Episode 675: The Unscooby Gang

“There’s something here that doesn’t make any sense.”

The curse is come upon us once again. The dark woods have claimed another.

Last night, a young woman, alone on the grounds of the estate, was disassembled by an unknown assailant, her life extinguished by a malevolent, savage beast that knows only hunger.

So, obviously, we can’t let this go on. I mean, at some point, you run out of day players.

675 dark shadows chris shambles again

So here’s handsome, moody Chris Jennings, coming home after a long night of serial killing, and once again the place is a wreck. Same shambles, different day.

Chris actually sighs as he closes the door and pulls down the shades, because destroying the evidence of his latest killing spree has become a tedious routine.

675 dark shadows chris still shirtless

Once again, he tears off his bloodstained shirt in full view of the camera, for the second time this week. Dark Shadows is currently the highest rated show on daytime television, and they mean to keep it that way.

675 dark shadows chris hotness

Just to underscore that point, he tosses the shirt into the back room, grabs a turtleneck, and then walks all the way back to the middle of the set to put it on.

The message we are sending to the young people of America is that covering up for a murder is the hottest thing a guy could do. I bet Charles Manson and the Zodiac Killer are both sitting in front of their television sets, taking furious notes.

675 dark shadows chris purse

Clearing away the debris, Chris finds a woman’s purse among the wreckage. “That girl,” he grimaces, and then takes a second to think.

Then he says, “Donna!” So that’s nice, he got there eventually.

675 dark shadows patterson chris knock

He puts the purse down on the table as he continues to straighten the place up. He’s just getting a second to really reflect on the situation when there’s a knock at the door, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the heat, in the shape of Sheriff Patterson of the Collinsport PD.

248 dark shadows sheriff patterson

Now, fortunately for Chris, Sheriff George Patterson is the most useless waste of fabric and gristle in the history of televised law enforcement. He first appeared on the show in August 1966, not solving the murder of Bill Malloy, and he’s been hanging around not solving crimes ever since.

342 dark shadows patterson new

You name it — murder, arson, abduction, missing children — Patterson has seen it all. Well, not actually seen per se, but he’s filed the paperwork.

His investigative technique is to walk up to people and describe every single piece of evidence that he has, and then ask them what they think. Sheriff Patterson was into crowdsourcing before it was cool.

615 dark shadows patterson barnabas teleprompter

In fact, Patterson is so useless that he’s been played by four different actors in the last year and a half, and nobody’s noticed.

Today happens to be the Sheriff’s last appearance on Dark Shadows, and they give him an appropriate sendoff, with all of the dignity that he deserves.

675 dark shadows chris patterson purse

Okay, back to the investigation. The authorities have found Donna Friedlander’s bloodsoaked corpse out on the lawn where Chris left her, and Patterson’s here to make inquiries.

Chris was the last person who was seen with Donna — he was supposed to drive her to Bangor last night, but they never even got as far as the driveway. Sheriff P wants to know why not.

Chris starts spinning his roulette wheel of excuses — a business trip, a headache, I think better when I’m alone — when he suddenly realizes that Donna’s purse is sitting right there on the table.

675 dark shadows patterson chris newspaper

So Chris does what any normal citizen would do when he’s being questioned by the police — he strolls over to the table, picks up a newspaper, and then casually drops the paper onto the table, obscuring the purse from view.

675 dark shadows patterson chris crime

Now, this is clearly Flintstones level villainy, but I think that’s the point. Dark Shadows is once again wobbling unsteadily across a tightrope, thrilling the audience with supernatural danger while maintaining a cheerfully lunatic tone.

675 dark shadows chris patterson sitcom

Played realistically, this would be an unbelievably grisly storyline; this guy has just spent the week clawing his way through every young female on the property, and now he’s concealing the evidence of his latest thrill-kill.

If Dark Shadows has actually become a horror show, then this should be a moment of horror.

675 dark shadows chris patterson lucy

Instead, we’ve got Chris circling the table as the Sheriff moves around the room, blocking the purse from sight like it’s an episode of Here’s Lucy. The entire episode today is played like a sitcom, and I don’t know about you, but I find it immensely appealing.

