“The howling of these dogs, that’s what’s wrong.”
So the score, at press time, is Vampires 5, Humans 1.
This month has seen an astonishing comeback for the Vampires, a team that suffered a devastating setback in May when their star player, Barnabas Collins, was benched after being cured by a mad scientist.
But two weeks ago, another rising star came out of nowhere. Angelique, who’d formerly played for the Salem Witches, was traded to the vampires by her manager, and she’s been biting people at a rate that we’ve never seen before in the history of the sport. She’s got Joe as a blood slave, and she’s turned Tom into a vampire, and just in the last week we’ve seen five on-screen vampire bites — seven, if you count reprises. The only human who got away unscathed was the Deputy from a couple weeks ago, and that was with an assist from Nicholas.
We open this week with an injury report from Dr. Julia Hoffman, who was in the basement just minding her own business and tampering in God’s domain, when Tom came in and took a chunk out of her neck.
Willie finds Julia passed out on the floor, next to an overturned stool and a shattered glass beaker of I don’t even want to think about what’s in it.
Willie helps her up, and says, “You better take it easy, you look kinda weak.”
Julia says, “Oh, it’s just stiff — it’s a stiff neck, that’s all,” as if you always find unconscious people with a stiff neck, lying in a heap of smashed stemware.
Julia’s dazed and drained, and she tells Willie that she needs to get home and rest. This is kind of a shame — you’d think Tom would at least drive her home afterwards. I think Angelique is the only vampire who really thinks about the aftermath; when she bites Joe, she likes to cuddle for a while afterwards. Tom didn’t even leave his phone number.
Julia manages to stagger back to Collinwood, and pounds on the front door. It’s the middle of the night, and Mrs. Johnson has to get out of bed and let her into the house.
Mrs. Johnson tries to scold the errant houseguest, to no effect. She says, “I don’t mind saying, Doctor, that it would make things a lot easier if people kept me informed of their comings and goings!”
Julia just walks up the stairs without a word, because Julia is a rock star and that is how people behave. It’s fantastic.
In the morning, Julia shows all the usual signs of a recent vampire encounter — she wakes up late, closes the drapes, ties a scarf around her neck, and starts saying peculiar things.
Julia: I wonder if you could have the room — curtained off.
Mrs. Johnson: Curtained off?
Julia: Yes, I’ve already drawn the draperies, but there’s still too much sunlight in here.
Mrs. Johnson says, “I’ll do what I can,” but it’s not clear what you could possibly do with this request. Your standard bedroom already comes equipped with a set of drapes. Installing upgrades is kind of outside a housekeeper’s sphere of influence.
As a domestic on a soap opera, Mrs. Johnson’s job is mostly information management — observing the crazy lady acting crazy, and then gradually parceling out a description of her behavior to whoever happens to stop by. Soap opera housekeepers start a lot of sentences with “All I know is…” and then they issue a full report.
Barnabas comes over, a bit agitated, because he and Julia are working on creating a mate for the local Frankenstein monster, and Julia is the only one who actually has any skills in that area. Barnabas is more of a middle manager type, and if the rest of the team doesn’t show, he can’t make a lot of progress.
Mrs. Johnson tells him that Julia isn’t feeling well, and that she insisted on not seeing anyone today. Barnabas asks if she’ll take up a note for him.
“Well, all right,” Mrs. Johnson shrugs. “I mean, she didn’t say anything about not accepting notes.”
This is a brilliant loophole for Barnabas to exploit. If this doesn’t work, I want him to come back with a cake that says, “Julia, I need to speak to you,” in red frosting. I mean, she didn’t say anything about not accepting cakes. Handled correctly, we could keep this up all week.
So Mrs. Johnson climbs the stairs again, wakes Julia up and hands her the note. Julia reads the note, tears it into pieces, and says, “Thank you, Mrs. Johnson,” which is just fierce.
But that’s enough hanging around the house; we’ve got a sexy vampire boy out in the woods who wants a second date.
Back when Barnabas was a vampire, we only saw him feed once in a while, and he’d go long stretches where he apparently wasn’t eating at all. The new roster of vampires expect a more regular diet — Angelique snacked on Joe three times in three consecutive episodes, and now Tom’s back for his second meal of the day. It’s kind of like slow zombies and fast zombies, I guess; times change.
I am entirely in favor of this development. This vampire show went far too long between vampire bites. It’s about time they got their average up.
Now, a regular reader might expect at this point that I’m going to start talking about fantasy-metaphor rape, and how troubling it is that the audience is expected to enjoy the spectacle of non-consensual physical assault. I am not going to do this. Tom gets a pass, because I’m a hypocrite and he’s really cute.
Meanwhile, at the Old House, Barnabas and Willie are talking things over. Julia looked weak when Willie found her last night, she’s been cooped up in her bedroom with the shades down, and now the dogs are howling up a storm outside.
Barnabas figures out what’s going on, of course, because if there’s one guy who knows how vampires operate, it’s him. But it’s interesting to see just how much the pace of the storytelling has picked up as we’ve been going along.
Back in the day, a story point like this would be dragged out for weeks, with various characters noticing that something’s wrong, and then meeting up to review the case. Now we’re going from first bite to vampire hunt in twenty-two minutes, and if you happen to miss an episode, then that’s your problem. You knew this was a vampire show; try to keep up.
Or maybe it’s just that the Barnabas/Julia dynamic is so important to the show right now that we can’t bear to have them split apart for more than half an episode. There’s no secondary plotline going on today; they’re just hurrying through two bites and some confused-housekeeper scenes, and then Barnabas rips off the scarf, and the vampire hunt begins.
Tomorrow: The Show Goes On.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In act 1, Barnabas is surprised to find that Julia has left the Old House; he tells Willie, “I thought she was going to be working late tonight.” Actually, at the end of the last episode, Julia told Barnabas that she was going to finish up her work and head home.
Barnabas forgets a line, checks the teleprompter, and starts to say Willie’s line again:
Willie: Look, Barnabas, she made me promise not to tell you anything.
Barnabas: Look… (long pause) She… About what?
There’s something wrong with one of the studio’s three cameras this week — it’s always out of focus, and the color balance is wrong. It’s going to take them a minute to get it fixed.
Tomorrow: The Show Goes On.
— Danny Horn