Episode 631: The Goat

“If you want tomorrow to happen, you will see me now.”

Dark Shadows fans don’t like Betsy Durkin. This is an established fact; ask anyone.

The Dark Shadows audience is unbelievably tolerant when it comes to acting styles — we have to be, it’s a survival skill — but it seems like nobody in the world has a nice thing to say about the actress hired to replace Alexandra Moltke as girl governess Victoria Winters. She doesn’t look right, she doesn’t feel like Vicki, she’s not a good fit for the role. And it seems like the producers agreed, because Betsy only appears in ten episodes, and then they cut her loose. She’s bad at Vicki.

Except that this is not actually the case. Betsy Durkin is fine. There are some serious irritants who pop up on Dark Shadows over the years — like Harry Johnson, who’s in today’s episode, working as hard as he can to ruin his scenes. Betsy is nowhere near that level. Betsy is fine.

So let’s see if we can figure out why fans dislike her so much, as the recently reconstituted sexy vampire boy Tom Jennings climbs in through the window and tries to murder her.

631 dark shadows vicki tom murder

Reason #1: Vicki has been useless for a long time, but we gave her a pass because nobody wanted to hurt Alexandra Moltke’s feelings.

It’s obvious why Dark Shadows fans feel sentimental about Vicki. She’s the girl from the dream, who hitched a ride on a train through Dan Curtis’ imagination, and inspired him to create the show. She’s the lost princess who worked as a scullery maid in the Queen’s castle, always a heartbeat away from a miraculous coronation. The show wouldn’t exist without her.

631 dark shadows vicki david career

But let’s face it: the last time Vicki did anything even remotely cool was when she helped David get away from his evil fire-goddess mother before he cooked to a crisp, and even then, all she did was stand there and nag at him for ten minutes. That was a career highlight for her.

631 dark shadows vicki barnabas chase

Reason #2: They keep saying that Vicki is important, and then they shield her from participating in plot points.

So at the top of today’s episode, Barnabas does what he always does — he rushes into the room, and protects Vicki from anything remotely resembling storyline progression. He’s been doing that every single day since he popped out of the mystery box a year and a half ago; it’s basically his only job. If it looks like something is about to happen to Victoria Winters, it’s up to Barnabas to chase it away.

631 dark shadows barnabas vicki vampires

And this time, he actually breaks with protocol and tells her some hard truths about the dude who just tried to eat her.

“There are very few such people in the world,” he says, “but they exist under a terrible curse — the curse of the living dead. They cannot live in the light of day — and by the dark of night, they cannot die. They feed on the blood of other human beings. And they are called… vampires.”

631 dark shadows barnabas vicki the v-word

That’s a huge, game-changing moment, saying the V-word out loud in front of the governess. That should mark a fundamental shift in the way that the show works. Except that it doesn’t.

Barnabas:  I want you to be very careful, and I don’t want you to have anything more to do with this.

Vicki:  Why?

Barnabas:  Well, someday soon, I’ll be able to tell you. But I can’t now. Will you trust me to do what must be done?

Now, keep in mind — when this script was written, they thought it would be Alexandra Moltke sitting in that bed, being just as useless today as she’s been all year. This is not a Betsy Durkin-shaped problem.

631 dark shadows nicholas chris impertinent

Reason #3: There’s an appealing story coming up, and we’re eager to get to it.

On another set not far away, the handsome new mystery monster has walked straight up to the Devil, and started asking impertinent questions.

This is Chris Jennings, the twin brother of Tom the vampire boy, and he’s investigating his brother’s unsolved murder. He’s asking Nicholas questions that nobody ever asks, like, “What is it that you do?” and generally making an entertaining nuisance of himself.

631 dark shadows tom rules

Meanwhile, the vampire twin is actually outside the window right this minute, defying all known laws of live-to-tape television production, because Tom Jennings is a maniac who CANNOT WAIT TO EAT YOUR FACE.

This is the kind of sexy recklessness we’ve got coming to us, as soon as the tedious people clear the stage. Vicki is one of those people.

631 dark shadows harry nicholas again

Reason #4: Before we can move on, the endless cycle of boring story must be broken.

So here comes dreary speed bump Harry Johnson, who insists on slouching across the screen while I’m trying to watch television.

“We’re — gonna dig up a grave?” he says, like he has no idea what show he’s on. “Look, I can’t do anything like that.”

“Now, you listen to me!” Nicholas bellows. “If I don’t get that body out of that grave, I’m in trouble. And if you don’t help me, you are in trouble.”

