Episode 696: House Hunters

“She isn’t anywhere anymore, not anywhere at all.”

“Barnabas!” Maggie yells, sprinting down the Old House stairs with an antique telephone in her hand.

“The children!” she cries. “They’re gone! They’re GONE!” There’s two kids, so that makes one gone apiece. Yeah, the math checks out.

Now, viewed purely from the host’s point of view, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The entire Collins family evacuated Collinwood last week, to escape an outbreak of ghost hostility. So everyone’s crashing at Barnabas’ place for the indefinite future, which is very neighborly and a nice boost for the sharing economy, but it’s got to be hard on the guest towels.

I mean, if you’ve ever had four relatives come to visit all of a sudden, bringing along adopted children, itinerant blood specialists and assorted domestics, then you can forgive Barnabas wondering, just for a moment, if misplacing a couple houseguests might help to thin out the traffic around the bathroom facilities.

696 dark shadows barnabas maggie phone

Quentin Collins, the angry ancestor and current King of Collinwood, has been slaving away at this project for months. He’s been possessing young David and Amy, and using them to scare the rest of the family out of the house. That’s been accomplished, so now he’s taken the kids, and Barnabas and Maggie need to figure out how to get them back.

This process ends up taking pretty much the entire week, passing various characters back and forth between Collinwood and the Old House, and we’re going to get a lot of late-breaking updates on the subject of who’s gone. Later this week, Julia tells Barnabas that Maggie is gone, and the very next thing that happens is that Maggie runs into the room, and tells them that Amy is gone. At a certain point, you want to tell them to just get together and decide on who’s gone and who’s not gone, and they can let us know whenever they’ve got it figured out.

This is actually a very exciting point in the storyline, because taking the Collinses out of Collinwood is such a big deal that it forces the writers to answer some of the questions we want to know, like: Who is Quentin? How did he die? Why is he so angry? Why does he want David? And what the hell happened here, 70 years ago?

We’re finally going to get some of those answers, but it’s like the last couple seasons of Lost, where you get a clue about the larger mystery maybe once an episode, and then the rest of the time is just walking back and forth between the jungle and the beach, trying to rescue people.

696 dark shadows barnabas willie maggie rescue

So today’s episode starts with Barnabas and Maggie ganging up on Willie, and telling him that he has to go on a snipe hunt in a spooky, dark and literally haunted house. Willie is not thrilled.

We haven’t actually seen Willie in more than a month; he opened the coffin when Barnabas got back from the 18th century, and then he kind of faded into the background. This must be his contractually-mandated cringing time.

You know, I remember the days when Willie used to get a storyline on this show. I could use a good Willie vs the werewolf episode. I suppose it’s too late to make requests at this stage; I should’ve brought it up before.

696 dark shadows quentin amy sssh

Meanwhile, Quentin is orchestrating some kind of spectral skullduggery at Collinwood, instructing Amy to bring an old dress into the drawing room.

He senses Barnabas and Willie approaching the house, and he motions for Amy to be quiet, which is adorable. I like it when Quentin does things that ghosts aren’t supposed to do, like enter the room through a secret panel, or communicate with the possessed children via hand signals.

At this point, he’s a very hands-on ghost, personally supervising where other spirits might just focus on the big picture. Quentin takes the time, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.

Jokes aside, this actually helps to reinforce how serious the problem is, and how powerful Quentin’s hold is on this family. He’s just living in the house now, the new master of Collinwood.

696 dark shadows barnabas willie flashlights

Barnabas and Willie make their way cautiously into the house, shining their flashlights and looking around, like something’s going to explode any minute.

I love the way that people are acting when they enter Collinwood these days; they’re taking the situation completely seriously, and it really helps to sell the idea that the foyer has become a scary place. I’m a big fan of characters holding a flashlight and peering around corners. That visual on its own tells the whole story.

696 dark shadows quentin amy whisper

Once the heroes go upstairs, Quentin appears to Amy, and whispering instructions into her ear. This is another great example of things that ghosts probably don’t need to do, but it’s adorable and at this point, Quentin is completely real.

This is such a silly situation — grown adults creeping around the house, terrified of a ghost who’s stolen the children — but they’re one hundred percent committed to this situation, and it works.

They did a lot of these “I wonder if there’s a ghost around?” moments in the early days of the show, and those scenes never had this kind of punch, because for the most part, the answer was no, and the audience knew it. Now there really is a ghost strutting around in the drawing room, and he’s cunning and powerful, and he will kill you if he gets the chance.

696 dark shadows amy maggie lure

So the episode just rattles on like this, perfectly content to spin this out for another week. Quentin sends Amy to lure Maggie out of the Old House, and then when Maggie goes to Collinwood, Quentin abducts her and makes her put on the old-fashioned dress, as if Maggie ever does anything else.