675 dark shadows patterson chris columbo

Even the Sheriff thinks there’s something funny going on around here, and he says he’s going to take Chris downtown for questioning.

Patterson:  There’s something here that doesn’t make any sense. Now, that girl was killed nearer to this house than any other house on the estate, in the woods between here and the main house. Judging from the appearance of the body, she put up quite a fight. And yet you say you didn’t hear anything.

Chris:  That’s right. I didn’t.

Patterson:  Maybe you’ll remember better in town. You’ll drive your own car, or ride with me?

Chris:  I don’t have my keys, you know that.

Patterson:  Oh, yes, yes. I’d forgotten. You gave your keys to the girl.

And then he puts on his hat and walks out, like Columbo, Junior. That little rimshot might actually be the best moment in Patterson’s career.

675 dark shadows barnabas julia responsible

Meanwhile, at the main house, the Junior Detectives are also discussing the recent crime wave. Julia says, “I feel so responsible,” and Barnabas says, “Yes,” although this new sense of responsibility doesn’t seem to affect their behavior very much.

Julia:  Barnabas — if we hadn’t let him take her, do you think we could have stopped it?

Barnabas:  I don’t think so. I have the feeling that wherever they went last night was Donna’s fault. She must have delayed him, until the moon was up. And then he couldn’t help it. The werewolf does not choose his victims.

675 dark shadows julia barnabas tarantino

So that’s where the show is, morality-wise — and then we take another step into dark sitcom. This next exchange sounds like a Quentin Tarantino-directed episode of Bewitched.

Barnabas:  We must go to Chris’ cottage.

Julia:  Now? Why?

Barnabas:  Well, if the police are really suspicious of him, they’re going to send somebody over to search the house.

Julia:  Yes?

Barnabas:  Well, I want to be there first, that’s all.

675 dark shadows julia barnabas guilt

And the really appealing thing about this story — the thing that actually makes it work — is that Barnabas is finally, at long last, thinking about somebody who isn’t named Barnabas.

As I’ve pointed out many times, there are three steps to making the audience care about a character: Make a joke, make a friend, make a plot point happen. The “make a friend” step is more important than you might think. Making a friend gives a character value and worth in the narrative; it’s like a magic trick for audience empathy.

That’s how Barnabas evolved from villain-of-the-week to become the main character of the show, by forging an uneasy friendship with Julia and Willie. Now, he’s recruiting another member of the team.

Julia:  What are you looking for?

Barnabas:  A sign, Julia. A sign!

Julia:  Of what?

Barnabas:  Guilt! If I am correct, he probably wouldn’t have had time to dispose of anything incriminating.

So that’s super cute; Chris is like the toxic mutant son they never had.

675 dark shadows julia lips

But they can’t just get by on Barnabas’ say-so. Julia has to sign off on this too, and she does it in the most sitcom way that she possibly can.

Barnabas says he’s going to go search in the bedroom for evidence to tamper with, and he tells Julia to look around out here. Once he’s gone, Julia putters aimlessly around the room for a full thirty seconds — pacing, sighing, listlessly opening a couple of nearby drawers.

675 dark shadows julia unbothered

Finally, she shuffles back to her starting position, utterly unbothered. She glances idly at the newspaper on the table.

675 dark shadows julia purse

With a bored sigh, she snatches up the newspaper, revealing the purse.

675 dark shadows julia reading

She stands there and reads the paper.

675 dark shadows julia doubletake

And then she executes an absolutely flawless Here’s Lucy double-take. It’s a gorgeous moment. Couldn’t be better.

675 dark shadows barnabas julia evidence

So here they are, united: the Unscooby Gang — a team of monsters that travels around, protecting the guilty from those meddling kids.

675 dark shadows patterson chris procedure

Over at the police station, Sheriff Patterson decides to dispense with police procedure, and get by on folksiness alone. Chris has been trying out one worthless alibi after another, and Patterson decides the kid needs a break.

Patterson:  Look, I tell you what. Suppose I leave you here a while.

Chris:  What do you mean, I’m under arrest?

