“If I had known you were going to pursue your usual nonsense, I would never have come downstairs.”
Okay, there’s just one more week of the Dream Curse, one of the most tedious storylines in all of Dark Shadows. When I started this blog, I knew that the Dream Curse was going to be a hard period to work through. The problem for me isn’t really that the episodes are bad — some of my best entries are for bad episodes — it’s that they’re so repetitive. There are only so many ways that you can talk about a three-month storyline where exactly nothing happens.
But soap operas are resilient beasts; they rise on stepping-stones of their dead selves to higher and better things. Probably. I’m pretty sure we’ll get to cool stuff at some point.
So here we are, in the darkest hour, fidgeting and waiting impatiently for the dawn. But what the hell. Let’s have some fun.
For starters: Maggie’s tie.
The episode begins with Maggie waiting anxiously for Joe to return. He went out last night to hunt for Adam, the local Frankenstein, and he didn’t come back. She’s decided to express her feelings by wearing a yellow shirt, a burgundy vest and skirt, and a burgundy tie dotted with bright flowers.
It’s a fantastic outfit; you can always count on Maggie to bring some fashion-forward magic to the proceedings. With that on screen, I don’t even mind if they talk about the Dream Curse.
Happily, their dream discussion is cut short by a phone call, informing Maggie that Joe is in the hospital, after a fight with Adam left him with a concussion.
So now Maggie has to leave her house and go to the hospital, with this outfit on. Also, her father died three weeks ago. It’s called style.
So it’s off to the hospital, where they’ve arranged Joe tastefully on a bed.
The latest guy to call himself Sheriff Patterson shows up, to ask Joe about his Adam encounter. This leads to the usual mandatory recap-interrogation scene that’s required on soap operas following any given event. I’m not a fan of these, but there’s actually a lot going on these days, and I can’t blane them for trying to keep the audience informed. Besides, they’re not talking about the Dream Curse.
Joe says that he encountered Adam at Professor Stokes’ house, so Sheriff Patterson decides to pay Stokes a visit.
“He better have some pretty convincing answers,” the Sheriff says, “or he’s in bad trouble.”
A little later on, Patterson comes back to report that Stokes had some pretty convincing answers. Honestly, the cops on this show set new records for uselessness every time they appear.
Really, there’s quite a bit of padding overall. The other story thread today involves Barnabas coming to Collinwood to talk to Cassandra, but before that gets going, he has to have a scene with Nicholas first. There’s a little back and forth about how early it is for a visit, and then we have to come back later for the actual Barnabas/Cassandra conversation.
Still, putting Nicholas on screen automatically makes things more interesting. He’s been on the show for two weeks, and so far he hasn’t had a bad scene. He’s cooking up some kind of mysterious demonic plan with Cassandra, but we haven’t had any substantial hints about what it might be. We’re kind of in the honeymoon phase with this storyline, where it’s all shiny promise.
Anyway, Barnabas finally gets some time alone with Cassandra, and we go through another iteration of her weird impostor game. Barnabas knows that she’s Angelique, and the audience knows that she’s Angelique, and Cassandra knows that everybody knows that she’s Angelique, but she still insists on pretending that she’s not Angelique, even when nobody else is around.
The problem with this approach is that Barnabas and Angelique have an interesting history together, while Barnabas and “Cassandra” are basically strangers with nothing to say to each other. I mean, if the villain still won’t admit that she’s the villain, then at a certain point you just have to take her word for it, and go find somebody else to threaten.
But today, Barnabas cuts through the irrelevant chatter. He has something to say.
Barnabas: You probably know that Vicki has had the dream — but you don’t know her as I do. She is not going to come running and tell me the dream. Her strength of character and her feeling for me will not allow it. Therefore, she will probably go on suffering the effects of the dream, day after day and night after night… and I will not allow that to happen to her. So I am willing to submit to you.
So that’s — wait, what?
Barnabas: It is I you have always wanted. You may have me. I give you my solemn word that I will always try to be what I was to you in the beginning, in Martinique. If you stop Vicki’s suffering… I will do everything in my power to love you, and to be faithful to you for all time.
He tells her to think it over, and then he leaves. Like a boss.
So, holy cow. I really didn’t see that one coming. He’s been so angry and frustrated over the last few months, struggling fruitlessly against an antagonist who has simply refused to play.
Now he’s finally found the magic words that could break through to her, and there’s no signal to the audience that would suggest that this is a trick. We’re getting to the end of the storyline, which means that a big change is actually possible. He might really go through with this.
And here comes Nicholas, the one-man television improvement project.
Cassandra: Nicholas, I’ve won. After all these years, I’ve finally won.
Nicholas: Won what?
Nicholas: Perhaps you’d better tell me what he wanted to talk to you about this morning.
Cassandra: He came here to admit defeat. He said he wouldn’t fight me anymore. He promised to love me, and be faithful to me.
Nicholas: And so you feel it is no longer necessary to go on with the dream, is that it?
Things heat up quickly.
Nicholas: I helped you return for only one reason, to get your revenge. And now what happened? You get one step away from complete success, and suddenly you revert to the basest human reactions — you begin cooing at the first sound of a long-lost love!
Cassandra: Nicholas, please —
Nicholas: Be QUIET! An alliance between you and Barnabas Collins is out of the question. You have a job to do, and you will see it through to the end. Is that quite clear?
And no, it isn’t clear, thank goodness. It’s better than clear; it’s mysterious and complicated, and it points toward a decent exit strategy to escape this storyline quicksand. Everybody — grab hold of Maggie’s tie! She can pull us to safety.
Tomorrow: The Scene of the Crime.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Near the start of act 1, when Maggie and Vicki are talking about the dream, there’s the noise of something heavy scraping across the floor from the studio.
Vicki coughs in the middle of her line: “I have to tell the dream to Barnabas.”
Just after that, Maggie says, “I know that, Vicki, but if you just –” Her line is supposed to be cut off by the phone ringing, but it’s a second late. She mutters again, “If you just, uh…” and then the phone rings.
The final music cue in act 1 is played a little too late; it cuts off as the commercial break starts.
As Barnabas crosses the Collinwood foyer to meet Cassandra by the stairs, you can see a camera swinging around on the left side of the screen.
When Barnabas tells Cassandra, “So I am willing to submit to you,” a chair scrapes on the studio floor.
Barnabas is in the Collinwood drawing room, talking to Cassandra. He says, “If and when you have reached a decision, you will find at Collinwood. In the Old House.”
Behind the Scenes:
Dark Shadows was pre-empted about four weeks ago, for coverage of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. Since then, the episode numbers were knocked out of their usual pattern of ending on multiples of 5. Today’s episode has a double number — 532/533 — to make up for the missing day.
Tomorrow: The Scene of the Crime.
— Danny Horn