Barnabas and Willie find Amy, and Willie takes her back to the Old House, and now Barnabas has to keep poking around Collinwood to find Maggie. As I said, this prisoner swap goes on all week, as they try to figure out a way to communicate more directly with the guy taking hostages.

So this is what happens when somebody finally brings a telephone into Barnabas’ house. It turns out he was right; it’s a total disaster. I hope those flashlights are powered by candles.

Tomorrow: The Young and the Restless.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

In act 1, when the scene shifts from the Old House to the west wing storage room, someone stands in front of the camera for a second and then backs away.

When Quentin hypnotizes Amy with the music, there are lots of footsteps in the studio.

Someone in the studio coughs as Willie tells Barnabas that the kids aren’t dumb enough to go to Collinwood.

When Quentin motions for Amy to be quiet, she says, “I don’t hear anything,” but she’s a little bit late — we’ve already cut to the next shot, outside the house.

When Maggie enters Collinwood, there’s a light reflected in the foyer mirror.

Amy tells Barnabas, “He’ll let me go now. I know where I — that I belong here.”

Tomorrow: The Young and the Restless.

696 dark shadows willie barnabas peering

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

32 thoughts on “Episode 696: House Hunters

  1. I always thought there should have at least been SOME line about how crowded the house was. Not because it couldn’t handle the extra guests (I imagine it was built for more than 10 people)…but because of the whole bathroom situation. LOL

    1. The implication is that Barnabas continued the restoration of the Old House — presumably once Willie returned (I guess that’s why we’ve seen so little of him recently).

      But, yeah, that means the restoration of at least 7 rooms beyond what we’ve seen. The bathroom situation would be ignored because no one goes to the bathroom on 1960s TV shows. Archie Bunker would change that in another year.

    2. And the laundry, the laundry!! No electricity, no running water, no hot water. Yeesh.

  2. I’m just glad it wasn’t made right now, or there’d be the opposite thing, a lot of FORCED bathroom humor, and not about BATHING!

    1. I guess that they would have had a leftover generator from the ‘Adam’ laboratory to provide limited power to the house to light key areas and provide cold food storage. However there’s that extra cell & chamberpot in the basement – but that cell is only for VIP guests: (Vampires, Ingenues and Psychiatrist/Blood Specialists who use hypnotism, mixed with a sprinkle of post hypnotic suggestion via a dangling chandelier crystal and finally topped off with an after dinner brandy and a quaalude before bed.)

  3. What struck me was Maggie’s willingness to rush to Barnabas for safety and shelter in the very house where she was so recently tortured and tormented. Julia must have hypnotized her real good.

    1. That was Earth 2 Maggie. This is Earth 1 Maggie. I joke but there is very little connection between the two characters with the same name that Kathryn Leigh Scott played. I don’t even think she mentions her father or Joe (her ex-fiancee who went insane) for the rest of her time of the show. To borrow from THE SHINING, she’s the governess now, and she’s always been the governess.

    1. Unlike the actual FUNNY VEIN jokes, I can actually picture Barnabas doing just that, while Julia looks on pensively.

      Also, “itinerant blood specialist.” I love that. Should be on Julia’s visiting card.

  4. Perhaps the reason for Willie not being at the center of a storyline has to do with how weak and ineffectual the character has become. When John Karlen first portrays Willie he does so with a strut and a smirk, and was menacing enough to the young women of Collinwood to be considered dangerous and would get into a knife fight in a bar with the likes of Burke Devlin at the drop of a dime.

    But more recently the humbled version of Willie has more of a simpering quality than anything else, and at this point he wouldn’t dare engage himself in a knife fight with even a stick of butter.

    Also, his accent has changed. When Karlen started, Willie spoke in a Southern brogue that hinted at poor white trash, but now he has a working class but cultured Brooklyn accent.

    That Barnabas venom, over time, has made the Willie character ingratiating and theatrical. The Willie Loomis of 1969 can carry a flashlight, but not a storyline.

    1. Yep, it’s almost another Parallel Time sort of switch. The Willie of 1967 hated Barnabas and would have destroyed him if he had the chance. Although it was established that Willie had an issue with pain (though no one would enjoy being beaten with a silver cane), the Willie we originally see is hardly a coward. It’s one thing to bully Carolyn and Vicki but he got in a knife fight with Burke Devlin.

      When they brought Willie back in 1968, they struggled with how to use him. If Barnabas is no longer a vampire, how does he “control” him. They tried blackmail with Willie resenting it and then they slowly shifted to a friendlier relationship. It’s as if they tried to combine the more loyal and servile aspects of Ben Stokes with modern-day Willie but without Stokes’s demeanor — Ben also wasn’t a coward.

