Episode 583: Every Woman We Know

“These people, they’ve got plans for you!”

Okay, time for another crackpot plot twist in the Bride of Frankenstein storyline. The writers have dug themselves into a rather unlikely hole, and they just can’t figure out what the hell to do about it.

Adam, the show’s resident Frankenstein monster, is demanding that Barnabas and Julia create a woman for him. They don’t really want to, because it’s gross and scary, but he’s threatened to kill girl governess Victoria Winters if they don’t, so they’re giving it a whirl. They’ve managed to assemble a lady monster out of dead person parts, and now their problem is that they need to suck the life force out of a living woman in order to get the Bride off the table and onto her feet.

Now Barnabas and Julia are standing around in their basement laboratory, discussing who they’re going to use for the life force. “I’ve thought about it endlessly,” Barnabas says. “I’ve considered every woman we know.”

Julia says, “Must it be someone we know?” and you can tell that she’s thinking, dude, we only know, like, five women. It’s not that big of a cast.

583 dark shadows julia barnabas woman

“I’m afraid it must be,” Barnabas says, “for our own safety.” And then they do the most delightful thing.

A suspenseful music cue starts up — it’s cue 200, if you’re interested, “Barnabas Music – String Start to Woodwinds” — and Julia follows Barnabas across the room.

She says, “You’ve already made your decision, haven’t you?” The violins are humming anxiously on the soundtrack.

And for once, they’ve timed the music cue exactly perfectly, because just in the split-second after he says “Yes,” there’s a kettle drum bongggg. It’s gorgeous.

583 dark shadows barnabas drums

Barnabas turns to face Julia, and they act like he’s announcing the winner of the Miss America pageant.

“I have decided,” he says, “that the body who gives the life force will be…” — hold for a drum roll — “Maggie Evans.”

He actually does say “body,” by the way, rather than “woman,” which has got to be one of the all-time great Fridian slips.

582 dark shadows barnabas julia adjust

Julia’s not crazy about the idea, because Julia’s not crazy, so they squabble for a while about why he chose Maggie (they can control her), how they’ll get her to agree (Julia can hypnotize her), and what will happen if she dies (he’s pretty sure she won’t).

He insists that they have to do something or Adam will kill Vicki, and they kind of toss the ball back and forth for a while, and then they build up to an amazing little moment of petulance.

Barnabas:  Well, I’m glad you appreciate my position, even though you don’t agree with  my decision.

Julia:  I certainly do not.

Barnabas:  Well, if you have any suggestions, I will be glad to listen to them.

Julia:  Oh, Barnabas, I can’t think of someone just like that.

Barnabas:  Well, until you do, it will be Maggie Evans, so you might as well adjust yourself to that.

583 dark shadows willie barnabas adjust

So while we’re all adjusting ourselves, I’ve got a question: Why does this story point not work for me?

According to all of my usual criteria, this decision seems like a good move. It’s surprising, which is always priority #1. It works for the characters, as a callback to Barnabas and Julia’s first storyline — when Barnabas kidnapped and terrorized Maggie, and then Julia hypnotized her to forget about it.

It also activates two more characters in the storyline — Maggie, and also Willie, who has a crush on her, and doesn’t want to see her harmed. I should be really happy wth this idea.

583 dark shadows willie barnabas cruel

But it just feels weird and wrong, and I’m trying to figure out why.

It’s not that Barnabas is being capricious and cruel, sacrificing Maggie’s life to save Vicki’s, just because he likes Vicki more. I mean, he is doing that, and it’s not a good thing for a person to do, but that’s not a problem for me. He’s a monster, and a villain, and the storyline is always more interesting when he acts like one.

583 dark shadows maggie vicki table

I think part of the problem is that I just don’t believe that Vicki is in danger. Adam threatened Barnabas with her death weeks ago, and he keeps re-threatening every few days, but Vicki’s not actually a meaningful part of this storyline. Adam is hiding out in the same house that Vicki lives in, but they never cross paths. She’s just sitting there on the sidelines, the putative victim.

There’s also a problem that came up during the Dream Curse storyline — the threat was so diffuse, and it dragged on for so long, that characters ended up walking in and out of the story. Mrs. Johnson would be involved for a few days, and then the curse passed on to the next character, and we wouldn’t see Mrs. Johnson again.