Patterson:  Nah, don’t go jumping to conclusions. I’ve got some paperwork I should be doing. You can use the time to try to remember. And this time, make it a story I can’t punch holes in, will you?

So that’s where we live now, kind of a laissez-faire Bedford Falls “everybody’s entitled to a murder now and then” post-apocalyptic dystopia. You’d think that it would be impossible for the Collinsport constabulary to get any worse than this.

675 dark shadows patterson chris bye

But nothing’s impossible, when the Unscooby Gang is around. One phone call later, and Patterson’s back, with a smile on his face.

You know, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about having too much to drink,” he says. “A lot of people black out when they’ve been drinking. You’re lucky you were with Barnabas Collins. He’s about the best alibi you could have, in this town.”

675 dark shadows patterson chris handshake

And that’s how Sheriff George Patterson ends his Dark Shadows career, smiling and shaking hands with the only guilty man he’s ever met. It’s a fitting tribute to his lifetime of service.

In appreciation of the Sheriff’s singular achievements in soap opera justice, let’s take a look at his all-time win-loss record.

Bill Malloy’s murder, 1966:  Matthew Morgan remains at large for months, committing further mayhem.

Victoria Winters’ kidnapping, 1966:  Matthew eludes capture until he’s scared to death by ghosts.

Mystery woman who died in a fire in Phoenix, identified as Laura Collins, 1967:  Unsolved.

Mysterious cattle death, 1967:  Unsolved.

Girls attacked in town, 1967:  Unsolved.

Paul Stoddard’s murder, 1967:  Turns out it wasn’t a real murder.

Maggie Evans’ disappearance, 1967:  Solved by a ghost.

David Collins’ disappearance, 1967:  Solved by a ghost.

Setting a trap for Maggie’s abductor, 1967:  Deputies shoot the wrong man; the accused is released from a mental institution eight months later, and kidnaps Maggie again.

Dr. Woodard’s murder, 1967:  Unsolved.

Adam on the rampage, 1968:  Patterson captures Adam, who immediately escapes. Deputies chase the suspect off Widow’s Hill, but he survives. Patterson never figures out who or what Adam is.

Cassandra Collins’ disappearance, 1968:  Not sure he even knew about it.

Tom Jennings’ death, 1968:  Unsolved.

Conspiracy to poison Joe Haskell, 1968:  Unsolved.

Joe’s attempted murder of Barnabas, 1968:  Joe is taken to the hospital; charges are dropped.

Hotel clerk’s murder, 1968:  Unsolved.

Barmaid’s murder, 1968: Unsolved.

Donna Friedlander’s murder, 1969:  Patterson has the murderer in custody, then shakes his hand and lets him go.

Number of criminals still at large:  All of them, except the ones who were killed by ghosts.

Still, at least Sheriff Patterson didn’t get murdered, and turned into a zombie slave. That’s the next Sheriff. So I guess that’s something.

Monday: Murder Club.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

I cleaned up the quote above for clarity; what Barnabas actually tells Julia is, “I have the feeling that whatever — wherever they left, and wherever they went last night, was Donna’s fault.”

Chris tries to explain what happened last night to the Sheriff: “I got this headache, I get them, migraines, and I told her just to take my car on, I gave her my keys, told her to leave the car at the bus station in Collinsport, and that she should bring me the keys, uh, later, I’d get the car, uh, this morning. In fact, that she should leave the keys in the car.”


Behind the Scenes:

Vince O’Brien, the final Sheriff Patterson, had an interesting career post-Dark Shadows. In the late 60s and 70s, he was the “Shell Answer Man” in commercials for Shell Oil, a role that he described as “like hitting the state lottery.” He appeared in Guiding Light and Ryan’s Hope, and he had small roles in Annie Hall, Six Degrees of Separation and Quiz Show. In the mid-90s, he had a recurring role as Judge Franks on Law & Order. He seems like a nice guy. A terrible policeman, obviously, but a nice guy.

Monday: Murder Club.

