“I think explanations are so absurd, don’t you?”
“Barnabas, why do these things keep happening?” Vicki says. Barnabas sighs, and says, “One mistake can multiply into a thousand,” which is not that much of an answer.
But things certainly do keep happening, if by “things” you mean time travel and blood transfusions and dream sequences and harpoon attacks. And why would you ever mean anything else?
Unfortunately, the thing that isn’t happening is that Julia’s not on the show today, so she’s not available to play Junior Detectives with Barnabas, the way that they did yesterday. Today, he has to pair up with Vicki, and it’s like they sucked all the fun out of the room.
Yesterday’s post was pretty much a non-stop squee-fest about Barnabas and Julia’s relationship, which suddenly blossomed into a remarkably intimate friendship, all at once. They were drawn together by a mutual concern about Roger, and before you know it, Barnabas was telling Julia all of his secrets.
Barnabas and Julia brainstormed a bit on Roger’s problems, and then they went out together and rescued Dr. Lang from an assassination attempt. They also touched each other on the arm a lot. It was an emotionally satisfying day.
And, man — I know that Barnabas says that he’s romantically interested in Vicki and not in Julia, but check out the body language on display right now. He spends most of the scene holding his cane awkwardly in front of him, drawing his shoulders together and crossing his hands over his crotch. You can’t get much clearer than that. No sale.
He’s also a lot more restrained with the telling-secrets behavior. He keeps telling Vicki part of the truth about Roger, but then backs off at the last moment.
Barnabas: Julia and I saw him last night, at Dr. Lang’s.
Vicki: Is he sick?
Barnabas: I don’t know. Perhaps he is, but in a way that Dr. Lang cannot treat. He was most peculiar… and that’s all I want to say.
He looks down for a moment, and then he just goes on with another part of the story, as if “that’s all I want to say” is a perfectly normal way to end a sentence.
Vicki tries to press for a direct answer.
Vicki: Barnabas, you know something I don’t.
Barnabas: Well, perhaps I have a greater intuition about what is wrong… than you.
He kind of drifts off at the end there, like even he has to admit that’s not a very good explanation. The body language is getting even more awkward and extreme. Is there anyone in the audience who still takes a Barnabas/Vicki romance seriously?
Fortunately, at this point some new excitement walks in the door. Roger’s come back, and he has big news for everyone.
Roger: Vicki! Ask Mrs. Johnson to bring in some champagne, will you?
Roger: Yes, my dear sister! We have much to celebrate!
Roger: In a moment, you will see.
And then: look what the cat drags in.
Roger: Here we are. Now, if I may, I would like you all — to meet my wife.
Yes! It’s Angelique’s classic supervillain trick of coming back from the dead just when you least expect it. In fact, this is such a great trick that they’ve done it four times in the last three months.
But this ta-DAH! is the best by far, possibly the best one that they ever do. Since Angelique died — at Barnabas’ hand, obviously — she’s made regular return visits as an avenging spirit. Those were fun — it’s always a good time when the insane supervillain is around — but they felt a bit like cheating, especially her entirely unmotivated appearance at Vicki’s witch trial.
This time, it’s a complete knockout. Over the last couple weeks, we’ve had every reason to think that Angelique is actually dead, and will only appear in the 20th century as a haunted portrait. She’s been able to bend Roger to her will, and Barnabas’ attempts to destroy the portrait have failed. They could have just used the sound effect cart of her laughter, with the occasional disembodied head floating around.
But here she is — alive and unbothered, wearing a black wig and calling herself Cassandra — and she’s maneuvered herself right into the heart of present-day Collinwood. This is a stunning sneak attack; even Barnabas doesn’t live at Collinwood.
And yes, it’s Angelique, obviously. I’m not going to even bother with the idea that this is a “spoiler”, because anybody with common sense and televisual literacy can tell that this wide-eyed crazyface couldn’t belong to anyone but the freak from Martinique. They keep the mystery alive all the way up until the end of today’s episode, and we’ll get an explicit confirmation tomorrow.
