Episode 704: It Just So Happens

“Being startled is the most interesting thing that’s happened to me all evening.”

Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has used the ancient Chinese secret of I Ching to jump the turnstiles of time and transport himself back to the late 19th century, which he slept through the first time.

Here in 1897, Barnabas is pretending to be his own great-grandson, who’s the grandfather of the guy that he’s pretending to be in 1969. According to his cover story, the original Barnabas Collins sailed to England in the late 1790s, where he settled down and had tons of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, all of them identical. There are apparently hundreds of Barnabi of every age and gender littering the English countryside, all looking moody and forgetting their lines.

It’s a thin story, especially because he doesn’t have an English accent, but luckily there’s a portrait of the original Barnabas on the wall in the foyer, which he uses like it’s a driver’s license.

Barnabas was desperate to find Quentin, the evil spirit who’s tormenting the family in 1969, but now that he’s met the guy, he can’t think of anything to say. You’d think he’d be better prepared than this; he’s had negative seventy-two years to think about it.

704 dark shadows barnabas quentin sword wall

Shortly after they’ve been introduced, Quentin walks over to touch one of the swords that’s hanging decoratively on the drawing room wall. This is how members of the Collins family say hello; they fondle whatever murder weapon is closest at hand.

He asks Barnabas which boat he arrived on, and Barnabas says, “The Pride of Jamestown. It arrived in Collinsport this afternoon, at 4:30.”

Quentin says, “Yes. So it did.”

And then Quentin just stares at Barnabas for a while. When Barnabas said that he wanted to communicate with Quentin, he probably should have been more specific.

704 dark shadows barnabas quentin swordplay

Barnabas tries to make some small talk about the portraits, and Quentin takes that as his cue to grab one of the swords and point it directly at Barnabas’ neck.

“I would advise you not to make a move,” says Quentin, who’s clearly been dreaming of a moment like this for his whole life.

704 dark shadows quentin pose

And look at that, for a shot. It’s marvelous. He is gorgeous and confident and clear out of his mind, frock-coated and mutton-chopped to the hilt. This is why we bother to have a Dark Shadows.

“Cousin Quentin,” Barnabas sputters, “is this some kind of practical joke?”

Quentin snaps, “No, it certainly isn’t.”

“Then you’d better explain it.”

“I intend to. You see, it just so happens that I returned recently from England myself. I spent the better part of six months there. So I had ample time to discover that there is no English branch of our family, and there never has been! Now, I’ll give you exactly five minutes to tell me who you are and what you want here — or so help me, I’ll run you through!”

704 dark shadows barnabas five minutes

So the question is, why five minutes? That seems like a terribly long time just to stand there and produce alibis. Barnabas could probably blow off the first three minutes entirely, just standing there humming while Quentin scowls at the stopwatch.

704 dark shadows quentin quickly

But the threat isn’t meant to be taken literally, it’s just tough guy talk. Quentin is having the time of his life right now.

Quentin:  I suggest you start talking. Five minutes can go by rather quickly, when a man is about to die.

Barnabas:  Even though I don’t know you, I find it hard to believe that you could be so cold-blooded.

Quentin:  I can be, and I will be!

Barnabas:  What are you afraid of?

Quentin:  Nothing! It just so happens that I know you’re a fraud.

Quentin said “It just so happens” twice in a row, because it’s awesome confrontation talk. So obviously what would be great is if Barnabas would grab the other sword off the wall, and say, “Well, it just so happens that I am not left-handed,” and then they could swashbuckle up and down the staircase for a while.

That would actually be the best Dark Shadows episode of all time, especially if we could work the werewolf in somehow. Oh, I want to go back in time and write Dark Shadows. I’ll have to see if I can scrounge up some I Ching wands.

704 dark shadows barnabas adult

But Barnabas has his own way of handling the situation. He smiles at Quentin, and somehow magically transfers his method of chewing up dialogue.

