“I think I expected a haircut to make me feel all new. It doesn’t.”
Victoria Winters is back from her trip to the 18th century — and like all young people coming back from break, she has a bullet wound in her shoulder, a barely coherent memory of what happened, and a new boyfriend who she doesn’t know how to contact.
Now, Julia Hoffman — who has just revealed that she’s a doctor — is providing some unorthodox therapy, spinning a medallion in Vicki’s face and interrogating her under hypnosis. Let the healing begin.
Julia wants to know whether Vicki learned that Barnabas is a vampire while she was away, but Vicki’s being cagey.
Vicki: If only Barnabas were here. If only I could see him! He’d help us.
Julia: Do you know what has happened to Barnabas?
Vicki: He would get Peter out of jail.
Poor Julia. For about two seconds, Victoria Winters was out of her life, and she didn’t even have time to enjoy it.
As usual with anybody spending more than fifteen minutes in Vicki’s company, Julia is seized with an impulse to go somewhere else, so she gives Vicki a sedative and heads into town.
Vicki — who just got back from vacation, and is now apparently taking a personal day — drops off to an uneasy sleep.
Happily, her dream takes her right back to one of the 1795 highlights — a guest appearance by zombie Jeremiah, who reaches out from the grave with a public service announcement about trusting Barnabas.
“COME TO ME!” he bellows, as he digs his way out of the ground. “DO NOT BE AFRAID! I WILL HELP YOU! I AM THE FIRST HE KILLED!”
This doesn’t go over as well as he seems to expect, but he’s already ten slides in on a thirty-slide PowerPoint deck, so he might as well commit to finishing it.
“MANY WILL DIE AT HIS HANDS!” he screams, rushing through his presentation. “I HAVE HEARD THEM CRYING IN THEIR GRAVES! SO SHALL YOU!”
Meanwhile, she’s turned her back and put her hands over her ears, trying to block him out. I swear, I have had so many meetings like this.
So this is a welcome confirmation that the show isn’t going to forget everything they learned from 1795. Over the last few months, Angelique’s witchcraft inspired the producers to explore the boundaries of crazy spectacle, including zombie attacks, tying Vicki to a tree for an exorcism, Joshua turning into a cat, and Bathia disappearing in a sheet of flame.
But now the show has intentionally taken a step backwards, returning to the 1960s and picking up exactly where they left off four months ago. It would be understandable for them to back off from some of the more outrageous stunts, for fear that what looked cool in the fantasy world of the past might look silly when you inflict it on modern-day characters.
It remains to be seen whether they can commit to that heightened level of reality-shaking spectacle outside of the dream sequences, but it’s a good sign that they’re bringing Z-Jay out for an encore, just two days into the present-day storyline. The spirit of ’95 is still with us.
And really, the best part is that Zombie Jeremiah seems to think that he’s a trustworthy advisor who Vicki might turn to for advice about her social activities.
“I AM NOT THE ONE FOR YOU TO FEAR!” he yells, reaching out to her with his dirty, bloodstained claws. “LOOK AT ME! SEE THE TRUTH!”
So he’s trying, bless his heart, but there isn’t much of a chance that he’s going to turn this around. I think Vicki needs to find a less intimidating guardian angel, that’s all there is to it.
One commercial break later, all of that graveyard malarkey fades into the background, because here is the event I’ve been looking forward to for nine months — possibly the most important single event on Dark Shadows since Barnabas climbed out of the mystery box.
Julia gets a haircut.
Okay, you’re still sitting upright, so obviously you didn’t hear what I just said:
JULIA GETS A HAIRCUT.
It is seriously impossible for me to overstate the importance of this plot point. If this was a soap opera magazine, the cover would say “THE BOMBSHELL THAT CHANGES DS FOREVER!” — and for the first time in the history of the soap opera press, that would not be an exaggeration.
This is actually the hairstyle that Grayson Hall has had all along; she’s only been wearing that stiff hair-helmet wig because Dan Curtis thought this style was too sophisticated for Dr. J. Hoffman, the calculating ice-queen.
By now, she’s developed into something a lot more interesting than that tired woman-in-a-man’s-world stereotype. She’s become a complex space-time event, with full authorial powers to rewrite the storyline any way she chooses.
