Episode 706: The Cliffhung

“I found out what it was to be a Collins!”

And then, fortunately, she went insane and died. Hooray!

706 dark shadows edith edward rip

I know, I’m sorry, that sounds bad, but that’s the point of view of the show, and you know it. She was a funny old lady, and she provided us with one of the great Friday cliffhangers of our time, but if she tells Edward the secret, then Barnabas will be hunted down and staked in his coffin, and we don’t want that to happen. At least, not yet; there’ll be plenty of time for that later.

Sorry, I’ll back up. Barnabas Collins has traveled back in time using the ancient Chinese secret of I Ching, in order to find out why the ghost of Quentin Collins is taking over Collinwood and killing children and whatnot. But Barnabas overshot his target, thanks a lot China, and now he’s stuck somewhere in Quentin’s mid-twenties, way before he dies and even becomes a ghost in the first place. But Barnabas doesn’t know how to get back, so he’s stuck in 1897, and I guess this is what the show is about now.

706 dark shadows barnabas listens

So the theme for the day, this week and possibly the entire run of the show is that everybody is a dick to Barnabas. All he wants to do is wreck causality and continue his centuries-spanning war on drunk women, and everyone keeps giving him attitude.

First up, there’s Edith, who revealed on Friday that for the last hundred years, the Collinses have been passing the instruction from one generation to the next that if Barnabas ever shows up, you should be a dick to him. Seriously, that appears to be the entire purpose of the Collins family.

So now Barnabas is listening outside Edith’s door, and just waiting for her to tell Edward where to find him during the day, and what to do with him once they’ve found him.

706 dark shadows magda chair

He hears Edith mumble the word “mausoleum”, so he takes off for the Old House, where his new gypsy friend Magda is setting up the new furniture. The last time we were here, the place looked like a pack of timber wolves had come through, but now it’s kind of shabby chic, with a phenomenal lavender seating implement that I can’t think of a decent name for.

Yes, this is a high-stakes dramatic situation, but if 1897 teaches us anything, it’s that there’s always time to appreciate creative furniture, even in our darkest hours.

706 dark shadows barnabas magda curtsey

Barnabas rushes in, and Magda says, “Back so soon? I was going to arrange everything the way that you ordered, your majesty,” segueing into a mocking curtsey which is perfectly timed to drive Barnabas out of his mind.

706 dark shadows barnabas magda shouting

He says that he wants her and her husband to go to the Collins mausoleum, and remove his coffin from the secret room before anyone goes to look for it. She gives him some gypsy sass, and the scene just gets better from there.

Barnabas:  When the door opens, there must be no sign that you and Sandor had been there, do you understand?

Magda:  No.

Barnabas:  IDIOT!

Magda:  You ask if I understood, no, I do not understand! Who will open the door?

Barnabas:  That is no concern of yours.

706 dark shadows barnabas magda coat

Magda:  What will they be looking for — (drops into another curtsey) — Mr. Collins, sir?

Barnabas:  Get your coat and GO!

Magda:  Oh, so kind and considerate, worrying about me and the coat.

Barnabas:  GO!

It’s lovely. We should have had gypsies years ago. Why did we never have gypsies before? Who is in charge of the gypsy supply?

706 dark shadows edith edward squeeze

Meanwhile, Edward is still in Edith’s room, trying to squeeze the secret out of her. She’s gone all vague in her declining moments, drifting back and forth through her memories like she’s got I Ching: The Home Game. At one point, she asks, “Is Judith dead? You didn’t kill her?” because who even knows with this family.

706 dark shadows barnabas carl new friends

Okay, back to Barnabas. He comes back to Collinwood to fret in the drawing room and wait for the torch-wielding mob to arrive, when the secret panel opens and a whole other loopy Collins emerges, holding a gun. This is Carl.

Following the show’s new rules re: being a dick to Barnabas, Carl points the gun at Barnabas’ temple, and says, “I know who you are, and I know where you’ve come from! I know everything about you!”

706 dark shadows barnabas carl fib

Barnabas keeps it together, because by now he’s used to this kind of treatment. It turns out to be a practical joke anyway — firing the gun just releases a flag with the word FIB on it. Carl dissolves into giggles, thrilled with himself.

706 dark shadows barnabas carl shake

Barnabas is not in the mood, so Carl immediately downshifts. “It was quite a trick, wasn’t it?” he says. “Well, I’m sorry you didn’t appreciate it as much as I did. Hi, I’m Carl Collins; you’re Barnabas.”

Carl holds out his hand, and Barnabas just stares at him, trying to figure out what this even is. “Well, I’m glad to meet you,” Carl says, and shakes Barnabas’ hand.