This Frankenstein story has the same kind of problem. For a while, this story was about Professor Stokes, and then Carolyn, and then Vicki and Jeff. For the last few days, it seemed like they were building up Jeff and Angelique as key characters in the storyline. But Jeff has basically been fired from the story, with no plausible way to get back in, and now we’re supposed to shift our attention to Maggie.

583 dark shadows maggie vicki sitting

Maybe the real problem is: If we’re supposed to get all worked up about a threat to these two characters, then maybe they shouldn’t be sitting around on the terrace drinking coffee.

I mean, this is Dark Shadows, a ridiculous shock factory that runs on surprise and spectacle. They can get away with inventing new lunatic plot contrivances, but they have to happen fast, so the audience doesn’t have time to think about it too hard.

But the Bride of Frankenstein thing is just dragging, and it’s kind of driving me crazy. What are they waiting for? Bring on the Bride!

Tomorrow: The Fugitives.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

They completely botch the music cue at the end of the teaser. Willie has a scalpel and he’s ready to hack the Bride’s body to pieces. Barnabas appears behind him, and shouts, “Willie!” and then there’s a huge dramatic sting. Except Barnabas has one more line to deliver: “If you touch that body — I will kill you!” They’ve already used up the dramatic sting, so there’s nothing to do but quietly fade to black.

Barnabas tells Willie, “You must accept what’s going to happen. There’s no point in trying to pretend that something cannot happen.”

Near the beginning of Vicki and Maggie’s scene, something strikes Maggie as funny, and she starts smiling for no apparent reason. It happens in the middle of the line, “Well, I think most men have trouble doing that.” She suddenly smirks, and then she’s obviously suppressing a laugh for the next thirty seconds, all the way through Barnabas entering and sitting down at the table.

Behind the Scenes:

On the day that this episode aired — September 18, 1968 — Variety ran an article about Dark Shadows titled, “Monsters Making Good, So Dan Curtis Will Add Werewolf to Shadows“. I haven’t been able to track down a copy of that article, but it sounds amazing. Does anybody out there have it?

Tomorrow: The Fugitives.

583 dark shadows julia barnabas face

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

30 thoughts on “Episode 583: Every Woman We Know

  1. The lack of real, palpable stakes is the biggest drag on this storyline. For me, this is an example of how DS’s “winging it” writing style can work against it. If they’d committed to the idea that creating a mate for Adam would mean the outright death of another person, you’d have the potential for dramatic tension. (Barnabas as a living exception wouldn’t contradict anything because he expected to “die” and he was also a vampire.)

    But that alone couldn’t save the storyline because, as noted, Vicki is in no apparent danger. When Jeff expressed the actual logic of simply taking Vicki away, where Adam couldn’t find her, everyone talks around this point. Barnabas then mentions Adam’s insane plan to just kill everyone at Collinwood (this varies from everyone with the name “Collins” or everyone at the estate, so based on the day, Mrs. Johnson has reason to worry). But they are in no immediate danger either, and while he’s smarter than he was before, he’s not demonstrably stronger — just post police at the door with instructions to shoot.

    But I guess Barnabas can’t let anything happen to Adam or he’ll become a vampire again but that point is mentioned only when a writer remembers it.

    There is one interesting thing about Barnabas’s plan to use Maggie: It’s based on the fact that no one would volunteer for the experiment without being controlled, as they plan to do to Maggie. It’s a perfect insight into the mind of a selfish person who can’t conceive that anyone would commit a selfless act. If the situation were explained to Maggie, she’d probably volunteer in order to protect Vicki, her friend (of course, explaining the situation has it down sides for Barnabas and Julia legally, but that point is never even addressed).

    1. But, likewise, if they told Vicki about it, she would be horrified to know that her friend was being sacrificed, and she wouldn’t allow it. The only way that this plot works is if you keep the women involved completely in the dark, and just make decisions for them. Maybe that’s the thing that’s pissing me off.

      1. Yes, it’s not a particular progressive plot point. Barnabas regards Vicki as a possession that Adam will “destroy,” which I suppose is in character for the sociopathic behavior he’s demonstrated even as a human being.