        1. The point where Willie became a different character was when he returned from Windcliff, wasn’t it? Much more subdued and servile. And this eventually coincides with Barnabas and Julia becoming the Junior Detectives (as Danny says). Barnabas, Julia, and Willie become a family, with Willie as Barnabas and Julia’s son in a way. Or sometimes Willie and Julia are more equal, serving as Barnabas’s assistants (Julia as Watson and Willie as, I don’t, what–Scared Watson?). Or Willie is sometimes Julia’s friend who just serves Barnabas but knows that Julia aims for more because she’s in love with him. The dynamics and roles can shift, but the Old House is Three’s Company central.

          1. I think bringing Willie back as an equal becoming a team with Julia and Barnabas was a good comeback for Willie and makes sense. Each of them help each other. However I think Willie keeps Barnabas in check about Julia, often letting him know who has his back and who he should be focused on and come to terms with his true feelings for Julia. That has started to work though.

          2. Willie was very different when the duo went to pick him up at Windcliff. More subdued and docile, as I think Barnabas phrased it. Willie remarked something like how good Barnabas had been to him, and that he wanted to go back to work for Barnabas. He seemed to have very little, if any, memory for things had really been. I’m guessing heavy drugs and being told by the doctors that any surfacing memories were false, and how grateful he ought to be to his wonderful benefactor, Mr. Collins.

            Once back at the Old House, Willie seemed to slowly recover some memories over time. Human Barnabas seemed much kinder to Willie, or at least he didn’t beat him and naturally didn’t bite him. Willie has enough independence to threaten leaving Barnabas over Adam, but doesn’t really have anywhere better to go.

            By the time bitten!Barnabas is buried alive, we’re told explicitly in two episodes that both Julia and Willie “love” Barnabas. How much of that is residual blood thrall linkage is interesting to ponder; the fact that Willie can hear the heartbeat of (human) Barnabas surely indicates the bond is still in place, even if weakened.

            As for Willie being a coward, I’d say rather that he has a healthy sense of fear. (Sometimes, that is. He foolishly faced off against angry Joe, who is a lot bigger. Ditto for taunting angry Adam.) As for today’s ep, who wouldn’t be scared to go back into an empty Collinwood ruled by an evil ghost? Sure, Willie gripes, but he goes along.

            Willie always bucks up his courage to help those he cares about: the kids, Maggie, Julia, and Barnabas.

            It took a lot of bravery for Willie to break open Barnabas’ chained coffin the second time — clearly he had some memory of the first time. Not to mention, he felt the call of the bond via vampire-style remote heartbeat. Despite his obvious fear, Willie breaks the coffin open anyway (keeping the pleading Julia safely behind him) to save a potentially suffocating Barnabas.

            If that’s not courage, what is? Willie’s relief at finding human Barnabas is palpable – he tells the others that he had been “so afraid”.

            And yeah, I would have loved to see Willie vs the wolfman.

    1. Lela Swift had a great visual flair. DS episodes she directed often include interesting blocking or camera angles that make me think: “that looks really cool!”

  5. I just watched this episode tonight, and I couldn’t help thinking, “Oh, the irony!” as Barnabas desperately tried to convince brainwashed/possessed Maggie that she was Maggie.

    1. Even more glorious: the scene at the beginning where Barnabas is telling Maggie to stay in the Old House where she’ll be safe… shot through the door of the cellar, framing Maggie through the bars, just like in the old days.

  6. The build-up to 1897 is just as good as the build-up to 1795. Those are some of best DS episodes. The show’s better when the writers have a focus. And nothing focuses you like setting up time travel.

    I’m sorry this is coming to an end though. It’s really our last moment with Our Time Collinses –minus the Leviathans storyline.

  7. Bathroom? Who ever said the Old House had a bathroom? I thought Barnabas had it restored exactly as it was in 1795? That would be a fun stay for the Collins family…

  8. I would love it, if when confronted with the dress, Maggie had responded, “Oh, ffs, not this again!” And then run through everything that had happened to her. That would have set Quentin back on his heels. “Jeez, I’m evil, but that’s over the top!”

  9. I was glad to see Willie back, but I occasionally wanted to tell him just to calm down. He’s been through this kind of thing enough by now not to keep losing his cool. Same with Maggie. She can get so darn shrill! lol

  10. I’m hoping they brought Mrs. Johnson with them to the old house. Who’ll take care of them? These people don’t seem capable of boiling a cup of water or emptying an ashtray and Willie is apparently the only employee Barnabas has. I hope he’s ready for his home to start looking like a frat house after homecoming weekend.

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