Episode 578: The Understudy

“Well, of course it’s necessary; we can’t have prowlers on the place, attacking people.”

Carolyn and Tony are reunited, at last. They were torn apart by the weird, mad woman who married uncle Roger, and who seemed to delight in luring Tony away from Carolyn’s side. But the witch has melted away, as witches do, and with a little time, the betrayal fades, the harsh words forgotten. They’re just two kids — funny, and headstrong, and good-hearted — finding their way back to each other.

But it’s wrong. It’s all wrong! Can’t you see it? Something terrible has happened to Carolyn. Some dark new creature has crawled inside her skin and is making itself at home in her flesh.

578 dark shadows carolyn tony once

I mean, last time I checked, this is how Carolyn looked when she met Tony in the moonlight, out on the terrace.

578 dark shadows carolyn cuckoo

And now look at her. In the blink of an eye, she’s transformed into a totally different person. She’s, like, three inches taller. Why doesn’t Tony notice? Why doesn’t anyone notice?

578 dark shadows carolyn tony dark

I mean, it’s dark outside, I guess, and Tony — like many young men meeting their sweethearts on the Collinwood grounds — is always at risk of being smacked on the head by a passing Frankenstein, so you can understand if he’s a little distracted. Still, total full-body transmogrification usually makes itself evident at some point. Maybe Tony gets smacked on the head a lot more than we ever see.

578 dark shadows carolyn tony house

So, great. Now it’s in the house.

Honestly, with all the money that the Collins family has, you’d think they could install a simple retinal scan at the airlocks and entrance portals to keep things like this out of the drawing room. It’s just basic security protocol.

But everyone always thinks it won’t happen to them. Now we’ve got some hoodoo from the notworld crouching on the floor, probably leaving a stain on the rug and radiating some kind of disruptive energy pattern that’s punching holes in everyone’s aura. It’s not doing Tony’s headache any favors, I can tell you that much.

578 dark shadows carolyn glitch

I mean, I don’t want to be that guy, you know? I’m not trying to be judgemental about how other people live their lives. If the Collins family has an open door policy for any random glitch in the matrix who stops by pretending to be their flesh and blood, then sure, knock yourselves out.

578 terminator vision hud

All I’m saying is that if you’re going to accept the daughter of the house suddenly sprouting two dress sizes and looking at the world through a glowing red heads-up display analyzing mission priorities, then it’s going to make Christmas shopping an absolute nightmare. People just don’t think ahead.

578 dark shadows tony carolyn crawle

Anyway, by now it’s crawled up onto the couch, and it’s pawing at Tony, the poor guy. It’s probably going to lay its eggs inside of him or something.

578 dark shadows tony carolyn almonds

But whatever that thing is — cyborg cryo-assassin or telepathic mindworm or demonic nightmare cuckoo from the left side of the sun — it’s obviously not safe to touch.

This is the last time we ever see Tony Peterson. The creature takes his hand and walks him out to his car, there’s a hiss of static and the smell of burnt almonds, and now we’re down one lawyer.

Seriously, we’ve got to get an exorcist in here. This is ridiculous. I won’t have it; I simply will not have it.

Tomorrow: Sproatinger’s Cat.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the beginning of the episode, as the camera approaches Carolyn and Tony, a figure walks past the lighted window behind them.

Over the opening titles, Louis Edmonds announces, “Today, the part of Caroline Stoddard will be played by Miss Diana Walker.”

This is the last episode plagued by the faulty camera that puts a thin green stripe down the left side of the frame. It broke a couple weeks ago, and they’ve had no choice but to go ahead and use it anyway. This episode was taped on a Friday, so they must have fixed it or replaced it over the weekend. They shot these episodes out of order, so episodes 575-577 used the repaired camera.

At the start of Carolyn and Roger’s scene in act 4, you can see her standing in the foyer, waiting for her cue to enter the drawing room.