Quentin:  I just told you I was there for over six months. Now, how come I never… came into any… people that were related to me, by the name of Collins?

Did you see that? I think Barnabas has weaponized Fridspeak.

Barnabas:  I think the answer to that is rather obvious.

Quentin:  What do you mean?

Barnabas:  I submit that it’s possible your reputation arrived in England before you did. Any man who would put a sword to another man’s throat, moments after they met, is hardly the sort of person that relatives would want to meet.

704 dark shadows quentin child

And look at that little face! That is the visual translation of “I know you are, but what am I?”

This is the amazing magic trick of the 1897 storyline, the thing that we never would have expected — they’ve turned Quentin into a child.

Five days ago, Quentin’s spirit had the power to set fires, throw furniture around the room, and make people disappear and then reappear in other people’s clothes. He could twist up your mind and your memory, and kill people just by looking at them. He was a supernatural force, remaking the world in his own diseased image.

And now the Big Bad is just a little boy, a frustrated teenager stuck in the house with his irritating family. Nobody listens to him, and everyone criticizes him all the time. His grandmother won’t tell him the family secret. The girl he likes keeps telling him to go away. He can’t even boss the gypsies around.

704 dark shadows barnabas judith quentin sword

And then Judith comes in and spoils his fun, like a big dumb girl.

Judith:  Quentin, put down that sword!

Quentin:  Stay out of this, Judith! This man’s an impostor.

Judith:  Don’t be absurd. It’s perfectly obvious that he’s a Collins.

Quentin:  He isn’t from England, and there is no English branch of our family over there.

Judith:  Well, I don’t care if there is or there isn’t; you have no right to behave like a barbarian. Now, put down that sword!

704 dark shadows barnabas judith quentin hero

So Quentin puts down the sword, because whatever, who even cares.

For just a moment, Quentin was finally going to be the hero of the family, who unmasks the impostor in a particularly dramatic and impressive way. They’d have to treat him with more respect.

And now it’s all ruined, because dumb Judith yelled at him like a dumb jerk, and he is too an impostor. You don’t even know what an impostor even is.

She even makes him apologize, which is stupid and totally unfair, and then Quentin has to stand around and be in one of her dumb tea parties.

704 dark shadows barnabas judith quentin tea party

So this is the terror of Collinwood, the creature who can dress people up like dolls and wreck their lives.

I mean, not yet, obviously. He’s still got some growing up to do.

Tomorrow: Prisoners of Emily Post.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

Just after Quentin asks why he didn’t run into people with the name Collins, there’s a clanking sound, like something falling over in the studio.

Just after Quentin takes the sword away from Barnabas’ neck, the boom mic appears overhead.

Barnabas tells Beth, “Barnabas Collin is my name.”

Sophie introduces herself to Barnabas as Sophie Baker, but she’s listed in the credits as Sophie Barnes.

Sophie’s compact is an anachronism; the Dark Shadows Wiki says they were invented after the turn of the century.

At the end of the credits, the logo for Dan Curtis Productions is supposed to stop in the middle of the screen. Today, it overshoots and fades out quickly, halfway off the screen.


Behind the Scenes:

Sophie Baker, the latest victim in Barnabas’ centuries-spanning crime spree, is played by K.C. Townsend, in her only episode. Townsend appeared in several Broadway shows in the 60s and early 70s, including the 1971 revival No, No, Nanette, where she played Flora from San Francisco, one of Jimmy’s kept women. Her film career was not notable — she played “Couple on Table” in the 1971 Buck Henry comedy Is There Sex After Death?, and a stripper in the 1979 film of All That Jazz, and those were the highlights.

Tomorrow: Prisoners of Emily Post.

704 dark shadows sophie barnabas fangs

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

21 thoughts on “Episode 704: It Just So Happens

  1. I imagine it’s not intentional, but I love how these first few episodes of DARK SHADOWS seem to slap the audience in the face and say, “Any of you who remember how this played out in 1967? Don’t get comfy. This is an entirely different show now.”