Remarkably, this throws away some valuable story time. They could easily have spent a month pretending that the audience doesn’t know the big secret — they actually do that story with Angelique and a twin sister in early 1970, and it works. But right now, there’s so much fun to be had with the genuine article, standing here in the drawing room and driving Barnabas absolutely out of his mind.
Because it’s all about secrets, really. Characters who share secrets are always more interesting, especially if the secrets are shared with the audience. If we were supposed to think that this scene is actually what it appears to be — Roger coming home with an ordinary gold-digging soap vixen — then there would be no reason to do big act-break close-ups and dramatic stings. It’s the secret history between Barnabas and Angelique that makes this an emotionally charged situation.
So we lose the question of “Is Cassandra really Angelique”, but then we move on to more interesting questions, like “What is she planning to do?” and “Can Barnabas expose her without giving himself away?” and “Is Roger evil now?” Everything is different.
The strongest characters on the show — Barnabas, Julia, Angelique, and eventually Quentin — are all people who can completely change the story just by walking into a room unexpectedly. Those characters have a private agenda in every scene; it’s impossible to imagine a Julia scene that we’re supposed to take at face value. If Liz and Julia have a quiet conversation about David, we always assume that Julia’s got an angle. It can’t just be a straight recap scene, as it would be for Carolyn, or Joe.
But Barnabas is still keeping his secrets from Vicki, so the Barnabas/Vicki scene just collapsed in the middle of the conversation. He drifted off into “that’s all I want to say,” and Vicki let it drop.
This is the thing that people miss when they talk about soap opera couples. Two characters don’t have to be in love with each other to be a “couple” — although they often are, which is why people think that’s the definition.
Two characters are a “couple” when a scene with them together is way more interesting than a scene with them apart. It makes absolutely no difference whether they love each other, or hate each other, or they’re partners, or best friends. Kirk and Spock are a couple. Ernie and Bert are a couple.
Barnabas and Julia never have an explicitly romantic storyline, but they’re a very important couple — one of the two most enduring supercouples on the whole show. Barnabas and Angelique is the other one.
And now all three of them are in the house at the same time. Isn’t life thrilling?
Tomorrow: You Only Live Twice.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
A logic puzzle: Angelique has clearly fed Roger the idea of a honeymoon in Martinique; he couldn’t have come up with that on his own. But then she spends an episode and a half trying to convince him to postpone the trip. Why’d she put it in his head in the first place?
Barnabas tries to remember his line about trying to remember things:
Barnabas: Vicki, do you trust me?
Vicki: You know I do.
Barnabas: I try to remember that. Just as I try to remember… that I must not reproach you for the reasons you’ve given not to marry me.
Towards the end of act 2, the drawing room scene ends with Cassandra smiling innocently at Barnabas, before cutting to Roger and Liz in the study. But the shot lingers on Cassandra longer than she expects, and you can see her quickly glance over to the camera to see if it’s still focused on her.
Roger and Liz appear to have forgotten about Liz’s aborted wedding to con man Jason McGuire:
Roger: I don’t think I owe you an explanation. Would you owe me one, if you decided to remarry?
Liz: I most certainly would.
Behind the Scenes:
Dark Shadows reruns began airing on local stations in 1975, with the first six months of the Barnabas storyline (episodes 210 to 340) released in syndication. In 1976, another 130 episodes were released — episodes 341 to 472, bringing the show through the 1795 flashback. At that point, the reruns stopped.
The company that distributed the series, Worldvision Enterprises, had to pay substantial residual payments to the actors, writers and directors when each new six-month cycle was made available, and it was only cost-effective to release another cycle when a significant number of local stations wanted to air them. There weren’t enough stations interested in Dark Shadows in 1976 to release more episodes, so the stations that ran the show got to episode 472, and then abruptly stopped.
In the early 80s, Worldvision started to promote the show again, with a number of NBC affiliates airing the show in 1981 and 1982, including WNBC-TV, the flagship station in New York. To make the show more attractive to stations, Worldvision started releasing more new episodes in 1983. The second year of syndication started with this episode, and continued to episode 735, through the first few weeks of the 1897 storyline.
Tomorrow: You Only Live Twice.
— Danny Horn