Episode 563: A Sense of Themselves

“The house, the room. The coffin!”

Here’s a list of 32 things that I like about this episode, in order of appearance, with a special focus on pretty boys in peril, and introducing Miss Beverly Atkinson.

563 dark shadows hospital sign

#1. The sign is crooked.

563 dark shadows nurse beverly

#2. Beverly Atkinson. This is her only appearance on Dark Shadows, and according to IMDb, it’s her first screen credit.

I believe that she’s the only black actor to ever appear on Dark Shadows. In fact, if you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said that there were zero black actors on Dark Shadows. Then I watched this episode, and now I know better. So unless there are others hiding in episodes that I forgot about, then I think this is the beginning and the end of racial integration in Collinsport.

563 dark shadows beverly atkinson

#3. The first character that she interacts with is literally a white devil.

563 dark shadows maggie right on

#4. She won’t let Nicholas in to Tom’s hospital room, but as soon as Maggie walks in, Beverly brightens up, and gives her a big smile. When Maggie asks if she can go in, the nurse says, “Of course, Maggie!” and opens the door for her.

This means that Maggie Evans is officially Right On. That’s a 1960s slang term which I don’t quite remember what it means.

563 dark shadows tom beat up

#5. Hey, look! It’s Tom Jennings, our brand new sexy boy character, and he’s all beat up and bruised and dirty, which is apparently what we’re doing with our cute boys these days. On the whole, I mostly look for cute boys in Near Mint to Very Good condition, but if they feel like knocking him around for a while and leaving him all weak and groggy and helpless, then I can work with that too.

563 dark shadows tom maggie cousin

#6. It turns out that Maggie and Joe have been visiting Tom in the hospital every day since his vampire attack, which was the first time we’d ever heard of him.

In a couple minutes, Maggie’s going to tell Nicholas, “He and Joe are very close; they’re cousins. They tell each other everything.” It’s one of those super close plot-mandated off-screen relationships that they just never happened to mention while the cameras were turned on.

563 dark shadows tom coffin

#7. Some extremely Dark Shadowsy dialogue.

Tom:  Maggie…

Maggie:  What is it, Tom?

Tom:  Coffin.

Maggie:  What?

Tom:  Room! Room! The coffin!

Maggie:  Coffin? Tom, you’ve had a nightmare.

Tom:  No. The house, the room. The coffin!

563 dark shadows nurse needle

#8. Beverly decides that Tom needs to rest, so she walks over and picks up a hypodermic full of sedative, and then just jabs it in his arm without saying a word. That’s what we call medical care on this show.

563 dark shadows nicholas maggie absorbed

#9. A moment later, Maggie walks out of the room, but we never see the nurse leave. She might still be in there, for all I know. Somebody should probably go and check.

That was Beverly Atkinson’s last scene on Dark Shadows. After this, she mostly played not very good roles on not very good TV shows, including Girl #1 on Sanford & Son, a Hooker on Police Story, Bertha on Baretta, and Lola on Law and Order (not the one you’re thinking of).

Her most distinguished part was Vivian DeWitt, a recurring role on six episodes of Hill Street Blues. That’s not going to get her into the Hall of Fame or anything, but how many episodes of Hill Street Blues were you in? So shut up.

563 dark shadows maggie nicholas coffin

#10. Maggie tells Nicholas that Tom kept talking about a room with a coffin. She’s perplexed by it, even though every single human being that she knows has been talking about coffins on and off for the last year and a half.

563 dark shadows joe shell

#11. Nightlife at the Blue Whale: One customer. They can’t afford any extras today, because they spent all their money on Beverly Atkinson. No bartender, so Maggie’s drink has already been ordered, and it’s waiting for her to arrive. Also: huge scallop shell ashtray, which is adorable.

563 dark shadows joe maggie love

#12. And get a load of Love’s Young Dream: the nutritious Joe Haskell, who’s donated blood to a lady vampire twice in the last two episodes, and today he’s going to go back for thirds. Used to be hot, now a hot mess.

563 dark shadows joe maggie mad

#13. He stood Maggie up last night because he was getting his neck juice sucked out. She tells him, “I waited and waited, I was so mad that — well, I was so mad that I’m still mad.” They’re so cute.

563 dark shadows joe maggie candle

#14. Freaked out because the sun is setting, Joe lights a candle. I knew they wouldn’t put an ashtray on the table for no reason. Scallop shells cost money.

