Episode 538: The Shaggy Dog

“I owe my life to a man I vowed to kill.”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the craziest show on Earth, where they inter and disinter their major characters at regular intervals.

Barnabas was attacked by a bat last week, and he died, because bat attacks are invariably fatal, as everyone knows. Convinced that he would rise as a vampire, Julia and Willie buried him in the woods, because they’re bad role models and that’s all there is to it.

This was bad news for Adam, our enormous Frankenstein man, because he’s been borrowing some of Barnabas’ life force this whole time. When Barnabas went down, Adam’s system crashed too. This is why, if you’re shopping for life force, you should just go ahead and buy the protection plan. I know, it’s an extra fifty bucks, but can you really put a price tag on peace of mind?

538 dark shadows julia stokes alive

But as Julia and Professor Stokes are standing next to Adam’s lifeless corpse and discussing the events of the day, Adam suddenly starts to move again, gasping for breath. Watching him struggle, Julia realizes that Adam and Barnabas are connected, and that Barnabas must be alive too.

Now, just to be clear, the story as I understand it is not “Barnabas was buried alive.” Barnabas was actually dead when Julia and Willie buried him. But he’s alive now, at least for a few minutes, until he suffocates all over again.

I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s a dead thing; you wouldn’t understand.

538 dark shadows julia stokes minutes

Stokes, bless him, is trying to keep up, but it’s not easy. He asks, “Why did you bury Barnabas?” and Julia says, “Because his heart had stopped,” and that is apparently the end of that line of inquiry.

538 dark shadows julia stokes adam

So this is how life works in Collinsport these days. You can be standing in an abandoned root cellar, watching a patchwork giant who’s been animated by the life force of a vampire fighting his way back to conscious existence for the second time this summer, and you have to be excused because you need to participate in an even weirder scene somewhere else.

538 dark shadows julia stokes burial

But Professor Stokes’ own life force is composed entirely of curiosity, so he follows Julia to Barnabas’ unquiet resting place, and he agrees to grab a shovel and pitch in with the recovery efforts.

He’s still asking impertinent questions, but Julia continues to stonewall, using the ruthless skills that one can only acquire during a lifetime of telling nothing but lies.

Stokes:  How odd it seems, really.

Julia:  Yes, I know.

Stokes:  Surely, the Collins family did not consent to this bizarre burial.

Julia:  I had no time to ask them.

Stokes:  Why not?

Julia:  Professor, I will answer all your questions…

Stokes:  When?

Julia:  When Barnabas is free.

538 dark shadows barnabas buried

Meanwhile, Barnabas is in the box, pushing desperately at the lid and struggling for breath. I don’t know what the hell they’re doing on The Match Game over on NBC today, but I can’t imagine they could compete with this. At a certain point, a network just has to admit that they’re licked, and stand down.

538 dark shadows julia stokes coffin

When we return to the excavation project, Professor Stokes has apparently dug a perfectly rectangular four-foot hole in the ground, without taking off his jacket or even loosening his tie. It’s called style.

538 dark shadows barnabas pulsebeat

They pry open the coffin lid, and what do they find? Barnabas Collins, resting in peace. Now they’re going to have to bury him all over again.

In my opinion, Barnabas needs to take a more active role in this process. He’s up, he’s down. This is not an efficient use of resources. He’s going to have to pick an altitude and stick with it.

538 dark shadows barnabas julia rock

He finally pulls himself together, and we get him up on dry land for a status update.

Barnabas:  It will soon be dawn. Why did you ever bring me back?

Julia:  Barnabas, you’re not as you were.

Barnabas:  The bat attacked me!

Julia:  Barnabas, your heart is beating. You can feel it yourself.

Barnabas:  Any moment, I may begin to change.

Julia:  You’re alive! You’re not one of the living dead.

538 dark shadows barnabas julia stunned

It’s pretty great. We’ve just drifted out to sea, far beyond the boundaries of logical human interaction. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, in the middle of July, and this is the conversation.

