Episode 550: The Afternoon After

“I have a terrible fear that something’s going to happen.”

Yesterday’s episode closed with Adam, our enormous and confused teen Frankenstein, thrusting himself romantically at a young woman who would have preferred otherwise. He’s six-foot-six and has superhuman strength, while she’s somewhere in the low five feet, and at press time was saying “Adam, you’re hurting me.” Things were definitely shaping up to be one of those American tragedies that you read about in the papers.

Today’s episode begins with Carolyn walking downstairs, post-trauma. Her hair is messed up, but her blouse and skirt are intact, so I guess that means that everything worked out more or less okay.

550 dark shadows carolyn hair

So I just want to take a second to appreciate the careful and painstaking work being performed by that hairstyle.

They never explain exactly how Carolyn disentangled herself from the situation upstairs. All we know is that she’s shaken, and the first thing that she does is to call Professor Stokes and ask him to take Adam away. We don’t know how much worse things got. We don’t know if she managed to fight him off, or if he realized that he was hurting her, or what.

With the rhythm of four commercial breaks and a daily cliffhanger, there are plenty of opportunities for the show to draw a discreet veil over any action that might be considered unacceptable for public broadcast. You play a dramatic sting, you cut away for a word about new Sunshine Rinso, and you leave everything else up to the viewer’s imagination.

So Carolyn’s hair has to do a lot of the heavy lifting here. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that level of hair distress means that Adam only learned what “kissing” was last week, and he hasn’t figured out that there are any steps beyond that, thank goodness.

550 dark shadows carolyn crisis

But they’re playing with the audience here, in a very effective way. Carolyn’s call to Stokes comes perilously close to actually telling us what the hell just happened, and then veers away at the last second.

Carolyn:  I must see you immediately.

Stokes:  Has something happened to Adam? Or can’t you talk?

Carolyn:  I’d rather not.

Stokes:  Is he all right?

Carolyn:  Yes. In a way.

Stokes:  He hasn’t escaped.

Carolyn:  No. No, it’s — something I can’t deal with.

And Nancy Barrett is doing that thing that she does, where her voice breaks in a way that makes you want to go out and make sure that nobody hurts anybody ever again.

550 dark shadows stokes call

Stokes is trying to keep up.

Carolyn:  Professor, he can’t stay here any longer. He can’t.

Stokes:  Can’t you tell me?

Carolyn:  No. No.

Stokes:  I’ll be right over.

Carolyn:  Come to the drawing room. I won’t be in Adam’s room. I can’t go there alone, ever.

Stokes:  Miss Stoddard, are you much given to melodrama? No, I’ll answer that myself later. I’ll hurry.

Carolyn murmurs, “Thank you. Oh, thank you,” and hangs up.

And then there’s the opening titles and a word about Ken-L Ration burger for dogs, and we have to spend that entire time worrying about her.

Now, this is afternoon television, so an overwrought telephone conversation is pretty much business as usual. That goes double for Dark Shadows, where a character aged two hundred years and dropped dead in an armchair just a couple days ago. The bar for shocking developments has been raised higher than your average run-of-the-mill daytime weeper.

Curiously, in that context, Stokes’ last line — “are you much given to melodrama?” — actually helps to ratchet the tension up a notch.

That question is an example of lampshading — having a character raise a question that the audience might be asking, in order to hang a lampshade over it and dismiss it. If anybody’s wondering if Carolyn is just making a big deal about getting kissed by a boy she doesn’t like, then we’ve got a well-educated man on the screen confirming that this is more than just a misunderstanding.

550 dark shadows stokes vicki unfair

When we come back from the commercial break, Professor Stokes has arrived at Collinwood — but they put him in a scene with Vicki, which is simply unfair. They know that we want to find out what happened to Carolyn, but they’ve invented an offstage emergency in the kitchen that apparently requires her urgent attention.

In Carolyn’s place, we get Vicki, who we don’t really want to see, even at the best of times. She wants to tell Stokes about what happened to Cassandra, which is old business, and we already know way more than Vicki does about it anyway.

550 dark shadows time carolyn

Carolyn finally comes in, and her hair is back under control. She’s had a couple of minutes to pull herself back together, which helps us to relax a little. We know that it’s still a serious situation, because she’s still got that little catch in her voice, but it looks like the crisis has been downgraded from orange to yellow.

There are a few more lines exchanged between Stokes and Vicki, and then Carolyn closes the doors. That gives us an extra thirty seconds to adjust to the fact that we’re not going to hear any more details about what happened. Carolyn has brushed her hair, and that means we’re focused on the future.

550 dark shadows stokes carolyn detail

Now, sometimes when I get super detailed like this about the writing and acting choices, it’s because I’m intentionally over-analyzing, or I’m making a backhanded joke. But in this case, I think I’m describing a real problem that they had to figure out — how to give the audience enough information to make us take this moment seriously, but not so seriously that we can’t get past it and move on to the next plot point.