Harry gulps. “Mr. Blair,” he says, “can’t you get somebody else?”

631 dark shadows nicholas harry return

And apparently he can’t, so now I have to watch Harry unearth Eve, who was killed a week ago and has not filled out any application explaining why she should be allowed to return.

But that’s how the show works these days. Tom got staked two months ago, and now he’s back. Eve was strangled, dumped in a closet and buried in the earth, and now we’re hauling her back up to the surface again.

In fact, this is the third coffin that somebody’s dug out of the ground in the last six episodes. They’re going to have to start cutting this out.

631 dark shadows tom barnabas cross

Reason #5: Everybody is acting extra crazy right now, and it’s still not working.

If Vicki is acting a little more aggressive than usual, she’s not alone. They are deep into the Great 1968 Wrap-Up by this point, and they’re trying to speed past this nonsense as fast as they can.

So everybody is acting out of character this week. Carolyn suddenly has romantic feelings for Adam. Maggie agrees to marry Nicholas, and then insists on participating in the mad science experiment in the Old House basement.

631 dark shadows adam carolyn bananas

And Adam goes completely bananas by the end of the week, crossing a line that you’d never expect him to cross.

In fact, if Adam was suddenly replaced with a new actor, then that guy would’ve been the disastrous recast. Everybody would have agreed that Robert Rodan was great as Adam, but this new guy is just a bad fit for the character.

631 dark shadows vicki sacrifice

Reason #6. To heal the world, there must be a sacrifice.

This storyline isn’t going to fade away by itself. They need someone to lie down on the sacrificial altar, to die so that the show might live.

And this week, the show is absolutely obsessed with the idea that the sacrifice must be a woman. Every adult female character who appears this week is rendered unconscious at least once. Just wait until you see what happens to Maggie; she plays the lead role in a Black Mass and gets strapped to the mad science table in the same episode.

But as the week staggers to a close, Betsy Durkin will be on that table.

631 dark shadows vicki adam torture

And this is so painful for us — the girl from the dream, our precious lost princess, crumpled up and thrown away so that we can be delivered from this endless, repetitive story. This has to happen, but it comes at a price: we leave our innocence behind.

To protect ourselves — to deal with the guilt and pain of consenting to this terrible bargain — we withdraw our love from Betsy Durkin.

We tell ourselves that she’s the thing that’s wrong with the show right now. We take all of our anger and disappointment and grief, and we load it onto her shoulders, and we drive her off into the wilderness. She is the goat.

You don’t have to like Betsy Durkin. But a little respect, please. She suffers for our sins.

Tomorrow: The Owl, the Raven and the Bat.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 3, just as Harry and Nicholas arrive at the cemetery, we see a stagehand’s arm as he puts a prop lantern on the ground.

Behind the Scenes:

Usually, when an actor plays two characters in an episode, they’ll only be credited for one, but today, Don Briscoe gets two credits — one for Tom Jennings, and one for Christopher Jennings.

Tomorrow: The Owl, the Raven and the Bat.

631 dark shadows tom barnabas chromakey

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

43 thoughts on “Episode 631: The Goat

  1. I for one like Betsy Durkin, but still feel that Alexandra Moltke’s role should not have been recast. Moltke, after all, is a core cast member from day 1, and you don’t recast the day 1 people–except for the not yet real Sam Evans. Because sometimes it took a second try to get the casting perfect. You couldn’t be 100% perfect right off the bat. But they were with Moltke.

    I will say this for the recasting of Durkin. Each time they recast for the role, Vicki just gets cuter and cuter. That third recast, even though I’m watching the series for the third time in 3 years and just saw those episodes only weeks ago, I can’t even recall her name, just her face. Ironically, each time they recast Vicki it’s with an even prettier face, but yet the portrayal becomes ever more “faceless”.

    I think they should have brought back the set for the Collinsport Diner and put Betsy Durkin behind the counter as the new waitress, and then just let Kathryn Leigh Scott get settled in at Collinwood as the new governess. Durkin’s brassy approach is more typical of a waitress than a governess anyway. She should be trying to discipline David, rather than Nicholas Blair.

    I’m sure the Moltke detractors would have had no problem with sending Vicki into another room one day and then just forgetting about her, the way they’ll do shortly with Rodan’s Adam.

  2. I’ve always wondered how they did the Tom-at-the-window scene. My guess is that they ran a previously-taped scene, mixing it “live” with the current action. Same bit they pulled for the Angelique/Alexis sequence in 1970.

