“What difference does it make who catches the vampire?”
Hey, look who’s come over for a social call — it’s Sheriff George Patterson, the three-time winner for Least Effective Police Officer in the Dramatic Arts. In the two years that he’s been on Dark Shadows, Collinsport has grown from a gloomy little seaside town into a nightmarish hellscape ruled by demonic mob bosses, who never get prosecuted or even questioned very hard. We’re not going to see another law enforcement losing streak like this until the Pink Panther movies in the mid-70s, and even Inspector Clouseau managed to catch the bad guy once in a while.
As we’ve seen this week, there’s been a massive conspiracy to kill that nice young Joe Haskell, with four characters directly involved in a plot to poison his medicine. Furious, he decided to take the law into his own hands, and there’s an eyewitness alleging that she watched Joe strangle Barnabas Collins while he was innocently napping in an armchair.
Joe is not technically in custody at the moment, because he’s in the hospital, recuperating. But he never gets booked, and nobody else in the crime syndicate does either. Sheriff George Patterson lives in the law-breakiest town in the world, and he never even makes a goddamn arrest.
Here, check out the enhanced interrogation techniques.
Patterson: Why does Joe Haskell think Barnabas Collins is trying to kill him?
Julia: Does he?
Patterson: That’s his defense — or will be, if this is brought to trial. In your opinion, Doctor, does he have any reason to think this?
Julia: No, of course not.
Patterson: I see.
The Sheriff sits down on the edge of the desk, as police officers so often do, and he keeps a close eye on the teleprompter, just in case it decides to start something.
Patterson: What about Haskell’s medicine? I understand that he says it was poisoned. Was it?
Patterson: Who could have put the poison in it?
Julia: Any number of people.
Julia: Well, Barnabas, me, Willie Loomis — Maggie Evans, she visited him.
This answer appears to satisfy him, and he asks no follow-up questions about Willie or Maggie. He appears to believe that this stage of the investigation is all about brainstorming a list of potential suspects. This may actually be a scavenger hunt.
Naturally, he tells her who his suspects are, what he thinks about them, and when he’s going to question them, because he’s on a soap opera, and soap opera characters are constitutionally incapable of keeping a single thing to themselves.
He also stands directly in front of Julia, blocking her from the camera, and if I know Grayson Hall, she’s about two seconds away from taking a stethoscope out of her doctor’s bag and increasing the number of strangling victims to the tune of one. Stay out of her light, you reckless fool; you’re taking your life in your hands.
Naturally, the second that Julia’s excused, she runs straight to the prime suspect, and gives him an update on every single question that the Sheriff is planning to ask him. Barnabas, looking even more shifty than usual, declares that he has nothing to do with any of this, and nobody can prove that he has, unless they stoop to using the physical evidence, the eyewitness testimony and basic common sense.
Julia says that she thinks he should call a lawyer, and he responds with the appropriate level of scorn.
Julia: What if they do find out who the vampire is? Perhaps they can be more successful than we were. Barnabas, what difference does it make who catches the vampire?
Barnabas: A great deal!
Barnabas: Well, if they find the vampire, I’m sure that my past will somehow be discovered.
Julia: Oh, Barnabas, that’s insane! You’ve got no connection with it.
This may be the only time in the entire run of the series when I would take Barnabas’ side in an argument with Julia. He’s right, of course. Once you’ve committed murder, kidnapping, breaking and entering, assault and fantasy-metaphor rape, then you lose the option of asking the police to help you solve your problems. The police are not there for you; you are no longer part of their customer base.
When the Sheriff finally comes over, Barnabas offers him a glass of sherry. The Sheriff says no, but Barnabas helps himself to a glass anyway, because he is a Bond villain, and that is what you do.
Between Officer Teleprompter and Barnabas’ usual linguistic vicissitudes, the conversation gets a little bit abstract.
Patterson: And the result is, Haskell tries to ki — murder you.
Barnabas: I believe that also has been overstated.
Patterson: Come now, Mr. Collins. Mrs. Johnson told me exactly what happened when she walked in this house!
Barnabas: Oh, Mrs. Johnson was hysterical. I’m sure her story was more — well, more vivid than real.