And look at Julia; she’s having the time of her life. This is exactly what she wants to be doing, just sitting around and reassuring her best friend that he’s breathing. This counts as girl talk for her.

Barnabas:  I don’t believe you.

Julia:  I’ll prove it to you.

Barnabas:  How can you prove it? You know you can’t!

Julia:  Here, Barnabas, look in this mirror. Now, don’t be afraid. If you can see yourself, then you will know.

538 dark shadows barnabas mirror

So he looks in the mirror, and he sees his own reflection, and he says, “Free!”

And that’s how you make the silliest thing on television. It’s that easy.

538 dark shadows julia barnabas true

So we can leave our heroes here, for a while — let them rest, and sigh, and speculate, as they try to figure out what the hell is happening on their own show.

Barnabas is alive again, and he’s still technically a human being, which means that the entire three-month Dream Curse storyline was nothing but a shaggy dog story. Cassandra’s curse struck Barnabas with full force, and he just picked himself back up, and walked it off.

But that doesn’t mean that this was a complete waste of time. We can pull something from the wreckage, and it’s valuable, and precious. The Dream Curse story is the moment when Barnabas and Julia become best friends.

The ice started to thaw between them as soon as we came back from 1795, but it was still an uneasy alliance all the way through the mad science experiment that created Adam. In fact, at the time, it looked like Barnabas was going to blow Julia off, and go hang out with Dr. Lang instead. It was only at the last moment that Julia got involved with that story at all.

But look at them now. Inseparable. She got him out of the bricked-up alcove when he was trapped by Reverend Trask, and she dug him up out of the ground when he was buried alive. From now on, when Barnabas Collins is in trouble, Dr. Julia Hoffman will come to the rescue.

That’s the true legacy of the Dream Curse — this magical, twisted, fascinating friendship — and I will always be grateful. I mean, don’t get me wrong; the Dream Curse was a terrible disaster of a storyline, and I’m thrilled to finally see the back of it. But here they are — safe, and sound, and entirely out of their goddamn minds. I wonder what they’ll do for an encore?

Tomorrow: Grieve a Little Grieve.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

After Julia frees Barnabas, she begins one of her lines too early:

Barnabas:  Free!

Julia:  The —

Barnabas:  But it can’t be! The curse…

Julia:  The curse did not work, Barnabas.

On Monday, Stokes checked Adam’s wrist, and said, “There’s no pulse beat.” Today, Carolyn says “I can’t find a pulse beat” at the end of act 2, and then Julia says “There’s a faint pulse beat” in act 3. I don’t know why everybody on Dark Shadows thinks that “pulse beat” is a thing.

In the last moment of Julia and Stokes’ final scene in the root cellar, the camera cuts away a moment later than Grayson Hall thought it did. You can see her break character, and give Thayer David a smile as they finish their last scene of the day.

Tomorrow: Grieve a Little Grieve.

538 dark shadows barnabas faint

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

14 thoughts on “Episode 538: The Shaggy Dog

  1. “and she dug him up out of the ground when he was buried alive.”

    But she’s the one that put him there in the first place!

    Speaking of which, can someone explain to me exactly why Julia and Willie thought this was a good idea? As far as they know, Barnabas is coming back as a vampire. They don’t want to stake him because they can’t go through with it so they decide to bury him instead. Why do they think this would stop him from becoming a vampire? Or do they want to trap him? But when we first see Barnabas, his coffin is heavily chained, so you’d think if the goal was to trap Barnabas they would have chained up this coffin as well. I doubt some dirt would get in the way of a vampire rising from a grave – if zombies can do it, so can Barnabas.

    1. I didnt understand that either. And how would that have been explained when people started looking for Barnabas. Yes this was a second base turn in the relationship between Barnabas and Julia.