563 dark shadows coffin hand

#15. The house, the room. The coffin! The lid rises by itself, more or less. If you look closely as the shot starts, you can see a hand pulling the lid open.

563 dark shadows coffin blanket

#16. Angelique sleeps in her coffin with a blanket over her lap, because she’s wearing a dress and there is a limit.

563 dark shadows angelique rose

#17. She’s also been lying in her coffin holding a single red rose. Female vampires sweat the small stuff.

563 dark shadows angelique call

#18. Angelique sits up, and the very first thing she does is call for Joe. This is their third hemoglobin-related booty call in three straight episodes. If I had supernatural control over Joe, I would do exactly the same thing.

563 dark shadows joe maggie hours

#19. Joe is supposed to visit Tom today. Maggie says, “You’ve got lots of time before visiting hours at the hospital,” about which: Really? It’s dusk. How late does this hospital stay open?

563 dark shadows joe face

#20. Maggie says, “I used to think that I knew every expression on your face.” This would be a hard one to forget.

563 dark shadows nicholas maggie trick

#21. Joe runs out to see Angelique, and evil wizard Nicholas Blair strolls in and takes his place. Act 3 starts with Nicholas amusing Maggie with a magic trick, making two drinks appear under a napkin.

Try to imagine how Nicholas could possibly have brought two large drinks over to the table without Maggie seeing them. I can’t picture it. He may have used actual magic. Nicholas Blair is a baller.

563 dark shadows nicholas maggie sense

#22. More Dark Shadows-y dialogue.

Nicholas:  I like women who have a sense of themselves.

Maggie:  I don’t know that I do. I’m not sure that I ever wanted to have that much of a sense of myself.

563 dark shadows nicholas magician

#23. Nicholas picks up his straw, and says, “If I were a magician, I would wave my magic wand, and you would be carefree and smiling.”

563 dark shadows joe angelique control

#24. Angelique tells Joe that they’ll both be visiting Tom in the hospital tonight. The penny drops.

563 dark shadows joe angelique shake

#25. Joe says, “You know about Tom. You did this to him, didn’t you.” He pulls her onto her feet and shakes her. “Didn’t you!”

563 dark shadows angelique joe bite

#26. It’s just a really good episode, is all. They’re doing story beats from True Blood, but forty years earlier, and for an audience largely composed of children.

563 dark shadows tom joe visit

#27. And it’s not over yet. The two hot boys finally have a scene together, and they’re both dirty and disheveled and bitten-on. The only thing that’s wrong with this episode is that Angelique should use her vampire powers to make them kiss.

563 dark shadows tom joe stares

#28. Tom tells Joe the story of Angelique appearing in the woods, and attacking him. Joe just stands there and stares at him. Angelique is going to kill Tom in about two and a half minutes, and there’s no reason why she needs to play with her food like this. It’s just more fun this way, that’s all.

563 dark shadows tom window

#29. Joe leaves the window open, because how else is the vampire going to get in.

563 dark shadows tom meat

#30. In his sleep, Tom pulls the bandage off his neck, because men are made of meat.

563 dark shadows tom angelique

#31. Angelique arrives for her second meal of the evening.

563 dark shadows angelique fangs

#32. If Beverly Atkinson were here, she wouldn’t put up with this kind of nonsense. This is the problem with the American health care system.

Tomorrow: Dig Dug.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 2, when there’s a close-up of Angelique calling for Tom, the camera wobbles.

Joe flubs a line in act 4:

Tom:  Joe, I want you to go to the police.

Joe:  How would I do that?

Behind the Scenes:

In the comments, sights9 pointed out that there’s another black actor on the show — Henry Baker, who plays gypsy King Johnny Romano’s servant in four episodes in August 1969. Thanks for the correction!

Tomorrow: Dig Dug.

563 dark shadows tom jennings

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

24 thoughts on “Episode 563: A Sense of Themselves

  1. There is one other black character to appear on the show; a mute gypsy named Istvan in 1897. He only appears in a couple of episodes, and as said above has no lines. The actor is uncredited.

    1. Oh, thanks for the correction! I figured that if I said that she was the only black actor, it would inspire people to tell me who I’d forgotten about. Much easier than actually doing research. 🙂 I just added a note in the Behind the Scenes section.