Uncertain what to do with that little postcard from the infinite, the Sheriff tries to get a leg up on the conversation.
Patterson: Joe Haskell has admitted what he did. He swears that he will try again.
Barnabas: I don’t believe he will.
Patterson: I do. He thinks he has a reason to kill you.
Barnabas: That’s an aberration.
Well, aberration or not, it looks like Sheriff Patterson still might have a chance to break his lifetime high score of zero suspects in custody. A dog starts howling outside, which Barnabas takes as his cue to act even more shifty than usual.
But Patterson has his own problems. Gripping the armchair in a somewhat troubling way, he says, “There is something — someone — missing in this case, and I have a hunch that it’s a woman. Am I right, Mr. Collins?”
And as the hounds continue wailing in the background, Barnabas turns to give the Sheriff a helpless stare, as if to say, Well, no, that’s an armchair, actually, and I wish you’d step away from it. Maybe Patterson should have had that sherry after all.
Anyway, speaking of more vivid than real, Angelique shows up and it turns out she does want a drink. This is Barnabas’ life right now, just a long series of uninvited guests.
But that sequence is really just here to set up the big Friday cliffhanger, and it’s a Julia moment, naturally, because she’s the actual protagonist, and the show’s number one Junior Detective. She finds Barnabas, drained and barely conscious, and she tugs at his collar to reveal the telltale marks of a vampire bite.
That means we’re heading towards the amazing Dark Shadows catfight that we’ve always dreamed of — Julia and Angelique, battling for possession of the soul of Barnabas Collins. Shit just got real.
Monday: The Great 1968 Wrap-Up.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
There’s an ugly tape edit early in act 1, when Sheriff Patterson starts to question Julia.
Sheriff Patterson tells Julia, “That’s his defense. Or will be, if this is brought to ter — trial.”
Patterson asks Julia if there was poison in Joe’s medicine. As she pauses dramatically, someone in the studio coughs.
During Patterson’s interrogation of Julia, the Sheriff looks at the teleprompter twice in the same sentence. First, a long look at the prompter: “Barnabas Collins was giving Haskell” — then looking at Julia — “a dose of the medicine, when” — back to the prompter — “you noticed something was wrong.”
Immediately after that line, there’s the sound of a door opening in the studio, and then somebody whistles.
Mrs. Johnson stifles a chuckle in the second half of this sentence: “That’s a very Christian attitude of yours, one that I’m afraid I couldn’t have.”
When they hear Sheriff Patterson’s car outside, Barnabas starts to call Mrs. Johnson “Mrs. Hoffman”: “Don’t get upset now, Mrs. Ho — er, Johnson.”
There’s another loud cough when Sheriff Patterson tells Barnabas about the tampered medicine.
When Angelique rises from her coffin, you can see her nipples through her dress.
Behind the Scenes:
Today, Sheriff Patterson is played by Alfred Sandor, the fourth actor to play the role in the last two years. He’s actually just a one-day fill-in for Vince O’Brien, who played Patterson from May to July 1968; O’Brien will return in January for another couple episodes.
Alfred Sandor was a Hungarian actor who grew up in a traveling circus; his mother was a strongwoman. When he grew up, he moved to New York and became a boxer. During World War 2, he was a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps of the US Army, and worked as a spy behind enemy lines. He became an actor after the war. His first television appearance was on The Phil Silvers Show in 1956, and he first appeared on Broadway as an understudy in Third Best Sport in 1958. He was a standby performer in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple from 1965 to 1967, and when he made this Dark Shadows appearance, he was on standby for another Neil Simon comedy, Plaza Suite.
Sandor went to Australia with a touring company of Plaza Suite, and decided to live there. That’s where he had his greatest TV success, as Dr. Raymond Shaw in the Australian soap opera The Young Doctors. Sandor was part of the show’s original cast in 1976, and stayed on the show until he fell ill in 1982. Sandor died in 1983.
PS: There’s a joke out there somewhere that I couldn’t quite persuade to land, involving the words “sherry” and “Sheriff”. There, it’s yours now; you may do what you like with it.
Monday: The Great 1968 Wrap-Up.
— Danny Horn