“If Cassandra is still alive, why is Trask’s skeleton hanging in the basement of the Old House?”
Barnabas and Julia spent most of yesterday’s episode speculating like mad about whether the spirit of Reverend Trask actually succeeded in banishing Cassandra.
Today — as Elizabeth is quietly packed off to Windcliff, following a sorcery-assisted suicide attempt — the Junior Detective squad still continues to treat this question as an emergency stop-press concern.
“If Cassandra is still alive,” Julia says, “why is Trask’s skeleton hanging in the basement of the Old House?” The great thing about a question like this is that you can keep on asking it for days and days, and never get any closer to an answer. This is a good way to kill time on your television show, if you have one.
So we’re a few minutes deep into the latest round of this panel discussion, when Barnabas suddenly brightens up, and says, “Julia — why didn’t we think? Professor Stokes!”
Julia gives him a huge smile. “Of course!” she grins. “Well, you must call him!”
Then they dash to the phone, as if this was actually a plot point. Barnabas dials, and Julia stands by and frets.
“Ask him if we can see him tonight,” she says. “Oh, if he’s only home!”
There’s no real urgency about this. Trask has, in fact, banished Cassandra to the nether realms; the only problem is that he didn’t bother to leave a note explaining where he’d put her. Professor Stokes won’t be able to tell them anything anyway; he doesn’t have any more information than they do.
It’s like the show is saying, here’s how these people behave when all they’re doing is making a phone call. This is the new baseline.
So the phone rings over at Stokes’ place, and look who answers — it’s Stokes’ new personal assistant, Adam the patchwork Frankenstein man.
Adam was brought to life by Barnabas and Julia a little while ago, and he’s spent the last four weeks basically running amuck. His reign of terror ended a few days ago, when Stokes brought him home, and apparently he’s now being trained to work in a call center.
Unfortunately, Adam doesn’t know how to take a message yet, so he just stares at the receiver and fumes. He hears Barnabas’ voice coming out of the contraption, and it doesn’t bring back a lot of happy memories. They had kind of a bad breakup recently, somewhere around the third or fourth time Barnabas decided that Adam Must Be Destroyed.
Barnabas isn’t getting a lot out of this interaction, so he finally hangs up, and now the Junior Detectives have a whole new mystery to discuss. Julia is convinced that something’s happened to Stokes, which is a good guess. Something’s happened to a lot of people on this show.
But things start to perk up at Stokes’ place, where they’re doing the Universal Monsters version of My Fair Lady.
The Professor walks in and says, “Good evening, Adam.”
Adam smiles, and says, “Good evening, Professor.”
So, damn. I guess these two have been keeping themselves busy. Adam was a confused savage when Stokes befriended him three episodes ago. He only knew a handful of nouns — mostly Food, Friend and Paintbrush — and a few simple phrases, including Kill Barnabas, Kill Maggie, and Willie hurt Adam. That’s not the typical early-learning vocabulary, but Adam’s had kind of a rough childhood.
Professor Stokes has the magical ability granted to all true eccentrics in fiction, which is the power to bend reality around his own personal preferences. Adam can’t possibly go on a murderous rampage when he’s in this house; Stokes simply wouldn’t stand for it. He’d probably go and put on his most severe monocle, and then raise an eyebrow until Adam pulled himself together and apologized.
So — because this is Dark Shadows, where they take their eccentricity seriously — we now have the astonishing spectacle of an occult expert using flash cards to teach an enormous corpse-monster how to read.
And the unholy amalgamation of undead flesh is absolutely delighted; we’ve never seen him so happy. It just goes to show what you can accomplish when you don’t chain people up in the basement and eat their chicken.
Adam just sits there and grins, as he reads Car! and Dish! and Clock! Apparently, the curriculum is still focusing pretty heavily on the nouns.
Adam can even read the word “telephone”, which is odd, because we just saw that he doesn’t know how to use one yet. But he probably doesn’t know how to drive a car, either. Man, I can’t wait for that episode.
Adam reads the word “dictionary” off a card, and Stokes says, “Do you know what a dictionary is?”
Adam walks over to the bookshelf and picks up the dictionary. “This!”
Stokes: Yes! Now, what is in it?
Stokes: Right! All the words.
Oh, it’s the cutest thing. Adam recites the alphabet, and the two of them are just having a whale of a time. They could do this all day, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t really understand the curriculum standards, but they’re adorable together.
Unfortunately, at this point, there’s a knock at the door, and Stokes tells Adam to go hide in the other room.
Once the monster is safely hidden away, the Junior Detectives pile in and give Stokes an update on the Cassandra/Trask situation. It feels like that storyline is over, and now they just have to fill out the paperwork.
So they sip sherry, and speculate. Personally, I wouldn’t have a glass of sherry at Stokes’ place for all the money in the world, but I guess some people like to live dangerously.
Julia asks Stokes, “Do you think we should hold another séance and try to reach Trask again?”
Barnabas says, “That wouldn’t… be a very logical thing to do,” in that marvelous tone that means that Jonathan Frid has decided to make another impromptu dialogue revision. I wonder what that line was supposed to have been, and who was supposed to have said it. Well, there’s no use crying over it now.
Then Stokes wonders what’s become of Angelique’s portrait, which they learned has some kind of magical connection to Cassandra. When Sam made alterations to the portrait, Cassandra’s appearance changed — so it’s possible that if Cassandra’s been destroyed, the portrait would reflect that somehow. Maybe. The occult isn’t an exact science.
And so the long day wears on. It’s a very laid-back episode today, just kind of drifting from one scene to another with no real urgency. We already know the answer to the big question — yes, Trask performed an exorcism on Cassandra — so we might as well just let the Junior Detectives investigate.
The fourth act is about Julia keeping Roger busy in the drawing room, while Barnabas searches the bedroom for Angelique’s portrait. He can’t find it, so he comes back downstairs, and it turns out the portrait was in the drawing room the whole time. The whole episode is kind of a shaggy dog story, which doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere in particular.
Oh, except for this. There’s a knock at the door, and they find a nattily-dressed man, who greets Roger with a warm smile.
“Ah, Mr. Collins,” the stranger says. “What a pleasure! I’ve looked forward to this moment ever since I first heard of your marriage.”
The boys look confused, and the man introduces himself: “I’m Nicholas Blair — Cassandra’s brother!”
Then there’s a big dramatic sting, and if that isn’t a great cliffhanger, then you might as well go and make one up yourself.
Tomorrow: Brother From Another.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Barnabas and Roger seem exceptionally off-script. At one point, Barnabas says, “Well, Elizabeth has thought herself as Naomi Collins; surely, that can’t be true.”
A little after that, Roger says, “It can’t be true, can it? I mean, these feelings don’t mean anything.” Barnabas answers, “We must trust not.” Then, frowning, he adds, “We will hope not.”
In act 2, when Stokes sits down on the couch, a person’s shadow can be seen moving by the door.
After Stokes hands Barnabas his sherry, a boom mic appears overhead for a moment.
In act 4, Barnabas and Julia enter Collinwood, and walk towards the drawing room. A stagehand’s arm can be seen behind them, opening the front door. Immediately after that, Barnabas asks Roger, “How’s Elizabeth, Rod?”
As the credits begin, someone is standing by the chair at the right of the screen. The person quickly moves out of the shot.
Behind the Scenes:
My favorite Dark Shadows prop, the Ralston-Purina lamp, makes another appearance. The lamp is usually seen in the Collinwood study, but it’s also popped up in random places around town. Today, it’s in Roger’s room.
Tomorrow: Brother From Another.
— Danny Horn