So this is what happens to Collinses when you leave them out in the sun for too long. Carl is something we haven’t seen in a Collins generation yet — a middle child. Too young to inherit the money like Edward, or be vice-president like Judith, not cute enough to be the dashing teen rebel like Quentin, Carl’s just been drifting through life, ignored and unnecessary.

He’s also the first character in a year and a half to be introduced without any significant connection to a supernatural plotline. The last one was Millicent, in the 1795 story, and like her, Carl is a pure character actor part, created to give one of the underused cast members something interesting to do. Carl is mostly decorative, just there to fill out the family and make argument scenes more unpredictable, and therefore I like him very much. Carl is great.

706 dark shadows edith edward ghost

Upstairs, Edith is on the verge of telling Edward the secret, when we get another glimpse into life at Collinwood. She suddenly sits up in bed and addresses some invisible presence, saying, “What are you doing here? You’re dead!” which might as well be printed on a sign at the front door.

She acts like her dead father-in-law Daniel Collins is in the room, and considering what we know about this place, he probably is.

706 dark shadows edith ghost

This turns into a monologue that’s fairly grim for her grandson to witness.

Edith:  Daniel — keep away from me! I always hated you! You ruined my husband. You never were a father to him! You made us live in this house — I hated it! We wanted to live in the Old House… I begged you… You said no. No, if you’re going to be a Collins, you must live at Collinwood. That’s what you said! I found out what it was to be a Collins! I found out!

As you may recall, Daniel was the little boy that we saw in the 1795 story. He seemed to be in pretty good shape when we left him, except that his sister was irretrievably insane, almost everyone else in his family had died, and he was raised by an emotionally stunted great-uncle who passed on his terrible burden of protecting the family from undead ghouls. Apparently that wasn’t a nurturing environment.

706 dark shadows edith edward dancing

And then Edith just drifts off into another memory, and she never tells Edward the secret, because everyone is a dick to him too. She’s right, this really is what it means to be a Collins.

Trapped, haunted, insecure, cynical, jealous, greedy and full of regret — that’s the Collins family that we’ve been introduced to over the last week, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope that life is going to get better for them. In other words, they’re the perfect family for a monster movie soap opera time travel drawing room comedy. Sometimes you just get lucky.

Tomorrow: Another Jane.

Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

This week’s episodes were shot out of order. This episode should have been taped on a Monday, but instead it was taped on Wednesday. That makes a gap of five days between taping Friday’s cliffhanger and the reprise in today’s teaser, and that seems to have thrown everyone off balance in the first scene.

At the beginning of the teaser, you can see Edith looking out into the studio for her cue before she starts acting. Then she and Barnabas are out of synch — she says, “You are the secret!” and his response is “Tell me what’s wrong!” Then after her next line, he reacts to the “you are the secret” reveal. They continue to muddle through, clearly uncomfortable with their lines, and Barnabas seems more puzzled than horrified. At the end of the teaser, the closing music sting plays after the scene has faded out.

Near the beginning of act 1, when Edward is trying to take Edith’s pulse, he also looks for a cue from the studio before he starts acting. Then Edith says “I hear you,” before Edward says, “Can you hear me, grandmother?” They finally pull themselves together after the first Barnabas/Magda scene.

Edith stops and looks at the teleprompter before she says, “Is Judith dead?”

Behind the Scenes:

Isabella Hoopes, who plays Edith, was born in 1893, so she was actually around for 1897 and knew what it was like. Her acting career seems to have started late in life. She was in the original Broadway cast of Wonderful Town in 1953-54, at the age of 60. She also appeared on Broadway in Saratoga in 1959-60. Dark Shadows was her only TV role.

After Dark Shadows, she had one more Broadway appearance, in the original cast of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds in 1978. She also had small appearances in a few movies — Elderly Lady in Cancel My Reservations, Woman on Platform in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and finally Old Lady in 1984’s Grace Quigley. She died in 1987, at age 94.

Tomorrow: Another Jane.

706 dark shadows barnabas carl laugh

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

35 thoughts on “Episode 706: The Cliffhung

  1. Sam Hall understands that Quentin Collins is not just funny but that DARK SHADOWS is funny. One of the top things that I think are “off” about HODS and 91 DS is the lack of humor. Burton’s film went too far — imagine, say, GOODFELLAS as a Will Ferrell slapstick comedy. But this episode, as with so many Hall scripts, gets it just right.

    Barnabas and Carl’s exchange is brilliant comedy — something you might see on FRASIER — but you never lose the tension of the moment, which is what adds to the humor. A year ago, Barnabas would have just paced in the room, soliquizing. Hall gets that this is far better.

