Episode 500: Really Big Brother

“If you’re gonna believe that thing who can’t even talk before you believe me, I don’t have to stay here.”

Willie Loomis: World traveler, grave robber, handyman, mental patient — and always a survivor. He’s been bitten, beaten, shot in the back and thrown under the bus. And now he faces his greatest challenge: Babysitter of the Damned.

493 dark shadows smoke adam willie

In his original run on the show, Willie was a tormented soul, following around after the vampire and worrying about all the people who were going to get hurt. Willie was the only one who knew all the terrible secrets of the Old House, and he was desperate to stop things before they got completely out of control. For his pains, he was shipped off to a mental institution for the crimes that Barnabas committed.

Now Willie’s back on the show, and he’s a bit more slap-happy this time. He’s not the only one who knows the vampire’s secrets anymore — in fact, he doesn’t really have any idea what’s going on. He doesn’t know who Angelique is, he doesn’t understand the Dream Curse, and he’s only vaguely aware of where this second-hand Frankenstein came from.

Somehow, while he was away, Barnabas and Julia built themselves an insane little nuclear family, and all of a sudden, Willie’s cast in the role of the delinquent older brother.

500 dark shadows adam willie sparkle

Now, the other day, when Willie was first put on nanny duty, he was terrified of Adam, as he should be. Adam is a giant corpse monster stitched together from an indeterminate number of regular-sized corpse monsters. He’s inhumanly strong, completely unpredictable, and there’s a very good chance that he’s going to burn down a windmill someday.

But if there’s one thing that Willie’s good at, it’s getting used to monsters. By now, fear has turned to contempt — for Adam, for Barnabas, and, to be honest, for himself. This is not the life that Willie wanted.

500 dark shadows adam willie brother

Barnabas comes downstairs to the basement dungeon where he keeps all of his failed experiments, and catches Willie teasing Adam with a shiny bracelet.

This comes from a secret cache of priceless family heirlooms hidden behind a secret panel in the walls of the dungeon. This makes absolute perfect sense, because if you build a mansion that has a jail cell in the basement, then obviously that’s the most logical place to store your valuables. I mean, that’s just good architecture.

Caught with his hand in the antique cookie jar, Willie claims that Adam found the jewels on his own.

“I don’t think Adam agrees with you, Willie,” Barnabas says. “I don’t think he believes you any more than I do.” Adam doesn’t look like he wants to get involved.

500 adam willie believe

So Willie has a display of teenage temper, along the lines of “I didn’t ask to be born, you know.”

Willie:  Okay, I quit. If you’re gonna believe that thing who can’t even talk before you believe me, I don’t have to stay here.

Barnabas:  Don’t you? Where will you go, Willie? Back to Windcliff?

500 dark shadows barnabas willie babysit

Barnabas returns the bracelet to the jewel box.

Willie:  Ya know, I wouldn’t have even come outta Windcliff, if I’d known that I was just gonna have ta babysit for him.

Barnabas:  And you’re doing a very poor job of that, judging by this.

Willie:  Well, why do you always take everybody else’s side, and never mine?

It’s adorable. You honestly can never tell what Willie’s going to be like in a given episode. Sometimes it’s Our Town, and sometimes it’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Today, he’s the troubled teen from an educational short about juvenile delinquency.

500 dark shadows barnabas willie tough

And things are about to get tough for Willie, because Barnabas has noticed that Josette’s emerald earrings are missing from the box. Last week, Willie stole those earrings and gave them to Maggie, for reasons that only he understands.

Barnabas wants to know what happened to them, and Willie, bless his heart, tries to pin the blame on the monster.

“Maybe he was, uh, he was playin’ with them,” Willie says, “and, uh, maybe he put them in his pocket.”

Barnabas says, “Well, it would be very simple to find that out.”

“Maybe he even dropped ’em on the floor!”  Willie cries, and starts scrambling around under the cot.

500 dark shadows rocky horror

This is not a well-thought-out plan. Willie, sweetheart, what is your endgame here? This is a tiny little basement cell. What are you going to say when you run out of places to look, which should happen sometime in the next eighteen seconds?

He ate them? He’s planning to open a jewelry store? He’s secretly a transvestite, and he’s preparing for an early production of The Rocky Horror Show?

