Episode 673: The Shambles

“The blast from that gun should’ve killed any living creature. And it should’ve.”

Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins is out on the grounds of his family estate in the middle of the night, hunting for werewolves by the light of the full moon.

He hears something moving in the woods — and as the vicious beast advances, Barnabas lets fly with a rifle shot, smacking the animal right in the heart. But this is a supernatural creature with the raw power of whatever demon cursed its malignant soul; it shrugs off the gunshot, and comes back for more.

Thinking quickly, Barnabas tosses the rifle aside, and prepares to beat the snarling beast to death with his cane.

You know, they don’t make eccentric millionaires like this anymore. It’s a lost art.

673 dark shadows barnabas werewolf cane

And suddenly, the fight is over. Barnabas’ cane is topped with silver, and one look makes the scaredywolf rear back and run away. It’s the damnedest thing.

By the way, this idea that a werewolf can be killed with a silver bullet comes from a series of strange animal attacks in the mid-1760s, in the French province of Gévaudan. There were reports of an enormous, unstoppable wolf-creature — the Beast of Gévaudan — who attacked dozens of men, women and children, reportedly killing over 100 people in two years. The Beast was finally brought down by a hunter, and legend has it that the kill-shot was a blessed silver bullet. Yeah, I know, I don’t care either.

673 dark shadows julia amy bed

Meanwhile, there’s trouble on the home front. Young Amy has decided to get out of bed, put on some clothes, and head out for the evening. Julia spots the kid on her way out the door, and asks her what she thinks she’s doing.

Amy starts babbling about her brother Chris, as usual. She had a dream that he was in terrible danger, and she’s got to see him, and make sure that he’s all right.

Julia tries to redirect, but Amy heads straight for the door. Julia blocks her way, and pretty soon the whole show is just a woman and a young girl yelling at each other in the middle of the night.

673 dark shadows julia gun

Julia decides that the only way to get the kid to pipe down is to go to the cottage, and check on Chris herself.

Remembering the refugee from Gévaudan who might still be prowling through the underbrush, she goes into the drawing room, opens a drawer and pulls out a loaded gun. Once again, Collinwood is bristling with murder weapons. This really is the most irresponsible show.

Now, the great thing about handing a gun to an actor is that they treat it like any other prop, pointing it at whoever they’re talking to. In this case, Julia’s aiming directly at Amy’s midsection. She must really want that kid to go back to bed.

673 dark shadows julia amy gun

So can we talk for a second about Amy? She’s a relative newcomer, having just arrived two months ago, but she’s kind of taking over the whole show. Ever since she moved into Collinwood, she’s been in four episodes a week. It feels like we keep tripping over her, every time we’re trying to get something done.

She’s a super weird kid, always saying and doing things that nobody can understand. She’s occasionally remote-controlled by the forgotten spirits in the west wing, and she’s also got this sputtering sibling-risk detector that fires up every once in a while.

She sees pentagrams on people’s faces. She has upsetting prophetic dreams. She’s afraid of the moon, and she doesn’t know why. The girl is a mess.

So it looks like Amy’s got a bad case of heightened narrative-sensitivity, a fictional condition commonly known as Spidey-sense. This means that she automatically knows whatever the writers need her to know at any given moment, in order to move the scene along.

Amy can sense what’s happening in scenes that she’s not in, basically filling in for the audience. She knows everything that we know, so she takes our place in the narrative, running out of the house to go and see the stuff that we want to see.

That actually used to be Julia’s job, before Amy came in and grabbed all the screen time. And considering where Julia’s pointing that firearm, it looks like she’s starting to figure that out.

673 dark shadows cottage shambles

Determined to take back her rightful place in the narrative, Julia orders Amy to stay at Collinwood, and hurries over to Chris’ cottage. That’s where she finds the shambles.

In the dramatic arts, a shambles is a helpful information-management technique that moves the story ahead, and you don’t need to pay for two actors. You have a character walk into a room, survey the shambles, and presto, instant mystery. For dramatic value, you really can’t beat a good shambles.

Julia’s still packing heat, by the way, but she’s not pointing her gun at anything in particular. It’s obvious that she’s forgotten that she’s holding it. Gun safety doesn’t appear to be a concern for actors; Hollywood must be more or less shot to pieces by this point.

