewing could be halfway entertaining. Slocum, on the other hand, had all the enthusiasm of a sleepwalker.

  6. About that Craig Slocum website … pre-Facebook, there were a lot of active DS Yahoo groups and the creator of that website was a member of one that I belonged to. Only for a short while, because she got booted out for attacking anyone who said anything critical about ‘dear Craig’. But it was hard not to sit on your hands and resist the impulse to send a snarky comment when she went on and on about how cute he was.

  7. I was 15 when I first started watching Dark Shadows on the Sci-Fi Channel (the first time it had ever been shown in the UK) and I remember Louis Edmonds giving my nascent gaydar one of its very first pings. Rewatching these episodes now I think it’s remarkable Craig Slocum didn’t set it off too.

  8. I was amused at the sheer silliness of Nathan’s plan to establish himself as Millicent’s savior. It was prone to going off script, it relied upon the cooperation of a nitwit (Slocum of “Is This Love?” fame), and it was somehow supposed to erase everything that Millicent knew about Nathan. This is the kind of plan Bertie Wooster would come up with. And yet, it worked perfectly! Maybe I need to reassess my idea of good and bad plans.

  9. Slocum is just awful. The worst part is when Nathan finally manages to get him to leave… he opens the door and sidles out aaaaas slooooooowly aaaaas poooossssssible.


    1. If Nathan had the need to offer vampire Barnabas a peace offering, someone he could keep locked up in the Old House basement for an occasional snack for instance, then I “Noah” perfectly useless idiot for the role. 😉

  10. Aside from forgetting everything she knows about Nathan, Millicent demonstrates her lack of awareness and analysis by never wondering why Nathan didn’t draw his sword. If the scenario Nathan cooked up had been real, the fake Barnabas could have killed him with that cane. A trained fighter like Nathan should have pulled his sword but didn’t because, of course, it was all fake. What’s that thing on your hip, Lieutenant, a broccoli spear?

  11. Just watched this episode, and I gotta say, this way fantastic. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want DS to always be like this…

    Some have wondered if this was “camp.” Yes, it was. Noah’s petulant affect, his flat (but loud) line delivery, and the terrible dialogue he was working with (we have to give Slocum this much) have the feel of early John Waters. Waters was deliberate camp, and this isn’t; in fact, I think Waters was satirizing scenes (and actors) like this in those early films. I’m thinking of Mink Stole as Taffy Davenport in “Female Trouble” – loud, petulant, deliberately obtuse and contrary, over the top.

    I’m not sure if it was Slocum’s bad acting, but the scenes in Nathan’s room felt like scenes from (yet another) romantic relationship for our favorite cad. I’ll also admit that I think Slocum is kind of adorable. Now excuse me – I have a 45-page website shrine to create.

  12. Yes yes yes, Slocum and Powell, the worst! There were others, of course, but these two are worthy of a mute button on the remote with their names on it. I suppose you have to hire a few duds over the course of five years. Luckily they weren’t major characters. Love reading these episode discussions.

  13. It’s a good thing I had some hand sewing to do while watching this episode. So as not to poke myself with the needle, I could only listen to the Nathan/Noah scene. It was quite dull even still. The needle wasn’t though. Ouch!

  14. I half-expected that Nathan would use the staged attack on Millicent as an opportunity to do away with Noah, thereby ridding himself of an inconvenient accomplice and potential future blackmailer…but I guess he’s not that much of a rotter. Yet. And there would be the detail of Barnabas’ cane to have to explain.

    Nice fake-out by the writers, to have Milicent start to leave the house to go to Nathan, and then change her mind, so that you expect it to be somebody else who shows up at Nathan’s door. Surprise! It’s Millicent. She changed her mind again.

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