500 dark shadows adam willie cell

Luckily, Barnabas is suddenly called away on important vampire business, so Willie’s off the hook for now. But when he comes downstairs later in the evening with Adam’s supper, he’s in a sullen mood.

“Don’t you growl at me,” Willie sneers. “I brought ya your snack. Ten o’clock feedin’ for the baby.”

500 dark shadows willie adam old house

Adam’s leg is still chained to the wall — and as he lunges for the plate, Willie comes up with another brilliant idea. Adam’s been learning new words, and maybe he can learn some more.

500 dark shadows willie adam cute

Willie picks up a chicken leg, and holds it just out of Adam’s reach. Adam’s confused, and cries out, “Barnabas. Barnabas!”

Willie:  That word don’t do nothin’ for me. You may get what you want from him by sayin’ that, but you better learn to say somethin’ different for me! You want the food? Huh? Say “I”.

500 dark shadows willie stole

And just look at John Karlen. He’s taunting a monster with a chicken leg, and his eyes are lighting up with the intensity of a man who’s just decided that today he’s doing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Willie:  Say: “I… stole.” Stole! Stole!

Adam just grunts, reaching for the chicken.

Willie:  Come on, what’s the matter with you, can’t you even say “stole”?

500 dark shadows willie adam dinner

And now they’re just screaming at each other.

Willie:  Stole! Stole! STOLE! Oh — you, STOP it, now!

500 dark shadows willie strut

And then he struts across the room, dangling the chicken leg, and at this point, I don’t even know what play he’s doing. He’s in a whole other place.

Willie:  Now, you look here. You’re supposed to learn somethin’ new every day, that’s what his highness, Mr. Barnabas Collins, said. And today, you know what you gotta learn? You gotta learn to say, “I – stole – the earrings!” Come on, now! You say that or I’m gonna eat this, you got that?

500 dark shadows willie adam dinner

So that’s our television show today. An angry Bayou babysitter, torturing a Frankenstein monster by eating a chicken leg at him. I believe that may be a first for daytime TV. Willie Loomis is always breaking new ground; that’s why I love him.

Monday: Say My Name.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the end of yesterday’s episode, Cassandra took her portrait off of Sam’s easel and carried it away, leaving Sam wandering around the room blind. Today, when Maggie enters, the easel has moved to another position, and there’s a different painting on it.

After Willie suggests that the earrings might be in Adam’s bed, there’s a chair scraping sound from the studio.

Julia clearly has no idea how to use the opthalmoscope. She just waves it in front of Sam’s eyes for a few seconds, and makes her diagnosis. A few minutes later, she tells Barnabas that “the optic nerve has been damaged,” and “the nerve ends are pale now.”

The music sound effect isn’t quite synched with Adam turning off the tape recorder.

Adam is supposed to be straining to reach Willie and the chicken leg, but the chain is clearly hanging limp. The set isn’t really large enough for Willie to hold the food out of Adam’s reach, so they just pretend.

When Willie makes his exit through the cell door and Adam follows, the wall wobbles.

Upstairs, Adam pounces on Willie, and then they obviously “freeze” for a second as the camera cuts to Barnabas and Julia approaching the front door.

Robert Rodan (Adam) isn’t listed in the credits.

Behind the Scenes:

In an interview recorded for the Dark Shadows DVD set (disc #57), Robert Rodan mentions this as a special favorite of his: “Johnny Karlen and I had some wonderful, wonderful moments together, particularly in the early times when I was chained in the basement. If anybody remembers that particular scene with the chicken leg, where John was tantalizing me — Willie, that is — tantalized me with that chicken leg. We just had such a wonderful time with that.”

Monday: Say My Name.

500 dark shadows adam willie attack

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

18 thoughts on “Episode 500: Really Big Brother

  1. Sam Hall never wrote for the original Willie but he seems to have tapped into who that character was before releasing Barnabas: He was a two-bit con prone to violence. There was great potential to use him as an unpredictable antagonistic force precisely because he was no longer under Barnabas’s control and had every reason to resent “his highness.”

    1. Unless I’m missing something, Willie’s change in character makes perfect sense to me. Since he is no longer a Barnabas’ control, he is reverting back to what he was before he unchained Barnabas, with his mind a little screwed up.