673 dark shadows julia amy lies

With that bit of upsetting news in the tank, Julia struts back to Collinwood and does what she always does: she puts on her brightest smile, and tells as many lies as she can think of. This is typical for Julia in the way that being hot is typical for the sun.

Here’s a sampling: He’s fine, I had to wake him up, he said to tell you not to worry about him, he had to go into town, your new haircut looks great, there are WMDs in Iraq, it’s about ethics in gaming journalism, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

Amy’s delighted and relieved, because Julia’s lies have the power to rewire her narrative-sensitivity alarm. You can’t mess with Julia; she’s the one who has the Spidey-sense in this house. Amy needs to stand down.

673 dark shadows chris bullet hole

Gosh, there’s still a lot to talk about. This is a Ron Sproat script, by the way, so you wouldn’t expect it to have this much story in it.

If you’re just tuning in, Ron Sproat is the boring guy on the Dark Shadows writing team, and he’s on the verge of getting booted from the show. He’s only got three episodes left, counting today’s, and you’d think he would just run out the clock like he usually does.

But this episode is great, and yesterday’s was too. There’s more plot, more surprises, and it moves like a dream. Why is Sproat breaking his long streak of static episodes?

Well, the cynical answer is that the werewolf story is so exciting that even Sproat can’t screw it up. The even more cynical answer is that Sproat knows he’s only got another couple weeks on the show, so what the hell, let’s burn through story. The correct answer is both of them.

653 dark shadows beth sad

As the sun rises, the wounded werewolf passes out in the woods, and changes back into good ol’ loveable Chris Jennings.

And then who should show up but Beth, the deceased governess who’s been helping Quentin mess with the kids at Collinwood. We haven’t seen a lot of Beth so far, so this is an exciting moment.

Beth looks down at Chris, and shakes her head, and she looks sad, and what does it all mean? No idea. But it’s mysterious and surprising, and the world is full of possibilities.

673 dark shadows chris shambles

Okay, back to the shambles. Chris finally gets up and staggers home, and he registers a quick “oh, for crying out loud” reaction when he sees what his night-time activities have wrought on the decor. He rushes around for a minute, trying to clean up the wreckage, but this kind of mess doesn’t clean up that easy.

673 dark shadows chris knock

There’s a knock at the door, and Chris looks down at his bloodstained, bullet-ridden shirt. And then we have another opportunity for Dark Shadows to give the people what they want.

673 dark shadows chris shirtless

It’s just a good episode, is what I’m saying. Dark Shadows is giving us value for money today.

Chris grabs his shirt and literally tears it in half, bursting buttons, and thrilling me and all the other teenage girls in the audience. Then he heads for the bedroom to find another outfit that doesn’t have so many body fluids on it.

673 dark shadows chris barnabas robe

Chris pulls on a robe, messes up his hair, and opens the door to let in his visitor, eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins. I don’t know what Barnabas has been doing since we saw him chase a hell-beast away with a stick last night. Victory laps, I guess.

Chris arranges his robe as Barnabas asks, “Did I wake you?”

“Oh, no, I was just getting dressed,” Chris says, making a big show of yawning. “Excuse me, I don’t know why I’m yawning, I got plenty of sleep.” He’s got shoes on, by the way.

673 dark shadows barnabas chris attacked

Then they launch into a peculiar little scene that I can’t quite account for. Barnabas sits down, and reports that Carolyn was attacked by an animal last night.

Chris:  Is she — Carolyn isn’t —

Barnabas:  Dead? No.

Chris:  Thank God.

Barnabas:  She managed to escape, but she was hurt.

Chris:  How badly?

Barnabas:  She has some cuts on her face.

Chris:  Is that all?

Barnabas:  Yes, but she was still shaken up quite badly.

673 dark shadows barnabas chris door

And then Barnabas just gets up, without another word, and walks to the door. It’s like everybody’s forgotten how to be a human all of a sudden.

673 dark shadows barnabas chris goodbye

So here’s a question: why did Barnabas stop by, just to tell Chris that Carolyn was hurt, and then leave? There’s no particular reason why he should be the one to deliver this news. Also, telephones exist.

But this is actually the point of this week — the writers are moving Barnabas and Julia back to their rightful place in the narrative.