    Even Barnabas seems like he’s going to turn to the camera and ask, “What the heck is going on around here?” He expected to turn up and monologue to his heart’s content, imparting his soliloquies with obvious clues that he’s more than what he appears but fully confident that everyone around him is too stupid to catch on. That was so two years ago. Now, he barely gets in a few words before Quentin makes it clear that his cover story is absurd — just like it always was. The TVTropes site would call it lampshading: After all, even in 1897, it’s possible that someone in a family as wealthy as the Collins would have traveled to England for business or pleasure and being as insular as old many families, they would have determined if they had relatives there. In 1967, it’s especially laughable that anyone takes Barnabas at face value.

    DARK SHADOWS is now written by people who understand that great stories involve conflict and smart characters. There’s certainly no conflict in a mysterious stranger arriving in town and everyone adoring him (as we saw in 1967 with Barnabas’s arrival), and as we know that he’s not who he says he is, it’s hard to really respect the intelligence of the rest of the cast.

    I love this scene between Barnabas and Quentin because the gauntlet is thrown down within seconds of their meeting. This is not a storyline that’s going to dilly-dally. And best of all, QUENTIN’S RIGHT! We consider him the villain because of his evil actions as a ghost in 1969 and his roguish behavior now, but viewed in isolation, Quentin behaves like the dashing, impetuous hero: Barnabas is an imposter. And he is a bloodsucking vampire. The show even “lampshades” this again by having Barnabas walk out of the house and promptly kill an innocent woman (BTW: If you’re a “reluctant” vampire, you should try not taking non-reluctant walks along the docks late at night).

    1. Well, I think that in a perverse way, the fact that his feeding result in death at the first attempt might be a consequence of his being “reluctant” He probably holds on against the urge until he is out of control. Note that most of the other vampires, Angelique, Tom Jennings, Megan Todd, Roxanne Drew do not kill in the first feeding – because they are more comfortable with it. And like many a man who has strayed and blames his sexual partner for “seducing” him, he punishes his victims for “tempting” him, thus the killings…. Although I recall that in 1795 the only victims were Ruby Tate, Maude Browning, and Suki Forbes – and there were exceptional circumstances in all three (if there had bee more they would have been at Trask’s trial), So he probably was feeding not lethally for the most time.

        1. He should have fed off Magda as well as Sandor. Having two “donors” would reduce his need to feed on strangers.

          He only killed Sophie because she saw in her compact that Barnabas didn’t cast a reflection.

          Btw Banabas bit Sandor on the neck. Offscreen, but still, male-on-male neck action. One can only hope for more.

  2. Whenever David Selby does the lunging for the sword to brandish it against someone’s neck routine, a precious glass prop can be heard shattering on the floor below. He does the same thing in 1840 as well, removing the sword from its holder with such hurried recklessness that some glass or ceramic prop is sacrificed in its prime of life.

    In my first couple of DVD run-throughs of the show, these past-time storylines always made me impatient. As much as there was to like about the 1795 and 1897 periods, it always seemed to me they dragged on too long. I suppose I was more interested in the present day Collinwood, as a window into the 1960s in all its Mod glory. But then I soon realized that there really was no 1960s to be found in present day Collinwood, or in all of Collinsport for that matter. The only time any hint of the times intrudes is one episode in summer 1966 (episode 28) when a photo of then President Lyndon Johnson can be seen in the left corner of the far wall of the sheriff’s office, beside the door. We find out why this prop has been installed when ABC staff announcer Bob Lloyd informs us over the credits that “From the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception, from the White House and key points around Washington DC, ABC news brings you live color coverage of the Lucy Johnson wedding, Saturday morning on ABC.” The next episode, the photo is gone from the sheriff’s office.