  2. In reality, Willie could have left Barbabas and Julia’s employ at that time if he really wanted to. Barnabas was no longer a vampire with ‘control’ over him and Willie could have used Adam as ammunition against Julia sending him back to Windcliff. I loved the interaction between John Karlen and Dennis Patrick (Jason McGuire) – those two could have had a spin-off show relating to their globe trotting adventures. It’s a shame that when Dennis Patrick came back to the show as Paul Stoddard they had no interaction between him and Willie. I’m sure the two would have been acquainted being that they were both friends of Jason and would have probably moved in the same circles working their scams around the world.

  3. When Maggie arrives at the Old House to fetch Barnabas, Julia lets her in. Maggie says that her dad wants Barnabas, but he actually needs Julia more. There’s an obvious major edit right there, and then Julia says she’ll go get Barnabas.

    When Willie is opening the door to the dungeon when he’s bringing Adam the chicken, the camera pans back too far and we see the edge of the set–we can actually see that in the photo you’ve posted here.

    When Willie and Adam run upstairs toward the end of the episode and Willie tries to escape Adam through the front door, he rams into it so hard (and then Adam does, too) that the whole wall shakes–it almost looks like the set is going to collapse.

  4. One other minor thing–you note that Adam is not listed in the credits at the end, which is ironic since the end credits are extra long today–stretched out to a whole one minute and forty-five seconds.

  5. They have white candles in the Old House now! Did they run out of blue ones? How long has that been going on?

    I noticed the fake plastic ones in the New House foyer a couple of episodes ago, but only because they had a, um, interesting shape… I’ve not been paying close attention to the real ones in Barnabas’s drawing room…

    Sam says the crazy old lady told him he’d never finish the painting, when really she taunted him with “just you try it”. But he’s in shock, unable to see his paintings, his daughter’s face, or the teleprompter, and is played by David Ford, so it’s an understandable slip.

  6. I just like that Willie has a tie on, he looks so much more responsible now.

    Eh, what’s with all the chains dangling from the ceiling in the dungeon room? Were those there when Maggie was Barnabas’ guest? (Granted, they do make some cool shadows across the walls and floor – one might even say ‘miraculously’, since the candle and lantern illuminating the room are both BELOW the chains.) Well, you can’t have a proper dungeon without chains, I guess.

  7. I don’t like Willie being mean to Adam. But I am impressed by Willie’s blue shirt. How fashion forward of him to not wear a white shirt! And Adam attacking Daddy! Oh no!

  8. They’re seriously under-feeding that boy. First it was a thimble full of broth a few episodes ago, now it’s a chicken leg the size of his thumb. Maybe if he’s a good boy he’ll get a fun size Snickers bar for dessert.

  9. That whole scene with Adam chasing Willie around the house made me laugh so much. And then that dramatic strangly ending…what a perfect episode 500.

  10. Julia whipping out the ophthalmoscope and doing the most cursory of examinations on Sam Evans and then making her diagnostic pronouncement is, well, priceless.

    So is David Ford’s attempting to act “blind” and fall over the stool and furniture. Looks like we’re in for some great episodes of Sam trying to teach himself to paint by braille or something equally cockamamie. Yes, we are being treated to some really perverse behavior on the part of Cassandra and even Willie. The taunting of the monster just doesn’t pass the smell test. It comes off annoying and sophomoric and a complete waste of time. However, you gotta love the way everyone came from the cell to the basement, up the stairs and into the main living room within about 5 seconds! Those sets must all be very close to each other.

    1. I was just thinking about this episode yesterday, and today get a new comment below my old one. Definitely a sign I need to rewatch it today! I love that chase scene into the living room.

  11. They were Josette’s emerald earrings? I could have sworn I saw them on Joan Bennett, though it may not have been as Naomi. I remember noticing because they were huge and beautiful and I thought they would have been a fortune if they were real. Willie really went for the best.

  12. Isn’t that the same secret panel that Maggie escaped through? The one that leads to the beach? Sort of a weird place to store your valuables.

  13. Maggie has a short scene at the beginning here wearing one of my favorite dresses of hers. I always wondered if the males really wore suits and ties just staying at home. Barnabas pretty much always had on a double breasted suit. Very snappy.

  14. John Karlen is just great in this episode. Taunting him with a chicken leg!! I love his scenes with Adam. His rough treatment of Adam makes Adam that much more tragic. Then Barnabas beats Adam. Just pathetic. How awful!!

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