Episode 503: Lock Her Up

“I promise, no harm will come to you.”

Sproat: Threat, or menace? That is the question on the table.

Ron Sproat is part of the Dark Shadows writing team, and unfortunately, he’s not the good part. He’s the guy who thinks it’s okay to not do anything interesting on Wednesday, so you can save up the plot movement for Friday — and if not this Friday, then maybe next Friday.

Sproat’s other noticeable failing is his obsession with locking women and children up in a room and then just leaving them there. Just in the last year, he’s confined Maggie and Vicki for several months each, plus Josette for a few days and David for a week.

At the moment, we’ve got Adam, our new Frankenstein monster, who’s closed his first official rampage by kidnapping Carolyn and bringing her to an abandoned root cellar somewhere in the woods.

Yesterday, Sam Hall wrote the episode that brought Carolyn to the root cellar, and then who leaves her there for two days? Mr. Ron “I Never Met a Lock I Didn’t Like” Sproat.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn root cellar

So, yeah. Here we are. The root cellar.

Now, the audience knows that Adam isn’t a bad guy. The show has spent the last two and a half weeks establishing that he’s a toddler trapped in a big, clumsy monster body, driven entirely by loneliness, hope and hurt feelings. But his status as a plot driver depends on his capacity to create thrilling chaos, which is a tricky balance to hit.

We’re still expected to see him as a misunderstood innocent, so he needs a good reason to capture and restrain Carolyn. They’ve decided that he’s suddenly fallen in love with her, and — like any awkward adolescent experiencing his first crush — he’s made her fear for her life.

Carolyn is begging her enormous kidnapper for mercy. “Please let me go,” she says, as quiet and calm as she can be. “Whoever you are. No harm will come to you.” And all he can do is wave his hands around, the big sap.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn touch

Carolyn sits down on a box, exhausted. He approaches, and touches her face. It’s the standard King Kong playbook.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn get away

She cries, “Get away from me!” and rushes to the far wall, doing anything she can to appear small. Once again, Nancy Barrett is defying the victim girl imperative to look sexy in captivity, which I for one appreciate.

503 dark shadows carolyn hurt

Afraid of triggering another show of force, she explains, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I just didn’t know you were going to touch me like that.” She makes herself as flat against the wall as she possibly can. “You’re not going to hurt me, are you? Please don’t hurt me. Please?”

503 dark shadows adam carolyn still

Stymied, he walks around the room, sputtering and trying to communicate. She stays absolutely, perfectly still, tight up against the wall as he pivots around, gesturing at nothing in particular.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn enough

It’s not until he turns his head that she lets out the breath she’s been holding, and allows herself a moment to rest.

It’s really a very good performance. Obviously, this isn’t great theater — it’s a cheap, rushed and increasingly weird daytime soap opera — but she is absolutely perfect for the job that she is currently holding.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn rock

And then — because this is Dark Shadows, and there’s always something crazy to try, even stuck in the root cellar — Carolyn picks up a big rock.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn worth a try

And she tries to smack him on the head with it. Because Carolyn Stoddard is amazing.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn oops

It doesn’t work, obviously, because you can’t just go around bashing plot points in the head like that. They just built this whole root cellar set; there’s no way we’re getting out halfway through the episode.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn fail

But I would suggest that it’s this moment — this very second, right here — that Adam stops working as a concept.

I’ve been really enjoying Adam for the last several weeks, because he’s mostly been adorable. For one thing, he’s huge and handsome, and he manhandles things in a way that I personally find rather compelling. But Robert Rodan has also done a good job of using his face and body to show us Adam’s interior journey. Even with just a few scattered words, he’s been the most emotionally coherent character on the show.

But here? I have to say, I have no idea what he’s doing, and it’s pretty clear that Rodan doesn’t either. I mean, I get that he’s supposed to have a crush on Carolyn. Who wouldn’t? Carolyn is phenomenal. But he needs a good reason to keep her locked up in this room all week, and the script isn’t providing him with one.

503 dark shadows adam music

Desperate for a new escape route, Carolyn tells him that she wants to be his friend. He gets all smiley and says, “Friend!” which is cute.

Then he says “Music!” and “Food!” and I honestly don’t know what he’s trying to do.

Robert Rodan is really trying to make this work, just as hard as Nancy Barrett is. But she has the advantage of playing a character who has a good reason for being here, and he doesn’t.