    Barnabas has within a couple days (and it’s possible it’s the same night that he arrived at Collinwood) had a Collins point a lethal weapon at him. Judith must have served some great tea to make it all worth it.

    1. The amount of time that has passed in a given group of episodes is always vexing

      When Barnabas goes back to the old house in this one, it’s clean and with new furniture, something that must have taken a few days to arrange, and yet it seems like it’s the same night he arrived at Collinwood, or at least the very next night.

      I know it’s probably best not to ponder such things. When I was first watching the old VHS’s, I would watch a few episodes at a time, and I realized that a single night could last a whole week of show, or longer! And then suddenly, something that happened during that long night filled week was referred to as having happened a week ago.

      1. Magda rearranging the Old House parlor and referring to Barnabas’s instructions for the decor is an effective use of shorthand to say, “We’re updating the set.” Unlike in 1967, when the restoration of the Old House was a longtime project.

        We originally see the place looking like, as Danny said, “timber wolves” had been through, which served the purpose of shock value for us when we first go to 1897. Once that effect is achieved, the show moves on. This is the full-steam ahead approach of 1897.

      2. Vexing isn’t the word for it. Especially when the werewolves come out. You’ll have an episode with a vampire, in the “wee hours” of the morning, and then later a werewolf running about. The next night, no werewolf. The next night, werewolf.

        Of course this temporal drift is a common soap malady…but with the supernatural creatures, it can be a real head-scratcher to try to figure out dates. (And let’s not get started on the whole Quentin’s-real-death situation!)

  2. Once again I’ll say ‘Barnabas get off your lazy a*s and move your damned coffin yourself’! I thought this was the age of chivalry – I can see asking Sandor for help but Magda! Nosferatu would not have approved.

    1. Barnabas is one lazy so and so – remember how poor Willie had to do everything?? Renovate the house, keep out intruders, guard the coffin, dig graves, taunt Adam with a chicken leg – it’s no wonder Willie had to go away to the nervous hospital for “rest.” He was worn slap out.
      Much as I love Willie, Carl is a very, very close second. I almost spit my Dr. Pepper out when he told Barnabas, “You and I are going to be buddies!”
      Too bad Carl and Magda didn’t have more scenes together – it would have been better than Laugh-In.

      1. It is a shame that they did not use Carl more. Even worse, they forgot to make him a ghost. Imagine the ghost of a practical joker… Imagine him haunting the family on April Fool’s Day…

        1. They turned Carl into quite an annoying fool.

          But I can imagine a lot of comedy potential for Original Dead Pansy and Dead Carl, together, pulling ghost gags on Barnabas.

          Dream sequence, where Carl and Pansy get married, then Carl ties Barnabas to his chair, and Pansy taunts him with bad singing and vaudeville and striptease moves while Carl circles him with a gun supposedly loaded with silver bullets, yelling,

          “BANG, BANG, BANG!!!”

          As Pansy gives him a lap dance. “I’m BACK from retirement, Barney.”

          Even ghosts can be dicks to Barnabas. The horror!

          1. Oh, that would be lovely to behold. Moral of the story: Never kill a practical joker..

            Yeah, I can see Barney saying, and REALLY meaning it that he regrets killing Carl…

            1. Couldn’t they have come up with something better than “FIB”? Ugh.
              It seems like Carl was a device to introduce Pansy to the storyline.

              Although I loved Karlen Collins line,

              “WHO…IS…THE VAMPIAH?????”……

              In Pansy’s last show. Well, dream sequence.

              Killing Carl, fine by me.

              Petofi creating Pansy by way of Charity?

              Best character DS ever had.

              Nancy Barrett is a rock star.

      2. Agree – strange that WIlly Loomis came to Collinwood as a stranger (supposedly no relation to the family) and now he’s a Collins descendant???? At least with Matthew Morgan, Ben Stokes, Sandor and Count Petofi they keep it somewhat consistent and don’t use him as another relative when it makes absolutely no sense to do so. Come on it was a REAL concidence that Willy came only as Jason’s tag along no good pal and low and behold now he’s a Collins – much like Grayson Hall in some of the later relatives (Julia COLLINS?)..please give me a break..

  3. One of my favorite scenes between John Karlen and Jonathan Frid. Ever.

    [Interior Collinwood foyer. Carl speaking to Barnabas]

    Carl: Edward, he is upstairs there with her right now. He is listening for the secret and hoping that she dies before morning. I know him. [Carl starts to walk away then returns to Barnabas.]

    Carl: Oh, listen, if he comes down… you haven’t seen me today, do you understand?