        What doesn’t work for me is that Barnabas and Vicki aren’t even a couple. It’s not like he’s keeping his actual significant other in the dark. We’re only a few months removed from when he was the immediate threat to her. He’s basically her stalker because she’s never come close to returning his feelings (their brief engagement was when she was under his influence — the vampire version of taking a drink mixed by Bill Cosby). So the core tension here is a Frankenstein monster threatening an unhinged stalker with the death of the woman with whom he’s obsessed (who’s engaged to another man) and now he plans to “save” her by risking the life of the last woman he stalked. (And the Frankenstein monster exists in the first place because of Barnabas and his sloppy parenting skills. )

        It’s just hard to like him or identify with him during this plotline. It’s almost like he was better when he was the clear antagonist.

        A book I recommend to writers I work with is Booker’s Seven Basic Plots (http://www.amazon.com/The-Seven-Basic-Plots-Stories/dp/0826480373). One of many things that clicked for me was the notion of the “Dream Stage” in tragedies. It’s the period when everything is going well for our hero or villain protagonist (in GOODFELLAS, for example, it’s when Henry Hill is living the good life as a gangster and having so much fun, you almost want to sign up or, more briefly, in TAXI DRIVER when Travis has pie with Betsy… Macbeth ruling Scotland… and so on). Anyway, this period in a story creates tension because there are hints that it’s all going to fall apart.

        This storyline especially suffers from not having that stage, I think, because I truly don’t care what happens. There are no stakes. Barnabas isn’t happily engaged to Vicki, which we know won’t last (metatextually because stable relationships in soaps don’t endure). He’s not trying to actively hide the experiment from her while she’s eagerly planning her wedding. Nothing is at stake. He’s not with Vicki now and — to be blunt — if Adam kills her, he still won’t be with her. Notice that Jeff was the one who had to turn down a job because of his involvement with the experiment, which caused tension in his relationship with Vicki, and ended their engagement. That is what should be happening to our protagonist (Barnabas) not some guy who can’t keep from rubbing his head.

        1. And I think that speaks to the fundamental problem of the Barnabas and Vicky relationship – it’s a one-sided romance. Actually, it’s worse than that because Barnabas barely mentions Vicky for weeks at a time and every once in a while writers have to remind viewers that he has feelings for her. At least Josette returned Barnabas’ affections, so there’s some justification for him pining away for her endlessly. But Vicky has made it clear over and over again she’s just not that into him. Yet he keeps acting like he has a chance if he would just get Jeff out of the way.

          The selection of Maggie doesn’t work for me either. I can almost buy that it’s rooted in Barnabas’ spite for her rejecting him but I think that needed to be brought up on screen – ideally by Julia. But really, it just doesn’t make any sense and as you bring up Stephen, it works against the writers’ apparent wish to make Barnabas more sympathetic and likeable (which does seem to be what they’ve been trying to do in 1968) but this whole Adam storyline has been working against that. I’m ok with Barnabas being an anti-hero and not 100% a good guy, but there’s really no consistency with how they want the audience to react to him.

          Also, I always find it funny when Barnabas threatens Willie physically at this point. Barnabas was able to beat the crap out of him in the old days because Willie was under his control and Barnabas was a vampire. Neither of those points apply anymore. And there’s no doubt in my mind Willie could easily thrash human Barnabas.

          1. I think in any given scene, Jonathan Frid reflects back what he gets from the other actor. He can be passionate with Angelique, protective with Julia, conflicted with Willie, furious with Trask, heartbroken with Joshua.

            But if you put him with a weaker actor like Vicki or Roxanne, then he reflects that back, and there’s no chemistry. Nobody is shipping Barnabas/Vicki.

          2. Danny points out that Barnabas choosing Maggie as the life force candidate should work because of the effect it has dramatically on other characters — especially Willie, who will later kidnap Maggie, which will then lead to her remembering what Barnabas did to her. Personally, I always found that a very odd decision on the writers part to remind the many new viewers that Barnabas once kidnapped a woman and locked her in a dungeon. The Trask “trial” in the Old House was great because it referenced events in 1795 when Barnabas was attacking women on the docks — hardly Boy Scout material but dramatically “justified” as “the curse made me do it.” His actions toward Maggie are pure CRIMINAL MINDS unsub. As you mention, Josette returned his feelings so even if his intent with her (vampire bride) was the same as with Maggie, it comes across differently.