    You didn’t mention the best blooper(s) of the show: Tom glancing back for his marks as he retreats from Barnabas’ makeshift cross, then ducking out of camera range (the camera still on him) to get to the blue screen.

  3. The Vicki recast was going to be hard no matter who they cast. It was a quick turn around. Back then in soap operas, if they had warning, a character would take a trip and the actor would be off screen for a month or two before presenting the new face. Next day recasts happened because someone got sick, or lost their job unexpectedly. Plus many watchers were kids. Now some of us had already been coming home and catching Another World or Edge of Night, so we had seen recasts, but a suspect a lot of kids hadn’t. They were used to seeing the same actor playing a different part, not a different actor playing the same part. Soap recasts are jarring at the best of times, because the audience has seen the same actor giving their take on the character for years. So recasting it tricky Dark Shadows was singularly bad at recasts of major characters and had singularly bad luck in as much as most of the major recasts came without much notice. Doctor Woodard and Burke Devlin stick out as recasts that just did not work and also were rush jobs. Vickie was the same. Whatever Molke’s talents as an actress Vicki was soft spoken and a perfect lady. That was the Vickie we knew, and in many cases loved. Certainly DS learned its lesson, with the exception of wrapping Vickie’s story with yet a THIRD actress, from now on when an actor left, the character went with it.

  4. Woodard, Burke, and Vicki were especially bad recasts, I thought, because the replacement failed to capture the most vital element of the character. For Woodard, it was a soft-spoken decency. He was the doctor who would give a kid a lollipop before the exam. His replacement was stern and no nonsense. It was impossible to imagine him as the same person. Burke had a brash young “other side of the tracks” feel, and Anthony George possessed none of those traits. He was fine as Jeremiah Collins, for that reason, I think. And Vicki was Alexandra Moltke. It’s almost impossible to replace a character who has no character other than being a particular person.

  5. I have nothing against Durkin personally, and she’s not a bad actor, but she was not right to play Vicki. Durkin’s Vicki is more ‘perky gossip girl’ than ‘quiet introvert,’ and the difference is jarring. So jarring in fact, that my intense dislike of New Vicki stems not from Durkin herself, but from the fact that Dan or whoever cast her thought she was a suitable recast. It’s almost insulting that they expected the audience to believe this is the same girl we met in episode 1

    1. What’s unusual is that in the first year, a few characters were recast soon after they first appeared, as the actor didn’t fit the role well. This stopped after 1795 when they kept the actor no matter how bad they were.

      For example, Craig Slocum shouldn’t have been cast in the first place but I was surprised he didn’t get replaced by another actor (until oddly, the characters last episode which may have been due his being unavailable).

    2. That shot is from a later episode. I won’t “spoil” how it occurs, but Eve is still her glamorous Marie Wallace self at the start of the episode and presumably when she’s dug up — despite not having been embalmed or anything. I’m surprised they just didn’t have Nicholas and Harry steal her from a morgue.

      1. Belated response here (because I’ve only just seen the episode!) but they probably didn’t steal Eve’s body from the morgue because they would have had to build a morgue set. However, Dark Shadows already had a graveyard set!

    3. Ah, Wendy. If they had brought Eve in the flesh, they would have to pay Marie Wallace, while the skeleton worked for nothing… and could do male and female equally well…

      1. Surprisingly, we’ll actually see Marie Wallace on Wednesday, unconscious through the whole damn episode.Turning into a skeleton happens later.

        I don’t usually post spoilery screenshots from future episodes like that, but since I was talking about the ritual sacrifice of Betsy Durkin, I couldn’t resist the awesome visual of Betsy strapped down next to a bewigged skeleton. I figure you can’t have enough skeletons or wigs in your life.

  6. Alexandra Moltke was supposedly born of Danish royalty and was a part of ‘NYC high society’..and it showed. She possessed a worldly manner which carried over into her DS character and therefore made it seem plausible that she was a Collins by birth – not so much with the ‘fake’ Vicki – personally I thought Alexandra Moltke and Anthony George had decent chemistry – however I agree Dr Woodard #3 was terrible (as well as the recast Cemetery Caretaker) – David Ford was a much better Sam Evans – also it’s great to see Don Briscoe back as the ‘brothers Jennings’.

    1. Wow, I found AM to be anything but worldly of manner. She seemed to have a permanent slump and tended to “galumph” around the sets. not so much as if she were uncormfortable with her body, but as if she wasn’t even aware she had one.