We just watched Carolyn get sexually assaulted by a giant monster. We’re not going to actually process that experience in any kind of meaningful way, because Dark Shadows isn’t the “social issues” soap. It’s the non-stop thrill-ride spook show, and besides, there are kids watching.

It’s a delicate balance, and they actually handle it in a skillful way. Cleaning up after your Frankenstein monster isn’t a skill that anybody involved ever thought they’d have to develop, but life can surprise you sometimes.

Monday: Cruel World.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

When Jeff proposes to Vicki, she sits down on a bench. You can see the boom mic at the top of the screen, following her as she sits.

A moment later, Jeff spaces out in the middle of his line: “Well, don’t look like that; I’ll think you’re going to say no. I, uh — I had enough trouble…” (He consults the teleprompter) “with the… effort just to ask you.”

There’s a tape edit when Adam is talking to Stokes, just as he says, “If both live, Barnabas will be free.”


Behind the Scenes:

When Carolyn calls Professor Stokes, the camera cuts to a close-up on his telephone, which is labeled “Collinsport 4099”, as if that’s an important clue that we’re supposed to pay attention to. A little over a month ago, Julia actually mentioned that Stokes’ phone number is Rockport 6868, so apparently the producers are under the impression that the audience is desperate to know how to get in touch with him.

They used this prop phone in Collinwood in episode 44, with the same number, so apparently Collinwood and Stokes share the phone number.

Monday: Cruel World.

550 dark shadows stokes phone

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

7 thoughts on “Episode 550: The Afternoon After

  1. I think you make a good cast for just kissing, but they could have had a torn sleeve if they didn’t want the blouse unbuttoned. However, I think they missed a beat here. If Adam did stop when he realized he was hurting her that’s a much more sympathetic Adam than one that let go when she hit him over the head with a convenient fireplace poker or something. It should be a defining note in Adam’s character, is he really evil or is he just being drawn that way?
    Plus for them showing the phone numbers though if they keep them straight. I always like to know addresses and phone numbers for fictional people. In fact, I think I still have an address book of them somewhere I put together as a kid. 🙂

  2. Carolyn should have STAYED AWAY from Adam after this incident – but doesn’t she actually give him a gift (a green sweater) in a future episode! Speaking of Carolyn, I’m currently watching the 1991 Revival series (it’s now available for streaming on HULU +). The Carolyn in that version is really disturbed. I just saw the episodes where Barnabas makes her his ‘slave’ and they take the term ‘kissing cousins’ to a new level. Nancy Barrett made you like and sympathize with Carolyn even when she put herself in dangerous situations. The actress who plays Carolyn in the Revival series has zero likable qualities.

    1. Yeah, 1991 Carolyn is one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen on television. Before DS, she’d been on Ryan’s Hope for a year, and after DS, she did basically nothing. She is terrible.

  3. It seems that Nicholas’ plan is to get Adam removed from Collinwood so that he can be more easily influenced for the “master plan”, so what better way to do that than to talk Adam into committing a major transgression against the very person who is providing a safe harbor? I’m sure it wasn’t too serious, as he’d only been reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning at the time. Now, if he’d had an issue of Playboy lying around, then I’m sure things might have gotten more involved….

    Speaking of improprieties, there’s a still from this episode where Jeff Clark and Vicki are sitting on the terrace and the way that Roger “Grabby” Davis is just reaching forward with his left hand and clutching her right arm like a playground kid would grab onto a set of monkey bars…. One of the cast members has since revealed that they called him “the violator”.

    I can understand the motivation behind changing Stokes’ phone number, thinking that viewers might try calling to contact him–because there are a lot of young kids watching. When I was nine, ten, eleven years old I was a big fan of the Rockford Files. At that time, in the 1970s, every phone number on TV began with a “555” exchange. So, as often was the case, Jim Rockford’s number would be shown, 555-3268, and one day I tried calling, hoping to reach Jim Rockford, or at least James Garner. All I got was Directory Assistance. Who wouldn’t want to call Professor Stokes, to fill him in on the stuff Julia keeps from him?

  4. “So I just want to take a second to appreciate the careful and painstaking work being performed by that hairstyle.”

    This is so absolutely right on.

    And the sweater gift follow up–that sweater is an abomination–oh, it’s just headfucking. It’s the first time I really feel sorry for Carolyn Stoddard.

    Love your blog!

  5. Honestly, this episode made me understand why some people insist on use of “Trigger Warnings”. Even though I never was a victim of sexual abuse, the opening scene unsettled me on some deep level. I can’t begin to imagine how an actual person traumatized by such an experience could have reacted to this.
    Reading your thoughts on what actually happened in the room really helped me to calm down, so thank you c:

  6. Frankly, I found the Jeff/Vicki proposal scene more upsetting than the Adam/Carolyn scene. And this is not merely because of the second-tier acting involved. You know that through the thin veneer of his character, you’re watching the real Roger Davis. And Roger Davis is just plain hard to watch. By the way, this was the “soapiest” DS episode in recent memory…

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