            However, the entire plot detour, I think, is salvaged when Maggie escapes captivity and rushes to seek the aid of the man she loves (Joe Haskell), and discovers him in the embrace of a vampire (Angelique). It’s a wonderful moment of the world basically falling in on someone. When she screams with terror, it feels as if there literally is no other reaction she could have.

            1. I think you could make the case that the writers actually have very little interest in whether people think that Barnabas is nice or not. In fact, I plan to devote the entire four years of this blog to making that case.

              There’s only one moment in Dark Shadows history when the production team specifically made a change in story direction because the audience thought Barnabas was being mean — the “Emergency Leviathan Episode” in late ’69 — and the actual problem that they needed to correct was that he was being mean to Julia.

              1. You make a good point. I think even from his introduction, “love” (even as selfishly and myopically as he’s expressed it) has defined Barnabas’s motivations. We see this now in the Bride storyline, even if his love is weird and creepy. He’s never sought money or power (e.g. Quentin’s goals at the start of 1897).

                The Leviathan Emergency episode restored that motivation — this time love of Josette and affection for Julia. Prior to it, he was functioning not just as an antagonist again but as a Nicholas Blair “company man” one but without Blair’s charm. That is Blair’s greatest failing, I think. Petofi serves only himself, as does Angelique, but Blair ultimately came off as a middle manager of evil. This is Barnabas in the early Leviathan storyline.

                I wonder what would have happened if the first thing Barnabas had done was to put Julia under the Leviathan’s control because he knew he’d need her as an accomplice (they tried and failed in the actual story). It would in a sense return us to the dynamic duo of evil they were in 1967.

                And instead of the tired amnesia plot, Quentin could be the one investigating the weirdness at Collinwood and why his former friends have changed so.

      2. I don’t like this plot. Why must Barnabas keep trying to interject her into his madness? Julia is right in trying to tell him, it is not feasible to use Maggie. The entire project is stupid at best. I don’t see how this is helping here. Julia also doesnt have a problem letting Barnabas hang himself either. I guess it works out.

  2. I agree with Stephen – Barnabas has been harboring a grudge against Maggie because she rejected him and had the nerve not to want to embrace the character of Josette (and thereby embracing him) – his bloated ego can’t stand that – back in the day when he had her prisoner he even made cruel references about the fact that she was not in the same social class as the mighty Collins family. If this isn’t his reason then Barnabas is truly vile with absolutely no redeeming qualities to propose that Maggie die so that the man (Adam) who killed her father Sam can use her essence as his personal plaything. I love Willie for standing up to Barnabas and saving Maggie’s life. Even Julia should be ashamed of herself (again) for acting like a lump when it comes to anything Barnabas suggests, no matter how insane it is. How did she ever become a psychiatrist???

    1. I didnt think Julia was agreeing with Barnabas. But I do agree she should have stepped back some. You can see how she really wants to call him an asshole like he is. She has great restraint.

  3. One would think that after all Willie has done for Barnabas, especially lately–taking great risk, protecting his secret, and being loyal–that their relationship would have progressed to the more equal footing of friendship, as is the case with Julia. But instead, with his obvious contempt and frequent threats, Barnabas continues to regard Willie as being beneath him, and their relationship remains rooted in the old world hierarchy of master and servant, as Barnabas would callously sacrifice the woman Willie loves to protect the woman he loves.

    1. Barnabas thinks Willie is delusional in his unrequited love for Maggie — unlike his far more rational unrequited love for a woman who’s been engaged to two different men since he started pursuing her.

      Adriana Pena has commented that Barnabas is an arrogant aristocratic snob. I think it’s a key part of his character — along with his almost comical narcissism. He could never be friends with Willie for this reason. Willie works for him — nothing more. He was somewhat kinder to Ben Stokes but that relationship was still unbalanced and borderline abusive.

      He has elevated Vicki, despite her background, and he seems to regard Julia as an equal or at least a confidante, but those relationships are both based in how well they serve Barnabas.

      1. Wait’ll 1897, when Barnabas decides, instead of just observing what is going on to help David in the future, to meddle in everyone’s lives causing deaths that may not have happened originally.

