“I was just noticing your harpoon collection.”
“I’m sorry, Sheriff,” Julia says, in a spot of unhurried telephone acting, “but Mrs. Stoddard is resting. I’ll be glad to give her a message.” Then her face darkens. “I see. Yes, I’ll tell her — and, please, call the minute you hear something else.”
Then Barnabas just walks into the room. Nobody let him in, which means that Julia must have given him a key, and therefore they’re dating and they’re totally in love with each other.
So here’s one of the tricky secrets of television. In the scene, Barnabas and Julia are both terribly worried about Roger, who snuck out of the house on Friday in the company of a sinister oil painting. (Don’t ask. It’s a whole thing.) Roger’s sister Elizabeth is also terribly worried, which just adds one more item to the list of things that Barnabas and Julia are terribly worried about.
But this storyline isn’t about Roger, or Liz. If it was, then they’d be on screen right now. This is actually a story about Barnabas and Julia, and how exciting and satisfying it is to see them both be terribly worried about something.
There’s been a long series of milestones where I’ve said, okay, this is where Dark Shadows really begins. But this, right here — just a day away from the one-year anniversary of Barnabas popping out of the mystery box — this is where Dark Shadows really begins.
I mean, it’s only been a couple weeks in story time since these two were literally trying to kill each other. And now here they are, for the very first time, having a conversation about someone who isn’t named Barnabas or Julia.
Because these two have always been a little bit on the self-centered side, by which I mean that they are twenty-four hour psychopaths who think of everyone else in the world as either a prop or an obstacle. They have literally never spoken to each other about any subject other than the status of their own incendiary relationship.
But look at them now! All wrought up about Roger, of all people — the witty, sarcastic comic relief character who’s remained blissfully unaffected by the spooky nightmares that these two have been unleashing on the family. He’s troubled right now, and they’re worried about him, for no other reason than that they like him, and that means that it’s finally okay for the audience to like them.
We’ve been talking a lot recently about how to get the audience to like a character, in three easy steps: Make a joke, make a friend, and make a plot point happen. The “make a friend” step is more important than you might think; the audience is always looking to the cast for guidance about who we’re supposed to like. If everybody on a show is nasty to each other, then there’s no reason for the rest of us to care about them — and there are a depressing number of failed shows with that criticism carved on the tombstone. People like to watch people who like each other; it gives the characters dignity and value.
And look at what they do, as soon as this door has opened: They start telling each other secrets.
Julia: Vicki knows who the girl from the painting is… so you must know too.
Barnabas: Yes. Angelique Collins.
Julia: Who was Angelique Collins, you must tell me.
She really says it like that, all in one breath: Who-was-Angelique-Collins-you-must-tell-me. It’s not a question.
Barnabas: I was once married to her, Julia.
And she takes a step forward, all sympathy and concern, and all of a sudden there are so many feels. This is a secret that he hasn’t shared with anybody else, and it just pours out in a rush.
Barnabas: Yes. She’s the one responsible for putting that curse on me.
Julia: Then, she was — a witch?
They say this as if it’s totally common knowledge that that’s how you become a vampire; first you marry a witch, and then it just proceeds from there.
By the way, three of Barnabas’ last four lines have begun with the word Yes. I’m just saying.
Julia looks off into the distance, as if she’s consulting with the spirit of Nancy Drew.
Julia: Why would Vicki feel impelled to buy the painting? And why should it have such a strange effect on Roger?
Look at what they’re doing; they’re being Junior Detectives, investigating The Case of the Purloined Portrait.
It turns out this is one of those stories about two detectives who start working on a case and then secretly fall in love with each other, like Bones and Moonlighting and Castle and Lethal Weapon 2.
And then oh my God just look at what happens next.
Julia: Why would Roger want to take something that belongs to Dr. Lang?
Barnabas: Why do you ask?
Julia: Well, come.
And she rests her hand on his arm, just for a tiny fraction of a second, as she turns and walks to the desk. It’s a tiny little gesture, just at the right time, and there is such an intimacy in that moment. If you showed this scene to someone who’d never seen Dark Shadows before, and you asked how well these two characters knew each other, they would say that Barnabas and Julia have been married for years. That would be the answer 100% of the time.