503 dark shadows adam carolyn heap

Then he accidentally knocks her unconscious, like you do. And she even lies on the ground in a Feminine Death Heap, which is disappointing, since they avoided that cliche so efficiently yesterday.

503 dark shadows adam imperative

And then he leaves her there, for no particular reason. You’d think that if he has warm feelings for her, he’d stay there and try to revive her. Instead, he says “Food!” and leaves the room.

And on his way out, he puts a heavy rock outside the door, to keep her locked in. It’s not at all clear why he does this, except that this is a Ron Sproat script and I TOLD YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN.

Tomorrow: The Ladykiller.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In the teaser, Julia and Willie talk over each other. Julia says, “That’s it, isn’t it?” as Willie’s saying, “How do you know?”

Julia explains the Dream Curse to Willie, which he already knows all about. He had a long conversation with Barnabas about it last week, in episode 498.

At the end of the episode, Julia tells Willie, “I know what you’re going through, because I went through it. I know what having that dream is life.”


Behind the Scenes:

Vince O’Brien returns as Sheriff George Patterson for another five episodes. O’Brien was last seen in the role in September 1967. The Sheriff has also been played by Dana Elcar and Angus Cairns, and there’s a fourth one coming up later.

Tomorrow: The Ladykiller.

503 dark shadows carolyn rock

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

8 thoughts on “Episode 503: Lock Her Up

  1. How long has Ron Sproat been writing for DS?? There’s an upcoming episode which I swore was a scene for scene re-enactment of a much earlier episode when Vicki originally gets kidnapped by Matthew Morgan. In the scene VIcki’s lawyer boyfriend (Frank Garner) goes to Collinwood and discusses the situation at length with Liz, then they proceed to search the grounds together. Lo and behold this time around it was Carolyn’s lawyer boyfriend (Tony Peterson) having said conversation with Liz before they explore the grounds together. Was Sproat around during the ‘Garner’ era? It just felt like deja-vu…

  2. I kind of see Adam as running through his vocabulary like a parrot. She happens on a word he knows “Friend” and shows off by saying his other words too. They are just lucky he doesn’t say Barnabas.

    My only thought about why Adam locks her in there, except for the fact that Sproat always locks people in somewhere, is that he really doesn’t understand there is anything wrong with her. He didn’t come with a memory loaded. I don’t suppose he knows knocked out and that something is wrong. Sleep he knows. To him it may look like she’s asleep so she won’t do anything of interest soon, but he doesn’t want her leaving either so he locks her in.

    And do they address what this is a root cellar to? A root cellar is normally near a house and if it’s within shouting distance of either Collinwood or the Old House, you’d assume someone would hear. Root cellars also tend to be underground since that’s what keeps them cool, but it doesn’t look like this one is.

    1. It’s hard to say, just from looking at the set. It looks like it’s kind of built into a hill. There’s no sense of where it is, in relationship to anything else. I think they just call it “the abandoned root cellar”. They might mention a farm, but I can’t remember offhand.

  3. In Ron Sproat’s defense, I think I heard an interview with Jonathan Frid that Sproat was very familiar with Frid’s work and the whole concept that, no matter how evil a character is, in the actor’s expression in words or actions to somehow show some element of good, no matter how small. Frid played that well with Barnabus, and Sproat supposedly wrote to that, advocated for that in the DS scripts. In regular soaps, if anyone is totally evil, they die. But if you have a character who is evil, but somehow has elements of good too (and vice versa), they stay around and stick around — the character becomes more interesting to the story and to the show itself. Sproat’s legacy is more than just “lock ’em up” stuff.

  4. The stuff about “friend” “music” “food” is lifted from the 2nd Frankenstein movie (Bride of Frankenstein 1935), where they decided to pay some tribute to the novel, in that Frankenstein’s monster did learn to speak and appreciate the finer things in life. In “Bride”, the monster goes to a blind man’s house, attracted by the sound of a violin. The man can’t see him so he’s not repulsed by him as most people are, and shares his food with him, and music, and wine, and cigars. The monster learns to say things like “food”, and “friend” and “good”.

    Also, it’s really frustrating that they don’t just get Willie to lead them to Carolyn. Because of the dream curse, he will be able to find her, no matter what. Then they could restrain him to prevent him from telling her about the dream. But no. They want the thing about her being locked up to go on and on.

  5. I realize that we are ignoring the dream curse. (I had suppressed what happened in Willie’s dream before he told Julia about it.) But isn’t this the episode where Willie tells Julia that the wild dog in his dream isn’t human? That’s just nutty dialogue.

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