Barnabas is compelling and fun, but emotionally and strategically he’s a complete mess — constantly tripping over the worst choice he can find, on his way to an even bigger disaster. But as far as the show is concerned, Julia is always right.
From now on, the writers speak through her character, and as we saw yesterday, the show needs her to take Barnabas down a peg, throwing him off balance.
When Barnabas is in full control of the storyline, he can be dull and complacement. When he’s caught off guard, he snaps into focus again, and he’s forced to come up with new crazy schemes. That’s Julia’s job now, to make sure that he’s uncomfortable.
And she couldn’t do that while operating from underneath a frumpy hat. She needs some space to spread out, and come up with creative new facial expressions.
Also, she looks awesome. It’s a really good hairstyle, is what I’m saying.
Anyway, while I’ve been nattering on with bulletins from the barbershop, they’ve been doing a scene back there. Barnabas is upset that Julia’s keeping him away from Vicki, just at the moment when he needs to make sure that Vicki doesn’t know his secret.
He proposes a bargain that’s exceptionally lame, even for him — “Help me, and I’ll leave Vicki alone.” Julia just openly chuckles. Dude, check the hairstyle. Her ears aren’t covered up anymore; she can actually hear the words that you’re saying. You need to keep that in mind, and review your strategy.
They segue into a discussion of time travel theory, with Julia in the role of Science Detective. Students of science fiction, listen up: This is the most coherent explanation that we will get of the implications of Vicki’s time travel.
Barnabas: You don’t know the panic that I felt when I saw that girl in Vicki’s chair, and I realized that it was Phyllis Wick.
Julia: You knew her, of course.
Barnabas: She was Sarah’s governess, until she was tried for witchcraft.
Julia: Was she hanged?
Barnabas: She was to hang the day my coffin was carried to the mausoleum, and chained.
Julia: Barnabas… Vicki took her place!
Barnabas: The past is constantly being relived.
Now, possibly the strangest thing about that very strange explanation is that Phyllis and Vicki didn’t just share the same fate — Vicki actually managed to nail the correct day of her hanging. Even with the jailbreak and the gunshot wound and the spoiler-filled Collins family history book — and without even trying — Vicki synched the execution date, on the fly.
But if you have questions about why Barnabas remembers Phyllis and not Vicki, the best answer that you’re going to get is “The past is constantly being relived.”
That’s not a very rigorous theory, but I can hang some timey-wimey Doctor Who technobabble on top of it, if it’ll make you feel better.
Here are some useful make-believe science phrases that you can try: chronic hysteresis, causal nexus, Blinovitch Limitation Effect, infinite temporal flux, Charged Vacuum Emboitment. There, that should be good enough for now.
And then something happens that makes being a Dark Shadows fan worthwhile: Barnabas actually gets down on one knee and begs for Julia’s help.
Barnabas: Julia… Help me, like you did before. Can’t we go back to the time when we were friends, when we worked together?
Julia: I don’t know.
Barnabas: Surely, you see that my life completely depends on what she knows. If you won’t let me… you must find out.
Julia: I’m trying to.
Naturally, he pushes his luck.
Barnabas: And if you succeed, will you use it to help me, or hurt me?
Julia: That depends entirely on you, Barnabas.
And then she smiles — a secret new-makeover smile that only people with fantastic haircuts can access — and she changes Dark Shadows forever.
Tomorrow: Meanwhile, in the Past.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Jeremiah’s gravestone still says “Jerimiah Collins”; we first saw the misspelled stone in episode 392.
In the dream, as Jeremiah’s hand reaches up from the ground, a shadow cross the shot — it’s Vicki, getting into place for her scene.
There’s a great haircut-related dialogue blunder, when Barnabas first sees Julia’s new look.
Barnabas: Why, Doctor Hoffman.
Julia: Good evening, Barnabas.
Barnabas: I almost didn’t recognize you.
Julia (primping): Oh… an impulse. I’m sure I’ll regret it.
Barnabas: Well… I, uh, must tell you how much I like your hair.
Behind the Scenes:
It’s Timothy Gordon playing Jeremiah’s body in this episode, and Addison Powell doing the voice, as they did in December. Powell, who happens to be The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows, played Judge Matigan in January, and we’ll see him next week as Dr. Eric Lang.
Tomorrow: Meanwhile, in the Past.
— Danny Horn