    But in my latest run-through of the series I really enjoyed these other periods, especially 1897, and I finally recognize them as the strength of the show. With its penchant for moving from century to century, the show is provided with fresh, bold opportunities for reinvention. A whole new series of characters can be created while still existing within the parameter of Collins family history and therefore working within the same general set design.

    And I never stop marveling at Thayer David’s skill for complete character transformation. When I first saw him he was Ben Stokes, and that accent was so convincing that I thought he spoke that way in real life. As a character actor, he may well have been the one in the cast with the most depth, so extraordinary was his capability at disguising himself and bringing such widely varied characters to life.

    Grayson Hall likewise does a remarkable job in her role as Magda. One of the Dark Shadows staff, perhaps it was even Sam Hall, revealed in an interview that she actually had a grandmother who was a Romanian gypsy. No surprise then that she thought of Magda as her favorite role on Dark Shadows, as this character was literally in her blood.

    1. I don’t generally care for the mannerisms Grayson Hall uses for Julia (though they’re bugging me less over time), but I must say that I am really enjoying Hall’s performance as Magda.

  3. I love this episode because Quentin gets to call out Barnabas on his song and dance ‘oh I am your long lost cousin from England’ routine – this act is wearing thin – try pulling that today with a prominent wealthy family – well you probably wouldn’t get past the surveillance cameras at the front gate…

    1. Ah, OK, that’s the one I was thinking of actually, and I had that in the back of my mind but for some reason thought 1840, because swords on the wall like that seem like such an 18th century ornament. Thanks for the reminder. So by 1970 in the Leviathan storyline, Selby still hasn’t yet perfected his grabbing the sword off the wall to threaten someone with death technique.

      By the way, Chris, glad to read in a previous post that you are enjoying the 1966 episodes. A number of Dark Shadows fans knock them for being boring and slow, but I think they are strong on characterization and deep on mood and atmosphere. And you’re quite right, they do deliver on supernatural elements like ghosts several times, more so in fact than most fans remember. There’s an allusion to Edgar Allan Poe in episode 3, when, by way of introduction to Vicki, Carolyn refers to Collinwood as “the house of Usher” and Dracula is referenced in episode 4.

      1. It was an electric globe lamp. You saw it whole. You only heard it smash, off camera, but that was better than the sword at Rumson’s neck(and I hated that character, I mean actor). (Okay, both).

        As for The Beginning, since I own it, not from library, I save those viewings for the weekends….haven’t even met Mrs. Johnson.

        And I LOVE how Carolyn talks about the place.

        And who doesn’t love krayzeee sixties dancin’. (Snort!)

  4. Hilarious post, and glad that folks are getting suspicious of old Barnabas.

    Just like the little orphan girl is less plausible in modern stories…this “I’m your long-lost cousin” thing wouldn’t pass the internet test.

    And I LOVE LOVE LOVE Barnabas throwing shade at Quentin. Genius…one of my favourite moments.

    1. Not only that the “long lost relative” is suspicious. The fact that Barnabas is coming just as the rest of the family is fighting over an inheritance makes him a LOT more suspicious! He is very likely to get hit with shrapnel from somebody else’s gunfight.

  5. I suspect that Quentin gave Barnabas a whole five minutes, because he knew the first two were going to taken up with commercials for floor wax. 😀

  6. In Barnabas’s favor he does look exactly like the portrait of a relative that has been hanging in the hall for as long as anyone now alive can remember. Is it less unbelievable that a total stranger would look EXACTLY like that portrait and not be somehow related? (See Brat Ferrar – seriously do it’s great and the plot hangs on this exact thing.) He might (and probably would be after so long without contact) be up to no good, but a Collins he almost certainly must be…unless he’d run into Dan Curtis.