Behind the Scenes:

Carolyn’s understudy is played by Diana Walker, who I’m sure is very nice and not a nightmare creature at all — or, at least, not any more than actresses usually are. Diana played Gloria Upson in the original 1966 Broadway production of Mame, with Angela Lansbury. She also played Dr. Susan Burke on the CBS soap As the World Turns in 1967, and she played Mary Hathaway, a lead role on another CBS soap, Where the Heart Is, from 1969 to 1973.

As I mentioned, this is the last appearance of Tony Peterson, and we won’t see actor Jerry Lacy again until April 1969, when he’ll show up as another member of the Trask family in the 1897 storyline.

During his time off from Dark Shadows, Lacy appeared on Broadway doing his killer Humphrey Bogart impression, in Woody Allen’s comedy Play It Again, Sam, which opened in February 1969. As an odd coincidence, Diana Walker was also in the Play It Again, Sam cast.

Lacy also appeared in the 1972 movie version of Play It Again, Sam, and if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. It’s funny and sweet, and he’s great in it.

We never find out what happened to Tony — just another cast-off soap character who walks off into the void — but Big Finish has produced a charming series of audio plays with Jerry Lacy and Lara Parker playing Tony and “Cassandra”, solving supernatural mysteries together. The Death Mask was released in 2011, and was followed by The Voodoo Amulet and The Last Stop in 2012, The Phantom Bride in 2013, and The Devil Cat in 2014.

Tomorrow: Sproatinger’s Cat.

578 dark shadows carolyn hoodoo

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

28 thoughts on “Episode 578: The Understudy

  1. This episode always takes me by surprise, no matter how many times I’ve viewed the series, because I always forget that Nancy Barrett was unable to appear in one episode. Still, if there was an actual Collins family of Collinsport, the stand-in seems to more accurately represent what Carolyn Stoddard might look like in real life. Whereas Nancy Barrett is more plainly and modestly attired, the way any ordinary middle class young woman of the period would be, the stand-in seems to have more the look and wardrobe that befits the preppy upper class northeasterner set, but, alas, with none of the emotional depth that makes Nancy Barrett’s portrayal so definitive. I suppose if The Beatles could recruit a temporary drummer for one of their early tours, then Dark Shadows could have someone stand in for one of their irreplaceable core characters. Diana Walker is the Jimmy Nicol of Dark Shadows.

  2. Nancy Barrett really is one of Dark Shadows many secret weapons. i don’t think I’ve ever seen her make a mistake.Good at being both subtle and explosive. Great characters.

    1. I think it was because of illness – if you watch the episodes close to this in which Nancy Barrett appears, she does look and sound kind of ill (like a bad cold or flu bug).

  3. Tony Peterson partnered up with Richard and Frank Garner and started a law firm together in 1968 Parallel Time.

    1. I got to write my fanfic where Tony Peterson HAS read Julia’s notebook, made photocopies of it, and planned his next move. He contacted Barnabas’ victims and/or their relatives, and sued Barnabas and Julia in civil court. The Collins family had to pay for their silence (their settlement included a non-disclosure clause), which meant that they had to sell their business. Liz retired to South America where she could live handsomely on what she had left, Roger took to the bohemia life and became a painter, Carolyn went to the Big Apple and became a model before launching her own line of clothing, and David was put in psychiatric care.

      Julia had to leave Wyncliffe and NEVER practice again – for that was the agreement, and Barnabas was forbidden from ever approaching his family again. (Liz told him that she still knew how to use a poker, and Roger threatened to shoot him on sight).

      They ended up working for minimum wage in the Diner, which belonged to Maggie now (her settlement allowed to buy it).