  7. Hardly anyone ever believes me when I say Betsy Durkin is my favorite Victoria Winters. Even Betsy Durkin herself reacted with dismay when I told her that. I’ve liked all of the actresses who’ve played the role, but I did like Betsy the best.

    Betsy Durkin has told fans that it was actress Betsy Palmer who recommended her for the role on Dark Shadows. I asked Betsy Palmer about this once and she said she has never heard of Betsy Durkin and it never happened.

    1. Oh, how funny. According to IBDB, the two Betsys were both in Cactus Flower on Broadway during the same period (1965-68 for B. Durkin, 1967-68 for B. Palmer). It wouldn’t be surprising if Betsy Palmer doesn’t remember her anymore — they worked together more than 40 years ago.

  8. Betsy had a great scream, a prerequisite for a DS female, and so far, no flubs, I think….but after the Adam/Betsy scene with Carolyn….I thought, if we had never seen Nancy Barrett, and Betsy had been cast as Carolyn, nobody would have batted an eye. She got the role for being a talented actress, but miscast, and maybe could have been, oh,I dunno, Sabrina Stewart or something, yaknow, one of the new characters with no baggage to bear. The only flaw in her performances was either an awkward stare down of an opposing actor or a little overly melodramatic verbiage……Moltke had the awkward staredown as one of her principal quirks, I think, towards the end of her run, being so disinterested with Victoria anymore.

  9. Had Durkin ever watched Dark Shadows before being cast as Vicki? If, like most people who had to work for a living, she hadn’t, then all she had to go by were the scripts she was given, and as Danny says, the characterization in these “’68 wrap-up” episodes is inconsistent. So she can’t be blamed for playing a different character from Moltke’s Vicki.

  10. God help me, people! Will this be the last episode of Dark Shadows I watch? Hulu just removed every episode from here until 736 from their service. Everywhere I’ve looked the cost is $2 an episode, which seems absurd: I’m not sure some of the actors were paid $2 an episode.

    Should I just skip ahead so that I can keep with the show? It seems like I will be missing some formidable episodes though!

    1. Yeah, it sucks — Hulu’s been staggering the episodes that they offer. They’re using the DVD sets as “seasons”, so they were offering set 1-7, and then they took some down, and put up 1, 2 and 5-9. Now they’ve moved to 1, 2 and 10-14. So they’re keeping the first two sets up, and moving the others ahead.

      If they continue like this, they’ll probably end up circling back and doing 1-7 again, or something will change with their license and they’ll be able to put up more than 7 sets at a time.

      I’m hoping they’ll just be able to put up everything, but Dark Shadows syndication has always been like this. 🙂 They’re trying to fit a show with 1245 episodes into a streaming syndication model that’s designed for shows with less than 100 episodes.

      On the plus side, I think if you buy 40 eps at a time on Amazon or YouTube, it’s 40 dollars for the set, $1 an episode.

  11. Great post, and great comments on a deliriously insane episode! Meanwhile, I was struck by the audacity of Barnabas hassling Nicholas Blair for his a) having a vampire attack Victoria in her bedroom and b) wanting to marry Maggie Evans without her knowing his true nature. Pot calling the kettle black much?

  12. Now that I have watched Betsy Durkin in the role of Victoria for the first time in 50 years, I am willing to concede in retrospect (having been traumatized as a 17-year-old by the New Vicki) that the reason I was horrified by the recast was that Durkin had committed the unforgivable sin of not being Alexandra Moltke. I have also long since realized that Moltke was always Curtis’s imaginary version of an orphan from New York, NY and that if Vicki had been cast realistically from episode one in June 1966, she would have been a lot more like Durkin.

    I also see the point that Vicki – and everyone else – is acting way out of character. New Vicki goes and challenges Nicholas in a way Vicki would not have, and then she backs down in a way that Vicki might have, but only if she had confronted him in the first place, which she would not have.

    Dumbest Vicki line in this episode (admitting there might be other contenders): “Why?” when Barnabas tells her to stop dealing with Nicholas. Why?!?!?! Because you almost just got killed. Bullets are flying, girl!

  13. I love what’s been happening with Nicholas of late, particularly his confrontation with Barnabas. Nicholas is always self-assured and controlled, but the Cheshire cat grin was wiped off his face and replaced with rage. It was thrilling. The two titans of the show facing off was fantastic.

    Betsy Durkin can just get off my screen right now, but Amy Jennings! Yay!