    Also, why should Quentin having looked for his relatives and not found them mean they weren’t there? I mean I don’t think “English cousin” Barnabas got his share of the family fortune and he gave absolutely no sign – other than a prospect of marrying for money – of making any money on his own before he left. The Collins family wasn’t English aristocracy and they hadn’t left a forwarding address or ever written back, where would you even begin to look for related Collinses? Collins is actually an Irish surname which would make our “English Cousin” Barnabas and his decedents even less welcome in English high society than rich self made-ish (OK it was his father, but it would still count) Americans which would undoubtedly be where Quentin had looked.

    So if I was really looking for “English Cousin” Barnabas I’d look either in some remote English/Scottish/Welsh etc. great house he bought from some impoverished gentry or more likely in Ireland in some house vacated by English gentry where the place is simply littered with people called Collins. I would think it would take a lot longer than 6 months of scouring by somebody probably much more interested in partying most of the time to say for certain they weren’t there. It’s hard to prove a negative.

    That said it is too bad that Quentin WAS right and ALMOST got to be the hero. It’s that kind of unfairness that drives many a soap opera grey character. I could do another paragraph on the subject featuring Jill and Kay from “The Young and the Restless,” but will spare you. 🙂

  7. That sounds very right. With a choice between partying and looking for distant relatives, it isn’t hard to imagine which one Quentin would’ve chosen.

  8. Only a few episodes in, and I’m really enjoying 1897. And this scene encapsulates why – we’ve suddenly got a set of smart characters with their own agendas. No more goldfish, no more “I don’t understand”, and certainly no more taking Barnabas Collins on trust!

  9. In a previous post Danny talked about how differently the writers address time travel in 1795 vs 1897; in the most recent shift, the audience and characters are meant for to be confused and feel the disorientation of the shift. I think there’s a lot of truth to that. But this episode’s trip to Barnabas’s favorite waterside bistro points out another reason why the show can be more bold in its time travel: the accumulation of backstory.

    Although 1897 is brought in in abrupt ways, the show also has precedent on its side now. Viewers have been primed for time travel. And viewers know what it means when Barnabas takes a turn about the docks. I felt this most powerfully in episode 702, where Barnabas expresses disgust at the thought of anyone—especially Magda—in Josette’s old house bedroom. That’s a callback to 1795, with 1967 Barnabas back in 1897 to deal with the ghost of now-living Quentin. 3 different time periods across almost as many centuries evoked in one scene actually requires a tremendous amount of recall on the part of the audience. The show drops you into the radically unfamiliar but it is almost as if they know you have the compass. Of course, that’s assuming you’ve watched the whole thing without recourse to recording technology.

  10. Unless the sword is made of silver, it won’t hurt Barnabas. Right?

    That’s what I was waiting for; the look on Quentin’s face as the newcomer he’s just run through gets up from his knees (after discreetly putting his hand to his mouth) and shows his upside-down fangs. And lisps, “Well, Quentin. I suppose now you must… (glance at teleprompter) I must teach you some manners.”

  11. I can’t leave this episode without expressing love for – & making fun of – Sophie. The first time through, I noticed nothing but the goofy faces she made, poking her tongue out of her mouth repeatedly. I’m still not sure if the actress was aware of how odd it looked, and how distracting it could be, which is why I have doubts that it was an acting choice. It looked more as if appearing in front of the cameras gave her a bad case of cotton mouth, and she was trying desperately to moisten her lips, even though her tongue was like a dry sponge.

    But with this latest viewing, I find her interpretation much more interesting and sympathetic. B’s previous female dock walking victims acted more or less like tough business women. But Sophie seems vulnerable. Ditzy, and vulnerable. Like she dreams every night that the “very considerate” Captain Strathmore will come back from wherever he disappeared to, and marry her, taking her away from the docks to a beautiful estate where she’ll have dozens of pretty dresses to wear and will play with kittens every day. I think Captain Strathmore gave her the external validation she needed to feel good about herself. Poor Sophie.

  12. I feel compelled to point out an unmentioned blooper: after Elizabeth heads upstairs to lie to Edith, she can be seen descending the stairs through the crack in the doorway. It’s a minor blooper, but nevertheless…

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