      Then Tony Peterson went to New York, he and Carolyn got together, they married, and had three little Petersons…

      1. The idea was that if the audience forgot about Tony Peterson, the other characters forgot about Tony Peterson, the writers forgot about Tony Peterson, but Tony Peterson did not forget about Tony Peterson…

      2. Oh dear, I can see Julia being surly, as a waitress in pink, taking no guff from a bunch of midnight drunks who made her do a lot of work for no tip, on the graveyard shift. Barnabas, forced to wear white, and a net over his hair, works as the short order cook with a short temper and long teeth.
        When Reverend Trask complains about the steaks being too rare, Barnabas seals him up, in the walk-in freezer in the back, until lunch time. When Angelique wonders what’s taking so long with her blueberry pancakes, Julia slaps her across the face.
        Angelique threatens not to tip, and eternal something or other. When Roger orders sausage for breakfast, Julia thoughtfully cocks her head to one side and says “But what do you really want?”

        1. I almost forgot: Diner manager Maggie has to tell Barnabas, that if he arrives for work late, with blood stains on his white uniform, just one more time, he’s going to have to start coming in at 8 am. Barnabas rolls his eyes and mutters something under his breath, as he looks out into the parking lot and sees Nicholas Blair getting out of his silver 1962 Jaguar E-Type. He’s come to take Maggie out for diner, at a nicer restaurant, his very own steak house and cock tail lounge, INFERNO, out by the highway, where the supernatural jet-set and other after-dark swingers let it all hang out. It’s open mike nite and Professor Stokes is telling jokes about the time he took too many Tanna leaves and woke up, thinking he was in ancient Egypt. Turned out he fell asleep in the museum.

      3. Haha! I love that story!
        I can imagine Julia being asked by the customer if substitutions are allowed, and she looks toward the kitchen squinting and wondering to her self… “Do we allow substituons? DO WE?????”

  4. Whenever a different actor plays a “Dark Shadows” character, I feel that the show has dipped into a different band of Parallel Time… 😉

  5. Julia as a comical diner waitress isn’t so far-fetched, especially if you’ve seen GARGOYLES, where Grayson Hall plays a semi-comical motel owner / landlady.

  6. Honestly: I fell asleep watching on Hulu this week and woke up in the middle of this episode. I was so disoriented by the Carolyn switcheroo and was certain I had dreamt it. A terrible dream of a world with no Nancy Barrett. How dreadful

    1. That is the perfect way to watch this episode. Potentially the perfect way to watch Dark Shadows at all. Waking up and finding that Dark Shadows is happening to you.

  7. All I can figure is, for all his tough guy Bogart talk, Tony is obviously the type of guy to run out of town with his tail between his legs as soon as a big guy makes one “don’t mess with my girl” threat!

  8. I’m sure Ms. Walker gave it her best, but her more formidable proportions took a lot of the contrast out of those scenes between a hulking Adam and tiny, but spunky Carolyn. Adam never looms so large as he looms when towering over Carolyn.

    Truth be told, I got more of a “Bewitched” vibe from the Understudy than a “Dark Shadows” vibe. But I bet Ms. Walker never lacks for a conversation opener launching off that one DS ep. she was in.

  9. The poor woman not only had to come in on short notice and learn a ton of lines, she also had to do a scene with Craig Slocum. She’s OK in my book.

  10. Bizarro Carolyn is rather disconcerting. I love Nancy Barrett so much and no appreciate her more. I’m glad to know we only had to deal with one episode with this change.

  11. I kept thinking Tony would return in some weird way. The explanation provided here is perfect. Now I know. BTW, don’t forget in real life (or what passes for it) Jerry Lacy married Julia Duffy of “Newhart.”

  12. Am I the only one wondering how they so quickly made a dress in a larger size for Diana exactly like the one Nancy was wearing? No way are they the same size. Amazing…

  13. I liked Diana Walker’s lone appearance. She could have pulled off a longer run if Nancy Barrett’s illness lingered.
    The wrinkled grass at the Collinwood fountain reminds me of the same phony grass in Ed Wood’s “Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

  14. If I didn’t appreciate the great Nancy Barrett before, I certainly do after this episode. I’m sure Diana Walker is a fine actor, but seeing someone else trying to walk in Carolyn’s shoes is eye opening. Nancy just brings such vitality and depth in her performance. Just another reason among so many, that I love this show.

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