675 vince o'brien

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

19 thoughts on “Episode 675: The Unscooby Gang

  1. I understand the need to build suspense and narrative tension, but if you think about it, death by werewolf should be the perfect crime. There’s no evidence that anything other than a wild animal killed these people (especially Donna, who was attacked in the woods). The only real risk is being caught as a werewolf and others witnessing the change back to human form.

    We’re close to learning how Chris became a werewolf and I wonder if the writers had given much thought to it previously. I think Joe hinted at Chris’s behavior changing and how it was hard to get in touch with him. But it seems strange to give him any real extended history as a werewolf. You wonder how he avoided getting caught, and you start to wonder why he hasn’t killed himself yet.

    1. I don’t know about perfect crime — there’s physical evidence leaking all over the place. Footprints, blood trails, the fact that the animal is wearing clothes and shoes. It would be different if Chris turned into an actual wolf (Twilight + True Blood style) rather than a wolf man (Universal Monsters style).

      Joe said that Chris left school and went off to the mountains. We’ll get deep into the secret origin in the next episode.

      1. And in this particular case, the victim’s purse and a shirt with her blood all over it in his bedroom. If Barnabas hadn’t intervened to remove the evidence, Chris wouldn’t have a prayer. Well, then, I guess we ARE talking about Sheriff Patterson, though…

    2. The perfect crime is parallel time. Barnabas disposing of Trask and then chasing him into the room in the East Wing, only to have Trask disappear into another dimension, along with the evidence, when the room changes.

      If Chris Jennings’ hirsute alter ego were as handy with a shovel as he is deft with a doorknob, then he might be on to something.

  2. There is something SO Dark Shadows and SO Barnabas that with a werewolf running around, who isn’t chaining himself up to protect the world or keeping track of moon cycles Donna the victim gets tagged with it was Donna’s FAULT.

    1. “There is something SO Dark Shadows and SO Barnabas that with a werewolf running around, who isn’t chaining himself up to protect the world or keeping track of moon cycles Donna the victim gets tagged with it was Donna’s FAULT.”

      And in fact, that Barnabas himself had pretty much forced to hang out with Donna that night!

  3. There was a quote by Vice President Henry Wallace about Chamberlain’s deal with Hitler. Doing this from possibly uncertain memory, but it runs something close to this. “The policy of feeding innocent third parties to wolves is bound to fail because the number of innocent third parties is limited and the appetite of wolves is not.” Danny’s commentary today reminded me of it. 🙂

  4. Danny, you didn’t mention the best scene of the episode, when Barnabas confronts Chris with his knowledge that Chris is a werewolf.

    Great dialogue from Sam Hall, and JF and DB really played off each other well. One of my favorite scenes.

  5. Continuity blooper: Carolyn tells the sheriff that Chris has lived in the cottage “a few weeks.” By any reckoning, Chris has been there only a few days. In the next episode, Mrs. Johnson will tell Barnabas that she saw the strange man (Quentin’s ghost) in the cottage a few days ago, and she was in the cottage because she was preparing it for Chris’s arrival.

    By the way, that is the filthiest water dispenser I’ve ever seen!

    1. Thanks for mentiong this. I wanted to comment that, while one might have been willing to overlook that there were nobubbles floating up in the container when the person was supposedly helping him- or herself to water, it was made a great deal more difficult to do so by the camera doing a tight close-up on the bubble-less container.

  6. “You’re lucky you were with Barnabas Collins. He’s about the best alibi you could have, in this town.”

    This is the town’s SHERIFF saying this – and you wonder why he never solved any crimes?

  7. Carolyn seemed to have some scratches on her face. I kept waiting for her to be attacked and for them to wipe the top layer of makeup off to reveal the scratch makeup. But it never happened. So I’m left wondering what they hell they were.

    1. Scratches left over from last episode where werewolf attacked Carolyn in the mausoleum; it (he) slapped her across the face which left blood. The scratches on Carolyn’s face in this ep are actually an amazing continuity triumph for the show.

  8. The sheriff tells Chris that his excuse that he was watching television does not stand up (Chris must have tried every cliche in the book) because the sheriff “punched holes” in it, evidently by checking TV Guide to see what was actually on. He neglected to raise the argument that there is no known television set in the cottage or anywhere at Collinwood for that matter.

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