The two big current storylines are about Chris’ lycanthropy, and the ghosts in the west wing possessing the children — and so far, Barnabas and Julia have been shut out from participating. That was okay while there was still some leftover 1968 story to mop up, but that’s all over now, and we’re left with a pair of promising storylines that don’t happen to include the show’s two main protagonists.

That changes, starting this week. Barnabas and Julia are going to take control of the show again, and if they need some plot contrivances to make that happen, then they’re just going to have to go ahead and contrive.

673 dark shadows barnabas julia drawing room

So when Chris tells Barnabas and Julia that he was sleeping at the cottage all night, that rings an alarm bell for Julia, on account of the shambles.

“Why would he lie?” she asks, and Barnabas says, “I don’t know,” and that can only mean one thing. Grab your guns, your cane and your magnifying glass. The Junior Detectives are on the case!

Tomorrow: Donna of the Dead.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, the chime of the clock fades out before it’s finished. The volume goes back up to finish the sound cue.

Someone coughs as Julia crosses the foyer to get the gun.

Amy says the following sentence: “Oh, no. I’ll be able to go to sleep now, because I won’t have any problems about worrying about having nightmares.”

Chris has a little trouble pulling the shade down at his cottage.

Barnabas and Julia talk over each other in act 3, when he says that he shot the animal point-blank.

Barnabas tells Julia, “The blast from that gun should’ve killed any living creature. And it should’ve.”

Amy is clearly watching for a cue before she burns the shirt.

Tomorrow: Donna of the Dead.

673 dark shadows julia frets

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 673: The Shambles

  1. Perhaps Ron Sproat was just trying to save his job by stepping up his game? His last two episodes have more the mark of a Sam Hall than anything Sproat has written in the previous two years. If he knew he was on the way out and there was nothing he could do about it, it would seem that he wouldn’t be trying so hard, with such a sense of determination, as if he wants to keep writing for the show to impress the powers that be (Dan Curtis) that he can write as exciting a show as anyone else on the staff and as well move the show along to its next level.

    Being such a close-knit group at the ABC studios, it seems like it was really hard to get fired from Dark Shadows. Either you had to drink yourself out of a job, like Mitch Ryan, or take a month-long vacation, like Malcolm Marmorstein. Or just be absolutely terrible with your lines, like the first Willie Loomis. But it looks of late that Ron Sproat is really doing his best to hang in there. However, if you weren’t liked by Dan Curtis, then it was the kiss of death, and not even another new character creation on the level of Barnabas Collins would save him now.

    1. Kathryn Leigh Scott told fans one story I’d never heard elsewhere of an actor who got fired from Dark Shadows. She said the actor was found “a few blocks away from the studio… sitting in a Puerto Rican barbershop… drunk… and trying to cut his own hair” and was replaced because they couldn’t get him ready in time for taping.

      It does indeed sound as though whoever that was had to try really hard to get fired from the show.

      1. Lessee here….we want it to be Addison Powell.

        But it has to be Slocum. Doing us all a big favor.

        Or was it one of Carolyn’s early boyfriends?

      2. Kathryn Leigh Scott also has a story (Return To Collinwood, p. 76) about episode 67, which had to be recorded on a Sunday, just two days before the scheduled broadcast date, because “one of [her] favorite actors” drank instead of having breakfast on the morning of the originally scheduled day of taping. The actor isn’t named, but it’s hard to tell who exactly it may have been, because both David Ford and Mitch Ryan were in that episode.

      3. I’m guessing Kathryn may have been talking about Mitch Ryan, who was fired and replaced for being drunk and unable to do his scene, but i never heard any of that barbershop stuff!

  2. I think the mark of a great Sam Hall script is dialogue. Same with Violet Welles. Things are certainly happening in this episode but there aren’t many great character beats or interactions. I think the DS revival suffered from this — a LOT would happen plot-wise in an episode, but there was nothing you wanted to go back and rewatch.

  3. About that hand…I don’t remember any mention, as though the injury was too close to taping to write it in. Later in the series, David breaks a leg and Kathy Cody nearly breaks her arm when somebody opened a door too fast and hit her in Preproduction…..I think these were written in because they were real, but I see no reason why Jonathan couldn’t have ad libbed some explanation that would fit the narrative. Unless he was just embarrassed about his injury…

    1. Definitely have to agree – while the later (post Barnabas) episodes packed in a lot of action and fast moving plots, there simply was no time to really get to know the characters and what made them tick. I know this was geared to the younger audiences and their short attention spans. While I have the entire set on DVD I find myself oddly drawn to the Beginning volumes when I want to get into the DS world again.