Julia shows Barnabas the mirror that Roger stole from Dr. Lang, and then used as a voodoo fetish last week, to give Lang splitting headaches. Mrs. Johnson found it in Roger’s room, and Julia can’t imagine why he had it.
I’m going to quote the rest of the dialogue in this scene, and you can just imagine me saying oh my god after pretty much everything that they say, because it’s so unbelievably cute.
Barnabas: Why didn’t you show this to me before?
Julia: Well, I didn’t think it was that important. Why are you so upset?
Barnabas: So, this is how she did it… I couldn’t imagine what she could have used.
Julia: What are you talking about?
Barnabas: Get your coat, Julia. We’re leaving.
Julia: Where are we going?
Barnabas: To Dr. Lang’s house.
Julia: What for?
Barnabas: His life is in danger!
Julia: Oh, who would want to hurt Eric Lang.
And oh my god she rests her hand on his arm. It’s simply astonishing that they’ve never done this before. It’s kind of the best thing ever.
As he hurries her out the door — two Junior Detectives, on their very first case — he reaches up and holds her arm.
And this, right here, this very second — this is where Dark Shadows really begins.
Now, ordinarily, I would have ended today’s post right there, but the next sequence includes a harpoon attack, and I’m only human. There isn’t nearly enough domestic harpooning on network daytime television, and I can’t let this one go by without a word of appreciation.
Roger, acting under Angelique’s mysterious influence, comes to Dr. Lang’s home, and asks for an emergency checkup — he believes that he’s in terrible danger of having a stroke.
Then Roger gets sidetracked, and says, “I was just noticing your harpoon collection,” which is one of the greatest conversation starters of all time. It has been my dream for many years that someday I will have the opportunity to work that into a conversation. I was just noticing your harpoon collection. Someday, perhaps. A man can dream.
And then — because this is Dark Shadows, and love is in the air — we get a sequence where a man tries to kill his doctor, wielding one of the doctor’s own harpoons.
I’m pretty sure that this scene is utterly unique in the history of American theatre, unless there’s been some kind of off-off-Broadway black-box production of Moby Dick performed entirely by actors who have been smoking pot since sunrise.
He doesn’t go through with it, because apparently there is still a limit on what you can get away with on afternoon television. Barnabas and Julia arrive, and Roger just goes limp; for now, at least, the spell is broken.
Julia leads Roger out of the room and out to the car, leaving Barnabas to talk to Dr. Lang about the close shave he just had. Barnabas and Julia don’t confer with each other before they split off; they’re in perfect synch with each other, and they don’t need to discuss the details. They act like they’ve done this dozens of times, just cleaning up after harpooning incidents.
After it all blows over, Julia and Barnabas return to Collinwood, and Julia says, “I could use a drink. How about you?” And it hits you again, right in the feels.
One year ago, Willie Loomia broke into the chained coffin, unleashing a vicious ghoul on the unsuspecting citizens of Collinsport. Look how far we’ve come.
Tomorrow: The Twin Dilemma.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Dr. Lang tells Roger, “Well, I’m certain that you’re convinced that you’ve heard your voice, but, uh — heard this voice, but what puzzles me is why — why didn’t you consult your family doctor?” At that moment, someone in the studio coughs. There are more muffled coughs sporadically over the duration of the scene.
When Roger offers Professor Stokes the portrait of Angelique, Stokes says, “I don’t understand, Miss Collins. Mr. Collins. I thought Miss Winters was determined to keep it.”
Behind the Scenes:
Professor’ Stokes house is a redressed version of the caretaker’s cottage that Matthew Morgan lived in, back in 1966. Thayer David played both Matthew and Stokes, so that’s a nice little correspondence.
Oddly, this is another set where a visitor rings the bell, Stokes gets up and answers the door — and Roger is standing in a hallway. It’s apparently an interior door.
Also, there’s a Ralston-Purina lamp in Stokes’ house. I am informed by expert prop-spotter Prisoner of the Night that it’s not the same lamp as the one we see in the Collinwood study in tomorrow’s episode — it’s got a different base. I thought there was only one Ralston-Purina lamp, but PotN sees all. You can also see the barometer that was originally in Roger’s office, and has been seen lately in the Collinwood study.
Tomorrow: The Twin Dilemma.
— Danny Horn