“Knowing the man you love is also a part of love.”
Yesterday’s Dark Shadows episode ended in what is objectively the most exciting cliffhanger they’ve had in a long time. Barnabas Collins has been free of his vampire affliction for six months — a direct challenge to Angelique, the saucy sorceress who married him and cursed him. Now she’s become a vampire herself, and yesterday closed with the startling announcement that Barnabas will be her next victim.
It’s the kind of ending that basically dares you to miss the next episode. The whole reason that anyone would even bother to watch Dark Shadows is to see Barnabas the vampire, and we’ve been denied this simple pleasure for so long. The only thing we want to see is his lunatic ex-wife coming at him with fangs.
And that’s why, on October 16, 1968 at 3:55 in the afternoon, you see a thick crowd of children sprinting towards their homes, desperate to get to their television sets by four o’clock sharp. The housewives of America silence their vacuum cleaners, and leave the evening meatloaf to prepare itself for a while. This is the episode that you do not miss.
So just picture their delight when they see girl governess Victoria Winters entering the drawing room, to find her employer staring at a tiny cardboard mausoleum.
You see, Liz has been worrying obsessively for several months that she’s going to be buried alive, and she’s planning to build a special push-button crypt for herself, equipped with an in-coffin buzzer so she can signal to the outside world that she’s not really dead. The model arrived today, and she’s been staring at it all afternoon, trying to decide if she wants racing stripes or not.
That, unfortunately, is what we’re going to be watching today — another episode about Liz’s sad fixation on her own death. They don’t even mention vampires once. It’s a thoroughly egregious bait and switch, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
But this is what life was like, in the days before leaks and spoilers and live tweeting and episode guides, back when you could watch a television show and not know every single thing that was about to happen. You came to each episode as an innocent child, ready to be surprised by whatever was coming your way. It was dreadful.
I mean, yeah, I know — surprise is kind of my thing, I talk about it all the time. The whole point of television is to show you something that you didn’t expect. But this is the frozen limit. I mean, people skipped soccer practice. There’s probably going to be a class action suit about this.
Really, the best thing you can say about this grim storyline is that it’s not the Dream Curse. We’ve moved past the time on the show when all anybody could talk about was falling asleep, and I’m grateful. But this has got to be the next worst thing — a morose matron convinced for no particular reason that she’s about to be pre-emptively interred.
Because what can anybody even say to her? Once you’ve said “you’re perfectly healthy, and you’re not going to be buried alive,” then where is that scene supposed to go?
Roger barks, “Elizabeth knows she must make every effort to think of other things!” and Liz says, “I have, Roger!” And then what? Are we going to spend the rest of the episode watching somebody as she thinks of other things?
To be fair, they do the only interesting thing that they could possibly do under the circumstances, which is to have Roger pick up a nearby objet d’art and pummel the model into submission. But you can’t keep building toy mausoleums just to wreck them after five minutes. It’s not practical.
So I think you could make the case that spoilers perform a valuable service for the human race, keeping television shows honest. If you know that the next episode of Lost is an hour-long explanation of how Jack got his tattoo, and they’re not even going to mention Desmond’s vision, then you can just skip it and go do something else with your time.
Anyway, Liz sprints upstairs for some glum thinks monologues, and we’re left to watch a backacting-heavy apology scene with Vicki and Jeff.
“Forgiving is a part of love,” Jeff says, and she counters with, “Knowing the man you love is also a part of love.” Meanwhile, Angelique is off somewhere, sharpening her fangs with an emery board.
And that’s all there is, I’m afraid. Liz leaves the house to go sit in the cemetery for a while and talk to a gravestone, and Roger and Jeff go out to look for her, and they fill up twenty-two minutes, and then they run the credits.
So you’ll remind me of this, won’t you, the next time I get frustrated with the Bride of Frankenstein storyline? Pat me gently on the shoulder, and tell me that it could be worse — we could be watching human beings have feelings, and relate to each other, like they do on normal soap operas. Just tell me to be brave, and think of other things.
Tomorrow: The Sedating Game.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Roger trips on a word as he talks to Vicki: “It seems to me that everything began to change here when I married Cassandra. Oh, I bame — blame her because… we’ve never been very lucky in love, you and I, have we?”
When Roger opens the front door for Jeff, you can see the boom mic hovering above the drawing room.
Someone in the studio coughs as Roger approaches Vicki to tell her that Jeff’s at the door.
In the cemetery, as Jeff approaches the cowering Liz, you can see into the Collinwood drawing room set just beyond the set. Someone is standing on the set, and takes a couple steps. The great thing about this blooper is that it shows you how small the cemetery set is today. Jeff and Liz are in a tiny little sliver of the studio floor, not quite surrounded by greenery.
Tomorrow: The Sedating Game.
— Danny Horn