  2. I wonder why Tom needed to be hospitalized but Joe is walking around and having drinks at the Blue Whale..also I believe it’s been a long time since they showed the bar set..but they don’t really show the bar just the doors and table – and they seem to be serving much fancier drinks now…maybe they turned it into a TGI Fridays when we weren’t looking.

      1. I actually buy that Tom would be found wandering around the woods, bleeding from the neck and would be taken to the hospital. Nicholas wants to break up Joe and Maggie, so he would hustle him home to hide the attack, in order to make Maggie think it is simply an affair.

        1. The actual answer, I think, is that the attack on Tom was deliberately supposed to kill him. He found out about the coffin in Nicholas’ basement, and Nicholas sent Angelique out to murder him. Peter found Tom in the woods slumped against a tree, almost dead. Angelique and Nicholas were surprised later when they found out that Tom was in the hospital and might recover.

          The attack on Joe was an attempt to get him under control. I guess Angelique has a stun setting, like phasers in Star Trek.

  3. Regarding the bite of the vampire as a sexual metaphor of rape, the show will be breaking even more new ground in that area a couple years from now with the introduction of Roxanne Drew… who only bites other women. I mean, Roxanne and Maggie? Who wouldn’t want to get in on that?

    1. That is kind of exciting. With Barnabas and Willie, they made a big deal about biting him on the wrist.

      By the time we got to the 1991 series, we know that the biting between Barnabas and Daphne involved a great deal of making out. It’s not clear whether that happened with Willie, or the other guys that Barnabas bit.

      1. All of which seems to reinforce your point that the very nature of the vampire is highly sexual–which alone may explain their enduring popularity in culture.

  4. Nicholas did real magic there…. Too bad they didn’t chroma key it in.

    It’s the beginning of his actual spell.

    And I LOVED KLS in her reaction shots when Joe gets pissed.

    It looks real, though the blocking was too good to be real, but still real good.

  5. What I loved: This no-nonsense nurse was the first mortal to have the upper hand on Mr. Blair. I guess Nicholas doesn’t know how to manipulate a Strong Black Woman. I’m sorry she was on more.

  6. The expression on Joe’s face does not look like it is peculiar to Joe – that’s a universal look of terror that Maggie is having trouble reading.

  7. Correction:

    Joe doesn’t say “How would I do that.” He says “Why would I do that.” It isn’t a flub..

    There is some curious camera work in this episode:

    While Nicholas and Maggie are talking at the Blue Whale, there is only one camera, and its operator cannot decide which actor to focus on. But it gets really interesting when the camera focuses on their drinks on the table. We see Nicholas’s hand fiddling with the orange straddling the rim of his glass while Maggie talks. Finally the camera pans to the right and up to Maggie’s face to focus on her while she reacts to Nicholas. We only hear him while we see and hear her for a while.

    The next scene does something almost as curious. Joe walks into Nicholas’s sitting room and crosses the room to the mantelpiece. If you look closely, you can see the top of Angelique’s head as Joe passes her, but, otherwise, neither he nor the camera acknowledges her presence, nor does she acknowledge him. When he gets to the mantelpiece, and after a moment of anguish, he turns around, and it’s as if he sees her for the first time. Except that we, the audience, have still not seen her. Finally, the camera reveals that she is seated where we belatedly realize that he must have just passed her.

    The effect of these shots in both scenes is disorienting.

  8. There are lots of fairly standard fiction conventions that irritate me beyond belief – CPR ‘bringing back’ a ‘dead’ person, locks picked with a single pin, people just hanging up at the end of a phone call without saying goodbye…

    But the one that really gets me is people who are perfectly capable of saying almost any word in the English language except the ones that would actually be helpful in their situation. Tom can manage to repeat “house” and “coffin” over and over, but can’t seem to manage “Nicholas” or “Blair”. It’s as bad as characters that waste time saying “you don’t understand”, rather than taking those few seconds to actually explain things. How many fictional characters would still be alive today if they took the time to say “it’s Brian!” or “I’m unarmed!” or “Sharon did it!”, instead of “Stop! Wait! You don’t understand!”

    1. I don’t think so. Her skirt is shot through with gold and silver with a diagonal floral pattern. The blanket had a geometric pattern with blue. At least, that’s how it looks to me!

    2. On a closer examination of the screen caps I think you might be right. The skirt does change colors depending on the light.

  9. Atkinson drops a fantastic scene in 1972s “The New Centurions” with George C. Scott and Stacy Keach. Isabel Sanford is in the same scene. Once seen it isn’t forgotten.

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