  14. I just want to add that I’m not a preteen. Yay for Amy Jennings is because it’s the sign that we’re headed toward Quentin Collins.

  15. I maintain the whole problem with the recast was, in fact, Alexandra Moltke. It’s odd seeing comments in defence of her “otherworldliness”, or describing her as a “quiet introvert” – these are not elements of the character, they are side-effects of having an actress that floats diaconnectedly through every scene, giving absolutely no performance whatsoever.

    Durkin looks like a bad fit for Vicki because she actually does stuff, but that’s only problematic because the previous Vicki did nothing. It’s baffling to see that upheld as a problem with Durkin rather than Moltke.

    It’s like I’m stuck in an endless Zoolander fever dream, where Moltke is Ben Stiller – which puts me in the unfortunate position of being Will Ferrell, for which I shall never forgive her. Nevertheless, no-one else seems to notice that she’s always doing the same look, and I feel like I’ve been taking crazy pills…

  16. I just found your site and I have to say that I just live your writing style. I don’t often laugh out loud, but your take on Betsy Durkin and the entire Dark Shadows storyline at this point is not only witty, but also compelling. Bravo! Thank you for starting my day with a good laugh.

  17. I think Alexandra was boring but she did have an aristocratic air to her. I think Betsy was a miscast but she doesn’t bug.

    What does bug is how shouty Nicholas is I. This episode. Of course he’s yelling at Harry which I don’t blame him for, but he’s usually so cool and collected.

  18. This is my first time through Dark Shadows, but on her very first appearance, Betsy Durkin immediately became my preferred Victoria Winters. I can understand the fan loyalty to Moltke, and she was a good fit for the character, but as I’ve made my way further into the series she’s just seemed more and more boring. As soon as Durkin appeared I began reimagining old episodes with her playing Vicki instead, and they became so much more interesting! She does seem to be acting out of character in her first appearance, but I felt the same about every re-cast I’ve seen in the series, and this is by far my favourite. I had been desperately looking forward to Vicki’s departure from the show, but now that Betsy Durkin is on the scene, I wish she’d stayed around for longer. (But Roger Davis still has to go. Now. Or preferably before he was cast in the show.)

    1. It’s a joke based on titles like “Nancy Drew, Girl Detective” and “Joyce Jordan, Girl Intern”. I use it a lot because it’s alliterative and I think it sounds funny.

  19. Fair enough. More importantly, I sincerely apologize for my language. That was rude and entirely uncalled for. I won’t make excuses, and it won’t happen again. I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment from your blog and you’ve made me laugh a lot. You deserve better than that for all the effort you’ve put into this, and I certainly don’t want my fellow DS fans thinking that there’s a gigantic jerk lurking in their midst.
    It is strange how life happens differently for people. You and I are the same age and yet a year ago I didn’t know that this show existed. Now I own the entire box set, and I haven’t even seen the whole thing yet. It seems to be the best kept secret in the history of American television.
    Again, sorry for coming across like a huge you-know-what. There’s been far, far too much of that going on in this country for far, far too long.

  20. The stagehand’s arm putting in the later in the cemetery is a wonderful blooper. The no brakes pace of this episode is jarring, but thrilling. After so many weeks Vicki and Jeff, and Adam having a tantrum it’s refreshing to start speeding down the storyline clearing highway.

  21. I thought Durkin was okay, she had no time to understand the former Vicky’s personality, so she came on a little strong at first. Moltke was not a good actress IMHO. She reportedly was unhappy being “victim-y Vicky,” her words. And she was pregnant with her son, whom she named Adam.

    1. Oh yeah, and I noticed that the vampire Tom Jennings was wearing the lumberjack plaid jacket that Joe Haskell had worn previously. Hard to miss.

  22. Tom Jennings is probably the unluckiest DS character ever. He was just a simple electrician, fixing the wiring in Nicholas Blair’s house. Accidentally stumbled across Angelique’s coffin. Gets turned into a vampire. Gets staked by Barnabas. And then resurrected again by Blair.

  23. Harry Johnson is just terrible. I understand. Yes. But … well, I grew to like his ersatz Willy Loomis to Nicholas Blair role in Dark Shadows. His questioning everything like a drunkard everyman down to the pub makes me laugh. Poor Craig Slocum was never as lucky, talented as John Karlen, but Craig was there, man, he was there.
    Also, I absolutely adore Alexandra Moltke. I rebuff the hate 🙂
    Love this blog.

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