  2. But if Barnabas wasn’t buried alive, then what else could it mean? How could he just come alive after having been dead as though awakening from a nap unless he were returning as a vampire would? It seems the writers have left a hole in today’s storyline where something goes unexplained….

    ….Unless…the explanation is contained in Dr. Lang’s final words: “If both live….” Perhaps what occurred was a dance of energy between the life force twins, where Adam takes the lead by being stricken with the same symptoms as Barnabas, thereby draining him of his affliction, and then Barnabas takes the lead by reviving.

    So the Dream Curse wasn’t really a “shaggy dog” after all–it would have worked if only Adam hadn’t thwarted its intended result. It means that Barnabas is indeed free–but then so is Angelique, free to try again.

    Let the games continue!

    1. That was how I interpreted it – Barnabas would have been a victim to vampirism but Adam “drained” it, reverting Barnabas back to human (similar to how he did it the first time). Though the Dream Curse is a shaggy dog in the sense that there was so much build up and at the end we revert to the status quo. Now, its failure does eventually lead Angelique and Nicholas to make the connection between Barnabas and Adam, but it should have been much quicker.

      1. In-universe, I think the explanation for Julia and Willie’s burying Barnabas is just sheer panic, and the explanation for why they both “died” and then came back “alive” is [there actually isn’t one].

        The out-of-universe writers’ explanation for all of it is that it was super fun and exciting. An effective “thirty minutes to live” countdown can sometimes smooth over the most ridiculous lapses in logic and taste.

        I really like how vague they are about what “life force” means, and how it works. Does Barnabas have half of his life force now, and Adam has the other half? If Adam experiences Barnabas’ pain (the manacles, being buried alive), then why didn’t Barnabas feel it when Adam landed at the bottom of Widow’s Hill? And so on.

        In this episode, Julia “explains” the connection between Barnabas and Adam twice — first to Stokes, and then to Barnabas. In both cases, it’s basically, “There’s no logical explanation for it, but they are connected!!!” with an emphatic Julia brow-furrowing. And we believe her.

        1. I’ve pretty much decided that the only way to approach this lunacy is to dive in, empty your mind, and let the waves carry you along. Pretty much the way I watched it as a kid. This is a nonsensical episode, but I love it! Dark Shadows is not here to make sense. It’s here to make you keep coming back for more.

  3. I don’t know why I just thought of this but I just remembered the long ago scene when Julia gave Barnabas the massive anti-vampire injection (per his looney request so he could share the next sunrise with his love of the moment Vicki)..there was the scene where Julia hypnotized Vicki via chandelier crystal and took her to see Barnabas lying in his coffin- when Julia opened the lid he had turned a jaundiced yellow hue which really startled me (but didn’t phase Julia one bit) – that one image terrified me more than anything that has happened to Barnabas during this whole Adam experiment/life force storyline.

  4. I don’t really agree that Julia broke character in her final with Stokes. It seems to me she–Julia, not Grayson Hall–is just resignedly acknowledging Stokes’s statement that someday he will learn the secret of Barnabas Collins before she turns away to leave, as she said she was going to do. There’s really no change in her acting demeanor that I can detect.

  5. Danny Horn, today was utterly beautiful. perspective falling into place like silver lined mooning beams parting a cloud. alas! if only dear Grayson could see the light you shine upon her. (sigh)

  6. “Julia: Professor, I will answer all your questions…

    “Stokes: When?

    “Julia: When Barnabas is free.”

    But what, Stokes then asks, if she’s miscalculated and Barnabas is dead?

    “Then there will be need for neither questions nor answers!”


  7. It was so nice of Willie to bury Barnabas in a clean shirt. I also like how they took time to dust most of the dirt off of the coffin before opening it. Good stuff!

  8. Julia is so damn irritating!! She always demands (“you MUST tell me…”) but then when Stokes asks her questions she hasn’t the time.

    Also I was having claustrophobia listening to Barnbas and Adam’s labored breathing! I thought it would never end!

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