      1. See, now I must get them. Because all I have is the montage on Collection 26.

        I so love the b&w era……Henesy’s flubs were hilarious…I love the way that candle flames “burned” the cameras……but I suppose that was all 210 and beyond.

        The significant part of b&w era is that Molke’s Victoria didn’t seem stupid at all.

        Just naive. Then wary. Early VW had great appeal for me, and they ruined her years later, and despite what Moltke says about the physical problems with her pregnancy, that was a great cover for wanting to get out of the “Stupid Girl Role”.

        I fully support her decision to get out.

        The only early VW that I have is the opening scene with KLS.

        1. I am in total agreement with you – there was a strong likability to Victoria Winters in the early days – her story was truly interesting to me and I’ll never forgive ‘the powers that be’ for treating her so shabbily. As we see in today’s world of social media people that are continually treated badly eventually have a need to get some sort of closure at a point – for Alexandra this was leaving the show – I’m sure if there was some genuine discussion with her she would have come back. No matter the ratings that came later with werewolves, Quentin, Jeb and Gerard/Daphne there was SOMETHING missing and I believe it was the lack of closure on the Victoria story. I don’t consider the Jeb cliff diving off-screen drama a closure but the ultimate insult precipitated by a Dan Curtis temper tantrum after Alexandra refused to return to the show ‘in idiot mode’.. But definitely check out the beginning episodes – most of them are on YouTube.

  4. I always assumed that Amy’s “Spidey-sense” about Chris and his victims was part of the werewolf curse.

  5. A continuity issue: In episode 670 (which begins during the day before Chris turns into a werewolf), Chris told Carolyn that he had to go away for a few days and had to leave before dark. Julia looks for Chris near dawn, but he supposedly should have left for the trip he lied about having to take, so she shouldn’t expect him there. The same goes for Barnabas when he goes to the cottage in the morning to talk to Chris, who is pretending he is waking up. Chris then goes to Collinwood to see Carolyn. No one seems to wonder why he did not leave for the trip he said he was going to be away on.

    Re: the large presence of Amy. I wonder how David Henesy felt about all the screen time she was getting. It’s true that Amy’s arrival on the show also brought David into the show much more than he had been lately thanks to a significant storyline, but he’s really playing second fiddle to her at this point.

  6. I don’t think David Henesy minded or even noticed that he was second fiddle. She is a better actor than he is. If he noticed that, it might have been a relief to see her carry him. If he didn’t, he probably thought he was dominating just because his character is Alpha Boy in his relationship with her.

    Yeah, I think Amy is psychic and especially about her brother’s werewolf issues because it is in the blood. Maybe it is even genetically possible that she is a carrier who will pass the curse to her son, should she have one. (I don’t know because I am no expert on the hereditary patterns of lycanthropy.)

    Barnabas handles guns more safely than Julia. That’s a pattern in itself. I imagine Jonathan Frid growing up in Ontario, Canada in the 1930s and going hunting, but I also note from his biography that he was in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. Last time I saw Julia with a gun – maybe the same gun pictured above – she was cradling it like a baby. She not only tends to point it toward others, but she puts her fingers over the muzzle, which she does here. But who needs their fingers? Hollywood has become more conscientious about gun safety in recent decades, especially after Jason Lee was killed because of a prop gun mishap while filming “The Crow.”

    BTW, what Barnabas took from Roger’s gun collection is a shotgun. It fires shotgun pellets, not bullets. Shotgun shells are filled with pellets called shot. Shot comes in different sizes. Buckshot is so called because it is large enough for deer (buck) hunting. Close up, especially, buckshot can really tear up a target. In his blooper, I think Barnabas meant to say, “The blast from that gun should’ve killed any living creature. And it DIDN’T.” It is hard to tell from fictional gun-play – especially when they don’t match the sound of the gun firing with anything the audience sees on screen – but it looks as if Barnabas was supposed to have given the werewolf the proverbial “both barrels” at close range, which – depending on the size of the shot – could have cut a non-supernatural creature in two.

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