        1. In Barnabas’s defense, “responsible” time travel is not ideal for dramatic purposes. You wind up with a passive protagonist. This is part of what sunk Vicki as the lead of DS. She does nothing in 1795. She doesn’t even actively try to return to her own time.

          1. She saves Daniel and the future Collins family. That’s something. Perhaps Phyllis Wick would have done that. Perhaps not.
            1795 is not for Vicki to learn about Barnabas, but for US to learn about him.

      2. Willie is much smarter than Barnabas in many ways. Barnabas lacks common sense in some ways and is still self-absorbed and pompous when he should not be.

  4. During the outdoor coffee scene after Maggie leaves Vicky with Barnabas, is the funniest blooper ever…….

    Vicky, paraphasing: “I was getting David ready for his trip to Boston.”

    Actual finish: “It was quite something getting him off.”

    And then, she buries her face in the coffee cup, knowing that everyone is holding back laughter, and the awkward pause goes on forEVER.

  5. “Oh, Barnabas, I can’t think of someone just like that.”

    This is Julia (ONE…MORE…LIFE!) Hoffman, who worked the last run of this SAME experiment, who’s been sewing this new monster together for the last month – did she think they were just going to have Kelly Services send over a temp to fill in (‘typing, shorthand, transferable life-force preferred’)? She must have given SOME thought to what the next step would be! What HAS been going through her mind during this period? (Aside from that couple of days of “…wow, that Tom Jennings is dreamy! I can’t believe how much he’s biting on me…just love how he says ‘Joooooliaaaaaaah!’ Wonder if I can get him to take his shirt off next time he summons?”)
    Honestly. “…just like that.”
    Come on, you are strong, you are invincible, you are Doctor Julia Hoffman, now get it together!

  6. Some really fun and thought-provoking remarks here. I feel compelled to defend Barnabas, because I believe a lot of the dissatisfaction with his character profile is actually good writing.

    For instance: B comes from an original life where wealthy gentlemen sported with housemaids, serving wenches, and governesses, i.e. Angelique, Maggie, Vicki.

    He ended up taking advantage of the wrong housemaid, one who happened to convince herself she had a chance with a wealthy, landed aristocrat.

    Flash forward to 1967,1968….Barnabas is still the same man/vampire. He had tender feelings for Josette, but he was mainly marrying her, IMHO, because that match was arranged and pleased his family. Now he is literally flailing around, trying to love, trying to recapture the feeling of love. Becoming a vampire didn’t really change B, it just ripped away the polite world of decorum he had been raised in. If you were a Barnabas Collins in 1795, the world was your oyster. He’s a relic, albeit an oddly charming one in the 1960’s.

    I think B was meant to be one of those lonely, haunted Gothic characters who can’t really love, but also can’t give up wanting to.

    1. I love your analogy JRM. However, I think Julia is the one that is bringing love back into his life, or bringing the “heart into his life.” There is a song by Bill Withers who sings, “there is only one love in your lifetime. There is only one love who can only do right. They will love you with all of their might, they put the heart into your life.” If you look at Julia’s actions towards Barnabas, that is exactly what she is doing.

      1. Thanks, Renee! There was a scene between B and Julia a few eps back, where they just said goodnight to each other after sharing their plans for what they planned to be doing the rest of the evening.

        I think it was the ep where Julia was listening to light orchestral music in the laboratory in the next scene. She seemed happy b/c B had been gently solicitous of her.

        B’s problem is he can’t let go of his need for romance with the hot sexy girl he always expected to land. Platonic friendship is all he seems to have for Julia.

        1. Its quite unfortunate and just goes to show loving eyes can never see. What will it take? I am a hopeless romantic!

  7. Honestly, Angelique is the only logical choice for life donor. She’s a vampire and we know that vampires have life force to spare; she’ll live just like Barnabas did. The lady will wake up tabula rasa just like Adam, thus foiling Nicolas’ “most evil woman” plan. And no one dies! Work together, people!

    And yes, I know this is all too simple and probably a story- killer, but a girl can dream.

  8. Maggie and Joe being destroyed by Barnabas, Julia, and Angelique is just as unsettling as Barnabas and Julia killing Dr. Woodard. It’s wrong and no amount of explanation can make it okay.

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