    Barnabas: I will only have to tell the truth.

    Carl: That’s right, we are going to be buddies aren’t we?


  4. I read it and thought, I have to comment about the “creative furniture” even though no one else will care and I see two comments about it already! LOL

    I have a special fondness for those kind of sofas because they always seemed sooooo elegant in hotel lobbies in old movies and when I was a kid they had one in the public library’s children’s room and I use to go and sit on it and pretend I was in an old movie. Why aren’t hotel lobbies ever as elegant and interesting as they were in old movies or TV shows?

    Anyway they must also be known as Hotel Lobby Round Sofas:

  5. The pouf-banquette-whatever-it-is also (if memory serves) appears with Jane Russell in ‘The French Line’, along with a striking costume; because seating like that cries out for more than just a turtleneck…

  6. Carl is a little too hyper for me. Willie was hyper too, but he had his hand-wringing worry-wartedness to temper it somewhat.

    I’m glad Edith is gone. Her dithering along with Edward’s constant demands to know the secret were starting to work my nerves.

    Hope Magda continues to give Barnabus her gypsy-style, patented brand of sass. He deserves it.

  7. More praise for the Barnabas/Carl scene in today’s episode:

    Carl, leaning into Barnabas, confidentially: “Listen. . . I have to be on my way now. To find out ‘you know what.'”
    Barnabas, politely: “Don’t let me stop you.”

    The words are straightforward, and the delivery is perfect.

    Everyone knows that Dark Shadows can be campy, but real fans know that it can also be brilliantly witty. God I love this show!

    1. The timing on “Don’t let me stop you” was brilliant, and Frid’s final deadpan take-to-camera after Carl leaves is just perfection. You can see him recalibrating the upper limits of just how mental this family is.

      When the vampire is the sane and sensible one, you know this generation is in trouble…

      Carl is also a neat idea, because he’s someone who’s clearly taken Quentin as a role model (scary thought), but without the discipline Quentin brings to his bastardry. Which makes him simultaneously less dangerous, and potentially more dangerous. He’s an even looser cannon…

  8. That lavender seating thing is something I can’t name either, but it belongs in a hotel lobby and certainly suggests that Barnabas is not worried about restoring the place to 1795 decor.

  9. Regarding the use of Karlen as a Collins ancestor … I don’t recall ANY mention by Barnabas of these people resembling his ancestors exactly. Sure, Vicki spent what seemed like YEARS saying, “I thought you were …” in 1795. My thought is that Sam Hall decided not to make an issue of it this time. Who’s to say that Carl looks like Willie to Barnabas? We just accept (and delight in) the fact that these terrific actors are putting on new roles.

  10. Just had a thought…was Bathia Mapes a gypsy? If so, might Magda or Sandor be descended from her?

    I liked Isabella Hoopes. One of their better day players.

  11. I’m enjoying the contrast between the reception Barnabas gets from the aggressively paranoid Collinses of 1897 and the eager welcome their lonely, helpless descendants gave him in 1967.

  12. Ah yes my favourite piece of drawing room furniture finally makes its entrance… the Bourne sofa or circular ottoman. I’ve always wanted one but don’t really have the room for it now.

  13. I liked Edith and wish she would’ve had more of a story.

    I suppose Carl is DS’s Uncle Arthur, but he’s still got a lot of yelly Willie to him.

    I laughed when Magda aka GH got up from the card reading and moved around the room like a maiden in a silent movie. lol

    Did you all notice when Edith had been going on and the camera cuts to Edward who rolls his eyes? Hilarious!!

    1. I love how we still don’t know how much of Magda’s shtick after she draws the Death card was a put-on for the rube, and how much was her genuinely being shaken. It’s like she got rattled, then decided to really run with being rattled and make it a feature…

  14. 1840 Daniel killed his wife and seems to have ended up about as crazy as Millicent, who was pretty crazy even before vampire Barnabas got to her. There’s clearly mental instability among Daniel’s descendants. I mostly enjoyed the scene with Carl, though, to be honest, I got a little lost around Washington, and I suspect Karlen may have, too. The look of total befuddlement on Barnabas’s face was priceless.

    1. I have to stop painting and pay more attention to the screen! I seem to have fallen back to my ancient habit of listening to the daily recording (twice) while I work and and missing the good stuff by glancing over now and then. I clearly remember Carl holding his pistol to Barnabas’ head and it was a corny trick but not how well played it was.

  15. The round seating piece had various names. Settle, banquette sofa, etc. You can actually buy modern ones today. I like them but talking to each other is probably awkward on them. It would be perfect in a tower room….

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